The Art of English Poetry, written by Edward Bysshe and first published in 1702, is a landmark work in English literary history. This book review will examine the content of the book, its historical significance, and its relevance to modern readers.
Content of the Book
The Art of English Poetry is divide into three parts. The first part, “Rules for making English Verse,” contains advice on the mechanics of poetry, such as meter, rhyme, and imagery. Bysshe provides examples from the works of prominent poets, including Shakespeare, Milton, and Dryden, to illustrate his points.
The second part of the book is a rhyming dictionary, which lists rhyming words for each letter of the alphabet. This section was intend to assist poets in finding suitable rhymes for their verse.
The third and final part of the book is a poetical commonplace book, which contains quotations from English poets arranged alphabetically by subject. Bysshe believed that this section would provide inspiration and guidance to aspiring poets.
The Art of English Poetry was the first English-language handbook for serious poets. It was model after earlier works such as Ravisius Textor’s Epitheta and Joannes Buchler’s Thesaurus Poeticus. The immediate predecessor of The Art of English Poetry was the English Parnassus, which was design for school use, whereas The Art of English Poetry was intend for the world of polite letters.
Bysshe’s book was highly influential in its time, providing guidance and inspiration to aspiring poets. Its influence can be seen in later works, such as Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language and Roget’s Thesaurus.
Relevance to Modern Readers
Despite being over 300 years old, The Art of English Poetry remains relevant to modern readers. The advice given by Bysshe on the mechanics of poetry is still applicable today, and his examples from the works of Shakespeare, Milton, and Dryden continue to be studied by students of literature.
Additionally, the rhyming dictionary and poetical commonplace book can still be useful resources for poets. While modern poets may have access to more comprehensive resources. Such as online rhyming dictionaries, the principles outlined in Bysshe’s book are still relevant.
Furthermore, the poetical commonplace book provides a fascinating glimpse into the literary culture of the early 18th century. Bysshe’s selections reveal the values and concerns of English poets of the time. It can help modern readers to better understand the context in which their works were written.
Critique of the Book
While The Art of English Poetry is a valuable resource for students of literature and aspiring poets, it is not without its flaws. The most significant of these is the book’s narrow focus on traditional English poetry.
Bysshe’s advice on the mechanics of poetry is primarily based on the works of Shakespeare, Milton. And Dryden, and he gives little consideration to other forms of poetry. Such as free verse or modernist poetry. This narrow focus may be limiting to modern readers. Who may wish to experiment with forms of poetry that were not widely accept in Bysshe’s time.
Additionally, the poetical commonplace book is heavily skew towards the works of male poets. While there are a few entries from female poets. Such as Aphra Behn and Anne Finch, the majority of quotations are from male poets. This gender imbalance reflects the literary culture of Bysshe’s time. But it may be off-putting to modern readers who are looking for a more diverse range of voices.
Overall, The Art of English Poetry is a valuable resource for students of literature and aspiring poets. Its advice on the mechanics of poetry. Its selections from the works of prominent English poets provide a solid foundation for those seeking to improve their understanding of traditional English poetry. However, the book’s narrow focus on traditional poetry. And its lack of diversity in terms of the poets quoted are significant flaws. Modern readers may find the book limiting in this regard.
Despite these flaws, The Art of English Poetry remains a significant work in the history of English literature. Its influence can be seen in later works, and its advice and selections continue to be study. And appreciated by those interested in the art of poetry.