Austen Saunders

Which Ulysses is the most heroic?

From ‘Ulysses’ by Alfred, Lord Tennyson                                     Come, my friends, ‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world. Push off, and sitting well in order smite The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths Of all the western stars, until I die. It may be that the

Alexander Pope, mock-epic, modernity and misogyny

from The Rape of the Lock And now, unveiled, the toilet stands displayed, Each silver vase in mystic order laid. First, robed in white, the nymph intent adores With head uncovered, the cosmetic powers. A heavenly image in the glass appears, To that she bends, to that her eyes she rears; The inferior priestess, at

Laughing at sin

Francis Quarles, An emblem on books ‘The world’s a book, writ by the eternal art Of the great Maker, printed in man’s heart; ‘Tis falsely printed, though divinely penned, And all the erratas will appear at the end.’ I like this witty little poem. The idea is simple – just as books have their printing

The Glorious Revolution and small ‘c’ conservatism

From a dialogue  between a non-juring clergyman and his wife by Edward ‘Ned’ Ward Wife: Why will you prove so obstinate, my dear, And rather choose to starve, than yield to swear? Why give up all the comforts of your life, Expose to want your children and your wife; Hug your own ruin through a holy

In defence of William Shakespeare’s nonsense

‘It was a lover and his lass’ from As You Like It It was a lover and his lass With a hey and a ho and a hey nonino, That o’er the green cornfield did pass In springtime, the only pretty ring-time, When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding Sweet lovers love the

Was Katherine Philips a lesbian love poet?

To my Excellent Lucasia , on our Friendship. I did not live until this time Crowned my felicity – When I could say without a crime I am not thine, but thee. This carcass breathed, and walked, and slept, So that the world believed There was a soul the motions kept; But they were all

Discovering poetry: how the Psalms made the English

Psalm 42, verses 1-8 Philip Sidney                                         Miles Coverdale Miles Coverdale’s translation of the psalms was among the first fruit of Henry VIII’s ambivalent reformation. The religion of Henry’s England was essentially Catholicism without the Pope; but he did permit the translation of scripture into English, and in 1535 Coverdale printed the first full English bible.

Discovering poetry: John Dryden, Jacobite superstar

From Dryden’s translation of Virgil’s Aeneid Arms and the man I sing who forced by fate And haughty Juno’s unrelenting hate Expelled and exiled left the Trojan shore. Long labours both by sea and land he bore And in the doubtful war; before he won The Latian realm and built the destined town, His banished

Discovering poetry: Henry VIII’s Camelot

‘Pastime with good company’, attributed to Henry VIII Pastime with good company I love and shall until I die. Grudge who list, but none deny, So God be pleased, thus live will I. For my pastance, Hunt, sing and dance, My heart is set. All goodly sport For my comfort Who shall me let? Youth

Why Dr Faustus’ dark obsessions still resonate

Faustus to Helen of Troy from Doctor Faustus, by Christopher Marlowe Was this the face that launched a thousand ships? And burnt the topless towers of Ilium? Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss. Her lips suck forth my soul, see where it flies: Come Helen, come give me my soul again. Here will

300 years of hating party politics

‘Whig and Tory Scratch and Bite’, by Aaron Hill Whig and Tory scratch and bite, Just as hungry dogs we see: Toss a bone ‘twixt two, they fight, Throw a couple, they agree. Tribal party politics are three-hundred years old in Britain. So is the fashion for satire which aspires to rise above it all.