Lyric poetry flourished in England from the 1660s to the French Revolution, but ever since Matthew Arnold's dismissal of the age of Dryden and Pope as an age of prose, students of Restoration and eighteenth-century England have regarded the lyricism of this period as sporadic islands rather than a continuous tradition.
This semester I want to study the close association between lyric and music, songs and ballads, odes and hymns, and the blending of Greek and Roman themes with English subjects and styles. The major lyricists of the later seventeenth century are Dryden, Marvell, Rochester, and Behn; we will read their lyric poetry in conjunction with the Pindaric tradition as Cowley developed it and as poets including Swift, Pope, Gay, Mary Chudleigh, Anne Finch, and Montagu transformed and Romanized it. We will study the English hymnic tradition, starting with Watts and continuing with Wesley, Cowper, Ann Laetitia Barbauld, and Blake. The enthusiastic strain in lyric from the 1720s to the '60s--Thomson, Collins, Gray, Yearsley, Smart--and the poetics of the medieval and Celtic revivals as displayed by Chatterton and Burns embody two further themes. What will emerge, I hope, is a sense of the continuity of the English lyric from the mid seventeenth to the early nineteenth century.