Monday, March 17, 2014

Jane Eyre - themes and motifs

Ø Love Versus Autonomy
Jane Eyre is very much the story of a quest to be loved. Jane searches, not just for romantic love, but also for a sense of being valued, of belonging. Thus Jane says to Helen Burns: “to gain some real affection from you, or Miss Temple, or any other whom I truly love, I would willingly submit to have the bone of my arm broken, or to let a bull toss me, or to stand behind a kicking horse, and let it dash its hoof at my chest” (Chapter 8). Yet, over the course of the book, Jane must learn how to gain love without sacrificing and harming herself in the process.
Her fear of losing her autonomy motivates her refusal of Rochester’s marriage proposal. Jane believes that “marrying” Rochester while he remains legally tied to Bertha would mean rendering herself a mistress and sacrificing her own integrity for the sake of emotional gratification. On the other hand, her life at Moor House tests her in the opposite manner. There, she enjoys economic independence and engages in worthwhile and useful work, teaching the poor; yet she lacks emotional sustenance. Although St. John proposes marriage, offering her a partnership built around a common purpose, Jane knows their marriage would remain loveless.
Nonetheless, the events of Jane’s stay at Moor House are necessary tests of Jane’s autonomy. Only after proving her self-sufficiency to herself can she marry Rochester and not be asymmetrically dependent upon him as her “master.” The marriage can be one between equals. As Jane says: “I am my husband’s life as fully as he is mine. . . . To be together is for us to be at once as free as in solitude, as gay as in company. . . . We are precisely suited in character—perfect concord is the result” (Chapter 38).
Ø Religion
Throughout the novel, Jane struggles to find the right balance between moral duty and earthly pleasure, between obligation to her spirit and attention to her body. She encounters three main religious figures: Mr. Brocklehurst, Helen Burns, and St. John Rivers. Each represents a model of religion that Jane ultimately rejects as she forms her own ideas about faith and principle, and their practical consequences.
Mr. Brocklehurst illustrates the dangers and hypocrisies that Charlotte Brontë perceived in the nineteenth-century Evangelical movement. Mr. Brocklehurst adopts the rhetoric of Evangelicalism when he claims to be purging his students of pride, but his method of subjecting them to various privations and humiliations, like when he orders that the naturally curly hair of one of Jane’s classmates be cut so as to lie straight, is entirely un-Christian. Of course, Brocklehurst’s proscriptions are difficult to follow, and his hypocritical support of his own luxuriously wealthy family at the expense of the Lowood students shows Brontë’s wariness of the Evangelical movement. Helen Burns’s meek and forbearing mode of Christianity, on the other hand, is too passive for Jane to adopt as her own, although she loves and admires Helen for it.
Many chapters later, St. John Rivers provides another model of Christian behavior. His is a Christianity of ambition, glory, and extreme self-importance. St. John urges Jane to sacrifice her emotional deeds for the fulfillment of her moral duty, offering her a way of life that would require her to be disloyal to her own self.
Although Jane ends up rejecting all three models of religion, she does not abandon morality, spiritualism, or a belief in a Christian God. When her wedding is interrupted, she prays to God for solace (Chapter 26). As she wanders the heath, poor and starving, she puts her survival in the hands of God (Chapter 28). She strongly objects to Rochester’s lustful immorality, and she refuses to consider living with him while church and state still deem him married to another woman. Even so, Jane can barely bring herself to leave the only love she has ever known. She credits God with helping her to escape what she knows would have been an immoral life (Chapter 27).
Jane ultimately finds a comfortable middle ground. Her spiritual understanding is not hateful and oppressive like Brocklehurst’s, nor does it require retreat from the everyday world as Helen’s and St. John’s religions do. For Jane, religion helps curb immoderate passions, and it spurs one on to worldly efforts and achievements. These achievements include full self-knowledge and complete faith in God.
Ø Social Class
Jane Eyre is critical of Victorian England’s strict social hierarchy. Brontë’s exploration of the complicated social position of governesses is perhaps the novel’s most important treatment of this theme. Like Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, Jane is a figure of ambiguous class standing and, consequently, a source of extreme tension for the characters around her. Jane’s manners, sophistication, and education are those of an aristocrat, because Victorian governesses, who tutored children in etiquette as well as academics, were expected to possess the “culture” of the aristocracy. Yet, as paid employees, they were more or less treated as servants; thus, Jane remains penniless and powerless while at Thornfield. Jane’s understanding of the double standard crystallizes when she becomes aware of her feelings for Rochester; she is his intellectual, but not his social, equal. Even before the crisis surrounding Bertha Mason, Jane is hesitant to marry Rochester because she senses that she would feel indebted to him for “condescending” to marry her. Jane’s distress, which appears most strongly in Chapter 17, seems to be Brontë’s critique of Victorian class attitudes.
Jane herself speaks out against class prejudice at certain moments in the book. For example, in Chapter 23 she chastises Rochester: “Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong!—I have as much soul as you—and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you.” However, it is also important to note that nowhere in Jane Eyre are society’s boundaries bent. Ultimately, Jane is only able to marry Rochester as his equal because she has almost magically come into her own inheritance from her uncle.
Ø Gender Relations
Jane struggles continually to achieve equality and to overcome oppression. In addition to class hierarchy, she must fight against patriarchal domination—against those who believe women to be inferior to men and try to treat them as such. Three central male figures threaten her desire for equality and dignity: Mr. Brocklehurst, Edward Rochester, and St. John Rivers. All three are misogynistic on some level. Each tries to keep Jane in a submissive position, where she is unable to express her own thoughts and feelings. In her quest for independence and self-knowledge, Jane must escape Brocklehurst, reject St. John, and come to Rochester only after ensuring that they may marry as equals. This last condition is met once Jane proves herself able to function, through the time she spends at Moor House, in a community and in a family. She will not depend solely on Rochester for love and she can be financially independent. Furthermore, Rochester is blind at the novel’s end and thus dependent upon Jane to be his “prop and guide.” In Chapter 12, Jane articulates what was for her time a radically feminist philosophy:
Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.
Ø Fire and Ice
Fire and ice appear throughout Jane Eyre. The former represents Jane’s passions, anger, and spirit, while the latter symbolizes the oppressive forces trying to extinguish Jane’s vitality. Fire is also a metaphor for Jane, as the narrative repeatedly associates her with images of fire, brightness, and warmth. In Chapter 4, she likens her mind to “a ridge of lighted heath, alive, glancing, devouring.” We can recognize Jane’s kindred spirits by their similar links to fire; thus we read of Rochester’s “flaming and flashing” eyes (Chapter 26). After he has been blinded, his face is compared to “a lamp quenched, waiting to be relit” (Chapter 37).

Images of ice and cold, often appearing in association with barren landscapes or seascapes, symbolize emotional desolation, loneliness, or even death. The “death-white realms” of the arctic that Bewick describes in his History of British Birds parallel Jane’s physical and spiritual isolation at Gateshead (Chapter 1). Lowood’s freezing temperatures—for example, the frozen pitchers of water that greet the girls each morning—mirror Jane’s sense of psychological exile. After the interrupted wedding to Rochester, Jane describes her state of mind: “A Christmas frost had come at mid-summer: a white December storm had whirled over June; ice glazed the ripe apples, drifts crushed the blowing roses; on hay-field and corn-field lay a frozen shroud . . . and the woods, which twelve hours since waved leafy and fragrant as groves between the tropics, now spread, waste, wild, and white as pine-forests in wintry Norway. My hopes were all dead. . . .” (Chapter 26). Finally, at Moor House, St. John’s frigidity and stiffness are established through comparisons with ice and cold rock. Jane writes: “By degrees, he acquired a certain influence over me that took away my liberty of mind. . . . I fell under a freezing spell” (Chapter 34). When St. John proposes marriage to Jane, she concludes that “[a]s his curate, his comrade, all would be right. . . . But as his wife—at his side always, and always restrained, and always checked—forced to keep the fire of my nature continually low, to compel it to burn inwardly and never utter a cry, though the imprisoned flame consumed vital after vital—this would be unendurable” (Chapter 34).

JANE EYRE - An Overview

Jane Eyre is a young orphan being raised by Mrs. Reed, her cruel, wealthy aunt. A servant named Bessie provides Jane with some of the few kindnesses she receives, telling her stories and singing songs to her. One day, as punishment for fighting with her bullying cousin John Reed, Jane’s aunt imprisons Jane in the red-room, the room in which Jane’s Uncle Reed died. While locked in, Jane, believing that she sees her uncle’s ghost, screams and faints. She wakes to find herself in the care of Bessie and the kindly apothecary Mr. Lloyd, who suggests to Mrs. Reed that Jane be sent away to school. To Jane’s delight, Mrs. Reed concurs.Once at the Lowood School, Jane finds that her life is far from idyllic. The school’s headmaster is Mr. Brocklehurst, a cruel, hypocritical, and abusive man. Brocklehurst preaches a doctrine of poverty and privation to his students while using the school’s funds to provide a wealthy and opulent lifestyle for his own family. At Lowood, Jane befriends a young girl named Helen Burns, whose strong, martyr like attitude toward the school’s miseries is both helpful and displeasing to Jane.A massive typhus epidemic sweeps Lowood, and Helen dies of consumption. The epidemic also results in the departure of Mr. Brocklehurst by attracting attention to the insalubrious conditions at Lowood. After a group of more sympathetic gentlemen takes Brocklehurst’s place, Jane’s life improves dramatically. She spends eight more years at Lowood, six as a student and two as a teacher.After teaching for two years, Jane yearns for new experiences. She accepts a governess position at a manor called Thornfield, where she teaches a lively French girl named Adèle. The distinguished housekeeper Mrs. Fairfax presides over the estate. Jane’s employer at Thornfield is a dark, impassioned man named Rochester, with whom Jane finds herself falling secretly in love. She saves Rochester from a fire one night, which he claims was started by a drunken servant named Grace Poole. But because Grace Poole continues to work at Thornfield, Jane concludes that she has not been told the entire story. Jane sinks into despondency when Rochester brings home a beautiful but vicious woman named Blanche Ingram. Jane expects Rochester to propose to Blanche. But Rochester instead proposes to Jane, who accepts almost disbelievingly.The wedding day arrives, and as Jane and Mr. Rochester prepare to exchange their vows, the voice of Mr. Mason cries out that Rochester already has a wife. Mason introduces himself as the brother of that wife—a woman named Bertha. Mr. Mason testifies that Bertha, whom Rochester married when he was a young man in Jamaica, is still alive. Rochester does not deny Mason’s claims, but he explains that Bertha has gone mad. He takes the wedding party back to Thornfield, where they witness the insane Bertha Mason scurrying around on all fours and growling like an animal. Rochester keeps Bertha hidden on the third story of Thornfield and pays Grace Poole to keep his wife under control. Bertha was the real cause of the mysterious fire earlier in the story. Knowing that it is impossible for her to be with Rochester, Jane flees Thornfield. Penniless and hungry, Jane is forced to sleep outdoors and beg for food. At last, three siblings who live in a manor alternatively called Marsh End and Moor House take her in. Their names are Mary, Diana, and St. John (pronounced “Sinjin”) Rivers, and Jane quickly becomes friends with them. St. John is a clergyman, and he finds Jane a job teaching at a charity school in Morton. He surprises her one day by declaring that her uncle, John Eyre, has died and left her a large fortune: 20,000 pounds. When Jane asks how he received this news, he shocks her further by declaring that her uncle was also his uncle: Jane and the Riverses are cousins. Jane immediately decides to share her inheritance equally with her three new found relatives.St. John decides to travel to India as a missionary, and he urges Jane to accompany him—as his wife.Jane agrees to go to India but refuses to marry her cousin because she does not love him. St. John pressures her to reconsider, and she nearly gives in. However, she realizes that she cannot abandon forever the man she truly loves when one night she hears Rochester’s voice calling her name over the moors. Jane immediately hurries back to Thornfield and finds that it has been burned to the ground by Bertha Mason, who lost her life in the fire.Rochester saved the servants but lost his eyesight and one of his hands. Jane travels on to Rochester’s new residence, Ferndean, where he lives with two servants named John and Mary.At Ferndean, Rochester and Jane rebuild their relationship and soon marry. At the end of her story, Jane writes that she has been married for ten blissful years and that she and Rochester enjoy perfect equality in their life together. She says that after two years of blindness, Rochester regained sight in one eye and was able to behold their first son at his birth.

Monday, September 16, 2013

To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell

                                        Summary and critical analysis
If human life were not limited by space and time, the beloved’s coyness would not harm the lover and the beloved. They would sit and plan how to pass their long time. The beloved would be by the side of the Indian Ganges and the lover by the side of the Humber in England. She could refuse him as long as she pleased. His love would grow larger slowly.

 
He would praise every part of her body spending a lot of time because she is so beautiful and his love is so deep. But the poet (the lover) is followed by endless thoughts of the ever-nearing chariot whose wheels are always audible. There is no escape from the life and the laws of time. In front, of him there is the stillness, the barrenness of the eternity. Time makes her old and she will die. Then she will no longer be beautiful. Her dead body will be eaten by the worms. Her honor will turn into dust and his lust also will pass away. Although she will be in her private place in the grave, yet nobody will embrace her there.
     Therefore when she is young, beautiful, active, they should amuse each other. Instead of acting slowly, they should act quickly. They should gather all their strength and sweetness. They should fight to get pleasure. Although they cannot stop the time they will enjoy while it is passing.
     The speaker in 'To His Coy Mistress' has expressed his tender feeling of love to his coy Mistress. He inspires us to enjoy love as long as we live in this world. The poet means to say that we should enjoy love within the limited time. The life time of a man is very short. In this short life a person should enjoy his life with his love partner. He prefers to pass some time by the side of the river Ganga. He would like to nourish her love till ten years before the destruction of the world by flood, though his beloved may refuse it even before the prophecy of destruction by the Jews.
     The poet has compared his love to vegetable in respect of quick growth. As vegetable grows quickly so he wishes that his love with his coy mistress should grow and develop vaster than empires. He won’t like to praise her eyes and forehead for hindered years. He would feel pleasure in enjoying her each breast for two hundred years and for the rest part of her body he would be praising her for thirty thousand years. He would regard her as a body of higher rate nor of lower rate. So he encourages her to test the pleasure of love without any delay and without the feelings of shame and hesitation.
     The chariot of time is passing very quickly and nearing death and vast eternity. After death her body would turn into dust and in the grave none would embrace her. The poet is of suggestion that the youth is the best time of life. As long as the youthful skin of the young person is fresh and bright as dew drops and the fire of parson burns, we should enjoy life like happy birds. Life is full of struggle and bitterness. Youth is the best opportunity to cross dry and monotonous Iron Gate of life with love and affection. This dry life of ours must be spent within the circle of love and passion.
     This poem is a philosophical poem mixed with the feeling of love. It is a fine lyric with beautiful style. The theme of love has been expressed in a very intelligent way in this poem.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Stylistics



Since the 1950’s the term Stylistics has been applied to critical procedures which undertake to replace what is claimed to be subjectivity and impressionism of standard analyses with an “objective” or “scientific” analysis of the style of literary texts. Roman Jakobson and other Russian formalists were the pioneers of this theory. There are two main modes of Stylistics which differ both in conception and in the scope of their application:
1.In  the narrower mode of formal stylistics, style is identified, in the traditional way, by the distinction between what is said and how it is said, or between the content and the form of a text. The content is now often denoted, however, by terms such as “information”, “message” etc. While the style is defined as variations in the presentation of this information that serve to alter its “aesthetic quality” or the reader’s emotional response. Sometimes the stylistic enterprise stops with the qualitative or quantitative determination, or “fingerprinting” of the style of a single text or class of texts. Often however, the analyst tries also to relate distinctive stylistic features to traits in an author’s psyche; or to an author’s characteristic ways of perceiving the world an organizing experience.
2. In the second mode of stylistics, which has been prominent since the mid-1960’s, proponents greatly expand the conception and scope of their inquiry by defining stylistics as, in the words of one theorist, “the study of the use of language in literature” involving the entire range of the “general characteristics of language… as a medium of literary expression.”

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Also Click To

For more materials on General and Additional English of all semesters, Please browse through 'scmseng.blogspot.com'. 

General English (Semester I)


La Belle Dame Sans Merci
La Belle Dame sans Merci (French: "The Beautiful Lady Without Mercy"[1] ) is a ballad written by the English poet John Keats. It exists in two versions, with minor differences between them. The original was written by Keats in 1819. He used the title of a 15th century poem by Alain Chartier, though the plots of the two poems are different.[2] The poem is considered an English classic, stereotypical to other poems of John Keats, a Romantic poet. It avoids simplicity of interpretation despite simplicity of structure. At only a short twelve stanzas, of only four lines each, with a simple ABCB rhyme scheme, the poem is nonetheless full of enigmas, and has been the subject of numerous interpretations.

Keats' poem describes the condition of an unnamed knight who has encountered a mysterious woman who is said to be "a faery's child." It opens with a description of the knight in a barren landscape, "haggard" and "palely loitering". He tells the reader how he met a mysterious but very fair lady whose "eyes were wild." The damsel told the knight that she "loved him true" and took him to her "elfin grot," but upon arriving there, she "wept, and sigh'd full sore." Having realized something that the knight does not yet understand, the mysterious maiden sets the knight to sleep. The knight has a vision of "pale kings and princes," who cry, "La Belle Dame sans Merci [the beautiful, pitiless damsel] hath thee in thrall!" He awakes to find himself on the same "cold hill's side" on which he continues to wait while "palely loitering."
The Story

The poet meets a knight by a woodland lake in late autumn. The man has been there for a long time, and is evidently dying.

The knight says he met a beautiful, wild-looking woman in a meadow. He visited with her, and decked her with flowers. She did not speak, but looked and sighed as if she loved him. He gave her his horse to ride, and he walked beside them. He saw nothing but her, because she leaned over in his face and sang a mysterious song. She spoke a language he could not understand, but he was confident she said she loved him. He kissed her to sleep, and fell asleep himself.

He dreamed of a host of kings, princes, and warriors, all pale as death. They shouted a terrible warning -- they were the woman's slaves. And now he was her slave, too.

Awakening, the woman was gone, and the knight was left on the cold hillside    
Stanzawise summary:
Part I: The Anonymous Speaker
Most readers take the anonymous speaker at face value: he is a concerned passerby who comes upon the knight accidentally and who describes accurately and factually the condition of the knight and the place where they meet. However, is it possible that the knight's pitiful condition exists only in the mind or perception of the anonymous speaker? We have only his word that the knight looks pale, haggard, woe-begone, etc. To carry this train of thought to an extreme, we could ask whether there really is a knight. Could this entire poem be the hallucination of a madman? If we accept any of these interpretations of the anonymous speaker, is the meaning of the poem affected? Is the effectiveness of the poem affected?

Do we automatically make assumptions about the speaker? Is the anonymous speaker male? Whether the speaker is male or female, do we assume that the speaker is white? Why? Do these assumptions affect our reading of the poem and its effect on us?

Stanzas I-II

In the first two lines of stanzas I and II, the anonymous speaker asks a question. The first line of both questions is identical ("O, what can ail thee, knight-at-arms"). The second lines differ somewhat; in stanza I, the question focuses on his physical condition ("Alone and palely loitering"); in stanza II, the question describes both the knight's physical state and his emotional state ("Haggard and woe-begone"). This repetition with slight variation is called incremental repetition and is a characteristic of the folk ballad.

This speaker sees no reason for the knight's presence ("loitering") in such a barren spot (the grass is "wither'd" and no birds sing). Even in this spot, not all life is wasteland, however; the squirrel's winter storage is full, and the harvest has been completed. In other words, there is an alternative or fulfilling life which the knight could choose. Thus lines 3 and 4 of stanzas I and II present contrasting views of life.
Click here for vocabulary and allusions in stanzas I and II.

Stanza III

This stanza elaborates on the knight's physical appearance and mental state, which are associated with dying and with nature. In the previous stanzas, the descriptions of nature are factual; here, nature is used metaphorically. His pallor is compared first to the whiteness of a lily, then to a rose; the rose is "fading" and quickly "withereth." The lily, of course, is a traditional symbol of death; the rose, a symbol of beauty. The knight's misery is suggested by the "dew" or perspiration on his forehead.

What is Keats trying to emphasize by using both "fading" and "fast withereth"? Is there a difference in the effect of "fading," the word Keats uses, and "faded"?

Part II: The Knight
The knight's narrative consists of three units: stanzas IV-VII describe the knight's meeting and involvement with the lady; stanza VIII presents the climax (he goes with her to the "elfin grot"); the last four stanzas describe his sleep and expulsion from the grotto. Thus, the first four stanzas (IV-VII) are balanced by the last four stanzas (IX-XII). The poem returns to where it started, so that the poem has a circular movement; reinforcing the connection of the opening and the ending, Keats uses the same language.

Stanzas IV-IX

The roles of the knight and the lady change. In stanzas IV, V, and VI, the knight is dominant; lines 1 and 2 of each stanza describe his actions ("I met," "I made," "I set her"), and lines three and four of these three stanzas focus on the lady.

But a shift in dominance occurs; stanza VII is devoted entirely to the lady ("She found" and "she said"). In stanza VIII the lady initiates the action and takes the dominant position in lines 1 and 2 ("She took me" and "she wept and sigh'd"); the knight's actions are presented in lines three and four. In Stanza IX, she "lull'd" him to sleep (line 1) and he "dream'd." The rest of this stanza and the next two stanzas are about his dream.
Click here for vocabulary and allusions in stanzas IV-IX.

Stanzas X and XI

Eight and a half lines of this poem are devoted to his dream (the poem itself is only 48 lines long) and the last six lines are about the consequences of the dream. The men he dreams about are all men of power and achievement (kings, princes, and warriors). Their paleness associates them both with the loitering pale knight and with death; in fact, we are told that they are "death-pale." The description of her former lovers, with their starved lips and gaping mouths, is chilling. Is it appropriate that he awakens from this dream to a "cold" hill?

Can a political meaning be read into the poem based on the fact the fact that the men in his dream are all kings, princes, and warriors? Or is there a simpler explanation for their status? The knight is of their kind and class, so naturally he dreams of men like himself. Perhaps La Belle Dame sans Merci is attracted to this kind of man. Or Keats may merely be imitating the folk ballad, which is a traditional and conservative form and tends to observe class lines.
Click here for vocabulary and allusions in stanzas X and XI.

Stanza XII

The knight uses the word "sojourn," which implies he will be there for some time. The repetition of language from stanza I also reinforces the sense of no movement in connection with the knight. Ironically, although he is not moving physically, he has "moved" or been emotionally ravaged by his dream or vision.


The Significance of La Belle Dame sans Merci. (Critical analysis)
Whereas the impact of the lady on the knight is clear, her character remains shadowy. Why? You have a number of possibilities to choose among; which one you choose will be determined by how you read the poem.

1. We see the lady only through the knight's eyes, and he didn't know her. As a human being, he cannot fully understand the non- mortal; she is a "faery's child," sings a "faery's song," and takes him to an "elfin grot." She speaks "in language strange" (VII). Whether she speaks a language unknown to the knight or merely had an unfamiliar pronunciation, the phrase suggests a problem in, if not a failure of communication. They are incompatible by nature.

2. The references to "faery" and "elfin" suggest enchantment or imagination. Her "sweet moan" and "song" represent art inspired by imagination. The lady, symbolizing imagination, takes him to an ideal world. The knight becomes enraptured by or totally absorbed in the pleasures of the imagination--the delicious foods, her song, her beauty, her love or favor ("and nothing else saw all day long"). But the imagination or visionary experience is fleeting; the human being cannot live in this realm, a fact which the dreamer chooses to ignore. The knight's refusal to let go of the joys of the imagination destroys his life in the real world.

Or is she possibly the cheating or false imagination, not true imagination? Does the food she gives him starve rather than nourish him? The men in his vision have "starved lips." Think of the ending of "Ode to a Nightingale" with its "deceiving imp."

3. This possibility is a variant of choice #2. The lady represents the ideal, and the poem is about the relationship of the real and the ideal. The knight rejects the real world with its real fulfillments for an ideal which cannot exist in the real world. In giving himself entirely to the dream of the ideal, he destroys his life in the real world.

4. The lady is evil and belongs to a tradition of "femmes fatales." She seduces him with her beauty, with her accomplishments, with her avowal of love, and with sensuality ("roots of relish sweet, / And honey wild, and manna dew"). The vision of the pale men suggests she is deliberately destructive. The destructiveness of love is a common theme in the folk ballad.

5. Is the knight self-deluded? Does he enthrall himself by placing her on his horse and making garlands for her? The knight ignores warning signs: she has "wild wild" eyes, she gives him "wild" honey, she avows her love "in language strange," and she "wept and sigh'd full sore" in the elfin grotto. Also he continues to desire her, despite the wasteland he finds himself in and despite the warning of his dream.

Notes

"La Belle Dame Sans Merci" means "the beautiful woman without mercy." It's the title of an old French court poem by Alain Chartier. ("Merci" in today's French is of course "thank you".) Keats probably knew a current translation which was supposed to be by Chaucer. In Keats's "Eve of Saint Agnes", the lover sings this old song as he is awakening his beloved.

"Wight" is an archaic name for a person. Like most people, I prefer "knight at arms" to "wretched wight", and obviously the illustrators of the poem did, too. ("Until I met her, I was a man of action!")

"Sedge" is any of several grassy marsh plants which can dominate a wet meadow.

"Fever dew" is the sweat (diaphoresis) of sickness. Keats originally wrote "death's lily" and "death's rose", and he refers to the flush and the pallor of illness. If the poet can actually see the normal red color leaving the cheeks of the knight, then the knight must be going rapidly into shock, i.e., the poet has come across the knight right as he is dying, and is recording his last words. (The knight is too enwrapped in his own experience to notice.)

"Sidelong" means sideways. A "fragrant zone" is a flower belt. "Elfin" means "pertaining to the elves", or the fairy world. A "grot" is of course a grotto. "Betide" means "happen", and "woe betide" is a more romantical version of the contemporary expression "---- happens". "Gloam" means gloom. A "thrall" is an abject slave.
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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Collar as a Metaphysical Poem


For George Herbert poetry is religion and religion poetry. He believed that a man should dedicate all his gifts to God’s service, that a poet should make the altar blossom with his poetry. Accordingly his most famous poem included in The Temple: Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations (1633), The Temple as well as his other poems like Virtue and The Pulley are full of faith and fervor. In the poem Elixir the poet declares that his only desire is ‘In all things Thee to see’ and that the only true elixir is God. Yet not all of Herbert’s poems are of placid piety, for he himself declared that in many of his poems he presented ‘a picture of the many spiritual conflicts which have passed between God and my soul’. The Collar which is included in the said volume exemplifies such a spiritual conflict, the difficult, lifelong struggles of the Christian faith presented in terms of metaphysical wit and conceits.

The poem has a fervid beginning and is as sticking as any other metaphysical poem:

“I struck the board, and cry’d. No more.”

Here the board stands both for the dining table and for alter. Being a priest, Herbert has the duty of giving the sacrament of Holy Communion. But he obviously wants to give up his religious and priestly duty because the feels that he has to sacrifice all his personal pleasures. Indeed, his religious vocation is the ‘Collar’ which is keeping him tied to his job. Again, it is the French choler (anger) and is a reference to Christ's own yoke or burden. Collar also implied a relation between the human master and his dog tied o a leash. The word Collar is also a pun on ‘Choler’, for the bondage imposed by God results in irritation on the part of the priest.

The poet laments the fact that for him there is no ripe harvest of sensual pleasures but only the thorn of pain. If he had ever known wine, it was much before his becoming a priest, for the sighs of the priest have dried the wine up. If there was golden corn, it too has been drowned by tears of the suffering priest. He wonders if the ‘year’ which is also a pun on an ear of corn is lost only to the priest. For him there is no crowning glorious, and not does he have any garland or flowers of gaiety for they have all been laid a waste by his self-sacrificing vocation.

But the poet seems to realize all of that there still is ‘fruit’ and that if he only uses his hands in the sense of sensual instincts, he would be able to avail of it. Therefore he would try to recover all that his period of priesthood has deprived hi of. He would live the ‘cold dispute’ of theology for much greater pleasure. Using a series of metaphysical conceits as in The Pulley, the poet declares that his present religious vocation is no more than a ‘cage’. The bond between man and God which he had thought to be exceptionally strong ‘coble’ to draw him from the earth to heaven was actually nothing but a ‘rope of sands’. He feels that it is because of his weakness that he has been so firmly enslaved by God. Even the message of death, the Biblical remainder that man must one day turn to dust and then face the wrath of God was only an illusion. Therefore he would abandon his priestly ways for ‘double pleasures’. He believed that then his life would be ‘free’ and not only would it be free as the road or loose as the wind, but also as large as store.

It is at this juncture when the poet has almost decided upon releasing himself from God’s bondage and when he has grown ‘fierce and wild’ that he receives a hearing God call out to him ‘child’. Under the experience of such a divine intervention the poet can do nothing else except make his humble reply: ‘My Lord’. Although this resolution of Herbert’s spiritual conflict would appear almost perplexing. The poet certainly wants to emphasize that God’s purpose and functioning transcends the logical of man’s limited rational mind. The conclusion is certainly the most and the most satisfying possible. So moved was Aldous Huxley by this poem that he called it one of the most moving poems in all literature.