Reviving The Classics: 9+ Neoclassical Poets Who Captivated Their Time

Neoclassical poetry is a style of poetry that was popular in the 18th century. It differs from other eras because it typically features formal language, traditional forms, and intellectual themes. 

Neoclassical poets like Alexander Pope believed that they were doing something new with their poems and wanted to break away from the tradition of writing about love or nature.

This article will examine how poets such as Daniel Defoe, John Dryden, and William Wordsworth influenced a generation and changed the trajectory of literature by using technique as the subject for their poems.

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The neoclassical era in poetry flourished from the late 18th century to the early 19th century. The movement was a response to Romanticism, which emphasised emotion and imagination rather than formality and restraint. It is often considered one of several significant periods in English literature.

Neoclassical poets sought out beauty through formal structures such as couplets or blank verse instead of free-verse lines with irregular rhythms that had been popularised by Wordsworth’s “Lyrical Ballads” (1798). They used forms like odes, elegies, ballads, sonnets, satire poems for themes ranging from patriotism during wartime to classical myths about gods and goddesses.

This blog post will examine how neoclassical poetry developed, the poets who spearheaded the movement and what led to its decline.

John Dryden

It’s the 1700s, and a new era of literature is emerging. Poets are experimenting with form and style, trying to find their voice in this new age. John Dryden was one such poet who experimented with his poetry as he tried to make sense of the world around him.

In 1687, Dryden published a work called “Annus Mirabilis”. His first significant work of poetry was Annus Mirabilis, published in 1667 after leaving his position as Secretary for Foreign Tongues under Charles II. The poem commemorated the Great Fire of London that burned through much of the city in September 1666.

In 1681, John Dryden became the first Poet Laureate of England. He is also credited with creating the first English rhyming dictionary.

His “Essay of Dramatique Poesie” was published in 1668 and focuses on English drama. Dryden discusses how it differs from other styles, such as the French or Italian theatre traditions.

He wrote a well-known poem called “To His Coy Mistress”, which has become a popular romantic love song over time. Dryden is still read today because of his many works that have survived for centuries.

Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope

Alexander Pope

Alexander Pope was the most well-known poet of the neoclassical era. His poetry has impacted all aspects of neoclassical art, focusing on satire, morality, and wit.

Pope’s writing is characterised by its clarity of expression, as he wanted to make sure that everyone could understand what he meant in his work. He would often use many syllables to create rhythm in his poems which are considered some of the best-written pieces during this period due to their simplicity and brevity while still being clever enough for readers to enjoy them.

Pope is the author of “An Essay on Criticism” and “Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot,” “The Rape of the Lock.”

Pope had a powerful voice in his writing and is still considered one of England’s finest poets. His satire and wit make him so popular today, as they speak volumes about society during that time.

His work has been well-received by critics for centuries thanks to its simplicity and enduring themes that have resonated with people over every generation since it was written. He will be remembered forever because he used plain language yet created beautiful stories which made readers feel like he was speaking directly to them while using poetry at the same time.

Nicolas Boileau-Despreaux

Nicolas Boileau-Despreaux was a French poet who lived from 1636 to 1711. He is best known for his literary criticism and aphorisms, but he also wrote poetry. His poetry was influential in the neoclassical era of the 1700s because it helped shape what people thought about literature and art.

His many works include “L’Art Poétique” (The Art of Poetry), which he wrote in 1674, and “Satire X”, which he published in 1694. In these poems, Nicolas expressed his ideas about how poetry should be written and what it should be like.

Despite his popularity in France, he wasn’t considered a central figure during the neoclassical period because he didn’t focus on writing epic poems as other poets did; instead, he wrote shorter satirical poems with classical meters.

His work has influenced many other poets and writers, including Voltaire, Diderot, Rousseau, and Jean Jacques Rousseau.

Thomas Gray
Thomas Gray

Thomas Gray

Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” is one of the most famous poems written in the eighteenth century. It established many motifs that are still used today, such as pastoral imagery and a style of diction that looks to antiquity for its models.

The neoclassical era found its roots in Gray’s work, but it didn’t end there. The poem helped establish how poetry should be written concerning classical standards and contemporary thought on religion.

His work was considered new because he showed no concern for writing typical lyric verse like his predecessors John Milton and William Wordsworth did. Instead, he wrote about everyday life using poetic devices such as metaphors and personification.

He wrote poems such as the Elegy because he was interested in establishing how poets should write based on his understanding of why people were so drawn to ancient literature and what makes poetry different from other forms of writing.

Gray is still influential today, as he helped establish the groundwork for contemporary poetic practices such as free verse and surrealism.

Daniel Defoe
Daniel Defoe

Daniel Defoe

The poetry of Daniel Defoe is often overlooked in discussions about the neoclassical era. His poetry is often considered some of the most influential and intriguing pieces from that period, mainly because he helped define what it meant to be a modern writer.

One such poem is “The True-Born Englishman”, which has been widely recognised as an essential piece of British literature that questions class differences in England during this time.

Dafoe wrote many successful and influential books on politics, religion and economics. His writings are often considered to be some of the most significant volumes on these topics.

One of his most famous works is “The Storm,” which he wrote during one of the worst storms in 1703. With over 100 works to his name, Daniel Defoe has had a lasting impact on British society’s neoclassical era.

Many poets write from an autobiographical perspective or according to classical models of pastoral verse, but he was one of the first writers in Britain that wrote about life as it happened.

John Flaxman

John Flaxman is a name that may not be too familiar to some. He was an English sculptor, illustrator and poet who contributed greatly to neoclassical era literature.

His poetry is marked by its simplicity, clarity, and purity of language. He also had a strong sense of patriotism which influenced his work as he created many pieces that celebrated England’s victories in battle.

Flaxman’s defining moment came in 1787 when the Society of Dilettanti commissioned him to design a memorial for Admiral Lord Nelson. An upright oval with text on three sides and bronze figures cast from life on either side now stands at Hyde Park Corner.

His poetry was also influenced by the natural world and classical antiquity, which is why his work still carries influence today. He’s been praised for his “breathless verses” that are “sprinkled with light.” His work is often considered to be an example of perfect rhyming and meter.

Flaxman is now considered the father of English poetry as his work helped shaped later poets such as Keats and Byron.

Andre Chenier

Andre Chenier is a French poet who was executed during the French Revolution in 1794. His poetry, which often featured classical and neoclassical themes of love and liberty, influenced poets such as Lord Byron and Percy Shelley.

He published many books of poems throughout his life, including “Les Éleuthéromanes” in 1778. His poem “Prayer to Nature” shows how he uses nature as a metaphor for God’s power and greatness.

Chenier is also credited for introducing the word “futurism” into English.

In addition to Chenier’s poetry, he also wrote some plays during his trendy life in France and Europe. Many historians believe that many historians have influenced neoclassical playwrights such as Pierre Beaumarchais and Denis Diderot because of their shared themes about liberty and revolution. In these later years of Andre Chenier’s life, he started writing more serious works than his earlier light-hearted poems like Les Éléuthéromanes, published when he was 26 years old.

One example of a poem that shows this contrast is called “The Death Of Jean-Pierre.” It has no transparent rhyme scheme or regular meter but still has a coherent meaning. The general theme of the poem is about death and how short life can be, but it also talks about revolution as well, which Andre Chenier was involved in during his lifetime.

He started writing this new type of poetry after being imprisoned for working on an anti-regime newspaper called “The Friend Of The People.” He served two years out of five he had been sentenced to before escaping from prison with help from some friends.

After that, he moved away from Paris because they were looking for him there and went into hiding at another country estate where he finished poems such as “Elegy For My Father” and wrote plays like Le Devin Du Village, which became quite popular later on.

Chenier was executed after the revolution was over and the new government took control.

Tobias Smollett

Tobias Smollett was a poet and playwright who is best known for his satirical work “The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle”, which tells the story of a young man’s journey away from home. He also wrote many poems about his own life as well as poetry about other topics.

His most famous poem, “To Penshurst,” celebrates the country estate of Sir Sidney Lee by describing it in terms that evoke both Virgil’s Georgics and Edmund Spenser’s “The Faerie Queen.”

Smollett was born into a working-class family, and his ancestors had been weavers for 200 years before him. His father worked as a customs officer at the port of Leith near Edinburgh, Scotland, until Tobias left school to go work with his dad as an apprentice clerk.

On November 18th, 1771, he died in London from health problems that he suffered while imprisoned by Jacobites during the rebellion of ’45-49.

In total, Smollett wrote 14 novels (The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle being one), five volumes of verse, two poetry collections, and other essays like “An Essay Upon Projects.

His poetry is a mixture of neoclassical and romantic styles, which reflects his own life story. He was born to parents who immigrated from Scotland during the Scottish Enlightenment era, so he lived in a time where both classical and romantic periods existed simultaneously.

Henry Fuseli
Henry Fuseli

Henry Fuseli

Henry Fuseli is an artist who was born in Zurich, Switzerland. He painted a variety of subjects, including Shakespearean scenes and portraits of philosophers like Voltaire. One day he ventured into poetry which allowed him to express his opinions on society’s flaws through satire and irony.

His poems were published anonymously but have been attributed to him because they are so similar in style, and he thought that it would be impossible for there not to be some connection between them.

As a neoclassical poet, he was part of the British Romantic movement and influenced other poets who followed in his footsteps. His poems were often about death and the macabre and evoked feelings of horror or terror.

Fuseli’s poems were published in a volume, “The Swiss Family Robinson”, which was translated into French and German. In 1791, his poem “To Liberty” became famous as the anthem for revolutionaries in France.

In Closing

If you are looking for a new perspective on the world of poetry, I hope this article has helped. We’ve covered nine poets who have had a tremendous impact on literature and culture and how these influencers propelled the neoclassical era and the following periods.

What do you think about this list? Let us know who your favourite neoclassical poet is, or if there were any poets that we missed. We are on all your favourite social media platforms @pickmeuppoetry! It’s always great to hear from readers, so please reach out to us for some poetry conversation.


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