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Herbert, Keats, and the Romantic Revival of Metaphysical Poetry by William R. Hooton, III Heard echoes are sweet; however those previously unheard are sweeter, as they give voice to literary and historical relationships that have been ignored or suppressed. Such has been the case with the influence of early seventeenth-century poets on the Romantics, a topic largely ignored by critics. For example, Lisa Low and Anthony John Harding have questioned whether the critical theory of strict New Historicists, such as Jerome McGann, discourages inter-era criticism. According to McGann, the historical critic should focus on the "relevant differentials" that distinguish both eras and the minds within them, thus preserving the "historical uniqueness of subject and object." For McGann, then, historical criticism "establishes the ground on which such differentials can be adequately and fully articulated ."1 McGann's method, however, does not preclude cross-period historical analysis, a point I intend to utilize in establishing how the historical text of Herbert enters into the Romantic era as a communicative , and thus political, object. McGann does not sequester the past from the present entirely; he rather requires that the past be interpreted as past within criticism of the age. Both the Romantic era and the seventeenth century suffered from serious political instability, and were filled with military actions and a heated dialogue of revolutionary and counter-revolutionary ideas. These significant historical similarities probably played a part in determining how readers in the Romantic period received seventeenthcentury literature, and "relevant differentials" help us understand the variety of responses to the reappearance of a volume like Herbert's Temple. A new effort to unearth connections between Romanticism and the "century of revolution," to use Christopher Hill's term, has taken place in the last few years. For example, three recent publications have focused on historical, political, and literary relationships between writers of the two ages. A special edition of The Wordsworth Circle provides many new insights into political connections between the revolutionary-minded Romantic era and the seventeenth-century.2 An entire issue of the John Donne Journal offers an excellent discussion 34William R. Hooton, ?? centering on the reception of the literature of the Metaphysicals during the nineteenth century.3 And Milton, the Metaphysicals, and Romanticism, a collection of essays edited by Lisa Low and Anthony John Harding, opens up a dialogue between Romantic and seventeenthcentury literature that should prove enriching for critics of both eras.4 Beyond these fine volumes, an expanded examination of the direct influence of specific seventeenth-century authors on Romantic writers is needed. Emphasis must be placed on how the Romantics "read" their predecessors and in what sociopolitical context their reading and reaction takes place. As a particular case, I will examine the influence of Herbert's "Jordan" (I) on several odes of John Keats. I hope to show that his use of Herbert's ideas and poetry underscores Keats's political liberalism, religious non-conformity, and poetic philosophy in the highly-charged social climate in which he wrote. Furthermore, given the general tendency of scholars to ascribe Herbert's nineteenth-century "revival" to the 1835 Pickering edition, I will attempt to show that Herbert's revival began much earlier, and trace the beginnings of the Romantic recovery of Herbert's work. In doing so, I will show how the politics of the Romantic era facilitated the recovery of Herbert and led to the type of intertextual echoes of Herbert's "Jordan" (I) found in Keats's odes. Herbert in the Romantic Age: The Context for a Revival The poetry of Herbert and the other Metaphysicals enjoyed a revival of interest during the Romantic period. As Arthur H. Nethercot argued long ago, poems written by many of the "elder poets" (Coleridge's term) had been reprinted in eighteenth-century miscellanies, increasing their availability to a growing antiquarian readership and contributing to a general rise in their reputation.' Although the general reading public tended to ignore most Metaphysical poetry, eighteenth-century miscellanies containing Herbert's work kept his reputation alive among many religious readers who enjoyed what they perceived as his pious sentiment. His name and work were mentioned in numerous sermons during the late eighteenth century, whileJohn Wesley...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-1192
Print ISSN
0161-7435
Pages
pp. 33-57
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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