American Poetry in the Eighteen Nineties: A Study of American Verse, 1890-1899, Based upon the Volumes from That Period Contained in the Harris Collection of American Poetry and Plays in the Brown University Library

By Carlin T. Kindilien | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
POETIC FORM IN THE NINETIES

THE reader who has worked his way through these hundreds of volumes might conclude that this generation of poets--perhaps every generation--experimented with the entire range of poetic forms. Here in a ten year span one may see the whole pageant of a poetic heritage pass before his eyes in recognizable form: translations of Anglo Saxon poems, paraphrases of Chaucer Prologue, imitations of medieval hymns and translations of Latin poems, ballads, madrigals, Wyatt-like love lyrics, metaphysical poetry, heroic couplet satires, epics, topographical verse, blank verse, nature poems, Byronic romances, Keatsian odes, dramatic monologues, classical narratives, imitations of Fitzgerald and Poe, the French miniature forms, free verse, symbolist experiments; and always the language, the figures of speech, the structure of Tennyson and Longfellow--the demi-gods of the versifiers. The representative poet sought nothing in the way of an original form. Rebellion against traditional methods of expression was out of the question in the volume of verse which wanted, first, a publisher, and, second, an audience. The ordinary poet continued to grind away at the conventional forms and hasten the arrival of the day when he and his like would bore themselves out of acceptance by even an insensitive audience. Guided ever by the test of audience acceptance, the conventionalist looked to successful poets of the present or past rather than to appropriate forms for his expression--and he usually looked to the English poets. Although some of the conventionalists went back to the English Renaissance for models, to the Cavalier group, and to the Neoclassic epic poets, most of the writers found their guides among the major poets of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The metrics and diction of Burns, the blank verse nature poems of Wordsworth, the romantic narratives of Byron, the odes of Keats and Shelley, the dramatic monologues of Browning, and nearly every form of Tennyson were

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American Poetry in the Eighteen Nineties: A Study of American Verse, 1890-1899, Based upon the Volumes from That Period Contained in the Harris Collection of American Poetry and Plays in the Brown University Library
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Preface ix
  • Contents xvii
  • Chapter I - The Literary Scene 1
  • Chapter II - The Continuing Tradition 23
  • Chapter III - The New Traditionalism 73
  • Chapter IV - The Poet-Critics of Society and Religion 123
  • Chapter V - Whitman and the Vagabondians 169
  • Chapter VI - Poetic Form in the Nineties 191
  • Index 215
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