Swinburne's Poetry Background

Swinburne's Poetry Background

All overly constrained eras have subversion, but there are few who outright rebels against the suffocating societal norms. Swinburne was one of the very few who did not let overly prudish and moralist ideals of Victorian era constrain and contain his poetry. So as to counter the narrative of chastity and borderline asexuality propagated and normatized in Victorian era, Swinburne almost exclusively and quite explicitly wrote about sexuality. But Swinburne’s poetry is not only about sex but rather everything natural. In that regard his poetry is as innocently frank as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before the fall.

His poetry are part of decadent movement and Pre-Raphaelite movement. He went out of his way to convince those around him of his decadent nature. Oscar Wilde wittily slammed Swinburne, calling him "a braggart in matters of vice, who had done everything he could to convince his fellow citizens of his homosexuality and bestiality without being in the slightest degree a homosexual or a bestialiser."

Swinburne's lyric poetry was an epitome of poetic aestheticism. Even those who were shocked and objected to the poetry’s salacious subject matter like sadism and masochism, lesbianism, cannibalism, anti-theism, etc., praised his poetic style. His most notable collection of poetry is Poems and Ballads, which was his first collection of poems. It was published in 1866 and bestowed on its author imminent notoriety.

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