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Chapter 2 - Moderns and Ancients

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 August 2020

Daniel Cook
Affiliation:
University of Dundee
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Summary

By the time we reach the first half of the 1710s, Swift had become – briefly – a key propagandist for the government. Taking gentle Horace as his model, Swift freely adopted a disparate range of prose and verse, including that of his rival, Richard Steele. In this period Swift deftly experimented with a number of classical sources, often in startling but wholly effective ways. ‘A Description of a City Shower’ and ‘A Description of the Morning’ revisit Virgil by way of Dryden and Donne, among other improbable bedfellows. Like many poets before him, Swift explicitly turned to Ovid (and his chief English imitator, Dryden) when writing ‘Baucis and Philemon’, a raucously mundane British variation on the story made famous in Metamorphoses. Description poetry, irreverent odes and epistles, fantastical fables, repurposed songs, fake prophecies and even a premature elegy: in his mid-career verse Swift covered a wide range of mixed-up genres, many of which had (to his mind) become corrupted by modern poets and commentators, as well as writers in all sorts of other lines of work, from shamming astrologers to political pamphleteers.

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Reading Swift's Poetry , pp. 54 - 101
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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  • Moderns and Ancients
  • Daniel Cook, University of Dundee
  • Book: Reading Swift's Poetry
  • Online publication: 10 August 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108888172.003
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  • Moderns and Ancients
  • Daniel Cook, University of Dundee
  • Book: Reading Swift's Poetry
  • Online publication: 10 August 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108888172.003
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Moderns and Ancients
  • Daniel Cook, University of Dundee
  • Book: Reading Swift's Poetry
  • Online publication: 10 August 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108888172.003
Available formats
×