Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Romantic and Victorian

In my last post I mistakenly called Matthew Arnold a Romantic poet. In my ignorance, I thought I was right; but Prof. Kuin pointed out:

Actually, it's Victorian, not Romantic. If you read some Keats or Wordsworth, you can tell the difference. Victorians tend to discuss feelings more directly, more "sincerely". Glad you enjoyed it. Wonderful poem.

I now stand corrected!
I even took Prof. Kuin's advice to heart and read some Wordsworth (reading Keats is a work in progress). What he said is true (no surprise here!), Victorians are much more direct in how they express themselves. I'm not saying one is better than the other, and I'm not saying I like one more than the other, but the difference is noticable. Take for example Wordsworth's "Scorn Not the Sonnet" and Arnold's "Shakespeare." They both are poems in praise of someting, but they do it in different ways.
Wordsworth, being a Romantic era poet, uses more metaphores and evokes the past to make his point. He compares the sonnet to a small lute, and tells of how these great poets of the past did such amazing things with it. But he does it in a very "flowery" ornamented way: Instead of just saying the sonnet is great, he says it's a like a soul-animating trumpet!
Arnold, on the other hand, in "Shakespeare" (notice even the simplicity of the title) is more direct. The third stanza is a prime example, he tells you what he thinks. Not to say he was a dim-wit and couldn't write as ornamented as Wordsworth, I'm sure he could. And there are examples in the poem where he makes some stunning metaphores and comparisons. Line 5 is an example: "Planting he stedfast footsteps in the sea..." That is a pretty powerful image: A firm foot steping into the powerful sea. I guess in a lot of ways Shakespeare is like that. He was (and still is), a dramatist who is to be given the utmost respect. What else do we study in high-school that dates back to the Reneisance? Maybe a few arbitrary poems in Writer Craft that we soon forget after the final exam? Maybe some art in Art class? Nothing really to write home about! Matthew Arnold coveys the greatnes of Shakespeare in a much more direct and sincere way than maybe Wordsworth would have.
Both great poems, and not too long! "Scorn Not the Sonnet" can be found on pg. 737 and "Shakespeare" is on 987.

I think is quasi-essay rant is over.
I look foreword to what you all have to say!

P.S.: Is it just me or is Wordsworth's "She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways" not just one of the most beautiful poems? Read it, it's just 12 lines long and is on pg. 721.


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