Some Observations on Eighteenth Century Poetry

Some Observations on Eighteenth Century Poetry

Some Observations on Eighteenth Century Poetry

Some Observations on Eighteenth Century Poetry

Excerpt

In offering to speak to you about the poetry of the eighteenth century I have in mind both the opinion in which it has been generally held since the days of Wordsworth and Coleridge, and the growing disinclination to take that opinion on trust. The confusion of our groping and crowded times has aroused a new interest in the controlled simplicity of that great body of poetry, so unlike the poetry which these times are themselves producing; and this new interest may be expected to lead to a reassessment. All that I propose to do in the three lectures which I have now to deliver in honour of Professor Alexander is to make a series of remarks on matters or aspects which of late have been receiving attention and are likely to be taken into yet fuller consideration.

Perhaps we are only now getting far enough away from the eighteenth century to see its poetry clearly and dispassionately. Somehow it moved the passions of the nineteenth century, and what some of us have been saying about the Victorians is not more unkind and self-satisfied than what the Victorians themselves said about their grandfathers. There should be no occasion now for passion at the safe distance of two hundred years. We have outlived it when we speak of the other . . .

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