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Robert Seymour Bridges was an English poet, and Poet Laureate from 1913 to 1930. He was born on October 23, 1844, in Walmer, Kent, England, and died on April 21, 1930. His work is emblematic of the transition from Victorian to modernist poetry.

Literary Background

Bridges was educated at Eton and then at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He studied medicine in London at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, eventually becoming a full-time physician. His literary career began to flourish after he left medicine due to ill health.

Early Influences

The early work of Bridges was influenced by the Romantic poets, particularly by the likes of Percy Bysshe Shelley. However, as his work matured, it began to exhibit a distinct classical restraint and formality, informed by his deep and abiding love for the classics and for English poets such as Geoffrey Chaucer and John Milton.

Poetic Schools or Movements

Bridges' poetry does not belong to any specific movement. While he was a contemporary of the Georgians and the early modernists, he maintained a distinct style characterized by an adherence to traditional metrics and structures. His poetry, with its formal qualities, often seemed at odds with the innovation of his modernist peers.

Poetic Oeuvre: Phases and Themes

Bridges' poetic career is marked by a consistent exploration of Christianity, the beauty of nature, and the art of poetry itself. His early work was often lyrical, filled with meditations on the natural world. In his later years, he wrote longer, more philosophical poems, often grappling with religious themes. His best-known poem is perhaps "The Testament of Beauty," a long philosophical poem considered by some to be his masterpiece, which was published shortly before his death.


Although not as revolutionary as some of his contemporaries, Bridges played a crucial role in the development of British poetry in the early 20th century. He was a supporter of Gerard Manley Hopkins and later edited his poems, contributing to Hopkins' posthumous fame. Bridges’ experiments with meter and his efforts to adapt classical poetic forms for the English language influenced many poets.


Bridges’ appointment as Poet Laureate in 1913 was an honor that marked the peak of his public recognition. Although the role was largely ceremonial, it provided a platform from which his poetry reached a wider audience.


Robert Bridges stands as a significant figure bridging the 19th and 20th centuries in English poetry. His dedication to form and metrical precision offered a counterpoint to the more radical experiments of his contemporaries. As a poet and editor, his impact was subtle but substantial, and his Poet Laureate tenure brought his careful, contemplative verse into the national spotlight. "The Testament of Beauty" remains his most ambitious and defining work, reflecting his intellectual and aesthetic beliefs. Bridges' poetry continues to be appreciated for its classical beauty and its quiet, introspective wisdom.

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