202. (William Wordsworth)

Unlike Samson, whose strength returns with his hair and whose blindness, though indignity and infirmity, is not absolute impotence, Wordsworth’s lack of visionary powers seems to the poet in the Intimations Ode to be a total loss. It takes little effort to read Wordsworth’s “Ode” as his response to Milton’s Samson Agonistes, as much in its premises as in its verbal texture: Samson, whose capacity for … Continue reading 202. (William Wordsworth)

201. (Sarah Kirsch)

The 2014 Ice Roses: Selected Poems of the German poet Sarah Kirsch, published a year after her death (Kirsch was born in 1935), and translated into superb English poems by Anne Stokes, opens with “By the white daisies”: . By the white daisies In the park I stand Underneath the willow as he instructed me Unkempt ld woman without leaves See she says he isn’t … Continue reading 201. (Sarah Kirsch)

200. (Wallace Stevens)

Stevens’ poetry is the culmination of romantic idealism, and in comprehending its method and ambitions, the words of philosopher Sebastian Rödl (from his most recent work, Self-Consciousness and Objectivity) are apposite: This explains what may appear a curious character of the present essay: it propounds no theses, advances no hypotheses, does not recommend a view or position; it does not give arguments that are to support a … Continue reading 200. (Wallace Stevens)

195. (Alfred Lord Tennyson)

One story of Romanticism (mostly true, however simplified) goes: some poets from 1790s onwards find their freedom in their capacity to imagine the world. It reflects a distortion and exaggeration of idealist philosophy: freedom arrives as man imposes his understanding onto reality. The better, defensible, fruitful story about German idealism goes: in self-conscious actions and beliefs about the world, humanity finds its freedom. (That is … Continue reading 195. (Alfred Lord Tennyson)

189. (William Shakespeare)

The experiences of time, from its swelling (the remove from the court in As You Like It) and contracting time (Richard II; Macbeth), of time bandying the lives of characters (early comedies), of characters clearing space in the determined march of history (Falstaff), suggests that Shakespeare’s openness to a variety of individuals and passions can be conceived as an imaginative openness and sensitivity to time, not as … Continue reading 189. (William Shakespeare)

186. (Tim Vallence)

The following is a poem by Tim Vallence, a former teacher and friend. It was recently published in the journal Southerly; I reproduce it here from a manuscript. Tim Vallence died in 2016. The title is “Balliang,” the name of a locality in Victoria, Australia. . the tall breaking black silos in dark twilight like dark gapped teeth so quiet the breath of wind plays out … Continue reading 186. (Tim Vallence)