The Decline of the Country-House Poem in England: A Study in the History of Ideas

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This study discusses the evolution of the English country-house poem from its inception by Ben Jonson in "To Penshurst" to the present. It shows that in addition to stylistic and thematic borrowings primarily from Horace and Martial, traditional English values associated with the great hall and comitatus ideal helped define features of the English country-house poem, to which Jonson added the metonymical use of architecture. In the Jonsonian country-house poem, the country estate, exemplified by Penshurst, is a microcosm of the ideal English social organization characterized by interdependence, simplicity, service, hospitality, and balance between the active and contemplative life. Those ... continued below

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iv, 209 leaves: ill.

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Harris, Candice R. (Candice Rae) August 1988.

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  • Harris, Candice R. (Candice Rae)

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Description

This study discusses the evolution of the English country-house poem from its inception by Ben Jonson in "To Penshurst" to the present. It shows that in addition to stylistic and thematic borrowings primarily from Horace and Martial, traditional English values associated with the great hall and comitatus ideal helped define features of the English country-house poem, to which Jonson added the metonymical use of architecture.
In the Jonsonian country-house poem, the country estate, exemplified by Penshurst, is a microcosm of the ideal English social organization characterized by interdependence, simplicity, service, hospitality, and balance between the active and contemplative life. Those poems which depart from the Jonsonian ideal are characterized by disequilibrium between the active and contemplative life, resulting in the predominance of artifice, subordination of nature, and isolation of art from the community, as exemplified by Thomas Carew's "To Saxham" and Richard Lovelace's "Amyntor's Grove."
Architectural features of the English country house are examined to explain the absence of the Jonsonian country-house poem in the eighteenth century. The building tradition praised by Jonson gradually gave way to aesthetic considerations fostered by the professional architect and Palladian architecture, architectural patronage by the middle class, and change in identity of the country house as center of an interdependent community.
The country-house poem was revived by W. B. Yeats in his poems in praise of Coole Park. In them Yeats reaffirms Jonsonian values. In contrast to the poems of Yeats, the country-house poems of Sacheverell Sitwell and John Hollander convey a sense of irretrievable loss of the Jonsonian ideal and isolation of the poet.
Changing social patterns, ethical values, and aesthetics threaten the survival of the country-house poem, although the ideal continues to reflect a basic longing of humanity for a pastoral retreat where life is simple and innocent.

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iv, 209 leaves: ill.

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UNT Theses and Dissertations

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  • August 1988

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  • Aug. 22, 2014, 6 p.m.

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  • Dec. 11, 2015, 1:08 p.m.

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Harris, Candice R. (Candice Rae). The Decline of the Country-House Poem in England: A Study in the History of Ideas, dissertation, August 1988; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc331572/: accessed November 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .