The Poet in the Modern World

Each week before the conference, we’ll be posting a quotation from Aurora Leigh with the aim of further emphasising the poem’s currency, richness and vibrancy. For the first post, then, here’s Aurora’s famous assertion of the role of the poet in the modern world.

 london for AL 1

… if there’s room for poets in this world
A little overgrown, (I think there is)
Their sole work is to represent the age,
Their age, not Charlemagne’s, – this live, throbbing age,
That brawls, cheats, maddens, calculates, aspires,
And spends more passion, more heroic heat,
Betwixt the mirrors of its drawing-rooms,
Than Roland with his knights at Roncesvalles.
To flinch from modern varnish, coat or flounce,
Cry out for togas and the picturesque,
Is fatal, – foolish too.

(Aurora Leigh Book 5, ll.200-10)


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