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Swinburne

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SWINBURNE, Algernon Charles, Eng lish poet: b. London, 5 April 1837; d. 10 April 1909. He was the son of Admiral Charles Henry Swinburne, of an old Northumbrian family, and Jane Henrietta, a daughter of the 3d Earl of Ashburnham, a woman of high culture who exercised a marked influence on the intellectual development of the poet during his earliest years. From Eton he went to Balliol College, Oxford, where his time was chiefly given to the study of Greek poetry and in less degree of the literatures of France and Italy. He wrote, also, for the Undergraduate Papers, a student publication, and seems to have pro duced a considerable body of verse which, how ever, he later characterized as worthless. He left Oxford in 1860 without taking a degree and traveled for a short time on the Con tinent, visiting Walter Savage Lawlor in Florence, for whom he entertained a great ad miration. The year of his leaving Oxford was marked by the publication of 'The Queen Mother) and (Rosamond,' which, written in the Elizabethan manner, revealed little metric talent and aroused practically no attention. In 1862 Swinburne settled in London, in the house of Dante Rossetti. In 1865 appeared his first and, according to many, his masterpiece, 'Ata lanta in Calydon,' which was hailed as giving promise of a poetic genius of the highest rank. In the (Atalanta) Swinburne displayed for the first time that magical mastery of metrical form in which, in all English literature, he is equaled by Shelley and Milton alone, if by them. In the celebrated choruses of the poem the Eng lish language is molded to an exquisiteness of lyric melody which might almost have been deemed impossible in a vernacular dominated by the stiff imperium of the Iambic verse. 'Chastelard,' a play dealing with an incident in the life of Mary Stuart, appeared shortly after 'Atalanta,' but was received with marked disappointment. The next year, however, carne the 'Poems and Ballads,' which made Swin burne at once a figure of national and inter national note and the centre of a hurricane of criticism aroused by what might be called the ethical tone of the volume. The 'Poems and Ballads> showed the art of the author of at its best, but they sang of themes abhorred by middle class Anglo-Saxon morality, in a manner undeniably thorough. The ani mal side of sexual passion was therein depicted with a fervidness of tone and a wealth of fleshly imagery which subjected the poet to the most virulent denunciation as a glorifier of pre Christian morality. As a matter of fact the

`Poems•and Ballads) were chiefly intended as a protest against English Philistinism and do not in any way represent the ethical standards of the poet, whose mind on the contrary turns most often to the contemplation of love ideal ized, however much material beauty may in spire him. The taint of Anacreontism has nevertheless lingered in Swinburne's reputation and is possibly the most salient characteristic of his work to the casual reader. 'A Song of Italy) which appeared in 1867 definitely marks Swinburne's entrance into the field of political lyricism. He sang liberty with the same pas sionate utterance,' though not with the same Poetic success, with which he had sung of earthly love, and the theme is continued in his 'Ode on the Proclamation of the French Re public,) 'Songs before Sunrise' (1871) and 'Songs of Two Nations.' About this time he fell under the influence of. Victor Hugo, whom he regarded with a feeling amounting almost to adoration, and indeed, in the various phases of his development, the want of measured re straint is striking. 'Bothwell) (1874) is the second part of a trilogy dealing with the for tunes of the unhappy Scottish queen, of winch the first part is the (Chastelard,) already men tioned, and the last, 'Mary Stuart,' published in 1881. In 1876 came a tragedy formed after Greek models and revealing, as (Atalanta) had done, his marvelously sym pathetic insight into the ancient Hellenic spirit. A second series of 'Poems and Ballads) ap peared in 1878 and 'Songs of the Springtides' in 1880. 'Tristram of Lyonesse' (1882) con tains some of Swinburne's happiest harmonic effects; the heroic couplet is there freed from its almost mathematical rigidity and precision and made to assume a vague softness of cadence that brings it near to the more flexible forms of lyric verse. Swinburne's work after 1882 shows no artistic progress as a whole. In all the perfect manner is apparent and the poet's resources never fail — and in some there are passages and sketches of an exquisite beauty equaling his best work; but beyond the height which he had earlier attained, he does not go. These works are 'A Century of (1883) ; 'Marino Faliero,' a tragedy (1885) ; a tragedy (1887) ; 'Poems and Ballads,) 3d series (1889) ; 'The (1892); 'Astrophel' (1894) ; 'The Tale of (1896), and 'Rosamond, Queen of the Lombards) (1899) ; of these Balen perhaps ranks nearest to the great works of his earlier period.

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