The Columbia History of British Poetry

By Carl Woodring; James Shapiro | Go to book overview

Poetry, 1785-1832

AA, XX and NN gather to talk.

AA. According to the official guides, our best view of the Romantic ranges extending across the great divide of 1800 will be found in 1798, or perhaps the immediately adjacent 1800: from that splendid overlook called Lyrical Ballads. It's a picturesque and (historically) important locale.

Equally arresting, however, is that more remote point known as Songs of Innocence and of Experience ( 1794). A favorite now of many, this vantage was scarcely known or frequented until the Pre- Raphaelites popularized it in their late-nineteenth-century aesthetic adventures.

Neither of these now famous spots of time will lose its hold upon the imagination. We may start a long, an interesting, and a reasonably thorough exploration of Romanticism and its majestic adjacencies from both places, as many have already shown.

"spots of time": A key Romantic concept, formulated by Wordsworth in his Prelude project. Wordsworth's idea is that experience yields certain sacred moments that preserve a restorative power through one's later life. Such moments often come without one's realizing their importance at the time of their occurrence. Memory clarifies their significance. These moments testify to the invisible but permanent presence of a benevelent Spirit in the universe. See Prelude ( 1850) Book II.208-286.

Traditional and favorite routes are, however, just that--traditional and favored. This particular world of the sublime and the beautiful is so extensive and complex that we may enter it, or move about its regions, in an endless variety of ways.

For instance, on the way to Lyrical Ballads we will inevitably skirt another spot that provides, in its fashion, an even more magnificent

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The Columbia History of British Poetry
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Old English Poetry 1
  • Middle English Poetry 23
  • Chaucer 55
  • Poetry in Scots: Barbour to Burns 81
  • From Ballads to Betjeman 110
  • Printing and Distribution of Poetry 132
  • Varieties of Sixteenth-Century Narrative Poetry 156
  • Sixteenth-Century Lyric Poetry 179
  • Spenser, Sidney, Jonson 203
  • Lyric Poetry from Donne to Philips 229
  • Milton 254
  • Dryden and Pope 274
  • Poetry in the Eighteenth Century 301
  • Blake 327
  • Coleridge 341
  • Poetry, 1785-1832 353
  • Byron, Shelley, and Keats 381
  • Wordsworth and Tennyson 405
  • The Victorian Era 425
  • Victorian Religious Poetry 452
  • Pre-Raphaelite Poetry 478
  • The 1890s 505
  • 1898-1945: Hardy to Auden 532
  • Yeats, Lawrence, Eliot 554
  • Poetry in England, 1945-1990 577
  • Problems and Cleavages 605
  • Brief Biographies of the Poets 643
  • Editions 671
  • Notes on Contributors 678
  • Index 683
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