Thursday, March 15, 2007

Favourable Reviews

It is not very easy to comprehend the exact creed and method of the new [spasmodic] school of poets, who have set themselves at work upon a principle hitherto unknown, or at all events unproclaimed. This much we know from themselves, that they regard poetry not only as a sacred calling, but as the most sacred of any… that they are to the fainting race of Adam, the sole accredited bearers of the Amreeta cup of immortality.... But apart from their exaggerated notions of their calling, let us see what is the practice of poets of the Spasmodic School. In the first place, they rarely, if ever, attempt anything like a plot.... In the second place, we regret to say that they are often exceedingly profane, not, as we suppose, intentionally but because they have not sense enough to see the limits which decency, as well as duty, prescribes. In the third place, they are occasionally very prurient. And in the fourth place, they are almost always unintelligible.

—W. E. Aytoun, in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine 75 (May 1854)

[A spasmodic poem is] a poem of considerable length, dramatic in form but in essence a monologue or series of dialogues, without well-defined action, setting forth a sequence of varying, often violently alternating moods, particularly pessimism and romantic passion, in the mind of an isolated malcontent young poet, who is Byronic at heart, though he may at times speak in language partly derived from Keats.

—Alan D. McKillop, The Spasmodic School in Victorian Poetry, 1920


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