John Hunter (British Women Romantic Poets Project, UC Davis)
Pilkington (1811) (British Women Romantic Poets Project, UC Davis)
This can no longer be said of the remaining member of this trio of "Lake Poets," Robert Southey, who in his own time was regarded as their equal. Even those fellow poets, such as Byron and Shelley, who most bitterly resented Southey's defection from the Liberal cause would be astonished if they could learn how his reputation as a poet has declined. Southey's epics, notably Thalaba and The Curse of Kehama, seem now so many monuments of wasted effort and futile ambition. He was, how ever, a most industrious man and learned prose man too, writing an excellent style, and at least one volume of his, the Life of Nelson, has kept its place. Time has dealt a little more tenderly with the picturesque narrative poems of Sir Walter Scott, whose Lady of the Lake and the rest are still enjoyed by young readers, but it is as the author of one or two magnificent lyrics, such as Proud Maisie, that Scott keeps his place as a poet. Beside him may be set his fellow-countryman, James Hogg (The Ettrick Shepherd), who has never quite had full justice done him. And there are three other poets who for years were regarded as the foremost men of their time but have since dwindled into the authors of a few acceptable lyrics. These are Samuel Rogers (the least important), Thomas Campbell and Tom Moore. Byron and Shelley.Between these older men and the three younger poets, Byron, Shelley and Keats, who all died before they reached maturity, may be set the figure of a man who was greater as an influence than strictly as a writer. This was Leigh Hunt, who produced some pleasant verses, some good light essays and some really excellent criticism. His greatest work, however, was done as the inspiring friend of the younger poets, especially Shelley and Keats. Byron was not deeply influenced by any con temporary writer. Oddly enough, Byron, who became a European figure of Romance, was not at heart a Romantic poet at all, a fact that is now recognized. His most lasting work, apart from one or two poignant lyrics, has been in verse of a satirically descriptive order, found at its best in his Don Juan, in which his really strong masculine intellect, his witty impertinence and his rhetorical gusto have full scope. He wasand still remains- a symbolic figure of romantic rebellion, though he himself would have been the first to laugh at most of his fervent admirers.
A Collection of the World's Most Romantic Poetry
Byron is steadily being overshadowed, however, by a more authentic figure of romantic rebellion. His friend and junior, Percy Bysshe Shelley, has long been recognized as the greater poet, and he is now taking the place that Byron once had, at home and abroad, as a symbolic figure. He was only thirty when he perished in the sea, and it is impossible to imagine what would have become of him had he lived to a ripe old age, for he is the poet of enthusiastic and revolutionary youth. Coming early under the influence of William Godwin (who wrote some novels of merit), Shelley became a philosophical anarchist of a type not uncommon in the later 18th century. He was the And of all such dry Prosperos as Godwin. He is pre-eminently the poet of some future Golden Age, unearthly in its loveliness and inno cence. His lyrics (and he is always lyrical, even in his longer poems) have a matchless swiftness and grace and opalescent colouring ; they are all vague music and perfume and shifting lights ; and neither their beautiful melancholy nor their ecstasies are quite of this world. Indeed, the chief fault of Shelley's poetry is its lack of all ordinary human feeling and its remoteness from common interests. A further weakness is a certain mushiness of phrase, and there are signs that his vocabulary never quite re covered from the influence of the absurd philosophical romances he read (and wrote) so eagerly in early youth. But he was a lyrical genius and a figure of poetry and eager revolt that, at certain ages and always for some readers, completely captures the imagination.