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The Best Poems of the English Language: From Chaucer Through Robert Frost Paperback – August 7, 2007

4.6 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Harold Bloom is a Sterling Professor of the Humanities at Yale University and a former Charles Eliot Norton Professor at Harvard. His more than thirty books include The Best Poems of the English Language, The Art of Reading Poetry, and The Book of J. He is a MacArthur Prize Fellow, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the recipient of many awards and honorary degrees, including the Academy’s Gold Medal for Belles Lettres and Criticism, the International Prize of Catalonia, and the Alfonso Reyes Prize of Mexico.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1008 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (August 7, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060540427
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060540425
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,292 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mr. Hamish Stuart Black on June 7, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Forty years ago, I found my first important anthology of English Poetry, Ezra Pound's "Confucious to Cummings", in which I discovered the poetry I still consider my first choices in the English language, particularly Arthur Golding's translation of Ovid's "Metamorphoses", and many other poets, including, of course, Cummings. That great critic, Harold Bloom's Anthology has the same feel, a superior range of poets, whose work is of the very best in English verse in his judgement .Most of the poets have extensive, very helpful introductory paragraphs, placing them in their particular age - written by the best teacher - I emphasise that last word - of English Literature to-day. If English Poetry interests you at all, you will hugely enjoy this book - it will give you hour upon hour of intense pleasure, heavy though it is.
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For one reason or another, I have been recently reading (and reviewing) poetry collections--from Romantics on. And a review by one of my Amazon friends led me to purchase and enjoy this collection. The author, Harold Bloom, is an eminent scholar, the Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University. He is a MacArthur Prize Fellow and author of numerous volumes. In his Introduction, he observes that (Page xxvii) "My chronological limits are set by Geoffrey Chaucer, born around 1343, and Hart Crane, born in 1899." There is a useful introductory essay, "The Art of Reading Poetry," that would be of interest to those who take poetry seriously. As Bloom says (Page 29): "The art of reading poetry is an authentic training in the augmentation of consciousness, perhaps the most authentic of healthy modes."

But it is the poetry that is at the center of this fat volume (the last poem, by Hart Crane, ends on page 959; I don't know about the reader, but I like big collections of poetry!

In high school, we read Chaucer, and I still remember the first few lines (repeated in this work) of "The Canterbury Tales."

"Whan that Aprill with his shoures sote
The droghte of Marche hath perced to the rote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour."

Christopher Marlowe's "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love":

"Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods or steepy mountain yields."

There is a healthy collection of Shakespeare, but since I recently reviewed a volume of his sonnets, no need for overkill here. But the selections do represent Shakespeare's art nicely.
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I find myself picking up this anthology again and again, which I guess means that it is high time to give my 2-cents about it. I have found this anthology an absolute joy to use for a number of different reasons.

From a book-lovers perspective: the pages are thick, and made with nice paper. I am reviewing the paperback edition, and even after toting it all across the United States for a year or two (I travel a fair bit) the integrity of the pages is still intact. The binding is not half bad, either. I did not make a point to break it in and I have not run into any problems as of yet. Also, (and this is a huge perk) the formatting of the pages is also very nice, making it possible to encounter these poets without having to battle with small font or bulky annotations. One will be surprised at the level to which certain poets speak to you once they have been liberated from the confines of onion-thin anthology pages and tiny, cramped fonts.

From a poetry-lovers perspective: the book attempts to be the perfect collection, and in many ways succeeds. The old favorites are all here: Chaucer (well-glossed for those unfamiliar with Middle English), Milton (with an indispensable introduction and treatment of Lycidas by Bloom), Shakespeare (surprisingly well represented) as well as some more modern favorites like Dickinson (whom I finally feel I understand after reading Bloom's introduction to her poetry) and Hart Crane (for whose poetry Bloom make a passionate appreciation) are all here. Bloom makes a valiant attempt in the modern poetry section to sort out the poetry that he thinks will ultimately last over time. Unfortunately, one wishes that he would have gone beyond the death of Robert Frost. I would really have loved to hear his more detailed appraisals of W.H.
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Three things caused me to buy this book. The first was the inclusion of two Emily Bronte poems by Professor Bloom: `Stanzas' and `Last Lines'. The second was the inclusion of T S Eliot's `The Wasteland' and the third was that 108 poets are represented in this book.

Professor Bloom selected as his chronological limits Geoffrey Chaucer, born around 1343 and Hart Crane born in 1899. Within these parameters is a wealth of British and American poetry to cover a wide range of moods and tastes.

There is something intrinsically personal about anthologies of poetry. Those who enjoy poetry will select favourites based on all manner of criteria. My personal criteria owe little to critical objectivity and much more to subjective assessments of evocative language and the metrics of rhythm. So, I've come to love the fierce assertion of the `Last Lines'. Here is the first verse:
`No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the world's storm-troubled sphere;
I see Heaven's glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear.'

And also to love, for different reasons the self-doubt echoing through `The Waste Land', which starts with The Burial of the Dead:
`April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.'

It would be remiss of me not to mention some of the other poets included:
Edmund Spenser
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
George Gordon, Lord Byron
Henry David Thoreau
Thomas Hardy
Wilfred Owen
and 100 others.

Professor Bloom has included an essay on `The Art of Reading Poetry' together with a range of headnotes on poets and poems. If you enjoy poetry anthologies, this may well be a book for your collection as well.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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