Welcome back A Level poetry folks…we’ve missed you. In this blog, we’ll be taking a summative glance over some of AQA’s pre-1900 poems, offering a rapid roundup of each text, along with all the core features. Think of it as a huge, several hours-long, en masse A Level poetry revision session…but right here, without any energy drinks. In our A Level Poetry: Pre 1900 Poems blog, we’ll cover:
- Absent from Thee by John Wilmot
- La Belle Dame sans Merci by John Keats
- Non sum qualis era bonae regna Cynarae by Ernest Dowson
- At an Inn by Thomas Hardy
Ah! All the pre-1900 poem goodness, all in one place…lovely.
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Absent from Thee by John Wilmot
Absent from thee is a satirical approach to the traditional love poetry, which gently mocks and makes light of the genre. The speaker ruminates on his serial unfaithfulness, all the while admitting that while he does love his partner, he also has desires he cannot ignore. Beneath the humorous tone, there is a sense of struggle; the speaker is potentially unhappy with some of his life choices, how he frequently indulges with ‘unblest’ hearts and only finds true peace and contentment with his real love.
- Absent from thee is considered a song, due to its tidy use of iambic tetrameter and neat quatrain structure.
- Each quatrain follows the rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF.
- Each quatrain uses two split rhyming couplets.
- There are some variations in the structure – Wilmott uses caesura to focus the reader’s attention on certain points, and there is at least one example of enjambment.
- The imagery is relatively simple in this poem, as it is more for an intended message than a deep metaphorical dive into Wilmott’s psyche. However, there is some interesting juxtaposition.
- This poem is less about love and more about a man giving into his ‘needs’…classic.
Absent from Thee Revision Worksheets
La Belle Dame sans Merci by John Keats
La Belle Dame sans Merci is taken to be a semi-autobiographical account of Keats’ and Brawne’s romance. The medieval setting and supernatural elements fit the Romantic reaction to Enlightenment, which held that the human condition could not be explained by rational scientific methods.
- La Belle Dame sans Merci is a ballad.
- Ballads are a medieval genre of poetry that tells a story in short stanzas.
- This ballad makes use of repetition and refrains.
- Keats’ ballad breaks conventional form by using three tetrameters followed by a final truncated line of four or five syllables.
La Belle Dame sans Merci Revision Worksheets
Non sum qualis era bonae regna Cynarae by Ernest Dowson
The long, scarily-Latin title of this poem can seem daunting, but it is actually just a quotation from the famous Roman poet, Horace. Translated, it means I am not as I was in the reign of good Cynara. In Horace’s poem, the speaker is asking for a respite from love – he says he is too old to be feeling the pull of erotic thoughts anymore. In Dowson’s poem, the subject is the haunting nature of love; despite his best attempts, the speaker cannot forget a woman he once knew.
- Dowson borrows the title of his poem from a Horace ode where the poet begs for mercy from Venus, claiming he is too old to experience the trials of erotic love.
- Non sum qualis era bonae regna Cynarae is a lyrical poem divided into four sestets, each dealing with a different facet of the poet’s love for Cynara.
- The poem is an example of apostrophe – the poet frequently addresses the absent Cynara, always following her name with an exclamation mark which creates a caesura in the line, as if to emphasise the height of his passion.
- Non sum qualis era bonae regna Cynarae is suffused with the colour red, which connotes passion but also blood.
- The first three lines of each stanza conform to the Alexandrine rhythm – a French pattern of poetry which was adopted into English to consist of six unstressed/stressed beats – iambic hexameter.
- This central message, that the poet is unable to forget his lost love, is reflected in the poem’s refrain of lines four and six in each stanza.
Non sum qualis era bonae regna Cynarae Revision Worksheets
At an Inn by Thomas Hardy
At an Inn written in 1893, and believed to be about a woman Hardy knew, takes place early on in their friendship not long after they had met. The pair stop at an inn to dine together, but the staff mistake them for lovers and quickly warm to them because “love quicks the world”. Despite the disappointment of the staff, and Hardy, they cannot seal their love and desire with a kiss in public even if they did love each other.
- The poem comprises five octets (eight lines per stanza).
- The rigidity of this form serves as a reminder of the rigidity of their relationship because of (classic) Victorian social boundaries.
- Personification is used in the opening stanza of the poem to express that the speaker is suppressing his desires.
- The opening lines of the poem use alliteration.
- In the first two stanzas, enjambment is used in the opening lines to reflect how the speaker cannot control his desires.
- Astrological and Biblical allusions within the second stanza.
- ABABCDCD rhyme scheme.
At an Inn Revision Worksheets
So, there we have it, our selected pre-1900 poems roundup for A Level Poetry revision. In time, we’re sure to add even more pre-1900 poems to our collection. In the meantime, you can read more of our blogs here. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to Beyond for access to thousands of secondary teaching resources. You can sign up for a free account here and take a look around at our free resources before you subscribe too.