James Shirley – 1

James Shirley (1596-1666)

AG: Then the next death poem is this great thing by James Shirley which we have in our agenda, page three-hundred, which… this poem is one of my top ten in the English language for really beautiful cadence, for sharpness and abruptness and clarity of idea, and for interesting stanza form. And it seems to be a song from a book by.. I’ve forgot what Shirley’s play was.. I have it somewhere.. somebody look it up, find out where it comes from – (page) four-twenty-seven in Auden, (the Auden-Pearson anthology) he’d give the provenance… [Allen discovers it ] – (it’s)  “from The Contention of Ajax and Ulysses” – a play – Shirley is 1596-1666. He had a very interesting life, I think. Let’s check him out here.. See what I’ve got…  [continues researching] – Well, I don’t know if I’ve got him in here… the Oxford book (sic – The Oxford Book of English Verse) doesn’t have .. the Oxford Book doesn’t have Shirley, let’s see, there’s one here.. check out what he did…

Student: This poem’s also called “A Dirge “, that’s one. That would be a funeral poem.

AG:  (Page) two-fifteen

Student: That’s unusual.

AG: Well, it’s from, it’s also from a..

Student: Play?

AG; Yeah – “Born in London in the year 1596, lived in the Civil War through the Commonwealth into the Restoration, and dying 1667. His copious dramatic activity began in 1625, in which year he produced the comedy entitled Love Tricks. Before this, in 1618, he had published an imitation of Venus and Adonis under the title of Echo. His plays were produced in rapid succession up to 1641. In 1646 he published a volume of poems, chiefly erotic, and two small volumes of masques –(M-A-S-Q-U-E-S) , 1653 and 1659.”

But he’s not very well known. He didn’t write that much that everybody knows but this “Dirge”, from The Contention of Ajax and Ulysses, which was printed in 1659, I guess, (so this was published in his (among his) late work) – “The glories of our blood and state/ Are shadows not substantial things”……..”….”Only the actions of the just/Smell sweet and blossom in their dust”

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately sixty-one minutes in and concluding at approximately sixty-three-and-three-quarter minutes in]

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