Algernon Charles Swinburne - Biography and Works

Algernon Charles Swinburne is one of the great Pre-Raphaelite poets influenced from Greek, Elizabethan and Jacobean drama. His subjects were derived from romanticism, medievalism, and his hatred towards the conventional morality.


Algernon C. Swinburne (1837-1909)

Swinburne gave a touch of sensuousness to poetry and the poems included in Poems and Ballads (1866) were coloured by sensuous thoughts and expressions in which the Pre-Raphaelite poets found special delight and at the same time his poems and ballads challenge to rebellion against all accepted ideas of religion and morality. Like Tennyson, he was trying to suggest an area of emotion, to use references to natural objects and imagined characters in order to build up a mood. Atlanta in Calydon and Songs before Sunrise are his most popular works.

Unlike other members of the Pre-Raphaelite group Swinburne was a musician rather than a painter. He made poetry musical rather than pictorial and brought to it the gift of lyricism and melody. He carried the prosody of the Romantic Age to its extreme point of mellifluousness robbing the Hybla bees of their sweetness. Just as Rossetti made thought pictorially sensuous, Swinburne made thought musically sensuous. He is not merely melodic-he is harmonic. Shelley’s music is the music of lute; Swinburne’s the music of a full orchestra. His melodies are rich and complex with a sweeping grandeur that no other poet has equaled, much less excelled.



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