The Richness of Poetry: Marlowe to Heaney

This course has no current classes. Please the waiting list.

The poets this course treats are English except for Frost, American; McAuley, Australian; and Heaney, Irish. I have chosen the poems for their imaginative and emotional impact. Hero and Leander, Marlowe’s last work, is a sensuous delight and Venus and Adonis the funniest and most moving of Shakespeare’s poems. Byron’s lyrics are gracious, his Don Juan outrageously funny. Hopkins was an incredible and confronting innovator. Frost, a modern American icon, was the voice of the common man. McAuley’s later poems are both brilliant and tender. Seamus Heaney’s is a humane and reflective 20th Century voice.


  • Pelican History of English Literature, relevant volumes.
  • Oxford Companion to English Literature, ed.Drabble
  • The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English, ed Ousby


  • Marlowe (1564-1592): Hero and Leander. Selections from Sestiads 1 & 2.
  • Shakespeare (1564-1616): Selections from Venus and Adonis.
  • Wordsworth: (1770-1850): Surprised by joy; There was a boy; from The Prelude, Book 1: 1) Fair seed-time had my soul; 2) Nor less, when spring had warmed; 3) One summer evening; 4) And in the frosty season; On Westminster Bridge; Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey.
  • Hopkins (1844-1889): The Wreck of the Deutschland; Spring; Binsley Poplars; No worst, there is none.
  • Byron: (1788-1824), She walks in beauty; So we’ll go more a-roving; There be none of beauty’s daughters; When we two parted; Don Juan, selections from Cantos 1 & 2;
  • Robert Frost (1874-1963): Mending Wall; Birches; After Apple-Picking; Mowing; The Need of Being Versed in Country Things; The Wood Pile; Buzz Saw; The Road not Taken; Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening; Tree at My Window; Fire and Ice; Home Burial; Servant of Servants.
  • James McAuley, (1917-1976): Mating Swans; Pieta; Because; Magpie; One Thing at Least; In Regard to T.S. Eliot; Wistaria; Table Talk; In the Huon Valley; At Rushy Lagoon; The Flowering Lily; The Hazard and the Gift.
  • Seamus Heaney, (1939-2013): Blackberry Picking; Death of a Naturalist; Mid-Term Break; Otter; Twice Shy; Exposure; Bogland; A Kite for Aibhin; Folllower; Requiem for the Croppies; The Tolland Man; The Grauballe Man; Punishment; Docker;

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Recognise and respond to the particular richness to be found in each poem.
  2. Recognise the unique body of experience and worldview behind the richness of each poet’s work.
  3. Recognise the way each poet’s handling of language achieves this richness.
  4. Attain a fuller overview of the richness to be found in the body of poetry in English.