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English Poetry and Old Norse MythA History$
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Heather O'Donoghue

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199562183

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199562183.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 20 September 2021

Preromantic Responses

Preromantic Responses

Gray, Blake, and the Northern Sublime

(p.65) 2 Preromantic Responses
English Poetry and Old Norse Myth

Heather O’Donoghue

Oxford University Press

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.

Keywords:   Old Norse, myth, poetry, preromantic poetry, the sublime, Thomas Gray, William Blake, valkyries, Ragnarök, Valhalla

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