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Victorian Poetry 40.3 (2002) 340-345

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Guide to the Year's Work


Margot K. Louis

Eager to provide readers of the year's reviews with as much information as soon as possible, I lavished on my 2000 review most of the riches of 2001; last year I discussed Catherine Maxwell's invaluable Swinburne chapter in The Female Sublime from Milton to Swinburne: Bearing Blindness (Manchester Univ. Press, 2001), along with Stephanie Kuduk's fine "'A Sword of a Song': Swinburne's Republican Aesthetics in Songs before Sunrise" (VS 43 [2001]: 253-78), Jette Kjeldsen's "What Can the Aesthetic Movement Tell us about Aesthetic Education?" (Journal of Aesthetic Education 35, no. 1 [Spring 2001]: 85-97), Nathan Cervo's "A Note on 'Swallow' in Swinburne's 'Itylus'" (VN 99 [Spring 2001]: 15-16), and Catherine [End Page 340] Maxwell's note "Swinburne and Sappho" (N&Q 246 [N.S. 48], no. 2 [June 2001]: 155-158). I will therefore say no more of these works. Of what remains among the Swinburneana of 2001, the most impressive essay is Renée V. Overholser's "'Our king back, Oh, upon English Souls!': Swinburne, Hopkins, and the Politics of Religion" (Religion and the Arts 5, nos. 1-2 [2001]: 81-107).

This carefully researched and well-considered article contributes significantly to the growing understanding of Swinburne's impact on Hopkins, and of the religio-political struggles at Oxford and (more largely) in nineteenth-century English culture. As Overholser explains:

Both Swinburne and Hopkins had begun life as High Church Anglicans, both underwent conversion to their new affiliations at Oxford, where they were students at Balliol within a few years of each other, and both developed their opposing religious and political views in the Oxford essay societies. In 1856 Swinburne was one of the founding members of Old Mortality, the undergraduate center for radical philosophical and political thought . . . . Eight years later Hopkins became a founder and active member of the Hexameron society, which was formed specifically "to preserve men . . . with good church feeling" from the "snare of such societies as the Old Mortality." (Overholser, p. 82)

Overholser shows how Hopkins' "first Jesuit poem in English," "Ad Mariam," rewrites and parodically inverts the first Chorus from Atalanta in Calydon, while Hopkins' "Rosa Mystica" similarly revises Swinburne's "Dolores" (pp. 84-86); other poems like "Moonrise," "The Woodlark," and "Penmaen Pool" also employ Swinburnean techniques. More significantly, in "The Wreck of the Deutschland" Hopkins "continues the conversion of Swinburnian forms, images, and language" to Catholic ends (p. 90), at once exploiting and challenging such political poems as Swinburne's "Hymn of Man," Ode on the Proclamation of the French Republic, and the Epilogue to Songs before Sunrise. Overholser fully and helpfully details the political context to which both Swinburne and Hopkins are responding (the Vatican Council of 1870 and the Prussian Kulturkampf in reaction to the Council's decrees); but she also analyzes the complex ways in which Hopkins appropriates and revises Swinburne's "providential political plots" (p. 92), his imagery, his forms, and even his language. Not only do "the two poets play in similar ways on the meanings of the same words, 'make and unmake,' 'utter,' 'master,' and 'thing' among them" (p. 92), but even what seems a typically Hopkinsian construction, the word "wild-worst" in l. 192 of the Deutschland, turns out to be borrowed from Swinburne's Ode [End Page 341] on the Proclamation of the French Republic, published four years earlier (p. 94).

Tensions between Swinburne and Hopkins reappear in Malcolm Hardman's strange and playful essay, "Faithful to the Greek?: Swinburnian Patterning (Hopkinsian Dapple)" (YES 32 [2002]: 19-35). The most valuable part of this article places the poets' understanding of language within the context of classical studies. According to Hardman, Swinburne accepts the concept of "the dappled" which is at the heart of the Ancient "Greek sense of patterning": in a dappled reality, it is impossible to claim that either light or dark is "the ultimate ground" of cosmic patterning: "Our logos, in a word, has not helped to make a knowable world; it has...


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