Rhythm and Will in Victorian Poetry

Rhythm and Will in Victorian Poetry

Rhythm and Will in Victorian Poetry

Rhythm and Will in Victorian Poetry

Synopsis

Matthew Campbell explores the work of four Victorian poets--Tennyson, Browning, Hopkins and Hardy--in the context of their concern with questions of human agency and will. Through close study of meter, rhyme and rhythm, Campbell reveals how closely, for these poets, questions of poetics are related to issues of psychology, ethics and social change. He goes on to discuss more general questions of poetics, from Milton through Romanticism and into contemporary critical debate, making a major contribution to the current renewal of interest in formalist readings of poetry.

Excerpt

Despite being counselled by his father not to give up hope of his deliverance from captivity, Milton's Samson turns despairingly against arguments for patience. Manoah had warned his son not to believe the temptings of his mind, and not to add mental anguish to bodily imprisonment. But the blind Samson knows that his anguish is of the mind as much as it is of the body. As so often through the early passages of the poem, he turns inward to the torments of the captive, 'inmost mind':

O that torment should not be confined To the body's wounds and sores With maladies innumerable in heart, head, brest and reins; But must secret passage find To the inmost mind, There exercise all his fierce accidents. and on her purest spirits prey, As on entrails, joints and limbs, With answerable pains, but more intense, Though void of corporal sense. My griefs not only pain me As a lingering disease, But finding no redress, ferment and rage, Nor less than wounds immedicable Rankle, and fester, and gangrene, To black mortification. Thoughts my tormentors armed with deadly stings Mangle my apprehensive tenderest parts, Exasperate, exulcerate, and raise Dire inflammation which no cooling herb Or med'cinal liquor can assuage, Nor breath of vernal air from snowy alp.

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