Category Archives: Educational texts

advanced course lesson 16 John Milton


advanced course lesson 16 Milton

John Milton was born in 1608 at London.  The Milton family was an Anglican one. John Milton was the namesake of his father. His father was a successful scrivener.

The young John Milton. He was extraordinarily academically gifted.  John studied at St Paul’s School. He studied at Cambridge University. He eventually achieved perfect correctitude in ten languages.

Milton found gainful governmental employment.

The mid 17th century was a time of enormous upheaval. There were contentious political and religious issues to be settled. Milton was a critic of the king. He was also eager to make the Church of England more strongly Protestant. He wrote many pamphlets. Milton inveighed against the notion of pre-publication censorship. John acquired a reputation as something of a political philosopher.

Milton considered his poetic talent to be a gift from God. It behoved him to honour the Almighty by composing as many magnificent verses as he could.

The English Civil War broke out. Milton backed the Parliamentarians. They won. He was made secretary in foreign tongues. That meant he had to translate documents.

In the 1650s he went blind.

He wrote a poem entitled On His Blindness:

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.

In 1660 the Parliamentary regime was over. The king came back. It was called the Restoration. Milton fell into disfavour because of his political views.

In 1674 he died in London. He is buried St Giles without Cripplegate. This means the Church of St Giles which is outside Cripplegate.

Milton composed poems on religious themes. One of them is about the Fall of Man. It is called Paradise Lost.


Of Man’s first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
Brought death into the World, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,
Sing, Heavenly Muse, that, on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That shepherd who first taught the chosen seed
In the beginning how the heavens and earth
Rose out of Chaos: or, if Sion hill
Delight thee more, and Siloa’s brook that flowed
Fast by the oracle of God, I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventurous song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above th’ Aonian mount, while it pursues
Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.
And chiefly thou, O Spirit, that dost prefer
Before all temples th’ upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for thou know’st; thou from the first
Wast present, and, with mighty wings outspread,
Dove-like sat’st brooding on the vast Abyss,
And mad’st it pregnant: what in me is dark
Illumine, what is low raise and support;
That, to the height of this great argument,
I may assert Eternal Providence,
And justify the ways of God to men.
Say first–for Heaven hides nothing from thy view,
Nor the deep tract of Hell–say first what cause
Moved our grand parents, in that happy state,
Favoured of Heaven so highly, to fall off
From their Creator, and transgress his will
For one restraint, lords of the World besides.
Who first seduced them to that foul revolt?
Th’ infernal Serpent; he it was whose guile,
Stirred up with envy and revenge, deceived
The mother of mankind, what time his pride
Had cast him out from Heaven, with all his host
Of rebel Angels, by whose aid, aspiring
To set himself in glory above his peers,
He trusted to have equalled the Most High,
If he opposed, and with ambitious aim
Against the throne and monarchy of God,
Raised impious war in Heaven and battle proud,
With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power
Hurled headlong flaming from th’ ethereal sky,
With hideous ruin and combustion, down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In adamantine chains and penal fire,
Who durst defy th’ Omnipotent to arms.
Nine times the space that measures day and night
To mortal men, he, with his horrid crew,
Lay vanquished, rolling in the fiery gulf,
Confounded, though immortal. But his doom
Reserved him to more wrath; for now the thought
Both of lost happiness and lasting pain
Torments him: round he throws his baleful eyes,
That witnessed huge affliction and dismay,
Mixed with obdurate pride and steadfast hate.
At once, as far as Angels ken, he views
The dismal situation waste and wild.
A dungeon horrible, on all sides round,
As one great furnace flamed; yet from those flames
No light; but rather darkness visible
Served only to discover sights of woe,
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes
That comes to all, but torture without end
Still urges, and a fiery deluge, fed
With ever-burning sulphur unconsumed.
Such place Eternal Justice has prepared
For those rebellious; here their prison ordained
In utter darkness, and their portion set,
As far removed from God and light of Heaven
As from the centre thrice to th’ utmost pole.
Oh how unlike the place from whence they fell!
There the companions of his fall, o’erwhelmed
With floods and whirlwinds of tempestuous fire,
He soon discerns; and, weltering by his side,
One next himself in power, and next in crime,
Long after known in Palestine, and named
Beelzebub. To whom th’ Arch-Enemy,
And thence in Heaven called Satan, with bold words
Breaking the horrid silence, thus began:–
“If thou beest he–but O how fallen! how changed
From him who, in the happy realms of light
Clothed with transcendent brightness, didst outshine
Myriads, though bright!–if he whom mutual league,
United thoughts and counsels, equal hope
And hazard in the glorious enterprise
Joined with me once, now misery hath joined
In equal ruin; into what pit thou seest
From what height fallen: so much the stronger proved
He with his thunder; and till then who knew
The force of those dire arms? Yet not for those,
Nor what the potent Victor in his rage
Can else inflict, do I repent, or change,
Though changed in outward lustre, that fixed mind,
And high disdain from sense of injured merit,
That with the Mightiest raised me to contend,
And to the fierce contentions brought along
Innumerable force of Spirits armed,
That durst dislike his reign, and, me preferring,
His utmost power with adverse power opposed
In dubious battle on the plains of Heaven,
And shook his throne. What though the field be lost?

He later wrote Paradise Regained. Here is an excerpt from Paradise Regained


Perplexed and troubled at his bad success
The Tempter stood, nor had what to reply,
Discovered in his fraud, thrown from his hope
So oft, and the persuasive rhetoric
That sleeked his tongue, and won so much on Eve,
So little here, nay lost. But Eve was Eve;
This far his over-match, who, self-deceived
And rash, beforehand had no better weighed
The strength he was to cope with, or his own.
But—as a man who had been matchless held
In cunning, over-reached where least he thought,
To salve his credit, and for very spite,
Still will be tempting him who foils him still,
And never cease, though to his shame the more;
Or as a swarm of flies in vintage-time,
About the wine-press where sweet must is poured,
Beat off, returns as oft with humming sound;
Or surging waves against a solid rock,
Though all to shivers dashed, the assault renew,
(Vain battery!) and in froth or bubbles end—
So Satan, whom repulse upon repulse
Met ever, and to shameful silence brought,
Yet gives not o’er, though desperate of success,
And his vain importunity pursues.
He brought our Saviour to the western side
Of that high mountain, whence he might behold
Another plain, long, but in breadth not wide,
Washed by the southern sea, and on the north
To equal length backed with a ridge of hills
That screened the fruits of the earth and seats of men
From cold Septentrion blasts; thence in the midst
Divided by a river, off whose banks
On each side an Imperial City stood,
With towers and temples proudly elevate
On seven small hills, with palaces adorned,
Porches and theatres, baths, aqueducts,
Statues and trophies, and triumphal arcs,
Gardens and groves, presented to his eyes
Above the highth of mountains interposed—
By what strange parallax, or optic skill
Of vision, multiplied through air, or glass
Of telescope, were curious to enquire.
And now the Tempter thus his silence broke:—
“The city which thou seest no other deem
Than great and glorious Rome, Queen of the Earth
So far renowned, and with the spoils enriched
Of nations. There the Capitol thou seest,
Above the rest lifting his stately head
On the Tarpeian rock, her citadel
Impregnable; and there Mount Palatine,
The imperial palace, compass huge, and high
The structure, skill of noblest architects,
With gilded battlements, conspicuous far,
Turrets, and terraces, and glittering spires.

One of his poems tells the tale of a journey to hell in the centre of the earth. The capital of all the devils is called Pandaemonium.


Some of his vocabulary has now fallen into desuetude.


  1. When was Milton born?
  2.  In which country was he born?
  3. What was his government job?
  4. What medical problem did he have?
  5. Why did he lose his job?
  6. Which university did he go to?
  7. Quote a line by him?
  8.  Why is he respected?


advanced course lesson 15 Tennyson


advanced course lesson 15 Tennyson

Alfred Tennyson was born in 1809. His birthplace was Lincolnshire which is a county of the United Kingdom. His father was a well paid clergyman. The family were members of the Church of England. Alfred has several siblings.

When he grew up Alfred went to Trinity College, Cambridge. Trinity was perhaps the most renowned of Cambridge colleges. He soon made friends with an Old Etonian named Arthur Henry Hallam. At Trinity Alfred was invited to join the Apostles. The Apostles was a shadowy society for the most brilliant undergraduates. Existing apostles asked the most accomplished freshers to join. The Apostles met once a week and a member of the society would read an essay. It would then be discussed. They were urged to express themselves with absolute candour. Any opinion no matter how tendentious would be listened to politely.

Whilst an undergraduate he composed a poem and entered it for the Chancellor’s Medal. This was a prize awarded for the best piece of English poetry. Tennyson won the prize.

Shortly after graduation Hallam died. Alfred was very deeply impacted by his friend’s death at the age of 21. He penned a threnody to Hallam entitled In Memoriam.


Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
   The flying cloud, the frosty light:
   The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
   The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind
   For those that here we see no more;
   Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
   And ancient forms of party strife;
   Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
   The faithless coldness of the times;
   Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
   The civic slander and the spite;
   Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
   Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
   Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
   The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
   Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Alfred was later made Poet Laureate. This means he was the official poet of the UK. It is the highest accolade that can be bestowed on a British poet. The title was held for life. He was also ennobled. Lord Tennyson was the first person to be raised to the peerage on account of his poesy.

In 1853 the Crimean War broke out. The United Kingdom took the side of the Ottoman Empire against Russia. At the Battle of Balaclava an order was sent to a British unit: the light brigade. They were ordered to attack down a valley. The order did not say which valley. There were two valleys near the unit. The officer who received the order was unsure which valley he was supposed to attack. He could have sent the messenger back for clarification but he believed that there was not enough time. The officer decided to guess which valley he was supposed to attack.

The light brigade attacked a Russian position at the end of the valley. It was a heavily defended position. The light brigade sustained very heavy losses. They were easily repulsed. It was ignominious. Lord Tennyson composed a poem about it

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said.
Into the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
   Someone had blundered.
   Theirs not to make reply,
   Theirs not to reason why,
   Theirs but to do and die.
   Into the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
   Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell
   Rode the six hundred.
Flashed all their sabres bare,
Flashed as they turned in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
   All the world wondered.
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right through the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reeled from the sabre stroke
   Shattered and sundered.
Then they rode back, but not
   Not the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
   Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell.
They that had fought so well
Came through the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of hell,
All that was left of them,
   Left of six hundred.
When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
   All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
   Noble six hundred!
In the 19th century there was a fashion for all things medieval. It was a reaction against industrialisation. People idealised King Arthur. The Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood rhapsodised about the pre-industrial age. Tennyson was also attracted to this. He composed a poem about the death of the mythic King Arthur:
So all day long the noise of battle roll’d
Among the mountains by the winter sea;
Until King Arthur’s table, man by man,
Had fallen in Lyonnesse about their Lord,
King Arthur: then, because his wound was deep,
The bold Sir Bedivere uplifted him,
Sir Bedivere, the last of all his knights,
And bore him to a chapel nigh the field,
A broken chancel with a broken cross,
That stood on a dark strait of barren land.
On one side lay the ocean, and on one
Lay a great water, and the moon was full.
         Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedivere:
“The sequel of to-day unsolders all
The goodliest fellowship of famous knights
Whereof this world holds record. Such a sleep
They sleep—the men I loved. I think that we
Shall never more, at any future time,
Delight our souls with talk of knightly deeds,
Walking about the gardens and the halls
Of Camelot, as in the days that were.
I perish by this people which I made,—
Tho’ Merlin sware that I should come again
To rule once more—but let what will be, be,
I am so deeply smitten thro’ the helm
That without help I cannot last till morn.
Thou therefore take my brand Excalibur,
Which was my pride: for thou rememberest how
In those old days, one summer noon, an arm
Rose up from out the bosom of the lake,
Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful,
Holding the sword—and how I row’d across
And took it, and have worn it, like a king:
And, wheresoever I am sung or told
In aftertime, this also shall be known:
But now delay not: take Excalibur,
And fling him far into the middle mere:
Watch what thou seëst, and lightly bring me word.”
         To him replied the bold Sir Bedivere:
“It is not meet, Sir King, to leave thee thus,
Aidless, alone, and smitten thro’ the helm.
A little thing may harm a wounded man.
Yet I thy hest will all perform at full,
Watch what I see, and lightly bring thee word.”

Alfred married and had two children. His son became Governor-General of Australia.


  1. In which year was Alfred Lord Tennyson born?
  2. What was his dad’s job?
  3. In which county was Alfred born?
  4.  Which country?
  5. Which university did he go to?
  6.  Which college?
  7.  What society did he join?
  8. What is the Apostles about?
  9. Who was Alfred’s friend?
  10.  What poem did he compose for Hallam?
  11. Which mythic king did he write about?
  12. Which British unit was beaten in Crimea?
  13.  What do you think of Tennyson?


advanced course lesson 14 Oscar Wilde


advanced course lesson 14


Wilde was born at Dublin in 1854. Dublin is the capital of Ireland. Wilde’s father was Sir William Wilde. Sir William was a surgeon. He was one of the most distinguished doctors in the United Kingdom. He had been knighted for services to medicine. Sir William was the Royal Physician. That means he was the doctor of any members of the royal family when they were in Ireland. Sir William and his wife were very learned. Sir William was a polymath

Oscar grew up on Merrion Square. There were thousands of books in the house. He became fluent in French and German. He had one younger brother named William. There was a sister but she died in infancy.

The schooling of Oscar and his sibling was conducted at Portora Royal School. This lies in County Fermanagh which is far from Dublin. He excelled in classics in particular. Oscar was very tell and well built but not especially gifted at sports.

At the age of 17 Oscar finished school. He then matriculated at Trinity College Dublin.  There he studied classics. He made a name for himself as a scholar and as a man who cut a dash. He debated with panache. Oscar was soon the talk of the town. One of his friends was Edward Carson.

Upon graduation from Trinity Oscar felt his education was not yet complete. Substantive master’s degrees hardly existed at the time. He won a place at Magdalen College, Oxford. Magdalen is pronounced ‘maudlin’. Magdalen is one of the most magnificent colleges in Oxford University.

Oscar made a name for himself at Magdalen. He hit Oxford as few had done before or since. Aged 21 and with a degree already under his belt he was older than most undergraduates. He had hair down to his shoulders. Oscar’s father was a wealthy man and gave his firstborn a handsome allowance. Oscar was reading classics as he had before. What else was there for a man of his ilk to read? He dipped into modern languages just a little. He composed verses and won the Newdigate Prize which was the most coveted prize for English verse at the university.

Whilst Oscar was up at Oxford his father died. His allowance was cut considerably. His mother still lived in comfort but her finances would not run to anything in the way of dash.

Upon graduation Oscar had to decide what to do next. Half of Oxonians became clergy. He was not the sort who would wish to be ordained. Since the 1870s Oxford University had allowed men who were not clergy to become dons. A don is a lecturer at Oxford or Cambridge. Oscar’s reputation preceded him. He was too colourful and controversial. To be a don a man had to be not just learned but also staid and safe.

Wilde went down to London. He established himself as a professor of aesthetics as he cheekily called himself. He held tea parties every afternoon. He dressed punctiliously and elegantly.

The name on everyone’s lips was Oscar Wilde. It was said that he minced down Piccadilly caressing a lily.  Gilbert and Sullivan wrote a musical comedy entitled Patience. It was a send up of the contrivance of Oscar and his circle. They saw him as a poseur. Their play featured affected characters who wore capes and let their hair grown long. They were neo mediaeval knights errant always claiming to cherish courtly love.

Several plays were written by Wilde and performed in the United Kingdom. These were drawing room dramas. His comedies of manners were written with scripts full of rapier like lines. Dramatis personae of these plays are upper middle class and upper class personages.

In time Oscar Wilde visited the United States. His name had gone before him because Gilbert and Sullivan’s play had already been performed in the US. Wilde travelled around America and gave readings. A mine had already been named in his honour.  He returned a wealthy man.

Oscar married Constance Lloyd. She was the daughter of a prominent barrister. They had two sons.

Several stories were penned by Wilde. Among them were The Happy Prince and the Selfish Giant.

Only one novel was written by Wilde. This is the Picture of Dorian Gray. This is about a louche and wealthy young man. The gilded youth leads a charmed life of ease. There is a portrait of Dorian. At first he looks like Adonish. But this dissipated man behaves immorally. He is self-centred and dishonest. His wrongful conduct leads the portrait to gradually turn uglier and uglier. The locale is London. Many real locations are mentioned such as Grosvenor Square.

Wilde was a Ganymede. This got him into some trouble. When he was 38 he became more than good friends with Lord Alfred Douglas. Lord Alfred Douglas was known as Bowsie. Bowsie was the younger son of the Marquess of Queensberry. Lord Queensberry is the man who drew up the rules of boxing.

Bowsie was 21 when be began his close relationship with Wilde. At the time Bowsie was an undergraduate at Oscar’s old college.

In 1894 Lord Queensberry wrote a note about Wilde and posted it on the noticeboard of Wilde’s London club. It contained an imputation of criminal conduct by Mr Wilde. Oscar unwisely took out a libel action.

The suit was defended by Edward Carson. E H Carson was Wilde’s old chum from Trinity days. Wilde was eventually outfoxed by the barrister. The libel action collapsed. Oscar was advised to flee to France. He had time to do so. He rashly refused to do so.

The police arrested Oscar Wilde. He was charged with a crime of immorality. He was found guilty and sentenced to two years hard labour. He was conveyed to prison. He was transferred via Clapham Junction Station. As he stood on the platform in prison uniform and shackles he was recognised by the crowd. They roundly abused him for his disgusting misconduct. He wept bitterly every day in remembrance at this public humiliation.

The sentence was mostly spent in Reading Gaol. There he wrote De Profundis which means ‘from the depths’ in English. It is based on the name of a prayer. He also composed a poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol. Whilst he was there another prisoner was hanged for the murder of his wife.  Oscar was deeply affected by knowing this. He was moved to pity for the condition of the other inmates. One child was malnourished. A compassionate guard gave the boy extra food. When this act of charity was discovered the guard lost his job.

Constance did not want her boys to be exposed to opprobrium because of who their father was. She changed their name to Holland – an old family name on her side. She would not allow Oscar to have any contact with his children again.

Oscar had spent his money on legal fees. When has in prison his mother died. It is said her ghost appeared to him at the hour of his mother’s dissolution. There was not much money to pay for her funeral. Oscar’s brother William was a journalist. William had fallen on hard times. People did not want to hire him because of his scandal struck brother.

Wilde was released after two years. He sailed to France. He was in such disgrace in the British Isles that he never set foot there again. In France Napoleonic laws prevailed. He met Bowsie again who had been waiting for him. Their amity resumed. They passed some time in Italy.

In 1900 Oscar moved to Paris. Prison had taken a toll on his constitution. He fell gravely ill. He loathed the wallpaper in his bedroom. He declared ‘I am fighting a duel against that wall paper. One of us must go.’ Then he died. He is laid to rest in Pere Lachaise Cemetery.



  1. In which city was Oscar born?
  2. In which land is that?
  3.  What year was he born?
  4. What was his father’s occupation?
  5. Which school did he attend?
  6.  Which Irish university did he go to?
  7.  Which English one?
  8. How many siblings did he have?
  9.  Name a play by him?
  10.  Name a poem by him?
  11.  When did he die?
  12. Did he go to prison?
  13.  What do you think of him? Five marks.


advanced course lesson 13 keats


advanced course lesson 13 John Keats

Keats was born in London. His exact date of birth is uncertain. John was the eldest of five children. He had two brothers and one sister who lived to adulthood. His mother and sister were both named Fanny.

The Keats family owned an inn. This is the old name for a hotel. The family was comfortably middle class. John was sent to a school in Enfield, London. He was taught Latin and Greek. However, his education was principally in English. He was intrigued by poesy. At the age of 18 he published a volume entitled ‘Poems by John Keats’.

When Keats turn 18 he decided to study to be an apothecary. An ‘apothecary’ is the old name for a pharmacist. He enrolled at Guy’s Hospital for this course. Guy’s Hospital has that name because it was founded by Thomas Guy. Some people wrong imagine that it is a hospital for men only. John Keats qualified as an apothecary. This qualified him to practice medicine even though he was not a doctor. Regulations were very lax in those days. It was possible for him to continue his studies and become a doctor but he chose not to. He was becoming intrigued by poetry.

Money was always a problem for Keats. He borrowed and had difficulty repaying his debts. He did not know that he had inherited a large sum of money. The solicitor who was supposed to inform him never did so.

John Keats became part of the Romantic Movement. He got to know the leading figures in the movement. He was friends with Lord Byron, Shelley, Wordsworth, Coleridge and other luminaries. They liked to compose poems eulogising nature. Here is one of Keats’ poems in praise of autumn


Ode to Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimmed their clammy cell.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir, the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.



After Keats decided not to become a physician he went on a walking tour of Great Britain and Ireland. This inspired him to compose more verses. He was beginning to establish a reputation for himself. He craved immortality and wrote ‘I think I shall be remembered among the English poets after my death.’


poet John Keats

One of Keats most widely enjoyed poems is Endymion
Here is its opening:

Its lovliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkn’d ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
‘Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.

The Napoleonic Wars were often. For the first substantial period in over 20 years it was safe for a Briton to visit mainland Europe. Keats took advantage of this. He sailed to France. From there he travelled to France. Thence he made his way to Italy. He stayed in Florence for months in a house named Casa Guidi. Eton owns the house.

Fanny Brown was a girlfriend of Keats. However, he never married.

In Italy Keats spent much time with Shelley and Byron. He composed a sonnet to his friend George Gordon Byron

Sonnet to Byron

Byron! how sweetly sad thy melody!
Attuning still the soul to tenderness,
As if soft Pity, with unusual stress,
Had touch’d her plaintive lute, and thou, being by,
Hadst caught the tones, nor suffer’d them to die.
O’ershadowing sorrow doth not make thee less
Delightful: thou thy griefs dost dress
With a bright halo, shining beamily,
As when a cloud the golden moon doth veil,
Its sides are ting’d with a resplendent glow,
Through the dark robe oft amber rays prevail,
And like fair veins in sable marble flow;
Still warble, dying swan! still tell the tale,
The enchanting tale, the tale of pleasing woe

In time Keats travelled to Rome. There he fell ill. He had contracted consumption. This meant he was coughing up blood. John felt death creeping up on his. There he composed a final poem which he did not give a title too. It has since been named

His Last Sonnet

Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art! –
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night,
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature’s patient sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors –
No -yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillowed upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever -or else swoon to death.


John died at the age of 25. He remains one of the most celebrated poets in any language.

On Keat’s headstone there is an epitaph that he wrote himself ‘Here lies one whose name is writ on water.’ Some have taken it a suggestion of  his belief in the mere ephemeral nature of his fame.


  1. In which year was he born?
  2.  What was his father’s job?
  3.  Did he have siblings?
  4. What was John’s profession?
  5.  Did he marry?
  6. Name a poem by him.
  7. Quote a line?
  8. Where did he die?
  9.  How old was he?
  10. What is his epitaph?
  11. Why is he remembered?




advanced course lesson 12 Wordsworth


advanced course lesson 12


William Wordsworth was born at Cockermouth in 1770. The town of Cockermouth lies in the Lake District. The Lake District is in the middle of the United Kingdom. In this poverty stricken region of idyllic countryside Wordsworth spent his childhood. The land at first appearance is of desolate aspect. The hills are mostly bare but for coarse bushes, gorse and broom. Scree and corries litter the hillsides and escarpments. The soil is thin and its provender is meagre. The luckless swains who ply for a living here often find the culture of the soil yields precious little. They tend to tend sheep. Amongs shepherds and shepherdesses William took passed his youth.

Though most people in the region were impoverished peasantry the Wordsworth family was well off. William’s father was a well to do solicitor. William has one sister Dorothy and he had three brothers. Happily all five lived to adulthood which was no foregone conclusion in the 18th century. He was very close to his sister. But relations with his brothers were sometimes frigid. William sometimes went to stay with his maternal grandparents in the fair shire of York. But he and they were not in sympathy. When William was 7 his father passed away.

After a desultory schooling William went to St John’s College, Cambridge. His brothers were also educated at this university. William was very fast at his books. He had read deeply of Greece and Rome. He had little inclination for matters mathematical or scientific. After 4 years he graduated.

The French Revolution had just occurred. Youth was in ferment. William was animated by his revolutionary fervour the same as so many youths of a passionate stripe. He crossed the foam to Gaul. Ere long he fell in love with a young Frenchwoman Annette Vallon. In 1792 his funds were running low. Relations between Britain and France turned our. There was a distinct possibility of a war between the two. After a few months he sailed back to the British Island. Then he discovered that Annette was carrying his child. The baby was born in 1792. He could not see his daughter for several years.

William later wrote of being in France in 1791: bliss was it in that dawn to be alive/ But to be young was very heaven.

Wordsworth became part of the Romantic Movement. This was an artistic and intellectual movement in the late 18th century and the early 19th century. This is not about ‘romantic’ in the sense of the love of a man for a woman. It was about sentimentality and the celebration of the natural world. The classic paradigm is that of wilderness. Romantics preferred the untamed undergrowth and trees to a manicured garden. They believe in letting things go to do what they will. They intuited that mankind is born good. By contrast the traditionalists at the time believe that the inborn nature of mankind was wicked and needed to be kept in check.

The romantics tended to be politically radical. They were fired by zeal for the French Revolution. They also were usually against organised religion. They correctly perceived the established churches as being bedfellows of the reaction. Wordsworth did not adhere to the romantic cause on the religious issue. He remained a member of the Church of England.

The poems of Wordsworth are noted for their simplicity. He eschewed a highfalutin vocabulary. Poets of the previous movement – the Augustan poets – bore their erudition heavily. They strove to pack their verses with references to classical mythology and Latinisms.

In time Wordsworth married. His marriage was blessed with a race of children.

The subjects of Wordsworth’s poems were often the landscape of his native Lake District. He also wrote about the plain people of this region.

This is one of Wordsworth’s most widely appreciated poems

I wandered lonely as a cloud

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed- and gazed- but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils


As Wordsworth grew older he began his cultural retreat. He become more conservative. In time he advocated for the Tory cause. He had always been a communicant of the Church of England. In his dotage his faith became fervent.

The Poet Laureate is the official poet of the United Kingdom. It is the supreme honour which may be conferred upon a composer of verses. In old age Wordsworth was offered this exalted title. He accepted without demure.

As Wordsworth was conscious that the grave lay not far ahead he cast his mind back to his childhood. He composed The Prelude as in these poems were about the prelude to his adulthood.

Here is an excerpt from The Prelude


One summer evening (led by her) I found
A little boat tied to a willow tree
Within a rocky cove, its usual home.
Straight I unloosed her chain, and stepping in
Pushed from the shore
. It was an act of stealth
And troubled pleasure
nor without the voice
Of mountain-echoes did my boat move

Leaving behind her still, on either side,
Small circles glittering idly in the moon,
Until they melted all into one track
Of sparkling light.
 But now, like one who rows,
Proud of his skill, to reach a chosen point
With an unswerving line, I fixed my view
Upon the summit of a craggy ridge

The horizon’s utmost boundary; far above
Was nothing but the stars and the grey sky

She was an elfin pinnacelustily
I dipped my oars into the silent lake,
And, as I rose upon the stroke, my boat
Went heaving through the water like a swan;

When, from behind that craggy steep till then
The horizon’s bound, a huge peak, black and huge,
As if with voluntary power instinct,
Upreared its head
. I struck and struck again,
And growing still in stature the grim shape
Towered up between me and the stars, and still,
For so it seemed, with purpose of its own
And measured motion like a living thing,
Strode after me.
 With trembling oars I turned,
And through the silent water stole my way
Back to the covert of the willow tree;

There in her mooring-place I left my bark, –
And through the meadows homeward went, in grave
And serious mood
but after I had seen
That spectacle, for many days, my brain
Worked with a dim and undetermined sense
Of unknown modes of being; o’er my thoughts
There hung a darkness
, call it solitude
Or blank desertion.
 No familiar shapes
Remained, no pleasant images of trees,
Of sea or sky, no colours of green fields

But huge and mighty forms, that do not live
Like living men, moved slowly through the mind
By day, and were a trouble to my dreams

In 1850 Wordsworth died.


  1. In which year was Wordsworth born?
  2. In which land was he born?
  3. What was his Christian name?
  4. What profession did his father follow?
  5. Which university did he attend?
  6. What was his religion?
  7. Which foreign land did he visit in the 1790s?
  8. What happened between him and Annette?
  9. What intellectual movement was he part of?
  10. What is the poem about his childhood?
  11.  Did he take a wife?
  12. What exalted title was he given when he was old?
  13.  When did he die?
  14.  Name a poem by him?
  15. What do you think of him? Five sentences



advanced course lesson 10 Coleridge


advanced course lesson 10


Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born in Devon. This a county in south-western England. His father was a priest in the Church of England. 1772 is the year of Samuel’s birth. The Coleridge family had high social status because the church was held in great esteem. But they were not aristocrats. Financially they were much better off than most people. But their wealth did not match their standing. Samuel had a happy family life but was often ill with rheumatic fever and other ailments.  His fond parents did what they could for him. However, he was afflicted with severe worry. He also suffered bouts of melancholy. It is more than possible that he had bipolar disorder.

There were 11 children in the Coleridge family. His father wed twice because his first wife died. Divorce was vanishingly rare in those days. It was impossible for a priest.

Coleridge is one of the foremost poets of the Romantic Movement. He is well known for a number of masterful poems such as the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. He also wrote in prose. Samuel Taylor was a noted scholar of Shakespeare.

Christ’s Hospital is a school despite the name. In days of yore ‘hospital’ meant a charitable institution of any kind and not solely a place of medical care. It was thither that Samuel was sent at 8. As the school law over 200 leagues from his home per force he became a boarder. The boys wore cassocks as uniforms. In those days Christ’s Hospital was in the heart of London. It has since shifted to the countryside.

Many schoolboys passed their time playing sports. Samuel was not of a sporty bent. Instead he devoured books. He read Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe when he was little. Samuel also read Arabian Nights – these tales had a profound affect on him. He dreamt of scenes from these narratives for a long time thereafter.

At school Coleridge was taught to construe Latin and Greek. His teacher was unusual in having them read English Literature. Back then English Literature was thought to be light reading. The master favoured the works of John Milton in particular.

Because of his bookishness , his frailty and his indifference to athletics he was unpopular. Samuel was often singular. He wrote Frost at Midnight to express how he felt.

In 1791 he went up to Jesus College, Cambridge. He studied hard. However, he met a young woman with whom he fell in love. He was jilted by her. Possibly because of this he dropped out of university and enlisted in the army. He made an unlikely soldier. The Napoleonic Wars were on and they needed more men. His family found him and paid the army to let him leave. Samuel went back to his college. However, he did not complete his degree. That was not an uncommon occurrence back then.

Samuel had been indifferent to politics. But he was a teenager during the French Revolution. It was impossible for an intelligent person not to become politically engaged. He had a friend called Robert Southey who was fascinated by politics. Southey wrote the Fall of Robespierre about the doyen of the French Revolution who was later convicted for counterrevolutionary activities.

Southey and Samuel came up with the quixotic idea of founding the ideal community in the United States. It was to be called Pantisocracy. In the end they did not even try to set it up. But the two wed sisters. Samuel and his wife Sara produced four children in short order. He came to rue his marriage and believe it was an error of the most grevious kind. After a few years they lived apart. They did not divorce.

In 1796 Samuel met Joseph Cottell. Cottell later helped him financially. That same year Samuel published his first volume of verse. He published a book which contained poems by Southey as well as himself.

Thomas Chatterton was a magnificent poet who died at the age of 17. Samuel’s interest was piqued by this maudlin tale. He composed a poem on it.

Charles Lamb was a close friend of Samuel. They co published a book too.

Samuel began to take a drug called laudunum. This was entirely lawful at the time. People took it for recreational purposes. He found that this alleviated the overwhelming worry that he felt.

In the late 1790s Coleridge worked as a private tutor. He moved to Somerset. This is a county in the south-western peninsula of England. This is adjacent to his native county. This proved to be a most productive period. He came to known William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy.

At this time Samuel composed Kubla Khan. In this poem he wrote ‘In Xanadu did Kublai Khan/ A stately pleasure dome decree.’ He later recalled that he composed this poem whilst under the influence of laudunum. Whilst writing this poem he was interrupted by a ‘person from Porlock’ whom some take to have been the postman. Had it not been for this then he would have written much more.

Somerset is a maritime county. Samuel interacted with sailors. This made him reflect on their hardihood and the travails that they braved. He was driven to write The Rime of the Ancient Mariner which is his lengthiest poem. These days we spell the word ‘rhyme’. A ‘mariner’ is a sailor. Sailors were incredibly superstitious back then. Some of them believed that to kill an albatross would seal one’s doom. In this poem a sailor ill-advisedly shoots and albatross. The others feel foreboding. Of course calamity befalls them. Their ship sinks. They cling to a raft but have no drinking water. Samuel wrote ‘water, water everywhere but never a drop to drink.’

In 1798 Samuel and his pal William Wordsworth published Lyrical Ballads. Some take this as the start of the Romantic Age in English literature.

Though not religious in his youth he was friends with some clergy. Reverend Toumlin was a dear friend of his. Toumlin’s daughter was mentally ill and threw herself into the sea to commit suicide. Toumlin reacted with stoicism to his daughter drowning herself.

In 1797 Samuel spent some time in Shropshire. He was becoming more religious He assisted a local Unitarian minister. At this point Samuel considered becoming a religious leader.

Josiah Wedgwood paid Samuel an honorarium. But this was with the caveat that Samuel was not allowed to be a minister of religion. Samuel reluctantly accepted. Wedgwood was immensely impressed with Samuel’s verse and was his patron of the arts.

In 1798 Samuel sailed to Germany. Germany was not a united country back then. It was divided into 360 states. Some of the states were completely independent. Others were part of the Holy Roman Empire. The UK was at war against France. Most German states were pro-British or neutral. So Samuel could travel freely there. He enrolled at the University of Gottingen. There he mastered the German tongue. He became fascinated by philosophy.

Upon his return to the British Isles Samuel translated the works of German writers into English. He spent 1799 in northern England.

At this time Coleridge became more curious about politics. He read Political Justice by William Godwin. Samuel Taylor Coleridge inclined towards radicalism. However, he was cautious about enfranchising the masses. Some people were illiterate back then. Many were literate but to a very low level. Samuel feared that the majority were philistine. He did not idealise the lower orders.

In 1800 he resided at Keswick Hall in the Lake District. This was to be close to William Wordsworth. Dorothy cooked for Samuel. She found this exasperating as he often turned up his nose at the food she prepared. Samuel walked in the hills but pushed himself too hard. He fell ill and took too much laudanum. He also had heated arguments with Wordsworth.

In 1804 he worked in Spain and Malta.

In later life he wrote Biographia Literaria which is mainly autobiographical. It is his main prose work.

Coleridge spent the last ten years of his life in London. There he died. He is interred under a church floor in Highgate.



  1. Where was Coleridge born?
  2. What was his full name?
  3. What year was he born?
  4. What was his father’s occupation?
  5. How many children were in the family?
  6. What artistic movement was Coleridge part of?
  7. Which school did he attend?
  8. Which college did he go to?
  9. What is his poem about a sailor?
  10. What poem did he write whilst abusing drugs?
  11. Which foreign land did he study in?
  12. What was the Grand Tour?
  13. What was his relationship with Wordsworth like?
  14. Where did he die?
  15. Name a poem by Coleridge?
  16. Why is he important? Five sentences.





advanced course lesson 8 Churchill later life


advanced course lesson 8


Winston Churchill was elected to Parliament in 1900. He was a Conservative. Conservative popularity soon dissipated. In 1904 Winston crossed the floor. That meant he became a Liberal. The Liberals were elated with their new star who appealed to some people who would otherwise vote Conservative. Naturally Winston was seen as a Judas by the Tories (Conservatives). The Liberals were cognizant that Winston had come over to them partly because he saw which way the wind was blowing. That was a welcome sign.

In the 1906 election the Liberals won by a landslide. They did very well in terms of seats but not so well in terms of votes. They got only 6% points more than the Tories.

The cabinet included Winston. Ere long he was appointed Home Secretary.

Some Latvian anarchist robbed a bank in London and killed people in furtherance of their robbery.  The robbers were tracked to a house on Sidney Street. Before the police could arrest them the anarchists realised that the bobbies were on their tail. The robbers opened fire. The cops surrounded the area. The Siege of Sidney Street commenced. Winston as Home Secretary hastened to the scene. He armed himself with a firearm. The police borrowed guns from the locals. A company of Scots Guards was called from the Tower of London. There was a shootout. The house caught fire. Winston ordered the fire brigade not to douse the conflagration. The residents of adjacent houses had already been evacuated. The robbers died in the blaze unless they had already been claimed by gunplay.

Some people felt that Winston had been ostentatious in going to the scene of the gun battle. There was no need for him to do so. Was he taking a photo opportunity? He was denounced as a poseur.

There was rising anti-German sentiment in the United Kingdom. Winston had once counseled against a European war. He started to feel it was inevitable and even desirable. Nonetheless he pulled strings to be allowed to attend German military manuevres in 1912.

Relations between the UK and Germany were not so fraught. There were many visits by high ranking politicians and indeed regal personages.

In 1914 Winston was made First Lord of the Admiralty. That meant he was the politician in charge of the Royal Navy.

In 1914 the First World War broke out. It was thought that the UK could stay aloof. When Germany invaded Belgium most of the Liberal cabinet thought that the United Kingdom could remain neutral. Churchill and some others cajoled the others into deciding that war must be declared.

The Royal Navy underperformed at first. This was Winston’s responsibility. The war on the Western Front was making no progress. The First Lord of the Admiralty hit on a new idea. The proposed that they attack the Ottomans to knock them out of the war. The Royal Navy would force the Straits of the Dardanelles and sail up to Istanbul the capital of the Ottoman Empire. The British warships would then shell the city until the Ottomans threw in the towel.

The British Navy attacked the Ottomans. The Royal Navy was beaten back in March 1915. Winston had a rethink. He decided that maritime mission was not enough. There would have to be a landing. The Allies would have to seize control of the Gallipoli Peninsula. Then they would be able to de-mine the Dardanelles and British warships could sail on to Istanbul (then called Constantinople). Many had misgivings about this. Nonetheless it was decided to press forward. The French, Australians, New Zealanders and Indians were also involved. The Gallipoli Landings in April 1915 did not go well for the Allies. One of Churchill’s long time chums Ian Hamilton was put in charge. The battle raged for a desultory 9 months.Hamilton was killed in action.  The Allies eventually withdrew in ignominy.

It was felt that Churchill must carry the can for Gallipoli. He volunteered to serve with a regiment called the Royal Scots. Winston served at the front. He was generous with giving cigars to his men.

Towards the end of the war Churchill was back in the cabinet. Some had argued for a negotiated peace. Winston was dead against it. He insisted that they must fight to the finish.

In 1918 the war ended. Churchill became Colonial Secretary. He made some racialist statements. He was a keen Zionist. He believed that Jews moving into Palestine was something to be encouraged.

In 1921 Churchill was involved in negotiations with Sinn Fein. He had been a mortal foe of Michael Collins. But they established a rapport. In 1922 Collins was killed by fellow Irish nationalists. Churchill delivered an elegy to him: the valiant leader of a gallant race.

In 1922 Churchill left the Liberal Party. He stood for Parliament as a Constitutionalist. He was defeated. Winston was perturbed by the rise of the Labour Party. He was an avowed anti-socialist.

In the early 1920s he was deeply impressed by fascism. He went to Italy and addressed a fascist rally. He heaped praise on Benito Mussolini as ‘a great lawgiver’ and assured fascists that if he were an Italian he would be in their ranks.

As Winston could not get back into Parliament on his own he rejoined the Conservative Party. In the late 1920s he was made Chancellor of the Exchequer. That means finance minister. A crucial decision he had to take was about the gold standard. Against his better judgement he took Britain back onto it. It was later blamed for keeping unemployment obstinately high. The General Strike ensued in 1926. Winston was adamantine in his opposition to it. He organised a newspaper called the British Gazette.

As Chancellor Churchill insisted on retrenchment. He was notable for his parsimony towards the armed forces.

In the 1930s Churchill was out of the cabinet. His best days were behind him – or so it was assumed. He turned into a curmudgeon. He launched into regular jeremiads against appeasement. He was thersitical against Adolf Hitler.

Winston went to Germany to research a book on his ancestor the Duke of Marlborough. He arranged to meet Adolf. At the last minute Winston had to cancel.

In the mid 30s Churchill was deeply unpopular. People did not want to hear his bellicose rhetoric. Appeasement was wildly popular. He was very immoderate on India. He set his face like flint against concessions to Indian nationalism.

In March 1939 attitudes changed. People began to think that Churchill was right. The Prime Minister Chamberlain ordered a massive increase in defence spending.

On September 3 the United Kingdom declared war on the Third Reich. Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty. A message was sent to all ships of the Royal Navy. It said: Winston is back. It was the same office he had held a quarter of a century earlier.

  1. Did he fight in the First World War?
  2. What party did he join initially?
  3. In which year did the Liberals win a big victory?
  4. Which party did he move to second?
  5. What was his job during the Sidney Street Siege?
  6. Why did some dislike him?
  7. What was his job in 1914?
  8. Did he believe in the war?
  9. What happened at Gallipoli? Five marks
  10. Which of Winston’s friend was killed there?
  11. Which regiment did Winston join?
  12. What did he smoke?
  13. What job did he have in 1919?
  14.  Had he supported a negotiated settlement?
  15. Did he take part in talks in 1921?
  16. What did he say about Collins?
  17. What was his job in the late 1920s?
  18.  What did he say about the gold standard?
  19. Which newspaper did he found?
  20. What was his view of Indian independence?
  21. What did he make of appeasement?
  22. What job was he given in 1939?
  23.  What is your assessment of him? Five marks