‘Surprised by joy—impatient as the Wind’ is the first line of one of William Wordsworth’s most popular sonnets. However, the degree to which ‘Surprised by joy’ can be considered a truly great and successful poem is disputed by critics, so a few words of analysis may help to ascertain how far Wordsworth’s poem succeeds and how far it falls short of the greatness we expect from one of Romanticism’s most popular and enduring poetic voices.
Surprised by joy—impatient as the Wind
I turned to share the transport—Oh! with whom
But Thee, long buried in the silent Tomb,
That spot which no vicissitude can find?
Love, faithful love, recalled thee to my mind—
But how could I forget thee?—Through what power,
Even for the least division of an hour,
Have I been so beguiled as to be blind
To my most grievous loss!—That thought’s return Read the rest of this entry
In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle reads the work of a neglected poet
One night in late October 1978, the poet John Riley was tragically murdered by muggers in Leeds, a horrific crime recently investigated in Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts’ Deaths of the Poets. Riley’s Collected Works were published two years later by Grosseteste Press, the publishing house he’d helped to set up, but copies of this hardcover volume remain few and far between (I am currently reading the copy from my university library; the stamps on the flyleaf tell me it’s been borrowed three times previously, in 1983, 1995, and 2000). For 15 years, Riley’s poems lay largely forgotten except by a few devotees. Then, in 1995, it looked as though John Riley’s posthumous reputation would be given a leg up, courtesy of an edition of his selected poems, brought out by the poetry publisher Carcanet. But barely a year later, in the summer of 1996, the Carcanet offices in Manchester were damaged in an IRA bomb explosion, and virtually all copies of John Riley’s Selected Poems were lost. At the time of writing, a single copy is available for sale on Amazon. It will set you back just £10,000. I cannot find any other copies available for sale online.
I was fortunate enough, having kept an eye out for one for some time, to pick up a copy of this hard-to-find volume a while ago, on Amazon of all places, not for £10,000 but for just Read the rest of this entry
A poem about growing old, but written when Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-92) was a young man in his early twenties, ‘Ulysses’ has been analysed as a response to the death of Tennyson’s close friend, Arthur Henry Hallam.
It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour’d of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy. Read the rest of this entry