Poetic Meditations on Death: A Gothic and Romantic Literary Genre of the Long Eighteenth Century (1693-1858)

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This anthology of graveyard poetry is designed to make available to students of English-language literature this once popular but now rather obscure genre of eighteenth-century verse. It contains foundational graveyard poems, innovative and original variations, notable and frivolous imitations, and several odd and noteworthy transformations by British and American poets.


“Leeuwen’s work exposes connections that have long been suppressed; he shows how Romantic and post-Romantic poetry develops from eighteenth-century sources; and how closely Britain and America explored the same set of poetic interests and drew upon the same range of literary models. In this way, this anthology does what the very best anthologies do: it surprises you with the unfamiliar, unsettles your notions of the texts that have come to seem old acquaintances, and it shakes up our sense of the poetry of the period.”
-Dr Michael Newton,
Department of English,
University of Leiden

“This anthology invites us to re-examine the centrality of death in the period’s literary culture, not only as a source of religious contemplation and advice, but also as a powerfully rich metaphor which will continue to resonate with new readers.”
-Dr. Penny Pritchard,
Senior Lecturer in English Literature
University of Hertfordshire

“This anthology of ‘Graveyard Poems’ well supplies a gap in the provision of poetical collections that will be a useful resource for students of a genre,…‘once popular but now rather obscure’.”
-Dr. Robert Sowerby,
University of Stirling, Retired

Table of Contents

Foreword by Penny Pritchard
Introduction by Evert Jan van Leeuwen
Graveyard Poetry and the English Literary Canon
Graveyard Poetry and Eighteenth-Century Popular culture
Inventing a Genre: a Survey of Graveyard Criticism
A Note on the Texts
Part I: Early Graveyard Poems
Thomas Yalden: A Hymn to Darkness (1693)
John Pomfret: A Prospect of Death: A Pindarick Essay (1702)
Thomas Parnell: A Night-Piece on Death (1722)
Edward Young: The Complaint: or, Night Thoughts on Life, Death & Immortality, Night the First (1742)
Robert Blair: The Grave (1743)
Joseph Warton: Ode XIV. To Solitude (1746)
Thomas Warton: Pleasures of melancholy (1747)
Thomas Gray: An Elegy Wrote in a Country Church Yard (1751)
Part II: Eighteenth-Century Imitations and Adaptations
Thomas Godfrey: A Night Piece (1758)
Beilby Porteus: Death: A Poetical Essay (1759)
John Cunningham: An Elegy on a Pile of Ruins (1761);
The Contemplatist: A Night-Piece (1762)
Elizabeth Carter: Ode to Melancholy (1762)
Edward Jerningham: The Nunnery (1762), Elegy Written Among the Ruins of an Abbey (1765,)
The Funeral of Arabert: Monk of La Trappe (1771)
John Ogilvie: From Solitude: or, The Elysium of the Poets “The Cell of Solitude” (1775)
Philip Freneau: The House of Night; or, Six Hours Lodging with Death. A Vision (1779)
William Blake: The Couch of Death (1783)
Joanna Baillie: A Lamentation (1790)
Ann Eliza Bleecker: A Thought on Death (1793)
Part III: Nineteenth-Century Transformations
James Montgomery: The Grave (1806)
Henry Kirke White: Thanatos (1807), Athanatos (18-7) Lines Written in Wilford Church-Yard on Recovery from Sickness (1807)
William Cullen Bryant: Thanatopsis (1817), The Burial-Place. A Fragment (1818/1832)
Bernard Barton: Meditations in Great Bealings Church-Yard (1820)
Robert Montgomery: Death (1829)
Lydia Huntley Sigourney: The Lonely Church (1832)
Edgar Allen Poe: Spirits of the Dead (1839)
Edward Bulwer Lytton: The Everlasting Grave-Digger (1842)
E.B. Hale: O Bury Me Not (1845)
John Greenleaf Whittier: The Old Burying Ground (1858)

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