Godsend and American Lit teacher Dana Huff asks after reading my previous post, "Who is your first (or second) favorite [Romantic poet], then?"
Hm, that's a tough one. It's always a toss-up between Wordsworth and Blake. When I was a junior in high school, I "discovered" Wordsworth. I'd been in English Lit all year and liked it well enough, but, up until we got to the Romantics, I actually missed American Lit. (I'd "discovered" Emerson the year before and was still high on "Self-Reliance.")
But then we got to Wordsworth. We read Blake first, and I liked him as well as I'd liked anything else. But when we read "Tintern Abbey" ... woo, boy. I was hooked. I couldn't get enough Wordsworth. The first two classes I signed up for in college were Shakespeare and Romantic Literature. The first class I signed up for in grad school was Early Romantic Writers. And in all the years in between, I read line after line of Wordsworth on my own--all of the Lyrical Ballads, the sonnets, The Prelude, The Recluse (OK, I didn't read The Recluse ... but I tried. I really did.)
I read so much Wordsworth that his lines just rattle around in my head now. When we went to Springer Mountain for New Years a few weeks ago, I stood at the summit overlooking the north Georgia hills, and thought so myself, "Five years have passed; five summers, with the length of five long winters ...." It's really kind of sad, the way Wordsworth still seems to narrate moments of my life.
So yes. I love Wordsworth. I think he gets a bad rap (I know very few people who are "into poetry" that actually like Wordsworth, and then there is that male chauvanist thing ...), but I can honestly say that his poetry was instrumental in my own development. I am who I am, in part, because of Wordsworth's poetry.
Wow. That sounded really sappy.
I was a late bloomer when it comes to Blake. I always liked Blake, but was never ga-ga over him ... until grad school. When I first started grad school, my primary interest was, of course, the poetry of the early Romantics. By the time I finished my first semester, I was poring through everything I could find on Blake, thinking about what aspect of Blake and his poetry I would focus on for my master's thesis. I had some fuzzy idea of Blake and C.G. Jung and archetypes which I don't really remember now ... once I switched from lit to Rhetoric and Composition, my focus changed.
So sometimes Wordsworth is my favorite poet, and sometimes Blake. Whenever I take the time to read either, I end up on a manic high for days, thinking silly Romantic thoughts like, "There is nothing--NOTHING!--more important in this world than poetry! Except maybe music! No, not even music! Poetry! Poetry! I would die for poetry!"
I know. It's silly and perhaps a little juvenile. I try to avoid public places when I get like that.
Keats is my third-favorite Romantic poet, but when I'm actually reading Keats, I wonder why I ever liked Wordsworth, or Blake, better than Keats. Reading Keats's poems is like having wine or honey poured all over me while bathing in the moonlight on a warm summer night. And what's more pleasurable than that? So generally, Keats will edge out Wordworth or Blake (whichever one happens to be in Spot #2).
The other three giants of English Romantic poetry are Coleridge, Byron, and Shelley. Coleridge probably holds spot #4 with me, though there are some passages in Byron that occasionally bump him up in the ranking. An oh, how his dark, delicious melancholy appealed to me when I was in my teens and twenties! I mean, does it really get better than this when you're a young, passionate, dark, and melancholy poet-type yourself??
In my youth's summer I did sing of One,
The wandering outlaw of his own dark mind;
Again I seize the theme then but begun,
And bear it with me, as the rushing wind
Bears the cloud onwards: in that Tale I find
The furrows of long thought, and dried-up tears,
Which, ebbing, leave a sterile track behind,
O'er which all heavily the journeying years
Plod the last sands of life,--where not a flower appears.
Then there's Shelley. I can't stand Shelley. I have tried so hard to like Shelley. In my Bibliography and Research Methods class in grad school, I made Shelley the subject of my big research project. I told my prof, "You know, there's something I'm not getting. It's not right for me, a Romantic poetry nut, to dislike Shelley. I'm going to do all this research on him, and read all the Shelley I can get my hands on, and figure out what I've been missing all this time." My prof nodded approvingly and said that yes, I would learn to love Shelley. I was certain that I would.
By the end of the project, I hated Shelley.
In "Later Romantic Writers" one semester later, I did final paper on Shelley's "Lines Written Among the Euganean Hills." I tried so hard. Perhaps I tried too hard. To this day, I simply cannot muster more than a mild appreciation for the poetry of Shelley. He just doesn't compare, for me, to the others.
So. To answer your question, Dana ... :)
(Oh, how I love to ramble and procrastinate. Time to go write a composition worksheet!)
Hi, Strangers! I've been blogging with my friend Anh over at Then a Gentle Whisper . Check it out!
You wouldn't believe how many Google searches on "English translation of Ständchen" lead to this blog. So I'm going to to ...
Li'l Boo at 20 months
Over Christmas, I was told that I was a "genius" and "brilliant" by friends and family who obviously like to carelessly ...