Arthur Symons

Arthur William Symons was a British poet, critic and magazine editor.

Essay on Henrik Ibsen

‘Everything which I have created as a poet,’ Ibsen said in a letter, ‘has had its origin in a frame of mind and a situation in life; I never wrote because I had, as they say, found a good subject.’ Yet his chief aim as a dramatist has been to set character in independent action, …

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Essay on Thomas Hardy

He has a kind of naked face, in which you see the brain always working, with an almost painful simplicity—just saved from being painful by a humorous sense of external things, which becomes also a kind of intellectual criticism. He is a fatalist, and he studies the workings of fate in the chief vivifying and …

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Essay on Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Rossetti’s phrase about poetry, that it must be ‘amusing’; his ‘commandment’ about verse translation, ‘that a good poem shall not be turned into a bad one’; his roughest and most random criticisms about poets, are as direct and inevitable as his finest verse. Only Coleridge among English poets has anything like the same definite grasp …

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Essay on George Meredith

Meredith has always suffered from the curse of too much ability. He has both genius and talent, but the talent, instead of acting as a counterpoise to the genius, blows it yet more windily about the air. He has almost all the qualities of a great writer, but some perverse spirit in his blood has …

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Essay on Welsh Poetry

There is certainly a reason for at least suggesting to those who concern themselves, for good or evil, with Celtic literature, what Celtic literature really is when it is finest; what a ‘reaction against the despotism of fact’ really means; what ‘natural magic’ really means, and why the phrase ‘Celtic glamour’ is perhaps the most …

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Essay on Sarojini Naidu

It was at my persuasion that The Golden Threshold was published. The earliest of the poems were read to me in London in 1896, when the writer was seventeen; the later ones were sent to me from India in 1904, when she was twenty-five; and they belong, I think, almost wholly to those two periods. As they …

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Essay on Gustave Flaubert

Salammbô is an attempt, as Flaubert, himself his best critic, has told us, to ‘perpetuate a mirage by applying to antiquity the methods of the modern novel.’ By the modern novel he means the novel as he had reconstructed it; he means Madame Bovary. That perfect book is perfect because Flaubert had, for once, found exactly the …

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Essay on Edgar Allan Poe

The poems of Edgar Allan Poe are the work of a poet who thought persistently about poetry as an art, and would have reduced inspiration to a method. At their best they are perfectly defined by Baudelaire, when he says of Poe’s poetry that it is a thing ‘deep and shimmering as dreams, mysterious and …

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Essay on Emily Bronte

This was a woman young and passionate,Loving the Earth, and loving most to beWhere she might be alone with liberty;Loving the beasts, who are compassionate;The homeless moors, her home; the bright elateWinds of the cold dawn; rock and stone and tree;Night, bringing dreams out of eternity;And memory of Death’s unforgetting date.She too was unforgetting: has …

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Essay on John Donne

Biography as a fine art can go no further than Walton’s Life and Death of Dr. Donne. From the ‘good and virtuous parents’ of the first line to the ‘small quantity of Christian dust’ of the last, every word is the touch of a cunning brush painting a picture. The picture lives, and with so vivid …

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