In the 19th century, poets explored a wide range of topics. They wrote about love, social issues, religion, and politics. The Victorian Era was a time of great change in England, with significant economic growth to accompany all the turmoil.
In this era we see some of the most well-known poets emerge: Alfred Tennyson, Gerard Manly Hopkins, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning among them. Writers such as Robert Browning also thrived during this period because they were able to combine the realism, metaphysical and romanticism styles.
Most Victorian poets never achieved widespread popularity during their own life because many of them were writing about philosophy and difficult concepts.
However, today these poems (and this era in particular) are valued for teaching us how to appreciate nature in art. They also showed us that poetry was not an exclusive form of literature. Rather, all men and women are capable of writing words that can move each other to tears of joy.
What Is Victorian Poetry?
This poetry refers to poems written around the time of the reign of Queen Victoria in the 19th Century. It is divided into two main groups: High Victorian Poetry and the Pre-Raphaelites.
The High Victorian Poetry movement was a time of great change and growth in English literature. Poets such as Alfred Tennyson, Robert Browning, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning pushed the boundaries of traditional poetry, creating works that were more lyrical and emotive. They also focused on capturing the essence of human experience, exploring topics such as love, loss, and grief.
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was a group of artists and writers who formed in England in the mid-19th century. They were dedicated to creating art that was true to nature, and they rejected the artificiality of the Romantic movement. Many of their works were inspired by Italian Renaissance art, which is why they’re often called the “Pre-Raphaelites”. Some of their most famous members include Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, and John Everett Millais.
Key Features Of Victorian Poetry
Sensory Imagery: Victorian poets tended to write about nature, which was a popular subject at the time. They were especially interested in literature’s ability to capture sensory detail.
Chronological Narrative: Poetry during this time developed from the tradition of ballads, which were often chronological narratives that told stories through verse. Victorian poetry is characterized by strict meter and rhyme schemes, which gave it a more refined and elevated tone. Example Poem: “The Lady of Shalott” by Lord Alfred Tennyson
Sentimentality: Many poets were interested in capturing this complexity, delving into concepts like love, grief, and loss.
Fables: Victorian poetry is often compared to fables because it makes moral or social observations through stories. Example Poem: “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe
Forward thinking: This era was characterized by new ideas about science, philosophy, and religion. This is why Victorian poetry features more complex language that focused on abstract concepts. Example Poem: “Daffodils” by William Wordsworth.
Victorian Poems For Children
Authors began writing poems for children in the early 1800s. These poems don’t always make sense and use a mix of real and made-up words to amuse and entertain children they are a great way to introduce Victorian poems to children.
Here are some good examples of poetry from this period:
A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson – This collection of poetry became a standard for English-speaking children in the late 19th century. The poems were originally written to be enjoyed by both adults and children, but they became very popular amongst young readers. Today we still read many of these poems in school (you might even remember some of the nursery rhymes from your childhood).
Pictures by Charles Dickens – This collection of poetry is composed of 26 poems that are accompanied by illustrations. They’re all examples of high Victorian poetry with sophisticated language and references to classical literature. Many adults still enjoy reading these poems, so they’ve become a favorite among parents who want their children to learn sophisticated language without the use of heavy books.
The Sugar-Candy Elephant written by Frank Stockton – This is a story about an elephant who gets lost in the jungle after drinking too much water. It’s a simple tale that’s meant to be used as an introduction to reading poetry, and it’s accompanied by beautiful illustrations that were done in a Pre-Raphaelite style.
The Adventures of Ulysses written by James Baldwin – This is another story about Greek mythology, which is why it was very popular during the Victorian era. It follows the adventures of Ulysses throughout his journey home from the Trojan War