Our high schoolers are attacking British literature this year. H. chose the novels and asked me to choose the poetry. I knew all too well I had to choose a concise list, which meant being rather cliché about it -- or canonical, take your pick. I ended up selecting about three dozen poems. You decide if it's adequately represented or not -- and if you would put in something else, tell me what you'd take out!
The kids have already studied some pre-Elizabethan poetry in earlier grades. They've read Beowulf, for instance, and parts of The Faerie Queene, and more. (They've also read The Comedy of Errors, Romeo and Juliet, and Julius Caesar.) So I begin with...
Elizabethan Courtly Poetry
- "The Passionate Shepherd toHis Love" -- Christopher Marlowe, pub. 1599, but written earlier.
- "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd" -- Sir WalterRaleigh, 1596, a response to Marlowe.
Hamlet, 1599--1602 and The Tempest, 1610--1611, this year's two Shakespeare plays, fit chronologically into this section.
Post-Elizabethan poetry comes in three strands:
-Metaphysical Poets: inventive conceits, speculative about love,religion
- "Song" (Go and catch a falling star);
- "Holy Sonnet X" (Death be not proud);
- "Holy Sonnet XIV" (Batter my heart, three-personed God) --all by John Donne, pub. 1633.
- "Easter Wings" -- George Herbert, included as a sample of a "concrete poem" aka "shape poem," 1633.
- "To His Coy Mistress," Andrew Marvell, 1649-1660.
- Cavalier Poets, mostly courtiers in a time when Charles I supported the arts; Herrick, not a courtier, matches them in style.
- "To Celia," Ben Jonson, 1616
- "On My First Sonne," Ben Jonson, 1603
- "To the Virgins, to MakeMuch of Time" -- Robert Herrick, 1648
- "Upon Julia's Clothes" -- Robert Herrick
- "Cherry-ripe" -- Robert Herrick
- Admirers of Spenser (e.g. Milton). I skipped these. I think they might have encountered Milton before.
Then we have ...
Restoration poets (e.g. Samuel Johnson, Pope,Bunyan). I skipped these too; I believe they have run into some of them before.
(Personally, I'm rather fond of Pope, though, and had I more time I'd have included an excerpt from The Rape of the Lock.)
Sentimental, nature-themed poems of the later 18th century:
- "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" -- Thomas Gray, 1751
- "To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough" -- Robert Burns, 1785
Then come the
ENGLISH ROMANTICS (Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Byron, Keats)
- "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" -- Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1798
- "The Lamb" (fromSongs of Innocence,1789)...
- ...and "The Tyger" (fromSongs of Experience,1794) -- both by William Blake.
- "The World is Too Much With Us"-- William Wordsworth, 1802
- "I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud"-- Wordsworth, 1804
- "Kubla Khan" -- Coleridge, 1816
- "Ozymandias"-- Shelley, 1818
- "On the Sonnet" -- Keats1819
- "Ode on a Grecian Urn" --Keats 1819
The novel selection Pride and Prejudice, 1813, fits in here.
- "My Last Duchess" --Robert Browning, 1842
- "Pied Beauty," ...
- "The Windhover," ...
- ...and "Spring and Fall" -- all by Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1877.
- Bab Ballads (e.g. "The Baron Klopfzetterheim") by W. S. Gilbert of "Gilbert and Sullivan" fame, 1864.
- "The Ballad of Reading Gaol"-- Oscar Wilde, 1897.
Here go three novel selections for this year: Bleak House (1852--1853), Silas Marner(1861), and The Moonstone (1868).
This brings us up to
The 20th century.
The final novel selection is The Man Who Was Thursday (1908). Following come these poems, beginning with the master Eliot:
- "The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock" T. S. Eliot, 1910
Three borrow their themes from WWI:
- "The Parable of the Old Man and the Young" (with thelast line) -- W. E. S. Owen, 1918
- "The Second Coming"W. B. Yeats, 1920
- "The Glory of Women" Siegfried Sassoon, 1918
Another, prescient, has to do with the state and corporations peering into every aspect of the modern citizen's life:
- "The Unknown Citizen" W. H.Auden 1938
I included this Auden poem too, purely because I am fond of it:
- "Funeral Blues," Auden, 1938
There is one WWII-themed poem:
- "The Naming of Parts" Henry Reed, 1942
- "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night," Dylan Thomas, 1951
All these fall chronologically before our two twentieth-century plays: A Man for All Seasons,Robert Bolt (1960), and Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, 1966.