OXFORD has always been the mother or nurse of poets. But this itself would not entitle us to speak of the poetry of Oxford: when we give the name of Oxford poets to poets who were educated at Oxford, we are doing little more than pleasing our fancy and flattering our local patriotism. One does not call Virgil a Milanese poet, nor Goethe a Leipsic or Strasburg poet. Normally the place of a poet's education has little direct bearing on his poetry, nor has his poetry much direct bearing on the place of his education.
But the poetry of Oxford, as a term used in the stricter sense, may bear two meanings. In the first place it may mean poetry written about Oxford; description of Oxford, either in its outward aspect or in its intellectual and social life, raised by some touch of melody or imagination into the sphere of poetry and forming the figured background upon which some image of life is set in relief. This kind of poetry falls under one or other of two divisions, according as the treatment is substantive or episodic: on the one hand the occasional piece, often a mere sketch or fragment, which consists of description coloured by imagination; on the other, the passage in some larger imaginative composition which gives the picture of Oxford incidentally, as ornament included in and subordinated to a larger design.
In the second place, the poetry of Oxford may mean