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Innocence and of Experience (±·). A favorite now of many, this vantage was
scarcely known or frequented until the Pre-Raphaelites popularized it in
their late-nineteenth-century aesthetic adventures.
Neither of these now famous spots of time± will lose its hold upon the
imagination. We may start a long, an interesting, and a reasonably thorough
exploration of Romanticism and its majestic adjacencies from both places,
as many have already shown.
Traditional and favorite routes are, however, just that “ traditional and
favored. This particular world of the sublime and the beautiful is so exten-
sive and complex that we may enter it, or move about its regions, in an
endless variety of ways.
For instance, on the way to Lyrical Ballads we will inevitably skirt another
spot that provides, in its fashion, an even more magni¬cent view of the
territory. I mean the once-famous but now somewhat neglected outcrop-
ping called Poems, chie¬‚y in the Scottish dialect (Kilmarnock, ±·). From the
latter the way leads directly on to both Blake™s Songs and Wordsworth and
Coleridge™s Lyrical Ballads. The route from Burns™s ±· Poems to Lyrical
Ballads is well known if no longer so well frequented. But the rigs o™ Burns
run into the range of Blake. We trace this route very clearly by follow-
ing certain of their shared territorial features: their critiques of moralized
religion, their sympathy with the ideals of the French Revolution, and
their commitment to what Blake called “exuberance” and “energy” (and
Wordsworth, later, the “spontaneous over¬‚ow of powerful feelings”).
Blake found his way by various paths, it is true, but one of them followed
the trail of Burns. Indeed, Blake marked the route he took in one of his
greatest early works, “The Tyger,” although later travellers have failed to
note the signs he left:
Poetry, ±·°“± ·
When the stars threw down their spears,
And water™d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Blake™s starry spears of ±· broke across the earlier sky of ±· in another
Satanic text, Burns™s great “Address to the Deil.” The second line of Blake™s
verse is an English translation of Burns™s Scots:

Ae dreary, windy, winter night,
The stars shot down wi™ sklentan light,
Wi™ you, mysel, I gat a fright.

Blake™s “smile” “ like the high-spirited comedy of that associated text
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (±·) “ is a memorial tribute to Burns,
who also liked to treat his gods and demons with familiarity. Like Blake,
he knew that all deities reside in the human breast, as the very next lines
of his address to the “deil” show:

Ayont the lough;
Ye, like a rash-buss, stood in sight,
Wi™ waving sugh.
The cudgel in my neive did shake,
Each bristl™d hair stood like a stake,
When wi™ an eldritch, stoor quaick, quaick,
Amang the springs,
Awa ye squatter™d like a drake,
On whistling wings.

From Blake back to Burns; and from Burns on to Wordsworth, who learns
to take spiritual instruction from the quotidian orders of nature out of texts
like Burns™s:

O™er rough and smooth she trips along,
And never looks behind;
And sings a solitary song
And whistles in the wind.
(“Lucy Gray,” ±°°)

XX. Where did Keats take his lessons, from Burns or from Wordsworth?

Mortal, that thou may™st understand aright,
I humanize my sayings to thine ear,
Making comparisons of earthly things;
Or thou might™st better listen to the wind,
 Byron and Romanticism
Whose language is to thee a barren noise,
Though it blows legend-laden through the trees.
(“The Fall of Hyperion,” written in ±±)

AA. From both and from neither. What we see here is a way of writing, a
way of imagining the world, that was characteristic of Romanticism. The
sensibility is broadly dispersed, translated, transmuted. A legend-laden
wind blows across the whole stretch of these everlasting hills. Although
it has no beginning, we will not encounter it in the near-by range of the
X X . I™m not so sure about that. James Macpherson™s Ossianic texts often exhibit
the same kind of weather. In the ¬rst of his Fragments of Ancient Poetry (±·°),
for instance, the warrior Shilric returns to his home in the Scottish high-
lands to discover that his beloved Vinvela has died in his absence. The frag-
ment records a conversation between the parted lovers, but Macpherson™s
text makes it clear that we are not overhearing a human conversation, we
are observing a sensibility conversant with legend-laden winds.

By the mossy fountain I will sit; on the top of the hill of winds. When
mid-day is silent around, converse, O my love, with me! come on the wings
of the gale! on the blast of the mountain, come! Let me hear thy voice, as
thou passest, when mid-day is silent around. (I, ii)
The superstitions of Burns, the local tales memorialized by Wordsworth,
the mythologies of Keats “ all follow the same structural pattern we see
here in Macpherson.
Note the date of this, ±·°.
A A . And we can ¬nd similar things even earlier “ for example, in the work of
Gray and Collins from the ±·°s and ±·µ°s. The cultural fault lines along
which the geography of Romanticism was formed will not be mapped
on the grids of Cartesian geometries “ what Blake called “the mill [of ]
Aristotle™s Analytics.” We need topological measures for discontinuous
phenomena of these kinds, non-Euclidean mathematics of the type ¬rst
pursued (for example, by Gauss and Bolyai) in “ the Romantic Period it-
self ! What we™ve been looking at here, in this view across the range that
includes Burns, Blake, Wordsworth, Keats, and Ossian . . .
X X . . . . and they don™t exhaust this landscape by any means.
A A . . . . no, of course not; but what we™ve been looking at is a kind of topological
basin where sets of “attractors” (as the mathematicians say) hold dispersing
phenomena in random patterns. Patterns, because the phenomena exhibit
recursive forms (a few of which we have noticed); random, because the pos-
sibilities for other patternings are endless. We may come at these scenes
and experiences from many directions. Patterning dissolves and other pat-
terning appears; some of these patternings will recur in mutated forms,
some will not. The locale is (like its own natural light) “incoherent”; but it
is also a dynamic and self-integrated whole.
Poetry, ±·°“± 
How do we get to know it, then? people sometimes ask. And I want to say,
simply by looking at it. “If the doors of perception were cleansed . . .” “ you
know the rest. Even when we think we™re following that great Romantic
star, the imagination, we often close ourselves up and see only through
the narrow chinks of our caverned brains. Take Blake and his Songs and
“The Tyger,” for instance. Turn your view away from Burns for a moment
and observe the Songs from the vantage of children™s literature, or against
the background of that related and overlapping phenomenon, the tradition
of emblematic writing. A whole new world of realities suddenly rises to your
sight. And it is endlessly interesting, we could wander in this new world for
a long time.
It is a world inhabited, for example, by that famous and highly in¬‚uential
family, the Taylors of Ongar. The highfalutin imaginations of Coleridge
and Southey and Wordsworth shook their heads in melancholy dismay
at what they saw as the failed and mad magni¬cence of Blake™s writings.
Jane Taylor had no such problems. Just as Blake incorporated (and thereby
reinterpreted) Burns™s “Address to the Deil” in “The Tyger,” Jane Taylor
(±·“±) did the same to Blake™s poem. She answered the famous theo-
logical questions of “The Tyger” with the augury of an innocence we have
all but forgotten, so serious do we often get, so far do we wander from the
pleasure principles laid down in the ¬elds of childhood:
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
When the blazing sun is gone,
When he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.
(“The Star” [±°])

In effect, Taylor is reading Blake™s “Tyger” through Blake™s “Dream,”
another text recollected in Taylor™s “Star.” It is a crucial literary-historical
move “ whether we are passing through remote areas of our histories or
through nearby (and perhaps academic) regions. When Blake added the
Songs of Experience (in ±·) to the Songs of Innocence (±·), he established a
critical model for Romantic dialectics that would proliferate and endure.
Taylor™s poem is important because it reminds us that the dialectic is reversi-
ble, that the world of experience might be undone by entering it through
Blake™s “Lamb” or Taylor™s “Star” or as it would later continue to be by
works like Christina Rossetti™s “Goblin Market” (±). For this is a long
and complex history that has been adopted by both parties to the dialectic.
X X . And as Blake said, the parties are and should be enemies. Wordsworthian
recollection, the determinative model for Romantic memory, stands forever
opposed to the primary energies celebrated by Burns and Blake . . .
·° Byron and Romanticism
. . . and to the simplicities pursued by Taylor. It is crucial to be clear about
the differential shining out in poems like “The Star” “ a work that stands
far closer, in ethos and history if not in time and style, to Burns™s and Blake™s
poems and songs than to the secondary imaginations of Wordsworth and
Coleridge. Certain of Wordsworth™s most splendid poems, so hateful to
Blake, de¬ne the difference with great exactness. A guiding and protective
star presides over the landscape of Wordsworth™s “Michael” (±°°), for
instance, but the history that Wordsworth sees throws it into eclipse:

The Cottage which was nam™d The Evening Star
Is gone, the ploughshare has been through the ground
On which it stood; great changes have been wrought
In all the neighbourhood.
The cottage and its symbolic name have “slip[ped] in a moment out of life”
into the care of a memorializing imagination (“To H. C. Six Years Old”).
As in “The Solitary Reaper,” Wordsworth accepts “ triumphs in “ the
imaginative displacement of primary experience: “The music in my heart
I bore / Long after it was heard no more.” That displacement is unnatural
to Burns, for example, whose song voice is inseparable from the voice of
the girl known to Wordsworth only at two removes. So in Blake and Burns
and Taylor, “the melancholy slackening” so characteristic of one strain of
Romanticism does not (typically) “ensue” (Prelude, VI [±µ°]). Sorrow and
happiness do not run in alternating currents, their relations are direct and
immediate. All is “naive.” The Wordsworthian model “

We Poets in our youth begin in gladness;
But thereof come i™ th™ end despondency and madness
(“Resolution and Independence” [±°·])

“ is applied to this other Romantic strain only with dif¬culty because
the logic of Wordsworth™s “thereof ” is refused. This happens because the
dialectic of gladness and despondency, pleasure and pain, is not imagined
as a conceptual relation but as an existential one. We see the situation
clearly in much of Burns™s work, not least of all in his masterpiece “Love
and Liberty “ A Cantata” (commonly called “The Jolly Beggars” [±·]).

The Caird prevail™d”th™ unblushing fair
In his embraces sunk;
Partly wi™ LOVE o™ercome sae sair,
And partly she was drunk:
Sir VIOLINO with an air,
That show™d a man o™ spunk,
Wish™d UNISON between the PAIR,
An™ made the bottle clunk
To their health that night.
Poetry, ±·°“± ·±
XX. Yet how dif¬cult this resort to the wisdom of the body, even in an age
self-devoted to Nature!µ Burns™s lines expose the kinds of contradiction
most writers could only engage through various forms of displacement. It
violates decorum (social as well as literary) to make such a witty rhyme
of the excessively correct (and English) “unblushing fair” (“unblushing”!)
with the low dialect (and Scots) “sae sair,” or to “pair” in this way all the
other incongruities raised up by the passage. The inhuman treatment of
women in traditional love poetry is here overthrown.
N N . Yes, but it is a reckless “ ultimately a masculine “ overthrowing, is it not?
Splendid as Burns™s love poetry is “ including his more genteel love poems “
he cannot deliver the complex truths exposed in the sentimental styles
developed (mainly) by women writers in the late eighteenth and early
nineteenth centuries.
Ridiculed as “unsex™d females” by reactionaries like Gifford, Matthias,
and Polwhele, writers like Hannah Cowley turned female experience in the
male world to a test of that world™s hidden truths. In Cowley™s “Departed
Youth” (±··), for example, we see the birth of a new Venus from the wreck
of her -year-old body. The thefts of time are taken back in the poem™s
imperative to “Break the slim form that was adored / By him so loved, my
wedded lord.” The metaphysics of a Sternian sentimentality lead Cowley
to exchange the body of her ¬rst nature “ adorable, married, passive “ for
a vita nuova:
But leave me, whilst all these you steal,
The mind to taste, the nerve to feel.
As in the rest of the poem, Cowley here breaks the slim forms of her
earliest language. As generous as Burns (“my wedded lord”) and, if less vig-
orous, just as determined, her behavior preserves her inherited proprieties.
“Departed Youth” invokes a whole series of favorite eighteenth-century
terms and phrases from the lexicon of sensibility (“lively sense,” “sentiment
re¬ned,” “taste,” “nerve,” “feel”) only to reembody them through a series
of syntactic and lexical wordplays. If the poetic style is different, the poetic
demand is exactly like the one Yeats would make famous, in the poetry of
his old age, a century and more later.
Readers, especially twentieth-century readers, often miss what is hap-
pening in texts like these because they forget the conventions of a poetry
written under the sign of what Shelley called “Intellectual Beauty.” It is a
sophisticated, an arti¬cial sign “ like that fanciful nature you two have been
playing with in your conversation. But Romantic nature, as you know, is
an allegorical construct of urbane minds. In the late eighteenth century,
the allegory tended to assume picturesque forms because of the authority
of sentimentalism. Cowley™s verse and the entire Della Cruscan movement
operate under that authority.
Although commonly understood to involve mental as opposed to
sensuous phenomena, intellectual beauty is precisely the sign for a
· Byron and Romanticism
determination to undermine the body/soul distinction altogether. When
Robert Merry (“Della Crusca”) publishes his intention to quit poetry,
Cowley (“Anna Matilda”) writes to dissuade him:
O! seize again thy golden quill,
And with its point my bosom thrill;
The self-consciousness of such eroticism “ it is nothing less than the Meta-
physical verse of sentimentalism “ is exactly the “point.” Cowley calls for
a “blended ¬re” of poetry and sexuality:
The one, poetic language give,
The other bid thy passion live;
Later Romantic writers become preoccupied with Paolo and Francesca,


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