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)

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)

176. (Robert Burns)

It’s difficult to know what to do with Robert Burns, besides read and enjoy him, and take fortification from him; he doesn’t seem to play games with words that invite others to play along, and the poetry is disarming for criticism of a certain fervent close-reading type, less by its honesty than by its plausible claims to honesty. Maybe it’s easier, initially, to appreciate the … Continue reading 176. (Robert Burns)

175. (Lord Byron)

An answer to the question, “Why does Don Juan incite laughter?” will not take the form of verbal criticism, because verbal criticism, the close analysis of language, will murder the life of the jokes by dissection even as it succeeds in revealing what cognitive elements the jokes arrange and order. The question needs to be approached differently, and I’ve made notes towards doing so: but the … Continue reading 175. (Lord Byron)