English Poetry Quotes

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English Poetry Quotes

Old English poetry is characterised by a number of poetic tropes which enable a writer to describe things indirectly and which require a reader imaginatively to construct their meaning. The most widespread of these figurative descriptions are what are known as kennings. Kennings often occur in compounds: for example, hronrad (whale-road) or swanrad (swan- road) meaning the sea; banhus (bone-house) meaning the human body. Some kennings involve borrowing or inventing words; others appear to be chosen to meet the alliterative requirement of a poetic line, and as a result some kennings are difficult to decode, leading to disputes in critical interpretation. But kennings do allow more abstract concepts to be communicated by using more familiar words: for example, God is often described as moncynnes weard (guardian of mankind).
— Ronald Carter —

The concept of an author, the single creative person who gives the text 'authority', only comes later in this period. Most Old English poetry is anonymous, even though names which are in no way comparable, such as Caedmon and Deor, are used to identify single texts. Caedmon and Deor might indeed be as mythical as Grendel, might be the originators of the texts which bear their names, or, in Deor's case only, the persona whose first-person voice narrates the poem. Only Cynewulf 'signed' his works, anticipating the role of the 'author' by some four hundred years.

— Ronald Carter

My favorite subject probably was math. I love math. Figures just intrigue me. I was really good at math. English probably was my worst subject. But I used to write a lot of poetry. I used to write poetry all the time.

— Herschel Walker

T. S. Eliot and Jean-Paul Sartre, dissimilar enough as thinkers, both tend to undervalue prose and to deny it any imaginative function. Poetry is the creation of linguistic quasi-things; prose is for explanation and exposition, it is essentially didactic, documentary, informative. Prose is ideally transparent; it is only faute de mieux written in words. The influential modern stylist is Hemingway. It would be almost inconceivable now to write like Landor. Most modern English novels indeed are not written. One feels they could slip into some other medium without much loss. It takes a foreigner like Nabokov or an Irishman like Beckett to animate prose language into an imaginative stuff in its own right.

— Iris Murdoch

It is not to his own age, but to those following, and especially to our own time, that we are to look for the shaping and enormous influence upon human life of the genius of this poet. And it is measured not by the libraries of comments that his works have called forth, but by the prevalence of the language and thought of his poetry in all subsequent literature, and by its entrance into the current of common thought and speech. It may be safely said that the English-speaking world and almost every individual of it are different from what they would have been if Shakespeare had never lived. Of all the forces that have survived out of his creative time, he is one of the chief.

— William Shakespeare

We admire Chaucer for his sturdy English wit ... But though it is full of good sense and humanity, it is not transcendent poetry.For picturesque description of persons it is, perhaps, without a parallel in English poetry; yet it is essentially humorous, as the loftiest genius never is.

— Henry David Thoreau

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