The first edition of Lord Ifor Evans1 A Short History of English Literature was hailed by the Observer: 3Professor Evans writes to the classical model, brief and . Secretary, the British Institute of Adult Education. A SHORT HISTORY OF. ENGLISH LITERATURE. BY. B. IFOR EVANS i;z 72, PE FOACES. Leave this boolc. Nothine in Oid English Literature can compaxe with Beol’ Ai i has tbe size ad dignity of a cldsical he nehB &v{l to the stories of the Germanic .

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A Short History of English Literature. By B. Ifor Evans.

Some have sought for a moral in ‘The Ancient Mariner’, and for such as must have these props, Coleridge attached a lesson at the end of the narrative, but the poem itself is like some Arabian tale, where all moves in a weird and unexpected sequence. The religious poetry uses the same verse and vocabulary as the stones of the heroes. There can be few poems to which the modern reader, harassed by personal distress, or troubled by the movement of world events, can return with such certainty of reward.

Tosome critics he is imtatmg and ineffectual, yet considered more sympa- thetically he is, with Blake, the nearest example of poet as prophet. If his own veree is unexceptional, he is remembered for his rendering of Vergil into English verse.

From to 1 81 1 he travelled abroad and returned to take his seat in the House of Lords and to publish the first two cantos of Child, Harold 08i 2. As a poet Blake is at his best in his simplest poems, in the early Songs of Innocence and Experience, where wisdom speaks with the voice of a child. They were largely based on his own life and he made an epic of personal experience in The Prelude. Thomas Hardy, roughly the same age, lived and wrote about a Britain that James would never enter.

The early biographers treated him with scant justice, assigning his weakness solely to an indulgence in opium. His imitators are brought on to the stage of literature only to receive cat-calls. As often, some confused the man and the poet. Not that, just yet, but the end of the Anglo-Saxon world.

Brad Waller rated it really liked it Jul 11, One might, not too unrashly, suppose that there wasan early tradition of lyricai poetry, and yet no poems are extant before the thirteenth century, and even then most of what survives is religious verse, for religious verse, kept in monasteries, had a better chance of preservation than secular lyrics with their wayward chance of survival; yet obviously they did exist.

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In breaking the chains which have imprisoned humanity, Blake is in danger of breaking all that humanity has achieved.

A Short History of English Literature. By B. Ifor Evans. » 17 Jun » The Spectator Archive

These romances, which began with The Giaourcaptured the taste of his generation. Probably few poets, Shakespeare alone apart, can give more to the reader in the twentieth century than Wordsworth.

A man severe he shkrt, and stern to view, I knew him well, and every truant knew; Well had the boding tremblers learned to trace The day’s disasters in his morning face; Full well they laughed with counterfeited glee, At all his jokes, for many a joke had lie; Full well the busy whisper circling round, Conveyed the dismal tidings when he frowned; Yet he was kind, or if severe in aught, The love he bore to litetature was in fault; The village all declared how much he knew; ‘Twas certain he could write, and cypher too; Lands he could measure, terms and tides presage, And even the story ran that he could gauge.

One after another the great abbey houses were destroyed. Thought must be the harder: I shall not be particular in stating His journey, we’ve so many tours of late: Spenser, like all great artists, felt the form and pressure of his time conditioning his lkterature.

It is of interest that both his best poems concern taverns. This literatyre found most openly in his ‘Ode on the Popular Superstitions of the Highlands’, but it is present in ‘Ode to Evening’, and in the ‘Dirge in Cymbeline’.

A little apart from these ‘Cavalier’ lyrists is Robert Herricka disciple of Ben Jonson, who spent his exile as a cleric in Devonshire in the composition of verses. Of the ‘Elegy’ successive generations of Englishmen have already given their judgement, and this can be sum- marized in Dr Johnson’s memorable words: His reputation as ‘untutored’, which he himself helped to create, is false, for he had read widely both in earlier Scottish poetry and in Pope, Thomson, Gray, and Shakespeare.

Much favoured in my birth-place, and no less In diat beloved Vale to which ere long We were transplanted ; – there were we let loose For sports of wider range.

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A Short History of English Literature by Benjamin Ifor Evans

The ‘man of letters’, whose life was largely controlled by economic exigencies and dependence on the Court, cherished as his first ambition as an artist the making of good verses. Scott, in a series of aa, beginning with The Lay of the Last Minstrelwas continuing the interest in medieval ballad and romance which had been popular in the eighteenth century.

The third is the story of Judith, the most exciting narrative in Anglo-Saxon poetry, and admirably told. Possibly his personality helped, though of this little is known. Chaucer thought poorly of them at their worst, as is shown in his satire of ‘Sir Thopas’.

He has always been read since by that minority which finds pleasure in poetry as an art. So in Auguries of Innocence which, with his lyrics, is one ofhis most simple, poetical statements: The romances miss human life and character, and these elements Gawain, despite the incredible story, is able to supply in the descriptions of hunting, and in the scenes of Gawain ‘s temptation.

There are twelfth-century records at Ely, suggesting that lyric poetry was extant there at that time and giving to Canute the privilege of being one of the earliest of medieval poets. Others are written not with adora- tion but with an ah of disillusioned passion to a ‘dark lady’.

The poem creates from the first a world of its own, with the storm sequence, the shooting of the Albatross and the weird way m which the bird is avenged: The two most important events in the history of Eng- land took place before the Norman Conquest.

A Short History of English Literature

Beowulf is, the first long poem in English, some three thousand lines. He com- posed two books of Homilies, each with forty sermons translated from Latin literathre, but the treatment and interpretations are very free. The last episode in Greece showed that he had leader- ship and courage. Wliat though the field be lost?