English | June 2000 | ISBN-10: 0333733584 | 219 pages | PDF | 10.2 Mb
Why do so many modern English poems begin with a lonely wanderer experiencing a private emotion? This book offers a striking new thesis: that the modern lyric poem evolved as an adaptation to the demand for 'truth in poetry' by post-Reformation English readers.
The demand for truth led to a preference for poems grounded in verifiable public occasions (deaths, battles, weddings). As English poets competed for the right to commemorate important occasions, they developed new ways of commemorating conventional occasions and, in a long process culminating in the revolutionary poems of the 1740s, extended the notion of 'poetic occasion' to include occasions such as the death of unknown strangers (as in Gray's Elegy) and even unverifiable mental occasions such as the epiphanies which so regularly strike Wordsworth's solitary wanderers.