I profiled Hopkins (1844-1889), who is one of my favourite poets, ages ago. Although written during the Victorian era, his poems are Romantic in their emphasis on nature and spirituality, and were published (posthumously) during the Modern period. ‘The Windhover’ describes the flight of a falcon as it hovers and then drops, but also captures the spiritual ecstasy inspired by associating this sight with the sigh of Christ returning in majesty. However, the language – Hopkins’ ‘sprung verse’ – and the imagery is so evocative and captivating that the poem seems to transcend any religious framework to touch the hearts of people from many different backgrounds and beliefs.
To Christ our Lord
I caught this morning morning’s minion, kingdom
of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!
No wonder of it: shèer plòd makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold vermilion.
The 20th century was a time of tremendous social change as people began to question, and then challenge, the hierarchical concepts which had previously shaped the social order. From the suffragettes of the early 20th century to the mid-century Civil and Women’s Rights movements to the LGBT activism of the late 20th century ideas about who should have power, and why, have changed in ways that our great-grandparents would probably have struggled to imagine. Continue reading “Poems You Should Know: Still I Rise”→
John Keats (1795-1821) was one of the most innovative poets of the Romantic movement, and ‘Ode To A Nightingale’ is filled with the things the Romantics loved best: emotion, nature, death, and, in this case, drug use. It’s one of six ‘Odes’ composed by Keats in 1819 as a new variety of short(ish) lyric poem. Of the other five the best known today are probably ‘Ode On A Grecian Urn’ and one of my personal favourites, ‘To Autumn’. Continue reading “Poems You Should Know: ‘Ode To A Nightingale’ by John Keats”→
Written during the Victorian period, the combination of realism (death is sometimes described as the ultimate reality), intellect (‘remember’, ‘tell’, ‘counsel’, ‘pray’, ‘thoughts’), emotion (the poem is permeated by the melancholy which accompanies the death of a loved one), and symbolism (referring to death as ‘the silent land’) in ‘Remember Me’ is all characteristic of the writing of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, of which Christina Rossetti (1830-1864) was arguably one of the foremost poets. ‘Remember Me’ speaks from the point of view of a person contemplating their own death and exhorting their loved one to remember them after death – but not at the cost of their own continued life and happiness. It’s apparently a favourite at funerals.
Thus far in this project I’ve rather neglected New Zealand literature, so I thought I should pay it some attention. Doubly rooted in the rich oral tradition of the indigenous Maori people and the equally rich literary tradition of Britain and Europe, New Zealand offers a great deal that is worth paying attention to. The following is little more than a taster of works by some of our most celebrated writers, arranged in chronological order. Continue reading “New Zealand Literature”→
Following my recent post on the history of poetry I’m starting a new series of posts along the same lines as my Paintings You Should Know series – ‘Poems You Should Know’. Much like the painting series I’m not planning on following a particular chronology or providing deep analysis; I’ll simply be sharing significant poems.
“Tell me about Danny,” (not his real name, obviously), the social worker said.
I smiled. “You know how we’re not supposed to have favourites?” I told her. “Well, he’s one of the favourites that I officially don’t have.”
Danny was a kid with a lot of challenges, but he was lucky: he had mum firmly on his side, determined to get him the help he needed. Not all kids are so fortunate, a subject which the social worker and I touched upon before she left. Modern British poet Philip Larkin captured this reality all too well in his funny, offensive (the f-word, so don’t click ‘Read More’ if that’s something that will offend you), and heart-wrenching poem ‘This Be The Verse.’ Continue reading “Random Poem: ‘This Be The Verse’ by Philip Larkin”→
I first came across this poem as a Christmas carol adaptation by one of my favourite contemporary Christian bands, Casting Crowns (you can listen to their version here). Longfellow (1807-1882) wrote the original in 1863, in response to the American Civil War (1861-1865). It was an intensely personal poem: Longfellow’s eldest son, Charles Appleton Longfellow, had joined the War in the Union cause without his father’s blessing, and had later been seriously wounded in Virginia.
Although it has subsequently been adapted several times, with the more specific references to the War altered or omitted, the original runs as follows: