Take Arms Against a Sea of Troubles: The Power of the Reader's Mind over a Universe of Death

Take Arms Against a Sea of Troubles: The Power of the Reader's Mind over a Universe of Death

by Harold Bloom


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“The great poems, plays, novels, stories teach us how to go on living. . . . Your own mistakes, accidents, failures at otherness beat you down. Rise up at dawn and read something that matters as soon as you can.” So Harold Bloom, the most famous literary critic of his generation, exhorts readers of his last book: one that praises the sustaining power of poetry.
"Passionate. . . . Perhaps Bloom’s most personal work, this is a fitting last testament to one of America’s leading twentieth-century literary minds."Publishers Weekly

“An extraordinary testimony to a long life spent in the company of poetry and an affecting last declaration of [Bloom's] passionate and deeply unfashionable faith in the capacity of the imagination to make the world feel habitable”—Seamus Perry, Literary Review

"Reading, this stirring collection testifies, ‘helps in staying alive.’“—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

This dazzling celebration of the power of poetry to sublimate death—completed weeks before Harold Bloom died—shows how literature renews life amid what Milton called “a universe of death.” Bloom reads as a way of taking arms against the sea of life’s troubles, taking readers on a grand tour of the poetic voices that have haunted him through a lifetime of reading. “High literature,” he writes, “is a saving lie against time, loss of individuality, premature death.” In passages of breathtaking intimacy, we see him awake late at night, reciting lines from Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, Montaigne, Blake, Wordsworth, Hart Crane, Jay Wright, and many others. He feels himself “edged by nothingness,” uncomprehending, but still sustained by reading. Generous and clear‑eyed, this is among Harold Bloom’s most ambitious and most moving books.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300247282
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 10/13/2020
Pages: 672
Sales rank: 86,463
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 2.00(d)

About the Author

Harold Bloom (1930–2019) was an American literary critic and Sterling Professor of the Humanities at Yale University. His books include The Anatomy of Influence, The Shadow of a Great Rock, and Poetry and Repression.


New York, New York and New Haven, Connecticut

Date of Birth:

July 11, 1930

Date of Death:

October 14, 2019

Place of Birth:

New York, New York


B.A., Cornell University, 1951; Ph.D., Yale University, 1955

Table of Contents

Prelude: Reading to Stay Alive-Poetic Thinking 1

Introduction: The Rhetoric of Poetic Thinking 14

1 William Shakespeare and John Milton: In Every Deep, a Lower Deep 38

2 Milton: The Shakespearean Epic 83

3 Milton and William Blake: The Human Form Divine 110

4 William Wordsworth and John Keats: Something Evermore About to Be 159

5 Wordsworth: The Myth of Memory 170

6 Percy Bysshe Shelley and George Gordon, Lord Byron: Serpent and Eagle 180

7 Keats: They Seek No Wonder but the Human Face 297

8 Robert Browning: What in the Midst Lay but the Tower Itself? 333

9 Alfred, Lord Tennyson: Lest One Good Custom Should Corrupt the World 356

10 Walt Whitman: I Stop Somewhere Waiting for You 379

11 Robert Frost: Drink and Be Whole Again beyond Confusion 409

12 Wallace Stevens: The Hum of Thoughts Evaded in the Mind 422

13 William Butler Yeats and D. H. Lawrence: Start with the Shadow 460

14 Hart Crane: The Unknown God 500

15 Sigismund Schlomo Freud: Speculation and Wisdom 559

16 Dante/Center and Shakespeare/Circumference 577

Credits 629

Index 631

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