256. (Samuel Beckett)

Beckett said Samuel Johnson was always with him; yet reading the trilogy, Molloy etc, one feels also (Kenner remarked on it in his 1968 study) that Wordsworth was often with him too. Parts of it seem to have come from an experiment: what if Wordsworth’s solitaries, the leech-gatherer above all, attempted to write their own Recherche du Temps Perdu? How Johnson in this? An answer … Continue reading 256. (Samuel Beckett)

246. (William Wordsworth)

“His Muse (it cannot be denied, and without this we cannot explain its character at all) is a levelling one. It proceeds on a principle of equality and strives to reduce all things to the same standard.” William Hazlitt’s insight into Wordsworth’s poetry has endured and been frequently repeated. But readers and critics of Wordsworth have been far from leveling in their appraisal of and … Continue reading 246. (William Wordsworth)

245. (Stendhal)

Stendhal’s romanticism has been described by Erich Auerbach in terms of “atmosphere,” a unifying relation of place, person, and time that we find in the works of Walter Scott and the medievalism of Coleridge and Keats; it is in fact a new conception of history, a sense that different peoples breath different atmospheres and are formed by the air that they breathe. Describing Balzac, with … Continue reading 245. (Stendhal)

221. (John Keats)

This post is the first in a series of evolving sketches on “decorum” in poetry; it leads into the next post, on Emily Dickinson, both of which are much refined and restated in yet another post on Emily Dickinson (223). Through all of these posts, I’m writing against and with Donald Davie, the critic best remembered for Articulate Energy and Purity of Diction in English Verse. None of … Continue reading 221. (John Keats)

211. (Percy Shelley)

Shelley’s poetry has challenged some of the finest critics, and even Hazlitt, who stands opposed to Shelley’s most notable detractors, such as Eliot and Hazlitt, is chary in his praise. It’s thought now that the matter is behind us, but that is only because the matter of critical argument over taste isn’t much done, but taste remains a standing challenge to powers of articulation and … Continue reading 211. (Percy Shelley)

207. (Amy Clampitt)

Amy Clampitt’s “Nothing Stays Put” opens with an allusion to Wordsworth’s “The World is Too Much With Us,” and the turn her allusion takes is indicative of what she makes of the excess of the world: “The strange and wonderful are too much with us.” That line itself can be heard numerous ways: the description itself, “how strange and wonderful” is too often spoken and … Continue reading 207. (Amy Clampitt)

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)