Who are four Victorian era poets and what were their contributions to Victorian Poetry?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Victorian Period is characterized by multiplicity and extreme variety of style and belief. Four renowned Victorian poets are Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, Gerald Manley Hopkins, and Thomas Hardy.

  • Alfred Lord Tennyson

Although Matthew Arnold criticized Tennyson as being without intellectual power because he had no unifying theme, others have praised him for his different types of poetry. Still, Tennyson shared with the other poets of his age a sense of estrangement. Perhaps, he is most notable for his advanced techniques of symbolism. For instance, he made use of the technique of symbolic situation, a method close to allegory as in "The Voyage" and "The Holy Grail," which represent the course of spiritual life.
Another long poem,"Maud," achieved psychological naturalism and reflects with poetic brilliance and mellifluous tone the social discontent of mid-century.  

  • Robert Browning

Browning's career is often defined as the accomplishment of dramatic poetry, a form of poetry which dominated the twentieth century. Browning broke from the traditional poetic confession of the Romantics and moved to the dramatic monologue. "My Last Duchess" stands as an excellent example of such a monologue. In addition, Browning mastered ironic understatement and his diction strips away the superfluous, leaving the essential, a style that became characteristic of the twentieth century.

  • Gerald Manley Hopkins

Hopkins is, perhaps, best known for his "Sprung Rhythm." This is a pattern in which there are a determined number of stresses, but the number and disposition of unstressed syllables are widely variable. Hopkins himself has said that he chose this meter because it was "the native and natural rhythm of speech," and because it retained the movement of song. This metric is flexible and catches the changing emotions of experience in a natural ways. It scans by accents or stresses alone, without concern for the number of syllables. Such poems as "God's Grandeur" and Pied Beauty" exemplify this "sprung rhythm."

  • Thomas Hardy

Known as the "good gray poet," Thomas Hardy's style is rugged and idiosyncratic, but it is always sensitive though unsophisticated. His education was in a country environment where he most focused on the bare essentials. Not urbane and sophisticated, Hardy was intent upon the central passions of life, which provide his poems their symbolic wealth.

Perhaps better than many other Victorian poets, Thomas expressed the doubt and despair of his age, but used characterization more than illustrative incidents to do this. Influenced by ballads and folksongs, Hardy experimented with different meters and stanza forms. In addition, he liked to employ "rough-hewn rhythms and colloquial diction." 


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