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The Lives of the Poets

The Lives of the Poets

In this stunning volume of epic breadth, Michael Schmidt connects the lives and works of more than 300 poets over the last 700 years--spanning distant shores from Scotland to Australia to the Caribbean, all sharing the English language.

Schmidt reveals how each poet has transformed "a common language of poetry" into the rustic rhythms and elegiac ballads, love sonnets, and experimental postmodern verse that make up our lyrical canon.

A comprehensive guided tour that is lively and always accessible, Lives of the Poets illuminates our most transcendent literary tradition.


The Match

Our Sublime Superiors

The Anthology

Where It Begins

Tutelary Spirits

“In englesh forto make a book”


“And as I lay and lened and loked in the wateres”

“Go, litel bok”

“Sing cuccu!”


“Merely written for the people”

“Not as I suld, I wrait, but as I couth”

The Watershed


Petrarch Comes to England

The Green Knight

“A little man with little hands and little cuffs”

“Of love, and love, and love”

Substance with and without Rites

Bad Feelings

Words Strung on Air

Singing School

“The world’s a bubble”

Pastoral Care

The Eccentric

An End of Delicacy

New Pilots

Three Friends

Dead Pastoral

Doctor Johnson

Methods and Madnesses

“The stricken deer”

Youth and Age

Killing Doctor Johnson

Humble Truth

Liberty Versus Legitimacy

Marble into Flesh—and Spirit

“Touch has a memory”

Long Gray Beards and Glittering Eyes

Snapping Asunder the Leading-Strings

“They lived once thus at Venice” and in Camden

Winter Is Good

The Phantom of Ourselves

A Beginning of the End of Victorian Poetry

“The land of lost content”

“A language not to be betrayed...”

“The lighting of the lamps”

A Pause for Breath

“Arranging, deepening, enchanting”

“What shall I say, because talk I must?”


“The troubles of a book”

“A low, dishonest decade”

Going West

Apocalypse and After

The Other War


Language and the Body

Inventing and Reinventing the Wheel

Beyond Stylistic Irony

“An instance of itself”

Speaking and Speaking For

Loose Ends

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