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‘The Bad Season Makes the Poet Sad’: A Poem by Robert Herrick

Robert Herrick (1591-1674), known as one of the ‘Cavalier poets’, was a Royalist who, following the English Civil War and the execution of King Charles I in 1649, penned this poem grieving for the loss of the king: ‘everything / Puts on the semblance here of sorrowing.’ For Herrick, the whole land seems to grieve for  Charles and the loss to the kingdom that his death signifies.

The Bad Season Makes the Poet Sad

Dull to myself, and almost dead to these
My many fresh and fragrant mistresses;
Lost to all music now, since everything
Puts on the semblance here of sorrowing.
Sick is the land to th’ heart, and doth endure
More dangerous faintings by her desp’rate cure. Read the rest of this entry

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‘Mont Blanc’: A Poem by Percy Shelley

The Romantics were greatly interested in a quality that Edmund Burke called ‘the Sublime’: that peculiar mixture of awe and terror we feel when confronted with great forces of nature. Percy Shelley’s poem about Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps, is a classic example of Romantic poetry about the Sublime – an ode to nature as a powerful and beautiful force. Shelley composed his poem ‘Mont Blanc’ during the summer of 1816, and it was first published in Mary Shelley’s History of a Six Weeks’ Tour through a Part of France, Switzerland, Germany and Holland (1817), which – beating Frankenstein by a year – was actually Mary’s first book.

Mont Blanc

I
The everlasting universe of things
Flows through the mind, and rolls its rapid waves,
Now dark—now glittering—now reflecting gloom—
Now lending splendour, where from secret springs
The source of human thought its tribute brings
Of waters—with a sound but half its own,
Such as a feeble brook will oft assume, Read the rest of this entry

‘O Me! O Life!’: A Poem by Walt Whitman

One of the shortest of Walt Whitman’s great poems, ‘O Me! O Life!’ was featured in the 1989 film Dead Poets Society: Robin Williams’s character recites it to his class. ‘O Me! O Life!’ contains many of the features of Walt Whitman’s greatest poetry: the free verse rhythm, the alternation between long and short lines, the rhetorical (or not-so-rhetorical?) questions, the focus on the self.

O Me! O Life!

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d, Read the rest of this entry