Austen Saunders

The Atlantic, the ocean that made the modern world

Just as the classical world was built around the Mediterranean, the modern world was built around the Atlantic. The Romans called the Med ‘Mare Nostrum’ – Our Sea. The Atlantic, on the other hand, was a place of contest for centuries. European nations fought for supremacy and plunder upon it, traded for wealth across it,

Do you wish you were far from the madding crowd?

From ‘Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard’ ‘The curfew tolls the knell of parting day, The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea, The ploughman homeward plods his weary way, And leaves the world to darkness and to me. Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight, And all the air a solemn stillness holds,

William Rowley and the death of Prince Henry – poetry

‘To the Grave’ Unclasp thy womb, thou mortuary shrine, And take the worst part of the best we had. Thou hast no harbourage for things divine, That thou had’st any part was yet too bad. Graves, for the grave, are fit, unfit for thee Was our sweet branch of youthful royalty. Thou must restore each

The shock value of John Wilmot, earl of Rochester

‘The Maidenhead’ Have you not in a chimney seen A sullen faggot wet and green, How coyly it receives the heat, And at both ends does fume and sweat? So fares it with the harmless maid When first upon her back she’s laid; But the well-experienced dame, Cracks and rejoices in the flame. Rochester is

William Shakespeare and the pursuit of human happiness

‘Under the greenwood tree’ from As You Like It AMIENS: Under the greenwood tree Who loves to lies with me, And turn his merry note Uno the sweet bird’s throat, Come hither, come hither, come hither. Here shall he see No enemy, But winter and rough weather. Who doth ambition shun, And loves to live i’th’

The poetic lies against Old Ironsides

‘How the War Began’ by Thomas Jordan, 1663. ‘I’ll tell you how the war began: The holy ones assembled (For so they called their party then Whose consciences so trembled). They pulled the bishops from their seats, And set up every widgeon; The Scotch were sent for to do feats With oat-cakes and religion. They

John Cleveland: discovering poetry

‘Epitaph on the Earl of Strafford’ ‘Here lies wise and valiant dust, Huddled up ‘twixt fit and just: STRAFFORD, who was hurried hence ‘Twixt treason and convenience. He spent his time here in a mist; A Papist, yet a Calvinist. His prince’s nearest joy, and grief; He had, yet wanted all relief. The prop and

The delights of sin

Epigram 7 from The letting of humours blood in the head-vaine ‘Speak gentlemen, what shall we do to day? Drink some brave health upon the Dutch carouse? Or shall we to the Globe and see a play? Or visit Shoreditch for a bawdy house? Let’s call for cards or dice, and have a game. To

Discovering poetry: The world according to Ben Jonson

from Timber ‘There is a Necessity all men should love their country: He that professeth the contrary, may be delighted with his words, but his heart is there. Natures that are hardened to evil, you shall sooner break, then make straight; they are like poles that are crooked, and dry: there is no attempting them.

Discovering poetry: Charles Cotton’s rebellion

Stanzas from ‘The Retirement’ Farewell thou busy world, and may We never meet again: Here I can eat, and sleep, and pray, And do more good in one short day, Than he who his whole age out-wears Upon thy most conspicuous theatres, Where nought but vice and vanity do reign. Good God! how sweet are

Discovering poetry: James Thomson’s patriotic poetry

‘Rule Britannia’ When Britain first, at Heaven’s command,     Arose from out the azure main, This was the charter of the land,     And guardian angels sung this strain:  ‘Rule, Britannia, rule the waves;  Britons never will be slaves.’ The nations, not so blest as thee     Must, in their turns, to tyrants fall; While

Discovering poetry: Philip Sidney’s rising star

Astrophil and Stella 1 Loving in truth, and fain my love in verse to show, That she, dear she, might take some pleasure of my pain: Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know, Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain; I sought fit words to paint the blackest face of woe,

Discovering poetry: Samuel Johnson’s advice to a posh boy

‘A Short Song of Congratulation’  Long-expected one and twenty Ling’ring year, at last is flown, Pomp and Pleasure, Pride and Plenty Great Sir John, are all your own. Loosen’d from the Minor’s tether, Free to mortgage or to sell, Wild as wind, and light as feather Bid the slaves of thrift farewel. Call the Bettys,

Discovering poetry: Robert Herrick’s guide to girls

‘Cherrie-Ripe’ Cherrie-ripe, Ripe, Ripe, I cry, Full and faire ones; come and buy: If so be, you ask me where They doe grow? I answer, There, Where my Julia’s lips doe smile; There’s the Land, or Cherry-Ile: Whose Plantations fully show All the yeere, where Cherries grow. This short poem’s interest comes from its rapid

Discovering Poetry: Thomas Hardy’s religion

‘A Drizzling Easter Morning’ And he is risen? Well, be it so. . . .And still the pensive lands complain,And dead men wait as long ago,As if, much doubting, they would knowWhat they are ransomed from, beforeThey pass again their sheltering door. I stand amid them in the rain,While blusters vex the yew and vane;And

Discovering poetry: Edmund Spenser’s ideal marriage

From ‘Prothalamion’ There in a meadow by the river’s side A flock of nymphs I chancéd to espy, All lovely daughters of the flood thereby, With goodly greenish locks all loose untied As each had been a bride; And each one had a little wicker basket Made of fine twigs, entrailéd curiously. In which they

Discovering poetry: Mankind in Alexander Pope

from ‘Windsor Forest’ See! from the brake the whirring pheasant springs, And mounts exulting on triumphant wings: Short is his joy; he feels the fiery wound, Flutters in blood, and panting beats the ground. Ah! what avail his glossy, varying dyes, His purple crest, and scarlet-circled eyes, The vivid green his shining plumes unfold, His