Samuel Johnson Poetry: British Analysis
Samuel Johnson wrote two major poetic works: London and The Vanity of Human Wishes. The remaining verse divides into the play Irene, poems in Latin, miscellaneous verse in English, and translations from Greek and Latin. London was the most popular of Johnson’s poems during his life, and it remains the most accessible to modern audiences. Its language is clear and its images straightforward. Like London, The Vanity of Human Wishes is an imitation of the satires of Juvenal, a Latin poet of the first and second centuries. It is widely regarded as Johnson’s poetic masterpiece and is Johnson’s effort to convey the essence of the Christian ethos through verse and imagery. The density of its images and ideas makes The Vanity of Human Wishes difficult to interpret even for experienced critics. Irene, on the other hand, yields readily to interpretation through its strong plot, although its verse, while competent, is unremarkable.
Johnson customarily composed his poems mentally before committing them to paper. London was composed in this manner; it was written on large sheets of paper in two columns—the left being for the first draft and the right for revisions. Johnson’s poetry is firmly in the Augustan tradition, typified in the eighteenth century by the works of Pope, Jonathan Swift, and Joseph Addison; London is characteristically...
(The entire section is 2627 words.)
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