William Wordsworth’s Danish Ghost and the Ballad that Never Was

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

William Wordsworth’s “A Fragment,” later renamed as “The Danish
Boy. A Fragment,” was first published in Lyrical Ballads (1800). It is
a vignette of a ghost – a Danish boy – singing in the landscape. It
is the aim of the article to examine the poem in a number of
contexts that have not previously been discussed. It is argued that
the singing and harp-playing ghost is a trope for the poetic vigour
that had dissipated under the demands for classical styles of
poetry. More than any other piece in Lyrical Ballads, “A Fragment”
points to the ancient Germanic origin of the new models for
poetic composition that were put forward. The poem participates
in the “bardic revival,” which is closely linked to Romantic-era
fiction and antiquarianism. But, it is specifically the idea of the
skalds, the ancient Scandinavian bards, which is significant here.
Wordsworth’s interest in Norse poetry will be assessed, and so will
concurrent antiquarian claims that skaldic poetry was the direct
progenitor of imaginative poetry in England.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnglish Studies: A Journal of English Language
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)393-409
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017

Bibliographical note

DOI: 10.1080/0013838X.2016.1254469
In print in vol. 98, no. 4 (2017)

ID: 178358043