“Casabianca” and “Darkness”

I’m getting ahead on my blog post for next week due to the stress of upcoming finals!

Felicia Dorothea Hemans’ “Casabianca” was reminiscent of Byron’s apocalyptic “Darkness” because they both portray people’s last moments in the face of fiery tragedies. The main difference between the two is that “Casabianca” portrays an act of nobility when Casabianca stands at his post while his ship is on fire during the Battle of the Nile, while “Darkness” portrays how many different people and animals face their final moments in the end of the world encased by darkness. Both poems involve a fiery end for the characters, but “Casabianca” is lit up by the “booming shots” and the fire on the ship and “Darkness” has a looming sense of darkness even with the houses set ablaze: “all was black.” In “Darkness” all of the love and trust between neighbors and friends is lost due to selfishness and survival instincts, while Casabianca stays at his post because he “would not go,/ Without his father’s word,” insinuating a sense of unity and virtue. Both poets are trying to convey a similar message about human nature and how we might act at our last moments; another similarity I found was how the dogs in “Darkness” stayed by their dead owners to fight off people eating them, while Casabianca also stayed put out of an act of respect for his father’s words. 

Robbie Burns Day

This article discusses the history and modern take on Robbie Burns Day, which celebrates Scotland’s Highland poet, Robert Burns. Robbie/Rabbie Burns, as Scotland calls him, wrote in his native dialect which became symbolic of upholding his heritage. The article discusses Burns’ impact on the writing world and themes he often discussed in his writing:

“The 18th-century poet’s radical messages of political equalitypenned in a time of populist agitation against the state have attracted both long-standing popular interest and scholarly debate. Scholars have also explored an ecological consciousness that pervades his work.”

For Robbie Burns Day, there is traditionally a dinner of haggis, turnips, and potatoes. People wear and adorn Scottish regalia and give speeches at supper. Selkirk Grace happens right before the dinner. 

The article discusses how Robbie Burns Day has made its way into countries besides Scotland. Locations and organizations such as the Mediterranean island of Malta; Dunedin, New Zealand; Canada; and Glasgow Afghan United have brought forth their own spins on Robbie Burns Day. During the pandemic, Ottawa and Dunedin were able to have virtual celebrations including pre-taped addresses. 

It’s very admirable that one man has had so much influence on many different countries for the content and dialect of his work! 


Barbauld as a Bad*ss Social Activist

Just as many other Romantic poets seem to be inspired by some sort of cause, Anna Lætitia Barbauld could be classified as a social rights activist. In a time period where the majority of successful authors were men, Barbauld wrote about issues such as women’s rights, childbirth, slavery, astrological transcendentalism, social reform, animal rights, war, etc. Many of the male authors we have examined focused on themes such as religion, marriage, love, spirituality, human nature, environmentalism, apocalyptic futures, etc. but we rarely saw accounts of such passionate social activism. 

The Chawton House Library held a 200-year anniversary event in 2012 to commemorate Barbauld’s poem “Eighteen Hundred and Eleven,” which addressed the economic crisis and dysfunctional war policy in Britain at the time, imagining an apocalyptic Britain under the weight of America after the Napoleonic Wars.

This is just another example of Barbauld’s activism, and how her poetry still impacts literary circles today. 

Anna Letitia Barbauld in Twenty Hundred and Twelve: New Perspectives


Byron’s Infidelity

I wanted to take a step away from the longer pieces we are examining from Byron and I found a short poem called “When We Two Parted.” This poem is about the parting of two lovers, and is most likely about Byron’s affair with Lady Frances Wedderburn Webster who is thought to have broken off their relationship to pursue one with the Duke of Wellington. There is a chilly aspect to this poem that shows how hurt Byron was to be broken up with, stating, “Pale grew thy cheek and cold,/ Colder thy kiss;” and “The dew of the morning/ Sunk chill on my brow.” He conveys the message that the two of them met in secret and had a secret affair, and also broke it off to the point where he was alone because he had nobody to tell (since the affair was supposed to be kept from others). This poem is about grieving lost love. From what we have discussed in class and what I’ve seen online, Byron had a lot of lovers, including his own half-sister. It is interesting to see into his mind through this poem because we can see that he formed a close relationship with one of his lovers (and potentially with others as well) and that he was not solely seeking sex. His relationship with the subject of this poem involved an emotional connection, since he is so hurt by her absence. 

When we two parted
   In silence and tears,
Half broken-hearted
   To sever for years,
Pale grew thy cheek and cold,
   Colder thy kiss;
Truly that hour foretold
   Sorrow to this.

The dew of the morning
   Sunk chill on my brow— 
It felt like the warning
   Of what I feel now.
Thy vows are all broken,
   And light is thy fame;
I hear thy name spoken,
   And share in its shame.

They name thee before me,
   A knell to mine ear;
A shudder comes o’er me—
   Why wert thou so dear?
They know not I knew thee,
   Who knew thee too well—
Long, long shall I rue thee,
   Too deeply to tell.

In secret we met—
   In silence I grieve,
That thy heart could forget,
   Thy spirit deceive.
If I should meet thee
   After long years,
How should I greet thee?—
   With silence and tears.

Keats Resonating During COVID-19

I found this article about how Keats’ poem “When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be” resonated with young people during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The author of this article writes, “It’s a poem that will resonate with the youth who are cooped up indoors, physically isolated, unable to meet and mingle, agonisingly aware of weeks slipping by, opportunities missed, disappointments mounting. This poem has made me almost painfully empathetic towards their plight.” Along with the relevance of his death due to tuberculosis, COVID-19 had an impact on everyone’s understanding of socializing and led to isolation and hopelessness, which this poem reflects. 

Keats also wrote a poem called “Hyperion” about isolation when he trained at Guy’s hospital in London where he witnessed surgery without anesthesia and the psychiatric ward. He learned about medicine, as well as misery and pain. The illnesses he is influenced by, as well as his experience with isolation, reflect what we went through the past coupe years with the pandemic, losing loved ones and isolating ourselves. 


Keats and “Ode on a Grecian Urn”

While doing some research on Keats, I found this article that discusses Keats’ poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” In this poem, the narrator views an ancient urn that has designs of men and women chasing one another and playing instruments surrounded by leafy fringes. The narrator wonders about the history of these people, and this connects him to history and a different time. The author of this article recalls this poem to commemorate Keats’ death in late February of 2021 (he died on February 23, 1821). He dies away from his family from tuberculosis, and the author of this article feels this poem connects him to his readers nowadays, as he stretches across time and confronts his own mortality. I feel like many poems, if not all, connect the poet to their readers across time, as we find new meanings in poems and works of art as time continues. 


“Ode on a Grecian Urn”

Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness,
       Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
       A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fring’d legend haunts about thy shape
       Of deities or mortals, or of both,
               In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
       What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
               What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?
Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
       Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d,
       Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
       Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
               Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal yet, do not grieve;
       She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
               For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!
Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
         Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
         For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
         For ever warm and still to be enjoy’d,
                For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
         That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy’d,
                A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.
Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
         To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead’st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
         And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea shore,
         Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
                Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
         Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
                Why thou art desolate, can e’er return.
O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
         Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
         Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!
         When old age shall this generation waste,
                Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
         “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
                Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

Percy Shelley and Mary Shelley

*I’m submitting my blog & comment for next Monday early because I had some time in between travel!

The poems “Mask of Anarchy” and “Ode to the West Wind” address themes of politics and death/rebirth/revenge. “Mask of Anarchy” discusses the 1819 protest in St. Peter’s Square in Manchester, England against famine, unemployment, and lack of suffrage. The local magistrate called upon the militia to diffuse the protest, but the inexperienced soldiers began brutally attacking protestors. Shelley, who was in Italy at the time, wrote this piece to convey his disappointment and sorrows towards both the magistrate and militia for ordering the killing and wounding of innocent people. Shelley mentions rising against injustice in “Mask of Anarchy,” which takes on a theme of revenge. 

“Ode to the West Wind” involves the narrator asking the west wind to spread his word far and wide like a “trumpet of prophecy.” The narrator also feels that the wind is a necessary evil that he begs to carry him into death where a new life awaits him. There are themes of death and rebirth in this poem, since the wind in the narrator’s mind is powerful enough to take him away and restart his life. 

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein also addresses similar topics of death, rebirth, revenge, and political issues, which makes me wonder how many ideas the Shelley’s shared with each other. In Frankenstein, Frankenstein makes a doctor out of dead body parts and creates a “monster,” combining death and rebirth, and the creature seeks revenge after being treated neglectfully. Similar to how “Ode to the West Wind” addresses nature and death through the wind and leaves, Mary Shelley’s book punishes Victor for trying to manipulate nature by creating life out of death. “Mask of Anarchy” is about taking revenge on a government and militia that harmed its people, similar to how Frankenstein’s monster caught revenge on Victor and others in his path because of his mistreatment. Percy and Mary Shelley seemed to jump ideas off of each other, which is interesting to me because when Mary first published Frankenstein anonymously, Percy had written a preface and many people assumed he had written the novel. I wonder whose ideas were more prevalent in the relationship, or if they equally shared ideas and opinions? 

Symbolism of Birds in Coleridge and Shelley

In Coleridge’s poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” the mariner sees an albatross while aboard his ship and decides to shoot it. Some critics believe this bird is a symbol of God’s plan for the mariner, or some spiritual symbol, and his killing of the creature resulted in a domino effect of terrible tragedies/obstacles he must overcome. Later in the poem, the crew wraps the dead albatross around his neck, serving as a symbol of burden and regret. Everything that happens with the albatross is a metaphor for a curse that falls upon the mariner and his crew for interrupting God’s plan. 

In Shelley’s poem, “To a Skylark,” the speaker addresses the skylark as a “blithe Spirit” whose song comes from heaven (line 1). The skylark is mysterious to everyone who observes it and is described as a “poet hidden/ In the light of thought,” (lines 36-37). The narrator looks to the bird for guidance, which is the opposite of the events that unfold in “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Shelley writes, “Teach me half the gladness/ That thy brain must know,/ Such harmonious madness/ From my lips would flow/ The world should listen then, as I am listening now,” (101-105). 

I wonder if the poets’ religious affiliations have anything to do with their portrayal of birds in their poems? 

Coleridge and Drug Abuse/Mental Health

Quick content warning: drug/alcohol abuse, mental illness

While doing research in Coleridge, I discovered he was addicted to opium and often suffered withdrawals from laudanum, since he would drink this tincture of opium in alcohol. He also suffered from depression, anxiety, and though it was not diagnosed in his lifetime, some say he had bipolar disorder. Thus, his writings sometimes reflected this sadness and the opium-induced thoughts he experienced. 

For example, “Kubla Khan” is one of these pieces that he created during an opium-induced dream. As a result, there is a lot of creative imagery; this piece touches on pleasure and violence, creativity and reason, and the limits of creativity.  This piece is widely considered to be a map of the human psyche. 

In this article (see below) discussing Coleridge’s drug use and the influence this had on his writing, Theodore Dalrymple mentions “The Pains of Sleep” as another poem portraying the author’s reliance on opium and how it affected his writing. 


The Pains of Sleep

Ere on my bed my limbs I lay,
It hath not been my use to pray
With moving lips or bended knees;
But silently, by slow degrees,
My spirit I to Love compose,
In humble trust mine eye-lids close,
With reverential resignation
No wish conceived, no thought exprest,
Only a sense of supplication;
A sense o’er all my soul imprest
That I am weak, yet not unblest,
Since in me, round me, every where
Eternal strength and Wisdom are.
But yester-night I prayed aloud
In anguish and in agony,
Up-starting from the fiendish crowd
Of shapes and thoughts that tortured me:
A lurid light, a trampling throng,
Sense of intolerable wrong,
And whom I scorned, those only strong!
Thirst of revenge, the powerless will
Still baffled, and yet burning still!
Desire with loathing strangely mixed
On wild or hateful objects fixed.
Fantastic passions! maddening brawl!
And shame and terror over all!
Deeds to be hid which were not hid,
Which all confused I could not know
Whether I suffered, or I did:
For all seemed guilt, remorse or woe,
My own or others still the same
Life-stifling fear, soul-stifling shame.
So two nights passed: the night’s dismay
Saddened and stunned the coming day.
Sleep, the wide blessing, seemed to me
Distemper’s worst calamity.
The third night, when my own loud scream
Had waked me from the fiendish dream,
O’ercome with sufferings strange and wild,
I wept as I had been a child;
And having thus by tears subdued
My anguish to a milder mood,
Such punishments, I said, were due
To natures deepliest stained with sin,—
For aye entempesting anew
The unfathomable hell within,
The horror of their deeds to view,
To know and loathe, yet wish and do!
Such griefs with such men well agree,
But wherefore, wherefore fall on me?
To be loved is all I need,
And whom I love, I love indeed.
In this poem, there is an element of sadness and loathing, that reflects both Coleridge’s mental state and his drug-induced thoughts. On the other hand, there is a sense of creativity. I wonder what Coleridge and Wordsworth’s relationship was like–did Wordsworth also participate in opium alongside his friend? How did the drug use affect their relationship? 

Walking with Wordsworth

I found this interesting article from 2020 that honors Wordsworth on his 250th birthday by recollecting his poetry and his love of walking:


A lot of Wordsworth’s poems are told from the POV of someone wandering through nature; often, the perspectives are drawn from Wordsworth’s own experiences. The 1805 Prelude is from the POV of Wordsworth himself as he takes the reader through his journey. Since a portion of The 1805 Prelude discusses Wordsworth’s journey through a mountain pass, and before he realized it he had hiked a mountain, I thought this article would be a nice ode to Wordsworth’s undeniable love of walking through nature. The author mentions that Wordsworth often composed his pieces in the rhythm of his walks. 

The article states, “In his epic autobiography, The Prelude, Wordsworth describes himself doing this and sending his terrier (Pepper) ahead to warn him of others:”

And when at evening on the public way

I sauntered, like a river murmuring

And talking to itself when all things else

Are still, the creature trotted on before;

Such was his custom; but whene’er he met

A passenger approaching, he would turn

To give me timely notice, and straightway,

Grateful for that admonishment, I hushed

My voice, composed my gait, and, with the air

And mien of one whose thoughts are free, advanced

To give and take a greeting that might save

My name from piteous rumours, such as wait

On men suspected to be crazed in brain

So the next time you take a walk, enjoy the pleasures of nature around you in Wordsworth’s honor!