The Continuity of Poetic Language: Studies in English Poetry from the 1540's to the 1940's

By Josephine Miles | Go to book overview

THE CONTINUITY OF ENGLISH POETIC LANGUAGE

UPON THE assumption that the five decades of the 'forties may represent their respective five centuries, as the thousand lines of twenty poets in each of these decades represent the poets and their eras, one may base some brief and tentative generalizations about the nature and development of English poetic usage.

Most generally, one may assert the homogeneity of five centuries of practice and at the same time the details of singularity. None of the hundred poets seems to work outside the frame of the whole; he always has companions. But none is close to complete likeness to any other, even in major vocabulary, or even in proportioning, which is necessarily limited by the capacities of the poetic line and the common sentence structure.

Second, one may note that groupings of poets are based more solidly on time than on type. Each decade has its own homogeneity, though each has a different degree of heterogeneity. There is, moreover, a clear direction of development from one century to another, not a mere moving back and forth of tendencies. This directional force is what alters type and revises it to temporal ends. A type does prevail and progress, but as it progresses it seems to merge with other types into the specific mode of the new day, and therefore is only partly recognizable, in new shape.

Rearrangements within time and type are flexible because of the adjustability of the various characteristics of the medium used. The sound, reference, and sentence structure of language may not all change at once or in regular parallel, but may make numerous small changes in interrelation. Internal proportions may be stabilized, as external controls decline; sound in qualitative reflection may take over some of the function of qualification by epithet. The stresses and strains of material seem to alter and readjust themselves to new modes of thought and feeling.

The table of proportions (table A) shows even at one glance the

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The Continuity of Poetic Language: Studies in English Poetry from the 1540's to the 1940's
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • THE PRIMARY LANGUAGE OF POETRY IN THE 1640''s *
  • Title Page *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • Contents *
  • I. the Poetry of the 1540''s and the 1640''s 1
  • II- Twenty Poets of the 1640''s 46
  • Iii. Materials and Attitudes in Prose 103
  • Iv. Critical Attitudes and Descriptive Conclusions 125
  • Bibliography 155
  • THE PRIMARY LANGUAGE OF POETRY IN THE 1740''s AND 1840''s *
  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • ACKNOWLEDGMENT *
  • I. Poetry of the 1740''s 161
  • Ii. Grounds of Prose in the 1740''s 223
  • Iii. Poetry of the 1840''s 258
  • Iv. Grounds of Prose in the 1840''s 322
  • V. Classic and Romantic 348
  • Bibliography 373
  • THE PRIMARY LANGUAGE OF POETRY IN THE 1940''s *
  • Title Page *
  • ACKNOWLEDGMENT *
  • Contents *
  • I. Poetry of the 1940''s 383
  • Ii. Backgrounds in Prose- Practice and Theory 459
  • Iii. Comparisons and Conclusions 497
  • THE CONTINUITY OF ENGLISH POETIC LANGUAGE 517
  • Bibliography 537
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