Monday, 5 October 2020

Real, Classic Poetry on Radio 4!

 Yesterday afternoon Radio 4 broadcast a drama, written by Michael Simmons Roberts, about Milton's Lycidas. What's more, there's a second one coming, about Tennyson's In Memoriam A.H.H. Yes, real poetry – and by dead white European males – on Radio 4! Can such things be? it seems they can, and I'm delighted.
   The Milton drama told the background story of the composition of Lycidas pretty well, with plentiful quotation from the poem. Young Milton was perhaps a little miscast, coming over as too lightweight and, indeed, modern-sounding – but who's quibbling? This was a welcome foray into real, classic poetry on a network whose output on that front is largely banal and/or crashingly 'woke' and 'diverse'.
   For myself, I've never warmed to Lycidas, which, for all its technical brilliance, seems to be a textbook demonstration of how the strictly correct classical elegy doesn't work in English: our best elegies are warmer and looser, far less 'classical' – notably Gray's great Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, and indeed In Memoriam. Samuel Johnson was no fan of Lycidas, distrusting its artificiality, and opining that 'it is not to be considered as the effusion of real passion; for passion runs not after remote allusions and obscure opinions. Passion plucks no berries from the myrtle and ivy, nor calls upon Arethuse and Mincius, nor tells of rough satyrs and fauns with cloven heel. Where there is leisure for fiction there is little grief.' A sweeping judgment, as so often with the good Doctor, but there is truth in it.
   Anyway, I'm looking forward to In Memoriam


  1. Gonna read lycidas. Maybe doctor Johnson was Very paradised, dont you think?

  2. Just read It. Maybe It is my fault but I think that lycidas is cold and emotionless

  3. I quite agree Ricardo. In Memoriam is another matter...