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Poems and Ballads and Atalanta in Calydon Paperback – April 1, 2001

4.6 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909) was educated at Eton and at Balliol College, Oxford where he was associated with Rossetti and the Pre-Raphaelite circle. His influence on aesthetes such as Pater, and on a later generation of poets was considerable.

Kenneth Haynes is Professor of English at Boston University and has co-edited Horace in English for Penguin Classics.
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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (April 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140422501
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140422504
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,005,545 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on September 29, 2003
Format: Paperback
The early Swinburne (1860's-1880) is a very exciting poet and critic, and he has been one of my favorites for many years now. He is said to be a young man's poet, which, if certain themes in his "Poems and Ballads" be taken on a superficial level, he may well appear to be. Swinburne's "Poems and Ballads," like every book ever written,is an acknowledged classic, a masterpiece, and all of that sort of meaningless critical verbiage-- but "Poems and Ballads" really is a masterpiece in every sense of that fairly undefinable category.
If there any aspiring poets among you who are unaquainted with Swinburne, I suggest that you become acquainted with him at once-- you will almost certainly learn something from him on how powerful a well constructed, but seemingly artless poem can be. He is an absolute master of nearly every poetic form and poetic rhythm, and one of those uncommon writers of such facility that they seem to speak for you, or rather-- Swinburne manages to put into glittering poetic phrasing, thoughts and sentiments that every person feels, but only a few writers, such as Shakespeare or Dostoevsky, can both cogently and beautifully articulate. Naturally, such writers are the envy of everyone, but reading such poems of Swinburne's as "Hymn to Proserpine," "The Leper," or "A Ballad of Life," is as genuinely pleasurable as reading can possibly be.
For those of you who do not know Swinburne, I envy you your potential new discovery-- its not every day (given the popular availability of Baudelaire, Donne, et. al.) that one can turn up a writer of such calibur from nearly a century ago-- and who, until very recently, was practically forgotten.
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Format: Paperback
As previous reviewers have noted so eloquently, Swinburne is sadly neglected these days. More's the pity, because his mastery of the flowing, luxuriously melodic line is astonishing, as is his ability to create vivid imagery. All the senses are engaged in his poems, so that the reader can practically feel the lines as if they were silk or satin. And all of this is so seemingly effortless, even though the technical skill required to create such work is painstaking & precise, the result of intense focus. Yet you'll come away feeling as if every line came naturally, spontaneously to Swinburne, a direct expression of his deepest feelings, thoughts & yearnings.

He has the reputation as a controversial poet, rebelling against the hypocritical moral & social strictures of his time. This is true, of course, although he was more the rebel in his poetry than in his day-to-day life. But he seems equally transgressive today, for quite a different reason: when shock & ugliness have become tired clichés, when imitative edginess is passed off as genuine rebellion, then it's actual beauty that becomes truly transgressive & taboo. Not the shoddy, mass-produced kitsch of a Thomas Kinkade or Hallmark cards, mind you, which has absolutely nothing to do with beauty -- no, Swinburne offers something very real, very moving -- an overgrown garden of roses (with thorns), rather than plastic flowers churned out by a factory.

For those who wish to lose themselves within a world of exquisite beauty -- one that's no stranger to grief or sorrow, either -- you can do no better than this very rich volume. Most highly recommended!
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Format: Paperback
How strange it is that a poet who burst on the scene like a thunderbolt in the 1860s is all but forgotten today. Perhaps we have Eliot to blame: his comments on Swinburne are certainly pervasive in all latter-day criticism on the poet. Others might say that the relevance of his poetry, with its devastating and blasphemous anti-christianity, its violent portrayal of atypical and obscene sexuality, and its recurring death-wish, is tied in with the period that created them.

Yet I beg to differ. Famous lines like "the supreme evil, God" and "There is no God found stronger than death and death is a sleep" may strike home more powerfully in the changing but still thoroughly Christian world of mid-nineteenth century England, but the sentiments expressed apply just as well to our times. Swinburne was, besides many other things, a poet of freedom at all costs, the heir of Blake, Shelley and the French Revolution. His tirades against Christianity are essentially tirades against oppression, against the soul's oppression of the body and the church's oppression of her followers, and as long as there are people who are not free, his voice is one to be heard.

Nor is it all blasphemy with Swinburne. In fact, perhaps the most highly rated poem in this volume is "The Triumph of Time", a long lament over lost love in which Swinburne displays all his technichal virtuosity without losing out in emotional content. Memorable lines may stand out, "I have woven a veil for the weeping face / whose lips have drunken the wine of tears", "Wrecked hope and passionate pain will grow / to tender things on a spring-tide sea", but singling them out is like singling out notes in Beethoven's Ninth.
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