19th Century Literature discussion

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message 1: by Matthew (new)

Matthew | 6 comments Alright, let's talk 19th century poetry. My three favorite poets (coincientally all British) are A.E. Housman, Lord Byron, and Rudyard Kipling, not necessarily in that order, depending on my mood.

While Housman and Kipling both lived well into the 20th century, both are most famous -- and justly so -- for the work they did prior to 1900.

Byron is known as the definitive romantic for good reason. He truly had a deep love for his friends and paramours, a fierce loyalty was kept once it was bestowed, and he died before his time, fighting in a war that was not his, on principal.

Housman, keeper of secrets and a life not fully lived, expressed incredible empathy for his subjects. Traditionally, he is associated with unbearable sadness and melancholy. But he could be tremendously witty and humorous too. Never without heart, he always makes a reader feel like an old friend.

Kipling, a tremendously misunderstood poet, also had great empathy but was very wry in his expression of it. His mastery was far more technical than the more visceral emotions of the other two. His gutteral vernacular put to a very clipped and almost musical verse, made his poetry seem almost coincidental as if there were no other words you could possibly use to tell his stories and paint his pictures. They metered and rhymed but, seemingly, only by chance.

There are many others of course. Some already have threads in this group devoted entirely to them. Compare! Contrast! Debate! Let the verses flow!

message 2: by Pamela (new)

Pamela | 11 comments Tennyson. Tennyson. Tennyson. He'd say his name over and over to self-hypnotize before sitting down to write.

message 3: by Matthew (new)

Matthew | 6 comments Hi Pamela,

Yes indeed. Tennyson is legendary for good reason. Strangely, I am not as well versed (pardon the pun) in his work as I ought to be. I do think Ulysses is the greatest blank verse poem ever written.

When I was very young and first falling in love with classical poetry, I learned all of Charge of the Light Brigade by heart and, like everyone else, I was entranced by its clipped musicality. Of course, since then, I've studied a thing or two about the Battle of Balaclava and what a careless idiot General Cardigain actually was. But I imagine that's where terms like "poetic license" come from.

I've been seriously considering amending my comparative Tennyson ignorance this year by reading Idylls of the King. What other works of his do you most strongly recommend?

message 4: by Pamela (new)

Pamela | 11 comments I love In Memoriam, "The Lady of Shalott," and "Tithonus," which is probably my favorite of his poems. Parts of The Princess are quite beautiful, too.

message 5: by Michael (new)

Michael Well, I must first confess that I've never been much of a poetry fan, that is until a friend of mine turned me on to Walt Whitman about a year ago. I think this past year I've gone "haywire" over Whitman! I keep going back to his poetry... reading and re-reading and re-reading. At first I thought he was some loose cannon ego-maniac... but, the more I read him, the more depth I see and feel. I think it's his passion and intensity that keeps me coming back.

I love his free-verse style and the enormity of his vocabulary. At times I think he's trying to throw everything in... to say it all. Trying to accomplish this could end up with some reckless poetry, but (humble novice that I am) I give him high marks for trying.

I'm a big fan of Herman Melville (though I've not read his poetry), and I've always thought of Melville's style (at least in this later works) as trying to say it all. His contemporary, Nathaniel Hawthorne (whom I also admire) was always more of a stylistic writer, compared to Melville. Maybe that's what I like about Whitman... his tendency (like Melville, but unlike Hawthorne) to "get it all down", even at the risk of not being a highly polished and stylistic writer.

Anyway, just some rambling thoughts.


message 6: by Michael (new)

Michael "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes." — Walt Whitman

I love this.

message 7: by Matthew (new)

Matthew | 6 comments Hi Michael,

If you ever visit New York, you must go to the Fulton Ferry Landing where Whitman was inspired to write Crossing Brooklyn Ferry. Words from the poem are inscribed into the fence on the landing and the view is genuinely inspiring. The landing is virtually in the shadow of the old Eagle Warehouse (now condominium apartments) where the old Brooklyn Daily Eagle had employed the young Whitman.

Melville and Hawthorne were, as your probably know, good friends. I've been to the actual house of seven gables up in your neck of the woods. If you're curious about Melville's poetry, check out his Civil War poems. He wrote an especially haunting one about the Battle of Shiloh.

message 8: by Michael (last edited Mar 03, 2009 07:05AM) (new)

Michael Thanks, Matthew.....
I'm planning a day trip to NYC later this Spring, and I'll definitely put the Fulton Ferry Landing on my things-to-see.

It's funny, I use to work in Salem, MA about 15 years ago, and never went to see the House of the Seven Gables. Salem's an interesting town though, and I usually take a series of day trips in the Summer to sites around the area, so I'll probably check it out.

This past summer, I went out to the Berkshires to visit the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, and one the way stopped at Arrowhead, Melville's home in Pittsfield where he did a lot of the work on Moby-Dick -- one of my all-time favorite 19th Century (or for that matter 20th and 21st Century) novels. It was amazing to see the bedroom where Hawthorne supposedly spent the night right off Melville's study.

message 9: by Michael (new)

Michael Some comments earlier in this section mentioned Tennyson. Since I'm a novice when it comes to poerty, where would be a good place to start with him?

Matthew and Pamela, you both mentioned a few of your favorites... Any recommendations for a good place to start?

Thanks! Michael

message 10: by Matthew (new)

Matthew | 6 comments Traditionally, a "novice to poetry" is most comfortable with clear rhymes and clipped meter. While I still love the musicality of such traditional poetry, I notice that you, Michael, are already a fan of Whitman. So, obviously, blank verse and free verse are not a problem for you.

I think Ulysses is a great introduction, not just to Tennyson, but to blank verse in general. Pamela, however, is far more familiar with the entire Tennyson ouvre than I am so I should probably defer to her for comment on where a good starting place is (as opposed to what is better read when already well familiar with the author's work).

message 11: by Karmon (new)

Karmon | 1 comments I'm reading the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass (Whitman) as part of a reading group. We've finished the Preface. It is full if ideas and ideals about America, the role of the poet, and of equality. It always makes me feel positive about being a citizen of both the U.S. and the world.

We are now moving into the first 100 lines of Song of Myself. What an opening! The first stanza sets the tone for the entire work.

It has been years since I've read the work from start to finish. I highly recommend it.

message 12: by Michael (new)

Michael Kghia wrote: "I'm reading the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass (Whitman) as part of a reading group.

Hi Kghia, Whitman is one of my favorite poets, so I'd be interested in what you think as you continue reading "Leaves." The first time I read him (especially "Song of Myself"), I had a hard time tolerating what seemed to be his egocentrism. But I now appreciate him -- maybe with the advancement of age, who knows? He is such a poet of great urgency.

Keep us posted in what you think!


message 13: by Tom (last edited Jun 08, 2009 07:36PM) (new)

Tom | 1 comments Michael wrote: ""Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes." — Walt Whitman

I love this.

oh yeah, it's hard to get through a page of Whitman, especially Song of Myself, without encountering an immortally quotable line. Here's one of my favorites: "He who is without sympathy walks a furlong to his funeral dressed in his own shroud."


message 14: by Michael (new)

Michael Tom wrote: ""He who is without sympathy walks a furlong to his funeral dressed in his own shroud."

Tom, I must have missed that quote. Is it from Song of Myself?

message 15: by Tom (new)

Tom | 1 comments Michael wrote: "Tom wrote: ""He who is without sympathy walks a furlong to his funeral dressed in his own shroud."

Tom, I must have missed that quote. Is it from Song of Myself?


Section 48 of SoM, line 4, Michael. (I'm quoting from memory, so the wording may be off a bit.) It's a keeper, eh.

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