ERIC Number: ED362877
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1990
Reference Count: N/A
Nineteenth-Century American and British Poets on Columbus: A Twentieth-Century View.
Gorman, Anita G.
In the 19th century alone, Christopher Columbus was the subject of hundreds of poems that rarely questioned his voyage, his methods, or his place in human history. However, the scholarly work and political realities of the 20th century have undermined the noble, heroic visions conveyed by the poets. Modern readers/students have a dual duty to understand the context in which the early writers lived and worked, and to interpret their work in a contemporary perspective. Nineteenth-century Anglo-Americans saw exploration and conquest as economic necessities, psychological challenges, and spiritual missions. The mood in both Great Britain and the United Sates was nationalist and expansionist. Furthermore, there was faith in the power of poetry and of the poet-as-hero to transform human lives. The poets shared a point of view of Columbus as a mythic figure, an introspective man, a man of destiny whose voyages were inspired by God. Where the poems varied was in their style of presentation. James Russell Lowell's poem "Columbus" resonates with memorable lines, but his blank verse falters with inappropriate diction and a Latinate vocabulary. The image and rhythm of Walt Whitman's "Prayer of Columbus" are the mark of a poet with a better ear than Lowell's. Joaquin Miller's poem "Columbus," with its famous moral, "Oh! Sail on!", suggest that all goals are praiseworthy, regardless of consequence--a view difficult to support in human history. Tennyson's poem "Columbus" ranks as a poem superior to that of the American poets. His Columbus expressed an alienation and loneliness that 20th century readers share. Contains 12 references. (RS)
Publication Type: Historical Materials; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Columbus (Christopher); Nineteenth Century; Twentieth Century