English 149 Study Sheet on Editor’s "General Introduction"
1. What are some of the difficulties in defining the term, Romanticism, and what definition did the Schlegel brothers give of it? What was the "catch" to this definition for application to what we know now as the Romantic Period?
2. What were the effects of the French Revolution on English life, especially as regards social and political attitudes, and what other changes related to the French Revolution affected the society of the period?
3. What forms of literature were most important during the Romantic Period, and which one dominated? What were the "obvious general features" of that form of literature as it was practiced at the time, and toward what goal were those features directed?
4. What are the characteristics of romantic imagery?
5. What are the characteristics of romantic symbolism?
6. How were the ideas of John Locke and Emmanuel Kant related to the development of concepts of the mind and of the origin and goal of thought?
7. What is the nature of romantic transcendentalism, and how is it related to or distinguished from orthodox religion?
8. What is the idea of "organicism" and how does "organic form" relate to ideas about art?
9. What are some of the romantic conceptions of the imagination, in relation to reason, for instance, or to empiricism, to faculty psychology, transcendent reality, and sensory awareness?
10. What was the idea of the nature of the poet during the Romantic Period, especially in terms of what motivates the poet and the manner in which the poet produces poetry?
English 149 Study Sheet on Ernest Bernbaum, Guide Through the Romantic Movement, 1-35
1. What is meant by "sensibility," what are the three "sentimental" forms of writing to appear in the first quarter of the eighteenth century, and what authors and titles are examples of each?
2. In addition to writings from the School of Sensibility, what other works or types of writings contributed to the development of "pre-romanticism" in the period 1700-25?
3. What was the most important instance of nature poetry during 1725-50, and what was its verse form?
4. Explain the relationship between the sentimental school and the "Poetry of Melancholy and Death" giving two examples of the latter.
5. "The aesthetics of the School of Sensibility were versified by ______________________, in his lengthy
6. What addition to the literature of sensibility appeared in the period 1725-50, in the form of what two works, by whom?
7. In the third quarter of the eighteenth century, who was "the very genius of incoherence and sensibility," what was the title of his famous novel, and what was his purpose in writing it? What is cited as the best example of the poetry of sensibility during this period?
8. What was the issue of debate regarding literary theories and standards during 1750-75, and what writers of what previous ages were involved?
9. Who was "Ossian," and why was he so popular?
10. What is the relationship between "Ossian," "Revival of the Past," and "The Noble Savage," and what is an example of a work relating to each of the latter two?
11. How was the Gothic Novel different from the previous literature of "sensibility," and how was it similar? What is an example of a Gothic Novel?
12. What is the story of Thomas Chatterton, and why is he important to later, romantic, writers?
13. Why did those who espoused the values of the School of Sensibility sympathize with the American Revolution, and what was their attitude, initially and later, toward the French Revolution?
14. What was the relationship–not just socially, but philosophically–between Mary Wollenstonecraft and William Godwin? What is the title of the most important work each of them wrote?
15. What was "Pantisocracy"? How did it relate to both the School of Sensibility and to Godwinian rationalism?
16. What was the chief motif or theme of the Romance of Sentimental Adventure as compared to the Tale of Terror? Which of these found its way onto the stage? What are the names of the most successful practitioners of each form?
English 149 Study Sheets on William Blake
1. Editor’s introduction: What was the nature of Blake’s profession, and what kind, degree, and variety of talent did he possess? What did Blake feel was the main purpose of his work as an artist, and what characteristics of his writing constitute its distinctiveness and its difficulty?
2. Poetical Sketches poems: The device known as personification- attributing human qualities to non-human things, especially abstract qualities like "Hope" or "Love"-is a common property of much eighteenth-century poetry. How does Blake use personification in these poems? What seems to be the dominant feeling or mood of the "season" poems? What is the implied point of "Mad Song"?
3. "There is No Natural Religion" and "All Religions Are One": Check the dictionary on the concept of "natural religion"; then consider the "logical" style of Blake’s writing in these works. What do you conclude from the negative and positive premises he gives? What is his definition of "the Poetic Genius," and how does that relate to "religion"?
4. Songs of Innocence: Consider the character of these poems as a group reflecting the first of "the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul," as Blake puts it in the sub-title of his 1793 volume printing them with the Songs of Experience. In what sense is there a disparity between the innocence of the various poems’ speakers and the content of the poems themselves? What irony do we see in various poems?
5. Songs of Innocence, "Introduction": Consider the nature of the speaker and the role of the child in this poem. What specific "instructions" are given in the poem, and what might be their significance regarding the function of the artist in the world of "Innocence"?
6. Innocence, "The Echoing Green": How does the imagery of this poem reinforce the time-pattern of its structure? What contrasts appear in the poem" What would you say is its theme?
7. Innocence, "The Lamb" and "The Divine Image": Consider the common subject of these two works, and what seems distinctive about Blake’s attitude toward that subject. What "equations" (i.e., where one element is seen "equaling" another) occur in these poems? What sort of idea of deity emerges?
8. Innocence, "Nurse’s Song" and "Little Black Boy": In these two poems, what is the child’s relation to adults, and vice versa? What picture of the world (perhaps in contrast to "Heaven") is implied here? How would you characterize these poems’ themes?
9. Innocence, "Holy Thursday" and "The Chimney Sweeper": Consider the speaker of these two poems, compared, for instance, to the speakers of Blake poems previously considered. What is each speaker’s attitude toward the poetic subject? Who are the "beadles," and what does their presence imply? What symbolism does the image of "coffins of black" suggest?
10. The First Book of Urizen: Consider that critical interpretation of this work sees it as Blake’s symbolic version of the Biblical story of the Fall of Man. Read the work carefully, following the mythic portrayal of "separation." What does Urizen stand for, symbolically or even allegorically? That is, what about man does Urizen represent? What are the implications of this for our understanding of Blake’s view of how man "fell" (or went wrong)? Follow the details of the narrative. What kind of world does Urizen form, how? How does such activity relate to the birth of the figure Orc? Can you explain what Blake is suggesting about action and reaction, cause and consequence, related to changes in the human psyche?
11. Songs of Experience: Consider what must have happened between composition of these poems and composition of Songs of Innocence. Notice differences of point of view, tone, imagery, and the like. Consider pairings, counterparts, between poems from the two groups. Differences are obvious, but why? What is the point of portraying such oppositions? What are the full implications of the "contrary states" being portrayed?
12. Experience, "Introduction" and "Earth’s Answer": What is the nature of the speaker in these poems, compared to the speaker of the Innocence "Introduction"? What is the nature of the problem the speaker describes and questions, and how does the response of "Earth" throw light upon that problem?
13. Experience, The Human Abstract," "Nurse’s Song," "Holy Thursday," and "The Chimney Sweeper": How has the view of each poem’s subject changed in comparison to its counterpart in Songs of Innocence, and what ideas do such changes imply regarding human behavior? What specific human traits receive attention in the last eighteen lines of "The Human Abstract"? In "Nurse’s Song" how has the nurse’s point of view changed, appropriate to the world of "Experience (consider the full implication of "disguise")? In "The Chimney Sweeper" what difference in consciousness of circumstances may be suggested by the way the sweep now speaks (give details)? Do you see any social criticism here?
14. Experience, "The Sick Rose," "Infant Sorrow," and "A Little Boy Lost": What psychological implications appear here? What social or institutional forces seem to be expressed or implied? What symbolism comes into play in the first two of these poems? What theme might apply to all three poems?
15. Experience, "The Tiger": Comparing this poem to its counterpart in Innocence, how does the tone suggest both similarities and differences between the two poems’ speakers? Considering carefully the nouns in the "What . . . " phrases of the fourth four-line stanza, or quatrain (lines 13-16), how do you interpret the implied metaphor as a suggestion about what the speaker thinks the tiger’s creator must be like? How do you interpret the penultimate quatrain ("When the stars threw down their spears . . . ") (hint: Think about the War in Heaven in Milton’s Paradise Lost)?
16. Experience, "London": Commentators on this poem have suggested that it sums up both the psychological and social points of view in Songs of Experience. What social criticism does the poem present? What psychological implications does it suggest? In considering how you would characterize the theme of "London," note particularly the way its major images suggest causal relationships (e.g., Church, Soldier, Harlot, Infant, and hearse as they relate to black’ning, blood, curse, tear, plagues). In terms of institutions and their effects on people, what are those suggested causal relationships, specifically?
17. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: Read through this, keeping in mind Blake’s title and both its ironic and serious implications. What do the various "memorable Fancy" entries have in common, i.e., is there a theme among them, and how would one express that theme? What details can you point to in support of your reading of a theme here? Consider the place and role of the sections captioned "The Voice of the Devil" and "Proverbs of Hell": What is their function? What meaning do you find in the various enigmatic, often cryptic, statements presented in these sections? Should we interpret the statements negatively, i.e., turn them inside out, because they are attributed to the Devil and Hell? Jot down some of the statements, and consider possible interpretations of them. How, in what sense, can there be a marriage of Heaven and Hell?
English 149 Study Sheets on William Wordsworth
1. Editor’s introduction: What was the distinctive characteristic of Wordsworth’s influence on his age, and what was his view of what we might call "the reality principle"? What was the typical movement of Wordsworth’s longer poems, and how does this relate to three strong beliefs, or "doctrines," of the nineteenth century and of Wordsworth’s thought in particular?
2. "Goody Blake and Harry Gill," "Simon Lee," and "The Thorn": What common denominator do you perceive in the settings, descriptions, and human figures portrayed in these works? What seems to be the point, the main idea or theme of these poems, or is there any? (Consider the address to "farmers all," in the first, and that to "My gentle Reader" in the second, together with the comment on "the gratitude of men.") In "The Thorn," who is the chief character? Can you sketch briefly "what happens" in the poem? (Do you see any significance to the pattern of quotation marks?) On what basis might this poem and the others grouped with it deserve the label, "Lyrical Ballads"?
3. "We Are Seven" and "Anecdote for Fathers": In these poems, who, apparently, is the speaker? (Consider that "Wordsworth," or "the poet," will not fully answer this question, since each poem describes characters in a dramatic situation.) What is the attitude of each speaker toward the child in each poem? What is it that the child in "We Are Seven" cannot learn, and what is it that the child in "Anecdote for Fathers," in contrast, "teaches"? What suggestions do you find in these works regarding the "knowledge" of the adult compared to that of the child? And how would you define what the child seems to "know"?
4. "To My Sister" and "Lines Written in Early Spring": What is the attitude toward "nature" expressed or implied in these poems? How does this attitude appear more clearly because of contrasts, in the poems, between the natural world and the world of man? What images, and what metaphors, signal or heighten the contrast? Is there any significant "religious" language in these poems? If so, identify it. What purpose does it appear to serve?
5. "Expostulation and Reply" and "The Tables Turned": Clearly, these two works involve a dialogue. Analyze the two "positions." What ideas and attitudes does each represent? How evenly balanced are the two sides as presented in the poems? What images and metaphors do you perceive in each position, and what are their effects? What about "religious" language here? What sort of ideas or philosophy do words like "impress" and "wise passiveness" suggest?
6. "Lines: Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey":
a. What would you say is this poem’s subject matter, what divisions does the poem’s structure have, and what relationship do you see between subject and structure?
b. What mood does the first verse paragraph create, and how does that mood arise from style (the handling of words in patterns) and from the details of the description presented? How would you characterize the imagery here, i.e., is it imagery of chaos? division? particularity? strife? harmony? What is the dominant color mentioned, and why might that be significant?
c. What is the "debt" referred to in the second verse paragraph? To whom or to what is it "owed," what are the parts to it? In this figure of speech (metaphor) is there an implied thesis regarding nature and human development?
d. In succeeding passages the speaker refers to "loss" and "abundant recompense" as part of the above metaphor: What has he lost, and what is his recompense for it?
e. What is the antecedent of "they" in "what they half create, / And what perceive" (106-07), and what is the significance of this relationship between creating and perceiving?
f. In the last section, what "prayer" does the speaker "make," on what basis of knowledge or belief? How tenable ( i.e., reasonable or practical beyond the rhetoric of the poem) is this belief, in your opinion?
7. Preface to Lyrical Ballads, 2nd ed., 1800:
a. What does Wordsworth say was his purpose in writing the poems of this collection? What kind of poetic language did he choose, and why? What does he say is his position regarding the language of poetry as compared to that of prose?
b. What differences does Wordsworth point to between the style of his poetry and the style of his predecessors’ (and contemporaries’) poetry? (Note particularly what he says about personified abstractions and classical references or allusions.) What does he contend is the primary definition of "all good poetry"?
c. What is Wordsworth’s definition of the Poet, and how does he elaborate upon that definition?
d. Trace Wordsworth’s reasoning about similarities and differences in kinds of "knowledge" for the poet and the scientist. What premise about knowledge does he use, and what does that premise imply about the function of poetry and the realm of human experience it addresses?
8. "Prospectus" to The Excursion: Note the (Miltonic) "Invocation" and consider what it signifies in this context. Consider too Wordsworth’s explanation of his poetic aspirations to explore the most important elements of human existence, including particularly the relationship between the human mind and nature. How does his chief metaphor for this relationship underscore that relationship? What is the metaphor?
9. The Prelude, Book One, "first part" (see the parenthesis below): Here Wordsworth describes himself as ready to pursue a goal, but in a problematic situation. Consider his allusions (for instance, to Milton again), his figures of speech, and his examples. How does he articulate his goal and problem as both personal and artistic? Consider the various possibilities he explores to resolve the situation, then consider the "tale" and the "song" he speaks of-as compared, perhaps, to the theme of his "Prospectus." How does he finally deal with the problem? (Note: watch for a "shift" which involves a change in his perspective on the past and a new "beginning," in effect a second part of Book 1, though Wordsworth himself doesn’t call it that and in fact originally the work began at that point.)
10. The Prelude, Book One, "second part": Wordsworth describes a series of incidents involving bird snares, birds’ nests, a boat, and skating. What do these have in common? Consider the statements about nature made in connection with these incidents: what sort of influence does nature have upon him? How? What is the most moving and impressive feature of nature (watch for a repeated word)?
11. The Prelude, Book Two: Consider Wordsworth’s portrayal of "the infant Babe" and his view of "infant sensibility." Then consider the relation between this portrayal and what the he says about "A plastic power . . . an auxiliar light." What is the significance of this latter idea? How can "the midnight storm" be said to grow darker "in the presence of my eye"? (You may wish to refer back to "Half create / And what perceive.")
12. The "Lucy" poems: Referring to the Editor’s Note, consider the question of who (or what) Lucy is. That is, consider her importance not necessarily in terms of biographical identity, but as a symbol in relation to Wordsworth’s subject or theme. Thinking in such terms, what seems to be the most logical arrangement of the poems as a sequence?
What do we make of the speaker’s explanation of what Lucy "seemed" like in "A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal," and how does this relate to "human fears"? Is there anything particularly significant about the shift in verb tenses between the two stanzas of that poem? In human terms, how do you feel about Lucy’s final condition among the elements?
13. The sonnets: Consider Wordsworth’s particular attention to the sonnet as a literary form in "Nuns Fret Not" and "Scorn Not the Sonnet." How does the formal structure of the sonnet relate to Wordsworth’s characteristic themes? Do we note any significant differences, for instance, between the subjects and themes of the sonnets and those of earlier Wordsworth poems we have read? Consider the sonnets with Napoleonic France in the background, and also the "Westminster Bridge" and "London" sonnets. In "The World is Too Much With Us," what is what is the relation between "worldly pursuits and "our powers" as that may suggest Wordsworth’s theme, and what seems to be the particular personal significance (i.e., to the speaker, as an artist) of the last lines?
14. "Intimations Ode," first four stanzas: This section of the poem was composed two years before the rest of it, a fact which may be significant to the meaning of the whole. Remembering former themes of loss and recompense in Wordsworth, consider the "something that is gone" in this poem. How does the speaker characterize his loss here? Does nature play a (lesser or greater) role? Does light imagery? How? What is gone?
15. "Resolution and Independence": Consider the title of this poem as it relates to the poem’s content. What is the "Resolution," what the "Independence"? How does the speaker’s concern with the lot of "mighty poets" relate to the poem’s theme? What is the role of nature in his thoughts at the end of the poem?
16. "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud": Consider the editor’s headnote on this poem, and consider the treatment of mood in the opening lines and later in the work. Do you see any comparison here with "Resolution and Independence"? Comparing it also with "Lines . . . Tintern Abbey," what would you say is the theme of "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud"? Do you see any difference in the theme of "recollection" here?
17. The Prelude, Book Six: Follow the excerpts as they relate Wordsworth’s sense of a mission or purpose, culminating with the "revelation" of his experience on the summit of the Alps. Consider the natural sights he describes, and the curious use of the word "grieved" in connection with two of them. How do these relate to what he says about the imagination? Is there any connection between this and having missed the path while climbing? Is there any difference between descriptions of natural scenes after he has crossed the summit, compared to descriptions before that experience? What does the reference to "the great Apocalypse" suggest?
18. "Ode to Duty": Remembering what Wordsworth said about personified abstractions in his "Preface" to Lyrical Ballads (1800), do you find anything remarkable about the style of this poem? What is the dominant imagery? Does that imagery have any metaphorical significance? What seems to be the purpose (positive or negative) of the "remembrance of things past" here? That is, does Wordsworth give thanks for his past experience, or does he have a different view of the past now? How important are individuality and personal freedom in this work?
19. "Intimations Ode," stanzas five-end: Since stanza four of the poem ended with a question, we might logically expect stanza five to address an answer to that question. Does it? In what terms? Can you explain the elaborate metaphor involved? Again, does light imagery play a role? What seems to be the role of nature in this view of things (see stanza 6 particularly)? What are the "obstinate questionings," and what do they mean? Why does "the meanest flower that blows" have the effect it is said to have?
20. "Elegiac Stanzas": In this work imagery may be of key importance once again. What is the role of light imagery? What is the point of view toward nature? Most important, how are these matters, and Wordsworth’s preoccupation with the past, emphasized by his focusing upon the main subject described, and how is that subject and the way it was created treated as a metaphor? Explain how the metaphor works and why it is significant to Wordsworth’s present idea about his earlier way of seeing.
21. "The Solitary Reaper": Again, see the editor’s headnote on this poem. And, again, you may wish to compare this poem with others of Wordsworth’s poems with a similar theme. What seems to be the significance of the questions the speaker asks? How is the idea suggested in the closing lines similar to, and perhaps at the same time different from, the idea of "remembrance" in "Lines . . . Tintern Abbey"?
The Prelude, Book Fourteenth: The chief subject of this conclusion to Wordsworth’s great autobiographical poem is his narration of the ascent of another mountain, this time Mount Snowdon in Wales. If only because the event is narrated out of chronological order, we are led to interpret it symbolically. What symbolic images do we encounter, and what do they seem to "mean"? Consider the description of the peaks above the cloud bank, and the metaphorical language they stimulate. Who, or what, are the "higher minds," and what is the significance of describing them in such terms?
At this point, can we sum up a pattern which suggests a change in Wordsworth’s attitudes toward the world and toward his earlier life? Toward his art and the nature of the poet?
English 149 Study Sheets on Samuel Taylor Coleridge
1. Editor’s introduction: Take particular note of the discussion of Coleridge’s range and depth-not just as a poet, but as a critical, political, philosophical, and religious thinker and writer as well. Follow the brief biographical sketch, especially as regards Coleridge’s addiction to opium and his association with William Wordsworth. Remember the remarks on the "Conversation Poems" and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner when we take up those works in future sessions.
2. "Pantisocracy," and "To a Young Ass": How does Coleridge introduce a personal note into each poem? Refer the first two of these to utopian thought and reform movements we have discussed as part of the background of romanticism. In "Pantisocracy," how would you characterize the imagery, and how does that imagery relate to a striking figurative comparison at the end-that is, what will living in Pantisocracy be "like"? In "To a Young Ass," how does the plight of the ass become symbolic of larger issues-e.g., what social or even philosophical message does it imply?
3. "The Eolian Harp": Noting that this work too was written before Coleridge met Wordsworth, what specific comparisons can we make between it and Wordsworth’s poetry? As this poem unfolds, how are the speaker’s descriptions of his thoughts and feelings related to the subject named in its title? Regarding the metaphor of the harp, what are the specific elements of comparison involved, and how do these underscore the poem’s theme? The speaker identifies another listening to him: What role does this person play, and how might that affect the theme? That is, how definite is the main idea?
4. Rime of the Ancient Mariner (anthology 528ff, not 192ff): Read the whole poem carefully, then consider the information provided in Wordsworth’s note on the Rime, the origin of Lyrical Ballads, and "We Are Seven" (Course Reader). What was the source of the plot, which writer conceived of the mariner’s crime, and why might these circumstances be significant? Consider that there has been much discussion of the so-called "moral tag" near the end ("He prayeth well who loveth well . . . ") and Anna Barbauld’s criticism of "the want of a moral" in the Rime. Our chief concern in class discussion of this poem will be, not its "moral," but its theme; and this may take us, following Coleridge’s hint, well beyond that "moral."
In the first three parts of the poem, then, consider questions of speaker and character. Who tells the tale? What significance does the nature of the tale’s audience have? In the first part of the tale, up to the becalming, what is the tone of the description-naturalistic? peaceful? eerie? lurid? How is the albatross described? To what is it compared, and is that comparison significant?
5. Rime (cont.): What symbolic implications do you see in the motif of the voyage, both traditionally and, by extension, in this work? Consider famous voyages from classical times forward, and consider the mariner’s voyaging itself-and his repeated tale of his voyaging. Who is the mariner’s first auditor, and what significance does that person have in the context of the strange nature of the tale?
6. Rime of the Ancient Mariner (cont.): What is the tone of the description in the second half of this poem? What structural features of the work interact with its plot and theme? (Consider its division into parts and the references to the albatross at the end of various "Parts," the course the ship travels during the tale, and even the sun and the moon in relation to the events described.)
7. Rime (cont.): What is the role of religion in the mariner’s thoughts and actions? What other ways does he account for what has happened? Is there a sense in which the mariner’s character affects both how he tells his story and what he understands? As regards what the mariner observes, consider the nature of the universe depicted in this work. Do cause-effect relations, for instance, indicate a moral, rational universe? (Why is the albatross killed? How is the mariner’s fate decided? How are the drought and the becalming ended?)
8. Rime (concluded): Considering the issues above, and more, what is the theme of this poem? Is the theme contained in the moral the mariner gives at the end? Or is it more complicated? Considering the latter possibility, what is the significance of the elaborate figure of speech in the long marginal note, or gloss, to "the moving moon went up the sky"? Also, look again at the gloss on the killing of the albatross, with its reference to "hospitality"; then note the contrast between words like "alone" and "together" at significant points in the mariner’s story.
9. "Eolian Harp," "Reflections," "Lime-Tree Bower," "France," "Frost," and "Nightingale" are all among a group of Coleridge works identified as "Conversation Poems" because of their distinctive common features. Review the discussion of this genre in the Editor’s Introduction to Coleridge, and in reading each work note similarities between them regarding speaker, mood, imagery, structure, and theme. For future reference, how would you sum up a definition of Coleridge’s "Conversation Poems"?
10. "The Eolian Harp": (see sheet one).
11. "France:An Ode": Consider this poem in the context of Wordsworth’s and Coleridge’s early political sympathies, which gradually changed. What is Coleridge’s attitude toward France and republicanism here? What is the significance of his description of "Liberty" in the last stanza?
12. "The Nightingale": The subtitle of this work provides the origin of the "Conversation Poems" classification, and therefore it may be fitting to consider this poem in relation to the whole group. What are its most striking qualities? What is its theme? Which of the works in the classification seem most, which least, like this one? Consider the ideas about nature in this poem and relate them to works by Wordsworth.
13. "Reflections on Having Left a Place of Retirement": Note the descriptive details, and particularly the structure and perspective of the poem (focus moving from "Cot" to "Mount" to "reflection"). Why has the speaker left his place of retirement? What significance do you see to the "Cot" by the end of the poem?
14. "This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison": Note here too the descriptive detail, including the perspective, or focus, for that description: is the focus narrow or broad? Both (How?)? What sentiments that look similar to those in works by Wordsworth do you see in this poem? What is the theme?
15. "Frost at Midnight": Consider the matter of perspective again here. How does the poem unfold-in a narrative (i.e., chronological) fashion? As an argument (i.e., logically)? Or something else? Does it have a coherent structure-how so, or how not so? (The description of an ash film in the fireplace may be significant.) Again with this work, what is the theme?
16. "Christabel," Part I: In the opening scene, how do details about the poem’s setting establish the feeling or mood? In the description of Geraldine, in the tale she tells, and in the account of Christabel’s aiding her, are there any disturbing elements or ominous portents? If so, what are they specifically? How are the two women described as they sleep? How would you characterize the tone, and effect, of the narrative voice in the poem?
17. "Christabel," Part II: In the opening lines notice the reference to "a world of death." Is there any connection implied between this and the reference to the season of the year in Part I? What does the description of Geraldine in this Part suggest about her relation to Christabel now? Is there any suggestion of the supernatural or the occult? What is the significance of the references to snakes? Does what has happened, and is happening, to Christabel suggest that her name is symbolic?
18. "Christabel" (concluded): Compare "The Conclusion to Part II" to its counterpart in Part I. Does it function the same way? (In fact, it is a separately-composed poem which Coleridge "tacked on" at the time of publication.) What relationship can we discern between it and the rest of the poem, especially Part II? Does that suggest anything about the theme of the poem? What is the theme? Does anything in the unfinished state of the poem, and its possible theme, explain why Coleridge never finished "Christabel," though he had ample opportunity to do so?
19. "Kubla Khan": An interesting fact of critical response to this poem is that it is not now usually interpreted in the same way it was interpreted by generations of readers during the century-and-a-half following its original publication. One reason for this was probably Coleridge’s own characterization of his poem. Follow carefully the note Coleridge included when he published the work, and notice the subtitle. Consider the inferences Coleridge encourages readers to make, but remember the point about a different current interpretation. One of the most important issues about the poem may well be that of whether it is a fragment. What evidence do you see that it is a fragment? Is there a way that it may be read as a completed work?
20. "Kubla Khan" (continued): What symbolism do you see in the poem that might refer to the act of creating? (Consider the power of the Khan and his "decree," and what his decree is designed to achieve; and consider the last stanza.) What does the river Alph suggest? Comparing the imagery of the first division of the poem to that of the second, what contrasts do you see, and what do they suggest, for instance, about the relationship between creating and nature? (Note the effect of the word "But.") What is the significance of "ancestral voices prophesying war"?
21. "Kubla Khan" (continued): In the third section of the poem, who, or what, again symbolically, is the "damsel"? In terms of the poem’s structure, what might be the implications of her appearing at this point? Consider the shift in (grammatical/rhetorical) point of view that takes place here. What might such a shift signify? Finally, what do we make of the last image in the poem? Note the "conditional" language leading up to the description of that image. Why might there be the reaction as that attributed to "all who saw them there"? (Suggestion: see Plato’s Ion 533C.)
22. "The Pains of Sleep": In addition to noting the fairly obvious implications regarding Coleridge’s addiction in this poem, follow carefully the speaker’s portrayal of the pattern of his experience. As in "Kubla Khan," the word but indicates an important "turn" to the structure of the poem’s statement. What is that "turn," and how does it relate to the question of the poem’s theme? Can this poem be taken as a commentary on Coleridge’s imaginative, poetic life?
23. "Dejection: An Ode": Interpretation of this work often notes an important relationship between this poem and Wordsworth’s "Intimations" Ode, since it was composed between the two major stages of composition of Wordsworth’s poem. Bear this in mind in interpreting the work, and consider thematic issues related to this poem as a response to the first part of Wordsworth’s poem. How does Coleridge’s definition of "the visionary gleam," including its source and its loss, compare to Wordsworth’s? What is the significance of the metaphorical imagery associated with "This beautiful and beauty-making power"? (What "power"?) What other images are important, and how? Consider the storm, the child, and the appearance, early and late, of a certain stringed instrument. How is this a poem about one’s relationship to nature? How is it about perception?
24. From Biographia Literaria, Chapter 13: This excerpt presents Coleridge’s famous, and enigmatic, definition of the Imagination. Note the divisions of that faculty he defines, including his comments on the "Fancy," and how he says these divisions function. Which is most active, and what is the nature of its activity? What is the relation of each part to the others, and what does the pattern of their relationship suggest about how the Imagination deals with abstract truth and the world of the senses?
25. Biographia Literaria, Chapter 14: Examine Coleridge’s explanation of the respective purposes he and Wordsworth had in composing the original Lyrical Ballads, including his famous definition-in-passing of "poetic faith" What is "poetic faith"? Also, this chapter illustrates some of Coleridge’s ideas about poetry. Comparing Coleridge’s views to those of Wordsworth in the Preface to Lyrical Ballads (1800), what is his position on the nature of poetic language? What is his definition of a poem and of poetry? What is his definition of the poet? How do Coleridge’s ideas here relate to his ideas about the imagination?
26. From Shakespearean Criticism, "The Character of Hamlet": This lecture illustrates Coleridge’s contribution to modern interpretation of Shakespeare. What does Coleridge suggest is the key to Hamlet’s character?
27. "Mechanic and Organic Form": What issue of debate about Shakespeare occasions Coleridge’s raising of this distinction? What is the distinction?
English 149 Study Sheets on George Gordon, Lord Byron
1. Editor’s introduction: Follow the biographical sketch, noting the paradoxes of Byron’s personality, and study the explanation of the phenomenon of "the Byronic hero." What attitudes and character traits are involved? Is there a relationship between these and Byron’s themes and writing style?
2. From English Bards and Scotch Reviewers. Note the resemblances between this poem and eighteenth-century satire. What criticisms do we see here of Wordsworth and Coleridge in particular? What might we infer from the fact that these criticisms occur along with praise of more "main stream" writers like Campbell and Rogers?
3. "Written After Swimming from Sestos to Abydos," Stanzas for Music" (both), "Maid of Athens," "She Walks in Beauty," "Sonnet on Chillon": Observe the range of attitudes and emotions in these poems. In the first, is there anything that defends the poem against the charge of mere bragging? In the second, what is the theme given in its first two lines? Would you call the third and the fourth love poems (if so, in what way, and are other themes involved)? In the "Chillon" poem, why is Liberty said to be "brightest in dungeons"?
4. "Stanzas to Augusta," "Darkness," and "Prometheus": The biographical background for all three of these poems is the scandal of Byron’s divorce. In what sense, if any, does his poetry go beyond personal matters? What, for instance, what is the counter-effect of his praise for Augusta? In "Darkness," how does light imagery relate to the physical situation, to the actual structure of the poem, and to human character? That is, how is this apocalyptic dream projection symbolic? As regards Prometheus, the fore-knowing Titan of Greek mythology, is there a connection between his "Godlike crime" and Byron’s personal situation? Why and how is Prometheus "a symbol . . . / To mortals"?
5. From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto III: Refer back to the section of the Byron Introduction (Course Reader) discussing the poem’s public reception and "the Byronic hero." In the first sixteen stanzas of Canto III, what references to personal background and to character traits appear which identify and define that figure? Throughout the poem, watch for references which explain Harold’s (and the narrator’s) ideas and attitudes regarding society and nature.
6. From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto III (continued): Note the "steed" simile at the outset, and consider the way in which Byron employs the motif of voyage and journey figuratively, to express a meditative viewpoint in addition to merely describing his hero’s travels. In stanzas five and six, what is the narrator’s stated purpose in writing, and how does he, as writer, say he achieves that purpose?
7. From Pilgrimage, Canto III (continued): According to the narrator, what is "the moral’s truth" regarding the site of the battlefield of Waterloo (related to "the harvest")? Examine the extended analysis of the character of Napoleon. What is his chief characteristic? What does the narrator say is the paradox of Napoleon’s and all "great" people’s relation to society? What sort of people are such figures?
8. Pilgrimage, Canto III (cont.): In the "Switzerland" section, note the remarks on nature in contrast to society. We hear echoes of Wordsworth here, of course, but is there a difference between Byron’s ideas and those of Wordsworth? Consider particularly stanzas 86-97 (reproduced in the Course Reader just after these Study Questions) describing and thinking about night and storm-especially stanza 96. Note also the references to Rousseau and the French revolution. As the Canto nears its conclusion, how would you characterize the speaker’s attitude (see especially stanzas 113-14)?
9. From Pilgrimage, Canto IV: Consider this Canto with the same perspective as suggested in the questions on Canto III, noting the intensified opposition between society and nature, and the theme of mutability. Study the dramatic address to the ocean as the poem closes (stanzas 179-84). How does this relate to the "I" of the poem?
10. Manfred: Consider that this work was not intended for the stage, but composed as a kind of closet drama, or, in Byron’s terms, more accurately a poem using dramatic form but deliberately "unstage-able." Consider too that early commentators speculated about Byron’s indebtedness to Goethe’s and Marlowe’s plays about Faust or Dr. Faustus. In a letter to his publisher (23 October, 1817) Byron said, "The devil may take both the Fausts . . . I have taken neither." This is an indignant denial of plagiarism, of course, but considering the nature of Byron’s Faust-like character, and considering Byron’s theme in this work, is there a sense in which he is insisting upon a particular difference between Manfred and the "Faust" plays by his two predecessors-a difference very important to him?
11. Manfred (cont.): At the outset of the work, what is the protagonist’s dilemma, and what is he seeking? Why do all the spirits he calls up fail to meet his need? Are these spirits symbolic, i.e., in "standing for" certain elements of the world and something about humans’ relationship to those elements?
12. Manfred (cont.): Consider the episode involving the Chamois-hunter: Is he symbolic? Consider also The Witch of the Alps: Is she symbolic?
13. Manfred (cont.): What is Manfred’s great sin? How is this related to Astarte? (If you see Augusta Leigh here, okay, but look further.)
14. Manfred (concluded): In another letter to Murray, his publisher, Byron, having received his copy of the published Manfred, notes that in that first edition Manfred’s last speech, "Old man! `Tis not so difficult to die" (III.iv.151) has been deleted. He tells Murray that by omitting that line, "You have destroyed the whole effect and moral of the poem." The line was restored in all subsequent editions. Considering that this may be related to the theme of the poem, why do you think Byron was so upset?
15. Don Juan: In Perkins’s "Introduction to Don Juan" (896-97), note the discussions of the Ottava Rima form, "nihilistic" tendencies, and the two main characters of the poem. Compare these points about Don Juan to points we have discussed about Byron’s earlier writing. What sort of difference or change do they perhaps indicate regarding Byron’s attitude or outlook, particularly in relation to the Byronic hero?
16. Don Juan, Canto I: In this opening book of Byron’s masterpiece we have exposition which introduces the hero and gives his background, and we have the tale of his first adventure. Consider Juan’s upbringing, in relation to the character of his mother and, particularly, the schooling she gives him. What does she omit from his education, and how does this omission relate to his first adventure?
17. Don Juan, Canto I (cont.): Consider the character of the narrator. How does he describe himself? What is his attitude toward his subject? What is his attitude toward his profession (what is his profession? How consistent and serious is he? What effect does the narrator’s personality have on the tone and point of view of the work? What examples illustrate the narrator’s character traits and their effects?
18. Don Juan, Canto I (cont.): The story of Don Juan and Donna Julia may also provide an insight into the theme of Don Juan. Note the narrator’s description of Julia’s ideas about her attraction to Juan and his description of Juan’s thoughts. How would you characterize each as similar? Note too that during his recounting of the story of Juan and Julia the narrator makes several references to the sun, and when he comes to the high point he breaks off with a scolding attack upon a classical philosopher: What do these occurrences suggest about the narrator’s opinion of the intellectual and emotional perspectives of Don Juan and especially Donna Julia, and about the nature of reason and passion more universally? How might this suggest the theme of the work?
19. Don Juan, Canto I (cont.): How serious do you think is the narrator’s claim near the end of Canto I, "My poem’s epic"? Review the passage in which these words appear, and consider the whole work in relation to what an epic is and what it does. In addition to considering whether, or how, Don Juan can be regarded as an epic, what are the implications of such a claim?
Considering what we have seen of Byron’s artistic development, his exploration of the themes of nature and society, his creation of the figure of the "Byronic hero," and his changed perspective in Don Juan, how does he compare with the other Romantic writers we have studied thus far? Compare, for instance, the theme and mood of Don Juan to that of Experience in Blake, or to the theme of the loss of the visionary gleam and dejection in Wordsworth and Coleridge. Can we sum up Byron’s distinctive achievement?
English 115 Study Sheets for Percy Bysshe Shelley
1. Editor’s introduction: In addition to the biographical background, study the references to Shelley’s optimism about human nature, his belief in "Necessity," and his "idealism." Note too the discussion of the "qualities of style" in Shelley’s poetry. What is the connection between these and his idealism?
2. "To Wordsworth": Consider the editor’s headnote here, and remember our study of Wordsworth. Shelley’s attitude toward his predecessor is very important. Note the "influence" the Editor refers to, but consider the negative, yet regretful, statements Shelley makes about Wordsworth. What is the "one loss" he feels that Wordsworth does not?
3. "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty": Remembering that "intellectual" for the Romantics does not necessarily refer to something merely human (or even "mental"), consider "Intellectual Beauty" as Shelley characterizes it. What is its most distinctive quality, and why is Intellectual Beauty’s action problematic? Does anything about Intellectual Beauty call to mind Wordsworth’s conception of "the visionary gleam"? If so, does Shelley explain it and its loss in the same way? This poem is called a "Hymn": In what sense is it "religious"?
4. "Mont Blanc": This is one of the most difficult of Shelley’s poems. Consider it in relation to the Romantic interest in "the Sublime," as that effect often was associated with mountain peaks. Consider it also in relation to "Hymn" above, especially as regards Shelley’s essentially non-religious preoccupation with that which may exist beyond human understanding. How is the mountain, and its topographic features, contemplated symbolically in the poem? What symbolizes the human mind in the poem? Read the last line carefully: How does this line affect the perspective involved in the whole poem?
5. "Ozymandias": This is a famous sonnet. In a word, what is its theme? Consider the point of view of this poem. How does the point of view, combined with the theme, reveal an irony, a dramatic contradiction, regarding the poem’s subject?
6. Prometheus Unbound: Study the Editor’s headnote for this work. He provides useful information on the background in classical mythology, etc.; but pay particular heed to the his explanation of Shelley’s "drastic" altering of his source.
7. Prometheus Unbound, "Preface": In Shelley’s explanation of his intentions for his closet-drama, what is the principal reason he gives for departing from Aeschylus’s original story? Note also his discussion of the style of the modern age, and of poets’ relationship to their age. Finally, consider his remarks on the subject of "didactic poetry" and his own purposes.
8. Prometheus Unbound, Act I: This work is somewhat difficult to follow because of Shelley’s symbolic method, but follow it as well as you can, noting the nature of Prometheus’s original curse against Jupiter, and his reason for wishing, now, to "unsay" it, and also noting the new form of torture he must endure from the Furies, and his response to it. How is the new torture the Furies bring pose a particular torment to Prometheus, and how does Prometheus turn the Furies’ torture against them, vanquishing them? On what fundamental principle does Prometheus now operate?
9. "England in 1819" and "Song to the Men of England": Each of these is a "political" poem, but the attitudes they reflect differ. Which is the more positive poem, and why? In the first, note the grammatical structure: How many statements are carried in its syntax-how many sentences are there? Consider the nature of the details given, and the relationship between them and "graves" on the one hand, and "a glorious phantom" on the other. (If you are not familiar with the symbolism of the pheonix you may wish to look it up.) In the second of these poems, can you sum up the political point implied by the repeated "wherefores"? What is the tone of the last two stanzas?
10. The Mask of Anarchy: Consider the meaning of the word "mask" as referring to not just a covering for the face, but a masquerade; and to not just disguise, but a revel and a procession. Consider also that procession known as the ancient Roman "triumph." What significance might these matters of definition have regarding the condition and situation of England and its people at the time the poem is commenting upon it? How might this work be seen as going beyond "political protest" to suggest something about tyranny in the abstract, and human response to tyranny? What allegory or symbolism may be seen in the behavior of "Hope," whose father is "Time"? Also, what do you make of the "Shape" which arises (consider its apparel)? Follow the speech (by whom?) defining first slavery, then freedom, and leading to a (repeated) call for action. In this exhortation, how compatible or consistent are the tone as suggested by the rhythm of the lines, on the one hand, and the nature of the action (what is that action?) exhorted, on the other?
11. "To a Skylark": Is there any similarity between this work and "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty" and "Mont Blanc"? On what grounds? The subject of this poem is symbolic in the sense that it stands for something more than its physical self: how symbolic, how abstract, is it? What contrasting relationship exists between the subject of the poem and human kind? Is there any similarity between it and a poet?
12. "Ode to the West Wind": Consider the force of the west wind as the speaker describes its effects on natural elements and the changes of the seasons (believe it or not, meteorological facts, regarding prevailing wind currents in temperate zones, are important here). What are the specific elements of nature effected by the wind? How are these effects transformed from physical phenomena to symbolic meaning? Why does the speaker ask the wind to "lift" him? Is there a sense in which this poem is "religious"? Consider the tone of the speaker’s address to the wind. The poem leads to a statement of personal, even spiritual, crisis; yet it concludes with great optimism. How is this achieved? Can we now interpret the poem’s famous ending beyond its general popular meaning?
13. "A Defense of Poetry": How does Shelley define poetry? The poet? Poetic language? What special "faculty" is involved in all these? (Consider Shelley’s contrast, at the beginning of the essay, between reason and imagination, and his discussion of a special "sense" that is involved in the latter.) How does he answer the charge that poetry is often "immoral"? How does he see a relationship between poetry and religion? What is the role of poetry in social change and politics, and how do poets represent "the spirit of the age"? How does all this apply to the last, famous, statement? Consider the multiple metaphor that concludes the phrase, "Poets are. . . ."
14. "Adonais": Read the Editor’s headnote carefully, especially as regards the tradition of Pastoral Elegy. The numerous footnotes will also be helpful, but this work carries much of its interest in the challenge presented to Shelley by the pastoral elegy form and tradition, specifically, the poetic recognition of immortality for the lamented deceased person who is the poem’s subject. Given Shelley’s determinedly non-religious perspective, this poses a problem. Study particularly the concluding passages of the poem: In what way, or ways, does Shelley hail Keats’s immortality?
English 149 Study Sheets on John Keats
1. Introduction: Review the biographical sketch, noting particularly Keats’s early medical training and his responses to the great writings of literary tradition mixed with awareness of the "inward searching" of contemporary writing. Observe the traits of Keats’s mind and art pointed out, particularly as regards Keats’s thought about poetry itself, and its power to express-and possibly alleviate-human feeling.
2. "On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer": What is the literal subject of this poem (having to do with English translation of classical literature)? In considering the poem’s theme, follow carefully its dominant metaphor. How does that metaphor function to express the speaker’s sense of the importance of his experience (i.e., the subject, above)? Notice that the poem concludes with a strong visual image. In spatial terms, what is the effect of that image?
3. "I Stood Tip-Toe": Attend carefully to Keats’s language here. How would you characterize his imagery? What is the effect of imagery on the theme of this poem? What is its theme? (Consider the description of nature and the reference to the "maker of sweet poets," and the true origin of "delightful stories" and how certain classical myths came into being.)
4. "Sleep and Poetry": What does the title of this poem mean, according to the poem itself as it opens with a comparison (on what basis?) of the two nouns in the title? What does the poem say about Keats’s dedication to poetry? Is there an image and metaphor in the poem that answers the previous question? How? What does this poem indicate was Keats’s opinion of the poetry of the previous age? What definition of poetry does the poem give? Finally, how does the narrative as the poem ends underscore the theme of "Sleep and Poetry"?
5. From Endymion, Book I: In the passage, "A Thing of Beauty . . . " from the opening of the work, what is the full significance of the famous first line in context with the whole passage? What does the sentence beginning "Therefore . . ." suggest about Keats’s sense of a fundamental impulse of human life? What two examples of things of beauty do these lines offer, and what is their significance?
6. Endymion, Book I (cont.), ["Hymn to Pan"]: This has been called the first of Keats’s "great odes." What is the nature of Pan’s relationship to Endymion’s people? What is Pan’s power, and what does he symbolize?
7. Endymion, Book I (concluded), ["The Pleasure Thermometer" ll. 777-82]: This passage follows Endymion’s account of a dream vision and his explanation to his sister, Peona, that his desire to find the source of the vision is why he has not been attentive to his duties as the leader of his people; she has scolded him for this abstraction because of a mere dream, and he speaks these lines in response. Study the passage carefully. What is meant by "the clear religion of heaven"? What are the gradations of the "thermometer," and why are they significant?
8. "The Eve of St. Agnes": Consider the treatment of dream and reality in this work, but bear in mind that this is susceptible of interpretation as a light, not heavily philosophic, theme. The "Eve," drawing upon Shakespearean and "Gothic" sources, has been called a poem of wish-fulfillment, and such a view of it may be useful as a beginning point for looking into it more seriously. Consider the imagistic qualities of the work, the way in which its descriptive details appeal to the senses. What sort of wish-fulfillment is suggested (or supported) by such strong sensory language? In relation to this, notice the references to the age of the beadsman and Angela, and the part they play in the conclusion of the narrative.
9. "The Eve of St. Agnes" (cont.): If one view is that this work exhibits a theme of wish-fulfillment, another suggests that it is about seduction. Does sexual consummation take place? Identify the specific passage which is most relevant to such a question. In determining the extent to which wish-fulfillment or seduction is involved, the significance of dreaming in the poem is crucial. How? (Consider what happens in the narrative of the heroine’s awakening from a dream, the central action of the tale, and consider Keats’s letter to Bailey [see below] about "Adam’s Dream"; consider also the idea of mutability and mortality, i.e., that which suggests impermanence and death in the real world in contrast to the sense of permanence attributed to the world of the dream.)
10. "La Belle Dame sans Merci": If "Eve of St. Agnes" draws upon Shakespearean and "Gothic" sources, this poem surely draws upon medieval folklore and romance; but its theme is surely other than wish-fulfillment. What significance do descriptive details carry here? Consider references to the landscape and elements of the natural setting. What season of the year is suggested? What flowers are associated with the knight, and what do they symbolize? What are the most striking features of the "lady," and does she have something to do with the knight’s present condition? Who are the figures in the knight’s dream, and what do they have in common with the knight? How does the idea of dream and reality function here?
11. Letter to Benjamin Bailey, 22 November 1817(extract): Regarding Keats’s letters generally, consider that T. S. Eliot judged them "the most notable and the most important ever written by any English poet." The complete letter contains passages wherein Keats discusses "Men of Genius," and the idea of "a finer tone" In addition to the passage given here about the imagination and "Adam’s dream." We shall discuss the other two passages when we take up Keats’s idea of Negative Capability; for now, focus on the passage regarding the imagination. What does Keats seem to be getting at by comparing the imagination to the episode of Paradise Lost wherein Eve is created from Adam’s rib while Adam lies asleep, "dreaming" of it? Can we see any relationship between the idea of Adam’s dream and the two "dream" poems, "Eve of St. Agnes and "La Belle Dame sans Merci"? How might the contrast between Madeline’s dream and the knight’s dream offer insight into Keats’s idea of the imagination?
12. Hyperion: A Fragment: This work reflects Keats’s interest in epic and his awareness of Milton and epic style. The theme of Hyperion was to be "the growth of consciousness," but many have observed that the theme has particularly to do with the maturing of the poet. How would these ideas relate to the fact that in the work significant figures in the narrative are Hyperion and Apollo? With what human concerns is Apollo associated? Analyze carefully the speech of Oceanus (2.173-243), especially its criterion of "beauty." What are the implications here regarding art and especially poetry and poets? What inferences do you draw from what is being said as the fragment breaks off?
The "Great Odes": Many critics believe that the great odes of April-May and September, 1819 ("To Autumn") constitute Keats’s most important achievement. Regarding all of the odes, consider the Keatsian themes of dream and reality, the power and validity of the imagination, and, particularly, the conflict between the natural world of fleeting beauty perceived by the senses and the ideal world of permanence intuited, and longed for, by the mind.
13. "Ode to Psyche": Consider the traditional symbolism of Psyche, and consider the speaker’s statement of dedication to her. Note his emphasis on her emergence "too late for antique vows." What significance do you see in the sort of "temple" that is to be built to Psyche?
14. "Ode to a Nightingale": Note the carefully crafted verse structure. What pattern do you see in the rhyme scheme of the stanzas? In terms of the poem’s narrative content, what is the speaker’s response to the song of the bird? Why does he wish for "a draught of vintage"? What is his alternative to this "draught"? What complications arise (another significant "but"), and what is the role played by the nature imagery in the fifth stanza? How do the concluding stanzas on death and immortality reflect upon "the fancy," and what problem arises regarding the actual bird to which the poem is addressed? Do we see a version of the dream-reality theme here?
15. "Ode on a Grecian Urn": Consider the similarities and differences between this poem and "Ode to a Nightingale." Do these differences make for a more promising treatment of the theme? Observe structure again, particularly in relation to theme. What is the rhyme scheme of the stanzas here? Thinking of the urn as poetic subject, consider not only its significance as a work of art, but also the implications of the speaker’s approach to it as an object to be understood. What is the relationship between the series of questions in the first stanza and the statement of the second stanza? What is the nature of the tone of stanza three? What is suggested by the comparison of "heard" and "unheard"? What new subject arises with the questions of stanza four, and what is the effect of that subject on the function of the urn as symbol? Finally, in stanza five notice the "paradoxical" language of life and art as the urn is addressed directly: Is this related to the poem’s final statement? Considering that final statement, much discussed by critics, note that at least one version with some textual authority punctuates the final two lines with the close-quotation mark at the very end. What difference would this make?
16. "Ode on Melancholy": Note the references in this poem to what have been called "conventional symbols" of melancholy and consider the poem’s mention of "the melancholy fit." These should be related to the conception of melancholy as a Renaissance "humor," observed in Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy (which Keats read) and cultivated in Keats’s day in the vogue of Gothic "sensibility," i.e., a deliberate seeking of occasions for sadness in order to indulge in, to exercise, melancholy feelings. What is Keats’s advice to those who have such a wish? What is the theme here, and how does the contrasting imagery of death and beauty dramatize it?
17. "To Autumn": How might we characterize the theme of this poem, considering its subject? How does the imagery contribute to the theme? Since winter follows autumn, do we detect in these lines a sense of foreboding, sadness, loss, or despair? (Consider the reference to "the songs of Spring".) What is the relationship between the sun and Autumn, and what do you make of Keats’s use of such a word as "conspiring"? If we were to yield to the temptation to interpret poetry as autobiography, what conclusions might this poem suggest to us about Keats’s attitude within a year and a half of his death?
18. Letter to Benjamin Bailey, 22 November 1817 and Letter to George and Tom Keats, 21-27 December 1817: Compare the mention of "Men of Genius," in the letter to Bailey, to Keats’s criticism, in the letter to his brothers, of Benjamin West’s painting as lacking occasion for "intensity"; and study particularly the passage on "Negative Capability." Is there a contradiction between Negative Capability and that "intensity" referred to in connection with West’s painting? What is Negative Capability, and how does Keats’s reference to two different artists/thinkers (who are they?) illustrate what he means by it?
19. Letter to J. H. Reynolds, 3 May 1818: Follow the discussion of the uses of "knowledge," and of the difference between Wordsworth and Milton. Which poet is greater, in what ways, according to Keats? What two things does Keats claim his comparison "proves"? In the middle of this discussion Keats illustrates his ideas with his famous description of life as "a Mansion of Many Apartments"; study this metaphor closely. How does it reiterate concerns Keats has already voiced in his poetry? How might we apply it to our own lives?
20. The Fall of Hyperion: A Dream: Consider this second fragmentary poem on the same subject especially in terms of a change in style. It has been suggested that an incompatibility of styles explains why Keats ultimately abandoned altogether his effort to write a poem about the Hyperion myth. But we may wish to consider as well whether there is some significance to the change in point of view introduced with the change of style in the second version. In relation to that, note also the change from Mnemosyne to Moneta as involving not only a change from a Greek to a Roman name, but also a change in character. In Hyperion, Mnemosyne spoke positively; here, Moneta speaks in a challenging manner, to a different auditor. What does Moneta say, to whom, and what is the issue she addresses? How does this relate to Keats’s ideas about poetry and his ambitions as a poet?
In summing up the achievement of Keats, we should consider his growth and development as a poet as seen in his use of imagery, his experimentation with poetic forms, and particularly his elaboration of poetic themes. These include an intense focus on nature and the senses, a preoccupation with the theme of the real versus the ideal, an inquiry into the question of poetry and service to humanity, and investigations into the authenticity of the imagination and the relationship between beauty and truth.