The Matter with Verse: What Victorian Poetry Wasn’t, and WasArticle
The status of verse as a minor partner in poetry’s nobler enterprise is as generally untheorized in principle as it is as widely acknowledged in practice – and for reasons stemming from a certain ambivalence, which we still share with the Victorians, about the formal poetic medium itself. Poetry nowhere exposes this ambivalence more clearly than when flaunting its dependency on verse’s material mediation. Victorian poems written for, or as, inscription (W. Morris, R. Browning, W. M. Praed); poems deriving their titles from such structural ingredients as stanzas or lines (Browning, M. Arnold); poems that feature or elicit the perusal of verse by paralexic means (C. Rossetti, A. Tennyson): poems like these can, by the very candor of their formal concession, vex the distinction between mere verse and the higher poetry that was supposed to transcend it.
verse, media, inscription, poetic form, Victorian
Victorian Verse, ed. Behlman & Mazel (forthcoming 2021)
March 02, 2020
This is a pre-publication (indeed pre-editing) version of my article.