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Characteristics of Modern British Poetry

Updated on November 19, 2015

The two main types

British poetry are mainly into two types, namely
Content and



The content of British poetry is made up of themes that come from the British background. The background insisted on order, and concerned itself exclusively with the human world. Nature did not have a place in their thoughts. People's personal feelings and freedom were greatly undermined.

From this background emerged poets like John Keats, S.T. Coleridge and William Wordsworth, three British poets. These poets revolted against this background. They emphasized as you remember, the importance of personal emotions and individual freedom. More importantly, however, they insisted that nature must be more closely examined because it played a crucial role in man's life, providing joy for him and sustaining him. This last aspect of their protest more than anything else accounts for their being romantic poets. Their themes thus concerned the beauty, harmony, peace and goodness of nature which they compared to man's world that lacked all these positive attributes.

They wrote and examined more closely values like riches, love and truth as for example in Coleridge's 'Elegy'. The poets demonstrated a lot of emotional attachment to their subject-matters and left no one in doubt as their response to the subjects they treated.

In matters of form that is style, it is a commonly accepted fact that every poet has style peculiar to him. With British poetry, unlike other poetry (eg latest naija gist Sunset in Biafra) however, we have seen that certain rules and conventions dictated how a poem should be written. There is, for example, only one way in which sonnet form can be written: the poems will have to have fourteen lines and it will have a rhyming scheme that corresponds to either how Petrarch (Petrarchan), Skakespere (Skakesparen) or Milton (Miltonic) rhymed their sonnets. Similarly ballad, lyrics and Odes - and other forms were written according to conventions that defined these forms.

A ballad, for example, had to be usually a long poem that told a story. Thus, you could not write a ballad that did not tell a story. It would not be a ballad but something else. Again, it was not possible to write a poem and call it a lyric if it was not intensely personal, imaginative, emotional in content and melodic.

An Introduction to English Poetry


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