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date: 20 October 2021


  1. He spoke, and loosed our heart in tears.
    He laid us as we lay at birth
    On the cool flowery lap of earth.
    of Wordsworth
    Matthew Arnold 1822–88 English poet and essayist: ‘Memorial Verses, April 1850’ (1852)
  2. In poetry, no less than in life, he is ‘a beautiful and ineffectual angel, beating in the void his luminous wings in vain’.
    Matthew Arnold 1822–88 English poet and essayist: Essays in Criticism Second Series (1888) ‘Shelley’ (quoting from his own essay on Byron in the same work)
  3. You were silly like us; your gift survived it all:
    The parish of rich women, physical decay,
    Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
    W. H. Auden 1907–73 English poet: ‘In Memory of W. B. Yeats’ (1940) pt. 2
  4. The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels and God, and at liberty when of Devils and Hell, is because he was a true Poet, and of the Devil's party without knowing it.
    William Blake 1757–1827 English poet: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790–3) ‘The voice of the Devil’ (note)
  5. How thankful we ought to be that Wordsworth was only a poet and not a musician. Fancy a symphony by Wordsworth! Fancy having to sit it out! And fancy what it would have been if he had written fugues!
    Samuel Butler 1835–1902 English novelist: Notebooks (1912) ch. 8
  6. He could not think up to the height of his own towering style.
    of Tennyson
    G. K. Chesterton 1874–1936 English essayist, novelist, and poet: The Victorian Age in Literature (1912) ch. 3
  7. With Donne, whose muse on dromedary trots,
    Wreathe iron pokers into true-love knots.
    Samuel Taylor Coleridge 1772–1834 English poet, critic, and philosopher: ‘On Donne's Poetry’ (1818)
  8. You who desired so much—in vain to ask—
    Yet fed your hunger like an endless task,
    Dared dignify the labor, bless the quest—
    Achieved that stillness ultimately best,
    Being, of all, least sought for: Emily, hear!
    Hart Crane 1899–1932 American poet: ‘To Emily Dickinson’ (1927)
  9. 'Tis sufficient to say, according to the proverb, that here is God's plenty.
    of Chaucer
    John Dryden 1631–1700 English poet, critic, and dramatist: Fables Ancient and Modern (1700) preface
  10. How unpleasant to meet Mr Eliot!
    With his features of clerical cut,
    And his brow so grim
    And his mouth so prim
    And his conversation, so nicely
    Restricted to What Precisely
    And If and Perhaps and But.
    T. S. Eliot 1888–1965 American-born British poet, critic, and dramatist: ‘Five-Finger Exercises’ (1936)
  11. Hugo—hélas!
    when asked who was the greatest 19th-century poet
    André Gide 1869–1951 French novelist and critic: Claude Martin La Maturité d'André Gide (1977)
  12. Dr Donne's verses are like the peace of God; they pass all understanding.
    James I (James VI of Scotland) 1566–1625 British monarch, King of Scotland from 1567 and of England from 1603: remark recorded by Archdeacon Plume (1630–1704)
  13. Milton, Madam, was a genius that could cut a Colossus from a rock; but could not carve heads upon cherry-stones.
    to Hannah More, who had expressed a wonder that the poet who had written Paradise Lost should write such poor sonnets
    Samuel Johnson 1709–84 English poet, critic, and lexicographer: James Boswell Life of Samuel Johnson (1791) 13 June 1784
  14. Mad, bad, and dangerous to know.
    of Byron, after their first meeting at a ball
    Lady Caroline Lamb 1785–1828 English wife of William Lamb, Lord Melbourne: diary, March 1812; in Elizabeth Jenkins Lady Caroline Lamb (1932)
  15. An Archangel a little damaged.
    of Coleridge
    Charles Lamb 1775–1834 English writer: letter to Wordsworth, 26 April 1816
  16. Self-contempt, well-grounded.
    on the foundation of T. S. Eliot's work
    F. R. Leavis 1895–1978 English literary critic: in Times Literary Supplement 21 October 1988
  17. The high-water mark, so to speak, of Socialist literature is W. H. Auden, a sort of gutless Kipling.
    George Orwell 1903–50 English novelist: The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) ch. 11
  18. A cloud-encircled meteor of the air,
    A hooded eagle among blinking owls.
    of Coleridge
    Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792–1822 English poet: ‘Letter to Maria Gisborne’ (1820) l. 207
  19. To see him fumbling with our rich and delicate language is to experience all the horror of seeing a Sèvres vase in the hands of a chimpanzee.
    of Stephen Spender
    Evelyn Waugh 1903–66 English novelist: in The Tablet 5 May 1951
  20. Chaos, illumined by flashes of lightning.
    on Robert Browning's ‘style’
    Oscar Wilde 1854–1900 Irish dramatist and poet: Ada Leverson Letters to the Sphinx (1930)
  21. I thought of Chatterton, the marvellous boy,
    The sleepless soul that perished in its pride.
    William Wordsworth 1770–1850 English poet: ‘Resolution and Independence’ (1807) st. 7