Gray, Blake, and the Northern Sublime
Chapter Two examines the influence of Old Norse myth on eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century poetry, especially of preromantic poetry, when Old Norse mythological literature both met and helped to form the literary taste for the sublime, with its aesthetic of strong emotions of terror and awe, its privileging of the imagination, and focus on death and the supernatural. Thomas Gray and William Blake were the most prominent poets in this phase to draw on Old Norse myth, but there were dozens of others, and valkyries and Odin’s hall Valhalla caught the poetic imagination in particular. Poets also began to engage with the great cosmic myths of Old Norse, stories of creation, and of the Old Norse apocalypse, Ragnarök. Gray’s work proved to be an enduring influence on other poets in English, and his ‘Norse odes’ came to be highly regarded as poetry.
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