Before committing to the composition of an essay on the topics described, the student may wish to examine an anthology of English poetry such as The Norton Anthology of English Literature because the Contents pages of this book lists British poets under the period in which these poets lived and wrote. Often a period such as the Romantic era, the Victorian age, or the Contemporary period appeals to a student. In addition, an examination of random poets in the anthology may attract a student to a certain one. Another thing a student may do is look through a textbook at the selections of poems. If one appeals to the student, then a paper can be written on this poet or his/her period.
- Here are some Romantic poets who are often popular:
In the Romantic Period, there are several famous British poets who appeal to many readers, such as William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, George Gordon, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and John Keats. Their poetry has a lyricism, beautiful language and images, and inspiring words and ideas. Of course, the odes of Keats—"Ode to a Nightingale," "Ode on a Grecian Urn," and "To Autumn"—are perennial favorites. Shelley's odes are beautiful and inspiring as well. Another beautiful poem is Lord Byron's "She Walks in Beauty." Written to be set to music, the lyricism of this poem is compelling. Here is the first stanza:
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies:
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
This stanza exemplifies the beauty of Byron's language with the metaphors, simile, alliteration, imagery and lovely figures of speech.
Of course, the odes are also lyrical poems; their verses pay homage to a person, a quality, or a thing. Without doubt, the odes of Keats are inspiring. "Ode on a Grecian Urn" exemplifies the chiefly emotional aspect of Romantic poetry. Keats writes in this ode of the spirit that runs through all things, demonstrating that true beauty is eternal. In the urn, specifically, this beauty is self-contained.
- Here are some Victorian poets who are popular
Another period that affords beautiful poetry is the Victorian era. For instance, Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese are lovely poems, especially Number 43, "How Do I Love Thee?" Her husband, Robert Browning, has exemplified well the possibilities of the dramatic monologue in "My Last Duchess." Most characteristic of Browning's poetry is the energy in his verses. Such buoyancy as Browning's imparts to his writing a creative vitality.
Christina Rossetti was a Victorian poet who wrote pure lyric, narrative verse, and ballads, as well as inspiring devotional verse. Gerald Manley Hopkins's "sprung rhythm" gives his poetry distinctive design. In this new kind of rhythm, lines have a given number of stresses, but the number of unstressed syllables is highly variable. His "Pied Beauty" exemplifies this "sprung rhythm":
Glory be to God for dappled things
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim....
Hopkins' poetry is often compared to modern poetry because of its density, difficulty, and unconventional rhythm.
Certainly, the possibilities for a 3000 word essay are limitless. Writing about the time period is also an interesting choice as there are critical essays written about the characteristics of different periods. (See the links below. Anthologies also contain evaluations of the periods.)