Till I End My Song: A Gathering of Last Poems

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In Till I End My Song, Harold Bloom, the foremost literary critic of our time, has culled a delightful anthology of the final works from one hundred of the greatest, most influential poets throughout history. These poems, sometimes the literal end and at other times the imagined conclusion to a poetic career, offer a lens through which to contemplate the enduring nature of art and the inevitability of death. Poems by T. S. Eliot, Alexander Pope, W. B. Yeats, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and William Shakespeare ...

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Till I End My Song: A Gathering of Last Poems

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In Till I End My Song, Harold Bloom, the foremost literary critic of our time, has culled a delightful anthology of the final works from one hundred of the greatest, most influential poets throughout history. These poems, sometimes the literal end and at other times the imagined conclusion to a poetic career, offer a lens through which to contemplate the enduring nature of art and the inevitability of death. Poems by T. S. Eliot, Alexander Pope, W. B. Yeats, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and William Shakespeare are featured here, as are works from distinguished but long-neglected poets such as Conrad Aiken, William Cowper, Edwin Arlington Robinson, George Meredith, and Louis MacNeice. An authoritative collection, Till I End My Song will reverberate long into the coming silence.

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Editorial Reviews

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As unconventional and refreshing as its author, Harold Bloom's annotated anthology Till I End My Song collects "last poems" of notable poets. Not all of these are literally the poets' final works, but all of them mark some kind of end. They share one other attribute: "Everything in this volume is here because of its artistic excellence." The authors, arranged chronologically, begin with Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Phillip Sidney and extend into our time with Kenneth Koch, A.R. Ammons, and James Merrill. There is nothing doting or morbid at this collection: At seventy-nine, Bloom continues to display the talents that have earned him respect as the greatest literary critic of our time.

New York Times Book Review
“[Bloom looks] to poems for clarity about the end of life.”
“A collection of surpassing splendor and resonance.”
Publishers Weekly
Bloom may be the most famous poetry critic in the English language. As he approached his 80th birthday, he turned his critical faculties toward the subject of death: this surprisingly enjoyable anthology contains the last poems--or the poems that most profoundly contemplate "lastness"--by 100 poets, from Edmund Spenser (d. 1599) to Agha Shahid Ali (d. 2001). Bloom seeks to show, through his selections and commentaries on each poem, that death can be as much an inspiration as a terror. With their last breaths, these poets address God (as John Donne does: "Wilt thou forgive that sin where I begun,/ Which is my sin, though it were done before?"); future generations (Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in his "Epitaph," tells those who pass his gravestone, "Beneath this sod/ A poet lies" who "Found death in life" and who hopes to "find life in death!"); a vast public and private self (Frost said, "I opened the door so my last look/ Should be taken outside a house and book"). James Wright finds a new kind of life in the apprehension of his mortality: "How can I feel so warm/ Here in the dead center of January?" Throughout, Bloom's brief prose comments illuminate and entertain. (Oct.)
Library Journal
"O I see now that life cannot exhibit all to me, as the day cannot,/ I see that I am to wait for what will be exhibited by death" (Walt Whitman). As Bloom (Sterling Professor of the Humanities, Yale Univ.; The Western Canon) writes in his introduction, the choices here fall into three categories: literal "final poems," poems that were intended to mark the end of a career, and "imaginative conclusion[s] to poetic career[s]." Spanning 400-plus years and 100 poets, from Edmund Spenser to Agha Shahid Ali, these poems were chosen first for their artistic excellence. An introduction for each grounds it within historical context and the poet's career while sharing delightful tidbits. For example, Hart Crane's father invented Lifesavers, while Robert Frost said that his favorite poem was James Shirley's "Dirge." As this anthology reveals, too many promising poets died too young from war and disease. Regardless of whether readers agree with Bloom's assertion that Shakespeare is the "greatest of all writers in human history," many will praise Bloom's selection of last songs. In the words of F.T. Prince's "Last Poem": "Stand at the grave's head/ Of any common/ Man or woman,/ Thomas Hardy said,/ And in the silence/ What they were,/ Their life, becomes a poem." VERDICT Essential for all poetry collections.—Karla Huston, Appleton Arts Ctr., WI
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061923067
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 12/20/2011
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 1,438,965
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Harold Bloom

Harold Bloom is a Sterling Professor of the Humanities at Yale University and a former Charles Eliot Norton Professor at Harvard. His more than thirty books include The Best Poems of the English Language, The Art of Reading Poetry, and The Book of J. He is a MacArthur Prize Fellow, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the recipient of many awards and honorary degrees, including the Academy’s Gold Medal for Belles Lettres and Criticism, the International Prize of Catalonia, and the Alfonso Reyes Prize of Mexico.


"Authentic literature doesn't divide us," the scholar and literary critic Harold Bloom once said. "It addresses itself to the solitary individual or consciousness." Revered and sometimes reviled as a champion of the Western canon, Bloom insists on the importance of reading authors such as Shakespeare, Milton, and Chaucer -- not because they transmit certain approved cultural values, but because they transcend the limits of culture, and thus enlarge rather than constrict our sense of what it means to be human. As Bloom explained in an interview, "Shakespeare is the true multicultural author. He exists in all languages. He is put on the stage everywhere. Everyone feels that they are represented by him on the stage."

Bloom began his career by tackling the formidable legacy of T.S. Eliot, who had dismissed the English Romantic poets as undisciplined nature-worshippers. Bloom construed the Romantic poets' visions of immortality as rebellions against nature, and argued that an essentially Romantic imagination was still at work in the best modernist poets.

Having restored the Romantics to critical respectability, Bloom advanced a more general theory of poetry. His now-famous The Anxiety of Influence argued that any strong poem is a creative "misreading" of the poet's predecessor. The book raised, as the poet John Hollander wrote, "profound questions about... how the prior visions of other poems are, for a true poet, as powerful as his own dreams and as formative as his domestic childhood." In addition to developing this theory, Bloom wrote several books on sacred texts. In The Book of J, he suggested that some of the oldest parts of the Bible were written by a woman.

The Book of J was a bestseller, but it was the 1994 publication of The Western Canon that made the critic-scholar a household name. In it, Bloom decried what he called the "School of Resentment" and the use of political correctness as a basis for judging works of literature. His defense of the threatened canon formed, according to The New York Times, a "passionate demonstration of why some writers have triumphantly escaped the oblivion in which time buries almost all human effort."

Bloom placed Shakespeare along with Dante at the center of the Western canon, and he made another defense of Shakespeare's centrality with Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, an illuminating study of Shakespeare's plays. How to Read and Why (2000) revisited Shakespeare and other writers in the Bloom pantheon, and described the act of reading as both a spiritual exercise and an aesthetic pleasure.

Recently, Bloom took up another controversial stance when he attacked Harry Potter in an essay for The Wall Street Journal. His 2001 book Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages advanced an alternative to contemporary children's lit, with a collection of classic works of literature "worthy of rereading" by people of all ages.

The poet and editor David Lehman said that "while there are some critics who are known for a certain subtlety and a certain judiciousness, there are other critics... who radiate ferocious passion." Harold Bloom is a ferociously passionate reader for whom literary criticism is, as he puts it, "the art of making what is implicit in the text as finely explicit as possible."

Good To Know

Bloom earned his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1955 and was hired as a Yale faculty member that same year. In 1965, at the age of 35, he became one of the youngest scholars in Yale history to be appointed full professor in the department of English. He is now Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale and Berg Visiting Professor of English at New York University.

Though some conservative commentators embraced Bloom's canon as a return to traditional moral values, Bloom, who once styled himself "a Truman Democrat," dismisses attempts by both left- and right-wingers to politicize literature. "To read in the service of any ideology is not, in my judgment, to read at all," he told a New York Times interviewer.

His great affinity for Shakespeare has put Bloom in the unlikely position of stage actor on occasion; he has played his "literary hero," port-loving raconteur Sir John Falstaff, in three productions.

Bloom is married to Jeanne, a retired school psychologist whom he met while a junior faculty member at Yale in the 1950s. They have two sons.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Harold Irving Bloom (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      New York, New York and New Haven, Connecticut
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 11, 1930
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Cornell University, 1951; Ph.D., Yale University, 1955

Table of Contents

Introduction Harold Bloom Bloom, Harold

Prothalamion Edmund Spenser Spenser, Edmund 1

From the Ocean to Cynthia Sir Walter Ralegh Ralegh, Sir Walter 11

From Astrophil and Stella: "Who will in fairest book" Sir Philip Sidney Sidney, Sir Philip 17

"Down in the depth of mine iniquity" Lord Brooke Brooke, Lord 21

Last Verses: "So well I love thee" Michael Drayton Drayton, Michael 25

From Doctor Faustus Christopher Marlowe Marlowe, Christopher 29

From The Tempest William Shakespeare Shakespeare, William 35

A Hymn to God the Father John Donne Donne, John 37

From Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue Ben Jonson Jonson, Ben 39

The White Island, or Place of the Blest Robert Herrick Herrick, Robert 45

Love (III) George Herbert Herbert, George 47

Dirge James Shirley Shirley, James 51

Of the Last Verses in the Book Edmund Waller Waller, Edmund 55

From Samson Agonistes John Milton Milton, John 57

On Mr. Milton's Paradise Lost Andrew Marvell Marvell, Andrew 61

The Night Henry Vaughan Vaughan, Henry 65

From The Secular Masque John Dryden Dryden, John 71

Upon Nothing John Wilmot Wilmot, John 73

The Day of Judgment Jonathan Swift Swift, Jonathan 77

From The Dunciad [Book IV] Alexander Pope Pope, Alexander 81

On the Death of Dr. Robert Levet Samuel Johnson Johnson, Samuel 85

The Cast-Away William Cowper Cowper, William 89

To the Accuser Who Is the God of This World William Blake Blake, William 93

Extempore Effusion upon the Death of James Hogg William Wordsworth Wordsworth, William 97

Epitaph Samuel Taylor Coleridge Coleridge, Samuel Taylor 103

Memory Walter Savage Landor Landor, Walter Savage 107

On This Day I Complete My Thirty-sixth Year Lord Byron Byron, Lord 109

From The Triumph of Life Percy Bysshe Shelley Shelley, Percy Bysshe 113

This Living Hand John Keats Keats, John 119

Terminus Ralph Waldo Emerson Emerson, Ralph Waldo 121

Elegiac Verse Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth 125

From The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Edward Fitzgerald Fitzgerald, Edward 129

Crossing the Bar Alfred, Lord Tennyson 135

Prologue from Asolando Robert Browning Browning, Robert 139

Last Lines Emily Jane Bronte Bronte, Emily Jane 143

Night on the Prairies Walt Whitman Whitman, Walt 147

Shelley's Vision Herman Melville Melville, Herman 151

Growing Old Matthew Arnold Arnold, Matthew 155

A Ballad of Past Meridian George Meredith Meredith, George 159

Insomnia Dante Gabriel Rossetti Rossetti, Dante Gabriel 161

Passing Away Christina Rossetti Rossetti, Christina 163

The Saddest Noise Emily Dickinson Dickinson, Emily 167

From the Story of Sigurd the Volsung William Morris Morris, William 171

Sonnet: Between Two Seas Algernon Charles Swinburne Swinburne, Algernon Charles 175

He Never Expected Much Thomas Hardy Hardy, Thomas 179

To R. B. Gerard Manley Hopkins Hopkins, Gerard Manley 183

Low Barometer Robert Bridges Bridges, Robert 187

Requiem Robert Louis Stevenson Stevenson, Robert Louis 191

From the Ballad of Reading Gaol Oscar Wilde Wilde, Oscar 193

They Say My Verse Is Sad A. E. Housman Housman, A. E. 197

The Fabulists Rudyard Kipling Kipling, Rudyard 199

Cuchulain Comforted William Butler Yeats Yeats, William Butler 203

The Dark Angel Lionel Johnson Johnson, Lionel 207

Why He Was There Edwin Arlington Robinson Robinson, Edwin Arlington 211

Monsieur Qui Passe Charlotte Mew Mew, Charlotte 213

One More Brevity Robert Frost Frost, Robert 217

Liberty Edward Thomas Thomas, Edward 223

The Lonely Death Adelaide Crapsey Crapsey, Adelaide 227

Of Mere Being Wallace Stevens Stevens, Wallace 229

The World Contracted to a Recognizable Image William Carlos Williams Williams, William Carlos 233

Shadows D.H. Lawrence Lawrence, D. H. 235

Ejaculation Flinor Wylie Wylie, Flinor 239

I Have Been Warned Robinson Jeffers Jeffers, Robinson 241

From Little Gidding T.S. Eliot Eliot, T. S. 245

Tetelestai Conrad Aiken Aiken, Conrad 251

A Worm Fed on the Heart of Corinth Isaac Rosenberg Rosenberg, Isaac 257

To Dear Daniel Samuel Greenberg Greenberg, Samuel 259

Futility Wilfred Owen Owen, Wilfred 261

The Dragonfly Louise Bogan Bogan, Louise 265

Fish Food: An Obituary to Hart Crane John Brooks Wheelwright Wheelwright, John Brooks 267

The Broken Tower Hart Crane Crane, Hart 271

Black March Stevie Smith Smith, Stevie 275

Heart of Autumn Robert Penn Warren Warren, Robert Penn 279

Missing Dates William Empson Empson, William 283

A Lullaby W.H. Auden Auden, W. H. 285

Charon Louis Macneice Macneice, Louis 291

In a Dark Time Theodore Roethke Roethke, Theodore 293

To Walker Evans James Agee Agee, James 295

Souls Lake Robert Fitzgerald Fitzgerald, Robert 297

Sonnet Elizabeth Bishop Bishop, Elizabeth 301

Grief Was to Go Out, Away Jean Garrigue Garrigue, Jean 305

Last Poem F.T. Prince Prince, F. T. 309

Bone-Flower Elegy Robert Hayden Hayden, Robert 311

The First Night of Fall and Falling Rain Delmore Schwartz Schwartz, Delmore 313

Space Walking R.S. Thomas Thomas, R. S. 315

Staring at the Sea on the Day of the Death of Another May Swenson Swenson, May 317

Poem on His Birthday Dylan Thomas Thomas, Dylan 321

Henry's Understanding John Berryman Berryman, John 327

Thinking of the Lost World Randall Jarrell Jarrell, Randall 329

Epilogue Robert Lowell Lowell, Robert 335

Language Ah Now You Have Me W.S. Graham Graham, W. S. 339

A Silence Amy Clampitt Clampitt, Amy 343

Aristocrats Keith Douglas Douglas, Keith 347

"The Darkness and the Light Are Both Alike to Thee" Anthony Hecht Hecht, Anthony 349

Proverb Kenneth Koch Koch, Kenneth 351

In View of the Fact A.R. Ammons Ammons, A. R. 353

Days of 1994 James Merrill Merrill, James 357

A Winter Daybreak above Vence James Wright Wright, James 361

News from the Dogs Vicki Hearne Hearne, Vicki 365

The Veiled Suite Agha Shahid Ali Ali, Agha Shahid 369

Permissions 373

Acknowledgments 377

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2013

    Im a small town girl who lives in oklahoma. Ive always had a big family. A couple years ago. I found out i was adopted. It changed my whole life. My real dad is alive he just didnt want me. He lives 4 hours away. I have 2 sisters i never knew about. And a big bro too. I cried fir days cuz my parents didnt want me. I ruined my moms life when she had me. Im always gonna be me cuz this is who i am. Im not gonna change for anyone. I have always been the nerd in my class. Th boys flirt with my so they can cheat. I wish that i could be me eith out getting yelled at all th time. My mom works all the time. My dads an alcoholic. They fight when they are home. I just wish i could be me. With no complaints. My sisters hate me. They are really bossy. My brothers are spoiled. Im the worst im the troubled child. They nailed my windows shut when i was 5 and now look at me. Im only 14 but i learned to love a couple days ago. Its been 3 years since i met my biological dad. Good bye for now.

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