This essay examines how Charlotte Smith and William Wordsworth manipulate the autobiographical and elements of poetical voicing as they explore the figure of the Romantic Poet. Focusing on Beachy Head (1807) and The Prelude (1805), I suggest that in devising separate, competing but eventually equal “personal” voices in Beachy Head, and in interrogating tropes of genre and composition in The Prelude, the two poets signal their interest in using poetry to provide an answer to Wordsworth’s famous question, “What is a Poet?” For each, the model of the Romantic poet is most viable when, like wet clay, it is still able to be shaped.
This essay reads Byron’s personal and historical reflections in Manfred and Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage through Nietzsche’s meditations on memory and forgetting in Untimely Meditations. These poetic recollections are explored as moments of wilful erasure. Central to Nietzsche’s thoughts “On the Use and Disadvantages of History for Life” is how single moments are forgotten only to be unwillingly recalled at some future present historical moment. Byron’s desire to forget biography and history, paradoxically, produces a capacity to remember. Byron’s meditations on historical ruins become his own imaginative reflections on both the impulse to, and impossibility of, recovering historical and personal origins or securing an authorial posthumous reputation.
Although he sometimes decried the notion of a duality of body and soul, few poets were more conscious than Percy Bysshe Shelley of the soul’s imprisonment in the illusory material world. In considering Shelley’s notion of the self, this essay will track his constant search to discover and unlock his own inner powers of empathy, imagination and liberation.
This essay examines the central role of women in modelling Keats’s posthumous reputation during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by focusing on the visual heritage of his narrative poems. While the Pre-Raphaelite’s interest in and well-known renderings of Keats’s poems have been the subject of previous critical attention, many comparable images by women artists have been neglected. This essay analyses a wide variety of paintings, drawings and illustrations based on Keats’s “Isabella; or, the Pot of Basil” and “La Belle Dame sans Merci” by women artists at the turn-of-the-century. This examination of women artists, who were celebrated during their own lifetimes but are now virtually forgotten, culminates in a detailed discussion of Jessie Marion King. Her highly innovative illustrations for Keats’s poetry are not only indicative of the final phase of Pre-Raphaelitism and the distinctive “Glasgow Style;” they also underline the significance of women’s artistic responses to literature during this period.
The essay examines Yeats’s highly self-conscious representation of the self in the light of his assertion in A General Introduction for My Work that, in a poem, the poet is remodelled as “something intended, complete.” It pays particular attention to a range of individual poems across his career, doing so in order to explore the idea that it is in the unfoldings of the poetry itself that we can encounter most closely and fruitfully the conflicting tensions associated with Yeats’s post-Romantic remodelling of the self. The poems are shown to derive much of their power and value from the ways in which they enact, work through, and dramatise the crisscrossing strains associated with the proposition quoted from A General Introduction.
Although the titles of Robert Frost’s collections of poetry, including North of Boston, appear to ground his work in a precise location and a known community, the poems themselves belie any secure sense of geography and any secure sense of attachment. Many of the poems were, in fact, composed in Buckinghamshire and Gloucestershire shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, and they reveal an acute awareness of British, as well as American, literary traditions and ideals. This essay looks at how Frost created the New England of his poems, subtly establishing lines of continuity with British and American Romanticism while simultaneously harbouring profound philosophical doubts about inherited models of poetic subjectivity and imagination. The place of poetry, for Frost, is seen to be a place in which the play of mind is, itself, the most pressing subject matter.
The dominance of the visual is often seen as a new and defining feature of contemporary culture. Yet it is Romantic poetry which most powerfully associates the act of seeing with understanding, self-shaping and the visionary. This article draws on the ideas of the Idealist philosopher J.G. Fichte and the German Romantic writers Novalis and F.W. Schlegel, as well as some of Walter Benjamin’s reading of their work, to explore the ways in which contemporary poetry engages with this Romantic legacy. Making connections with the metaphors of reflection and refraction used by Wordsworth and Coleridge, the article interprets examples of 21st-century post-Romantic text poetry (which revisits Romantic models with an ecological inflection), and digital poetry (which uses technology to reconfigure the relationship between text, self and the visual). More specifically, it proposes a set of relations between visual perception of the natural world, reflective thought and awareness of self in the work of three contemporary poets: Thomas A.Clark (born Greenock, Scotland, 1944), John Burnside (born Dunfermline, Scotland, 1955) and John Cayley (born Ottawa, Canada).
This essay examines how subjective identities are discursively constructed in William Blake and P.B. Shelley, making brief references to William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, John Keats, and Charlotte Smith. It is argued that, although the poets come up with strikingly divergent solutions to the challenge of self-modelling, they face the same fundamental problems of self-grounding, working as they do within the paradox-prone paradigm of a Romantic self that tries to constitute itself out of itself. Comparing these Romantic poets with twentieth-century poetic models of selfhood and identity in Robert Frost and Wallace Stevens, this essay provides a tentative answer to the question of whether we continue to operate within the Romantic framework of discursive self-construction or whether in fact we have moved beyond this mode of self-construction.