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Darwin's BardsBritish and American Poetry in the Age of Evolution$
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John Holmes

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780748639403

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748639403.001.0001

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Poetry and the ‘Non-Darwinian Revolution’

Poetry and the ‘Non-Darwinian Revolution’

(p.37) 2 Poetry and the ‘Non-Darwinian Revolution’
Darwin's Bards

John Holmes

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter describes the non-Darwinian and pseudo-Darwinian evolutionary poetry in the late Victorian period. It then explores the acts of bad faith led by Algernon Charles Swinburne and Mathilde Blind. It also investigates how the non-Darwinian elements in George Meredith's later poetry have tended to obscure the more exclusively Darwinian perspectives of his earlier poetry. It evaluates the struggle between Alfred Tennyson's yearning to believe in evolutionary progress and his deep-seated doubts about it in the last years of his life. The Ascent of Man is Blind's most ambitious poem. The bulk of Meredith's nature poetry falls into two collections published five years apart: Poems and Lyrics of the Joy of Earth, and A Reading of Earth. In their different ways Swinburne, Blind, Meredith, and Tennyson all expose the hollowness at the heart of the Victorian enthusiasm for progressive evolution and of the non-Darwinian biology that sustained it.

Keywords:   Algernon Charles Swinburne, Mathilde Blind, George Meredith, Alfred Tennyson, The Ascent of Man, non-Darwinian biology, evolutionary poetry

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