Restoration Poetry Analysis

Restoration Poetry

(Critical Explorations in Poetry)

The Restoration period (1660-1700) takes its name from the return of Charles II to the throne of Great Britain after that nation’s experiment with republican government. As an indication of the illegitimacy of the Commonwealth, Charles II’s reign was dated from 1649, when his father, Charles I, was executed, rather than 1660, the year he assumed power. Just as official records recognize no break between reigns, so poetry in the latter part of the seventeenth century is in many ways continuous with what preceded it. Jacobean and Caroline poets such as Ben Jonson (1573-1637), Robert Herrick (1591-1674), and Sir John Suckling (1609-1642) remained influential. The two most important Restoration poets, John Dryden (1631-1700) and John Milton (1608-1674), began their careers before 1660. While the Metaphysical impulse of John Donne and George Herbert was largely spent by the time Charles II came to the throne, the Greco-Roman classics still served as models and ideals. Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667, 1674) is Vergilian, and Dryden’s satires owe much to Juvenal, some of whose works Dryden translated. Nonetheless, during the forty years of the Restoration period, new verse forms emerged, older genres flourished and changed, and writers penned some of the greatest English poems ever written.