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Immortal Poems of the English Language Paperback – January 1, 1969


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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: WASHINGTON SQUARE PRESS (1969)
  • ASIN: B000GSBH3A
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 4.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,909,434 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Maybe someday someone will update this wonderful volume.
Charles Sutherland
I've had this book for over ten years and I just ordered a new copy online since my old one's aaall worn and torn from reading it so much over the years!
Josefina Rodrguez
Being available as a portable paperback, this book has been a frequent travel companion.
FrKurt Messick

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on August 23, 2003
Format: School & Library Binding
When a friend of mine wanted to know what volume of poetry I could recommend, adding the caveat that he wasn't going to wade through a thousand pages. I immediately thought of this book, 'Immortal Poems of the English Language', edited by Oscar Williams. This is an absolutely superb anthology.
The poetry is arranged chronologically by poet - it begins with Chaucer and contemporary anonymous compositions, and proceeds through the various literary time periods to the present day. All of the greats are to be found here: Chaucer, Shakespeare, Byron, Yeats, Wordsworth (the list can go on and on) as well as some lesser-known but nonetheless great versifiers such a Peele, Cowley, and Landor.
These are pieces of the English language, from the Middle English of Chaucer (presented without translation or notes) quickly getting to more modern recognisable texts. The poets come from all around the world; English as a literary language was carried forth by the British Empire, and English poetry now belongs, as a product and as an instrument of creativity.
As befits his status as the greatest of English poets, Shakespeare has more pages than any other (29 pages), and some pieces come from the plays rather than his poetry proper. Some poets of giant stature (Chaucer, the first poet in the anthology) seem to get short-shrift here (none of the Canterbury Tales is included; Longfellow and Elizabeth Barrett Browning have less than one page each). However, taken as an accessible, overall compilation, this gives a great insight into the pattern of development of a poetical language.
Being available as a portable paperback, this book has been a frequent travel companion.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Z. D. Houghton on August 24, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
As with all anthologies, there will be a number of reviewers sniffing in an offended manner at the dearth (or glut) of Cummings, Yeats, Aiken, or Pope, but any 600 page anthology, by it's very nature, must be incomplete. I purchased this compilation three years ago for long flights and such and it has yet to disappoint. For the size and price of this work, one would be hard-pressed to do better.

As for content, all the major poets are more or less liberally represented. Cummings gets short shrift, and several of Yeats' most memorable pieces "An Irish Airman Forsees His Death", for one) are excluded. Yet I am certain novice and old hand alike will find this work passes the time admirably.

Having been with me through several housheold moves, military action, and cramped backpacks no self-respecting piece of literature should have to endure, my copy is now fairly falling apart. Yet when it expires, I will buy another copy. No other anthology, especially in terms of price, convenience, and memories, could ever compare.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Strephon Kaplan-Williams on December 31, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I too love this anthology. A passionate love of poetry has been part of my upbringing. Let me say that both my mother, Gene Derwood, and Oscar Williams, my biological father, contributed to the selection of the greatest of the great poetry of the English language. Thus we have the contribution of a husband and wife team. Reviewers have mentioned updating this volume, but what has happened is that modern poetry writing no longer follows a firm tradition. Modern poetry is a shotgun blast. There are no recognizable standards for universal selection. Plath is recognized because you cannot divorce her from her suicide. Ginsberg you cannot divorce from his beard and little clanging bells, a media invention. Bob Dylan you cannot divorce from his being a song writer and media invention. If you are not a media invention and only a poet, what chance do you have? So Immortal Poems represents classic taste before media took over the American mind. The media is immortal these days, not poetry. Selecting from contemporary poets not using traditional standards would be difficult to do. I would still love to do it. For those interested in Oscar Williams there is information now available on the web. Just search it with oscarwilliams and see what their world was like in the twentieth century.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 13, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
As other readers have said this anthology contains selections from the great poets of the English language from Beowulf to the middle of the twentieth century. It is the kind of book which can be read and reread for years upon years. I would however take exception to the claim that it is the best anthology of its kind. It does not have explanatory material provides no introduction to the poets, no interpretation of their work. There are other anthologies ( Among them ' The Concise Treasury of Great Poems' by Louis Untermeyer) which do so. Nonetheless the bottom line is that this Anthology contains very much of the greatest poetry in the English language.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Neal Jameson on June 12, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I own various anthologies of American, British, and modern poetry, but none of them are as portable and densely packed with soul-moving poetry as this six dollar book. You may find it regrettable that the book lacks some of your favorite poems. Sandburg appears but without Chicago, and Poe but no Raven. However, each one of the poems stirs in such a way that you will find the titular adjective "immortal" quite apropriate. My copy has traveled with me over three continents, and now rests on my nightstand. As someone who loves poetry, its the one book that I don't leave home without.
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