Studium anglistiky na KAA UPOL

(1) Sentimentalism, Exoticism, and Mysticism in Poetry of the Second Half of the Eighteenth Century.

(R. Burns, W. Blake, T. Percy, J. Macpherson, and T. Chatterton).

R o b e r t  B u r n s  ( 1 7 5 9 – 9 6 )

L i f e :

- democratic sympathies: admirer of the republican rev. in Am. and Fr.

- opponent of the strict Calvinism (father of a number of illegitimate children)

W o r k :

= consid. a natural genius, a poet by instinct; styled a ‘heaven-taught ploughman’, or a ‘Caledonia’s Bard’ x but: well-read, though largely self-educated

< (a) the oral tradition of Scott. folklore and folk song

< (b) the lit. tradition of poems in the Scots dialect of E

> revived the lyric and the legends of folk culture, and wrote in the language really spoken by the common people > anticipated William Wordsworth

F o l k  S o n g s :

- coll., ed., restored, and imitated traditional songs, also wrote new verses to traditional dance tunes

- keen ear for Scots vocabulary, idiom, and rhythm

- author of over 300 songs on love, drink, work, friendship, patriotism, and bawdry

- hearty, generous, and tender in tone, with a sympathy to all humans

The Scots Musical Museum (1787 – 1803): as a co-ed. of James Johnson’s anthology of Scott. songs

Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs (1793 – 1811): as a co-ed. of George Thomson’s (1757 – 1821, a collector) coll.

P o e t r y :

(a) in Scots, the northern dialect of E spoken by rural people: his best poetry (“To a Mouse”)

(b) in standard E: poetry in the genteel poetic tradition, with few exceptions (“Afton Water”) conventional

Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, the Kilmarnock ed. (1786): his 1st publ. vol., an immediate success

Tam o’Shanter: a mock-heroic verse narrative

Also wrote: satire, incl. devastating satires against the rigid relig.; and verse epistles to friends


W i l l i a m  B l a k e  ( 1 7 5 7 – 1 8 2 7 )

L i f e :

- apprenticed as an engraver x but: followed his ‘divine vision’

=> a life of isolation, misunderstanding, and poverty

W o r k :

- author of paintings, engravings, and illustr. for works of oth. poets & his own

- illustr. for his poems = an integral and mutually enlightening combination of words and design

- ‘illuminated printing’ = his own method of relief etching, used to produce most of his books of poems (hand-coloured, or printed in colour)

P o e t r y :

- subtle, symbolic, and allusive x but: the ambiguous style veils radical relig., moral, and political opinions

Poetical Sketches (1783): his 1st vol., dissatisfied with the reigning poetic tradition => sought new forms and techniques

Songs of Innocence (1789) > Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1794):

= visions of the world by ‘two contrary states of the human soul’

(1) Songs of Innocence: a hymn-like simplicity, use of nursery-rhyme

(2) Songs of Experience: compressed metaphor and symbol of multiple references (“The Tyger”, “London”, & oth.)

- interrelates the poems of both vol. as a series of shifting perceptions = (1) a falling away from the Edenic innocence to experience > (2) the possibility of progress twd a Christ-inspired ‘higher’ innocence

(1): challenges the innocent state

> “Holy Thursday”, celebrates the infant joy of the charity-children march x condemns the exploitation of ‘the aged men’

(2): equates the ‘wisdom’ of the old with oppression => satirical, even sarcastic

> “The Sick Rose”, suggests the mental, spiritual, and intellectual distortion by the “invisible worm” destroying the beauty of the rose

> “The Poison Tree” (= orig. “Christian Forbearance”), on the destructive force of repression; the tree = (a) the forbidden tree of knowledge, or (b) a metaphor of repressed emotion > (c) the negative Christian hypocrisy, and/or (d) the positive Christian forgiveness

> “The Garden of Love”, ironically wrecked by the ‘thou shalt nots’ of the priests

(1): introd. by the piper > (2): introd. by the ‘voice of the bard who present, past, and future sees’ = (1): a shift beyond the innocence… > (2): …into an awareness of the Fall

(2): the vol. opens with a daybreak > darkened by the following poems > closes by another morning in the concl. poem, “The Voice of the Ancient Bard” = a regeneration, a new age of spiritual liberty

P r o p h e c i e s :

- insisted he had been granted visions by God which he could transl. and interpret by interfusing picture and word (B.: ‘the nature of my work is visionary or imaginative’)

- yearned for a faith free of dogmatic assertion > a visionary poetry based on a complete mythology of his own

< infl. by the Bible, the Bible-derived epic structures of Dante Alighieri (1265 – 1321, [author of the epic poem The Divine Comedy]) and John Milton (1608 – 74, [author of the epic poem Paradise Lost]), and the hymnological tradition in E verse

< the eccentric Swedish visionary and mystic Emanuel Swedenborg (1688 – 1772) > redefined his cosmology > close to the Ger. theosophist Jacob Boehme (1575 – 1624): God the Father = neither good nor evil x but: contains the germs of both > the necessity of merging heaven with the creative energy of hell => celebrated the contraries

> infl. W(illiam) B(utler) Yeats

The French Revolution (1791), America: A Prophecy (1793), sequel Europe: A Prophecy (1794), and the prophetic satire The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790 – 93):

- wrote while supporting the Fr. Rev.: rev. = a purifying violence leading to the redemption of humanity

x but: his later poetry shifted from an apocalypse by rev. to an apocalypse by imagination (Orc = the fiery spirit of violent rev., gave way to Los)

The First Book of Urizen (1794), and The Book of Los (1795):

= prophetic books

- Urizen = oppressor and the negative God of “thou shalt nots” x embodiment of reason and law

- Los = rebel against Urizen

- Orc = both rebel and oppressor

The Four Zoas (an unfinished manuscript), Milton (1804), and Jerusalem (1820):

= major prophetic books

- conc. with the overall biblical plot interpreted in the ‘spiritual sense’: incl. the Creation, the Fall, the humanity in the fallen world, and redemption and the promise of a New Jerusalem

- written in the persona, or ‘voice’, of ‘the Bard’, going back to Edmund Spenser (c. 1952 – 99, [author of the epic poem Faerie Queene]) > J. Milton > and the prophets of the Bible

- the Four Zoas = Urizen + Tharmas + Luvah + Los = the results of the fall and division of the primeval man = Albion (= orig. an ancient mythological name for the Br. Isles)

- the demonic characters in Jerusalem < the incident of his altercation with a private, haunting his imagination (B. pushed the soldier to the inn where he was quartered after he had refused to leave his garden and answered with threads and curses)

Also wrote: A Vision of the Last Judgement (1810), a prose book


T h o m a s  P e r c y  ( 1 7 2 9 – 1 8 1 1 )

L i f e :

- a scholarly bishop x but: did not feel pressurised to concentrate his energies on theology only

- educated to appreciate classical principles x but: reflected the shift twd a new and receptive poetic sensibility

W o r k :

- interested in lit. outside narrowly defined canons => pioneered the explorations of alternative lit. traditions

T r a n s l a t i o n s :

- author of transl. of relig. / secular writings: transl. of the “Song of Solomon”, author of a key to the New Testament, & oth.

Hau Kiou Choaan, or The Pleasing History (1761): a Chinese novel transl. from the Portug.

Five Pieces of Runic Poetry Translated from the Islandic Language (1763): transl. from the Icelandic and ‘improved’ by the transl., aimed for the market for ‘ancient poetry’ newly opened by James MacPherson’s Ossian

Northern Antiquities (1770): transl. from the French

B a l l a d s :

Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765):

= a 3-vol. coll. of ballad poetry

< based on a various 17th c. manuscript coll. now known as ‘The Percy Folio’ (saved it from destruction when he discovered it ‘being used by the maids to light the fire’)

- ed. and ‘improved’ x but: with an alertness to the virtues of a plain mode of expression, in spite of the ‘polished age, like the present’

- also visually pleasing: vignettes on the title pages, and a copperplate engraving in each of the 3 parts of the 3 vol.

> greatly successful x but: did not secure him an adequate living

> foreshadowed the ballad revival in E poetry, characteristic of the Romantic movement: W. Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, & oth.

The Hermit of Warkworth (1771):

= his orig. ballad on the Warkworth castle

- combined the vogue for the ‘Churchyard Poets’ + the ballad vogue he himself had set in motion

> Samuel Johnson’s (= Dr. Johnson, 1709 – 84, a poet, essayist, and biographer) 3 satires on the ‘simplicity’ of the ballad verse form: the narrow line btw the beautiful simplicity and simple mindedness


J a m e s  M a c p h e r s o n  ( 1 7 3 6 – 9 6 )

= a vicarious contrib. to lit.: pretended to have discovered and transl. the works of the early Scott. Gaelic poet ‘Ossian, the son of Fingal’

> a widely received Romantic image of the primitive poet

> depicted parallel to Homer (8th c. BC, [author of epics Iliad and Odyssey]) as the Bard of the North on the proscenium arch of the rebuild Covent Garden Theatre (1858)

‘ O s s i a n i c ’ F a k e s :

Fragments of Ancient Poetry Collected in the Highlands of Scotland (1760): supposedly a transl. of poetry from Scott. Gaelic, based on the manuscripts he claimed to have discovered in the Highlands and Islands

Fingal: An Ancient Epic Poem in Six Books; Together with Several other Poems composed by Ossian, the Son of Fingal, translated from the Gaelic Language (1762):

= supposedly a transl. of an epic by the 3rd c. bard Ossian

- employed the musical measured prose he had used in his earlier vol.

(−) some Gaelic ballad poetry truly attributed to one ‘Oisean’, son of the warrior Fionn x but: cleverly adapted, re-created, and expanded mere fragments of surviving verse

(−) compounded stories belonging to different cycles to give a Homeric coherence and classical solemnity to the disparate ballad accounts of ancient Scott. feuds

(+) appreciated natural beauty, incl. the emotive associations of wild landscape

(+) treated the ancient legend of primitive heroism with a melancholy tenderness

> the authenticity immediately challenged by Dr. Johnson, claiming M. had found fragments of ancient poems and stories and woven them into a romance of his own composition

> modern critics tend to agree with Johnson

> admired by Johann Gottfried Herder (1744 – 1803), Friedrich Schiller (1759 – 1805), and Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749 – 1832) who incorporated his transl. of a part of the work into his novel The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774)

Temora: An Ancient Epic Poem in Eight Books; Together with Several other Poems composed by Ossian, the Son of Fingal (1763): another epic

The Works of Ossian (1765): a coll. ed. of Fingal and Temora

Also wrote: Iliad (1763), a stodgy prose version of Homer’s epic

T h o m a s  C h a t t e r t o n  ( 1 7 5 2 – 7 0 )

L i f e :

- wayward from his earliest y.: uninterested in the games of oth. children, liable to fits of abstraction when sitting for hours as if in trance or crying for no reason > consid. educationally backward

< his uncle held an office in a church > familiar with the altar tombs commemorating the dead knights and ecclesiastics, and with ancient legal documents laying there forgotten

< a voracious reader of Geoffrey Chaucer (1343 – 1400), T. Percy’s Reliques, J. Macpherson’s Ossian, etc.

- from the age of 11 contrib. relig. poems to a local journal > later political satires to London periodicals: his contrib. accepted x but: paid for little or not at all

- did not have to suffer the dire poverty x but: too proud to accept help

- financial distress + lack of lit. success => suicide (17+ y.) by drinking arsenic dissolved in water after tearing into fragments whatever lit. remains were at hand

> the Romantic image of the suffering of unacknowledged genius

> = the “marvellous Boy” in W. Wordsworth’s “Resolution and Independence” (1807)

> = the dedicatee of John Keats’s Endymion (1818)

> = the subject of Henry Wallis’s (1830 – 1916, pre-Raphaelite painter) painting (1856)

> commemorated in poems by S. T. Coleridge, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, & oth.

W o r k :

- fascinated with the Middle Ages > lived in an ideal medieval world of his own creation

=> forged the so-called ‘Rowley Poems’ = mock medieval poems by the imaginary 15th c. priest Thomas Rowley

‘ R o w l e y ’ F a k e s :

“Elinoure and Juga”:

= the only of the ‘Rowley’ poems publ. during his lifetime, an ‘eclogue’

- written before he was 12 > claimed it to be a transcription of Rowley’s work

- incl. obvious borrowings, deliberate use of archaic words picked out of dictionaries, and anachronistic use of Elizabethan verse forms

“An Excelente Balade of Charitie”: another of the “Rowley” poems, rejected for publ. in a periodical

Poems supposed to have been written at Bristol by Thomas Rowley and others, in the Fifteenth Century (1777):

= a posthum. coll. of the ‘Rowley’ poems

- ed. by a Chaucerian scholar then believing them genuine medieval works

- the authenticity challenged shortly thereafter > proved to be fakes

“Ode to Liberty”:

= a fragment of a larger unpreserved work = Tragedy of Goddwyn

- may be counted among the finest martial lyrics in E

Ælla, a Tragical Interlude: incl. passages of rare lyrical beauty

Also wrote: prose / verse political letters, eclogues, lyrics, operas, and satires


Abrams, Meyer Howard, ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1993.

Barnard, Robert. Stručné dějiny anglické literatury. Praha: Brána, 1997.

Sanders, Andrew. The Short Oxford History of English Literature. New York: Clarendon Press, 1994.

Other Sources

Jelínková, Ema. Semináře: Britská literatura 1. ZS 2004/05.



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