Reading Time in the Long Poem: Milton, Thomson and Wordsworth by Tess Somervell (review)

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Readers of eighteenth-century poetry might be most familiar with the long poems of Somervell’s monograph — John Milton’s Paradise Lost, James Thomson’s The Seasons, and William Wordsworth’s The Prelude — through extracts, selected for their particular beauty and abstracted from their place in the whole. This interaction, common to eighteenth-century and more recent readers, is what Somervell refers to as the ‘spatial form’ of the long poem: ‘a space in which to wan- der, and within which any direction can be taken’ (p.1). Yet the long poem has as frequently been treated as a ‘temporal form’, comprising a narrative read ‘from beginning to end, as a whole that unfolds in one direction’ (p. 2). The suspended tension of this binary has made the long poem ‘a medium in which to shape and reshape time’ (p. 2), and Somervell comprehensively demonstrates how Milton, Thomson, Wordsworth, and their readers compose aesthetic and philosophical ideas of time within the capacious contours of the long poem.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)526–527
Number of pages2
JournalBritish Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies
Issue number4
Early online date25 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • Eighteenth-century studies
  • Romantic poetry
  • Milton
  • Wordsworth
  • Time
  • Thomson


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