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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

WALTER PATER, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography

Lionel Pigot Johnson's poem "Walter Pater" is a fitting tribute to the critic, essayist, and writer of the same name. A member of the Aesthetic Movement, Walter Pater had a considerable influence on literary and artistic theory. Johnson's poem captures his admiration for Pater's scholarship and devotion to art, as well as his personal relationship with the intellectual figure.

"Walter Pater" can be read as an ode, a lyrical form typically reserved for expressing emotions and thoughts about a subject in an elevated tone. Johnson has employed this form to eulogize the character, beliefs, and work of Walter Pater, portraying a profound connection with his subject.

Theme Analysis: The main theme revolves around reverence for a great thinker and artist. It encompasses Pater's devotion to his studies, his understanding of art, and his relationship with the divine.

Content: The poem begins and ends with a plea for God to grant rest to Pater. Throughout, the poet underscores Pater's grace, wisdom, and scholarship. He lauds Pater's intense pursuit of beauty and the understanding of art's severity and mystery. Through vivid imagery and deep emotion, Johnson portrays Pater's love for scholarship, his dedication to preserving purity in art, and his spiritual quest for understanding. Pater's connection with Oxford, where he taught and wrote, serves as a consistent backdrop, symbolizing a realm of intellectual pursuit. Johnson's personal relationship with Pater is also evident. He recalls their shared moments, acknowledging the deep impact Pater had on his life.

Poetic Devices: The poem utilizes a regular rhyme scheme that adds a rhythmic flow to the verses. Johnson employs various poetic devices, including personification and metaphor. The "Hill of Prayer" and "Uranian song" are symbolic representations of spiritual and artistic quests.

Structure: The structure of "Walter Pater" is consistent and formal, aligned with traditional poetic forms. It's composed of quatrains, each with an AABBCCCDDEE… rhyme scheme which extends consistently throughout the poem in a pattern of couplets, and repetitions at the beginning and end that create a frame-like structure.


"Walter Pater" by Lionel Pigot Johnson is not just a tribute to a literary figure but a reflection of shared artistic values and personal connections. The poem encapsulates the life and mind of a man devoted to art, learning, and spirituality, presenting an intimate view of Johnson's respect and admiration for Pater. The weaving of personal experiences with universal themes creates a touching and insightful ode that resonates with both intellectual and emotional richness.

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