174. (Lord Byron)

Like many other great works of Romantic literature, Don Juan finds human caring to be a source of life and makes it an object of contemplation; like Blake’s lyrics and visions, like the poetry of Wordsworth’s decade, or Coleridge’s ballad, Byron’s mock-epic cares about caring. Looking for criticism on the topic, I came to Erik Gray’s study of nineteenth-century British poetry, The Poetry of Indifference, but found … Continue reading 174. (Lord Byron)

122. (Percy Bysshe Shelley)

A poem by Shelley, with critical commentary following: When the lamp is shattered The light in the dust lies dead– When the cloud is scattered The rainbow’s glory is shed– When the lute is broken Sweet tones are remembered not– When the lips have spoken Loved accents are soon forgot. . As music and splendour Survive not the lamp and the lute, The heart’s echoes … Continue reading 122. (Percy Bysshe Shelley)

117. (Lord Byron)

“If there is a critique of the Enlightenment to be made, it is not that the philosophes believed in human nature, or the universality of reason: it is rather that they were so dismally unimaginative about the range of what we have in common.” The Byron of Don Juan, I suspect, would not have been averse to Kwame Appiah’s words, from his spirited defense of “Rooted Cosmopolitanism” … Continue reading 117. (Lord Byron)

111. (John Keats)

On either side of John Keats’ “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” sit Wordsworth’s “Resolution and Independence” and Tennyson’s “Vision of Sin.” All three are poems about encounters with pictures of strikingly alien people: Wordsworth’s, characteristically, about the imagination’s projection interfering with what is before him; Tennyson’s, characteristically, framed by an account of the vision’s arrival and dissipation. Wordsworth’s poem, then, founded on the conflict between … Continue reading 111. (John Keats)

108. (William Wordsworth)

  Wordsworth is one of the revolutionaries of English literary history, and not just because, as critics since Coleridge have observed, his poetry bristles with the unresolved metaphysical tensions between the accidental and the necessary, the unity of being and the fragmentations of memory and feeling, or the fissures between the history of the imagination and the imagination of history; he is a revolutionary because … Continue reading 108. (William Wordsworth)

84. (William Wordsworth)

If the project of the humanities is the recovery of the past, then a part of that recovery must be the task of criticism that is appreciative, even evaluative; such criticism can restore to the present the sources of power in poetry that may have been occluded by time, convention, or ossified habits of thought and reading. So it is when we read Christopher Ricks’ … Continue reading 84. (William Wordsworth)

73. (John Keats)

The preference for the Keats of the letters to the Keats of the poems is more than the outcome of a critic’s desert-island fantasy. When Christopher Ricks remarks that he would choose the letters over the poems, but that he is glad that he does not have to choose, he is making a statement of principle: that the letters contain life as the poems, great … Continue reading 73. (John Keats)