185. (David Ferry)

David Ferry’s translation of the Aeneid is an argument that the poem is not tragic, but elegiac; it is impelled by a forward urgency, to found Rome but to overcome the pain of death, suffering, and destruction as only the founding and glory of Rome can, but it is also ensnared in the refusal to let go of loss, to mourn proleptically, before the fatal blow is … Continue reading 185. (David Ferry)

133. (William Wordsworth)

Poetry consoles the feelings of betrayal and disappointment as it does no other feelings because poetry is inherently awakened by anxieties and realities of both: why else deviate into meter, novelties of metaphor, and disorienting patterns of language unless motivated somewhat by the sense that language, as it appears in various other, more normal combinations and arrangements, would betray and disappoint? In the past week, … Continue reading 133. (William Wordsworth)

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)

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)

37. (Henry James)

His sentences are moved to excess with a wariness of waste. The inheritance of scrupulous, new-world economizing is carried over, by an instinct that lived on the nerves, to react against authors whose imaginations abnegate their responsibilities for accounting. Authors ought, the years of reviews, letters, and personal achievements suppose, to know where to draw the circle of attention, should discern where the relations between words, … Continue reading 37. (Henry James)