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I am as a spirit who has dwelt
Within his heart of hearts ; and I have felt
His feelings, and have thought his thoughts, and known
The inmost converse of his soul, the tone
Unheard but in the silence of his blood,
When all the pulses in their multitude
Image the trembling calm of summer seas.
I have unlocked the golden melodies
Of his deep soul as with a master-key,
And loosened them, and bathed myself therein-
Even as an eagle in a thunder-mist
Clothing his wings with lightning.

-SHELLEY (Fragment).

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It is my intention to trace in the poetry of England of the first decades of this century, the course of the strong, deep, pregnant current in the intellectual life of the country, which, sweeping away the classic forms and conventions, produces a Naturalism dominating the whole of literature, which from Naturalism leads to Radicalism, from revolt against traditional convention in literature to vigorous rebellion against religious and political reaction, and which bears in its bosom the germs of all the liberal ideas and emancipatory achievements of the later periods of European civilisation.

The literary period which I now proceed to describe is a vigorous, highly productive one. It has authors and schools of the most dissimilar types, sometimes not merely unlike, but antagonistic to, each other. Though the connection between these authors and schools is not self-evident, but only discernible to the understanding, critical eye, yet the period has its unity, and the picture it presents, though a many-coloured, restless one, is a coherent composition, the work of the great artist, history.

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