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)

184. (Andrew Marvell)

Not that the poems are about language, but they are about a mild yearning for something beyond or before civilization and the human existence that seems, to Marvell, to demand and aspire to the civilization that he would see around and through; language being a part of such an existence, and such a civilization, the poems cannot but also reflect on their own means or … Continue reading 184. (Andrew Marvell)

183. (J.R.R. Tolkien)

I don’t think it’s much use denying that Tolkien’s mythology is in some ways racist: growing from Anglo-Saxon ideologies of race prevalent in the early twentieth-century world in which he grew into consciousness. I don’t think either that it is essential that we associate his characters with any one ethnicity, that anything falls if we imagine some of the characters as he does not describe … Continue reading 183. (J.R.R. Tolkien)

181. (William Empson)

Empson’s final words on the poem “Bacchus,” a poem about drink, in one of his statements on it: “I think it sufficiently intelligible to sympathize with.” The trouble, with the poem and with Empson’s apologetic, uneasy defense, is that the relationship between intelligibility and sympathy is not as direct as this. A middle term, “understanding,” is missing, and what “understanding” requires is what Empson in … Continue reading 181. (William Empson)