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English Poetry: An Anthology (edition 2011)

by Raimund Borgmeier (Editor), Robert Graves (Contributor), T. S. Eliot (Contributor), Alexander Pope (Contributor), Ted Hughes (Contributor)51 more, John Dryden (Contributor), Christina Rossetti (Contributor), Lord Byron (Contributor), Ben Jonson (Contributor), John Keats (Contributor), Robert Browning (Contributor), Thomas Hardy (Contributor), William Shakespeare (Contributor), John Milton (Contributor), Rudyard Kipling (Contributor), John Donne (Contributor), Matthew Arnold (Contributor), Robert Burns (Contributor), Andrew Marvell (Contributor), Charles Causley (Contributor), William Wordsworth (Contributor), A. E. Housman (Contributor), Gerard Manley Hopkins (Contributor), William Blake (Contributor), Dylan Thomas (Contributor), Edmund Spenser (Contributor), Siegfried Sassoon (Contributor), W. H. Auden (Contributor), John Betjeman (Contributor), W. B. Yeats (Contributor), Percy Bysshe Shelley (Contributor), Wilfred Owen (Contributor), George Herbert (Contributor), Edith Sitwell (Contributor), Philip Larkin (Contributor), Sir Philip Sidney (Contributor), Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Contributor), Algernon Charles Swinburne (Contributor), Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Contributor), James Thompson (Contributor), Thomas Gray (Contributor), Elizabeth Barret Browning (Contributor), Roy Campbell (Contributor), Sir Thomas Wyatt (Contributor), Thomas Campion (Contributor), Lord Tennyson (Contributor), Tony Harrison (Contributor), Michael Drayton (Contributor), Samuel Daniel (Contributor), George Barker (Contributor), William Collins (Contributor), Richard Crashaw (Contributor), Henry Constable (Contributor), Earl of Surrey Henry Howard (Contributor), Michael Hanke (Editor), Queen Elizabeth (Contributor)

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Member:Waldstein
Title:English Poetry: An Anthology
Authors:Raimund Borgmeier (Editor)
Other authors:Robert Graves (Contributor), T. S. Eliot (Contributor), Alexander Pope (Contributor), Ted Hughes (Contributor), John Dryden (Contributor)50 more, Christina Rossetti (Contributor), Lord Byron (Contributor), Ben Jonson (Contributor), John Keats (Contributor), Robert Browning (Contributor), Thomas Hardy (Contributor), William Shakespeare (Contributor), John Milton (Contributor), Rudyard Kipling (Contributor), John Donne (Contributor), Matthew Arnold (Contributor), Robert Burns (Contributor), Andrew Marvell (Contributor), Charles Causley (Contributor), William Wordsworth (Contributor), A. E. Housman (Contributor), Gerard Manley Hopkins (Contributor), William Blake (Contributor), Dylan Thomas (Contributor), Edmund Spenser (Contributor), Siegfried Sassoon (Contributor), W. H. Auden (Contributor), John Betjeman (Contributor), W. B. Yeats (Contributor), Percy Bysshe Shelley (Contributor), Wilfred Owen (Contributor), George Herbert (Contributor), Edith Sitwell (Contributor), Philip Larkin (Contributor), Sir Philip Sidney (Contributor), Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Contributor), Algernon Charles Swinburne (Contributor), Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Contributor), James Thompson (Contributor), Thomas Gray (Contributor), Elizabeth Barret Browning (Contributor), Roy Campbell (Contributor), Sir Thomas Wyatt (Contributor), Thomas Campion (Contributor), Lord Tennyson (Contributor), Tony Harrison (Contributor), Michael Drayton (Contributor), Samuel Daniel (Contributor), George Barker (Contributor), William Collins (Contributor), Richard Crashaw (Contributor), Henry Constable (Contributor), Earl of Surrey Henry Howard (Contributor), Michael Hanke (Editor), Queen Elizabeth (Contributor)
Info:Reclam, Paperback, 2011. 12mo. 262 pp. Edited by Raimund Borgmeier and Michael Hanke with Foreword [pp. 11-12], introductory essay [pp. 13-15], biographical notes about the contributors [pp. 231-247], Sources [pp. 253-262] and copious footnotes. First published, 2011.
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Rating:*****
Tags:Poetry, Anthology, Reclam, Shakespeare Sonnets

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English Poetry: An Anthology

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English Poetry: An Anthology

Edited by Raimund Borgmeier and Michael Hanke

Reclam, Paperback, 2011.

12mo. 262 pp. Foreword [pp. 11-12], introductory essay [pp. 13-15], biographical notes about the contributors [pp. 231-247], Sources [pp. 253-262] and copious footnotes by the editors.

First published, 2011.

Inhalt [Contents]

Vorwort [Foreword]
Die englische Lyrik: ein ganz kurzer Überblick [The English Poetry: A Very Short Overview]

Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-42)
1. "They flee from that sometime did me seek"
2. "Who so list to hunt, I know where is an hind"

Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1517-47)
3. "The soote season, that bud and bloom forth brings"

Queen Elizabeth (1533-1603)
4. "When I was fair and young, and favour graced me"

Edmund Spenser (1552?-99)
5. "Like as a ship that through the ocean wide"
6. The Faerie Queene (III, 6, 41-49)

Sir Philip Sidney (1554-86)
7. "With how sad steps, o Moon, thou climb'st the skies"
8. "Come, Sleep! O Sleep, the certain knot of peace"
9. "Leave me, O Love, which reachest but to dust"

Henry Constable (1652-1613)
10. "My lady's presence makes the roses red"

Samuel Daniel (1562-1619)
11. "Care-charmer Sleep, son of the sable night"

Michael Drayton (1564-1616)
12. "Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part"

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
13. "When forty winters shall besiege thy brow" [Sonnets 2]
14. "Shall I compare thee to a summer day" [Sonnets 18]
15. "When to the sessions of sweet silent thought" [Sonnets 30]
16. "Full many a glorious morning have I seen" [Sonnets 33]
17. "Not marble, nor the gilded monuments" [Sonnets 55]
18. "Like as the waves make towards the pebled shore" [Sonnets 60]
19. "That time of year thou mayst in me behold" [Sonnets 73]
20. "They that have power to hurt and will do none" [Sonnets 94]
21. "Let me not to the marriage of true minds" [Sonnets 116]
22. Th'expense of spirit in a waste of shame" [Sonnet 129]
23. "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun" [Sonnet 130]
24. "It was a lover and his lass" [As You Like It, V. 3.]
25. "Full fathom five thy father lies" [The Tempest, I. 2.]
26. "The master, the swabber, the boatswain, and I" [The Tempest, II. 2.]

Thomas Campion (1567-1620)
27. Amaryllis
28. Corinna

John Donne (1572-1631)
29. The Sun Rising
30. The Flea
31. "Batter my heart, three-personed God; for, you
32. Hymn to God my God, my Sickness

Ben Jonson (1572-1637)
33. To Celia

George Herbert (1593-1633)
34. The Pulley
35. Love III

John Milton (1608-74)
36. Lycidas
37. To the Lord General Cromwell
38. "When I consider how my light is spent"
39. Paradise Lost (I, 1-26)

Richard Crashaw (1613?-49)
40. The Flaming Heart

Andrew Marvell (1621-1678)
41. To his Coy Mistress
42. The Garden

John Dryden (1631-1700)
43. A Song for St. Cecilia's Day

Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
44. An Essay on Criticism (I, 68-91)
45. Epistle to Miss Blount, on her Leaving the Town, after Coronation
46. Epitaph. On Mr. Gray. In Westminster-Abbey
47. Epitaph. On Himself

Anonymous
48. Lord Randal
49. Sir Patrick Spens

James Thompson (1700-48)
50. Rule, Britannia!

Thomas Gray (1716-71)
51. Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

William Collins (1721-59)
52. Ode to Evening

William Blake (1757-1827)
53. The Lamb
54. Holy Thursday (Songs of Innocence)
55. Holy Thursday (Songs of Experience)
56. The Tyger
57. London

Robert Burns (1759-96)
58. A Red, Red Rose
59. To a Mouse

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
60. "She dwelt among the untrodden ways"
61. Resolution and Independence
62. Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802
63. I wondered lonely as a cloud
64. The Solitary Reaper
65. "Scorn not the sonnet; critic, you have frowned"

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)
66. Kubla Khan
67. To the Author of "The Robbers"
68. A Child's Evening Prayer

George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824)
69. "She walks in beauty, like the night"
70. Prometheus

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)
71. Ozymandias
72. Sonnet: England in 1819
73. Ode to the West Wind
74. To Night

John Keats (1795-1821)
75. On First Looking into Chapman's Homer
76. Ode to a Nightingale
77. Ode to a Grecian Urn
78. To Autumn
79. La Belle Dame sans Merci

Elizabeth Barret Browning (1806-61)
80. "If thou must love me, let it be for nought"

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-92)
81. The Lady of Shalott
82. "Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean"

Robert Browning (1812-89)
83. My Last Duchess

Matthew Arnold (1822-88)
84. Dover Beach

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-82)
85. Sudden Light

Christina Rossetti (1830-94)
86. By the Sea

Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909)
87. August

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)
88. After a Journey

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89)
89. The Windhover
90. "Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend"

A. E. Housman (1859-1936)
91. On Wenlock Edge the wood's in trouble"

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)
92. Danny Deever

W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)
93. The Second Coming
94. Lapis Lazuli

Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967)
95. Eulogy of My House

Edith Sitwell (1887-1964)
96. Ass-Face

T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)
97. Sweeney Among the Nightingales
98. Journey of the Magi

Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)
99. Strange Meeting

Robert Graves (1895-1885)
100. Welsh Incident

Roy Campbell (1901-57)
101. Choosing a Mast
102. Luis de Camoes

John Betjeman (1906-84)
103. The Metropolitan Railway

W. H. Auden (1907-73)
104. The Capital
105. An Encounter

George Barker (1913-91)
106. "I sent a letter to my love"

Dylan Thomas (1914-53)
107. Poem in October

Charles Causley (1917-2003)
108. I Am the Great Sun

Philip Larkin (1922-85)
109. The Explosion

Ted Hughes (1930-98)
110. The Jaguar

Tony Harrison (*1937)
111. Heredity

Editorische Notiz [Editorial Note]
Zu den Autorinnen and Autoren [About the Authoresses and the Authors]
Literaturhinweise [Bibliography]
Textnachweise [Sources]

=================================================​

I think I can safely say that this is a terrific introduction for perfect beginners in the field - for I am one. What does a "perfect beginner" mean? Well, it means that I have heard almost all names but have not - with the exception of Shakespeare - read anything more than an occasional quotation of a line or two. If you are one such "poetry dummy", and if you happen to be passing through Germany, you may rest assured that the 6,60 euros for this book is money well spent.

This little, pocket-size book contains no fewer than 111 English poems that span nearly five centuries: the earliest are from the beginning of the sixteenth century, the latest from the end of the twentieth; one of the poets is indeed still alive. With very few exceptions (see the next paragraph), all poems are complete, the only concession to modern times being the elimination of archaic spelling.

In addition to the stupendous table of contents which I lovingly reproduced above, you also get a very nice "short overview" century by century how the English poetry developed for the last 500 years and concise biographical notes about absolutely all poets and poetesses. The former are extremely helpful to get a brief idea of what themes and forms were popular during different historical epochs (Elizabethan, Victorian, Classicism, Romanticism, no longer mere names), and the latter, though short, do a great deal to humanize the people behind the stanzas. Even the lifespans can be suggestive and illuminating. Isn't fascinating to observe that Byron, Shelley and Keats were born in the course of mere seven years and died within three years of each other, the oldest one being only 36 years old? They must have burned with gem-like flame. Genuine Romantics all right!

In their charming Foreword the editors make no bones that such anthologies are no place for long poems, and that's why such famous masterpieces like Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner or Eliot's Waste Land have been ruthlessly excluded. The same goes for the enormously large body of verse drama that is part and parcel of the history of English language. However, there are some exceptions. These include short excerpts from Spenser's The Faerie Queene and Milton's Paradise Lost as well as three songs from two of Shakespeare's plays. The former are fascinating, but the latter are hardly among the Bard's most inspired creations and I wish the editors had dispensed with them, perhaps in favour of a few sonnets more. No matter.

The editors also explain the inclusion of two poems – actually one poem and one poetess – that cannot but be noticed even by the most casual glance. One is a charming trifle by Queen Elizabeth I herself and the other is the unabashedly patriotic Rule, Britannia by one James Thompson. Both are perfectly charming historical curiosities. It's only fair that the queen who gave her name to one of the most poetic ages in the English history should be a poetess herself, although her authorship, the copious footnotes tell us, is not proven beyond doubt. As for the most famous British patriotic song, how many people know that its text was written by a semi-obscure poet in the beginning of the eighteenth century who lived only 38 years and wrote also the long poem The Seasons parts of which Haydn set to music in his eponymous oratorio?

Now a couple of personal highlights.

I was especially pleased to find here Dryden's A Song for St. Cecilia's Day because Deryck Cooke has quoted parts of it in his book The Language of Music (1959) in order to show that music was regarded as emotionally expressive for centuries before some perverse anti-musical minds (Stravinsky, Hindemith) tried – and indeed succeeded, alas! – to change this during the twentieth century. Dryden died when Johann Sebastian Bach was but 15 years old. What poems he would have written had he lived through the times of Mozart and Beethoven, Wagner and Tchaikovsky, or the golden days of opera? Consider these ravishing excerpts:

What passion cannot Music raise and quell?
When Jubal struck the chorded shell,
His listening brethren stood around,
And, wondering, on their faces fell
To worship that celestial sound.
Less than a god they thought there could not dwell
Within the hollow of that shell
That spoke so sweetly and so well.
What passion cannot Music raise and quell!

The trumpet's loud clangor
Excites us to arms,
With shrill notes of anger,
And mortal alarms.
The double double double beat
Of the thundering drum
Cries: ''Hark! the foes come;
Charge, charge, 'tis too late to retreat!''

The soft complaining flute,
In dying notes, discovers
The woes of hopeless lovers,
Whose dirge is whispered by the warbling lute.

Sharp violins proclaim
Their jealous pangs, and desperation,
Fury, frantic indignation,
Depth of pains, and height of passion,
For the fair, disdainful dame.

But O! what art can teach,
What human voice can reach,
The sacred organ's praise?
Notes inspiring holy love,
Notes that wing their heavenly ways
To mend the choirs above.

Orpheus could lead the savage race;
And trees unrooted left their place,
Sequacious of the lyre;
But bright Cecilia raised the wonder higher:
When to her organ vocal breath was given,
An angel heard, and straight appeared
Mistaking earth for heaven.


No wonder that Deryck would worship Dryden calling him ''one of the clearest-minded of classical poets''. St. Cecilia, the footnotes explain, is the patron saint of music and musicians, and herself the inventor of the organ. Jubal, it seems, invented the lyre and the flute, at least according to Genesis 4:21.

It is Deryck, too, who has drawn my attention to Keats and his Ode to a Nightingale as an example of ''violent transitions of mood, from deep gloom to joyous ecstasy''. This is devastatingly accurate description. It's a long poem, in eight parts ten lines each, quite emotionally draining if read carefully. This is evident from the very beginning:

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness, –
That thou, light-wingèd Dryad of the trees,
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.


The so-called Romantics appeal to me rather strongly. They are not all gloom and desperation, hardly enlivened by joy and ecstasy of such intensity that it nearly kills the reader. But there are some lyrical moments, even some decidedly funny ones, too. Wordsworth's famous defense of the sonnet is a lovely piece of humorous admonition of the critics who scorned the form and, in addition, quite a lesson in poetical history.

Scorn not the sonnet; critic, you have frowned,
Mindless of its just honours; with this key
Shakespeare unlocked his heart; the melody
Of this small lute gave ease to Petrarch's wound;
A thousand times this pipe did Tasso sound;
With it Camöens soothed an exile's grief;
The sonnet glittered a gay myrtle leaf
Amid the cypress with which Dante crown'd
His visionary brow: a glow-worm lamp,
It cheered mild Spenser, called from faery-land
To struggle through dark ways; and, when a damp
Fell round the path of Milton, in his hand
The thing became a trumpet; whence he blew
Soul-animating strains – alas, too few!


Among the highlights of course were – are – the eleven sonnets of Shakespeare. The truth is, however, that I still find these pieces very tough to read, often quite incomprehensible and at all events far less stirring than the plays. But there is some hope that several rounds of meticulous re-reading might help to eliminate this blind spot. Studying carefully those eleven sonnets is certainly a very good place to start. For instance, in Sonnet 2, one of the ''procreation group'' (1-17), Shakespeare clearly recognized that the passion for breeding, so inherent in the human race, stems from the fact that this is the only way to defeat, at least to some extent, old age and finally death:

When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty's field,
Thy youth's proud livery, so gazed on now,
Will be a tattered weed of small worth held.
Then being asked where all thy beauty lies,
Where all the treasure of thy lusty days,
To say within thine own deep-sunken eyes
Were an all-eating shame and thriftless praise.
How much more praise deserved thy beauty's use
If thou couldst answer, ''This fair child of mine
Shall sum my count and make my old excuse,''
Proving his beauty by succession thine.
This were to be new made when thou art old,
And see thy blood warm when thou feel'st it cold.


A kind of obsession with Time – which is a polite way to refer to obsession with old age and death – seems to run like a leitmotiv through the sonnets, much as it does through the plays of Tennessee Williams. Both writers had the great artistic advantage over ordinary people in that they could defeat time with their writing. Shakespeare seems to have been aware of the immortality of his verse. In the beginning of Sonnet 55 he says:

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone besmeared with sluttish time.


It is certainly true that great poetry is more durable than any building material, all kinds of stone firmly included. The whole of Sonnet 60 is also pervaded with reflections on the appallingly transitory character of human life:

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crowned,
Crooked eclipses 'gainst his glory fight,
And Time that gave doth now his gift confound.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth
And delves the parallels in beauty's brow,
Feeds on the rarities of nature's truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow.
And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand
Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.


Shakespeare's supreme confidence in the everlasting durability of his verse would have been obnoxious if it hadn't been so perfectly justified by history – at least so far. On a smaller scale, the poet declares that Time can be defeated by Love as well. Highly controversial claim indeed! This seems to be the subject of the passionate Sonnet 116, a most ambivalent ode to a nearly nonexistent version of love:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments: love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
Oh no! it is an ever-fixèd mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.


This greatly idealized vision – or is it just subtly sarcastic one? – is in a sharp contrast with the nearly incoherent Sonnet 129. This seems to be a violent diatribe against the tyranny of sexual desire. The notorious Dark Lady must have been quite a sex bomb to stimulate such brutal aggression in print from our poet:

The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action: and till action, lust
Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust;
Enjoyed no sooner but despised straight;
Past reason hunted; and no sooner had,
Past reason hated, as a swallowed bait,
On purpose laid to make the taker mad.
Mad in pursuit and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have extreme;
A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;
Before, a joy proposed; behind a dream.
All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.


Finally, Sonnet 130 is a beautiful tribute to disillusionment with beauty. These must be some of the wisest fourteen lines ever penned. They clearly recognize that love is not in the eye of the beholder, a well-known yet underestimated fact, and they firmly refuse to even try to explain the perplexing psychological phenomenon. Perhaps this is just as well. Perhaps it is an ironical reference to lovers lost in rhapsodizing?

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head:
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks:
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go –
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet by heaven I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.


Yes, there is a great deal of food for thought in these sonnets, difficult to read though they are. That many of them are breathtakingly beautiful is a welcome bonus. To be continued with the complete collection.

Browsing this collection randomly, it's a very peculiar feeling to switch from such elaborate cadences and emotional depths to modern poetry which, though of course rooted in feeling and by no means simple, is considerably different and somewhat more accessible. The change of the subject matter is sometimes almost ludicrous. For example, John Betjeman was obviously inspired by the London subway to produce this piece of scintillating verbal virtuosity:

Early Electric! With what radiant hope
Men formed this many-branched electrolier,
Twisted the flex around the iron rope
And let the dazzling vacuum globes hang clear,
And with hearts the rich contrivance fill'd
Of copper, beaten by the Bromsgrove Guild.


Alternatively, one can go back a century before the Romantics, that is to the classical poets. There the wisdom and wit of Alexander Pope resides. Based on the short excerpt here, ''An Essay in Criticism'' looks like a worthwhile read:

First follow nature, and your judgment frame
By her just standard, which is still the same;
Unerring Nature, still divinely bright,
One clear, unchanged and universal light,
Life, force, and beauty, must to all impart,
At once the source, and end, and test of art
Art from that fund each just supply provides,
Works without Show, and without Pomp presides.
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