The greatest poems by Louis MacNeice
The Irish poet Louis MacNeice (1907-63) is often associated with the Thirties Poets, along with W. H. Auden and Stephen Spender. Yet unlike Auden, who left us ‘Stop All the Clocks’, MacNeice can be more difficult to pin down to one or two ‘best poems’ or ‘best-known poems’. ‘Prayer Before Birth’? Perhaps. That classic poem, and nine others, are included below in our pick of Louis MacNeice’s finest poems.
‘Meeting Point’. Although it’s been criticised as an unsuccessful poem, ‘Meeting Point’ is an ambitious and, to our mind, very interesting attempt to capture the experience of being with somebody you love and feeling yourselves to be outside of space and time.
‘Snow’. One of Louis MacNeice’s most popular and best-known poems, ‘Snow’ is a description of the snow falling outside the window. The poem is worth reading for the astonishing language-use in the fourth line alone: ‘World is suddener than we fancy it.’ Read the rest of this entry
Fun facts about the Victorian novelist
1. A novel written by Victorian author Wilkie Collins when he was 20, titled Iolani and set in Tahiti, was eventually published in 1999. Written in 1844 but not published until 110 years after his death, Iolani: Or, Tahiti as It Was was Collins’s first ever attempt at writing a novel. Collins knew next to nothing about Tahiti, but that didn’t stop him from having a go at writing about it.
2. Wilkie Collins’s 1860 novel The Woman in White was so popular it spawned stage-plays, perfumes, hats, cloaks, and even a waltz. The Woman in White was the novel that made Collins a famous name and helped to establish the vogue for sensation fiction, a genre that would enjoy its heyday in the 1860s. Collins would be able to demand substantial sums for his subsequent novels as he became hot literary property: he received £5,000 for his novel Armadale in 1866, a huge sum for the time. Read the rest of this entry
A summary of a classic poem
‘Tithonus’ is not as famous as some of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s other dramatic monologues – ‘Ulysses’ enjoys considerably more popularity – but it is worth analysing because it offers something different from much other poetry. As the poet-critic William Empson put it, ‘Tithonus’ is ‘a poem in favour of the human practice of dying’, because the poem exposes the horrific reality of what it would be like to live forever.
The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,
The vapours weep their burthen to the ground,
Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath,
And after many a summer dies the swan.
Me only cruel immortality
Consumes: I wither slowly in thine arms,
Here at the quiet limit of the world,
A white-hair’d shadow roaming like a dream
The ever-silent spaces of the East,
Far-folded mists, and gleaming halls of morn.
Alas! for this gray shadow, once a man—
So glorious in his beauty and thy choice,
Who madest him thy chosen, that he seem’d
To his great heart none other than a God!
I ask’d thee, ‘Give me immortality.’
Then didst thou grant mine asking with a smile,
Like wealthy men, who care not how they give.
But thy strong Hours indignant work’d their wills,
And beat me down and marr’d and wasted me, Read the rest of this entry