Who was the first Gothic Poet?

Thomas Parnell is often regarded as the first gothic poet, and whether he truly is, may be a worthwhile question to trouble our minds with only before dissecting the origin and evolution of gothic literature. When properly done, your analysis should drive you to conclude that Thomas being regarded as the first gothic poet is credible. 

As you continue to read on this page, you will get to know why this credit should go to Thomas and some more things about the poet and gothic poetry. 

The First Gothic Poet 

The first gothic poet is most likely Thomas Parnell because it has been realised that the works of the courtyard poets of the early 18th century are very influential on the coming about of the first set of literary works formally identified ‘gothic’. By the way, most graveyard poems share an indifferent nexus with gothic literature. 

It is speculated that since the poem Night-piece on Death was published (posthumously) by Thomas Parnell in 1721, years before the first identified gothic novel was written, this writer may be the first gothic poet. 

One source noted particularly that Thomas’s “Night-piece on Death” is commonly regarded as the earliest work in the gothic genre. There are several other poets creating works with the elements peculiar to gothic literature during the 18th century too, but Thomas’ gothic poem appears to be the oldest of all. If the title had been for the oldest gothic novelist, we probably wouldn’t be crediting Thomas as there have been several other mysterious pieces of writings before his. 

Discussing Night-piece on Death 

The theme of this poem is a simple and straightforward one: death is not to be feared. While many, regardless of earthly status may be scared of dying, we are reminded in Night-piece on Death that not only is death compulsory for all humans, it is also the bridge through which whoever will see God goes to him.  

This is the fact that many do not want to be reminded of. However poor, rich or famous one is on earth, he becomes totally unaware of his status once he is laid under the ground. However beautiful his resting place is also done, he has no idea. We learnt here that man loses his sense of value or worth once he is no more. 

Thomas had a feeling that death is what makes a life complete. He expressed that at first man is born into the earth, comparing life on the planet with one in the prison. Later when one perceives death (world outside the prison) is around the corner, he should be joyous and long to leave a new and better life. 

Life is vanity, and as is more clearly implied by the poet, readers see the hollowness of life —when he said in line 7&8, “I’ll seek a readier path and go — where wisdom’s surely taught below”. 

Why Is It a Gothic Poem

Thomas Parnell’s Night-piece on Death is a gothic poem because it constitutes the several elements of gothic literature. The poem is rich in portraying especially the elements of death and gloom. The theme of death (although shown as an orthodox event) was toiled throughout the poem. 

Another notable element here is terror. The poet didn’t dish out a great deal of it in this work but it is nonetheless present and cannot be overlooked. This element was painted by his illustration of such things as sepulchres, thombs, and graves. 

The Biography of Thomas Parnell 

First gothic poet; Thomas Parnell

Thomas Parnell was a renowned Anglo-Irish poet of the 18th century born in Dublin on September 11, 1679. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin. 

Though a heavy drinker, the graveyard poet was devoted to his career as both a clergyman and a poet during his active years, making friends with some other well-known writers like Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope. Thomas’ work “Night-piece on Death” published in 1721 was put out posthumously because the poet has since 1718 become late. 1718 is only a few years after he lost his wife, Anne Minchin, who died in 1712. 

Note that there are two famous Thomas Parnell: one was a scientist and the other is the Anglo-Irish poet we’ve just discussed. 

Some Other Gothic Poets 

Thomas Parnell is not the only gothic poet of his time even though he might have gotten the credit of the first of them. Some other early gothic poets worthy of note include: 

William Blake – One of the most widely read poets of the 19th century is William Blakes. He was an English poet, most of whose works have been categorised under gothic literature. He was born in London in 1757, some years after the publication of the earliest identified gothic poem. “The Sick Rose”, and “The Angel” are some of his most appreciated gothic works.  

Edward Young – The place and date of birth of English poet Edward Young are not readily available information but it appears he might have lived in the same era with the likes of Thomas Parnell. We learnt from Britannica that Edward was baptised on July 3, 1683 in England. He was a graveyard poet, and the writer of the famous gothic poem, “Night Thoughts” published in 1742. 

Thomas Gray – Gray is another (English) poet that should not be left unmentioned on this list. He was born on December 26, 1716, years after which he published “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”, one of his most successful poems. Thomas Gray died in July 1771. 

Alexander Pope – English poet Alexander was born in the UK on May 21st, 1688. He died in May, 1744 in the country of his birth. The contribution of this poet’s work to the beginning of Walpole’s gothic literature is of great significance that though they are friends, some researchers argue that Alexander and not Thomas Parnell was the first gothic poet. 

Edgar Allan Poe – Having lived between 1809 and 1849, American writer Edgar Allan would not be classified as an 18th century poet but he is definitely going to make it to the list of the top early gothic poets. He is the writer of several works including the widely-read, “Spirits of the Dead”, “Silence”, and “Alone”. 

With his efforts in improving the genre, Allan Poe managed to earn himself the title of the “Father of Gothic Literature”. 

In conclusion, we have just considered the earliest gothic poems herein. Readers should anticipate other topics around gothic literature from us, as we will continue to research into the genre. As much as we have obtained, Thomas Parnell is speculatively the first gothic poet. If you think this doesn’t answer your question, feel free to contact us with the exact literature question on your mind. 

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