The poetry produced by the British poets of the 17th and 18th centuries is considered to be among the best ever written. But many general readers feel intimidated by the language or structure of the poetry, and so tend to shy away from enjoying these poets and their works. Nelson takes readers on a tour of the major works and figures of 17th- and 18th-century British poetry, explaining major themes, devices, styles, language, rhythm, sound, tone, imagery, form, and meaning. Beginning each chapter with a sketch of the poet's life and career, the author then looks at five or six representative works, helping readers understand and appreciate the beauty of poetry itself. From Donne and Jonson, to Pope, Swift, and Burns, the book offers excerpts of the poetry these artists crafted, and carefully examines the various attributes that have helped to establish them as some of the greatest of all time. Writing in clear, accessible language, Nelson also introduces general poetry terms to the novice, providing examples and explanations where necessary. Readers will no longer feel intimidated by difficult poetry.
Instead, they will walk away with the tools they need to read, understand, and appreciate these titans of British letters.
Nicolas H. Nelson is Professor Emeritus of English at Indiana University. He has published several articles on poetry and philosophy.