Swinburne among the hexametrists.
My main goal here, in exploring this paradoxical attitude, is to consider the way Swinburne's poetry and criticism together contribute to a larger nineteenth-century discourse in which poets, critics, and metrists sought to work out the laws of English verse both in theory and through practice. Unlike Kirstie Blair and Jason Rudy, who align Swinburne with a somatic or physiological understanding of meter, I pursue a less materialist approach here. (2) I argue that Swinburne's implicit metrical theory relies on a concept of law that extends, for him, from poetics to politics. Though my approach is primarily formal and contextual, I claim that for Swinburne form has wider implications. More specifically, the concept of law that grounds his poetic theory derives in part from the republican politics he espoused, while also gratifying the masochistic sexuality that his most recent biographer has characterized as "rooted in his temperament." (3)
In Swinburne scholarship, the republican commitments and the sexual investments have generally been regarded as at odds with each other. Critics often proceed either by emphasizing the oppositional potentialities of his sexual politics at the expense of his republicanism or--less often--by isolating the republicanism from the eroticism. Richard Dellamora, in his study of Swinburne's sexual politics, dismisses the explicitly political, republican Songs before Sunrise (1871), the successor to Poems and Ballads (1866), as "disappointing." (4) Isobel Armstrong, responding primarily to Atalanta in Calydcm (1865) and Poems and Ballads, similarly argues that "the real political centre ... is in the poetry of desire, the consuming, exhausting desire, which needs to be ever stimulated and ever expanded." (5) More recently, Stephanie Kuduk Weiner has turned to Songs before Sunrise in her study of Swinburne as a republican poet, defending the book's aesthetic as well as political value by arguing that its poems enact formally the "republican aesthetic" that they articulate. (6) Julia F. Saville's account of Swinburne as a "cosmopolitan republican" stands as an exception to this tendency to cordon off the republican commitments from the eroticism, particularly in her superb reading of "Les Noyades." (7) I wish to bring these aspects of his work together at the level of poetic theory and form. I return to Poems and Ballads, which does not form a part of Kuduk's analysis, and to criticism Swinburne wrote in the 1860s, to argue that his prosodic theory and practice are partly grounded in his politics, represented by his admiration for Giuseppe Mazzini. I trace the implicit connections between the political, the aesthetic, and the erotic in poems that experiment with some form of the hexameter and in the criticism in which he comments on prosodical matters. What interests me is the way Swinburne's ideas about poetics, expressed in his criticism and enacted in his poetic practice, are inflected by both his political and his erotic investments.
It might seem rash to read Swinburne's early twentieth-century remark about the importance of the law back into the poetry he wrote in the 1860s, when as a young provocateur he was gleefully breaking the decorum of Victorian propriety while establishing himself as a master of poetic form. But in fact his statement about a law as "poetic and not pedantic, natural and not conventional," which he makes while contemplating the formal exigencies of the ode, articulates a point of view that is entirely consistent with his work in the 1860s, both poetic and critical. For example, in his essay on William Blake (1868), Swinburne insists that Blake, not having had the irregularities smoothed (or perhaps beaten) out of his craftsmanship by years of formal schooling, therefore "lived and worked out of all rule, and yet by law." (8) As in the "Dedicatory Epistle," a qualifying second clause opens a paradoxical space for "law." Here Swinburne distinguishes "law" from mere "rule"--for which the relevant definition, the context suggests, is the dominant custom or habit (OED), that is, convention. Consistent to both statements is the claim that convention is antithetical to the law that governs poetry. "Law," as Swinburne uses the word, is a set of principles not easily articulated but transcendent; "rule," by contrast, is contingent--as we would say, a cultural construct. Having a regulatory, even merely pedantic intention, it is something that the unacknowledged legislators of the world have a duty to break or ignore.
One might ask, how do we tell the difference between rule and law? Swinburne does not answer that question directly. But his celebration of transgressive behaviors and modes of being--his manifest sympathy with his speakers' preference of pagan deities to the God of Christianity; the heretical invocation of Christian tropes in contexts that profane them; the frank acknowledgment of the passions of the body and of non-normative sexuality, expressed in verse displaying mastery of received poetic forms--all of this suggests that the way to learn the difference is by playing around the law's edges in order to discover its limits. In other words, within an antitheist epistemology, the law cannot be taken on faith. It must be tested experientially, in keeping with the empiricist epistemology of perception that Weiner discovers in Swinburne's late poems. (9) This equivocal attitude toward the law provides the pleasures not only of transgression but also of the ever-present possibility of punishment and the perverse frisson of anticipating it--the masochistic puissance achieved, according to one psychoanalytic model, by compelling the law to declare itself. The anticipatory thrills involved in expected punishment, we know, were reinforced for Swinburne by the pedagogical regime of the public school, where discipline was administered in the floggings that fired his imagination long afterward, as his letters and his prose fiction make clear. (10) But they can also turn aggressive and sadistic. They do so in Swinburne when, as critic, he identifies with the law. We can see this especially in his responses both poetic and critical to the "hexameter mania" that was given fresh impetus in the 1860s by Matthew Arnold's On Translating Homer. (11)
Discourses of the Law
The idea that verse is governed by law is of course not peculiar to Swinburne. Coventry Patmore's Essay on English Metrical Law (1878), which first appeared in 1857 as a review article titled "English Metrical Critics" (1857), is probably the most well-known articulation. The review announced itself as an inquiry into "the philosophical grounds and primary laws of metrical expression." (12) Swinburne is likely to have read this essay, which addressed a subject that interested him keenly and which circulated at Oxford while he was there; it was, besides, written by a poet who was then on friendly terms with D. G. Rossetti and William Morris, who adopted Swinburne into their circle when they were painting the Oxford Union murals in 1857. (13) Whitman's Leaves of Grass, which Swinburne admired, also paired the ideas of meter and law: "The rhyme and uniformity of perfect poems show the free growth of metrical laws and bud from them as unerringly and loosely as lilacs or roses on a bush." (14) The New Prosody, with its orientation toward Anglo-Saxon rather than classical poetry, arose from the intellectual movement that a few decades earlier produced Grimm's Law. Nor is it only as verse that poetics based itself in some kind of law. Wordsworth had famously claimed that his object was to trace in his poems "the primary laws of our nature." (15) Overall, writing that yokes poetry to law forms part of a larger Enlightenment discourse that posits the existence of discoverable laws governing all of life, whether aesthetic, economic, historical, physical, political, or cosmic.
Significantly, the writings of Giuseppe Mazzini, whom Swinburne describes in the "Dedicatory Epistle" as the man he "had always revered above all other men on earth" (p. xvii) and to whom he dedicated Songs before Sunrise, are liberally seasoned with references to "law." Mazzini appealed to the concept of a universal law as a restraint on the untrammeled will of individuals whether in the political realm or the aesthetic, in which he was also interested. In a biographical essay published in English in 1861, while Swinburne was writing Poems and Ballads, Mazzini describes Italian Romantic poets who in the 1820s were engaged in a "literary war" against a classicism that had hardened into the "literary despotism" of "Della Cruscan academicians, professors, and pedants." The problem with the Romantics was that they were "intolerant of every tyranny, but ignorant also of the sacredness of the law which governs art as well as every other thing." (16) The poet's elevation of "fancy" above sacred law was, in Mazzini's view, the opposite side of the coin bearing the likeness of a ruler who had elevated his own will as law. Such law, for Mazzini, does not reside in the individual; it is "universal" and "eternal." (17) In the political sphere, it arises as the collective will of the people, whose desire for social revolution is a "thought of God reflected in humanity." Factions, sects, or individuals who "substitute their own will for an eternal law" are the "adversaries of freedom" (1: 256-257, 262).
Swinburne does not adhere wholly to Mazzini's views. He shares with Mazzini the objection to individual will when it involves the concentration of political power in one person, symbolically or actually; this opposition is fundamental to his republican convictions. But he differs from Mazzini where poetic genius is concerned. The will of tyrants is one thing; that of artists and poets is another (Saville, p. 700). Nor does he accept the theism of his Italian hero. But he embraces the idea of universal laws that transcend the individual. For Swinburne, their source is in the nature of things rather than in God, which is one reason that the ungovernable sea, obeying its own tidal but not wholly predictable logic, is for him a compelling symbol.
Swinburne invokes the sea in conjunction with law in the monograph on Blake. It governs a gorgeously gaudy, wave-like description of the prophetic books: "This poetry has the huge various monotonies, the fervent and fluent colours, the vast limits, the fresh sonorous strength, the certain confusion and tumultuous law, the sense of windy and weltering space, the intense refraction of shadow or light, the crowded life and inanimate intricacy, the patience and passion of the sea" (p. 230). Before this long sentence comes crashing down on the word sea at its end, it gathers energy and roils with the confusion and tumult of two suggestive oxymorons: "certain confusion" and "tumultuous law." We might expect law to have all the certainty and regularity on its side, and confusion all the tumult; but as we have already seen, law is not the same as rule. The sea is governed by laws of nature, not by human beings. The latter can, however, discover the law in all of its irregularity--its energetic and tumultuous lack of rule. Discovering those laws is what the great poet sets out to do, according to the epigraph that Swinburne provided for the essay-an untranslated passage from Baudelaire's review of Wagner's Tannhauser after its Paris performances in 1861. (18) The writing of poetry, it tells us, is governed by laws that are vague or obscure (les lois obscures)-, all great poets wish to discover these laws, which guide their instinct. They turn critic in the process--much as Swinburne did in producing the essay that the epigraph introduces.
By invoking "law" in these ways, Swinburne is thus participating directly in a nineteenth-century discourse about poetry and poetics. But he may also be invoking the political meanings of the word. Matthew Reynolds suggests that Patmore, in referring to "the co-ordination of life and law, in the matter and form of poetry," invited readers to see in verse "a little image of that larger co-ordination of life and law which is the task of politics." (19) That "larger co-ordination" is audible in the "Dedicatory Epistle" of 1904 when Swinburne uses the word "law" with reference to formal and prosodic issues. Defending the formal constraints of the regular ode, he claims that these are strict but reasonable and fair. "The rhythmic reason of its rigid but not arbitrary law," he writes of the ode, "lies simply and solely in the charm of its regular variations" (p. xv). His insistence that the law of the ode is not "arbitrary" echoes Mazzini's denunciations of the "arbitrary exercise of power," the "arbitrary will of those in power," and the "arbitrary" thwarting of the people's will by "despots." (20) Yet Swinburne is not one of those poets who, according to Reynolds, might sometimes want to give form to the conflict between the laws of verse and the freedom of language by staging a "battle" between them. Nor is he someone with the "rosier view" in which "freedom live[s] happily in the company of that law" in an "organic" unity (p. 64). The relationship, though oppositional, is not insurgent; it slides, rather, into the sexual.
Swinburne may be placed in a line of poets for whom the regularity of meter serves to restrain or even repress the passions that seek expression through poetic language and for whom, as Armstrong puts it, "the friction of opposition between repression and release is arousing." To put it a little differently, he was one of those Victorian poets who, according to Joseph Phelan, "loved [the] 'bonds [of verse],' and wanted to feel them more keenly, in the paradoxical (but typically Victorian) belief that submission to the law was the highest expression of genuine freedom." (21) Certainly in the essay on Blake, Swinburne objected that at times both Blake and Whitman could have benefited from a tightening of those bonds, in order to be less "noisy and barren and loose, rootless and fruitless and informal" (p. 344)--But in Swinburne's 1904 reflection on his own work, he inverts the paradox by suggesting that submitting too willingly to those bonds can get you in deep trouble poetically. He wonders whether his 1867 "Ode on the Insurrection in Candia" from Songs before Sunrise, with its elaborately patterned strophes, corresponding antistrophes, and closing epode, "quite succeeded in evading the criminal risk and the capital offence of formality" ("Dedicatory Epistle," p. xvii). Perhaps he loved those "bonds of verse" just a little too much for his own good or for that of the poems he submitted to them. To evade the risk of formality---of blind adherence to what has come to function as mere rule--it is necessary to put some pressure on it. It is necessary to be a troublemaker. That is what makes it possible to tell where rules end and law begins. Or so Swinburne's late remarks suggest; and prosodically, that is what Swinburne's hexameter line does.
Arnold, Swinburne, and the English Hexameter
To understand more concretely what "law" meant to Swinburne and how his own poetry enacts this understanding, we can consider his response to the hexameter experiments of the mid-nineteenth century. They have been the subject of recent scholarship because the English hexameter was a crucible of poetic experimentation and metrical theory in the 1840s and because Arnold relit the flame in his essays on translating Homer (1865). (22) These essays, originally lectures delivered at Oxford during 1861-1862, propounded the idea that the best meter for translating Homer into English is a version of the classical dactylic hexameter, adapted to the accentualism of English verse. The argument provoked Swinburne to pounce with characteristic energy on something he thought wrongheaded, and he seized the occasion of a long review of Arnold's New Poems (1867) to do so. Yopie Prins notes that Arnold's patronage of the hexameter was aimed at future translators of Homer--"'some man of genius' ... who could mediate between ancient quantities and modern accents to create hexameters that would naturally 'read themselves.' " Such a translator would realize Arnold's desire to make hexameter "into an English form, and a perfect form of Englishness." (23) Who, indeed, would be more suited to the task than Swinburne?
But a passage of delicious opprobrium in the review of Arnold makes clear that Swinburne regarded the entire effort as a waste of time and the dactylic hexameter in English as a metrical monstrosity. "At best what ugly bastards of verse are these self-styled hexameters! how human tongues or hands could utter or write them ... I could never imagine, and never shall." He makes two exceptions, one of which Arnold had not even mentioned: Charles Kingsley's Andromeda, which Swinburne calls "the one good poem extant in that pernicious metre." Yet even that poem, "for all the grace and glory and exultation of its rushing and ringing words, has not made possible the impossible thing": something better than "loose rhymeless anapests." (24) The other exception is a passage from The Iliad, translated by Edward Craven Hawtrey, which Arnold had called "the most successful attempt hitherto made at rendering Homer into English" (p. 294). Swinburne agrees that the translated lines are unusually successful--as English hexameters go. "Once only, as far as I know, in Dr. Hawtrey's delicate and fluent verse, has the riddle been resolved; the verses are faultless; are English; are hexametric; but that is simply a graceful interlude of a pastime, a well-played stroke in a game of skill played with language." They are verse but not poetry. Clough's hexameters in The Bothie of Toper~na~Fuosich do not rise even to that level: they are "admirable studies in graduated prose," not "serious attempts or studies in any manner of metre." Arnold's own lines, a specimen translation provided for the lectures, are worst of all: "they look like nothing on earth, and sound like anapaests broken up and driven wrong." Even at their best, English hexameters remain "ugly bastards," ill-conceived hybrids, the illegitimate offspring of Greek and English prosodies (pp. 163-164). With the possible exception of Andromeda, which (Swinburne implies) succeeds despite the meter, all these hexameter poems suffer from a misappropriation of classical learning. The concept that governs them is pedantic, not poetic; conventional, not "natural."
But what does it mean for the laws of verse to be natural, since meter is necessarily an artificial regulation of the rhythms inherent in language? A reading of Swinburne's remarks in his letters and criticism suggests that "natural" means, first of all, "native" in the sense of arising in the genius of the language-not, I would emphasize, in the sense of some essential national character. This is especially significant given the nationalist projects that contemporary schoharship has unearthed in the surprisingly energetic Victorian discourse about poetic meter. Both Phelan and Meredith Martin invoke Edwin Guest and others for whom Anglo-Saxon accentual alliterative verse was English poetry's native ground; Prins presents Arnold as the champion of the accentual dactylic hexameter as crucially important for a modern English nation; Martin uncovers not only the heated "prosody wars" of the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries but also the efforts of their contestants to promulgate a properly English national culture through the teaching of meter and patriotic verse in the new state-supported schools. (25) Swinburne's letters and essays indicate no interest whatever in the Germanic philology that motivated Guest and, later, Walter William Skeat. Despite Swinburne's affection for dialect border ballads (a different "native" tradition that participates in what Martin calls "competing histories of English"; Rise and Fall, p. 96) and notwithstanding his pleasure in imitating them, they represent only one of a very catholic range of verse forms he explored. The dialect ballads he produced for Poems and Ballads, Third Series (1889) express the regional pride of an aristocratic poet with deep roots in Northumberland, but they do not constitute the basis of a prosody intended to cultivate an essential Englishness. (26) Rather, Swinburne enjoyed playing with a multitude of verse forms, such as Sapphics, choriambics, and other varieties adopted from classical and Continental poetry. However politically "jingoist" he may have become in his later years, aesthetic considerations always came first for him, and non-English models offered aesthetic possibilities rather than cultural threats. (27)
High on the list of Swinburne's aesthetic considerations were the distinctive qualities of the English language as a medium for poetry, especially its sound system. In his remarks about the English hexameter poems, Swinburne was likely focusing on what makes English verse suitable for the kind of chanting aloud for which he was famous among his contemporaries. His objections to the hexameter poems, expressed in pejoratives such as "rhymeless," "ugly," "loose," or (drawing now from his 1869 essay on Coleridge) "tuneless," all focus on the aesthetic, indeed musical deficiencies that result from effort to force English verse into a mold contrary to its inclinations--or what Swinburne believed those inclinations to be ("Matthew Arnold's New Poems," p. 272). He was highly conscious of the different sound systems of the various languages he knew and had strong feelings about what makes prosodic sense in one language but not another, whether English, Greek, or French--noting, for example, that the alexandrines in Victor Hugo's poems break at the sixth syllable, while in an English alexandrine, the break works best at the seventh, where he placed it in the relevant lines of "The Eve of Revolution" (Letters, 2: 109). As a Victorian poet "classically educated ... to a level that neither earlier nor later poets could reach" and being highly conscious of verse as a sonorous and bodily experience, he was exquisitely sensitive to the differences between verse written in English and that written in Greek--the very differences that Arnold and some of the later prosody warriors sought in different ways to reconcile. (28) But he also falls into a line of metrists and poets who have objected to the dactyl in English. Despite his willingness to play with verse forms imported from other languages, he scorned the accentual hexameter line conceived as a translation into English of the Greek dactylic hexameter.
The salient difference between Greek and English verse systems is, of course, that the former is based on quantity or time and the latter on stress or accent. Although Swinburne never pronounced explicitly on the accent-versusquantity debate that preoccupied mid-nineteenth-century English metrists, his line of freely mixed iambs and anapests may be understood as a practical contribution to it. (29) The mixing of disyllabic and trisyllabic feet occurs so frequently in his verse that it serves as what his most recent biographer refers to as his "distinctive metrical signature" (Rooksby, p. 132). Its most obvious effect is to emphasize the accentual character of verse in English by making the ictus (the "downbeat," as it were) coincide reliably and repeatedly with a stressed syllable, regardless of the number of syllables in the foot. Its effects thus differ from those of iambic pentameter, where frequent metrical substitutions work against the dominant stress pattern and create a pleasing tension between ictus and stress.
Swinburne certainly did not invent this line of iambs and anapests. It occurs often in Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience; Walter Savage Landor, whom Swinburne also admired, used it; a version of it appears in Tennyson's Maud; and many other poets, some of them less canonical, could be adduced as antecedents. Lines that freely combine disyllabic and trisyllabic feet or that vary units of one and two "offbeats," in Derek Attridge's terminology, are natural to verse in English when the feet are not shackled to the regularly iambic meter of much serious English poetry. (30) In Swinburne's work, such lines are especially salient in poems featuring a six-beat line--that is, a hexameter line. But this hexameter line thus declares its difference from the one championed by Arnold and for which Arthur Hugh Clough, Charles Kingsley, and (in America) Henry Wadsworth Longfellow are still the most well-known; and it is here that he contributes to the debates about stress or accent versus time.
Poems and Ballads (first series) includes three hexameter poems: "Hymn to Proserpine," "A Song in Time of Revolution. 1860," and "Hesperia." "Hymn to Man" from Songs of Sunrise (1871) is another. (31) Each illustrates what an English verse line of six metrical feet can do when it obeys a metrical law that is properly "natural" and "poetic" in Swinburne's terms. Together they constitute a poetic intervention in the metrical questions that crystallized, as Phelan and Prins both suggest, around the English accentual hexameter, as well as an indirect response to Arnold's call for a naturalizing of that meter for the "English ear."
One way that Swinburne's hexameters declare their difference from the hexameter as Arnold conceived it is that they rhyme--emphatically. Arnold, of course, had nothing against rhyme in general, but he wished to exclude it from translations of Homer as producing effects he regarded as distinctly un-Homeric (p. 254). Swinburne, by contrast, claimed more than once that rhyme is essential to successful verse in the language. (He made an exception for Whitman, who was clearly a special case.) (32) He was especially adamant about the need for rhyme as a compensation for something English lacks when compared with ancient Greek. In the review of Arnold, he claims that rhyme tips a scale, otherwise "overweighted" toward Greek, back toward English ("Matthew Arnold's New Poems," 100-101). He makes a similar point thirteen years later in justifying his own "experiment" of translating a chorus from Aristophanes's The Birds (1880): there he uses rhyme and double rhyme as "necessary makeweights for the imperfections of an otherwise inadequate language." (33) His metaphor of weight may well be the subjective expression of an objective difference between the two languages. According to Arthur Melville Clark, both rhyme and accentual verse are more common in the poetry of languages like English, in which the proportion of consonant and consonant clusters is high, than in highly vocalic languages such as Greek. (34) Vowel sounds provide the opportunity for the vocal chords to vibrate and are likely to be elongated when poetry is not merely spoken but chanted--as Swinburne tended to do. Rhyme calls attention to the vowel sounds that provide that missing sonorous "weight." Thus, Swinburne's own hexameter poems rhyme--sometimes elaborately.
This is true of the most famous, the "Hymn to Proserpine" from Poems and Ballads, first series. Here, each line is divided into hemistichs, and each couplet rhymes not once but twice: both at the end of the line and also internally, at the end of the first hemistich. One could in fact hear the poem as trimeter quatrains rhyming abab, especially since the hemistichs are marked by a metrical pause--one that usually but not invariably coincides with a logical or rhetorical caesura. Here is a sample:
Thou art more than the day or the morrow, the seasons that laugh or that weep; For these give joy and sorrow; but thou, Proserpina, sleep. (11. 3-4) For the Gods we know not of, who give us our daily breath, We know they are cruel as love or life, and as lovely as death. (11. 11-12) Where beyond the extreme sea-wall, and between the remote sea-gates, Waste water washes, and tall ships founder, and deep death waits: (11. 49-50) (35)
The latter two couplets do something I wish to consider more closely. In the second line of each, the division into hemistichs is obscured by what I call internal enjambment: that is, the lack of a grammatically produced or reinforced caesura separating two half lines according to the pattern already established. (36) But a reader who has been attentive to the poem's metrical pattern is likely to linger on or pause slightly after the final syllable of the third foot--represented by "love" in line 12 in the quotation and "tall" in line 50--in order to make the lines "scan." The presence of the expected rhyme (of/love; wall/tall) encourages such a treatment in performance, whether actual or imagined, so that the rhyme can be heard. The lingering or pausing at the point of the internal enjambments in this strongly accentual poem can be felt as a silent or virtual beat. In fact, the opening line seems to stumble for a reader who has not yet internalized the pattern and is therefore not prepared to adapt the line to it: "I have lived long enough, having seen one thing, that love hath an end" (1. 1). To state the case a little differently, once the lilting accentual pattern has established itself, the first line will seem not to "fit" with what follows until the reader has learned the further refinement of lingering or pausing, the need for syncopation over the invisible bar line dividing the hemistichs. (37)
This peculiar prosodic detail has implications for Swinburne's engagement with contemporary discussions of meter. By encouraging such occasional lingering over a syllable, Swinburne is pushing the limits of accentual verse to create within it the effect of syllable length. That is, at these points in his emphatically accentual verse line, he is producing the effect of quantity. (38) As a contribution to the metrical discourse of the late 1850s and 1860s, this is a meaningful move: it asserts that quantity matters to English verse despite its accentual character, as many classically schooled English poets, metrists, and prosody warriors claimed. Moreover, as Prins observes, it was the effect of the hexameter in English verse, at least on similarly trained readers of English poetry, that Arnold saw as the goal of hexameter translations ("Metrical Translation," p. 237). Swinburne has complied with Arnold's desire in some ways while completely disregarding it in others. By creating such rhythmic effects without hewing to the classical pattern, Swinburne provides in "Hymn to Proserpine" a practical demonstration of the ways both time and stress can work in English, while exemplifying a hexameter line that breaks with classical rules arbitrarily imposed, obeying instead the laws of English verse.
Swinburne employs a similar poetic line elsewhere, but he manipulates it according to the context of the poem. The metrical effects I have just described in "Hymn to Proserpine" are strikingly relevant to its theme, its form enacting its content. In this lament about the triumph of new gods over the old, and with them a new theocracy and a new "law," Swinburne has created a metrical palimpsest, as it were, in which the poetic law identified with the old pagan gods (whether Greek or, as here, Roman) is faintly audible within a poem otherwise governed by the laws of a later verse tradition. But this effect is not a fixed feature of Swinburne's six-beat line. "A Song in Time of Revolution," celebrating Garibaldi's successful capture and unification of Naples and Sicily, adheres to the same pattern of meter and rhyme as "Hymn to Proserpine" but with a subtle difference. Again, nearly every line in this poem is divided in half by a clear caesura that is marked grammatically; but those that are not so divided lack the strong internal enjambments of "Hymn to Proserpine" that encourage the lingering I described earlier. This lack throws some emphasis on the break even where the break is not pronounced. Such a procedure seems appropriate to a poem about revolution as a break--in fact, as a violent physical breaking of the bones of "rulers":
The wind has the sound of a laugh in the clamour of days and of deeds: The priests are scattered like chaff, and the rulers broken like reeds. The high-priest sick from qualms, with his raiment bloodily dashed; The thief with branded palms, and the liar with cheeks abashed. (11. 5-8) But the arm of the elders is broken, their strength is unbound and undone: They wait for a sign of a token; they cry, and there cometh none. (11. 23-24) For the sound of the shouting of men they are grievously stricken at heart: They are smitten asunder with pain, their bones are smitten apart. (11. 29-30)
The opposite is the case in "Hymn of Man," a poem from Songs before Sunrise that Swinburne referred to with "Hymn to Prosperine" as the "twin poems of antiphonal correspondence in subject and in sound" ("Dedicatory Epistle," p. xvi). This "twin" is fraternal, not identical. Announcing the death of God and the birth of a secular, humanist ethics, it proceeds with more energy and rapidity than either the "Hymn to Proserpine" or "Song in Time of Revolution" precisely because the two halves of the line, though marked again by rhyme, are less often emphasized by caesurae:
[God] will hear not again the strong crying of earth in his ears as before, And the fume of his multitudes dying shall flatter his nostrils no more. By the spirit he ruled as his slave is he slain who was mighty to slay, And the stone that is sealed on his grave he shall rise not and roll not away. (Complete Works, 2: 168,11. 178-181)
This treatment discourages the pause at the middle of the line, nor is there the internal enjambment that encourages lingering and elongating a syllable. The emergence of Man is cause for celebration rather than for sorrow like that of a pagan enduring the defeat of his gods. The lines appropriately rush forward in a way that those of "Proserpine," the "death-song of spiritual decadence," do not ("Dedicatory Epistle," p. xvi). The pace of "A Song in Time of Revolution" falls somewhere in between the two, as though animated by "the breath of the face of the Lord that is felt in the bones of the dead" (1. 46)--a breath of liberation felt but not yet realized, as it is imaginatively in the "Song of Man." The six-beat line that Swinburne writes in preference to the dactylic hexameter can be adapted (at least by him) to the context and capable of multiple effects.
But if Swinburne's rejection of the classical hexameter anglice is a rejoinder to Arnold, there remains the problem of "Hesperia," which seems less a rejection than an homage that has not been wholly sustained. Kenneth Haynes, who comments at length on its meter in his edition of Poems and Ballads, argues that the poem is best identified as a dactylic hexameter "with modifications." He scans the first eight lines to demonstrate and notes that when the poem is scanned as dactylic hexameter, the caesurae reliably fall where they should according to the rules of classical verse, in the middle of the foot rather than at the end:
/ x x | / x x | / / | / x x j / x x | / /
Out of the golden remote wild west where the sea without shore is,
/ x x | / x x |/ xx|/ x x | / x x | /
Full of the sunset, and sad, if at all, with the fullness of joy, (Poems and Ballads, pp. 355-357n)
Haynes calls his scansion "controversial." This may be a concession to Saintsbury, who had pronounced its meter anapestic because very soon into the poem most of the lines begin with unstressed syllables that "defeat the hexametrical movement" (Saintsbury, p. 424):
Far out to the shallow and straits of the future, by rough ways or pleasant, Is it thither the wind's wings beat? is it hither to me, O my sweet?
The more strict dactylic line returns at the end of the poem. It seems clear that Swinburne was experimenting with the possibilities of a meter he would object to a few years later as "pernicious." What is going on here? Did he entertain the possibility that the accentual hexameter might work in English before rejecting it?
I think he did. Swinburne later called "Hesperia" "too vague" to include in a volume of selected poems (Letters, 5: 208). The vagueness could certainly involve the poem's meaning, for its speaker expresses a desire for something ineffable, some imagined or else real but unattainable erotic object. In Jerome J. McGann's reading, "the dream of [Hesperia] is only the symbol of one's possession of her, just as the eternal sleep which begets the dream is only a symbol of that which makes such dreams possible." (39) But the vagueness of which Swinburne complained could equally pertain to poem's metrically blurred lines. Are they accentual dactylic hexameters at times preceded by anacrustic syllables, as Haynes argues? Are they anapestic, as Saintsbury insisted?
This metrical instability is the key to the poem's meaning. I propose that the fugitive ideal that Hesperia represents is the sonorous superiority of Greek verse as Swinburne experienced it. The sound of Greek verse, like the wind that blows in the opening lines from the Isles of the Blessed Dead with their "ineffable faces," has been heard by no living person. It is itself ineffable, and like that wind it is "[fjilled as with shadow of sound with the pulse of invisible feet" (1. 35). Both are filled not with sound but with sound's shadow: with the image that sound would cast if it had substance. They are filled with an effect of sound. In fact the wind in "Hesperia" is filled as if with this sound effect, which in turn is, or is filled with, something else: "the pulse of invisible feet." Ultimately the Hesperian breeze, that breath of poetic inspiration "from the region of stories," is perceptible in the way that verse is perceptible: as "feet" that make their presence known only by an imagined pulse that has no materiality, being neither visible (as scansion marks on a page, for example) nor auditory but ideal. What animates "Hesperia" is a simulacrum of sound, at one or even two removes from an imagined original--just as the dactylic hexameter in English, a translation of a verse form into a language that cannot really accommodate it, must always be.
This brings us back to Arnold on translating Homer. The sound effect that Arnold heard in the classical quantitative hexameter and that he wished to capture in the English accentual one was above all its swift pace: "First, Homer is eminently rapid" (p. 251). Coleridge felt that this was true of the hexameter generally, as he revealed in a poem he sent in a letter to William and Dorothy Wordsworth: "This is a galloping measure; a hop, and a trot, and a gallop! / All my hexameters fly, like stags pursued by the stag-hounds, / Breathless and panting, and ready to drop, yet flying still onwards." (40) So surely it is no coincidence that when the unambiguously dactylic movement reasserts itself at the end of "Hesperia," it does so just as the speaker describes taking flight with his nymph on "swift horses of fear or of love":
Sudden and steady the music, as eight hoofs trample and thunder, Rings in the ear of the low blind wind of the night as we pass; Shrill shrieks in our faces the blind bland air that was mute as a maiden, Stung into storm by the speed of our passage, and deaf where we past; (11. 87-90)
The dactyl's return brings with it the resurgence in the poem of two motifs from the opening, sound and wind--the latter of which in the meantime had been "mute as a maiden." Thus, a poem written in response to the loss of the forever unattainable object mourned in the "The Triumph of Time," "Dolores," and "The Garden of Proserpine" is, in metrical terms, an homage to a sound or, more accurately, to a pulsation--a form that cannot be adequately imitated in English but that nevertheless serves as an unattainable ideal. (41) The goddess Hesperia herself becomes an allegorical figure representing the "impossible thing" to which the later review of Arnold refers--an approximation of the classical hexameter in English. It is impossible and unattainable for reasons suggested earlier: it violates the laws of verse in English, being pedantically based on rules imposed from without.
I have been calling attention to Swinburne's efforts to make accentual English verse approximate aspects of the Greek poetry he loved. The internal enjambments of "Hymn to Prosperine" create the effect of quantity, and the inconsistent dactylic hexameters of "Hesperia" demonstrate as well as allegorize the classical hexameter as inimitable in English. My argument thus aligns Swinburne with his contemporary Patmore, who famously declared meter to have no material existence at all. But as both Blair and Rudy acknowledge in their accounts of the more materialist medical and scientific discourses that influenced Victorian conceptions of meter, the physiological paradoxically informs, or enters into productive tension with, more abstract and even idealist approaches to verse and to poetics. This is consistent with the Hegelian (and therefore dialectical) reading of Patmore articulated by Armstrong, who usefully defines meter as "the product of a somatic pressure encouraged by the sound system of the poem's language, abstracted by the mind, and returned to language and the body when the poem is read in real time" ("Meter and Meaning," p. 27). My emphasis here on meter as abstraction has stressed Swinburne's awareness of the way a poem's language engages the body as a resonant instrument for chanting. It now veers more decidedly toward the physical and somatic, though by following a route through classical pedagogy rather than Victorian science.
Returning Hawtrey's "Well-Played Stroke"
The unattainable ideal represented by Greek verse was taught as ideal in the schoolroom, where (along with other aspects of the classical curriculum and, more generally, the rules of the institution) it was inculcated through the discipline of flogging or birching. In essays about Swinburne's "Sapphic Sublime" and his still incompletely published mock-heroic The Flogging Block, Yopie Prins argues that the rhythmic corporal punishment of flogging was for Swinburne very closely identified with the study of classical poetry, particularly its scansion. (42) (The Flogging Block takes its name from the wooden structure over which English public school boys were required to bend when being disciplined.)
Swinburne himself makes the connection between flogging and scansion in his letters. When Richard Monckton Milnes urged Swinburne to submit the potentially incendiary manuscript of Poems and Ballads to John Ruskin and others for prepublication vetting, Swinburne sent back a playful reply in which he assumes the voice of a schoolboy about to be birched for various infractions. But he stipulates that he will brook no criticism of his prosodic practice. "One birch-twig I pull out of the bloody bundle. As to my quantities and metre and rule of rhythm and rhyme," he wrote, "I defy castigation. The head-master has sent me up for good on that score. Mr. Tennyson tells me in a note that he 'envies me' my gift in that way. After this approval, I will not submit myself to the birch on that account" (Letters, 1: 121). Swinburne jokingly equates the poet laureate with the headmaster and likens Tennyson's praise to the public-school honor of being "sent up for good"--that is, commended--usually for distinction in verses. (43) But in a more literally biographical sense, the headmaster in question might be Edward Craven Hawtrey--he of the "faultless" hexameter translations of Homer, whose efforts constitute the "well-played stroke" that Swinburne acknowledges in his critique of the hexametrists. After all, Hawtrey's contributions to English Hexameter Translations represent only one of his claims to a minor place in literary history. He was also the headmaster at Eton for three of the four years that Swinburne was enrolled.
Hawtrey, moreover, may have birched the budding poet, as Ian Gibson speculates in The English Vice, a study of flagellation in English schools. Gibson notes that the headmaster in The Flogging-Block "seems to owe something to Hawtrey," a "proficient flogger .. . given to sarcastic or witty observations between strokes"; and he observes that the name "Hawtrey" appears in lines canceled in one of the Flogging Block manuscripts. But he notes also that Swinburne was "sent up for good" to Hawtrey at least twice. (44) Presumably the pupil earned this honor for "distinction in verses."
We might therefore think of Swinburne's deferential but qualified praise of Hawtrey's translations as the double-edged repayment of a debt. The former pupil praises the headmaster for his distinction in verses, albeit with reservation; and with even more publicity than was the case at the Eton flogging block, where part of the humiliation was being exposed in nakedness and vulnerability before the other pupils, he administers a counterstroke both to Hawtrey's "well-played stroke" in a language game and to strokes of a more literal and physically painful kind. But it is not simply that what goes around comes around. In the republic of letters, no one is above the law--not even those who represented it and who have enforced it themselves.
For Swinburne, that law, as we have seen, is real, necessary, and enabling; but at the same time, it is the responsibility of the poet to distinguish between law, which can be vague or obscure, and mere arbitrary "rules." The latter are imposed by pedants who have more knowledge of convention than sensitivity to poetry. This understanding of law harmonizes with Swinburne's republican politics, according to which, as he learned from reading Mazzini, there is a "law that governs art and every other thing." But it does not reside in any human individual: not in king or, for that matter, headmaster or in the scepter or birch rod that is the symbol of each. It must be discovered through a process of experiment that for Swinburne involves a balancing of submission and defiance, a constant game of brinksmanship, a provocative playing at the law's edge.
I would like to thank the anonymous readers for Victorian Poetry for their suggestions, as well as Yopie Prins, whose response to a short paper I wrote for her workshop on "Performing Victorian Poetry" at the North American Victorian Studies conference in 2011 inspired me to write this essay.
(1) Algernon Charles Swinburne, "Dedicatory Epistle," in The Poems of Algernon Charles Swinburne, vol. 1, Poems and Ballads, First Series (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1904), p. xvi. The phrase about the law provides the title of Yisrael Levin's essay about the implicit prosodic theory informing Swinburne's poetry: " 'But the Law Must Itself Be Poetic': Swinburne, Omond, and the New Prosody," in Meter Matters: Verse Cultures of the Long Nineteenth Century, ed. Jason David Hall (Athens: Ohio Univ. Press, 2011), pp. 178-195.
(2) Kirstie Blair, Victorian Poetry and the Culture of the Heart (Oxford, UK: Clarendon, 2006); Jason R. Rudy, Electric Meters: Victorian Physiological Poetics (Athens: Ohio Univ. Press, 2009).
(3) Rikky Rooksby is referring specifically to the attractions of masochism for Swinburne. Rooksby, A. C. Swinburne: A Poet's Life (Aldershot, UK: Scolar, 1997), p. 8.
(4) Richard Dellamora, Masculine Desire: The Sexual Politics of Victorian Aestheticism (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1990), p. 91.
(5) Isobel Armstrong, Victorian Poetry: Poetry, Poetics and Politics (New York: Routledge, 1993), p. 407 (emphasis in the original).
(6) Stephanie Kuduk Weiner, Republican Politics and English Poetry, 1789-1874 (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), pp. 157-176.
(7) Julia F. Saville, "Cosmopolitan Republican Swinburne, the Immersive Poet as Public Moralist," VP 47, no. 4 (2009): 691-713.
(8) Algernon Charles Swinburne, William Blake, in The Complete Works of Algernon Charles Swinburne, 20 volumes, ed. Sir Edmund Gosse and Thomas James Wise (London: William Heinemann, 1926), 16: 56.
(9) Weiner describes the late poetry as "do[ing] continual battle with the transcendental position." Stephanie Kuduk Weiner, "Knowledge and Sense Experience in Swinburne's Late Poetry," in A. C. Swinburne and the Singing Word: New Perspectives on the Mature Work, ed. Yisrael Levin (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2010), p. 14.
(10) The titillating pleasure of anticipating punitive pain colors the discussion between the eleven-year-old Redgie and his new nine-year-old friend Frank in Swinburne's novel Love's Crosscurrents: A Year's Letters (New York: Harper, 1905), pp. 24-35. It also suffuses his expectation of being beaten by his father when the latter overhears him expressing his sexual attraction to a young woman. According to Bruce Fink, the masochistic subject behaves transgressively precisely in order to make the law appear, which "makes the partner, as Other, lay down the law." Fink, A Clinical Introduction to Lacanian Psychoanalysis: Theory and Technique (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1997), p. 187.
(11) George Saintsbury coined the phrase "hexameter mania" in The History of English Prosody from the Twelfth Century to the Present Day, vol. 3, From Blake to Mr. Swim burne (London: Macmillan, 1910), p. 207. Yopie Prins has called attention to the phenomenon by devoting a section to it in "Victorian meters," in The Cambridge Companion to Victorian Poetry, ed. Joseph Bristow (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000), pp. 89-113, and again in "Metrical Translation: Nineteenth-Century Homers and the Hexameter Mania," in Nation, Language, and the Ethics of Translation, ed. Sandra Bermann and Michael Wood (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 2005), pp. 229-256.1 am particularly indebted to this latter article.
(12) Coventry Patmore, "English Metrical Critics," North British Review 27 (August 1857): 69.
(13) Yopie Prins, Victorian Sappho (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 1999), 149n21. According to Robert A. Greenberg, Swinburne had composed his parody of Patmore's The Angel in the House by 1859, though he did not publish it until 1880 as part of The Modern Heptalogia, or Seven against Sense. Greenberg, "Swinburne's 'Heptalogia' Improved," Studies in Bibliography 22 (1969): 265.
(14) Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, in The Walt Whitman Archive, ed. Ed Folsom and Kenneth M. Price (Brooklyn, NY, 1855), p. v, http://www.whitmanarchive.org. Rooksby dates Swinburne's knowledge of Leaves of Grass to 1859 (A. C. Swinburne, p. 59).
(15) William Wordsworth, preface to Lyrical Ballads (1802), in The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, 2nd ed., ed. Vincent B. Leitch (New York: Norton, 2010), p. 561.
(16) Joseph Mazzini, "Autobiographical Notes (1861)," in Autobiographical and Political, vol. 1 of Life and Writings of Joseph Mazzini (London: Smith, Elder, 1890), pp. 6-7 (emphasis added).
(17) For "universal" or "eternal" law see, for example, "On the Historical Drama" (pp. 73, 85-86) and "On Fatality Considered as an Element of the Dramatic Art" (p. 144), in Critical and Literary, vol. 2 of Life and Writings of Joseph Mazzini (London: Smith, Elder, 1890).
(18) The epigraph reads, in full, "Toms les grandes poetes deviennent naturellement, fatalement, critiques. Je plains les poetes que guide le seul instinct; je les crois incomplets. Dans la vie spirituelle des premiers, une crise se fait infailliblement, oil Us veulent raisonner leur art, decouvrir les lois obscures en vertu desquelles ils ont produit, et ther de cette etude une serie de precepts dont le but divin est I'infaillibilite dans la production poitique. II serait prodigiuex qu'un critique devtnt poete, et il est impossible qu'un poete ne contienne pas un critique.--Charles Baudelaire." (All great poets naturally, inevitably, become critics. 1 pity poets who are guided solely by instinct; I think them incomplete. In the spiritual life of the former group, a crisis infallibly occurs in which they want to think rationally about their art, to discover the obscure laws under which they have written, and to draw from this study a set of precepts of which the divine goal is infallibility in the production of poetry. It would be extraordinary if a critic became a poet; and it is impossible for a poet not to have within himself a critic.) Swinburne, William Blake, p. 53 (my translation).
(19) Matthew Reynolds, The Realms of Verse, 1830-1870: English Poetry in a Time of Nation'Building (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2001), p. 63.
(20) Joseph Mazzini, Life and Writings, vol. 6, Critical and Literary (London: Smith, Elder, 1890), pp. 21, 273, 294.
(21) Isobel Armstrong, "Meter and Meaning," in Hall, Meter Matters, p. 30; Joseph Phelan, The Music of Verse: Metrical Experiment in Nineteenth-Century Poetry (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), p. 3.
(22) Arnold's essay and the controversy it provoked renewed interest in the hexameter, though the "mania" itself was largely a phenomenon of the 1840s. Phelan, Music of Verse, pp. 77-87; Prins, "Metrical Translation," pp. 231-233.
(23) Prins, "Metrical Translation," p. 239. Prins's quotations of Arnold are taken from On Translating Homer, in Essays by Matthew Arnold (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1914), pp. 412, 297.
(24) Algernon Charles Swinburne, "Matthew Arnold's New Poems," in Essays and Studies, 3rd ed. (London: Chatto and Windus, 1888), pp. 163-164. (The review originally ran in the Fortnightly Review.)
(25) On the importance of Anglo-Saxon verse, see especially Phelan, Music of Verse, pp. 88-133; on the nationalist project of On Translating Homer, see Prins, "Metrical Translation"; for Guest, Walter William Skeat, and the "prosody wars" more generally, see Meredith Martin, The Rise and Fall of Meter: Poetry and English National Culture, 1860-1930 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 2012), pp. 79-108. A shorter version of Martin's chapter appears as "The Prosody Wars," in Hall, Meter Matters, pp. 237-261.
(26) Brian Burton, "Swinburne and the North," in Levin, A. C. Swinburne and the Singing Word, p. 80.
(27) Cecil Lang writes that the "cosmopolitan" Swinburne by the 1870s had metamorphosed into "the most parochial and chauvinistic of British jingoes." Lang, introduction to The Swinburne Letters, 1854-1869, ed. Cecil Y. Lang (New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press, 1959), 1: xxviii. Burton refers to Swinburne's "regional jingoism" but makes clear that it is a response to the ideological and cultural dominance of southern England over the north ("Swinburne and the North," p. 80).
(28) Richard Cronin, Reading Victorian Poetry (Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), p. 1.
(29) Martin argues that the debate over whether English verse is governed by quantity was largely decided in favor of accentualism by the 1860s. Metrists like Coventry Patmore and T. S. Omond emphasized the accentualism of English verse but insisted that a temporal element governs all verse. See "Prosody Wars," pp. 237-261.
(30) In many books on poetic rhythm, Derek Attridge has developed a system of scansion relying on "beats" and "offbeats" in preference to traditional foot prosody. His recent article demonstrates this system while also revealing how natural, in fact, is the tendency for English verse to vary the number of syllables between "beats" (that is, in a different terminology, to vary the number of slack or unstressed syllables in a line of English accentual-syllabic verse). Attridge, "The Case for the English Dolnik; or How Not to Introduce Prosody," Poetics Today 33, no. 1 (2012): 1-26.
(31) Other examples are "Evening on the Broads" from Studies in Song (1880) and some of the choruses in Erectheus (1876).
(32) Thomas E. Connolly notes that a careful consideration of Whitman required Swinburne to give up his earlier insistence on rhyme. Connolly, Swinburne's Theory of Poetry (Albany: State Univ. of New York Press, 1964), pp. 64-65.
(33) Algernon Charles Swinburne, "Great Chorus of Birds from Aristophanes," in Complete Works 14: 284.
(34) Arthur Melville Clark, Studies in Literary Modes (Edinburgh, UK: Oliver and Boyd, 1958), pp. 145-146.
(35) References to these poems are drawn from Algernon Charles Swinburne, Poems and Ballads & Atalanta in Calydon, ed. Kenneth Haynes (New York: Penguin, 2000).
(36) This happens more frequently than enjambment at the end of the line. The poem's single enjambment over a line ending occurs here: "I am sick of singing: the bays burn deep and chafe: I am fain / To rest a little from praise and grievous pleasure and pain" (11. 9-10).
(37) I am indebted to Robert Pierson for articulating the way some verse invites us to linger or pause. Pierson, "Coventry Patmore's Ideas Concerning English Prosody and The Unknown Eros Read Accordingly," VP 34, no. 4 (1996): 493-518 (especially p. 500). I am also indebted to Herbert Tucker, who read an early short version of this article, for invoking syncopation. He pointed out that one can also hear the first line of the poem and similar lines in groups of three: "I have lived long enough / having seen one thing / that love hath an end." Hearing them in three provides (to my ear) a pleasing variation--but at the cost of obscuring the rhyme, which, as I argued earlier, Swinburne regarded as the important "makeweight" that compensates for what English lacks when compared to Greek.
(38) In the examples quoted from "Hymn to Proserpine," the affected syllables would be classified as long because they are "closed"--that is, they end in a consonant. If Swinburne were applying the conventions of classical prosody, he would assign them twice the duration of a short syllable. See "Quantity," in The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, ed. Alex Preminger and T. V. F. Brogan (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 1993), p. 100.
(39) Jerome J. McGann, Swinburne: An Experiment in Criticism (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1972), p. 219.1 have attributed to McGann a reading he presents in dialogue form and assigns to the character "Woodberry," one of his quasi-fictional discussants.
(40) Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "266. To William Wordsworth," in Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, vol. 1, 1785-1800, ed. Earl Leslie Griggs (Oxford, UK: Clarendon, 1956), p. 451.
(41) Swinburne acknowledged that "Hesperia," "The Triumph of Time," "Dolores," and "The Garden of Proserpine" were related to one another. See Letters, 1: 197. He also acknowledged that "The Triumph of Time" was a response to a lost love, now generally assumed to be his cousin Mary Gordon. See McGann, pp. 206-208.
(42) Prins, Victorian Sappho, pp. 121-140; and Prins, "Metrical Discipline: Algernon Swinburne on The Flogging Block," in Algernon Charles Swinburne: Unofficial Laureate, ed. Catherine Maxwell and Stefano Evangelista (Manchester: Manchester Univ. Press, 2013), pp. 95-124.
(43) Edmund Gosse provides the context for Swinburne's letter to Monckton Milnes in The Life of Algernon Swinburne (London: Macmillan, 1917), p. 138. The OED defines "to send up," as relevant to English public schools (under phrasal verbs in "send"), thus: "To send (a boy) to the headmaster (a) for reward, (b) for punishment." Its illustrative quotation from the Eton Salt-Bearer (1821) suggests that being "sent up for good" means "having [one's] verses read over by the head master as particularly worthy of commendation," and the one from the 1881 Everyday Life in Our Public Schools reads, "Sent up, Eton. An honour due usually to distinction in verses." Ian Gibson glosses the phrase similarly in The English Vice: Beating, Sex and Shame in Victorian England and After (London: Gerald Duckworth, 1978), p. 121.
(44) Gibson, English Vice, pp. 121-122. Gibson claims that the real "villain" of The Flogging-Block was probably Swinburne's tutor, the Rev. James Leigh Joynes. But he notes earlier in his discussion that in the upper school, in which Swinburne was enrolled, "birchings were only administered by the Head Master" (pp. 122, 100).
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Title Annotation:||A.C. Swinburne|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2016|
|Previous Article:||"Arion": George Eliot's exploration of art and influence after Middlemarch.|
|Next Article:||Evolution and the struggle of love in Emily Pfeiffer's Sonnets.|