English Poets of the Eighteenth Century eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 311 pages of information about English Poets of the Eighteenth Century.
  London (1794)
  Auguries of innocence (WR. c. 1801-03), LL. 1-44, 73-90
  Verses fromMilton” (Engraved c. 1804)
  And did those feet in ancient time
  reason and imagination
  verses fromJerusalem” (Engraved c. 1804-11)
  To the DEISTS

George Canning
  the progress of man (1798), Canto XXIII, ll. 7-16, 17-30
  The new morality (1798), ll. 87-157

Carolina, lady NAIRNE
  the land O’ the leal (WR. 1798)

INTRODUCTION

I. Orthodoxy and classicism quiescent (1700-1725) The clearest portrayal of the prominent features of an age may sometimes be seen in poems which reveal what men desire to be rather than what they are; and which express sentiments typical, even commonplace, rather than individual.  John Pomfret’s Choice (1700) is commonplace indeed; it was never deemed great, but it was remarkably popular.  “No composition in our language,” opined Dr. Johnson, “has been oftener perused,”—­an opinion quite incredible until one perceives how intimately the poem harmonizes with the prevalent mood of its contemporary readers.  It was written by a clergyman (a circumstance not insignificant); its form is the heroic couplet; its content is a wish, for a peaceful and civilized mode of existence.  And what; is believed to satisfy that longing?  A life of leisure; the necessaries of comfort plentifully provided, but used temperately; a country-house upon a hillside, not too distant from the city; a little garden bordered by a rivulet; a quiet-study furnished with the classical Roman poets; the society of a few friends, men who know the world as well as books, who are loyal to their nation and their church, and whose; conversation is intellectually vigorous but always polite; the occasional companionship of a woman of virtue, wit, and poise of manner; and, above all, the avoidance of public or private contentions.  Culture and peace—­and the greater of these is peace!  The sentiment characterizes the first quarter of the eighteenth century.

The poets of that period had received an abundant heritage from the Elizabethans, the Cavaliers, Dryden, and Milton.  It was a poetry of passionate love, chivalric honor, indignant satire, and sublime faith.  Much of it they admired, but their admiration was tempered with fear.  They heard therein the tones of violent generations,—­of men whose intensity, though yielding extraordinary beauty and grandeur, yielded also obscurity and extravagance; men whom the love of women too often impelled to utter fantastic hyperbole, and the love of honor to glorify preposterous adventures;

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English Poets of the Eighteenth Century from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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