Edmund Spenser

Edmund Spenser was an English poet best known for The Faerie Queene, an epic poem and fantastical allegory celebrating the Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth I. He is recognised as one of the premier craftsmen of Modern English verse in its infancy, and one of the greatest poets in the English language. 

Edmund Spenser was born in East Smithfield, London around the year 1552 though there is some ambiguity as to the exact date of his birth. As a young boy, he was educated in London at the Merchant Taylors’ School and matriculated as a sizar at Pembroke College, Cambridge. While at Cambridge he became a friend of Gabriel Harvey, and later consulted him, despite their differing views on poetry. 

In July 1580 Spenser went to Ireland, in the service of the newly appointed Lord Deputy, Arthur Grey, 14th Baron Grey de Wilton. Then he served with the English forces during the Second Desmond Rebellion. After the defeat of the native Irish he took lands in County Cork that had been confiscated in the Munster Plantation during the Elizabethan conquest of Ireland. Among his acquaintances in the area was Walter Raleigh, a fellow colonist. 

Through his poetry Spenser hoped to secure a place at court, which he visited in Raleigh’s company to deliver his most famous work, The Faerie Queene. However, he boldly antagonised the queen’s principal secretary, Lord Burghley, and all he received in recognition of his work was a pension in 1591. When it was proposed that he receive payment of 100 pounds for his epic poem, Burghley remarked, “What, all this for a song!” 

In 1596 Spenser wrote a prose pamphlet titled, A View of the Present State of Ireland. This piece remained in manuscript until its publication and print in the mid-seventeenth century. It is probable that it was kept out of print during the author’s lifetime because of its inflammatory content. The pamphlet argued that Ireland would never be totally ‘pacified’ by the English until its indigenous language and customs had been destroyed, if necessary by violence. Spenser recommended scorched earth tactics, such as he had seen used in the Desmond Rebellions, to create famine. Although it has been highly regarded as a polemical piece of prose and valued as a historical source on 16th century Ireland, the View is seen today as genocidal in intent. Spenser did express some praise for the Gaelic poetic tradition, but also used much tendentious and bogus analysis to demonstrate that the Irish were descended from barbarian Scythian stock. 

Two of Ireland’s historians of the early modern period, Ciaran Brady and Nicholas Canny, have differed in their view of Spenser’s View of the State of Ireland. Brady’s essential proposition is that Spenser wished the English government to undertake the extermination of most of the Irish population. He writes that Spenser preferred to write in dialogue form so that the crudity of his proposals would be masked. Canny undermines Brady’s conclusion that Spenser opted for “a holocaust or a “blood-bath”, because despite Brady’s claims Spenser did not choose the sword as his preferred instrument of policy. Canny argues that Spenser instead chose not the extermination of the Irish race but rather a policy of ‘social reform pursued by drastic means’. Canny’s ultimate assertion was that Brady was over-reacting and that Spenser did not propose a policy to exterminate the Irish race. 

However, within one page he moves on to argue that no ‘English writer of the early modern period ever proposed such a drastic programme in social engineering for England, and it was even more dramatic than Brady allows for because all elements of the Irish population including the Old English of the towns, whom Brady seems to think were exempt were subject to some element of this scheme of dispersal, reintegration and re-education’. Here, Canny argues that this policy was more ‘dramatic than Brady allows’, in that Brady’s description was one of ‘bloodshed’, ‘extermination’ and ‘holocaust’ only of the native Irish but Canny’s was one of dispersal, reintegration and re-education of both the native Irish and the settler English. Even though Canny writes that ‘substantial loss of life, including loss of civilian life, was considered by Spenser’, he considers that that falls short of Brady’s conclusion. 

Later on, during the Nine Years War in 1598, Spenser was driven from his home by the native Irish forces of Aodh Ó Néill. His castle at Kilcolman, near Doneraile in North Cork was burned, and it is thought one of his infant children died in the blaze – though local legend has it that his wife also died. He possessed a second holding to the south, at Rennie, on a rock overlooking the river Blackwater in North Cork. The ruins of it are still visible today. A short distance away grew a tree, locally known as “Spenser’s Oak” until it was destroyed in a lightning strike in the 1960s. Local legend has it that he penned some or all of The Faerie Queene under this tree. 

In the year after being driven from his home, Spenser travelled to London, where he died in distressed circumstances (according to legend), aged forty-six. It was arranged for his coffin to be carried by other poets, upon which they threw many pens and pieces of poetry into his grave with many tears. 

The Faerie Queene 

Spenser’s masterpiece is an extensive poem The Faerie Queene. The first three books of The Faerie Queene were published in 1590, and a second set of three books were published in 1596. This extended epic poem deals with the adventures of knights, dragons, ladies in distress, etc. yet it is also an extended allegory about the moral life and what makes for a life of virtue. Spenser originally indicated that he intended the poem to be twelve books long, hence there is some argument about whether the version we have is in any real sense complete. 

Structure of the Spenserian Stanza and Sonnet 

Spenser used a distinctive verse form, called the Spenserian stanza, in several works, including The Faerie Queene. The stanza’s main meter is iambic pentameter with a final line in iambic hexameter (having six feet or stresses, known as an Alexandrine), and the rhyme scheme is ababbcbcc. 

The Spenserian Sonnet is based on a fusion of elements of both the Petrarchan sonnet and the Shakespearean sonnet. It is similar to the Shakespearan sonnet in the sense that its set up is based more on the 3 quatrains and a couplet,a system set up by Shakespeare; however it is more like the Petrarchan tradition in the fact that the conclusion follows from the argument or issue set up in the earlier quatrains. 

There is also a great use of the parody of the blason and the idealisation or praise of the mistress, a literary device used by many poets. It is a way to look at a woman through the appraisal of her features in comparison to other things. In this description, the mistress’s body is described part by part, i.e., much more of a scientific way of seeing one. As William Johnson states in his article “Gender Fashioning and Dynamics of Mutuality in Spenser’s Amoretti,” the poet-love in the scenes of Spenser’s sonnets in Amoretti, is able to see his lover in an objectified manner by moving her to another, or more clearly, an item. The purpose of Spenser doing this is to bring the woman from the “transcendental ideal” to a woman in everyday life. “Through his use of metonymy and metaphor, by describing the lady not as a whole being but as bodily parts, by alluding to centuries of topoi which remove her in time as well as space, the poet transforms the woman into a text, the living ‘other’ into an inanimate object” (503). 

The opposite of this also occurs in The Faerie Queen. The counter-blason, or the opposition of appraisal, is used to describe Duessa. She is not objectified, but instead all of her flaws are highlighted. In this context it should be noted that in Amoretti Spenser actually names his loved one as “Elizabeth” and that he puns humorously and often on her surname “Boyle”. S

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England’s national poet and the “Bard of Avon”. His surviving works, including some collaborations, consist of about 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. 
Shakespeare was born and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon. At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children: Susanna, and twins Hamnet and Judith. Between 1585 and 1592, he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, later known as the King’s Men. He appears to have retired to Stratford around 1613 at age 49, where he died three years later. Few records of Shakespeare’s private life survive, and there has been considerable speculation about such matters as his physical appearance, sexuality, religious beliefs, and whether the works attributed to him were written by others. 

Shakespeare produced most of his known work between 1589 and 1613. His early plays were mainly comedies and histories, genres he raised to the peak of sophistication and artistry by the end of the 16th century. He then wrote mainly tragedies until about 1608, including Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, and Macbeth, considered some of the finest works in the English language. In his last phase, he wrote tragicomedies, also known as romances, and collaborated with other playwrights. 

Many of his plays were published in editions of varying quality and accuracy during his lifetime. In 1623, two of his former theatrical colleagues published the First Folio, a collected edition of his dramatic works that included all but two of the plays now recognised as Shakespeare’s. 

Shakespeare was a respected poet and playwright in his own day, but his reputation did not rise to its present heights until the 19th century. The Romantics, in particular, acclaimed Shakespeare’s genius, and the Victorians worshipped Shakespeare with a reverence that George Bernard Shaw called “bardolatry”. In the 20th century, his work was repeatedly adopted and rediscovered by new movements in scholarship and performance. His plays remain highly popular today and are constantly studied, performed and reinterpreted in diverse cultural and political contexts throughout the world. 


Early life 

William Shakespeare was the son of John Shakespeare, an alderman and a successful glover originally from Snitterfield, and Mary Arden, the daughter of an affluent landowning farmer. He was born in Stratford-upon-Avon and baptised there on 26 April 1564. His actual birthdate remains unknown, but is traditionally observed on 23 April, St George’s Day. This date, which can be traced back to an 18th-century scholar’s mistake, has proved appealing to biographers, since Shakespeare died 23 April 1616. He was the third child of eight and the eldest surviving son.

Although no attendance records for the period survive, most biographers agree that Shakespeare was probably educated at the King’s New School in Stratford, a free school chartered in 1553, about a quarter-mile from his home. Grammar schools varied in quality during the Elizabethan era, but the curriculum was dictated by law throughout England, and the school would have provided an intensive education in Latin grammar and the classics. 

At the age of 18, Shakespeare married the 26-year-old Anne Hathaway. The consistory court of the Diocese of Worcester issued a marriage licence 27 November 1582. The next day two of Hathaway’s neighbours posted bonds guaranteeing that no lawful claims impeded the marriage. The ceremony may have been arranged in some haste, since the Worcester chancellor allowed the marriage banns to be read once instead of the usual three times, and six months after the marriage Anne gave birth to a daughter, Susanna, baptised 26 May 1583. Twins, son Hamnet and daughter Judith, followed almost two years later and were baptised 2 February 1585. Hamnet died of unknown causes at the age of 11 and was buried 11 August 1596. 

After the birth of the twins, Shakespeare left few historical traces until he is mentioned as part of the London theatre scene in 1592, and scholars refer to the years between 1585 and 1592 as Shakespeare’s “lost years”. Biographers attempting to account for this period have reported many apocryphal stories. Nicholas Rowe, Shakespeare’s first biographer, recounted a Stratford legend that Shakespeare fled the town for London to escape prosecution for deer poaching in the estate of local squire Thomas Lucy. Shakespeare is also supposed to have taken his revenge on Lucy by writing a scurrilous ballad about him. Another 18th-century story has Shakespeare starting his theatrical career minding the horses of theatre patrons in London. John Aubrey reported that Shakespeare had been a country schoolmaster. Some 20th-century scholars have suggested that Shakespeare may have been employed as a schoolmaster by Alexander Hoghton of Lancashire, a Catholic landowner who named a certain “William Shakeshafte” in his will. No evidence substantiates such stories other than hearsay collected after his death, and Shakeshafte was a common name in the Lancashire area. 

London and Theatrical Career 

It is not known exactly when Shakespeare began writing, but contemporary allusions and records of performances show that several of his plays were on the London stage by 1592. He was well enough known in London by then to be attacked in print by the playwright Robert Greene in his Groats-Worth of Wit: 

…there is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tiger’s heart wrapped in a Player’s hide, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you: and being an absolute Johannes factotum, is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country. 

Scholars differ on the exact meaning of these words, but most agree that Greene is accusing Shakespeare of reaching above his rank in trying to match university-educated writers such as Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Nashe and Greene himself (the “university wits”). The italicised phrase parodying the line “Oh, tiger’s heart wrapped in a woman’s hide” from Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 3, along with the pun “Shake-scene”, identifies Shakespeare as Greene’s target. Here Johannes Factotum—”Jack of all trades”— means a second-rate tinkerer with the work of others, rather than the more common “universal genius”. 

Greene’s attack is the earliest surviving mention of Shakespeare’s career in the theatre. Biographers suggest that his career may have begun any time from the mid-1580s to just before Greene’s remarks. From 1594, Shakespeare’s plays were performed only by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, a company owned by a group of players, including Shakespeare, that soon became the leading playing company in London. After the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603, the company was awarded a royal patent by the new king, James I, and changed its name to the King’s Men. 

In 1599, a partnership of company members built their own theatre on the south bank of the River Thames, which they called the Globe. In 1608, the partnership also took over the Blackfriars indoor theatre. Records of Shakespeare’s property purchases and investments indicate that the company made him a wealthy man. In 1597, he bought the second-largest house in Stratford, New Place, and in 1605, he invested in a share of the parish tithes in Stratford. 

Some of Shakespeare’s plays were published in quarto editions from 1594. By 1598, his name had become a selling point and began to appear on the title pages. Shakespeare continued to act in his own and other plays after his success as a playwright. The 1616 edition of Ben Jonson’s Works names him on the cast lists for Every Man in His Humour (1598) and Sejanus His Fall (1603). The absence of his name from the 1605 cast list for Jonson’s Volpone is taken by some scholars as a sign that his acting career was nearing its end. The First Folio of 1623, however, lists Shakespeare as one of “the Principal Actors in all these Plays”, some of which were first staged after Volpone, although we cannot know for certain which roles he played. In 1610, John Davies of Hereford wrote that “good Will” played “kingly” roles. In 1709, Rowe passed down a tradition that Shakespeare played the ghost of Hamlet’s father. Later traditions maintain that he also played Adam in As You Like It and the Chorus in Henry V, though scholars doubt the sources of the information. 

Shakespeare divided his time between London and Stratford during his career. In 1596, the year before he bought New Place as his family home in Stratford, Shakespeare was living in the parish of St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate, north of the River Thames. He moved across the river to Southwark by 1599, the year his company constructed the Globe Theatre there. By 1604, he had moved north of the river again, to an area north of St Paul’s Cathedral with many fine houses. There he rented rooms from a French Huguenot called Christopher Mountjoy, a maker of ladies’ wigs and other headgear. 

Later Years and Death 

Rowe was the first biographer to pass down the tradition that Shakespeare retired to Stratford some years before his death; but retirement from all work was uncommon at that time; and Shakespeare continued to visit London. In 1612 he was called as a witness in a court case concerning the marriage settlement of Mountjoy’s daughter, Mary. In March 1613 he bought a gatehouse in the former Blackfriars priory; and from November 1614 he was in London for several weeks with his son-in-law, John Hall. 

After 1606–1607, Shakespeare wrote fewer plays, and none are attributed to him after 1613. His last three plays were collaborations, probably with John Fletcher, who succeeded him as the house playwright for the King’s Men. 

Shakespeare died on 23 April 1616 and was survived by his wife and two daughters. Susanna had married a physician, John Hall, in 1607, and Judith had married Thomas Quiney, a vintner, two months before Shakespeare’s death. 

In his will, Shakespeare left the bulk of his large estate to his elder daughter Susanna. The terms instructed that she pass it down intact to “the first son of her body”. The Quineys had three children, all of whom died without marrying. The Halls had one child, Elizabeth, who married twice but died without children in 1670, ending Shakespeare’s direct line. Shakespeare’s will scarcely mentions his wife, Anne, who was probably entitled to one third of his estate automatically. He did make a point, however, of leaving her “my second best bed”, a bequest that has led to much speculation. Some scholars see the bequest as an insult to Anne, whereas others believe that the second-best bed would have been the matrimonial bed and therefore rich in significance. 

Shakespeare was buried in the chancel of the Holy Trinity Church two days after his death. The epitaph carved into the stone slab covering his grave includes a curse against moving his bones, which was carefully avoided during restoration of the church in 2008: 

Good frend for Iesvs sake forbeare, 

To digg the dvst encloased heare. 

Bleste be ye man yt spares thes stones, 

And cvrst be he yt moves my bones. 

Modern spelling: 

“Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbear,” 

“To dig the dust enclosed here.” 

“Blessed be the man that spares these stones,” 

“And cursed be he who moves my bones.” 

Sometime before 1623, a funerary monument was erected in his memory on the north wall, with a half-effigy of him in the act of writing. Its plaque compares him to Nestor, Socrates, and Virgil. In 1623, in conjunction with the publication of the First Folio, the Droeshout engraving was published. 

Shakespeare has been commemorated in many statues and memorials around the world, including funeral monuments in Southwark Cathedral and Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey. 


Most playwrights of the period typically collaborated with others at some point, and critics agree that Shakespeare did the same, mostly early and late in his career. Some attributions, such as Titus Andronicus and the early history plays, remain controversial, while The Two Noble Kinsmen and the lost Cardenio have well-attested contemporary documentation. Textual evidence also supports the view that several of the plays were revised by other writers after their original composition. 

The first recorded works of Shakespeare are Richard III and the three parts of Henry VI, written in the early 1590s during a vogue for historical drama. Shakespeare’s plays are difficult to date, however, and studies of the texts suggest that Titus Andronicus, The Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew and The Two Gentlemen of Verona may also belong to Shakespeare’s earliest period. His first histories, which draw heavily on the 1587 edition of Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, dramatise the destructive results of weak or corrupt rule and have been interpreted as a justification for the origins of the Tudor dynasty. The early plays were influenced by the works of other Elizabethan dramatists, especially Thomas Kyd and Christopher Marlowe, by the traditions of medieval drama, and by the plays of Seneca. The Comedy of Errors was also based on classical models, but no source for The Taming of the Shrew has been found, though it is related to a separate play of the same name and may have derived from a folk story. Like The Two Gentlemen of Verona, in which two friends appear to approve of rape, the Shrew’s story of the taming of a woman’s independent spirit by a man sometimes troubles modern critics and directors. 

Shakespeare’s early classical and Italianate comedies, containing tight double plots and precise comic sequences, give way in the mid-1590s to the romantic atmosphere of his greatest comedies. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a witty mixture of romance, fairy magic, and comic lowlife scenes. Shakespeare’s next comedy, the equally romantic Merchant of Venice, contains a portrayal of the vengeful Jewish moneylender Shylock, which reflects Elizabethan views but may appear derogatory to modern audiences. The wit and wordplay of Much Ado About Nothing, the charming rural setting of As You Like It, and the lively merrymaking of Twelfth Night complete Shakespeare’s sequence of great comedies. After the lyrical Richard II, written almost entirely in verse, Shakespeare introduced prose comedy into the histories of the late 1590s, Henry IV, parts 1 and 2, and Henry V. His characters become more complex and tender as he switches deftly between comic and serious scenes, prose and poetry, and achieves the narrative variety of his mature work. This period begins and ends with two tragedies: Romeo and Juliet, the famous romantic tragedy of sexually charged adolescence, love, and death; and Julius Caesar—based on Sir Thomas North’s 1579 translation of Plutarch’s Parallel Lives—which introduced a new kind of drama. According to Shakespearean scholar James Shapiro, in Julius Caesar “the various strands of politics, character, inwardness, contemporary events, even Shakespeare’s own reflections on the act of writing, began to infuse each other”. 

In the early 17th century, Shakespeare wrote the so-called “problem plays” Measure for Measure, Troilus and Cressida, and All’s Well That Ends Well and a number of his best known tragedies. Many critics believe that Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies represent the peak of his art. The titular hero of one of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies, Hamlet, has probably been discussed more than any other Shakespearean character, especially for his famous soliloquy “To be or not to be; that is the question”. Unlike the introverted Hamlet, whose fatal flaw is hesitation, the heroes of the tragedies that followed, Othello and King Lear, are undone by hasty errors of judgement. The plots of Shakespeare’s tragedies often hinge on such fatal errors or flaws, which overturn order and destroy the hero and those he loves. In Othello, the villain Iago stokes Othello’s sexual jealousy to the point where he murders the innocent wife who loves him. In King Lear, the old king commits the tragic error of giving up his powers, initiating the events which lead to the torture and blinding of the Earl of Gloucester and the murder of Lear’s youngest daughter Cordelia. According to the critic Frank Kermode, “the play offers neither its good characters nor its audience any relief from its cruelty”. In Macbeth, the shortest and most compressed of Shakespeare’s tragedies, uncontrollable ambition incites Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth, to murder the rightful king and usurp the throne, until their own guilt destroys them in turn. In this play, Shakespeare adds a supernatural element to the tragic structure. His last major tragedies, Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus, contain some of Shakespeare’s finest poetry and were considered his most successful tragedies by the poet and critic T. S. Eliot. 

In his final period, Shakespeare turned to romance or tragicomedy and completed three more major plays: Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale and The Tempest, as well as the collaboration, Pericles, Prince of Tyre. Less bleak than the tragedies, these four plays are graver in tone than the comedies of the 1590s, but they end with reconciliation and the forgiveness of potentially tragic errors. Some commentators have seen this change in mood as evidence of a more serene view of life on Shakespeare’s part, but it may merely reflect the theatrical fashion of the day. Shakespeare collaborated on two further surviving plays, Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen, probably with John Fletcher. 


It is not clear for which companies Shakespeare wrote his early plays. The title page of the 1594 edition of Titus Andronicus reveals that the play had been acted by three different troupes. After the plagues of 1592–3, Shakespeare’s plays were performed by his own company at The Theatre and the Curtain in Shoreditch, north of the Thames. Londoners flocked there to see the first part of Henry IV, Leonard Digges recording, “Let but Falstaff come, Hal, Poins, the rest…and you scarce shall have a room”.] When the company found themselves in dispute with their landlord, they pulled The Theatre down and used the timbers to construct the Globe Theatre, the first playhouse built by actors for actors, on the south bank of the Thames at Southwark. The Globe opened in autumn 1599, with Julius Caesar one of the first plays staged. Most of Shakespeare’s greatest post-1599 plays were written for the Globe, including Hamlet, Othello and King Lear. 

After the Lord Chamberlain’s Men were renamed the King’s Men in 1603, they entered a special relationship with the new King James. Although the performance records are patchy, the King’s Men performed seven of Shakespeare’s plays at court between 1 November 1604 and 31 October 1605, including two performances of The Merchant of Venice. After 1608, they performed at the indoor Blackfriars Theatre during the winter and the Globe during the summer. The indoor setting, combined with the Jacobean fashion for lavishly staged masques, allowed Shakespeare to introduce more elaborate stage devices. In Cymbeline, for example, Jupiter descends “in thunder and lightning, sitting upon an eagle: he throws a thunderbolt. The ghosts fall on their knees.” 

The actors in Shakespeare’s company included the famous Richard Burbage, William Kempe, Henry Condell and John Heminges. Burbage played the leading role in the first performances of many of Shakespeare’s plays, including Richard III, Hamlet, Othello, and King Lear. The popular comic actor Will Kempe played the servant Peter in Romeo and Juliet and Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing, among other characters. He was replaced around the turn of the 16th century by Robert Armin, who played roles such as Touchstone in As You Like It and the fool in King Lear. In 1613, Sir Henry Wotton recorded that Henry VIII “was set forth with many extraordinary circumstances of pomp and ceremony”. On 29 June, however, a cannon set fire to the thatch of the Globe and burned the theatre to the ground, an event which pinpoints the date of a Shakespeare play with rare precision. 

Textual Sources 

In 1623, John Heminges and Henry Condell, two of Shakespeare’s friends from the King’s Men, published the First Folio, a collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays. It contained 36 texts, including 18 printed for the first time. Many of the plays had already appeared in quarto versions—flimsy books made from sheets of paper folded twice to make four leaves. No evidence suggests that Shakespeare approved these editions, which the First Folio describes as “stol’n and surreptitious copies”. Alfred Pollard termed some of them “bad quartos” because of their adapted, paraphrased or garbled texts, which may in places have been reconstructed from memory. Where several versions of a play survive, each differs from the other. The differences may stem from copying or printing errors, from notes by actors or audience members, or from Shakespeare’s own papers. In some cases, for example Hamlet, Troilus and Cressida and Othello, Shakespeare could have revised the texts between the quarto and folio editions. In the case of King Lear, however, while most modern additions do conflate them, the 1623 folio version is so different from the 1608 quarto, that the Oxford Shakespeare prints them both, arguing that they cannot be conflated without confusion. 


In 1593 and 1594, when the theatres were closed because of plague, Shakespeare published two narrative poems on erotic themes, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. He dedicated them to Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton. In Venus and Adonis, an innocent Adonis rejects the sexual advances of Venus; while in The Rape of Lucrece, the virtuous wife Lucrece is raped by the lustful Tarquin. Influenced by Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the poems show the guilt and moral confusion that result from uncontrolled lust. Both proved popular and were often reprinted during Shakespeare’s lifetime. A third narrative poem, A Lover’s Complaint, in which a young woman laments her seduction by a persuasive suitor, was printed in the first edition of the Sonnets in 1609. Most scholars now accept that Shakespeare wrote A Lover’s Complaint. Critics consider that its fine qualities are marred by leaden effects. The Phoenix and the Turtle, printed in Robert Chester’s 1601 Love’s Martyr, mourns the deaths of the legendary phoenix and his lover, the faithful turtle dove. In 1599, two early drafts of sonnets 138 and 144 appeared in The Passionate Pilgrim, published under Shakespeare’s name but without his permission. 


Published in 1609, the Sonnets were the last of Shakespeare’s non-dramatic works to be printed. Scholars are not certain when each of the 154 sonnets was composed, but evidence suggests that Shakespeare wrote sonnets throughout his career for a private readership. Even before the two unauthorised sonnets appeared in The Passionate Pilgrim in 1599, Francis Meres had referred in 1598 to Shakespeare’s “sugred Sonnets among his private friends”. Few analysts believe that the published collection follows Shakespeare’s intended sequence. He seems to have planned two contrasting series: one about uncontrollable lust for a married woman of dark complexion (the “dark lady”), and one about conflicted love for a fair young man (the “fair youth”). It remains unclear if these figures represent real individuals, or if the authorial “I” who addresses them represents Shakespeare himself, though Wordsworth believed that with the sonnets “Shakespeare unlocked his heart”. The 1609 edition was dedicated to a “Mr. W.H.”, credited as “the only begetter” of the poems. 

It is not known whether this was written by Shakespeare himself or by the publisher, Thomas Thorpe, whose initials appear at the foot of the dedication page; nor is it known who Mr. W.H. was, despite numerous theories, or whether Shakespeare even authorised the publication. Critics praise the Sonnets as a profound meditation on the nature of love, sexual passion, procreation, death, and time. 


Shakespeare’s first plays were written in the conventional style of the day. He wrote them in a stylised language that does not always spring naturally from the needs of the characters or the drama. The poetry depends on extended, sometimes elaborate metaphors and conceits, and the language is often rhetorical—written for actors to declaim rather than speak. The grand speeches in Titus Andronicus, in the view of some critics, often hold up the action, for example; and the verse in The Two Gentlemen of Verona has been described as stilted. 

Soon, however, Shakespeare began to adapt the traditional styles to his own purposes. The opening soliloquy of Richard III has its roots in the self-declaration of Vice in medieval drama. At the same time, Richard’s vivid self-awareness looks forward to the soliloquies of Shakespeare’s mature plays. No single play marks a change from the traditional to the freer style. Shakespeare combined the two throughout his career, with Romeo and Juliet perhaps the best example of the mixing of the styles. By the time of Romeo and Juliet, Richard II, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the mid-1590s, Shakespeare had begun to write a more natural poetry. He increasingly tuned his metaphors and images to the needs of the drama itself.

Shakespeare’s standard poetic form was blank verse, composed in iambic pentameter. In practice, this meant that his verse was usually unrhymed and consisted of ten syllables to a line, spoken with a stress on every second syllable. The blank verse of his early plays is quite different from that of his later ones. It is often beautiful, but its sentences tend to start, pause, and finish at the end of lines, with the risk of monotony. Once Shakespeare mastered traditional blank verse, he began to interrupt and vary its flow. This technique releases the new power and flexibility of the poetry in plays such as Julius Caesar and Hamlet. Shakespeare uses it, for example, to convey the turmoil in Hamlet’s mind: 

Sir, in my heart there was a kind of fighting 

That would not let me sleep. Methought I lay 

Worse than the mutines in the bilboes. Rashly— 

And prais’d be rashness for it—let us know 

Our indiscretion sometimes serves us well… 

Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 2, 4–8 

After Hamlet, Shakespeare varied his poetic style further, particularly in the more emotional passages of the late tragedies. The literary critic A. C. Bradley described this style as “more concentrated, rapid, varied, and, in construction, less regular, not seldom twisted or elliptical”. In the last phase of his career, Shakespeare adopted many techniques to achieve these effects. These included run-on lines, irregular pauses and stops, and extreme variations in sentence structure and length. In Macbeth, for example, the language darts from one unrelated metaphor or simile to another: “was the hope drunk/ Wherein you dressed yourself?” (1.7.35–38); “…pity, like a naked new-born babe/ Striding the blast, or heaven’s cherubim, hors’d/ Upon the sightless couriers of the air…” (1.7.21–25). The listener is challenged to complete the sense. The late romances, with their shifts in time and surprising turns of plot, inspired a last poetic style in which long and short sentences are set against one another, clauses are piled up, subject and object are reversed, and words are omitted, creating an effect of spontaneity. 

Shakespeare combined poetic genius with a practical sense of the theatre. Like all playwrights of the time, he dramatised stories from sources such as Plutarch and Holinshed. He reshaped each plot to create several centres of interest and to show as many sides of a narrative to the audience as possible. This strength of design ensures that a Shakespeare play can survive translation, cutting and wide interpretation without loss to its core drama. As Shakespeare’s mastery grew, he gave his characters clearer and more varied motivations and distinctive patterns of speech. He preserved aspects of his earlier style in the later plays, however. In Shakespeare’s late romances, he deliberately returned to a more artificial style, which emphasised the illusion of theatre. 


Shakespeare’s work has made a lasting impression on later theatre and literature. In particular, he expanded the dramatic potential of characterisation, plot, language, and genre. Until Romeo and Juliet, for example, romance had not been viewed as a worthy topic for tragedy. Soliloquies had been used mainly to convey information about characters or events; but Shakespeare used them to explore characters’ minds. His work heavily influenced later poetry. The Romantic poets attempted to revive Shakespearean verse drama, though with little success. Critic George Steiner described all English verse dramas from Coleridge to Tennyson as “feeble variations on Shakespearean themes.” 

Shakespeare influenced novelists such as Thomas Hardy, William Faulkner, and Charles Dickens. The American novelist Herman Melville’s soliloquies owe much to Shakespeare; his Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick is a classic tragic hero, inspired by King Lear. Scholars have identified 20,000 pieces of music linked to Shakespeare’s works. These include two operas by Giuseppe Verdi, Otello and Falstaff, whose critical standing compares with that of the source plays. Shakespeare has also inspired many painters, including the Romantics and the Pre-Raphaelites. The Swiss Romantic artist Henry Fuseli, a friend of William Blake, even translated Macbeth into German. The psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud drew on Shakespearean psychology, in particular that of Hamlet, for his theories of human nature. 

In Shakespeare’s day, English grammar, spelling and pronunciation were less standardised than they are now, and his use of language helped shape modern English. Samuel Johnson quoted him more often than any other author in his A Dictionary of the English Language, the first serious work of its type. Expressions such as “with bated breath” (Merchant of Venice) and “a foregone conclusion” (Othello) have found their way into everyday English speech. 

Critical Reputation 
Shakespeare was not revered in his lifetime, but he received his share of praise. In 1598, the cleric and author Francis Meres singled him out from a group of English writers as “the most excellent” in both comedy and tragedy. And the authors of the Parnassus plays at St John’s College, Cambridge, numbered him with Chaucer, Gower and Spenser. In the First Folio, Ben Jonson called Shakespeare the “Soul of the age, the applause, delight, the wonder of our stage”, though he had remarked elsewhere that “Shakespeare wanted art”. 

Between the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 and the end of the 17th century, classical ideas were in vogue. As a result, critics of the time mostly rated Shakespeare below John Fletcher and Ben Jonson. Thomas Rymer, for example, condemned Shakespeare for mixing the comic with the tragic. Nevertheless, poet and critic John Dryden rated Shakespeare highly, saying of Jonson, “I admire him, but I love Shakespeare”. For several decades, Rymer’s view held sway; but during the 18th century, critics began to respond to Shakespeare on his own terms and acclaim what they termed his natural genius. A series of scholarly editions of his work, notably those of Samuel Johnson in 1765 and Edmond Malone in 1790, added to his growing reputation. By 1800, he was firmly enshrined as the national poet. In the 18th and 19th centuries, his reputation also spread abroad. Among those who championed him were the writers Voltaire, Goethe, Stendhal and Victor Hugo. 

During the Romantic era, Shakespeare was praised by the poet and literary philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge; and the critic August Wilhelm Schlegel translated his plays in the spirit of German Romanticism. In the 19th century, critical admiration for Shakespeare’s genius often bordered on adulation. “That King Shakespeare,” the essayist Thomas Carlyle wrote in 1840, “does not he shine, in crowned sovereignty, over us all, as the noblest, gentlest, yet strongest of rallying signs; indestructible”. The Victorians produced his plays as lavish spectacles on a grand scale. The playwright and critic George Bernard Shaw mocked the cult of Shakespeare worship as “bardolatry”. He claimed that the new naturalism of Ibsen’s plays had made Shakespeare obsolete. 

The modernist revolution in the arts during the early 20th century, far from discarding Shakespeare, eagerly enlisted his work in the service of the avant-garde. The Expressionists in Germany and the Futurists in Moscow mounted productions of his plays. Marxist playwright and director Bertolt Brecht devised an epic theatre under the influence of Shakespeare. The poet and critic T. S. Eliot argued against Shaw that Shakespeare’s “primitiveness” in fact made him truly modern. Eliot, along with G. Wilson Knight and the school of New Criticism, led a movement towards a closer reading of Shakespeare’s imagery. In the 1950s, a wave of new critical approaches replaced modernism and paved the way for “post-modern” studies of Shakespeare. By the eighties, Shakespeare studies were open to movements such as structuralism, feminism, New Historicism, African American studies, and queer studies. 

Speculation about Shakespeare 


Main article: Shakespeare authorship question 

Around 150 years after Shakespeare’s death, doubts began to be expressed about the authorship of the works attributed to him. Proposed alternative candidates include Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, and Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. Several “group theories” have also been proposed. Only a small minority of academics believe there is reason to question the traditional attribution, but interest in the subject, particularly the Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship, continues into the 21st century. 


Some scholars claim that members of Shakespeare’s family were Catholics, at a time when Catholic practice was against the law. Shakespeare’s mother, Mary Arden, certainly came from a pious Catholic family. The strongest evidence might be a Catholic statement of faith signed by John Shakespeare, found in 1757 in the rafters of his former house in Henley Street. The document is now lost, however, and scholars differ as to its authenticity. In 1591 the authorities reported that John Shakespeare had missed church “for fear of process for debt”, a common Catholic excuse. In 1606 the name of William’s daughter Susanna appears on a list of those who failed to attend Easter communion in Stratford. Scholars find evidence both for and against Shakespeare’s Catholicism in his plays, but the truth may be impossible to prove either way. 


Few details of Shakespeare’s sexuality are known. At 18, he married the 26-year-old Anne Hathaway, who was pregnant. Susanna, the first of their three children, was born six months later on 26 May 1583. Over the centuries some readers have posited that Shakespeare’s sonnets are autobiographical, and point to them as evidence of his love for a young man. Others read the same passages as the expression of intense friendship rather than sexual love. The 26 so-called “Dark Lady” sonnets, addressed to a married woman, are taken as evidence of heterosexual liaisons.


There is no written description of Shakespeare’s physical appearance and no evidence that he ever commissioned a portrait, so the Droeshout engraving, which Ben Jonson approved of as a good likeness, and his Stratford monument provide the best evidence of his appearance. From the 18th century, the desire for authentic Shakespeare portraits fuelled claims that various surviving pictures depicted Shakespeare. That demand also led to the production of several fake portraits, as well as misattributions, repaintings and relabelling of portraits of other people.

Robert Frost

Robert Frost  Mar 26, 1874 - Jan 19, 1963

Robert Frost
Mar 26, 1874 – Jan 19, 1963

Robert Lee Frost was an American poet. He is highly regarded for his realistic depictions of rural life and his command of American colloquial speech. His work frequently employed settings from rural life in New England in the early twentieth century, using them to examine complex social and philosophical themes. A popular and often-quoted poet, Frost was honored frequently during his lifetime, receiving four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry. 
Early years 
Robert Frost was born in San Francisco, California, to journalist William Prescott Frost, Jr., and Isabelle Moodie. His mother was of Scottish descent, and his father descended from Nicholas Frost of Tiverton, Devon, England, who had sailed to New Hampshire in 1634 on the Wolfrana. 
Frost’s father was a teacher and later an editor of the San Francisco Evening Bulletin (which afterwards merged into the San Francisco Examiner), and an unsuccessful candidate for city tax collector. After his father’s death in May 5, 1885, in due time the family moved across the country to Lawrence, Massachusetts under the patronage of (Robert’s grandfather) William Frost, Sr., who was an overseer at a New England mill. Frost graduated from Lawrence High School in 1892. Frost’s mother joined the Swedenborgian church and had him baptized in it, but he left it as an adult. 
Despite his later association with rural life, Frost grew up in the city, and published his first poem in his high school’s magazine. He attended Dartmouth College long enough to be accepted into the Theta Delta Chi fraternity. Frost returned home to teach and to work at various jobs including delivering newspapers and factory labor. He did not enjoy these jobs at all, feeling his true calling as a poet. 
Adult years 
In 1894 he sold his first poem, “My Butterfly: An Elegy” (published in the November 8, 1894 edition of the New York Independent) for fifteen dollars. Proud of this accomplishment he proposed marriage to Elinor Miriam White, but she demurred, wanting to finish college (at St. Lawrence University) before they married. Frost then went on an excursion to the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia, and asked Elinor again upon his return. Having graduated she agreed, and they were married at Harvard University[citation needed], where he attended liberal arts studies for two years. 
He did well at Harvard, but left to support his growing family. Grandfather Frost had, shortly before his death, purchased a farm for the young couple in Derry, New Hampshire; and Robert worked the farm for nine years, while writing early in the mornings and producing many of the poems that would later become famous. Ultimately his farming proved unsuccessful and he returned to education as an English teacher, at Pinkerton Academy from 1906 to 1911, then at the New Hampshire Normal School (now Plymouth State University) in Plymouth, New Hampshire. 
In 1912 Frost sailed with his family to Great Britain, living first in Glasgow before settling in Beaconsfield outside London. His first book of poetry, A Boy’s Will, was published the next year. In England he made some important acquaintances, including Edward Thomas (a member of the group known as the Dymock Poets), T.E. Hulme, and Ezra Pound. Pound would become the first American to write a (favorable) review of Frost’s work. Surrounded by his peers, Frost wrote some of his best work while in England. 
As World War I began, Frost returned to America in 1915. He bought a farm in Franconia, New Hampshire, where he launched a career of writing, teaching, and lecturing. This family homestead served as the Frosts’ summer home until 1938, and is maintained today as ‘The Frost Place’, a museum and poetry conference site at Franconia. During the years 1916–20, 1923–24, and 1927–1938, Frost taught English at Amherst College, Massachusetts, notably encouraging his students to account for the sounds of the human voice in their writing. 
For forty-two years, from 1921 to 1963, Frost spent almost every summer and fall teaching at the Bread Loaf School of English of Middlebury College, at the mountain campus at Ripton, Vermont. He is credited as a major influence upon the development of the school and its writing programs; the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference gained renown during Frost’s tenure there.[citation needed] The college now owns and maintains his former Ripton farmstead as a national historic site near the Bread Loaf campus. In 1921 Frost accepted a fellowship teaching post at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where he resided until 1927; while there he was awarded a lifetime appointment at the University as a Fellow in Letters. The Robert Frost Ann Arbor home is now situated at The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Frost returned to Amherst in 1927. In 1940 he bought a 5-acre (2.0 ha) plot in South Miami, Florida, naming it Pencil Pines; he spent his winters there for the rest of his life. 
Harvard’s 1965 alumni directory indicates Frost received an honorary degree there. He also received honorary degrees from Bates College and from Oxford and Cambridge universities; and he was the first person to receive two honorary degrees from Dartmouth College. During his lifetime the Robert Frost Middle School in Fairfax, Virginia, and the main library of Amherst College were named after him. 
Frost was 86 when he spoke and performed a reading of his poetry at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy on January 20, 1961. Some two years later, on January 29, 1963, he died, in Boston, of complications from prostate surgery. He was buried at the Old Bennington Cemetery in Bennington, Vermont. His epitaph reads, “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.” 
Frost’s poems are critiqued in the “Anthology of Modern American Poetry”, Oxford University Press, where it is mentioned that behind a sometimes charmingly familiar and rural façade, Frost’s poetry frequently presents pessimistic and menacing undertones which often are not recognized nor analyzed. 
One of the original collections of Frost materials, to which he himself contributed, is found in the Special Collections department of the Jones Library in Amherst, Massachusetts. The collection consists of approximately twelve thousand items, including original manuscript poems and letters, correspondence, and photographs, as well as audio and visual recordings

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou 4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014

Maya Angelou
4 April 1928 – 28 May 2014

Born Marguerite Ann Johnson on April 4, 1928 was an American author and poet who has been called “America’s most visible black female autobiographer” by scholar Joanne M. Braxton. She is best known for her series of six autobiographical volumes, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first and most highly acclaimed, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of her first seventeen years. It brought her international recognition, and was nominated for a National Book Award. She has been awarded over 30 honorary degrees and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her 1971 volume of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Diiie.

Angelou was a member of the Harlem Writers Guild in the late 1950s, was active in the Civil Rights movement, and served as Northern Coordinator of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Since 1991, she has taught at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina where she holds the first lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies. Since the 1990s she has made around eighty appearances a year on the lecture circuit. In 1993, Angelou recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration, the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961. In 1995, she was recognized for having the longest-running record (two years) on The New York Times Paperback Nonfiction Bestseller List.

With the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou was heralded as a new kind of memoirist, one of the first African American women who was able to publicly discuss her personal life. She is highly respected as a spokesperson for Black people and women. Angelou’s work is often characterized as autobiographical fiction. She has, however, made a deliberate attempt to challenge the common structure of the autobiography by critiquing, changing, and expanding the genre. Her books, centered on themes such as identity, family, and racism, are often used as set texts in schools and universities internationally. Some of her more controversial work has been challenged or banned in US schools and libraries.

मोधनाथ पश्रित

modnath prasit
Modnath Prashrit was born in 1942 in Arghakhanchi District of Western Nepal. He has Master’s degrees in Ayurvedha, Nepali language, and Sanskrit and has published 29 books on social issues and traditional medicine. He received the coveted Madan Puraskar in 1966 and remembers equally fondly the Rs. 5 award given to him for good writing by his headmaster when he was ten years old.

Besides being a writer, Modnath Prashrit is a celebrated political personality. He is an elected member of the Lower House of Parliament and has been Education Minister. He is a polit-bureau member of the influential main opposition party, the Communist Party of Nepal, United Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML).

His political career is quite interesting. In 1982 he was arrested. He escaped from prison forty days later with six colleagues. He was betrayed by a friend and arrested again. He recalls the torture he received at the hands of the authorities and the conspiracy to murder him and his colleagues in Birgunj prison. While he was fortunate, his friend Shanker Gopali was killed.

A plot was then formed to kill them during prison transfer. Prashrit talks of Kamalraj Regmi, chairperson of Gaon Pharka campaign, who asked that Prashrit be spared. Four persons died “when attempting escape” in Sukhani Forest in Jhapa and four persons in Ekanta Kuna, to name two instances.

Opinions may differ regarding his achievements as a politician but his literature has been able to make a strong impression on the general public. Prashrit was nominated a member of the Royal Nepal Academy recently. However, he refused to join the academy pointing out that the body is politically polarized. He says he loves simplicity of language and complains that contemporary progressive literature of Nepal fails to reach the true depths of humankind and is, therefore, ignored by most of the public because it fails to address their problems and issues.

भीमनिधि तिवारी

Bhim nIDHI tiwari

Bhimnidhi Tiwari was born to a young couple Lalnidhi Tiwari and Nanda Kumari Tiwari in 1911. Lalnidhi Tiwari was extremely pleased as he had previously had no sons and organized the Indrasavha drama – an extravagant thing to do at the time to celebrate the birth.

Bhim Nidhi Tiwari grew up in a traditional home. His mother died when he was seven years old. His poem, called “Dagbatti”, recounts his experience as a child the night he was taken to the ghat burning grounds, his head shaved, and his feeling when fire consumed his mother. When his father died, Tiwari had become 27 years old and his family’s responsibilities came upon him.

For 32 years he served as a government employee. First as a section officer in the Ministry of Education and afterwards an assistant secretary. In 1938, he established Nepal Sahitya Press which was later merged with Pashupati Press. In 1949, he established Nepal Natak Sangh – an organization that worked to uplift the status of Nepalese drama and literature.

Tiwari represented Nepal in the East Asia UNESCO seminar which focused on copyright. In 1967, he accompanied his Late Majesty King Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah on a royal visit to the Netherlands, West Germany, and Karachi. The Russian government also invited him for a three week visit. Later, he visited London, Rome, and Delhi.

Lalnidhi Tiwari was a great inspiration to his son’s writings. Bhimnidhi Tiwari used to say: “The future of Nepalese drama is in doubt. Dramatists are not respected and actors and actresses are desperate.” No doubt, after Bal Krishna Sama, Tiwari contributed much to the enrichment of Nepalese drama. Among his works are Sahanshila Sushila, Adarsha Jiwan, Putali, Kashiwas, Kishan, Nainikaram, Siddhartha Gautam, Nokar, Biwaha, Akanki Pallav, Satya Harishchandra, Aakanki Kali, Silanyas, Matoko Maya, Maharaj, and Indradhanus.

Tiwari also wrote short stories, novels, poems, lyrics, and satires. He believed in social reform and wrote against smoking, drinking, and gambling. His work gives insight into Nepalese lifestyles, culture, mythologies, and history. Bhimnidhi Tiwari received many awards and prizes for his creations. “Yasashvisav” and the historical dramas, “Silanyas” and “Matokomaya” were awarded. He received the Madan Puraskar in 1970 and his Late Majesty King Tribhuvan honored him with the Prakhyan Trishakti Patta, Rajyabisekh Padak, and Gyanpad Sewa. Tiwari died in 1956.

माधव प्रसाद घिमिरे

Madhav Prasad Ghimire

Madhav Ghimmire is a living legend. Born in 1919, he is among the last of the older generation of poets in Nepal. His contemporaries – Bal Krishna Sama, Laxmi Prasad Devkota, and Siddhicharan Shrestha – have become historical figures in the annals of Nepalese literature; Ghimire is the only link to their past. A time in which these poets created some of the most powerful verses in Nepali literature. Today, their works are studied in school, college, and university.

Madhav Ghimire does echo the past. His eyes twinkle as he fondly remembers old times. At this point in his life, he is eight-one years old, he expresses contentment regarding his personal and professional experiences. Ghimire knows his destiny has been proven and he is pleased about it. His childhood, youth, and adulthood are now memories he reflects upon calmly. His innate love for the study of literature has made possible the growth of his poetic genius. As he recites a few lines from “Rupa Rani”, one can appreciate the rhythmic use of his words. What comes to mind is the play of sunlight on water, the breeze soft on the skin, and the sensation of lightness. Ghimire caresses words like an ardent lover; he seeks for emotional gratification in his creations and is comforted.

His childhood was spent in Lamjung District – among the hills, trees, rivers, and birds of rural Nepal and he grew up playing nearby cowsheds – the herders, cows and calves his close companions. Ghimire’s father was the second son in the family and was responsible for looking after cattle. They lived as a joint family and had enough to go by. The eldest son looked over household affairs and farming. Ghimire’s father along with the herders would stay high up in the lekh for several months in the cowshed and during winter, they would bring the cattle down to graze in the besi. Eight-year-old Ghimire would often accompany them and during his stay, loved having rice and milk amidst surroundings rich with natural resources. Sometimes when the cattle were fed salt, a customary practice in cow herding, his father would also add salt to young Ghimire’s meal.

Since he was most of the time away from home with his father, he was unable to develop close ties with his cousins. He became used to his loneliness and found solace in the natural beauty of his environment. In this way, the poet’s relationship with nature became a bond he feels as strongly about today. “It has been years since I last visited my village. I know the cattle are no longer taken up to the same area for grazing, but I desire to visit old haunts. Most probably I won’t recognize anyone in the village, but I feel the same about the place. I can feel the river flowing, the small trees growing; they must be big trees by now, and the heat of the sun on the riverbank’s stones. About this time, mid-April, kafuls and aisalus fruit would be ripening and bird songs would burst from the trees.

Ghimire’s mother died when he was about one and half year old, he tries to remember her but the memories are old. What he does acknowledge is the longing he had for her – to be held in her warm embrace and experience her compassion. “I coveted the way my jetho buba and jetho muwa (his father’s elder brother and sister-in-law) showered their affection on their son, Mohan Lal, my cousin who is about three to four months older than me. I also wanted to hear the sound of my mother’s voice calling my name. I wanted her to protect me like a hen with her chicks. I searched for the same kind of privilege I felt my cousin received from his parents. My jetho muwa cared for me, but I couldn’t help feeling insecure knowing she was not my mother. I think this is my childhood’s only greatest loss.

“Sometimes I thought my jetho buba and jetho muwa were indifferent to me. I was under the impression that my jetho buba wanted his son to do better in life – study hard and get an education. My grandmother adored me, but I think she felt uncomfortable to openly display affection on me. Maybe she thought it would displease her eldest son and jetho buhari.

“My father was always happy to see me after his sojourns in the lekh. He loved pampering me. I feel however, no matter how much a father loves his children, I think a mother’s love is irreplaceable. I desired to call my jetho muwa or grandmother ‘mother’ and whenever my father was around and heard me call them, he would come towards me, lift me up, and carry me. My father was sensitive about my need for my mother. I think he understood how much I wanted her.

“My father enjoyed singing. He had a good voice and his listeners would become enraptured. Especially when he recited slokas, poetical lines, they could feel the emotion in his voice and the experience would bring tears to their eyes. I was always impressed with the way my father sang; I also wanted to sing like him. Maybe unconsciously his singing and the dancing that went on in my village developed in me a desire to do something creative and beautiful. Later on, I wrote many lyrics besides poems.”

Proper educational opportunities were lacking in Ghimire’s village during his childhood. Someone who could set tithis, auspicious dates, for events like “marriages”, “Ekadasi” or “Osi” or someone who could do basic letter writing, reading and arithmetic was considered educated. “I used to sit on the pidi, outside our house and write Ka, Kha, Ga, Gha (Nepali alphabets)… on the ground with a bamboo stick. I remember a jogi, holyman, used to live on our farmland. He taught us English alphabets from an old grammar book he had; text books were non-existent then. I found studying alphabets through illustrations enjoyable.

“My father wanted me to receive educational opportunities jetho buba wished for his son. He knew unless he made the effort, his elder brother would show no interest in me. So he thought it over and decided to send me, I think when I was about twelve years old, to a jotishi, astrologer; astrology played an important role in our family and village life. This was probably the beginning of my formal education.

“Afterwards, a relative suggested to my father to send me to a school when I was fourteen or fifteen years old. It was called Bhasa Patshala, Language School, and was situated five kosh, about one or two hours walk away from our village. The guru, teacher was a Sanskrit pandit, scholar and was looking for pupils who wished to learn Sanskrit. Since our relative knew I had studied astrology and could read and write, he thought my educational base would help me study without problems. He was right because I enjoyed myself and did well.

“Depending on the season, the number of students in our class would vary. Sometimes there would be 15 to 20 of us and at other times, just about two to four students. During winter, the number of students would increase to 40 because there would be less much farm work. On the whole, I think this unrestricted kind of education suited me. Since I was attentive and listened carefully to what our teacher said, I was given a lot of attention by him when there were few students. Once I received the Ramayan as a prize. I read it, I also read the Mahabharat, and from there I selected poems of Lekhnath Poudyal. The difference I found between the religious books and Lekhnath’s poetry was the writing confidence I gained with the latter. I was able to approach Lekhnath’s work without being overwhelmed with the religious, historical or cultural context of the Ramayan and Mahabharat. Lekhnath provided me an example of how a contemporary person could create literature without feeling inhibited by his ordinariness (human weaknesses).

“I tried to create poetry and showed it to my teacher. I wasn’t sure what I had to write; the only thing I remember was I wanted to write. He liked my poems and encouraged me to continue. I sent one to the Gorkhapatra, a weekly at that time, now a national daily and it got published. I was amazed. Someone told me I would most probably become a poet. I was further amazed. To people it seemed the word ‘poet’ connoted greatness. In my experience, they were willing to read what I wrote and accepted it as literature. I think my first inspiration came from here.

“For about three years, I remained at Bhasa Patshala. Then, one day, my teacher’s younger brother returned from Kathmandu after giving his exams at Durbar High School. He told me that in ‘Nepal’, a popular name used for Kathmandu in those days had many learned people and were considered maha (great) gurus. When I heard him describe the golden temples I became in awe of ‘Nepal’; such a place could only exist in my imagination. I suddenly felt the urge to change my present state of education as well as see the world. I also knew I had already reached my potential as a student at Bhasa Patshala. By this time, my father and jetho buwa had started living separate.

“Without telling anyone at home and with seven mohar (a mohar is 50 paisa today) in my pocket, I associated myself with a trader going to Kathmandu. On reaching the capital, I became acquainted with students of the Sanskrit Patshala situated nearby Rani Pokhari (it’s still in existence). Since I had nowhere to stay, they generously shared their lodgings with me during the initial years. I helped with their cooking and ate with them. Afterwards, I sent a letter home informing my father about my whereabouts. I think he suspected me to be in Kathmandu because, I don’t remember him becoming alarmed after my departure. Later on, from time to time, he sent me money to cover my educational and living costs.”

So began Ghimire’s student’s life in Kathmandu during which he learned to manage his cooking, cleaning, and washing chores. He comments on how things have changed today. “Nowadays, students who live in Kathmandu are provided with every kind of facility to study in. They have access to good books, libraries, educational programs, and the internet. Back in my time, my student life revolved around two things: studying and learning by rote.”

Ghimire’s advantage over former students was his writing experience. Within six months’ time, he ranked second among 150 to 200 students. He became surprised with his performance. After this, he was considered budhimani, highly intelligent. Ghimire then realized that if he failed, he would lose face. He decided to work harder. His teachers impressed with his good grades recommended him to take up literature and mathematics. Towards the end of his studies, Ghimire was able to achieve first rank in his class and passed his Madhyama level of studies.

Although his studies took much of his time, eighteen-year-old Ghimmire made the time to work on his poetry. “For five years, I continuously wrote poems and published them. Slowly, I began to build up a reputation among my teachers and classmates. One day, my friend took me to Nepali Bhasa Prakashini Samiti and introduced me to Bal Krishna Sama and Krishna Shumshere. A vacancy for a writer was available in their committee and they selected me. From 1944, I started working and writing for the samiti, committee. Two years after my arrival, Laxmi Prasad Devkota joined us.

“About this time, Devkota, Gopal Prasad Rimal, Kedar Man Byathit, Siddhicharan Shrestha and I would meet regularly at the samiti. We would share and comment on each other’s work. I think this environment was congenial for our growth as poets and writers.

“Our greatest fear with our writing was the then Rana government. We had to be careful that we did not criticize them openly because they were suspicious about what we wrote. Occasionally, the samiti published a satire or two but these were very obscure. To read we had to smuggle books for ourselves. Still, I remember I was able to read and write a lot during this period.

“I think challenges are part of every situation. Each time you want to do something, you will face difficulties; this is a natural process of life. We came through the problems in our time and today, if you look at the world, you’ll see the “competitiveness” between people – writers, poets or journalists in our context – becoming a big problem. In the old days, creating a name for yourself was easier; fewer people wrote or created.”

Ghimire’s writing career developed gradually and in 1946, he became the editor of Gorkha Patra. In 1947, he participated in a poetry competition on the national flag of Nepal. Besides winning the competition, his reputation as a good poet spread. Sharada and Udaya were other journals in which he began to publish his work. He continues: “Then my first wife Gauri passed away and I was shattered. I began writing poems on her.” His poetry collection Gauri was received very well and the journal became enormously popular with the public.

Ghimire worked for two more years at the Gorkha Sansthan. However, because of his wife’s death, he realized raising two of his children, at that time his two daughters, was becoming a difficult task. For a while, he took over the management of a school in Gausar – a small town in the besi, hilly flatlands of Lamjung. Then in 1952, he participated as a trainer in a teachers’ training program in Tahachal located in the capital. Later on, a college was established in the same area, where Ghimmire taught Nepali literature until 1957. That same year, the poet who had now become nationally established, became the member of the Royal Nepal Academy. “My involvement in the academy’s activities reinforced my commitment to Nepalese Literature. My whole environment was filled with literature and creativity and, I felt, there was nothing more I wished for.” Ghimmire became Vice Chancellor of the Royal Nepal Academy from 1979 to 1988 and Chancellor from 1988 to 1990. During his tenure, he led delegations to China, Russia, and Bangladesh. For his work, he has received the Distinguished Academy Medal, Shree Prasiddha Praval Gorkha Dakshinabahu, Bhanubhakta Award, and Tribhuwan Pragya Puraskar among others. And his literary achievements are Gauri, Malati Mangale, Himal Pari Himal Wari, and Shakuntala to name a few.

As he reflects on his life, he expresses his desire to talk about the poet and poetry. He finds it helps him to identify himself better. “People may be able to differentiate between the physical beauty of a stone and plastic bag. When they are asked to select between a flower or lalupate leaf, it becomes difficult. Both things are part of nature’s creation and are attractive. I think, here, the poet becomes indiscriminate. Here, they are able to distinguish between that subtlety and describe both things with equal poetic intensity.

“Similarly, people differ by their personalities. They respond differently to the same situation. If a person is slapped, she or he may react violently or angrily. We may regard this response in two ways: objectively and subjectively. I think the expression of poets is based on the latter. They look beyond the person’s violence or anger and, reach into the depths of her/his mind.

“For example, a lahure, Nepali soldier working for British or Indian Army, is known to his commander by his role number. When he dies in battle, news reaches his village and people think highly of his valor. His brave deed is regarded objectively. However, what are his mother’s feelings? She has been expecting him to return, maybe bring her a gift, and when she hears about her son’s death, it is not a role number but an integral part of hers that dies. She thinks she should have died instead of her son. How would you define her feelings?

“When a mother’s child cries, she feels pain. So whether it’s the mother who lost her son or the mother whose child is crying is not the issue. The emotional content both mothers convey is important. This is what comes into the poet’s poetry. Pain, anger, joy, or sorrow subjectively described is what makes poetry real.

Talking about today’s literary environment, Ghimmire is speculative. “In my time, even though we feared the Rana government, we did not let go of our commitment. We did tapashya, penitence with our poetry. Nowadays, although competition is strife, a lot of young people have the freedom to follow their interests. But how long they will want to commit themselves to writing or art – a path of mental, emotional, and physical struggle – is something else.

“Also, because of economic and technology progress, youth today have access to modern amenities. Nowadays they have computers at home. Although these changes have helped lives become better; at the same time, they have developed a more relaxed view in people regarding work – the grit and perseverance that makes creation brilliant – which I think is missing.

“The way appreciation is being given to people is disappointing as well. When you watch television, you see this person or that person being acknowledged. Whether their work is worth it or not; it doesn’t seem to signify. The publicity stunt seems to weigh much more. And in time, this kind of process will devalue the meaning of literature and art.

Ghimire rationalizes that poetry should stand up for human values. “Children are brought up learning values that later form their perceptions. Sometimes, they are learnt to believe the wrong things. Look at our caste system. It leads to a misunderstood perception of class structure that is damaging. When I was a child, I used to play with a boy from the Damai, tailoring class (Before, in Nepal, vocations were allocated according to a person’s caste). Once while I was bathing in the river, he came by in a dhunga, small boat and I playfully tried to catch him. He then splashed me with water. Everything about us was natural and spontaneous.

“I feel poets should be able to go beyond the social hierarchical boundary and give humanity vision. By using their poetical skills, they should be able to seek the truth and broaden minds.”

Ghimmire believes as poets or writers we should be able to advocate world peace, justice, humanitarian deeds, etc. We have leaders who govern the country but they try to solve problems through political or administrative means. With poets or writers, wisdom should emanate from their writings.

“Most important is the conscience of the poet – how s/he perceives things; to be able to feel for the sufferings of others is what a poet should be able to emote in words. Like in Devkota’s “Muna Madan”:

Manche thulo dilale huncha, jatale hundaina,

A generous heart makes you profound and not your family/caste.

“These are the words of a compassionate man and they make you feel deeply. “Why did Devkota feel like this? Who can understand? Why do poets feel the way they feel? Who can understand? I think being able to write good poetry is a boon for others. People have the opportunity to look through the eyes of a poet and sense the beauty, ugliness, sadness or happiness in the world. Sometimes in ugliness or hardships, poets see things differently. Here, their hearts rule over their minds.

“In the past, I wrote many poems on the Himalayas. People started to call me the ‘poet’ of the Himalayas. Then someone questioned me whether I preferred the hard life in the hills to the less difficult life in the plains. I feel, however, the richness of the mountains move me; I cannot stop it. I loved my first wife Gauri dearly. She had scars on her face from small pox. Yet it mattered little to me. When I wrote poems on her, I was writing from my heart.”

To the eight-one-year old poet, social consciousness is another strong element in poetry. His awareness regarding a catastrophe like the effects of nuclear warfare indicates his sensitivity towards the future of the world and, the reason behind his poem Ashastha. He especially feels strongly about the status of women in Nepal. For him, they represent a symbol of struggle and hardship. “I find I strengthen my poetry by writing on social issues. This does not mean that poetry that comes from the heart is less significant. I feel poetry that comes from the mind is as important; it only takes a different mode of expression. Besides, this kind of poetry requires enlightenment. It cannot come from experience alone.

“As poets or writers, we cannot expect our work to make tangible changes in society, but down the years, it should be able to give the human spirit that conscience, courage, and foresight to make those changes possible.”