3653: English Literature II
John M. Mercer, Professor of English
Northeastern State University,
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
Study Guide 4: Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe
Shelley, Mary Shelley
Canon of English Romantic Poets
Pre-Romantic Poets: Blake, Burns
First Generation of English Romantic Poets: Wordsworth,
Second Generation of English Romantic Poets:
Byron, Shelley, Keats
Today, both Shelley and Keats are considered to be
better poets than Byron, but Shelley and Keats were hardly known in their own
lifetime. Byron, however, was an
international star. Byron’s poetry (in
translation) had many devotees on the Continent both before and after his
death. His poetry translates better than
most poetry does; it is not highly “poetic” or ornamented. Interest in Byron’s sensational, scandalous LIFE, though, exceeded interest in his poetry. He
was “tabloid material.”
Byron’s nature or personality was strangely contradictory
Byron had incredible physical beauty, but he was
half lame and tended to be fat.
Byron was a great athlete, but he was physically
lazy. His SPIRIT, however, was restless.
Byron had the reputation for being a great lover
and ladies’ man, but he was pursued by women rather than their pursuer, and he
was primarily homosexual or bisexual.
Right before his death in Greece, he had a relationship with
his servant boy. It is said that the only other person he ever truly loved was
Byron was a brilliant conversationalist (the
best of all the great Romantic writers except Coleridge), but he loved and
In his lifetime Byron was celebrated as the greatest Romantic poet, but
he hated Romanticism and most of the work of other Romantic poets. Rather, he loved the poems of the neoclassical
Alexander Pope (from the first half of the 18th century). Byron’s own poems are “un-Romantic” in that
they use 17th- or 18th-century poetic forms, contain
little description of nature, and rarely refer to common folk or rural life.
was a political radical who died in service of
the Greek revolution, but he was skeptical of reform or revolution, and he
despised the modern Greeks.
Byron was a freethinker in religion, but he
never escaped the influence of the Calvinism of his youth, and he secretly
leaned toward Catholicism.
Textbook’s Introduction to Byron
- What are the traits of a “Byronic hero”?
- In what sense is Byron’s character Childe Harold a Byronic hero?
- In what sense is Manfred a Byronic hero? How was Byron himself like Manfred?
Swimming from Sestos to Abydos,” 611
classical mythology, what is the story of Hero and Leander?
contrasts does the speaker identify between his own story and Leander’s?
is the tone of this poem (the
writer or speaker’s attitude toward what he’s writing)? What lines especially reveal the tone?
“She Walks in
This poem is in what the NAEL calls the “Cavalier
[17th-century] tradition of the elaborate development of a
compliment to a lady.” I have heard this
poem quoted on 1980s sit-coms such as The Cosby Show and Who’s the
specific aspect of the woman is praised in each of the three stanzas?
“They say that
Hope is happiness,” 613
does the disillusioned speaker say that shows he devalues the past, the
present, AND the future?
“When We Two Parted,” 613
meter of this poem is unusual. How many ACCENTED syllables are in each
line? The poem makes frequent use of the
dactylic foot, which consists of one
accented syllable followed by two unaccented syllables. What specific examples of dactylic feet can
lyric poem describes the speaker’s past and present feelings for a woman. When the two previously parted, how did the
speaker feel about the woman? What was
the reason for their “silence and tears”?
to lines 13-24, what has happened since the speaker parted from the woman? What has he heard about her? How does he feel about her now? What is the definition of “rue” (line 23)?
the speaker should ever see the woman again, what would be the reason for his
greeting her with “silence and tears”?
Like “She Walks in Beauty,” this poem is reminiscent
of 17th-century Cavalier love poetry in using beautiful imagery and
a flowing meter to lavish praise on a woman.
poem makes use of the anapestic foot,
which consists of two unaccented syllables followed by one accented
syllable. What specific examples can you
find of the use of this foot? What
effect does this rhythm have on the poem?
is the verse form of this poem?
What other poems in this unit use the same verse form? What other narrative poem in this
unit uses the same verse form?
poem is a disturbing fantasy about the last people left living on earth. Identify the main steps in the plot of
this story. For extra credit, with a group of your
classmates, act out (pantomime) this story in class while one person (or more) reads the poem aloud.
“So We’ll Go No More A-Roving,” 616
to the footnote in the textbook, how does this poem reflect Byron’s own
of the two metrical feet introduced in this study guide does Byron use
frequently in this poem? What is
the effect of this rhythm?
is the speaker’s attitude toward life?
Why does he feel this way?
is the tone of the poem?
Written on the Road between Florence
and Pisa,” 734
the 17th-cen. Cavalier poets, the speaker of this poem asserts
that there is a direct connection between love and fame. Explain this
to the textbook’s introduction to the life of Byron, what and where is Missolonghi? It is
said that, after Byron’s death, the mere mention of Missolonghi
was enough to bring women all over Europe to
Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage
Only the textbook’s introduction to this
poem is assigned reading.
1809, Byron took a Grand Tour of the Continent of Europe, including Greece and
1812, he wrote CHP,
cantos I-II, a poetic travelogue in Spenserian stanza.
traits of CHP:
description of nature; expression of emotions, including enthusiasm and
of CHP: it is racy,
never dull, not highly “poetical” but oratorical.
of cantos I-II earned Byron instant fame.
Poetically, however, cantos III-IV
are better than I-II.
Harold was the first Byronic hero.
Only the textbook’s introduction to this
poem is assigned reading.
- The rhymes in this poem make it clear that Byron
intends “Juan” to be pronounced “JEW-un.”
- Written in the verse form called ottava
rima, this poem is Byron’s masterpiece.
- It is the longest satire in the English language and
one of the longest poems in the language.
- In this satire, Byron criticizes Wordsworth and Coleridge
for abandoning the radicalism of their youth, and he ridicules the mature
Coleridge for “explaining metaphysics to the nation.”
- What poem by Shelley in today’s assignment
criticizes Wordsworth for the same reason?
what famous Wordsworth poems does the speaker allude?
does the speaker say he used to admire about Wordsworth?
does the speaker now regret about Wordsworth?
- Both this poem and “Ozymandias”
are sonnets—14-line poems written in iambic pentameter—but
neither poem follows the traditional rhyme scheme of an English (or
Shakespearean) sonnet OR of an Italian (or Petrarchan)
sonnet. What is the rhyme scheme of
each of these sonnets by Shelley?
Are these rhyme schemes closer to that of an English or Italian
- Who is
the speaker of the words NOT inside quotation marks? Who is the speaker of the words inside
“hand” is being referred to?
what noun does the pronoun “them” refer?
“heart” is being referred to?
lines record the words inscribed on the pedestal of the ancient
statue? (These lines could be
placed inside single quotation marks.)
end of this poem is an excellent example of situational irony. What is ironic about the situation
Intellectual Beauty,” 766
This is a great early poem by Shelley. Some critics believe the poem is based on the
Platonic concept of Beauty as a spiritual abstraction, “the quality to which
all beautiful objects aspire.” Like
Shelley’s skylark in “To a Skylark,” Beauty in this poem is an unseen but felt
power. “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty”
describes how as a boy the poet sought Intellectual Beauty, felt the “extasy” of its presence, and dedicated his powers to her.
stanza 1, Intellectual Beauty is compared in six (6) different similes
(expressed comparisons between unlike things, using “like,” “as,” or other
words that make the comparisons explicit). To what six (6) things is Intellectual Beauty
compared? What do these things have in
common with each other and with Intellectual Beauty?
stanza 2, lines 15-17, what does the speaker ask Intellectual Beauty?
does the speaker’s questioning of Intellectual Beauty
fit the definition of the figure of speech called apostrophe?
is the relevance of the questions the speaker asks in lines 18-24? (The answer is explained in lines 25-26.)
to lines 27-28, what is the reason for human ideas about “God and ghosts and
line 32, to whom does “Thy” refer? In
the simile in lines 32-35, to what three (3) things is Intellectual Beauty
compared? What do these three (3) things
have in common with each other and with Intellectual Beauty? What poem contains an image similar to the second
comparison (lines 33-34)?
to lines 36-38, what benefits does Intellectual Beauty bring to human life?
stanza 4, what request does the speaker make of Intellectual Beauty?
5 recounts an experience the speaker says he had with Intellectual Beauty in
his youth. In your own words, what was
this experience? This stanza reminds me
of the experiences of the boys in the film The Dead Poets’ Society. For extra
credit, watch (or watch again) this film and relate it to this poem (and/or
other aspects of the Romanticism).
to stanza 6, what was the result of the speaker’s boyhood experience described
in stanza 5?
11. In line 71,
who or what is said to possess “awful loveliness”? What definition of “awful” is relevant here?
12. How does the
phrase “awful loveliness” fit the definition of an oxymoron?
13. In stanza
7, to what circumstances in the speaker’s life do the references to afternoon
(the last half of the day) and autumn (the end of the year) relate?
14. In lines
78-84, what does the speaker ask Intellectual Beauty to do?
This poem is not assigned, but you might want to read and
respond to it for extra credit. This poem concerns the new Romantic
phenomenon of climbing a mountain just to look at the view.
(Similarly, Wordsworth climbed Mount Snowden
and wrote about this experience in The Prelude, the long poem describing
his development as a poet.)
“Ode to the
West Wind,” 772
- This is a great lyric poem of NATURE. It has been compared to parts of the
Bible, such as the Psalms, Old Testament prophecies, and the Book of Job.
- The poetic form of this poem is a modified version of
the terza rima
Dante uses in The Divine Comedy, with interlocking tercets
rhyming aba, bcb,
- The speaker (in Italy, like Shelley himself)
observes the west wind marking the end of summer. As he points out in lines 9-12 and in
the last line of the poem, another west wind will mark the end of winter.
Each of the first three numbered sections of the poem (1-3) is an apostrophe addressing the west
wind. Each section describes the action of the wind in a different place (section
1, in the forest; section 2, in the sky; section 3, on the sea), followed
in the last line by an imperative (command) to the wind, “O hear!” (lines 14, 28, 42).
is the definition of “apostrophe” as a figure of speech (not as a mark of
punctuation)? Apostrophe is a
typically Shelleyan device. In what other
assigned poems does he use it?
in the poem does the speaker, who feels he has lost his inspiration to
write poetry, ask the wind to make him an eolian
harp? What does the eolian harp symbolize here?
beyond the theme of the speaker’s own poetic inspiration, the end of the
poem has a revolutionary, political theme.
Written in 1819, the poem prophesies political revolution in Europe after the Congress of Vienna of 1815. The role of the wind in the cycle of
seasons is a symbol of Shelley’s revolutionary hopes for mankind. What specific lines and phrases indicate
these revolutionary hopes?
Written in 1820, one year after “Ode to the West Wind,”
this poem is Shelley’s final treatment of the poets
relationship to the Power hidden behind Nature.
The narrator feels cut off from the joy this Power can bring.
Since many of the following questions refer to the poem by
stanza number, please number the stanzas in your book.
figure of speech is found in line 1?
What other poems in this unit begin with the same figure of speech?
- Line 2
has been said to sound like the song of a bird. What sounds especially help to achieve
dictionary definition of blithe is relevant in line 1? In the context of the poem as a whole,
why is it appropriate for the speaker to address the skylark as a “blithe
stanza 1, where is the bird, and what is it doing? In stanza 2, what two things does the
bird keep doing?
to stanzas 3 and 4, what time of day is it?
- In the
similes in stanzas 4 and 5, to what does the speaker compare the
disappearance of the bird?
stanza 6, how does the speaker know the bird is still there?
- In the
similes in stanzas 7-11, to what things are the skylark and its song
stanzas 12-13, what is the speaker’s opinion of the bird’s singing?
is a “Sprite” (line 61)? What is a
“Chorus Hymeneal” (line 66)? What
is an “empty vaunt” (line 69)?
your own words, what does the speaker ask the skylark in stanza 15?
to stanza 16, what (human) states of mind has the bird never experienced?
What is the definition of “languor” (line 77)? What is “satiety” (line 80)?
stanza 17, what is the connection between death and beauty?
your own words, what generalization does the speaker make about the human
condition in stanza 18? What stanza
from a poem by Burns says essentially the same thing? Do you agree or disagree with this
generalization about the human condition?
- Extra credit: Memorize stanza 18
(lines 86-90), and recite it to me (or to the class).
to stanza 19, what aspects of the human experience are necessary for
humans to experience joy? How is
this insight ironic?
to stanza 20, what group of people could especially learn from the
stanza 21, what request does the speaker make of the skylark? Why?
- All 21
stanzas have the same rhyme scheme.
What is it?
is the meter of the fifth line of each stanza? What is the effect of having this meter
at the end of each stanza?
the poem, the bird can be heard but not seen. In this respect, how is the poet Shelley
like the bird? According to the
poem, how is the poet different from the bird?
“To Percy Bysshe
Shelley”: Byron’s letter to Shelley about Keats’s death, 740
- How is
the content of this letter from Byron to Shelley reflected in Shelley’s Adonais?
Milton’s Lycidas and
Shelley’s Adonais are the greatest pastoral
elegies in English. Both are modeled
after Lament for Bion by the ancient Greek
poet Moschus. Bion had
written a poem entitled Lament for Adonis. In classical mythology, Adonis, a beautiful
young boy beloved of Venus, is killed by a wild boar.
research: What can you learn about the myth of Venus and Adonis? (Shakespeare’s narrative poem Venus
and Adonis is based on this myth.)
Shelley’s character Adonais
similar to and different from that of the mythological Adonis?
- According to the textbook, what is a pastoral elegy? What conventional features of pastoral
elegy are found in Shelley’s Adonais, and
where are they found? (See the
introduction to the poem (822b-23t) and the footnotes throughout the potem.)
- What is the pathetic
fallacy? How is it used in Adonais?
- The verse form of Shelley’s Adonais
is Spenserian stanza, created
by Edmund Spenser for The Faerie Queene. How many lines are in each stanza of Adonais?
What is the meter of the first eight (8) lines in each stanza? What is the meter of the last line of
each stanza? What is the rhyme
scheme of each stanza?
It is conventional for a pastoral elegy to mourn the
death of a poet. Shelley’s Adonais is unusual, however, in that both its writer
and the poet mourned have a high reputation as poets. Although Shelley and Keats were only
acquaintances, not close friends, Shelley financed publication of a volume of
Keats’s poetry and invited the ill Keats to stay with him in Pisa, Italy. Although Keats and Shelley did not strongly
admire each other’s poetry, Shelley convinced himself, after Keats’s death,
that Keats was a great poet. Adonais reflects Shelley’s mistaken belief that
Keats died because of a critic’s negative review. Shelley’s poem is not only an elegy mourning
Keats’s death but also an attack on the critic who supposedly caused it.
- What lines of Adonais
refer to this critic and his supposed responsibility for Keats’s death?
- The last 17 stanzas of Adonais
are quite original in that they transcend the mourning that is the main
subject of the poem. Shelley goes
on to struggle with the imminence of his own death. What specific details of the
circumstances of Shelley’s own death does this poem capture?
A Defence of Poetry
- Is this work written in prose or in poetry? More specifically, what is its genre?
- What is the content of this work?
- Who were the parents of Mary Shelley? What was her middle name? What was her maiden name?
- Who was her husband? How did she support herself and
her son after the death of her husband?
- What is the genre of Frankenstein?