Sunday, 11 July 2010

Blanco White: One Sonnet

One of poetry's one-hit wonders was born on this day in 1775 - Joseph Blanco White (aka Jose Maria Blanco Crespo). Born in Seville, he was intended for the priesthood and got as far as ordination before religious doubts led him to exile himself in the more accommodating atmosphere of England, where he became a Unitarian and drifted into the arms of the dear old Church of England. A friend of Thomas Arnold and Newman, among others, he published various works of theology and travel which did well enough in their time. However, it was one sonnet - described by Coleridge, its dedicatee, as 'the most grandly conceived sonnet in the language' - that ensured his name would live, if only in anthologies of English poetry. The sonnet, variously titled Night and Death or To Night, is indeed quite overpoweringly grand for a sonnet, and extraordinarily smooth, harmonious and symmmetrical. It's still impressive - but would you read it again? Not very often, I surmise...

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