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Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834) was a noted English poet, critic, philosopher, and lecturer. In “ The Ancient Mariner,” and two fragments, “ Christabel” and “ Kubla Khan,” he introduces much of the weird and supernatural into a poetic story, in order to impress their chief moral import the more strongly. All his poetry is highly imaginative. Other poems are “ France - an Ode,” “Love,” and “ Dejection an Ode.”
Of Coleridge's prose writings, his " Lay Sermons and “Biographia Literaria” are of great value, although they are generally too metaphysical and philosophical for young readers.
Oliver Wendell Holmes was born at Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1809, and was educated at Harvard University, where he afterwards taught anatomy for many years. He wrote a number of short poems, most of which will hardly be long remembered; but a few of them, such
as, “ The Chambered Nautilus,” “ The Last Leaf,” “Old Ironsides are worthy to be called masterpieces. His first marked success in literature was the production of “The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table,” partly philosophical, partly humorous, and written in a conversational style that was then novel and charming. 6 The Professor at the Breakfast Table” and “ The Poet at the Breakfast Table,” are in the same style. Holmes wrote two novels which have been widely read : “ The Guardian Angel” to illustrate the author's firm faith in heredity; and “ Elsie Venner," with a similar purpose. Holmes was not, strictly speaking, a great literary artist, but his humor, his great store of knowledge, of which he made apt use, and his characteristic and inimitable way of saying things, will always procure for him many appreciative readers. He died in 1894. .
The poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is remarkable for its artistic grace and beauty, and for its deep insight into human life. Longfellow is, perhaps, the most popular of American poets; his poems are simple, musical, full of thought and feeling, and appeal strongly to the sympathies of all people. His three long poems “ Evangeline,” “ The Courtship of Miles Standish,” and “ Hiawatha”
are well known. His best short poems are — · The Reaper and the Flowers,” The Village Blacksmith,” “Hymn to the Night,” “ The Rainy Day,” “ The Skeleton in Armor,” “ The Wreck of the Hesperus," “ Excelsior,” « The Children's Hour.” Iu “ Tales of a Wayside Inn” we find several popular poems, such as
« Paul Revere's Ride,” “ King Robert of Sicily,” etc. “Morituri Salutamus” (“We, who are about to die, salute you ”) is a college anniversary poem of unusual power and beauty. Longfellow has given Americans an excellent translation of the greatest of Italian poems, Dante's “ Divine Comedy.” Longfellow was born in 1807; died, 1882.
Daniel Webster (1782-1852) was the greatest of American orators, and one of the few foremost orators of the world. His speeches themselves must be read and, perhaps, committed and recited, in order to feel the grandeur of them. “ The Bunker Hill Monument Oration” placed him at once among the world's most noted public speakers. In 1826 he delivered his eulogy on Adams and Jefferson. In January, 1830, Webster delivered his famous “Reply to Hayne,” the greatest speech ever heard in the American Congress; and in the same year, his remarkable speech at the trial of the murderers of Joseph White, the greatest pleading ever delivered in an American court. His last oration was on the Fugitive Slave Law, in 1850.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, the greatest of American essayists and one of the profoundest thinkers of modern times, was born in Boston in 1803, and graduated at Harvard in 1821. Emerson's ancestors had been clergymen for several generations; but Emerson disliked the limitations of the old orthodoxy, and was the leading spirit of the
Transcendentalist” movement — an idealistic philosophy in which Nature is thought of, not as matter merely, but as a visible symbol of spiritual truth which the soul of man must perceive, enjoy, and interpret. Emerson's poetry is so profoundly thoughtful and ideal that it is not very popular; but his best known poems are: “Concord Hymn,” “ The Snow Storm,” “ Ode to Beauty,” “ Sursum Corda ” (Latin for “ Lift up your hearts,”) “Good-by, Proud World.” A little book, entitled “ Nature," published in 1836, attracted the attention of thinking people, especially the Transcendentalists, Channing, Ripley, Parker, Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, and others. About this time Emerson came into notice as a public lecturer, a career that he followed for some forty years. One volume of essays appeared in 1811; another in 1814. Emerson's essays and lectures treat of a great variety of subjects, such as History, The Over-Soul, Compensation, Friendship, Love, Heroism, Intellect, Art, The Poet, Character, Manners, Culture, Power, Beauty, Books, etc. Certainly no other American has ever produced a body of literary work of such wonderful power to stimulate and suggest thought as these essays and lectures. In 1850, he published a series of his lectures under the title “ Representative Men ” — Plato, Swedenborg, Montaigne, Shakespeare, Goethe, Napoleon a book that should be carefully studied. Other books are “ The Conduct of Life,” “ Society and Solitude,” “ Letters and Social Aims.” Emerson died in 1882.
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822) was one of the greatest of English lyric poets. He was an extreme example of the purely poetic temperament, and his poetry is nearly all of an ethereal, soaring character; much of it is somewhat un wholesome. Besides “ The Skylark,” other noted short poems are • The Cloud,” “ Adonais,” “Ode to the West Wind,” “ Arethusa," “ Hymn to Intellectual Beauty,” and several songs.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, one of the greatest and most widely known of the poets of modern times, was born at Somersby, England, in 1809. He was poet laureate from 1850 until his death in 1892. His poetry is remarkable for the perfection of its rhythm and melody, and its manly grappling with the great problems of life and destiny which the advance of science and the dissemination of learning have thrust upon us in these last days. Many of Tennyson's lyrics, such as “ The Bugle Song,” “Sweet and Low,” “ Tears, Idle Tears,” “ Come into the Garden, Maud," etc., can hardly be surpassed. Perhaps his best known shorter poems are : “ The Lady of Shalott,
." The Miller's Daughter,” “ Lady Clara Vere de Vere,” « The Death of the Old Year,” “ Locksley Hall,” “ The Brook," "Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington,” “ The Charge of the Light Brigade,” “ Locksley Hall
Sixty Years After.” His great long poems are : “ Enoch Arden," “ Maud,” « The Princess,” “ The Idylls of the King,” “ In Memoriam.” Tennyson also wrote some dramas, but these did not meet with much popular favor.
Burns The darling son of Scotland is Robert Burns, the most gifted lyric poet of his nation. He was born in Ayrshire, Scotland, in 1759. His whole life was a struggle against what he considered adverse circumstances; but in his poetry we see and enjoy only his fine insight into the essential passions of human nature, his wit, and his marvelous lyrical gift. The key-words to his character and writings are passion and sincerity. Disappointment and dissipation shattered his health, and he died in 1796.
Nearly all of Burns's poetry contains a mixture of Scotch and English; yet one can enjoy the earnestness and melody of his poems even if one is not familiar with the Scotch language. Burns's best poems
“ The Cotter's Saturday Night,” “ Tam o' Shanter," Made to Mourn,” “A Winter Night,” “ Address to the Deil,” “ The Iloly Fair.” In “ To a Field Mouse,”
,” “ To a Mountain Daisy,” “ To a Wounded Hare,” the poet shows his intimate sympathy with Nature. But Burns is best known by his “Songs,” of which the most popular are: “I Love my Jean,” “ John Anderson my Jo,” “ Afton Water,” “ Auld Lang Syne,” “ A Red, Red Rose,” “ The Highland Lassie,” “ Farewell to Nancy,” “Green grow the Rashes," 66 The Author's · Farewell to his Native Country,” “ Bannockburn” (a thrilling battle lyric), “For A’ That, and A’ That,” “McPherson's Farewell,” “ Mary Morrison,” “ To Mary in Heaven,” “Coming through the Rye," " It is na, Jean, thy Bonnie Face,” etc.
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SHAKESPEARE William Shakespeare, the greatest dramatic poet of modern times, was born at Stratford-on-Avon, England, in 1564. But little is known of his early life and education. About 1587 he went to London, where he became an actor. His first work as playwright was as reviser of some of the plays which were being acted by the company of players of which he was a member. Later he wrote independently, and rapidly rose in public estimation as a play-writer and also as a poet. About 1611, Shakespeare retired from active business life and returned to Stratford to live. He died April 23, 1616.
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Shakespeare's poems are entitled " Venus and Adonis," of Lucrece” (both based on classical mythology), “ A Lover's Complaint,”
,” “ The Passionate Pilgrim," and 154 sonnets. These writings alone were of such high excellence as to have assured Shakespeare a place among the foremost poets of England. But modern attention and study is devoted chiefly to his dramas, some thirty-five in all. As soon as possible the student of literature should become familiar with the following plays of Shakespeare: comedies
-“As You Like It,” “ A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Merchant of Venice," “ Much Ado About Nothing,” “ The Tempest ”; tragedies
“ Romeo and Juliet,” “ Julius Cæsar,” “ Macbeth," King Lear,” “Othello," “ Hamlet”; historical plays — “ Richard III,” “ The First Part of King Henry VI,” “ Henry VIII.” The poet's other plays are entitled as follows: comedies “ The Two Gentlemen of Verona,” “ The Merry Wives of Windsor,” “ Measure for Measure,” “ The Comedy of Errors,” “ Love's Labor's Lost,” “ The Taming of the Shrew,”
“ All's Well that Ends Well,” “ Twelfth Night,” “ The Winter's Tale”; tragedies- “ Troilus and Cressida,” “Coriolanus,” “Titus Andronicus,” “ Timon of Athens,” “ Antony and Cleopatra, • Cymbeline”; historical plays — “King John,” “ Richard II,” “King Henry IV” (two parts), “King Henry V,” “King Henry VI” (second and third parts).