Arnold’s engagement with Modernity

Matthew Arnold addresses a number of what he considers fundamental flaws in English culture in relation to modernity. In Culture and Anarchy, He speaks of the need for men to live in “sweetness and light” with each other and working to fulfill the “will of God” and let it prevail in this culture (p.1596). The converse of the life in sweetness and light, is presented as one “who works for machinery, he who works for hatred.” The message which comes across is that of the machine — and the fast-paced modern life — being associated with both hatred for fellow man and lack of faith in God. With the rise of technology and science in this era, there was surely a challenge to many’s faith in God, and Arnold presents this as a having serious implications for the English society.

“Dover Beach” likewise touches upon these opposing images of sweetness and light, versus man’s growing reliance upon the modern world and losing sight of God. The first stanza opens by describing peaceful, beautiful seaside, and ends with an “eternal note of sadness” as the reality of man’s misguided path toward less pure ideals – this “human misery” – sets in. Beginning in Line 21, the issue is spelled out: “The Sea of Faith” – man’s faith in God – was once a loud and “full” reality, but now is only a “melancholy” and “withdrawing roar.” Arnold ends that though beautiful and seemingly full of joy, this world is truly misguided, shrouded in darkness and war, “where ignorant armies clash by night.”

Culture, Anarchy, Dover Beach, and Modernism

In “Culture and Anarchy”, Matthew Arnold takes a stand against the trends he noticed arising from modernism. This can be seen when he writes, “He who works for machinery, he who works for hatred, works only for confusion.” When Arnold mentions “He who works for machinery”, he brings to mind images of the harsh work environments workers suffered in the factory environment during the modern period. In this way, Arnold states that those working in the factory environment, which is such an integral component of the new, modern world Arnold was living in, are subjugated to hate filled task masters who seek to bring only confusion to society.

This sentiment is shared by Arnold’s poem, “Dover Beach”. This can be seen in the lines,, “Into his turbid ebb and flow Of human misery.” The “turbid ebb and flow” which Arnold references here could easily be read as a reference to the work days suffered by factory workers. In these instances, Arnold shows a strong lament for the state of modern life.

Matthew Arnold and Modernity

In Dover Beach, Matthew Arnold combines the notions of romantic love and modernity, in order to contrast them. One point here where Arnold engages with modernity is in the last stanza, where he addresses his love directly, and laments that the “grating roar” that Sophocles once heard can only be heard now in retreat.

This theme comes up again in Culture and Anarchy, where Arnold discusses the lack of Hellenic spirit within the British people. It is this exact Hellenic spirit which Sophocles heard, that reminded him of the “ebb and flow / Of human misery”. The sound of the roaring surf, otherwise known as the sweetness and light sought by Arnold, is missing from the British national scene, having been replaced by a neo-constitutionalist drive towards every British man doing what he pleases, which Arnold views as contrary to British national interest. Herein lies the modernity that Arnold thinks Britain is crashing into; it is a loss of a spirit that created literature in the past, and that pointed humanity in the proper direction once before, in ancient times. To prevent this, Arnold says “let us be true / To one another”, and whether this is an explicit reference to his love in the poem or to his common British citizen is rightly ambiguous.

Blake’s “Marriage of Heaven and Hell”

I know this isn’t exactly the assignment, but I couldn’t figure out which image I wanted to use and thus can’t focus on that aspect of it, so I thought I’d just give my own opinion/understanding and general interpretation of the text, if that’s okay as a possible alternative.

The first striking role which is cast in Blake’s “Marriage of Heaven of Hell” is the role that Blake casts of Swedenborg, which is that of an Angel who is guarding his empty linens. Since we know that Blake is disagreeing with the writings of Swedenborg, the role Swedenborg occupies is at first perplexing. Angels are supposed to be good, right, and truthful in all things, since they are the sacred messengers of god. However, we are immediately given the reason for it, because Blake introduces the notion of this role-reversal, where he is illustrating the idea that just as logic and passion both exist in the same world, so does his unique definitions of good and evil. This idea is profound—we, as humans, realize that there are opposites in the world, things that are contradictory in nature yet exist simultaneously. We, perhaps foolishly, do not often think of religion in this context. Instead, we try to categorize acceptable human behavior and beliefs, when in fact it is an affront to culture and humanity to do so. We, again as humans, inevitably fail in this separation—we have both good and evil behaviors. The idea is put forth that not only do these things, good and evil, exist together, but that it is indeed impossible to separate them. The world needs both. Human existence itself demands both. Blake’s reversal of the traditional ideas of angels and devils is astonishing and effective. The Proverbs of Hell ring true (to me at least) and remind us that it is not sinful to have passion, it is not sinful to question the teachings of authority. Religion has an ugly tendency to attempt to take our (admittedly lesser) human qualities away from us. We shouldn’t lie, have sex, question god. Blake, as the devil, is telling us that it is no sin to be human. It is a sad thing to crush these follies that make us human (by blindly subscribing to the unnecessary rules of religion), and as Blake himself says, “Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained . . . . And being restrained it by degrees becomes passive till it is only the shadow of desire.”

“The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”

“Without contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence.”

This one quote attracted me to the entire piece due to the frankness of the statement. Where there is good, there is evil. Later on in the piece, it states in one of the “A Memorable Fancy” section of the piece, ” ‘The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind’.” This might be completely incorrect in the interpretation of the piece, but in order for one to alter his/her mind, one must draw upon the contraries of life.

This is the link to the picture that alludes to both heaven and hell. It contains the quoted passage I alluded to in the beginning of this post. This picture really is not confusing to me, but it does help further my point regarding the contraries in life: Good and Evil, Mortality and Death, Heaven and Hell. All of these aspects make the world go round.

Blake’s “Marriage”

Whenever I read Blake, I remember how distinct his style is. I enjoy Blake, though sometimes I feel the pleasure is more for his originality/ varying style than, say, the actual work. The man’s work definitely seems ahead of his time, which gives him a certain flair. I feel as if the paintings he created, especially for “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” add much more depth than the poem alone would give. These plates, especially the title plate, set up the feelings of the reader and bring another level to the experience. At least I know it did for me.

The Marriage, AKA balance.

I really enjoyed “The Marriage”, it seems to be an understanding of the world from a non-traditional point of view, which I find rare, even today.  Blake’s writing is essentially a view of good and evil minus all the polarization. It takes the standard view of good and evil and turns it on it’s head by dubbing them reason and energy, respectively. He breaks down the normal view of morality into a sort of perspectivism, saying that, “the crow wish’d that everything was black, the owl everything was white.” Personally I love this piece not only for the views hat it holds but also the remarkable period that it was created. This work gives credence to the introductory material that noted Blake’s eccentricity. I think the solution to the problems outlined by “The Marriage” is a universal paradigm shift, where everyone recognizes that everyone is different, and bases their formulation of right and wrong from that perspective, something that seemed impossible then as well as today.

Heaven and Hell: So Happy Together

William Blake takes a very interesting approach in describing and illustrating his “prophetic” views of both Heaven and Hell. The words themselves would be shocking and intriguing enough, but Blake takes it one step further and accompanies his work with vivid paintings that parallel the literary material. When reading the text and following along with the paintings, I had a hard time understanding Plate 5 and how it connected with the words of the page, so I decided it would probably be a good one to write about, as in my mind it definitely complicated the words beneath. For the picture, click on this handy link and you will be able to see which painting I’m talking about.

As you can initially see, there seems to be a man falling (quite to his dismay) along with a horse (possibly his?) that has some sort of blue material coming from his back, much as a whale blows water from its blowhole. On this plate, Blake has just shifted from the “voice of the Devil” as he speaks three mistruths and presents his version of the correct ones to a brief meditation on desire and its proper place in the world. According to this plate, it seems that desire is something positive and that restraining the desire is only a sign of weakness, as the owner of that desire merely has desire “weak enough to be restrained” (191). On the plate prior, the Devil gave his account of how “Energy is Eternal Delight,” meaning that those who become passive and give in to “Reason” (Jesus, or the Messiah) are simply missing out on the eternal joys that can be provided only when founded in evil and the Devil himself. This concept of boundless energy being a good thing is evidenced in the painting sitting atop the text: the man falling into the fires of Hell could be taken as Lucifer, for Blake talks about the “original Archangel” only a few short lines later, and the horse next to him could be evidence of his original position as “command of the heavenly host.” Most commanders nowadays tend to have horses to ride on to battle (okay, so maybe it’s more like a few hundred years ago), and the sword falling immediately beside the man provides further proof of his once-commanding position. While Blake doesn’t actually describe the fall that Lucifer takes from Heaven to Hell, he does reference Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” which had a quite detailed account of Lucifer’s fall. The Devil had too much “energy” and continually sought to become higher than God, so thus he was cast out and into Hell. However, the painting depicts Satan as an trimmed and relatively normal looking individual, quite contrary to the usual depictions of Satan as red and possessing abnormally large horns. This goes along with Blake’s theme of presenting the Devil’s side of things and trying to challenge the conventional notions of what Heaven and Hell are really like. In short: they don’t really get along.

The hardest part for me in determining what the picture had to do with anything was to realize which section of the text it was paralleling. Once determined, the image doesn’t serve so much as a complicating of the text, but rather a helpful visual representation of something that Blake didn’t spend much time on in explaining in the text.

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

In comparing the Morgan 1790 edition with the 1794 edition held at the Fitzwilliam Museum, the visual differences are prominent between the two. Right off the bat the first plate for each have very different color palettes. In the 1790 edition, it is dark on the left with fire depicted while the right side of the plate has a very light color palette with clouds, and two figures from each side coming together. In this illustration, I feel like I can actually see the marriage of heaven and hell being depicted, but not so much in the 1794 edition. Yes there are still two figures coming together in that edition but the color palette is pretty dark for each side. One side does look like hell but the other side does not look like a heaven to me.

Some other images I’ve chosen to compare are these.

I think these images depict this particular line from the plate: “The Giants who formed this world into sensual existence and now seem to live in it in chains.” I wouldn’t say one has a substantial difference in meaning, but one of them shows more pain and emotion. In the 1790 plate, the man in the middle just looks plain unhappy or angry, while the main in the 1794 edition actually has this sense of emotion I might expect to see in someone who has been kept in chains. His face is just filled with sadness, grief and loss of hope. I think that the 1794 edition plate embodies the lines of that particular plate more than the 1790 plate.


“The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”

The poem by William Blake is very dark and gloomy through out the whole piece. He takes a lot of biblical themes and characters not for the traditional aim of glorifying them, but rather in order to undermine them and create a whole new mythology of the relationship between the heavens and hell. The two pieces of art work that go along with it really make the reading more understandable and clear.

Through his writings, Blake protected God’s creations by alerting the reader of Bibles inaccuracies or lies.  He begins by pointing out the contradictions in the Bible.  In the Plate, “The Voice of the Devil” (really an Angel), he states, “All Bibles or sacred codes have been the causes of the following errors, 3. That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his Energies”. In other words, if man follows his sensuality, he will be condemned forever.  However, in the plate, “proverbs of hell”, he reminds you, “the nakedness of woman is the work of God. Joys impregnate. Sorrows bring forth. Brothels are built with bricks of religion.” God gave us sensuality, but yet religion condemns it. He begins to explain how organized religion began and somehow God’s interpretations were misinterpreted. “Till a system was formed, which some took advantage of and enslaved the vulgar by attempting to realize or abstract the mental deities from their objects: thus began Priesthood; And at length they pronounc’d that the Gods had order’d such things. Thus men forgot that All deities reside in the human breast.” Men forgot that all inner beauty lies in our hearts.

The artwork that goes along with poem really embodies the Romanticism of the poem.


The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: Image 14

Vivid, dark images were prevalent throughout this entire piece, however the one image that I think captured the memorable abyss of Hell in the view of the speaker was image 14.

The speaker describes his walk through the fires of Hell as being full with “Angels [that] look like torment and insanity” (191). The image to me depicts the picture of a pure Angel in such agony. The white figure of a male angel is engulfed in flames and the neck is heavily strained.  The image screams pain.

 The speaker further describes the Devil as “a might Devil folded in black clouds hovering on the sides of the rock, with corroding fires…” (192).  Although the images does not portray the exact depiction of the Devil in rocky darkness, the darkness and flames with a figure hovering over the tormented angel captures that overbearing presence of the Devil described.

I think that the floating figure is indeed a depiction of the Devil because the speaker explains that “the Jehovah of the Bible being no other than he who dwells in the flaming fire” (191).  The speaker states that the Devil is no different than the Jehovah himself except that he is evil and lives in flames. So, I believe that this image is the best representation of Hell in that the floating presence in flames hovering over the angel because the presence is very much likes a man, Jehovah even. That similarity between the good and evil represented the “marriage” between the very two different places, because that similarity in outward images suggests a shared unity of the two owners of Heaven and Hell. That comparison is something that I found to be interesting and was reflected rather well in image number 14.

 Overall this image is scary, dark, and accurate in representing the images of Hell, tormented angels, and the Devil himself. 

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

I really enjoyed reading “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” and looking at Blake’s colored plates that went along with them, because it added a whole new layer of meaning to the work.  The visuals gave us another thing to consider and think about, and it was interesting to see how the poetry and the images fit together.  I was particularly interested in the section that began “The ancient Poets animated all sensible objects / with Gods and Geniuses…” and had the following plate :

I was intrigued by the artwork because I didn’t entirely understand it.  Blake writes of “adorning them with the properties of woods, rivers, mountains, lakes, cities, nations…”  With this I can see a connection because the people in the plate seem to reflect characteristics of many of those things that were listed, such as the figure in the upper left, who appears to be coming from the ground and is colored green, almost as if she is one of the plants.  The figure at the bottom is much darker, and looks to be surrounded in waves.  I wonder if these images are supposed to show the different aspects of the natural world reflected in human nature.  The top image seems very alive, while the bottom one is very dark.

The poem ends with, “Thus men forgot, that All deities reside / in the human breast.”  The connection I drew from this line and the artwork was that it was supposed to represent the way all of these different aspects reside within humans.  But I also found it to be rather confusing to work out, and I am still unsure that this was what Blake was going for.

Marriage of Heaven and Hell

These pictures all very much add to the dark descrition of the poem. The flames leaping up out of the blackness evoke a sense that even nature itself is against mankind, which adds to the romantic style of the poem in that it uses nature as a force which interacts with man or as the poem says, “Then the perilous path was planted: And a river, and a spring On every cliff and tomb; And on the bleached bones Red clay brought forth.” This line once agian embodies the Romantic nature of this poem. I did not find much that complicated the poem, more so it seemed to compliment the poem very well.

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

William Blake’s two sets of plates for this poem offer two starkly contrasting impressions. The plates from the 1790 edition do not, for me, fit the tone of this poem. The poem seems to be hinting at, or openly addressing, ideas much darker in nature than the light colors and softer saturation than these earlier plates would demonstrate. The 6th plate, for instance, deals with hellish suggestions where the speaker appears to be siding with Hell and its “Genius,” being less blindly-simple or lofty-minded than the concepts Heaven and godliness:

“As I was walking among the fires of hell, de-
lighted with the enjoyments of Genius; which to An-
gels look like torment and insanity. I collected some
of their Proverbs: thinking that the sayings used
in a nation, mark its character, so the Proverbs of
Hell, shew the nature of Infernal wisdom better
than any description of buildings or garments”

This “Infernal wisdom” of the Proverbs of Hell twists around the notion that the best wisdom for living comes from God and much from the wisdom of the Book of Proverbs in the Bible. To depict this decision of support of a hellish (or, at the very least, a more earthly) genius, one which looks like “torment and insanity” to heavenly angels, I feel the plates from the 1794 edition capture this character more truly. Rather than the soft pinks and charcoal-greys of the 1790 edition, this 1794 plate is colored with a more burnt-orange background, and the waves of flames – grey in the first plate – are a deep red with dark shadows of black. These colors are not only much more eye-catching and pronounced, but are more effective at hinting to something of a more sinister nature.

Blake and “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”

The image in the link complicates the poem as a whole. Since the title of it is “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”, we are led to believe that the poem will end with the joining of Heaven with Hell. However, this particular page describes the coming of the “cherub with his flaming sword”, and, “when he does, the whole creation will be consumed”. This does not strike me as a happy resolution between Heaven and Hell.

The plate shows two male figures, one hovering above the other, who seems to be dead. To me, it is showing the cherub floating above a man who represents the death of Creation. However, the plate complicates the poem, because this is not clearly the interpretation that Blake wants us to have. The poem mentions fire, and so there is fire in the background of the plate. But if this cherub used to reside in the Garden of Eden, God’s Paradise, then why has it descended to Earth to destroy it with fire? The cause for this is an “improvement of sensual enjoyment”, which I interpret as sin. The complication for me, then, is why the guardian of the Tree of Life is also the one who will destroy the world in 6,000 years. The way this can be resolved, though, is if the cherub is the guardian of all things good, and by destroying a sinful Earth which has indulged in an “improvement of sensual enjoyment”, he is merely keeping preventing the spread of sin in his God’s creation.

“The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”

In general, this is a disillusioned bunch of poets and writers.  The times they wrote in presented some challenges to them and many changes to their way of life.  After the Revolutionary War, the rise of Napoleon, weak leadership in their monarchy, science challenging religion, and the Industrial Revolution, many questioned if England’s/man’s best days were in the past.  That gave rise for the Romantics to escape in their poetry and wrap themselves in the flowery language of the sublime and beautiful – of nature and of the power of the soul to withstand the pressures of the world they now lived in. 


For Blake, it seems he writes and illustrates “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” to elevate the paradoxes of the day.  Evil (characterized as sublime) and good (characterized as beautiful) both live within man:


Attraction and Repulsion, reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence.  From these contraries spring what the religious call Good & Evil.  Good is the passive that obeys Reason.  Evil is the active springing from Energy.  Good is Heaven.  Evil is Hell.


These two forces are part of human nature, and Blake wants to join them together in a natural relationship, while Christianity keeps them separate as good hopefully represses evil.  The illustration on this page has a clouded scene, or Heaven, at the bottom of the page, and a fiery scene, or Hell, at the top which juxtaposes the natural order of things. Does this complicate what he is trying to say?  I believe it reinforces that he is trying to turn traditional thinking upside down.

Dorothy Wordsworth vs Charlotte Smith and Anna L Barbauld

After comparing the three poems together I can see small bits of consistency between Dorothy’s poem and Anna’s poem but not with Charlotte’s. Dorothy writes of a time and place where she experienced pleasure. She makes you want to go on her journey with her. As she is being “Lured by a little winding path, I quitted soon the public road, a smooth and tempting path it was, by sheep and shepherds trod.” She lures her readers to come follow down this tempting path with her. She wants to share this beautiful picture. In one way it can also be an escape from the pain and sorrows that Smith and Barbauld write about. Do not linger on the pain and destruction that Britain is experiencing, but behold the beauty that it has to offer instead.

With Smith’s poem it is sad and dreary. “Here by his native stream, at such an hour, Pity’s own Otway I methinks could meet, And hear his deep sighs swell the sadden’d wind!” It sounds like she could meet the same sad fate of pity and sorrow and she is asking melancholy to soothe her mind and take away the pain. At the beginning of her poem it sounds like she enjoys the sadness of nature, maybe because she can relate to it. “I love to listen to the hollow sighs, Thro’ the half-leafless wood that breathes the gale:” The poem  brings an opposite feeling from the poem by Wordsworth.

The poem by Barbauld kind of brings the two other poems together in a way. She talks about the good things about Britain, but than asks what has Britain done by destroying what was once good and is now just sad and hopeless. “Glad Nature pours the means–the joys of life; in vain with orange-blossoms scents the gale,” the good,  “Man calls to Famine, nor invokes in vain, Disease and Rapine follow in her train; The tramp of marching hosts disturbs the plough,” the not so good. Barbauld is stuck in the middle of the other two. She focuses on everything rather than just the beautiful or just the sad, regardless that what Barbauld is talking about is more political.

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell illustration

I feel the image on the twenty-fourth page of “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” ( makes a profound impact on the text. This image accompanies the scene where in, after hearing a devil’s argument, an angel, “stretched out his arms embracing the flame of fire and was consumed and arose as Elijah.” When originally reading the text, I did not realize how terrible and frightening this must have been for the angel. When observing the illustration, however, the angel’s profound shock and terror at the devil’s seemingly sacrilegious revelation is clearly displayed on his face, offering the reader new insight to this character and the relevance of the events in the text.

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

From the beginning or the first plate, which introduces this poem there is a distinct difference in the two versions of the plates. The earlier set of plates seems to soften the poem, and the plates that were done a few years later seem to more accurately show illustration derived from the text. The differences in colour have a big affect on the plates. The title itself “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” is shown with more force in the newer plates. Hell comes up to the surface and almost stops where Heaven begins, but you can also see the two halves intertwined like a marriage.

The second plates are a good example of what I mean when it comes to colour. The earlier version of the plates use softer colours, pinks, purples and yellows making the thought of the poem to seem almost cheery. The only part of the poem on this plate that can even be considered somewhat ‘cheery’ are the lines “Roses are planted where thorns grow. And on the barren heath sing the honey bees”. The comparison plates depicts the poem more accurately with it’s use of colour. The use of the golds and blacks and dark blues show more of the power and aggression the poem is depicting. “Now the sneaking serpent walks in mild humility.” You can imagine the serpent sneaking in the second plate easier than you can in the first. The last lines of this plate are depicted most here, “Rintrah roars & shakes his fires in the burdened air; Hungry clouds swag on the deep.” The second plate shows the hungry clouds and even though you cannot see Rintrah shaking his fires you can imagine it happening more clearly in the background.

With the third plate I think they are almost even in contrast. The newer plates show the colours more vividly. “the Eternal Hell revives.” You can see the red fires of hell like it has become powerful and really has revived.  You cannot see that in the older plates. In the older plates you can see “Good is the passive that obeys reason” and “Good is Heaven” in the bottom part of the plate. The colours are softer and more pleasing depicting Heaven. In the newer plate you can also see “Evil is the active springing from Energy.” “Evil is Hell.” You can see more energy in the darker and more drastic colours of the plate.

The fourth plate is another good plate to compare the contrast of colour. “The voice of the Devil” is a voice coming from Hell and associated with evil. The older plates use a yellow sun and light blues. These choices in art do not really represent the voice of the Devil. The newer plate however shows reds and dark blues, really showing the voice of evil. The characters in the second plate also show more evil emotion, “That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his energies.” You can see a person being held by another showing that he is not allowed to escape the torment that is being done to him. He will forever be in Hell.

These are just a few examples of the contrasts between the two sets of plates. The first set of plates seems to be trying to tone down the meaning of the words where the second set of plates plays off the words with more depth and meaning.

Women Romantic Writers

Since we didn’t get to discuss Charlotte Smith and Dorothy Wordsworth in class today (or last week), I thought I’d post some comments on them here. Please feel free to respond or post on your own if you’d like to discuss.

Charlotte Smith’s “To Melancholy” (1785) embodies all of the features of Romantic landscape poetry that Wordsworth and Coleridge popularized in Lyrical Ballads thirteen years later. It is set in a specific time and place, as indicated by the subtitle “the banks of the Arun [River] October, 1785,” in order to convey the concrete uniqueness of an experience of Nature in mid-Autumn. That subtitle utilizes a convention that Wordsworth and Coleridge would later follow in their poems, the idea being to allow readers to return to the same location and have the same experience, connecting to each other through time and space.

Smith also exemplifies the Romantic notion of Imagination as an active and synthetic faculty of the mind, not a passive mirror held up to the world. Her description of the seasonal landscape, with its “grey mists” that arise from “dim waves,” bears an element of obscurity and fleetingness that suggest supernatural phenomena (line 2). In addition, the “native stream” of the Arun (line 9) seems to contain a national spirit deserving of pity, whose “deep sighs swell the sadden’d wind!” (line 11). She then addresses that spirit directly–“O Melancholy!”–praising its “magic power” to “soothe the pensive visionary mind!” (lines 12, 14). In that way, the natural landscape serves not only as a projection of her inwardly gloomy emotional state, but also binds her with some element of the national spirit of Englishness. It’s that connection with her readers individually and with the nation in general through its native landscape that she expresses a vision of national unity, however distinct from politics.

Anna Laetitia Barbauld’s “Eighteen Hundred and Eleven” (1812) makes a similar appeal for connection based on a notion of Englishness as a natural, inborn essence. Though her poem is overtly political, there are several passages that invoke the names of rivers to suggest the flowing of time as well as geographic connection and “spiritual” (in the sense of national Genius) connection. I am thinking in particular of the stanza on lines 127-156, where various rivers and other landscape features of England and the United States form a network among some of the great British thinkers and leaders throughout its history: King John and the signing of the Magna Carta, sir Isaac Newton and his definitive model of physics (now deposed by Einstein’s relativity), and so on. What’s interesting here, though, is that Barbauld extends the landscape-inhabited-by-national-Genius to Britain’s colonies, where she seems to agree with the Imperial claim that “If westward streams the light that leaves thy [our] shores, / Still from thy [our] lamp the streaming radiance pours” (lines 79-80). The poem is generally anti-Imperial in condemning the injustices of appropriated wealth and the corrupt political and financial practices that they have led to, yet seems positive about the cultural inheritance it bestows on foreign peoples and their lands.

Dorothy Wordsworth’s “Grasmere” (1805) seems the odd member of this trio of women writers. It follows the tradition of picturesque poetry set in the English Lake District, up north near the border with Scotland, prized for its rugged beauty. The landscape is peopled by cottages in a valley, but one in particular catches her fancy. She goes for a walk that takes her off the beaten path, where she finds an unexpected scene. As we’ve discussed all semester, the Romantic quest for rural landscapes has to do with a searching for British identity, specifically away from the cities. It is a response to modernity, the industrial revolution, and unsavory foreign involvements, even though it might not always refer to them directly.

Dorothy’s landscape describes a pastoral setting in a valley that provides protection from harsher elements.

And when the storm comes from the North
It lingers near that pastoral spot,
And, piping through the mossy walls,
It seems delighted with its lot.

And let it take its own delight;
And let it range the pastures bare;
Until it reach that group of trees,
–It may not enter there!

The mild pleasure afforded by her journey and the scenes she describes represent the aesthetic of the beautiful, which is the least represented among the poems we’ve looked at. There is a faith in the ability of “England’s green and pleasant land” not only to provide unexpected wonder, but to protect and endure. I’m not sure we find the same optimism in Smith and Barbauld.

Can we find anything in Dorothy’s poem that seems to mark her as consistent with the other two women writers here? She expresses a connection to Englishness through a connection to the land, but apparently without the skepticism and concern for the damaging effects of Time we find in the other two. Perhaps you have an answer to this, or see some connections I haven’t teased out?

Tinturn Abbey

As far as Tin Turn Abbey goes, I would say it aligns best with the ideas surrounding the picturesque. I say this because the Gilpin’s essay on the picturesque demands roughness, a quality that seems to be observed and cherished by Wordsworth. Tin turn alley seems to focus more on the wonder that nature produces, rather than the horror. I believe he embraced the unending surges of nature because of how humanity works. Rather than viewing nature with the human eye, he seems to tolerate humanity only because of his preoccupation with nature.  This sentiment seemed most strong on page 393, lines 127-134.

“The mind that is within us, so impress

With quietness and beauty, and so feed

 With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tonugues,

Rash judgements, nor the sneers of selfish men,

 Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all

The dreary intercourse of daily life,

 Shall e’er prevail against us.


Here I found Wordsworth to be parallel with the ideas of the picturesque because he is recognizing the smoothness as well as the roughness of life and nature, he notes the nature’s relation to humanity in lines 90-112 which I won’t be quoting because I have no internet to google them with, nor the drive to manually copy. To paraphrase, While humanity is inclined to subdue itself, he notices something inside himself and nature that is equal and opposite of this suppression, something powerful and wonderful that cannot be quashed, that the dreary intercourse of daily life cannot defeat. It’s the combination of these two facets of life that show the picturesque best. The tendency of smoothness that is always subverted by nature as it presses on without a care. Life’s endless roughness, its dynamic and unpredictable course is the counter to its own inherent tedium.

Late to the party, introduction

Me, I’m a simple guy, for the most part I’m a simple and very normal guy. I like to be seen as funny, and therefore crack a lot of jokes—not all of which are winners, but I can turn a phrase every now and again. I also love the Russian language, I find the accent to be musical and am currently learning the language. They say you speak your third language in the accent of your second, so I am 1.9 languages away from making myself happy in that regard. I am less interested in the practice of living and more interested in the process. I dig thinking about how life could and should be lived, and I enjoy attempts to express these thoughts in ways that are pleasing and accessible to readers: which, is why I changed my major to philosophy from English after my freshman year. I came to the conclusion that my object will be more successful if I focus more on the obscure tendencies of humanity and the human condition and supplement this learning with shallow dives into the ocean that is literature. If at this point in time you asked me what I want to do with my life, I would say I’d like to be a professor of philosophy at a university large enough and renown to turn up on the first few pages of google results for a search of arts colleges, but small enough to be able to have more personal and mentor like relationships with students who sought them, and while teaching I write books that are an elegant mixture of self help books, Kant’s categorical imperative and Dostoevsky’s fiction. Something the size of TU sounds nice. I enjoy logic, while the world and people usually work in illogical ways, I do believe in a balance of some sort, what goes up will inevitably come back down. I don’t think many people pay attention to this when they think about how they want to live their lives and I want to be on the side that actively makes people realize that they have one life, that no one is special unless made to be so by their peers, and that because of these characteristics; life is at once exceptionally beautiful and monotonously disgusting.


My name is Iliyas Mukhametkali, I am from Kazakhstan. My major is political science, I choose this major cause I am interest  politics, I choose this class because In my country I always had kazakh literature and I had western literature. In this class I have few purposes, First of all it is to read Poems of British authors in the original, because in my opinion reading in translation is different than reading in original language, then I have purpose to improve my English skills in speaking and in writing, also it is big experience for me to perceive new English words which meanings I don’t know.

Tintern Abbey: Lizzie Rainey

First: Professor Drouin I am terribly sorry about my late posting I have just now learned that I have been posting to my own blog and not the classes (which creates a problem for the introduction that I did do!).

But about Tintern Abbey: I feel that Wordsworth’s “Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey” is best characterized in the sublime part of aesthetic philosophy. The sublime in the context of aesthetic philosophy is associated with pain/fear and inspires profound emotion. Throughout the piece I felt it was as if a person was suffering from depression and no matter how much they knew/wanted something to be beautiful, their depression kept bringing back the negativity about it all and made it difficult to enjoy. However, with this idea of the sublime, the negativity that the metaphorical person’s depression is creating about Tintern Abbey evokes an intense emotion: the realization that this beauty could kill them.
“Once again/Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs/which on a wild secluded scene impress/thoughts of a more deep seclusion; and connect/the landscape with the quiet of the sky.” This is a moment that caught my attention by the fact that while usually this image would be majestic and soothing it is trapped with the idea that perfection doesn’t exist but the mistakes in beauty make it “sublime”.

Tintern Abbey

In reading this poem, Wordsworth clearly describes the awesomeness of nature. The striking thing about this poem is in how he portrays this image. His description of the area around the ruin of Tintern Abbey is described in magnificent terms. He creates an enormous picture that displays the vastness of the presence of the ruin, and also the belittling effect that it has on him. “For I have learned to look on nature, not as in the hour of thoughtless youth, but hearing oftentimes the still, sad music of humanity, not harsh nor grating, though of ample power to chasten and subdue. And I have felt a presence that disturbs me with the joy of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime of something far more deeply interfused, whose dwelling is the light of setting suns.” Here we see the use of the sublime description. He describes the power of nature surrounding this scene, and the respect that he attributes to them in its “power”. He also describes the awe that is inspired in him when he sees this spot and how it subdues him. All of these characteristics leads me to think that this is a sublime description. (Along with the fact that he uses the word sublime in this quote 🙂