The Poetry of Clare, Hopkins, Thomas, and Gurney: Lyric Individualism

Andrew Hodgson (Basingstoke, 2020)

Andrew Hodgson, The Poetry of Clare, Hopkins, Thomas, and Gurney: Lyric IndividualismRecommended by Jessica Fay

This book will be of interest to anyone who enjoys attending closely to the intricate methods poets use to express what they perceive and how they perceive it. We all see the world in different ways, observing different things, and our sense of identity and sense of home is channelled through those unique experiences. Subjective encounters with specific places, local events, and minute aspects of nature are at the centre of Romantic poetics. But while the aim of Wordsworth’s self-consciousness, for example, is to discover and communicate universal truths, this book shows—through a series of close readings—how four poets struggled with and against language, syntax, and form to achieve extreme lyric integrity, communicating the singularity of their embodied perception of the world for its own sake. Clare, Hopkins, Thomas, and Gurney emerge as proponents of a newly isolated and intricately defined poetic style that will nuance thinking about the spectrum of approaches to lyric subjectivity traceable within the Romantic tradition.

The White Doe of Rylstone: Or, The Fate of the Nortons (1815)

William Wordsworth ed. Kristine Dugas (Ithaca and London, 1988)

The White Doe of Rylstone: Or, The Fate of the Nortons (1815) by William WordsworthRecommended by Jessica Fay

This narrative poem was written by Wordsworth in 1807 but withheld from the press until 1815 because of fears it wouldn’t be well received. And it wasn’t. It’s an austere poem that tricks the reader into expecting an exciting romance narrative of the kind at which Walter Scott excelled, only to disappoint those expectations when nothing much happens. It tells the story of the Norton family during the Rising of the North, a Roman Catholic rebellion aimed at dethroning Elizabeth I, but Wordsworth refuses to describe combat scenes and the most violent act performed by the rebels comprises treading on a Bible and saying Mass. Instead, the emphasis is on Norton’s Protestant daughter, Emily, who waits in the medieval garden at Rylstone Hall to hear news that her father and brothers have been killed. In her grief, Emily is comforted by the companionship of a milk-white doe, which continues to visit her grave in the churchyard at Bolton Abbey for many years afterwards. The garden and the churchyard are presented by Wordsworth as places enriched by the fact that they have witnessed centuries of human pain—from the medieval period through to the early nineteenth century—but for that reason, these are also places enriched by hope. This little-read Wordsworth poem gets to the root of his thinking about the consolation that can be gained from quietude, openness to lessons of sympathy from the animal world, and deep connections between people and the places in which they suffer and overcome that suffering.