A poem without an author

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“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams…” These lines begin an “Ode” which has permeated culture throughout the last hundred years. The “Ode” was written in 1873 by Arthur W.E. O’Shaughnessy, and yet the name O’Shaughnessy brings little recognition today, even from scholars of the Victorian period. In this article, I will explore this phenomenon to demonstrate that circumstances occurring in the twentieth century severed the poem from its author, allowing the Ode to gain cultural traction at the same time as O’Shaughnessy’s poetic reputation languished. A consideration of the historical context of the poem, alongside its formal and thematic elements, demonstrates how the poem survived and promulgated despite the loss of O’Shaughnessy from the canon of Victorian poets.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)875-886
Number of pages11
JournalVictorian Literature and Culture
Issue number4
Early online date4 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2016


  • Victorian poetry
  • pre-raphaelite
  • T.S. Eliot
  • Elgar
  • musical compositions


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