Arthur Hugh Clough

Excerpt

Clough has until recently been regarded as a marginal and eccentric poet. Yet he is in no sense a peripheral writer. His work is unique in Victorian poetry, and he developed a remarkable individual idiom.

Even a new reader of Clough soon learns to recognise his characteristic tones and manners of approach:

So that the whole great wicked artificial civilised fabric-- All its unfinished houses, lots for sale, and railway outworks Seems re-accepted, resumed . . .

('The Bothie of Tober-na-Vuolich')

Thou shalt have one God only; who Would be at the expense of two? . . . Thou shalt not kill; but needst not strive Officiously to keep alive.

('The Latest Decalogue')

Tibur is beautiful too, and the orchard slopes, and the Anio Falling, falling yet, to the ancient lyrical cadence.

('Amours de Voyage')

Many of the qualities most distinctive of Clough's work are suggested here: he assumed that the familiar details of Victorian daily life could be valid material for poetry; he used ironic wit and epigram for his most serious purposes, and managed it with adroit sharpness; he extracted lyricism from the sober ordinariness of language, and manipulated the cadences of conversational speech so as to achieve an apparently casual, understated eloquence. All these qualities are typical of Clough, but hardly typical of Victorian poetry.

Additional information

Contributors:
Publisher: Place of publication:
  • London
Publication year:
  • 1962

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