The Vision of Judgment and the visions of ’author’

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When, in his last decade, Poet Laureate Robert Southey collected and edited his Poetical Works, he was willing to include in chronological sequence his sharply political playlet Wat Tyler, written in his republican youth in 1794, twenty years before a Tory conversion earned him his office at court, then published by his enemies in 1817 to embarrass him. But he set A Vision of Judgement, his epic ode on the occasion of George III's death, published April 1821, out of chronology, in the last of his ten volumes. Maybe he meant to give it capstone honours (as Wordsworth liked to use his Great Ode in his volumes). Or maybe he hoped to bury his praises, for the fame of his Vision proved not to be its beatification of King George, but its accidental inspiration for one of the most concise and hilarious satires in English letters, Byron’s The Vision of Judgment. Despite the obvious political satire and literary parody, this visionary yoking is less heterogeneous than it might first seem, for Byron’s high-spirited mockery contains within it an awareness of his own complicity in self-serving poetic performances. Southey is one of an array of authors, some embraced, some displaced, some disgraced. These involve the poet's pseudonymous visionary 'I'; St Peter; the diabolic chronicler of the monarchy, 'Sathan' (Byron thus distinguishes his adversary from Southey's); the hapless Laureate; and, most critically, the mysterious author-function 'Junius', a shadow that not only shames Southey but falls across Byron as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to Byron
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9780511999017
ISBN (Print)0521781469, 9780521781466
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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