Epic and Empire in Nineteenth-Century Britain

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Cambridge University Press, 2006 M06 15
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In the nineteenth century, epic poetry in the Homeric style was widely seen as an ancient and anachronistic genre, yet Victorian authors worked to recreate it for the modern world. Simon Dentith explores the relationship between epic and the evolution of Britain's national identity in the nineteenth century up to the apparent demise of all notions of heroic warfare in the catastrophe of the First World War. Paradoxically, writers found equivalents of the societies which produced Homeric or Northern epics not in Europe, but on the margins of empire and among its subject peoples. Dentith considers the implications of the status of epic for a range of nineteenth-century writers, including Walter Scott, Matthew Arnold, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, William Morris and Rudyard Kipling. He also considers the relationship between epic poetry and the novel and discusses late nineteenth-century adventure novels, concluding with a brief survey of epic in the twentieth century.

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Contents

I
16
II
26
III
48
IV
64
V
84
VI
105
VII
127
VIII
150
IX
175
X
196

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Page 74 - O Caledonia ! stern and wild, Meet nurse for a poetic child ! Land of brown heath and shaggy wood, Land of the mountain and the flood...
Page 48 - Seemed to have known a better day ; The harp, his sole remaining joy, Was carried by an orphan boy. The last of all the Bards was he, Who sung of, Border chivalry; For, well-a-day!
Page 179 - Seat; But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth, When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!
Page 51 - Breathes there the man, with soul so dead, Who never to himself hath said, This is my own, my native land! Whose heart hath ne'er within him burn'd, As home his footsteps he hath turn'd, From wandering on a foreign strand!
Page 103 - I do distrust the poet who discerns No character or glory in his times, And trundles back his soul five hundred years, Past moat and drawbridge, into a castle-court, To sing — oh, not of lizard or of toad Alive i...
Page 119 - Never flinch, But still, unscrupulously epic, catch Upon the burning lava of a song The full-veined, heaving, double-breasted Age : That, when the next shall come, the men of that May touch the impress with reverent hand, and say " Behold, — behold the paps we all have sucked ! This bosom seems to beat still, or at least It sets ours beating : this is living art, Which thus presents and thus records true life.

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