Minor Victorian Poets and Authors

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      Besides the great masters of Victorian poetry and the Pre-Raphaelites, there are many other poets in the early and later Victorian period who manifested different tendencies in their poetry. Among the minor poets of the early Victorian period, mention has to be made of Arthur Hugh Clough, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Phillip James Baily, Sir Alfred Austin, etc. Early Victorian light and satiric verse is represented by Edward Lear, Richard Harris Barham etc. There are again poets emphasising traditional religion - John Keble, Conventry Patmore, Christina Rossetti, John Manson Neale, Richard Watson Dixon, etc. Among the poets of disillusionment and despair, the most remarkable are Edward FitzGerald and James Thomson. The later Victorian period threw up the aesthetic movement represented by the poets like Austin Dobson, Arthur Symons, Ernest Dowson and reactions against the Aesthetes were made by such poets as Eilliam Ernest Henley and John Davidson. Later Victorian poets of religious emphasis are Alice Meynell, Francis Thomson and Lionel Pigot Johnson.

Among the poets of the early Victorian period, mention has to be made of Arthur Hugh Clough, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Phillip James Baily, Sir Alfred Austin, etc. Early Victorian light and satiric verse is represented by Edward Lear, Richard Harris Barham etc.
Minor Victorian Poets

      Arther Hugh Clough (1819-1861) imbibed the influence of Wordsworth. He moved from the narrow piety of his early years towards a religious faith freed from all dogma. For more than Tennyson and Browning, Clough and Arnold in verse contended with the disturbed intellect of the period. Like Arnold, Clough desperately sought faith and comfort within the framework of the bourgeois dominance. Clough unsuccessfully attempted to discover God through intellect and a sense of duty instead of through will, tradition and love. The Bothie of Toberna-Vuolich (1848) is a long vacation pastoral narrative full of good spirit generated by the sense of freedom. Beneath the surface of jest and bubbling youthful nature is a sincere appreciation of the rugged Highland scenery and a serious debate on contemporary social problems. The meter is the classic dactylic hexameter of Homer and Virgil. Dispsychus (twin-souled) is Cloughs most ambitious work which depicts a soul divided against itself in its struggle with pleasure and pain, good and evil, faith and doubt: Say not the struggle naught availeth is Clough's most popular poem but it is not typical of Clough's poetry. His best known satire is The latest Decalogue which revises the Ten Commandments to indict sham religiosity. The most important characteristic of Clough's genius is his fluctuation between a biting satiric intellect and a painful moral sensitivity.

      Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) is best known for her Sonnets from the Portuguese which records her rapturous love and grateful feelings for her husband Robert Browning. Her earlier poetry shows a curious mixture of the Bible, the Greeks, Byron and Shelley. She throughout her life sympathised with the dominant attitudes of contemporary English bourgeosie. She supported strict evangelical morality and called for improvement in the lot of the under-privileged. She gave voice to sensitive pity in Cowper's Grave and to passionate indignation in The Cry of the Children. Her Sonnets from the Portuguese, written just before she married tells of her love for Browning who found her ill and lonely and cured her with his tender care. No other love affair in history has produced such as ecstatically lyric outburst. Her distinction consists in expressing her intense passion through the discipline of sonnet form. Vivid phrases and new images inform her sonnets although her diction is far from pure and her sense of rhythm uncertain.

      The Victorian satirists were in favour of gaiety and whimsy and their weapon was parody. Richard Harris Barham's The Ingoldsby Legends display wild ingenuity in obscure lore and fantastic imagination. Edward Lear's The Book of Nonsense contains a number of limericks which are nonsense verse. The Owl and the Pussy-Cat is an established nursery favourite. He rivals Lewis Carroll in recreating the make-believe and illogical logic of childhood.

      John Keble, Conventry Patmore, Christina Rossetti and others manifest religious reaction against romantic faith and evangelican Protestantism. Keble's National Apostasy marked the beginning of the Oxford movement. The Christian Year consists of hymns and sacred verses chiefly upon all the holy days of the Christian calendar. Lyra Apostolica was a cooperative effort by the early leaders of the Oxford movement. Keble's translation from the Greek, Hail, Gladdening Light is an important poem of this collection.

      Coventry Patmore was a Roman Catholic poet. The Angel in the House describes the betrothal, the wedding and the joys of a devout marriage. Patmore's lyric talent shows to better advantage in The Unknown Eros which is a collection of irregular odes in a more sustained and majestic style. Christina Rossetti was allied' to the Pre-Raphaelite movement and at the same time showed piety in her poetry. Although influenced by her brother Dante, she is his antithesis. The keynote of the devotional poems appears in Despised and Rejected. She renounced the world, thereby felt miserable and denounced her unhappiness as sinful. Her avoidance of sentimentality and her straightforward honesty make memorable poetry of lf Only, After this the judgement, The Lowest Place.

      Among the later Victorian religious poet's Francis Thompson, a Catholic poet became prominent with his The Hound of Heaven and The Kingdom of God. In the first, Thompson recounts the struggle of the mystic in brilliant impassioned imagery. Alicee Meynell in her A song of Derivations expresses her sense of everyday stability and refined consolation.

      Edward Fitzgerald and James Thomson show disillusionment in their poetry with the complexity of industrial civilisation and Victorian contest between science and faith. Thomas Hardy is the most outstanding of these poets of disillusionment and despair. Edward Fitzgerald achieved fame with his free poetic version of the Persian quatrains of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (1859). This is a poem full of pessimism. Oriental in tone, yet classical in its poise, this poem fascinated the readers. It records the vanity of lite. It enjoins on hedonism "eat, drink and be melancholy" but its consistent spirit is despair, James Thomson's masterpiece The City of Dreadful Night is a portrait of London by night as the seat of all human misery Here Thomson expresses the agony ot lite in dark and powerful stanzas.

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