Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poets: Analysis of ALFRED AUSTIN

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Analysis:             Poet's Biography

Alfred Austin (1835–1913) was an English poet who became the United Kingdom's Poet Laureate after Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Austin's tenure as laureate was controversial and his work received mixed reviews during his time and afterward, but his contribution to the literary world of his era offers an insight into the Victorian and Edwardian zeitgeist.

Literary Background and Early Influences

Born in Leeds, Austin was educated at Stonyhurst College and the University of London. He initially pursued a career in law but abandoned it for literature. His early influences were the works of John Dryden and Alexander Pope, as well as the Romantics—Byron's work in particular. These influences manifested in his writing style, which often emulated the classical form of his predecessors.

Poetic Schools or Movements

Austin is not typically associated with any major poetic schools or movements. Instead, his work reflects a personal blend of romantic patriotism and conservative values, placing him somewhat outside the major literary trends of his day. He is often categorized with the later Victorian poets who eschewed the experimental impulses of their contemporaries in favor of more traditional forms and themes.

Poetic Oeuvre: Phases and Themes

Austin’s poetic output was prolific. His early work, which includes "The Season: a Satire," was critically panned, and it wasn't until his later pastoral and nature poetry that he found a modicum of critical success. His poetry often engaged with themes of nature, love, and patriotism, and while his work was conservative in style and sentiment, it occasionally dealt with contemporary issues.

One of Austin's most enduring works is "The Garden that I love," which combines prose and verse to create a richly textured pastoral narrative. In his role as Poet Laureate, Austin produced several official poems commemorating public events, including the death of Queen Victoria and the coronation of King Edward VII. However, these official works were often the subject of satire and criticism for their perceived lack of quality.

Influence and Honors

As Poet Laureate, a role he held from 1896 until his death in 1913, Austin's influence was institutional rather than popular or critical. He was often compared unfavorably with his predecessor, Tennyson, and his appointment is sometimes seen as indicative of the declining status of the laureateship at the time.

Nevertheless, Austin's work was recognized and honored in its day. He received honorary degrees from the University of Oxford and the University of Glasgow, reflecting his status as a significant, if not universally admired, literary figure.


Alfred Austin's poetry represents the later period of Victorian verse, characterized by a strong attachment to the forms and ideals of the past. While not at the forefront of literary innovation, his work provides a window into the values and tastes of a segment of English society during the turn of the century. In the history of English literature, Austin’s tenure as Poet Laureate serves as a reminder of the diversity of poetic expression and the subjective nature of literary acclaim. Though his work may not have endured as powerfully as that of some of his contemporaries, it remains a part of the tapestry of English poetry, reflective of the cultural and aesthetic concerns of his time.

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