141. (Robert Browning)

In most lyric poems of the nineteenth century, the pressure exerted on the language derive from the intense self-consciousness of the speaker: self-accusation, self-awareness, self-doubt, self-affirmation, but almost always occurring with the assumption that the speaker is alone with his or her words, and a solitary encounter with language. Even in the conversation poems of Wordsworth and Coleridge, though another is present, it is not … Continue reading 141. (Robert Browning)

132. (Alfred Lord Tennyson)

What to do with meter? The question for poets is simple: employ it, reinvent it, or leave it alone. For critics, the question is answered with greater difficulty, though critics might be said to fall into three corresponding camps: employing it (by relating it to the poem’s subject matter, or investing it with political and cultural significance), reinvent it (devising new schemes and notations for … Continue reading 132. (Alfred Lord Tennyson)

127. (George Eliot)

This post will open with George Eliot and then drift, possibly to return. For a starting point, consider one of the most beguiling and frustrating of passages in nineteenth-century British literature: Her finely-touched spirit had still its fine issues, though they were not widely visible. Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great … Continue reading 127. (George Eliot)

41. (Christopher Smart)

Nowadays, Christopher Smart is best known for his “Jubilate Agno”—“Rejoice in the Lamb.” That poem smacks of the modern, even the Modernist. But the greater challenge for readers of Smart’s work is a poem, equally and differently great, that first piqued the interest and then, by the late nineteenth century, seized the attention of readers: “A Song to David.” The poem is gracefully monumental: a … Continue reading 41. (Christopher Smart)

34. (Robert Browning)

Apt that an Italian would assist with placing Browning plain before the eyes. Franco Moretti (once again), but this time on realist prose in The Bourgeois: Between Literature and History (Browning, a poet between literature and history, suits the title too): It is at once the most ‘natural’ and most ‘un-natural’ way of observing the world, this unfaltering attention to what is: natural, in that it … Continue reading 34. (Robert Browning)

15. (Robert Browning)

Tennyson, haunted by the memory of Arthur Hallam, must look down from atop that long staircase to the stars (the one he describes in In Memoriam) with brooding pleasure at those who remain haunted by Hallam today—for such still exist, the eccentric brood of those who have devoted time and thought to Victorian poetry, and in so doing have had to encounter, and re-encounter, sometimes unrecognizable … Continue reading 15. (Robert Browning)