Archive for the 'Eng 210' Category

Jeanette Winterson

December 7, 2006

jeanette-winterson.jpg
(1959-)

Born in Manchester, adopted by a Pentecostal couple
Brought up in Accrington, Lancashire: her parents wanted her to be a Christian Missionary
Announced that she was having a lesbian affair at the age of 16, and left home
Studied English at St Catherine’s College, Oxford
After the move to London her first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, was published when she was twenty six years old: was adapted for television by Winterson in 1990
Novels explore the boundaries of physicality and the imagination, gender polarities, and sexual identities
Her stage adaptation of The Powerbook in 2002 opened at the Royal National Theatre, London
Opened a shop, Verde’s, in East London to sell organic food

Sexing the Cherry (1989)

The story of Jordan, an orphan found floating on the River Thames, and his keeper, The Dog Woman, a huge and monstrous creature
Winterson says in regards to the setting of the novel:

“I set this in the seventeenth century, around the beheading of Charles the First, because I had more to do exploring the past as energetic space. I wanted to build another word-dependent world, not restricted either by realism or contemporaneity. The past is strange. We have never been there and we can never go there. I have never recognised the past as a document, rather I understand it as a kind of lumber room, full of trunks of old clothes and odd mementoes. There are as many narratives as there are guesses.”

Ideas to expore:
Transcendence of boundaries, specifically space and time
Gender as a natural or unnatural distinction among people
Love, or the object of love, as secondary to the personal pursuit

Quotations:

“The Hopi, an Indian tribe, have a language as sophisticated as ours, but no tenses for past, present and future. The division does not exist. What does this say about time?
Matter, that thing the most solid and the well-known, which you are holding in your hands and which makes up your body, is now known to be mostly empty space. Empty space and points of light. What does this say about the reality of the world?”

“When Jordan was a baby he sat on top of me much as a fly rests on a hill of dung. And I nourished him as a hill of dung nourishes a fly, and when he had eaten his fill he left me.
Jordan . . .
I should have named him after a stagnant pond and then I could have kept him, but I named him after a river and in the flood-tide he slipped away.”

“Singing is my pleasure, but not in church, for the parson said the gargoyles must remain on the outside, not seek room in the choir stalls. So I sing inside the mountain of my flesh, and my voice is as slender as a reed and my voice has no lard in it. When I sing the dogs sit quiet and people who pass in the night stop their jabbering and discontent and think of other times, when they were happy. And I sing of other times, when I was happy, though I know that these are figments of my mind and nowhere I have been. But does it matter if the place cannot be mapped as long as I can still describe it?”

“What I remember is the shining water and the size of the world.”

“As we descended through the clean air we saw, passing us by from time to time, new flocks of words coming from the people in the streets who, not content with the weight of their lives, continually turned the heaviest of things into the lightest of properties.”

“It is well known that the ceiling of one room is the floor of another, but the household ignores this ever-downward necessity and continues ever upward, celebrating ceilings but denying floors, and so their house never ends and they must travel by winch or rope from room to room, calling to one another as they go.”

“Your greatest strength is that every man believes he knows the sum and possibility of every woman.”

“I am too huge for love. No one, male or female, has ever dared to approach me. They are afraid to scale mountains.
I wonder about love because the parson says that only God can truly love us and the rest is lust and selfishness.
In church, there are carvings of a man with his member swollen out like a marrow, rutting a woman whose teats swish the ground like a cow before milking. She has her eyes closed and he looks up to Heaven, and neither of them notice the grass is on fire.
The parson had these carvings done especially so that we could contemplate our sin and where it must lead.
There are women too, hot with lust, their mouths sucking at each other, and men grasping one another the way you would a cattle prod.
We file past every Sunday to humble ourselves and stay clean for another week, but I have noticed a bulge here and there where all should be quiet and God-like.”

“I hate to wash, for it exposes the skin to contamination.”

“‘The world is full of dancers,’ said one, blowing the smoke in circles round my head.”

“Then, it began night, and the twin stars of Castor and Pollux just visible in the sky, I spoke of that tragedy, of two brothers whose love we might find unnatural, so stricken in grief when one was killed that the other, begging for his life again, accepted instead that for half the year one might live, and for the rest of the year the other, but never the two together. So it is for us, who while on earth in these suits of lead sense the presence of one we love, not far away but too far to touch. 
The villagers were silent and one by one began to move away, each in their own thoughts. A woman brushed my hair back with her hand. I stayed where I was with my shoulders against the rough sea wall and asked myself what I hadn’t asked th others.
Was I searching for a dancer whose name I did not know or was I searching for the dancing part of myself?
Night.”

“As for Jordan, he has not my common sense and will no doubt follow his dreams to the end of the world and then fall straight off.
I cannot school him in love, having no experience, but I can school him in its lack and perhaps persuade him that there are worse things than loneliness.”

“The whore from Spitalfields had told me that men like to be consumed in the mouth, but it still seems to me a reckless act, for the member must take some time to grow again. None the less their bodies are their own, and I who know nothing of them must take instruction humbly, and if a man asks me to do the same again I’m sure I shall, though for myself I felt nothing.”

“We were all nomads once, and crossed the deserts and the seas on tracks that could not be detected, but were clear to those who knew the way. Since settling down and rooting like trees, but without the ability to make use of the wind to scatter our seed, we have found only infection and discontent.”

“My husband married me so that his liaisons with other women, being forbidden, would be more exciting. Danger was an aphrodisiac to him: he wanted nothing easy or gentle. His way was to cause whirlwinds. I was warned, we always are, by well-wishers or malcontents, but I chose to take no interest in gossip. My husband was handsome and clever. What did it matter if he needed a certain kind of outlet, so long as he loved me? I wanted to love him; I was determined to be happy with him. I had not been happy before.
At first I hardly minded his weeks away. I did not realize that part of his sport was to make me mad. Only then, when he had hurt me, could he fully enjoy the other beds he visited.
I soon discovered that the women he preferred were the inmates of a lunatic asylum. With them he arranged mock marriages in deserted barns. They wore a shroud as their wedding dress and carried a bunch of carrots as a bouquet. He had them straight after on a pig-trough altar. Most were virgins. He liked to come home to me smelling of their blood.
Doe the body hate itself so much that it seeks release at any cost?
I didn’t kill him. I left him to walk the battlements of his ruined kingdom; his body was raddled with disease. The same winter he was found dead in the snow.
Why could he not turn his life towards me, as trees though troubled by the wind yet continue the path of the sun?”

“He called me Jess because that is the name of the hood which restrains the falcon.
I was his falcon. I hung on his arm and fed at his hand. He said my nose was sharp and cruel and that my eyes had madness in them. He said I would tear him to pieces if he dealt softly with me.
At night, if he was away, he had me chained to our bed. It was a long chain, long enough for me to use the chamber pot or to stand at the window and wait for the late owls. I love to hear the owls. I love to see the sudden glide of wings spread out for prey, and then the dip and the noise like a lover in pain.
He used the chain when we went riding together. I had a horse as strong as his, and he’d whip the horse from behind and send it charging through the trees, and he’d follow, half a head behind, pulling on the chain and asking me how I liked my ride.
His game was to have me sit astride him when we made love and hold me tightin the small of my back. He said he had to have me above him, in case I picked his eyes out in the faltering candlelight.
I was none of these things, but I became them.
At night, in June I think, I flew off his wrist and tore his liver from his body, and bit my chain in pieces and left him on the bed with his eyes open.
He looked surprised. I don’t know why. As your lover describes you, so you are.”

 “He admitted he was in love with her, but he said he loved me.
Translated, that means, I want everything. Translated, that means, I don’t want to hurt you yet. Translated, that means, I don’t know what to do, give me time.
Why, why should I give you time? What time are you giving me? I am in a cell waiting to be called for execution.
I loved him and I was in love with him. I didn’t use language to make a war-zone of my heart.
‘You’re so simple and good,’ he said, brushing the hair from my face.
He meant, Your emotions are not complex like mine. My dilemma is poetic.
But there was no dilemma. He no longer wanted me, but he wanted our life.”

“She was, of all of us, the best dancer, the one who made her body into shapes we could not follow. She did it for pleasure, but there was something more for her; she did it because any other life would have been a lie. She didn’t burn in secret with a passion she could not express; she shone.”

“When I have shaken off my passion, somewhat as a dog shakes off an unexpected plunge into the canal, I find myself without any understanding of what it was that ravaged me. The beloved is shallow, witless, heartless, mercenary, calculating, silly. Naturally these thoughts protect me, but they also render me entirely gullible or without discrimination.
And so I will explain as follows.
A man or woman sunk in dreams that cannot be spoken, about a life they do not possess, comes suddenly to a door in the wall. They open it. Beyond the door is that life and a man or a woman to whom it is already natural. It may not be possessions they want, it may very well be the lack of them, but the secret life is suddenly revealed. This is their true home and this is their beloved.
I may be cynical when I say that very rarely is the beloved more than a shaping spirit for the lover’s dreams. And perhaps such a thing is enough. To be a muse may be enough. The pain is when the dreams change, as they do, as they must. Suddenly the enchanted city fades and you are left alone again in the windy desert. As for your beloved, she didn’t understand you. The truth is, you never understood yourself.”

“My mother, when she saw me patiently trying to make a yield between a Polstead Black and a Morello, cried two things: ‘Thou mayest as well try to make a union between thyself and me by sewing us at the hip,’ and then, ‘Of what sex is that monster you are making?’
I tried to explain to her that the tree would still be female although it had not been born from seed, but she said such things had no gender and were a confusion to themselves.
‘Let the world mate of its own accord,’ she said, ‘or not at all.’
But the cherry grew, and we have sexed it and it is female.
What I would like is to have some of Tradescant grafted on to me so that I could be a hero like him. He will flourish in any climate, pack his ships with precious things and be welcomed with full honours when the King is restored.
England is a land of heroes, every boy knows that.”

“Islands are metaphors for the heart, no matter what poet says otherwise.
My own heart, like this wild place, has never been visited, and I do not know whether it could sustain life.
In an effort to find out I am searching for a dancer who may or may not exist, though I was never conscious of beginning this journey. Only in the course of it have I realized its true aim. When I left England I thought I was running away. Running away from uncertainty and confusion but most of all running away from myself. I thought I might become someone else in time, grafted on to something better and stronger. And then I saw that the running away was a running towards. And effort to catch up with my fleet-footed self, living another life in a different way.
I gave chase in a ship, but others make the journey without moving at all. Whenever someone’s eyes glaze over, you have lost them. They are as far from you as if their body were carried at the speed of light beyond the compass of the world.
Time has no meaning, space and place have no meaning, on this journey. All times can be inhabited, all places visited. In a single day the mind can make a millpond of the oceans. Some people who have never crossed the land they were born on have travelled all over the world. The journey is not linear, it is always back and forth, denying the calendar, the wrinkles and lines of the body. The self is not contained in any moment or any place, but it is only in the intersection of moment and place that the self might, for a moment, be seen vanishing through a door, which disappears at once.”

“The Flat Earth Theory
The earth is round and flat at the same time. This is obvious. That it is round appears indisputable; that it is flat is our common experience, also indisputable. The blobe does not supersede the map; the map does not distort the globe.

Maps are constantly being re-made as knowledge appears to increase. But is knowlede increasing or is detail accumulating?
A map can tell me how to find a place I have not seen but have often imagined. When I get there, following the map faithfully, the place is not the place of my imagination. Maps, growing ever more real, are much less true.
And now, swarming over the earth with our tiny insect bodies and putting up flags and building houses, it seems that all the journeys are done.
Not so. Fold up the maps and put away the globe. If someone else had charted it, let them. Start another drawing with whales at the bottom and cormorants at the top, and in between identity, if you can, the places you have not found yet on those other maps, the connections obvious only to you. Round and flat, only a very little has been discovered.”

“Lies 1: There is only the present and nothing to remember.
Lies 2: Time is a straight line.
Lies 3: The difference between the past and the future is not that one has happened while the other has not.
Lies 4: We can only be in one place at a time.
Lies 5: Any proposition that contains the word ‘finite’ (the world, the universe, experience, ourselves . . . )
Lies 6: Reality as something which can be agreed upon.
Lies 7: Reality as truth.”

“Now the future is wild and waits for us as a beast in a lair.”

“Thinking about time is to acknowledge two contradictory certainties: that our outward lives are governed by the seasons and the clock; that our inward lives are governed by something much less regular – an imaginative impulse cutting through the dictates of daily time, and leaving us free to ignore the boundaries of here and now and pass like lightning along the coil of pure time, that is, the circle of the universe and whatever it does or does not contain.
Outside of the rules of daily time, not to be is as exact as to be. We can’t talk about all that the universe contains because to do so would be to render it finite and we know in some way, that we cannot prove, that it is infinite. So what the universe doesn’t contain is as significant to us as what it does. There will be a moment (though of course it won’t be a moment) when we will know (though knowing will no longer be separate from being) that we are a part of all we have met and that all we have met was already a part of us.”

“But we do not move through time, time moves through us. I say this because our physical bodies have a natural decay span, they are one-use-only units that crumble around us. To everyone, this is a surprise. Although, we see it in parents and our friends we are always amazed to see it in ourselves. The most prosaic of us betray a belief in the inward life every time we talk about ‘my body’ rather than ‘I’. We feel it as absolutely part but not all part of who we are.”

“Empty space and light. For us, empty space is space empty of people. The sea blue-black at night, stretched on a curve under the curve of the sky, blue-black and pinned with silver stars that never need polish. The Arctic, where the white snow is the white of nothing and defies the focus of the eye. Forests and rain forests and waterfalls that roar down the hollows of rocks. Deserts like a burning fire. Paintings show us how light affects us, for to live in light is to live in time and not be conscious of it, except in the most obvious ways. Paintings are light caught and held like a genie in a jar. The energy is trapped for ever, concentrated, unable to disperse.
Still life is dancing life. The dancing life of light.”

“Time 4: Did my childhood happen? I must believe it did, but I don’t have any proof. My mother says it did, but she is a fantasist, a liar and a murderer, though none of that would stop me loving her. I remember things, but I too am a fantasist, a liar and a murderer, though none of that would stop me loving her. I remember things, but I too am a fantasist and a liar, though I have not killed anyone yet.
There are others whom I could ask, but I would not count their word in a court of law. Can I count it in a more serious matter? I will have to assume that I had a childhood, but I cannot assume to have had the one I remember.
Everyone remembers things which never happened. And it is common knowledge that people often forget things which did. Either we are all fantasists and liars or the past has nothing definite in it. I have heard people say we are shaped by our childhood. But which one?”

“The night before, our last night together as sisters, we slept as always in a long line of single beds beneath the white sheets and blankets like those who have fallen asleep in the snow. From this room, in the past, we had flown to a silver city and knew neither day nor night, and in that city we had danced for joy thinking nothing of the dawn where we lived.”

“After a few simple experiments it became certain that for the people who had abandoned gravity, gravity had abandoned them. There was a general rejoicing, and from that day forth no one concerned themselves with floors or with falling, thought it was still thought necessary to build a ceiling in your house in order to place the chandelier.”

“I thought she might want to travel but she tells me truths I already know, that she need not leave this island to see the world, she has seas and cities enough in her mind. If she does, if we all do, it may be that this world and the moon and stars are also a matter of the mind, though a mind of vaster scope than ours. If someone is thinking me, then I am still free to come and go. It will not be like chess, this thoughtful universe, it will be a theatre of changing sets, where we could walk through walls if we wanted, but do not, being faithful to our own sense of the dramatic.”

“The sense of loss was hard to talk about. What could I have lost when I never had anything to begin with?
I had myself to begin with, and that is what I lost. Lost it in my mother because she is bigger and stronger than me and that’s not how it’s supposed to be with sons. But lost it more importantly in the gap between my ideal of myself and my pounding heart.”

“When we get home, men and women will crowd round us and ask us what happened and every version we tell will be a little more fanciful. But it will be real, whereas if I begin to tell my story about where I’ve been and where I thin kI’ve been, who will believe me? In a boy it might be indulged, but I’m not a boy any more, I’m a man.”

“Are we all living like this? Two lives, the ideal outer life and the inner imaginative life where we keep our secrets?
Curiously, the further I have pursued my voyages the more distant they have become. For Tradescant, voyages can be completed. They occupy time comfortably. With some leeway, they are predictable. I have set off and found that there is no end to even the simplest journey of the mind. I begin, and straight away a hundred alternative routes present themselves. I choose one, no sooner begin, than a hundred more appear. Every time I try to narrow down my intent I expand it, and yet those straits and canals still lead me to the open sea, and then I realize how vast it all is, this matter of the mind. I am confounded by the shining water and the size of the world.
The Buddhists say there are 149 ways to God. I’m not looking for God, only myself, and that is far more complicated. God has had a great deal written about Him; nothing has been written about me. God is bigger, like my mother, easier to find, even in the dark. I could be anywhere, and since I can’t describe myself I can’t ask for help. We are alone in this quest, and Fortunata is right not to disguise it, though she may be wrong about love. I have met a great many pilgrims on their way towards God and I wonder why they have chosen to look for him rather than themselves. Perhaps I’m missing the point – perhaps whilst looking for someone else you might come across yourself unexpectedly, in a garden somewhere or on a mountain watching the rain. But they don’t seem to care about who they are. Some of them have told me that they very point of searching for God is to forget about oneself, to lose oneself for ever. But it is not difficult to lose oneself, or is it the ego they are talking about, the hollow, screaming cadaver that has no spirit within it?
I think that cadaver is only the ideal self run mad, and if the other life, the secret life, could be found and brought home, then a person might live in peace and have no need for God. After all, He has no need for us, being complete.”

“A gypsy with a crown of stars offered to tell fortunes, but when she looked at my hand she looked away. I was not discouraged; I am enough to make my own fortune in this pock-marked world.”

“When I was a girl I heard my mother and father copulating. I heard my father’s steady grunts and my mother’s silence. Later my mother told me that men take pleasure and women give it. She told me in a matter-of-fact way, in the same tone of voice she used to tell me how to feed the dogs or make bread.”

“I have forgotten my childhood, not just because of my father but because it was a bleak and unnecessary time, full of longing and lost hope. I can remember some incidents, but the sense of time passing escapes me. If I were to stretch out all that seemed to happen, and relive it, it might take a day or two. Where then are all the years in between?”

“I saw the painting and tried to imagine what it would be like to bring something home for the first time. I tried to look at a pineapple and pretend I’d never seen one before. I couldn’t do it. There’s so little wonder left in the world because we’ve seen everything one way or another. Where had that pineapple come from? Barbados was easy to find out, but who had brought it, and under what circumstances, and why?”

“I built my own model ship from the pictures. At first I had kits with balsa wood rigging and plastic seamen, but soon I learned to design my own with tools from my father’s workshop. I never bothered with a crew. The crew weren’t beautiful, they were just slaves of the ship.
At weekends my mother cooked and my father read the paper. I went to the pond and sailed my boats. I liked the uncertainty of the wind. Jack came with me, bringing his books on computer science and his father’s copies of GP, a magazine for doctors. The magazines were full of pictures of incurables, and that included anyone suffering from the common cold.
‘It has to go away of its own accord,’ said Jack. ‘All those little pills are just money-makers.’
‘Like love,’ I said, setting the rudder. ‘There’s no cure for love.’
‘Who are you in love with?’ said Jack.
‘No one. She doesn’t exist.’
‘It’s the most unhygienic thing you can do,’ said Jack.
‘It can’t be. What about people who work in sewers?’
‘They wear protective clothing. People in love hardly ever wear clothes – look at the magazines.’
He meant Playboy and Penthouse. His father took those too.”

“‘I’ve been everywhere, but I still have a feeling I’ve missed it. I feel like I’m being laughed at, I don’t know what by, who by, it sounds silly. I think I may have missed the world, that the one I’ve seen is a decoy to get me off the scent. I feel as though I’m always on the brink of making sense of it and then I lose it again.'”

“If you’re a hero you can be an idiot, behave badly, ruin your personal life, have any number of mistresses and talk about yourself all the time, and nobody minds.”

“A lot of small men would like to be heroes, they have to have their fantasy moment. Thing is, the small ones always get killed.”

“I’ve never wanted to be an astronaut because of the helmets. If I were up there on the moon, or by the Milky Way, I’d want to feel the stars round my head. I’d want them in my hair the way they are in paintings of the gods. I’d want my whole body to feel the space, the empty space and points of light. That’s how dancers must feel, dancers, and acrobats, just for a second, that freedom.”

“My father watches space films. They’re different: they’re the only area of undiminished hope. They’re happy and they have women in them who are sometimes scientists rather than singers or waitresses. Sometimes the women get to be heroes too, though this is still not as popular. When I watch space films I always want to cry because they leave you with so much to hope for, it feels like a beginning, not a tired old end.
But when we’ve been everywhere, and it’s only a matter of time, where will we go next, when there are no more wildernesses?
Will it take as long as that before we stard the journey inside, down our own time tunnels and deep into the realms of inner space?”

“So I learned to be alone and to take pleasure in the dark where no one could see me and where I could look at the stars and invent a world where there was no gravity, no holding force. I wasn’t fat because I was greedy; I hardly ate at all. I was fat because I wanted to be bigger than all the things that were bigger than me. All the things that had power over me. It was a battle I intended to win.
It seems obvious, doesn’t it, that someone who is ignored and overlooked with expand to the point where they have to be noticed, even if the noticing is fear and disgust.”

“How do you persuade someone not to feel? And so my strongest instinct is to abandon the common-sense approach and accept what is actually happening to me; that time has slowed down.
Why not? Under certain conditions our pulses slow or race, our breathing alters, the whole body will change its habit if necessary.
There are so many fairy stories about someone who falls asleep for a little while and wakes up to find himself in a different time. Outwardly nothing is changing for me, but inwardly I am not always here, sitting by a rotting river. I can still escape.”

“Poisoned or not, the mercury has made me think like this. Drop it and it shivers in clones of itself all over the floor, but you can scoop it up gain and there won’t be any seams or shatter marks. It’s one life or countless lives depending on what you want.
What do I want?
When I’m dreaming I want a home and a lover and some children, but it won’t work. Who’d want to live with a monster? I may not look like a monster any more but I couldn’t hide it for long. I’d break out, splitting my dress, throwing the dishes at the milkman if he leered at me and said, ‘Hello, darling.’ The truth is I’
ve lost patience with this hypocritical stinking world. I can’t take it any more. i can’t flatter, lie, cajole or even smile very much. What is there to smile about?
‘You don’t try,’ my mother said. ‘It’s not so bad.’
It is so bad.
‘You’re pretty,’ said my father, ‘any man would want to marry you.’
Not if he pulled back my eyelids, not if he peeped into my ears, not if he looked down my throat with a torch, not if he listened to my heartbeat with a stethoscope. He’d run out of the room holding his head. He’d see her, the other one, lurking inside. She fits, even though she’s so big.”

“The future is intact, still unredeemed, but the past is irredeemable. She is not who she thought she was. Every action and decision has led her here. The moment has been waiting the way the top step of the stairs waits for the sleepwalker. She has fallen and now she is awake.”

“It’s almost light. She wants to lie awake watching the night fade and the stars fade until the first grey-blue slates the sky. She wants to see the sun slash the water, but she can’t stay awake for everything; some things have to pass her by. So what she doesn’t see are the lizards coming out for food, or Orion’s eyes turned glassy overnight.”

“I asked if their language had some similarity to Spanish and he laughed again and said, fantastically, that their language has no grammar in the way we recognize it. Most bizarre of all, they have no tenses for past, present and future. They do not sense time in that way. For them, time is one. The old man said it was impossible to learn their language without learning their world. I asked him how long it had taken him and he said that question had no meaning.”

“We packed our things and left for his ship. I would gladly have taken the dog kennel and its occupant, but she would not come. We made her a raft from a chicken crate and left her staring at the smoke-filled sky.”

“His face was pale, his hands trembled. I thought it was the devastation he had seen, but he shook his head. He was coming through London Fields when the fog covered him and, hurrying, he had fallen and banged his head. He came to, and feeling his way, arms outstretched, he had suddenly touched another face and screamed out. For a second the fog cleared and he saw that the stranger was himself.
‘Perhaps I am to die,’ he said, and then, while I was protesting this, ‘Or perhaps I am to live, to be complete as she said I would be.’
‘Who is this she?’
‘Fortunata.'”

“The future lies ahead like a glittering city, but like the cities of the desert disappears when approached. In certain lights it is easy to see the towers and the domes, even the people going to and fro. We speak of it with longing and with love. The future. But the city is a fake. The future and the present and the past exist only in our minds, and from a distance the borders of each shrink and fade like the borders of hostile countries seen from a floating city in the sky. The river runs from one country to another without stopping. And even the most solid of things and the most real, the best-loved and the well-known, are only hand-shadows on the wall. Empty space and points of light.”

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Jane Austen

October 26, 2006

jane-austen.jpg
(1775-1817)

Spent short, secluded life away from the spotlight
One of eight children born to an Anglican clergyman and his wife
Spent most of her life in Hampshire, rural area of southern England
Turned down marriage proposal in 1802, intuiting how difficult it would be to combine authorship with life as a wife, mother and gentry hostess
Started writing at 12
The Austen name was never publicly associated with any of Jane’s novels
Through her heroines, exposes how harshly the hard facts of economic life bore down on gentlewomen during this period when a lady’s security depended on her making a good marriage
Unanswered question for Austen is whether such a marriage can be compatible with the independence of mind and moral integrity that, like Austen, her heroines cherish
Criticized the novel form, but also perfected it
Narrative voice shifts between a romantic point of view and an irony that reminds us of romance’s limits
Austen stated her novels were:

“pictures of domestic life in country villages.”

“Pictures of perfection make me sick and wicked”

“I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.”

“I could not sit seriously down to write a serious Romance under any other motive than to save my Life, and if it were indispensable for me to keep it up and never relax into laughing at myself or other people, I am sure I should be hung before I had finished the first Chapter.”

Sense and Sensibility 1811

First published novel
Explores relationship between two sisters: Elinore and Marianne Dashwood: Elinore representing ‘Sense’ and Marianne ‘Sensibility’
Family is left impoverished after the father’s death and enter into a search for a husband
Austen wrote the first draft when she was 19
Characters may be loosely based on Jane and her sister, Cassandra
Filled with subtle irony

Quotations:

“Nay, mamma, if he is not to be animated by Cowper! -but we must allow for difference of taste. Elinor has not my feelings, and, therefore, she may overlook it, and be happy with him. But it would have broken my heart, had I loved him, to hear him read with so little sensibility. Mamma, the more I know of the world the more am I convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much! He must have all Edward’s virtues, and his person and manners must ornament his goodness with every possible charm.”

“It would be an excellent match, for he was rich, and she was handsome. Mrs. Jennings had been anxious to see Colonel Brandon well married, ever since her connection with Sir John first brought him to her knowledge; and she was always anxious to get a good husband for every pretty girl.”

“‘He is as good a sort of fellow, I believe, as ever lived,’ repreated Sir John. ‘I remember last Christmas, at a little hop at the Park, he danced from eight o’clock till four without once sitting down.’
‘Did he, indeed?’ cried Marrieanne, with sparkling eyes; ‘and with elegance, with spirit?’
‘Yes; and he was up again at eight to ride to covert.’
‘That is what I like; that is what a young man ought to be. Whatever be his pursuits, his eagerness in them should know no moderation, and leave him no sense of fatigue.'”

“Marianne would have thought herself ever inexcusable had she been able to sleep at all the first night after parting from Willoughby. She would have been ashamed to look her family in the face the next morning, had she not risen from her bed in more need of repose than when she lay down in it. But the feelings which made such composure a disgrace, left her in no danger of incurring it. She was awake the whole night, and she wept the greatest part of it. She got up with a headache, was unable to talk, and unwilling to take any nourishment; giving pain ever moment to her mother and sisters, and forbidding all attempt at consolation from either. Her sensibility was potent enough!”

“‘What have wealth or grandeur to do with happiness?’
‘Grandeur has but little,’ said Elinor, ‘but wealth has much to do with it.’
‘Elinor, for shame!’ said Marianne; ‘money can only give happiness where there is nothing else to give it. Beyond a competence, it can afford no real satisfaction, as far as mere self is concerned.'”

“Whatever the truth of it might be, and far as Elinor was from feeling thorough contentment about it, yet while she saw Marianne in spirits,, she could not be very uncomfortable herself. And Marianne was in spirits; happy in the mildness of the weather, and still happier in her expectation of a frost.”

“When they had paid their tribute of politeness by courtesying to the lady of the house, they were permitted to mingle in the crowd, and take their share of the heat and inconvenience to which their arrival must necessarily add.”

“‘By all the world, rather than by his own heart. I could rather believe every creature of my acquaintance leagued together to ruin me in his opinion, than believe his nature capable of such cruelty.'”

“‘I am sorry for that. At her time of life, any thing of an illness destroys the bloom for ever! Hers has been a very short one! She was as handsome a girl last September as any I ever saw, -and as likely to attract the men. There was something in her style of beauty to please them particularly. I remember Fanny used to say, that she would marry sooner and better than you did; not but what she is exceedingly fond of you, but so it happened to strike her. She will be mistaken, however. I question whether Marianne, now, will marry a man worth more than five or six hundred a year at the utmost, and I am very much deceived if you do not do better.'”

“John Dashwood had not much to say for himself that was worth hearing, and his wife had still less. But there was no peculiar disgrace in this; for it was very much the case with the chief of their visitors, who almost all laboured under one or other of these disqualifications for being agreeable- want of sense, either natural or improved- want of elegance- want of spirits- or want of temper.”

“‘He is the most fearful of giving pain, of wounding expectation, and the most incapable of being selfish, or anybody I ever saw. Edward, it is so, and I will say it. What! are you never to hear yourself praised? -Then you must be no friend of mine; for those who will accept of my love and esteem must submit to my open commendation.'”

Christina Rossetti

October 24, 2006

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(1830-1894)

Youngest child in the Rossetti family: all four children became writers
Father was an exiled Italian patriot who wrote poetry and commentaries on Dante, believing his poems were ancient conspiracies: her mother was an Anglo-Italian who worked as a governess
Household was a gather place for Italian exiles, full of conversation of politics and culture
Life changed after her father became blind: family’s economic situation worsened, Rossetti’s health deteriorated, she and her mother and her sister became intensely involved with the Anglo-Catholic movement within the Church of England
For the rest of her life she governed herself by strict religious principles
Fiance reverted to Roman Catholicism and Rossetti broke off the marriage- refused to marry her second suitor because he seemed insufficiently concerned with religion
Lived a quiet life, occupying herself with charitable work
Poetry is a complex representation of the religious themes of temptation and sin, and redemption by vicarious suffering
Demonstrates her affinity with the early aims of the Pre-Raphaelite group
Consciousness of gender in poetry
Wrote poetry of deferral, of deflection. of negation, whose very denials and constraints give her a powerful way to articulate a poetic self in critical relationship to the little that the world offers
Uses a coy playfulness and sardonic wit to reduce the self and preserve for it a secret inner space
Virginia Woolf described the distinctive combination of sensuousness and religious severity in Rossettie’s work:

“Your poems are full of gold dust and ‘sweet geraniums’ varied with brightness; your eye noted incessantly how rushes are ‘velvet headed,’ and lizards have a ‘strange metallic mail’ -your eye, indeed, observed with a sensual pre-Raphaelite intensity that must have surprised Christina the Anglo-Catholic. But to her you owed perhaps the fixity and sadness of your must… No sooner have you feasted on beauty with your eyes than your mind tells you that beauty is vain and beauty passes. Death, oblivion, and rest lap around your songs with their dark wave.”

Jerome McGann calls Rossetti

“one of nineteenth-century England’s greatest ‘Odd Women.'”

Quotations: 

‘Dear, you should not stay so late, / Twilight is not good for maidens; / Should not loiter in the glen / In the haunts of goblin men. / Do you not remember Jeanie, / How she met them in the moonlight, / Took their gifts both choice and many, / Ate their fruits and wore their flowers / Plucked from bowers / Where summer ripens at all hours? / But ever in the noonlight / She pined and pined away; / Sought them  by night and day, / Found them no more but dwindled and grew grey; / Then fell with the first snow, / White to this day no grass will grow / Where she lies low: / I planted daisies there a year ago / That never blow. / You should not loiter so.’ 

Golden head by golden head, / Like two pigeons in one nest / Folded in each other’s wings, / they lay down in their curtained bed: / Like two blossoms on one stem, / Like two flakes of new-fall’n snow, / Like two wands of ivory / Tipped with gold for awful kings. / Moon and stars gazed in at them, / wind sang to them lullaby, / Lumbering owls forbore to fly, / Not a bat flapped to and fro / Round their rest: / Cheek to cheek and breast to breast / Locked together in one nest.

She gorged on bitterness without a name: / Ah! fool, to choose such part / Of soul-consuming care! / Sense failed in the mortal strife: / Like the watch-tower of a town / Which an earthquake shatters down, / Like a lightning-stricken mast, / Like a wind-uprooted tree / Spun about, / Like a foam-topped tree / Spun about, / Like a foam-topped watersoup / Cast down headlong in the sea, / she fell at last; / Pleasure past and anguish past, / Is it death or is it life?
Life out of death.

Laura would call the little ones / And tell them of her early prime, / Those pleasant days long gone/ Of not-returning time: / Would talk about the haunted glen, / The wicked, quaint fruit-merchant men, / Their fruits like honey to the throat / But poison in the blood; / (Men sell not such in any town:) / Would tell them how her sister stood / In deadly peril to do her good, / And win the fiery antidote: / Then joining hands to little hands / Would boid them cling together, / ‘For there is no friend like a sister / In calm or stormy weather; / To cheer one on the tedious way, / To fetch one if one goes astray, / To life one if one totters down, / To strengthen whilst one stands.’

-Goblin Market

Gerard Manley Hopkins

October 24, 2006

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(1844-1889)

First publication of his poems was made accessible to readers 29 years after his death
Most poems celebrate the wonders of God’s creation
Were known only to a small circle of friends during his lifetime
Praised for his striking experiments with meter and diction
Widely hailed as a pioneering figure of ‘modern’ literature and unconnected with fellow Victorian poets
Often grouped with twentieth-century poets
Born near London into a cultivated family in comfortable circumstances
Attended Oxford and was exposed to the Broad Church theology of one of his tutors
White at Oxford Hopkins wrote poems in the vein of John Keats but burned most of these writings after his conversion: drafts survive
Entered the Roman Catholic Church: suffered estrangement from his family
Because a Jesuit priest
Appointed professor of classics at University College in Dublin
Felt everything in the universe was characterized by what he called ‘inscape’: the distinctive design that constitutes individual dynamic identity: Each being in the universe enacts its identity and the human recognizes the inscape of other beings in an act he terms instress: the apprehension of an object in an intense thrust of energy toward it that enables one to realize its specific distinctiveness- all of this leads on to Christ, for the individual identity of any object is the stamp of divine creation
Poetry enacts this celebration of identity
Hopkins seeks to give each poem a unique design that captures the initial inspiration when he is caught by his subject
Creates compounds to represent the unique interlocking fo the characteristics of an object
Disrupts conventional syntax, coins and compounds words, and uses ellipsis and repetition to represent the stress and action of the brain in moments of inspiration
Uses new rhythm to give each poem a distinctive design
Believed that sprung rhythm was the natural rhythm of common speech, written prose and music
In early poems, beauty of individual objects brings him close to God but in late poems the distinctive individuality comes to isolate him from God
In the ‘terrible sonnets’ he cannot escape a world solely of his own imagining
Yeats calls Hopkins’s poetry

“a last development of poetical diction.”

Quotations:

I caught this morning morning’s minion, king- / dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding / Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding / High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing / In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing, / As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding / Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding / Stirred for a bird, -the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here / Buckle! And the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion / Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!
No wonder of it: sheer plod makes plough down sillion / Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear, / Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.

-The Windhover – To Christ our Lord (in whole)

Glory be to God for dappled things- / For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow; / For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim; / Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls, finches’ wings; / Landscape plotted and pieced- fold, fallow, and plough; / And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange; / Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?) / With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim; / He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: / Praise him.

-Pied Beauty (in whole)

Pied means of two or more colors in blotches, variegated

Margaret, are you grieving/ Over Goldengrove unleaving?/ Leaves, like the things of man, you/ With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?/ Ah! as the heart grows older/ It will come to such sights colder/ By and by, nor spare a sigh/ Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;/ And yet you will weep and know why./ Now no matter, child, the name:/ Sorrow’s springs are the same./ Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed/ What heart heard of, ghost guessed:/ It is the blight man was born for,/ It is Margaret you mourn for.

-Spring and Fall (in whole)

To a Young Child

George Eliot

October 21, 2006

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(1819-1880)

Marian Evans
Spent her childhood at Arbury Farm on the Warwickshire countryside
Strongly affected by Evangelicism
Associated with a group of freethinking intellectuals in the town of Coventry: reluctantly denounced her belief in Christianity
Translated for leading figures of Higher Criticism in Germany
Appointed assistant editor of the Westminster Review, a learned journal formerly edited by John Stuart Mill, ,after her father died
Fell in love with George Henry Lewes, brilliant critic of literature and philosophy, married and father of 3, and moved in with him as a common-law wife: was not invited to dinner, those who wanted to see her had to seek her company as a visitor on Sunday afternoons which became legendary occasions: decision to live with Lewes cost her a number of social and family ties, including her brother Isaac
Fiction owes much to Austen’s with concern with provincial society, satire of human motives and focus on courtship
Combines expansive philosophic meditation with acute dissection of characters’ motives and feelings
Likened herself a historian and scientist
Perhaps the greatest English realist, often compared with Leo Tolstoy: the most important Victorian intellectual
Sympathetic to a feminist point of view, stresses values of loyalty to one’s past
A novest of characters (like Austen)
Called the first ‘great godless writer’

"My function is that of the aesthetic not othe doctrinal teacher."

Silas Marner 1861

Silas Marner : The Weaver of Raveloe
Story of redemption through love
Combines humour and rich symbolism with a historically precise setting to create a tale of love and hope
explores the issues of redemptive love, the notion of community, the role of religion, and the status of the gentry and family
Epilogue:

“A child, more than all other gifts
That earth can offer to declining man,
Brings hope with it, and forward-looking thoughts.”
—William Wordsworth

Quotations:

“…how was a man to be explained unless you at least knew somebody who knew his father and mother? To the peasants of old times, the world outside their own direct experience was a region of vagueness and mystery.”

“To people accustomed to reason about the forms in which their religious feeling has incorporated itself, it is difficult to enter into that simple, untaught state of mind in which the form and the feeling have never been severed by an act of reflection.”

“Have not men, shut up in solitary imprisonment, found an interest in marking the moments by straight strokes of a certain length on the wall, until the growth of the sum of straight strokes, arranged in triangles, has become a mastering purpose? Do we not while away moments of inanity or fatigued waiting by repeating some trivial moment or sound, until the repetition has bred a want, which is incipient habit?”

“The yoke a man creates for himself by wrongdoing will breed hate in the kindliest nature…”

“The sense of security more frequently springs from habit than from conviction, and for this reason it often subsists after such a change in the conditions as might have been expected to suggest alarm. The lapse of time during which a given event has not happened is, in this logic of habit, constantly alleged as a reason why the event should never happen, even when the lapse of time is precisely the added condition which makes the event imminent. A man will tell you that he has worked in a mine for forty years unhurt by an accident, as a reason why he should apprehend no danger, though the roof is beginning to sink; and it is often observable that the older a man gets, the more difficult it is to him to retain a believing conception of his own death.”

“‘Did ever a ghost give a man a black eye? That’s what I should like to know. If ghos’es want me to believe in ’em, let ’em leave off skulking i’ the dark and i’ lone places- let ’em come where there’s company and candles.'”

“Our consciousness rarely registers the beginning of a growth within us any more than without us: there have been many circulations of the sap before we detect the smallest sign of the bud.”

“Favorable Chance, I fancy, is the god of all men who follow their own devices instead of obeying a law they believe in. … The evil principle deprecated in that religion is the orderly sequence by which the seed brings forth a crop after its kind.”

“I suppose one reason why we are seldom able to comfort our neighbours with our words is that our good will gets adulterated, in spite of ourselves, before it can pass our lips. We can send black puddings and pettitoes without giving them a flavour of our own egoism; but language is a stream that is almost sure to smack of a mingled soil. There was a fair proportion of kindness in Raveloe; but it was often of a beery and bungling sort, and took the shape least allied to the complimentary and hypocritical.”

“Nobody in this world but himself knew that he was the same Silas Marner who had once loved his fellow with tender love, and trusted in an unseen goodness. Even to himself that past experience had become dim.
And then the red faces made their way through the black, biting frost to their own hoes, feeling themselves free for the rest of the day to eat, drink, and be merry, and using that Christian freedom with out diffidence.”

“She was perfectly quiet now, but not asleep- only soothed by sweet porridge and warmth into that wide-gazing calm which makes us older human beings, with our inward turmoil, feel a certain awe in the presence of a little child, such as we feel before some quiet majesty or beauty in the earth or sky -before a steady glowing planet, or a full-flowered eglantine, or the bending trees over a silent pathway.”

“The prevarication and white lies which a mind that keeps itself ambitiously pure is as uneasy under as a great artist under the false touches that no eye detects but his own, are worn lightly as mere trimmings when once the actions have become a lie.”

“When we are treated well, we naturally begin to think that we are not altogether unmeritorious, and that it is only just we should treat ourselves well, and not mar our own good fortune”

“In old days there were angels who came and took men by the hand and led them away from the city of destruction. We see no white-winged angels now. But yet men are led away from threatening destruction; a hand is put into theirs, which leads them forth gently towards a calm and bright land, so that they look no more backward; and the hand may be a little child’s.”

“‘…there’s nothing kills a man so soon ashaving nobody to find fault with him but himself. It’s a deal the best way o’ being master, to let somebody else do the ordering, and keep the blaming in your own hands. It ‘ud save many a man a stroke, I believe.'”

“This excessive rumination and self-questioning is perhaps a morbid habit inevitable to a mind of much moral sensibility when shut out from its due share of outward activity and of practical claims on its affections- inevitable to a noblehearted, childless woman, when her lot is narrow. ‘I can do so little- have I done it all well?’ is the perpetually recurring thought; and there are no voices calling her away from that soliloquy, no peremptory demands to divert energy from vain regret or superfluous scruple.”

“‘Eh, my precious child, the blessing was mine. If you hadn’t been sent to save me, I should h’ gone to the grave in my misery. The money was taken from me in time; and you see it’s been kept- kept till it was wanted for you. It’s wonderful -our life is wonderful.'”

“‘Well, yes, Master Marner,’ said Dolly, who sat with a placid, listening face, now ordered by grey hairs; ‘I doubt it may. It’s the will o’ Them above as a many things should be dark to us; bu there’s some things as I’ve never felt i’ the dark about, and they’re mostly what comes i’ the day’s work. You were hard done by that once, Master Marner, and it seems as you’ll never know the rights of it; but that doesn’t hinder there being a rights, Master Marner for all it’s dark to you and me.’
‘No,’ said Silas., ‘no; that doesn’t hinder. Since the time the child was sent to me and I’ve come to love her as myself, I’ve had light enough to trusten by; and, now she says seh’ll never leave me, I think I shall trusten till I die.’"

“‘Oh, Father,’ said Eppie, ‘what a pretty home ours is! I think nobody could be happier than we are.'”

Robert Browning

October 11, 2006

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(1812-1889)

During his lifetime, was often referred to as “Mrs. Browning’s husband”: was a relatively unknown experimenter whose poems were greeted with indifference
gained a public and was recognized as the rival of Alfred, Lord Tennyson in the 1860’s
Poetry was admired by two groups of readers widely different in tastes: Browning was seen as a wise philosopher and religious teacher resolving doubts seen in Tennyson’s poetry, and also as a poet interested in solving the problems of how poetry should be written (Ezra Pound and Robert Lowell recognized that Browning became the main road of twentieth-century poetry)
Uses dramatic monologue to separate the speaker from the poet
Born in Camberwell, a London suburb
Until marriage at age of 34, Browning was rarely absent from his parents’ home
Preferred to pursue his education at home
Overwhelmed with embarrassment, avoided confessional writings and exposing himself too explicitly before his readers
Wrote plays instead of narratives, but stage productions remained failures
Carried dramatic monologue to poetry and enabled him through imaginary speakers to avoid explicit autobiography
Became an atheist, vegetarian and liberal at 14 after discovering Percy Bysshe Shelley’s works, retained Shelley’s influence in poetry, but grew away for atheism
The random nature of his education later surfaced in his writing, leading to criticism of his poems’ obscurities
After reading Elizabeth Barrett’s Poems (1844) and corresponding with her for a few months, Browning met her in 1845 and they were married in 1846,

Quotations:

That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall, / Looking as if she were alive, I call / That piece a wonder, now: Fra Pandolf’s hands / Worked busily a day, and there she stands. / Will ‘t please you to sit and look at her? I said / ‘Fra Pandolf’ by design, for never read / Strangers like you that pictured countenance, / The depth and passion of its earnest glance, / But to myself they turned (since none puts by / The curtain I have drawn for you, but I) / And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst, / How such a glance came there; so, not the first / Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ’twas not / Her hustand’s presence only, called that spot / Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek: perhaps / Fra Pandolf chanced to say ‘Her mantel laps / Over my lady’s wrist too much,’ or ‘Paint / Must never hope to reproduce the faint / Half-flush that dies along her throat’: such stuff / Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough / For calling up that spot of joy. She had / A heart- how shall I sa? -too soon made glad, / Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er / She looked on, and her looks went everywhere. / Sir, ’twas all one! My favor at her breast, / The dropping of the daylight in the West, / The bough of cherries some officious fool / Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule / She rode with round the terrace -all and each / Would draw from her alike the approving speech, / Or blush, at least. She thanked men- good! but thanked / Somehow- I know not how- as if she ranked / My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name / With anybody’s gift. Who’d stoop to blame / This sort of trifling? Even had you skill / In speech – (which I have not)- to make your will / Quite clear to such an one, and say, ‘Just this / Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss, / Or there exceed the mark’ -and if she let / Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set / Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse / -E’en then would be some stooping; and I choose / Never to stoop. Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt, / Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without / Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands; / Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands / As if alive. Will ‘t please you to rise? We’ll meet / The company below, then. I repeat, / The Count your master’s known munificence / Is ample warrant that no just pretense / Of mine for dowry will be disallowed; / Though his fair daughter’s self, as I avowed / At starting, is my object. Nay, we’ll go / Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though, / Taming a sea horse, thought a rarity, / Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!

-My Last Duchess (in whole)

A duke speaks of his dead wife in a one-sided conversation
Reader must piece together the past and present situation and infer what sort of woman the duchess really was and what sort of man the duke really is

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

October 8, 2006

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(1806-1861)

One of England’s most famous poets during her lifetime
Admired by contemporaries for her moral and emotional ardor and her energetic engagement with the issues of her day
Better know than her husband, Robert Browning, at the time of her death
Interested in what it means to be a woman poet and the female response to social and political events
Received an unusual education
First volume of poetry was published when she was 13
Personal life was burdened by ill health and her tyrannically protective father, who forbid any of his 11 children to be married
Secretly eloped with Robert Browning in 1846 in Italy: her father never forgave her
Poetry is characterized by a fervent moral sensibility: uses poetry as a tool of social protest and reform
In later poems, she took up the cause of the Risorgimento, the movement to unify Italy as a nation-state
Works are full of tender and delicate, but also of strong and deep, thought

Aurora Leigh 1857

Verse novel
Poem depicts the growth of a woman poet and is the first work in English by a woman writer in which the heroine herself is the author
Portrait of the artist as a young woman committed to a socially inclusive realist art
Daring work both in its presentation of social issues concerning women and in its claims for Aurora’s poetic vocation
Immensely popular in its own day: had extravagant admirers and critics
Unlike Matthew Arnold and Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Browning felt that the present age contained the materials for an epic poetry
Virginia Woolf said in regards to Aurora Leigh: it gives us…

“a sense of life in general, of people who are unmistakably Victorian, wrestling with the problems of their own time, all brightened, intensified, and compacted by the fire of poetry… Aurora Leigh, with her passionate interest in social questions, her conflict as artist and woman, her longing for knowledge and freedom, is the true daughter of her age.”

Barrett Browning on Aurora Leigh in beginning to write:

“My chief intention just now is the writing of a sort of novel-poem… running into the midst of our conventions, and rushing into drawing-rooms and the like ‘where angels fear to tread’; and so, meeting face to face and without mask the Humanity of the age, and speaking the truth as I conceive of it out plainly.”

Quotations:

Was this my father’s England? the great isle? / The ground seemed cut up from the fellowship / Of verdure, field from field, as man from man; / The skies themselves looked low and positive, / As almost you could touch them with a hand, / And dared to do it they were so far off / From God’s celestial crystals; all things blurred / And dull and vague. Did Shakespeare and his mates / Absorb the light here? -not a hill or stone / With heart to strike a radiant colour up / Or active outline on the indifferent air.

She had lived, we’ll say, / A harmless life, she called a virtuous life, / A quiet life, which was not life at all / (But that, she had not lived enough to know),

She had lived / A sort of cage-bird life, born in a cage, / Accounting that to leap from perch to perch / Was act and joy enough for any bird. / Dear heaven, how silly are the things that live / In thickets, and eat berries!
I, alas, / A wild bird scarcely fledged, was brought to her cage, / And she was there to meet me. Very kind. / Bring the clean water, give out the fresh seed.

There seemed more true life in my father’s grave / Than in all England. Since that threw me oof / Who fain would cleave (his latest will, they say, / Consigned me to his land), I only thought / Of lying quiet there where I was thrown / Like sea-weed on the rocks, and suffering her / To prick me to a pattern with her pin, / Fibre from fibre, delicate leaf from leaf, / And dry out from my drowned anatomy / The last sea-salt left in me.

By the way, / The works of women are symbolical. / We sew, sew, prick our fingers, dull our sight, / Producing what? A pair of slippers, sir, / To put on when you’re weary- or a stool / To stumble over and vex you… ‘curse that stool!’ / Or else at best, a cushion, where you lean / And sleep, and dream of something we are not / But would be for your sake. Alas, alas! / This hurts most, this- that, after all, we are paid / The worth of our work, perhaps.

‘I perceive. / The headache is too noble for my sex. / You think the heartache would sound decenter, / Since that’s the woman’s special, proper ache, / And altogether tolerable, except / To a woman.’

‘Now,’ I said, ‘may God / Be witness ‘twixt us two!’ and with the word, / Meseemed I floated into a sudden light / Above his stature,- ‘am I proved too weak / To stand alone, yet strong enough to bear / Such leaners on my shoulder? poor to think, / Yet rich enough to sympathise with thought? / Incompetent to sing, as blackbirds can, / Yet competent to love, like him?’

‘What you love / is not a woman, Romney, but a cause: / You want a helpmate, not a mistress, sir, / A wife to help your ends, -in her no end. / Your cause is noble, your ends excellent, / But I, being most unworthy of these and that, / Do otherwise conceive of love. Farewell.’

‘It takes a soul, / To move a body: it takes a high-souled man, / To move the masses, even to a cleaner stye: / It takes the ideal, to blow a hair’s-breadth off / The dust of the actual. -Ah, your Fouriers failed, / Because not poets enough to understand / That life develops from within. -For me, / Perhaps I am not worthy, as you say, / Of work like this: perhaps a woman’s soul / Aspires, and not creates: yet we aspire, / And yet I’ll try out your perhapses, sir, / And if I fail… why, burn me up my straw / Like other false works- I’ll not ask for grace; / Your scorn is better, cousin Romney. I / Who love my art, would never wish it lower / To suit my stature. I may love my art. / You’ll grant that even a woman may love art, / Seeing that to waste true love on anything / Is womanly, past question.’

Nay, if there’s room for poets in this world / A little overgrown (I think there is), / Their sole work is to represent the age, / Their age, not Charlemagne’s, -this live, throbbing age, / That brawls, cheats, maddens, calculates, aspires, / And spends more passion, more heroic heat, / Betwixt the mirrors of its drawing-rooms, / Than Roland with his knights at Roncesvalles. / To flinch from modern varnish, coat or flounce, / Cry out for togas and the picturesque, / Is fatal, -foolish too. King Arthur’s self / Was commonplace to Lady Guenever; / And Camelot to minstrels seemed as flat / As Fleet Street to our poets.
Never flinch, / But still, uncrupulously epic, catch / Upon the burning lava of a song / The full-veined, heaving, ,double-breasted Age: / That, when the next shall come, the men of that / May touch the impress with reverent hand, and say / ‘Behold, -behold the paps we all have sucked! / This bosom seems to beat still, or at least / It sets ours beating: this is living art, / Which thus presents and thus records true life.’

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

October 3, 2006

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(1809-1892)

Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom after William Wordsworth
Verse was based on classical or mythological themes
Fourth son in a family of twelve children
Poet often regarded as the chief representative of the Victorian age in poetry
Began to write poetry at an early age in the style of Lord Byron
Studied at Trinity College, Cambridge: joined the literary club ‘The Apostles’ and met Arthur Hallam who became his closest friend
His book ‘Poems’ received unfavorable reviews and Tennyson ceased to publish for nearly ten years until Hallam suddenly died and Tennyson began to write ‘In Memoriam’
Wrote several plays in the 1870’s
Is buried in the Poets’ Corner in Westmister Abbey

Quotations:

Part I

On either side the river lie / Long fields of barley and of rye, / That clothe the wold and meet the sky; / And through the field the road runs by / To many-towered Camelot; / And up and down the people go, / Gazing where the lilies blow / Round an island there below, / The island of Shalott.
Willows whiten, aspens quiver, / Little breezes dusk and shiver / Through the wave that runs for ever / By the island in the river / Flowing down to Camelot. / Four grey walls, and four grey towers, / Overlook a space of flowers, / And the silent isle imbowers / The Lady of Shalott.
By the margin, willow-veiled, / Slide the heavy barges trailed / By slow horses; and unhailed / The shallop flitteth silken-sailed / Skimming down to camelot: / But who hath seen her wave her hand? / Or at the casement seen her stand? / Or is she known in all the land, / The Lady of Shalott?
Only reapers, reaping early / In among the bearded barley / Hear a song that echoes cheerly / From the river winding clearly, / Down to towered Camelot: / And by the moon the reaper weary, / Piling sheaves in uplands air, / Listening, whispers ”Tis the fairy / Lady of Shalott.’

Part II

There she weaves by night and day / A magic web with colours gay. / She has heard a whisper say, / A curse is on her if she stay / To look down to Camelot. / She knows not what the curse may be, / And so she weaveth steadily, / And little other care hath she, / The Lady of Shalott.
And moving through a mirror clear / That hangs before her all the year, / Shadows of the world appear. / There she sees the highway near / Winding down to Camelot: / There the river eddy whirls, / And there the surly village-churls, / And the red cloaks of market girls, / Pass onward from Shalott.
Sometimes a troop of damsels glad, / An abbot on an ambling pad, / Sometimes a curly sheperd-lad, / Or long-haired page in crimson clad, / Goes by to towered Camelot; / And sometimes through the mirror blue / The knights come riding two and two: / She hath no loyal knight and true, / The Lady of Shalott.
But in her web she still delights / To weave the mirror’s magic sights, / For often through the silent nights / A funeral, with plumes and lights / And music, went to Camelot: / Or when the moon was overhead, / Came two young lovers lately wed; / ‘I am half sick of shadows,’ said / The Lady of Shalott.

Part III

A bow-shot from her bower-eaves, / He rode between the barley-sheaves, / The sun came dazzling through the leaves, / And flamed upon the brazen greaves / Of bold Sir Lancelot. / A red-cross knight for ever kneeled / To a lady in his shield, / That sparkled on the yellow field, / Beside remote Shalott.
The gemmy bridle glittered free, / Like to some branch of stars we see / Hung in the golden Galaxy. / The bridle bells rang merrily / As he rode down to Camelot: / And from his blazoned baldric slung / A mighty silver bugle hung, / And as he rode his armour rung, / Beside remote Shalott.
All in the blue unclouded weather / Thick-jewelled shone the saddle-leather. / The helmet and the helmet-feather / Burned like one burning flame together, / As he rode down to Camelot. / As often through the purple night, / Below the starry clusters bright, / Some bearded meteor, trailing light, / Moves over still Shalott.
His broad clear brow in sunlight glowed; / On burnished hooves his war-horse trode; / From underneath his helmet flowed / His coal-black curls as on he rode, / As he rode down to Camelot. / From the bank and from the river / He flashed into the crystal mirror, / ‘Tirra lirra,’ by the river / Sang Sir Lancelot.
She left the web, she left the loom, / She made three paces through the room, / She saw the water-lily bloom, / She saw the helmet and the plume, / She looked down to Camelot. / Out flew the web and floated wide; / The mirror cracked from side to side; / ‘The curse is come upon me,’ cried / The Lady of Shalott.

Part IV

In the stormy east-wind straining, / The pale yellow woods were waning, / The broad stream in his banks complaining, / Heavily the low sky raining / Over towered Camelot; / Down she came and found a boat / Beneath a willow left afloat, / And round about the prow she wrote / The Lady of Shalott.
And down the river’s dim expanse, / Like some bold seer in a trance / Seeing all his own mischance, / With a glassy countenance / Did she look to Camelot. / And at the closing of the day / She loosed the chain, and down she lay; / The broad stream bore her far away, / The Lady of Shalott.
Lying, robed in snowy white / That loosely flew to left and right- / The leaves upon her falling light- / Through the noises of the night / She floated down to Camelot: / And as the boat-head wound along / The willowy hills and fields among, / They heard her singing her last song, / The Lady of Shalott.
Heard a carol, mournful, holy, / Chanted loudly, chanted lowly, / Till her blood was frozen slowly, / And her eyes were darkened wholly, / Turned to towered Camelot. / For ere she reached upon the tide / The first house by the water-side, / Singing in her song she died, / The Lady of Shalott.
Under tower and balcony, / By garden-wall and gallery, / A gleaming shape she floated by, / Dead-pale between the houses high, / Silent into Camelot. / Out upon the wharfs they came, / Knight and burgher, lord and dame, / And round the prow they read her name, / The Lady of Shalott.
Who is this? and what is here? / And in the lighted palace near / Died the sound of royal cheer; / And they crossed themselves for fear, / All the knights at Camelot: / But Lancelot mused a little space; / He said, ‘She has a lovely face; / God in his mercy lend her grace, / The Lady of Shalott.’

-The Lady of Shalott (in whole)

In Memoriam A. H. H.  (1850) 

Tennyson met Arthur Hallam at Cambridge university where they were both members of ‘The Apostles’ and the two became very close
Hallam was Tennyson’s closest friend, his sister’s fiance, and a critic and champion of his poetry
Hallam died in Vienna suddenly: Tennyson felt his life had been shattered
The lyrics Tennyson wrote to express the variety of his feelings and reflections were done over a period of 17 years and composed into one long elegy of 131 sections of 3-30 stanzas each (stanzas of 4 lines each with rhyme ABBA): it traces the poet through the 3 years following Hallam’s death
Portrays a linear development from crisis to hope, loss of faith to new beliefs
Considered one of the greatest love poems of all time, along with Shakespeare’s sonnets: both of which are men addressing men
Tennyson uses romantic imagery and speech to discuss the friendly intimacy he shared with Hallam: could be read as slightly homoerotic
The poem is unified by the Christmas sections in Parts 28-30, 78, and 104-105
The Prologue was added at the end of Tennyson’s writing
Poem compares Tennyson’s loss of Hallam to the age’s loss of faith: the Victorian period was named the “Age of Doubt”
According to T.S. Eliot:

“It is unique: it is a long poem made by putting together lyrics, which have only the unity and continuity of a diary, the concentrated diary of a man confessing himself.”

Quotations:

Strong Son of God, immortal Love, / Whom we, that have not seen thy face, / By faith, and faith alone, embrace, / Believing where we cannot prove,
Thine are these orbs of light and shade; / Though madest Life in man and brute; / Thou madest Death; and lo, thy foot / Is on the skull which thou hast made.
Thou wilt not leave us in the dust: / Thou madest man, he knows not why, / He thinks he was not made to die; / And thou hast made him: thou art just.

We have but faith: we cannot know, / For knowledge is of things we see; / And yet we trust it comes from thee, / A beam in darkness: let it grow.
Let knowledge grow from more to more, / But more of reverence in us dwell; / That mind and soul, according well, / May make one music as before

Forgive my grief for one removed, / Thy creature, whom I found so fair. / I trust he lives in thee, and there / I find him worthier to be loved.
Forgive these wild and wandering cries, / Confusions of a wasted youth; / Forgive them where they fail in truth / And in thy wisdom make me wise.

-Prologue

Let Love clasp Grief lest both be drowned, / Let darkness keep her raven gloss. / Ah, sweeter to be drunk with loss, / To dance with Death, to beat the ground,
Than that the victor Hours should scorn / The long result of love, and boast, / ‘Behold the man that loved and lost, / But all he was is overworn.’

-Part 1

Old yew, which graspest at the stones / That name the underlying dead, / Thy fibres net the dreamless head, / Thy roots are wrapped about the bones.
The seasons bring the flower again, / And bring the firstling to the flock; / And in the dusk of thee the clock / Beats out the little lives of men.

-Part 2

I sometimes hold it half a sin / To put in words the grief I feel; / For words, like Nature, half reveal / And half conceal the Soul within.
But, for the unquiet heart and brain, / A use measured language lies; / The sad mechanic exercise, / Like dull narcotics, numbing pain.

-Part 5

One writes, that ‘Other friends remain,’ / That ‘Loss is common to the race’- / And common is the commonplace, / And vacant chaff well meant for grain.
That loss is common would not make / My own less bitter, rather more:  / Too common! Never morning wore / To evening, but some heart did break.

-Part 6

He is not here; but far away / The noise of life begins again, / And ghastly through the drizzling rain / On the bald street breaks the blank day.

-Part 7

Fair ship, that from the Italian shore / Sailest the placid ocean-plains / With my lost Arthur’s loved remains, / Spread thy full wings, and waft him o’er.

-Part 9

Another answers: ‘Let him be, / He loves to make parade of pain, / That with his piping he may gain / The praise that comes to constancy.’

Behold, ye speak an idle thing; / Ye never knew the sacred dust. / I do but sing because I must, / And pipe but as the linnets sing:

-Part 21

Each voice four changes on the wind, / That now dilate, and now decrease, / Peace and goodwill, goodwill and peace, / Peace and goodwill, to all mankind.
This year I slept and woke with pain, / I almost wished no more to wake, / And that my hold on life would break / Before I heard those bells again;

-Part 28

With such compelling cause to grieve / As daily vexes household peace, / And chains regret to his decease, / How dare we keep our Christmas eve;

Old sisters of a day gone by, / Gray nurses, loving nothing new; / Why should they miss their yearly due / Before their time? They too will die.

-Part 29

Rise, happy morn, rise, holy morn, / Draw forth the cheerful day from night: / O Father, touch the east, and light / The light that shone when Hope was born.

-Part 30

O, yet we trust that somehow good / Will be the final goal of ill, / To pangs of nature, sins of will, / Defects of doubt, and taints of blood; 

So runs my dream ; but what am I? / An infant crying in the night; / An infant crying for the light, / And with no language but a cry.

-Part 54

I stretch lame hands of faith, and grope, / And gather dust and chaff, and call / To what I feel is Lord of all, / And faintly trust the larger hope.

-Part 55

Man, her last work, who seemed so fair, / Such splendid purpose in his eyes, / Who rolled the psalm to wintry skies, / Who built him fanes of fruitless prayer,
Who trusted God was love indeed / And love Creation’s final law- / Though Nature, red in tooth and claw / With ravine, shrieked against his creed-

O life as futile, then, as frail! / O for thy voice to soothe and bless! / What hope of answer, or redress? / Behind the veil, behind the veil.

-Part 56

Again at Christmas did we weave / The holly round the Christmas hearth; / The silent snow possessed the earth, / And calmly fell our Christmas eve.

Who showed a token of distress? / No single tear, no mark of pain- / O sorrow, then can sorrow wane? / O grief, can grief be changed to less?
O last regret, regret can die! / No-mixed with all this mysic frame, / Her deep relations are the same, / But with long use her tears are dry.

-Part 78

The time draws near the birth of Christ; / The moon is hid, the night is still; / A single church below the hill / Is pealing, folded in the mist.

-Part 104

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky, / The flying cloud, the frosty light: / The year is dying in the night; / Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new, / Ring, happy bells, across the snow: / The year is going, let him go; / Ring out the false, ring in the true.

-Part 106

Whereof the man that with me trod / This planet was a noble type / Appearing ere the times were ripe, / That friend of mine who lives in God,
That God, which ever lives and loves, / One God, one law, one element, / And one far-off divine event, / To which the whole creation moves.

-Epilogue

Percy Bysshe Shelley

September 12, 2006

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(1792-1822)

Considered the most radical Romantic poet, in poetry and in politics
Very aristocratic
He saw the petty tyranny of schoolmasters and schoolmates as representative of man’s general inhumanity to man
Dedicated his life to a war against injustice and oppression: called ‘mad Shelley’ by his schoolmates
Was expelled from Oxford with friend Thomas Jefferson Hogg for the publication of a pamphlet titled “The Necessity of Atheism”
Attributed the evils of society to humanity’s own moral failures and grounded the possibilty of social reform in the redeeming power of love
Repeatedly charged with intellectual and emotional immaturity
Drowned in the Gulf of Lerici off the Italian coast when he was thirty years old
John Murray on Shelley:

“You are all brutally mistaken about Shelley, who was, without exception, the best and least selfish man I ever knew.”

Quotations:

O Wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being, / Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead / Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,
Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red, / Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O Thou, / Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed
The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low, / Each like a corpse within its grave, until / Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow
Her Clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill / (Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air) / With living hues and odours plain and hill:
Wild Spirit, which art moving everrywhere; / Destroyer and Preserver; hear, O hear!

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe / Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth! / And, by the incantation of this verse,
Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth / Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind! / Be through my lips to unawakened Earth
The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind, / If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

-Ode to the West Wind

Apostrophe to the wind
Rhyme: ABA BCB CDC DED EE
Wind as a representation of poetry or poetic inspiration
The wind may speak only through the poet

Hail to thee, blithe Spirit! / Bird thou never wert- / That from Heaven, or near it, / Pourest thy full heart / In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.
Higher still and higher / From the earth thou springest / Like a cloud of fire; / The blue deep thou wingest, / And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.

Like a Poet Hidden / In the light of thought, / Singing hymns unbidden, / Till the world is wrought / To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not:

We look before and after, / And pine for what is not- / Our sincerest laughter / With some pain is fraught- / Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.
Yet if we could scorn / Hate and pride and fear; / If we were things born / Not to shed a tear, / I know not how thy joy we ever should come near.

Teach me half the gladness / That thy brain must know, / Such harmonious madness / From my lips would flow / The world should listen then- as I am listening now.

-To a Sky-Lark

The European skylark is a small bird that sings only in flight, often when it is too high to be visible
The poet is most like the sky-lark: the poet’s job is to reveal uncommon emotions to the reader
Humans can only feel intense emotion through comparison, unlike the sky-lark
The poem ends with the speaker looking to the bird, not the poet

“According to one mode of regarding those two classes of mental action, which are called reason and imagination, the former may be considered as mind contemplating the relations borne by one thought to another, however produced; and the latter, as mind acting upon those thoughts so as to colour them with its own light, and composing from them, as from elements, other thoughts, each containing within itself the principle of its own integrity.”

“But there is a principle within the human being, and perhaps within all sentient beings, which acts otherwise than in the lyre, and producs not melody, alone, but harmony, by an internal adjustment of the sounds or motions thus excited to the impressions which excite them.”

“In the infancy of society every author is necessarily a poet, because language itself is poetry; and to be a poet is to apprehend the true and the beautiful, in a word the good which exists in the relation, subsisting, first between existence and perception, and secondly between perception and expression.”

“But Poets, or those who imagine and express this indestructible order, are not only the authors of language and of music, of the dance and architecure and statuary and painting: they are the institutors of laws, and the founders of civil society and the inventors of the arts of life and the teachers, who draw into a certain propinquity with the beautiful and the true that partial apprehension of the agencies of the invisible world which is called religion.”

“Poets, according to the circumstances of the age and nation in which hey appeared, were called in the earlier epochs of the world legislators or prophets: a poet essentially comprises and unites both these characters. For he not only beholds intensely the present as it is, and discovers those laws according to which present things ought to be ordered, but he beholds the future in the present, ,and his thoughts are the germs of the flower and the fruit of the latest time.”

“A Poet participates in the eternal, the infinite, and the one; as far as relates to his conceptions, time and place and number are not.”

“A poem is the very image of life expressed in its eternal truth.”

“Time, which destroys the beauty and the use of the story of particular facts, stript of the poetry which should invest them, augments that of Poetry, and for ever develops new and wonderful applications of the eternal truth which it contains.”

“Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted.”

“Poetry is ever accompanied with pleasure: all spirits on which it falls, open themselves to receive the wisdom which is mingled with its delight.”

“A Poet is a nightingale, who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds; his auditors are as men entranced by the melody of an unseen musician, who feel that they aremoved and softened, yet know not whence or why.”

“A man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and of many other; the pains and pleasures of his species must become his own. The great instrument of moral good is the imagination; and poetry administers to the effect by acting upon the cause. Poetry enlarges the circumference of the imagination…”

“A Poet therefore would do ill to embody his own conceptions of right and wrong, which are usually those of his place and time, in his poetial creations, which participate in neither.”

“All things exist as they are perceived: at least in relation to the percipient. The mind is its own place, and of itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.’ But poetry defeats the curse which binds us to be subjected to the accident of surrounding impressions… It makes us the inhabitants of a world to which the familiar world is a chaos. It reproduces the common universe of which we are portions and percipients, and it purges from our inward sight the film of familiarity which obscures from us the wonder of our being. It compels us to feel that which we perceive, and to imagine that which we know. It creates anew the universe after it has been annihilated in our minds by the recurrence of impressions blunted by reiteration.”

“Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the World.”

-A Defense of Poetry

Response to friend’s (Peacock) satirical critique on Romantic Poetry
All imaginitive thought is poetry
Parallels with Plato’s interest in truths not available through the senses: Shelley’s Poet is Plato’s Philosopher

John Keats

September 12, 2006

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(1795-1821)

The Romantic poet of sensuous imagery
Born in London
Son of a stable keeper
Parents died before he was fifteen
Apprenticed to a surgeon for five years
Brutal attacks were made upon his verse by critics
Fell in love with Fannie Brawne b ut could not marry her because of his poverty and illness
Accused of sentimentalism and melodrama in poetry
Lover of beauty in its ideal form
Died at 26
Wrote for 4 years

“I am certain of nothing but… the truth of the imagination.”

Quotations:

Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget / What thou among the leaves hast never known, / The weariness, the fever, and the fret / Here, where men sit and hear each other groan; / Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs, / Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies; / Where but to think is to be full of sorrow / And leaden-eyed despairs, / Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes, / Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.

I cannot see what flowers are at my fee, / Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs, / But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet / Wherewith the seasonable month endows / The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild; / White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine; / Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves; / And mid-May’s eldest child, / The coming must-rose, full of dewy wine, / The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.
Darkline I listen; and, for many a time / I have been half in love with easeful Death, / Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme, / To take into the air my quiet breath; / Now more than ever seems it rich to die, / To cease upon the midnight with no pain, / While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad / In such an ecstasy! / Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain- / To thy high requiem become a sod.
Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird! / No hungry generations tread thee down; / The voice I hear this passing night was heard / In ancient days by emperor and clown: / Perhaps the self-same song that found a path / Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home, / She stood in tears a mid the alien corn; / The same that oft-time hath / Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam / Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

Was it a vision, or a waking dream? / Fled is that music:- Do I wake or sleep?

-Ode to a Nightingale

Connection to Shelley’s “To a Sky-Lark”
The bird effortlessly produces poetry, the poet struggles
Form: 10 line stanzas ABAB/CDECDE
Poet is portrayed with a sense of heaviness and blankness
The bird is described in lightness and plenitude
Nightingale is heard, not seen (like Shelley’s Sky-Lark)
Sight is excluded: the mind’s eye is the eye of imagination
Human world is subject to time: everything is described in its relation to time

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard / Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on; / Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d, / Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone: / Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave / Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare; / Bold lover, never, never canst thou kiss, / Though winning near the goal- yet, do not grieve; / She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss, / For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede / Of marble men and maidens overwrought, / With forest branches and the trodden weed; / Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought / As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral! / When old age shall this generation waste, / Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe / Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st, / ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’ -that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

-Ode on a Grecian Urn

“on” establishes distance between speaker and subject
Comparison of human world with an artifact
Urn tells a story without speaking
Sight is the only sense evoked (in contrast with “Ode to a Nightingale)
Urn depicts static world: movement and emotion frozen in time
Speaker compares the desirability of the two
3 scenes: men chasing women (rape), two lovers, communal ritual