Friday, July 30, 2010

To a Skylark- Summary

The speaker, addressing a skylark, says that it is a “blithe Spirit” rather than a bird, for its song comes from Heaven, and from its full heart pours “profuse strains of unpremeditated art.” The skylark flies higher and higher, “like a cloud of fire” in the blue sky, singing as it flies. In the “golden lightning” of the sun, it floats and runs, like “an unbodied joy.” As the skylark flies higher and higher, the speaker loses sight of it, but is still able to hear its “shrill delight,” which comes down as keenly as moonbeams in the “white dawn,” which can be felt even when they are not seen. The earth and air ring with the skylark’s voice, just as Heaven overflows with moonbeams when the moon shines out from behind “a lonely cloud.”

The speaker says that no one knows what the skylark is, for it is unique: even “rainbow clouds” do not rain as brightly as the shower of melody that pours from the skylark. The bird is “like a poet hidden / In the light of thought,” able to make the world experience “sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not.” It is like a lonely maiden in a palace tower, who uses her song to soothe her lovelorn soul. It is like a golden glow-worm, scattering light among the flowers and grass in which it is hidden. It is like a rose embowered in its own green leaves, whose scent is blown by the wind until the bees are faint with “too much sweet.” The skylark’s song surpasses “all that ever was, / Joyous and clear and fresh,” whether the rain falling on the “twinkling grass” or the flowers the rain awakens.

Calling the skylark “Sprite or Bird,” the speaker asks it to tell him its “sweet thoughts,” for he has never heard anyone or anything call up “a flood of rapture so divine.” Compared to the skylark’s, any music would seem lacking. What objects, the speaker asks, are “the fountains of thy happy strain?” Is it fields, waves, mountains, the sky, the plain, or “love of thine own kind” or “ignorance or pain”? Pain and languor, the speaker says, “never came near” the skylark: it loves, but has never known “love’s sad satiety.” Of death, the skylark must know “things more true and deep” than mortals could dream; otherwise, the speaker asks, “how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream?”

For mortals, the experience of happiness is bound inextricably with the experience of sadness: dwelling upon memories and hopes for the future, mortal men “pine for what is not”; their laughter is “fraught” with “some pain”; their “sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.” But, the speaker says, even if men could “scorn / Hate and pride and fear,” and were born without the capacity to weep, he still does not know how they could ever approximate the joy expressed by the skylark. Calling the bird a “scorner of the ground,” he says that its music is better than all music and all poetry. He asks the bird to teach him “half the gladness / That thy brain must know,” for then he would overflow with “harmonious madness,” and his song would be so beautiful that the world would listen to him, even as he is now listening to the skylark.

The eccentric, songlike, five-line stanzas of “To a Skylark”—all twenty-one of them—follow the same pattern: the first four lines are metered in trochaic trimeter, the fifth in iambic hexameter (a line which can also be called an Alexandrine). The rhyme scheme of each stanza is extremely simple: ABABB.

If the West Wind was Shelley’s first convincing attempt to articulate an aesthetic philosophy through metaphors of nature, the skylark is his greatest natural metaphor for pure poetic expression, the “harmonious madness” of pure inspiration. The skylark’s song issues from a state of purified existence, a Wordsworthian notion of complete unity with Heaven through nature; its song is motivated by the joy of that uncomplicated purity of being, and is unmixed with any hint of melancholy or of the bittersweet, as human joy so often is. The skylark’s unimpeded song rains down upon the world, surpassing every other beauty, inspiring metaphor and making the speaker believe that the bird is not a mortal bird at all, but a “Spirit,” a “sprite,” a “poet hidden / In the light of thought.”

In that sense, the skylark is almost an exact twin of the bird in Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale”; both represent pure expression through their songs, and like the skylark, the nightingale “wast not born for death.” But while the nightingale is a bird of darkness, invisible in the shadowy forest glades, the skylark is a bird of daylight, invisible in the deep bright blue of the sky. The nightingale inspires Keats to feel “a drowsy numbness” of happiness that is also like pain, and that makes him think of death; the skylark inspires Shelley to feel a frantic, rapturous joy that has no part of pain. To Keats, human joy and sadness are inextricably linked, as he explains at length in the final stanza of the “Ode on Melancholy.” But the skylark sings free of all human error and complexity, and while listening to his song, the poet feels free of those things, too.

Structurally and linguistically, this poem is almost unique among Shelley’s works; its strange form of stanza, with four compact lines and one very long line, and its lilting, songlike diction (“profuse strains of unpremeditated art”) work to create the effect of spontaneous poetic expression flowing musically and naturally from the poet’s mind. Structurally, each stanza tends to make a single, quick point about the skylark, or to look at it in a sudden, brief new light; still, the poem does flow, and gradually advances the mini-narrative of the speaker watching the skylark flying higher and higher into the sky, and envying its untrammeled inspiration—which, if he were to capture it in words, would cause the world to listen.

Sources › ... › Poetry Study Guides › Shelley's Poetry 30.07.2010

To a Skylark by Percy Bysshe Shelley

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.

In the golden lightning
Of the sunken sun,
O'er which clouds are bright'ning,
Thou dost float and run;
Like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun.

The pale purple even
Melts around thy flight;
Like a star of Heaven,
In the broad day-light
Thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight,

Keen as are the arrows
Of that silver sphere,
Whose intense lamp narrows
In the white dawn clear
Until we hardly see, we feel that it is there.

All the earth and air
With thy voice is loud,
As, when night is bare,
From one lonely cloud
The moon rains out her beams, and Heaven is overflow'd.

What thou art we know not;
What is most like thee?
From rainbow clouds there flow not
Drops so bright to see
As from thy presence showers a rain of melody.

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:

Like a high-born maiden
In a palace-tower,
Soothing her love-laden
Soul in secret hour
With music sweet as love, which overflows her bower:

Like a glow-worm golden
In a dell of dew,
Scattering unbeholden
Its a{:e}real hue
Among the flowers and grass, which screen it from the view:

Like a rose embower'd
In its own green leaves,
By warm winds deflower'd,
Till the scent it gives
Makes faint with too much sweet those heavy-winged thieves:

Sound of vernal showers
On the twinkling grass,
Rain-awaken'd flowers,
All that ever was
Joyous, and clear, and fresh, thy music doth surpass.

Teach us, Sprite or Bird,
What sweet thoughts are thine:
I have never heard
Praise of love or wine
That panted forth a flood of rapture so divine.

Chorus Hymeneal,
Or triumphal chant,
Match'd with thine would be all
But an empty vaunt,
A thing wherein we feel there is some hidden want.

What objects are the fountains
Of thy happy strain?
What fields, or waves, or mountains?
What shapes of sky or plain?
What love of thine own kind? what ignorance of pain?

With thy clear keen joyance
Languor cannot be:
Shadow of annoyance
Never came near thee:
Thou lovest: but ne'er knew love's sad satiety.

Waking or asleep,
Thou of death must deem
Things more true and deep
Than we mortals dream,
Or how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream?

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.

Better than all measures
Of delightful sound,
Better than all treasures
That in books are found,
Thy skill to poet were, thou scorner of the ground!

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 Skylark by Percy Bysshe Shelley

To a Skylark
by Percy Bysshe Shelley

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.

In the golden lightning
Of the sunken sun,
O'er which clouds are bright'ning,
Thou dost float and run,
Like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun.

The pale purple even
Melts around thy flight;
Like a star of heaven
In the broad daylight
Thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight -

Keen as are the arrows
Of that silver sphere
Whose intense lamp narrows
In the white dawn clear
Until we hardly see -we feel that it is there.

All the earth and air
With thy voice is loud,
As, when night is bare,
From one lonely cloud
The moon rains out her beams, and heaven is overflowed.

What thou art we know not;
What is most like thee?
From rainbow clouds there flow not
Drops so bright to see
As from thy presence showers a rain of melody.

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:

Like a high-born maiden
In a palace tower,
Soothing her love-laden
Soul in secret hour
With music sweet as love, which overflows her bower:

Like a glow-worm golden
In a dell of dew,
Scattering unbeholden
Its aerial hue
Among the flowers and grass, which screen it from the view:

Like a rose embowered
In its own green leaves,
By warm winds deflowered,
Till the scent it gives
Makes faint with too much sweet these heavy-winged thieves:

Sound of vernal showers
On the twinkling grass,
Rain-awakened flowers,
All that ever was
Joyous, and clear, and fresh, thy music doth surpass.

Teach us, sprite or bird,
What sweet thoughts are thine:
I have never heard
Praise of love or wine
That panted forth a flood of rapture so divine.

Chorus hymeneal
Or triumphal chaunt
Matched with thine would be all
But an empty vaunt -
A thing wherein we feel there is some hidden want.

What objects are the fountains
Of thy happy strain?
What fields, or waves, or mountains?
What shapes of sky or plain?
What love of thine own kind? what ignorance of pain?

With thy clear keen joyance
Languor cannot be:
Shadow of annoyance
Never came near thee:
Thou lovest, but ne'er knew love's sad satiety.

Waking or asleep,
Thou of death must deem
Things more true and deep
Than we mortals dream,
Or how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream?

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.

Better than all measures
Of delightful sound,
Better than all treasures
That in books are found,
Thy skill to poet were, thou scorner of the ground!

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!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

John Donne’s poems

The Good Morrow-1

I WONDER by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved ? were we not wean'd till then ?
But suck'd on country pleasures, childishly ?
Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers' den ?
'Twas so ; but this, all pleasures fancies be ;
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, 'twas but a dream of thee.

And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear ;
For love all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone ;
Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown ;
Let us possess one world ; each hath one, and is one.

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest ;
Where can we find two better hemispheres
Without sharp north, without declining west ?
Whatever dies, was not mix'd equally ;
If our two loves be one, or thou and I
Love so alike that none can slacken, none can die.

GO and catch a falling star,
Get with child a mandrake root,
Tell me where all past years are,
Or who cleft the devil's foot,
Teach me to hear mermaids singing,
Or to keep off envy's stinging,
And find
What wind
Serves to advance an honest mind.

If thou be'st born to strange sights,
Things invisible to see,
Ride ten thousand days and nights,
Till age snow white hairs on thee,
Thou, when thou return'st, wilt tell me,
All strange wonders that befell thee,
And swear,
No where
Lives a woman true and fair.

If thou find'st one, let me know,
Such a pilgrimage were sweet;
Yet do not, I would not go,
Though at next door we might meet,
Though she were true, when you met her,
And last, till you write your letter,
Yet she
Will be
False, ere I come, to two, or three.

SWEETEST love, I do not go-3
SWEETEST love, I do not go,
For weariness of thee,
Nor in hope the world can show
A fitter love for me ;
But since that I
At the last must part, 'tis best,
Thus to use myself in jest
By feigned deaths to die.

Yesternight the sun went hence,
And yet is here to-day ;
He hath no desire nor sense,
Nor half so short a way ;
Then fear not me,
But believe that I shall make
Speedier journeys, since I take
More wings and spurs than he.

O how feeble is man's power,
That if good fortune fall,
Cannot add another hour,
Nor a lost hour recall ;
But come bad chance,
And we join to it our strength,
And we teach it art and length,
Itself o'er us to advance.

When thou sigh'st, thou sigh'st not wind,
But sigh'st my soul away ;
When thou weep'st, unkindly kind,
My life's blood doth decay.
It cannot be
That thou lovest me as thou say'st,
If in thine my life thou waste,
That art the best of me.

Let not thy divining heart
Forethink me any ill ;
Destiny may take thy part,
And may thy fears fulfil.
But think that we
Are but turn'd aside to sleep.
They who one another keep
Alive, ne'er parted be.

The Flea-4
MARK but this flea, and mark in this,
How little that which thou deniest me is ;
It suck'd me first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea our two bloods mingled be.
Thou know'st that this cannot be said
A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead ;
Yet this enjoys before it woo,
And pamper'd swells with one blood made of two ;
And this, alas ! is more than we would do.

O stay, three lives in one flea spare,
Where we almost, yea, more than married are.
This flea is you and I, and this
Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is.
Though parents grudge, and you, we're met,
And cloister'd in these living walls of jet.
Though use make you apt to kill me,
Let not to that self-murder added be,
And sacrilege, three sins in killing three.

Cruel and sudden, hast thou since
Purpled thy nail in blood of innocence?
Wherein could this flea guilty be,
Except in that drop which it suck'd from thee?
Yet thou triumph'st, and say'st that thou
Find'st not thyself nor me the weaker now.
'Tis true ; then learn how false fears be ;
Just so much honour, when thou yield'st to me,
Will waste, as this flea's death took life from thee.

Metaphysical poetry

Characteristics of Metaphysical poetry

John Donne (1572-1631) established what has become known as the Metaphysical style of poetry which was taken up by later poets, the two under consideration here being George Herbert (1593-1633) and Henry Vaughan (1622-95). Some of the chief characteristics of Donne's style are: the abrupt opening of a poem with a surprising dramatic line; the use of colloquial diction; the ideas in the poem being presented as a logical and persuasive argument, the purpose of which is to aid his wooing, whether of a woman or God. Donne took metaphors from all spheres of life, especially from crafts and the sciences, and made frequent use of the 'conceit': a surprising, ingenious, far-fetched turn of ideas. Often a whole poem is an extended 'conceit', and frequently a poem ends with a final 'conceit' in the last two lines. Donne developed his technique writing love poetry, and later adapted it to the writing of religious poetry.
Donne and Herbert
George Herbert's poetry shows that to a large extent he followed the lead offered by Donne, but he also made contributions which were quite distinct. Herbert's distinguishing characteristic is his simplicity of diction and metaphor. He retains the colloquial manner, and, to an extent, the logical persuasive presentation of ideas, but he draws his metaphors from everyday domestic experience, employing a range of simple commonplace imagery in contrast to the sophisticated imagery of Donne. 'Conceits' are not an important part of Herbert's poetry, and his appeal is not so intellectual as Donne's. A technique Herbert introduced was the ending of a poem with two quiet lines which resolve the argument in the poem without answering the specific points raised by it, and this represents quite a dramatic break from Donne. Donne expresses his doubts in intellectual terms, and answers them in the same way. Herbert occasionally explores his doubts in intellectual terms, but answers them with emotion. In this way Herbert conveys the insight that one cannot argue or reason with God; one either feels God's presence, or loses the feeling. In these respects Herbert can be considered to have broken new ground, into which Henry Vaughan followed later.

Unlike Donne, Herbert wrote no love poetry, having decided, when he began writing poetry at Cambridge, to devote his poetic works to God. He seems to have had less difficulty in adjusting from court life to a religious life than did Donne, and his faith seems to have been more secure than that of Donne. Izaak Walton reports that Herbert was considered as almost a saint by those that knew him. Herbert's poetry is certainly about struggles of a religious kind, but the struggles are neither so desperate nor so personal as Donne's. Herbert's poetry is of a more instructive kind; instructing by example rather than precept. He writes for others, recording his struggles in order that others may follow his example. The thought in Herbert's poems can be seen as a continuation of the thought in his sermons, and it is this purpose behind his poetry which largely determines his style. In the opening stanza of 'The Church Porch' he writes,
A verse may finde him, who a sermon flies,
And turn delight into a sacrifice.
Donne's Holy Sonnet 'Batter my Heart' and Herbert's 'The Collar' are both poems about the struggle to maintain faith in God, and a comparison of the two will illustrate some of Herbert's particular characteristics.

Donne's 'Batter My Heart' shows the poet involved in a deep-rooted and desperate struggle with his own soul. He almost seems to doubt whether God exists at all, and the power of the diction and imagery is indicative of serious turmoil. In the opening line Donne writes,
Batter my heart, three person'd God; (p.85)
Herbert, showing the influence of Donne, writes in his opening line:
I struck the board, and cry'd, No more. (p.135)
Both openings are abrupt and dramatic, evoking violent action, and both are delivered in a personal and colloquial manner. Another similarity is that both poems take the form of arguments, using logic to make the reasoning convincing and persuasive. Donne writes,
. . . for I
Except you'enthrall mee, never shall be free,
Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee. (p.86)
Herbert writes:
What? Shall I ever sigh and pine?
My lines and life are free; free as the rode,
Loose as the winde, as large as store.
Shall I be still in suit? (p.135)
The arguments are of quite different kinds. Donne's thinking is more intellectual, his line of reasoning reflecting a rigorously disciplined mind. Herbert's arguments relate more to feelings, the kinds of feeling with which we can all identify. Consequently, we notice a difference in style. Herbert's lines are simpler and shorter, and we understand them easily, whereas understanding Donne takes effort and concentration.

Donne, having begun his poetic career writing love poems in which the ingenuity of thought, and originality of 'conceits', were the main criteria by which they were to be judged, employed the same methods when he turned to religious poetry. Herbert puts less emphasis on conceits, exotic imagery, and ingenious thought, and looks to another source for stylistic inspiration - the Bible, or, more specifically, the language of Christ and the Parables. Where Donne goes out of his way to find an exotic or striking image - a globe, beaten gold, a pair of compasses for example, Herbert looks for the homeliest commonplace image he can find. In 'The Collar' for example we have a thorn, wine, fruit, and cable. We can see the reason for this preference in Herbert's own observations on Christ's use of common imagery:
by familiar things he might make his doctrine slip the more easily into the hearts even of the meanest . . . that labouring people might have everywhere monuments of his doctrine . . . that he might set a copy for the parsons.
Where Donne wrote for a limited readership, passing his poems around the wits and noblemen of court, Herbert did not want his vocabulary or imagery to be a barrier to any reader's understanding.

The most striking difference between the two poems comes in the final two lines of each. Donne's poem ends with a 'conceit', (quoted above), ingeniously juxtaposing the concepts of 'enthrall' and 'free', and 'chast' and 'ravish' (p.86). The meaning of these lines may not be clear on first reading, but their function is to encapsulate the argument, or dilemma, presented by the poem. Herbert's final lines have quite the opposite effect:
Me thought I heard one calling, Child!
And I reply'd, My Lord! (p.135)
The impact here is achieved through the simplicity of a call of one word and a response of two words. The drama lends immediacy, drawing us in to share the poet's experience. Far from reiterating or encapsulating the dilemma explored in the poem, the lines resolve and transcend the dilemma. The questions are not answered, but abandoned when the sense of the actual presence of God renders the doubt and frustration redundant. Herbert implies that in religion reason can never be enough; faith, which fills the unknown, is the only answer. Donne did not use this technique; it was Herbert's contribution to the genre, which was taken up by later poets, such as Henry Vaughan, who use it at the end of 'The World'.

The essential simplicity of Herbert's approach is reflected in the titles he chooses, often single words such as 'Man', 'Life', 'Love', and 'Death'. These words often do not reoccur in the poems, and nor, if the poems were read without the title, would the reader be able to supply them. The unifying ideas in Herbert's poems are often simple too, such as the idea of a pulley, or a collar.

At times perhaps he comes close to over-simplifying his subjects; to liken man's need for God to a pulley, for example, or the discipline of faith to a collar, might seem rather crude. But this initial simplicity is deceptive, for the poems generally embody a system of complex thought, revealed by the structure and the use of metaphor. The structure of 'The Collar', for example, reflects the struggle between freedom and discipline in its alternation of long and short lines.
My lines and life are free; free as the rode,
Loose as the winde, as large as store.
Shall I be still in suit? (p.135)
Complexity is also present in that the frame of mind he is expressing contains the seeds of its own downfall, for that which is free, loose, and large, can also be directionless and undisciplined. The diction of a later line reveals Herbert's self-condemnation:
But as I rav'd and grew more fierce and wilde (p.135)
A person who is raving, fierce, and wild, is not capable of making a balanced judgement. In ways such as these the central simple idea is filled out in the structure and diction of the poem.

Another technique used by Herbert is clearly seen in the poem 'Redemption', and it is in poems such as this that he comes close to his model: the parable. On the surface 'Redemption' tells a simple story of a tenant being granted a favour by his landlord, but a little reflection shows that the story is a symbolic representation of the relationship between mankind, God, and Christ.

The meaning of the story told in the poem builds in a cumulative way when we piece details together and interpret them - the title being the clue to the interpretation. We learn, for example, that the landlord has 'gone/ about some land, which he had dearly bought'. Later we learn that the landlord is among 'theeves and murderers'. Finally the poet meets the landlord,
. . . there I him espied,
Who straight, Your suit is granted, said, & died. (p.121)
These final lines show that the price paid for the land which was 'dearly bought' was Christ's death on the cross. Complexities such as these place Herbert among the Metaphysical poets, in spite of his essential simplicity and avoidance of 'conceits'.

In many poems, such as 'Affliction', 'Man', and 'The Flower' Herbert follows Donne's example in addressing God directly, and these seem to be the most personal of his poems. We see him exploring his personal relationship with God, wanting to understand God better and to make himself more worthy.

In 'Affliction' he charts, in a considered and meditative manner, the fluctuations and failings of his faith. In the first three stanzas he records some of his early feelings about God which were not true faith at all, but exercises in indulgence, or self-gratification. At first he thought his service 'brave', suggesting that he was more concerned with his own glory than with the glory of God. In the second stanza he reveals a mercenary attitude, in which he looks forward to a relationship with God which will bring him personal reward.
. . . both heav'n and earth
Pay'd me my wages in a world of mirth. (p.122)
In the third stanza he records how he tried to argue himself into faith, with love, and true religious experience, being conspicuous by their absence.
Thus argu'd into hopes, my thoughts reserved
No place for grief or fear. (p.122)
These experiences are presented in the past tense, and in the last line we see that he now realises that his relationship with God must be founded on love.
Ah my deare God! though I am clean forgot,
Let me not love thee, if I love thee not. (p.123)
In 'The Flower' we see Herbert trying to understand, and reconcile himself to, the cycle of spring and winter, life and death, to which all things on earth are subject. He relates the cycle to his own experiences of periods of happiness and fruitfulness and periods of decline, which he attributes to the will of God.

The theme of 'The Flower' resonates with the theme of 'The Pulley' in which he sees God as deliberately causing a state of restlessness in the soul of mankind in order that he should not become complacent and forget that finding God requires a continuous struggle. The final stanza of 'The Flower' also relates back to 'Affliction', for we can see the errors of false faith stemming from human pride. The need for love in his relationship with God found at the end of 'Affliction' is complimented by the need for humility found at the end of 'The Flower'.
Thou hast a garden for us, where to bide.
Who would be more,
Swelling through store,
Forfeit their Paradise by their pride. (p.138)
Where Donne's sense of 'repining restlessnesse' was never stilled, even by revelation of the love of God, for Herbert the notions of 'quiet' and 'rest' are essential to his poems. Donne asks questions and rarely resolves them, while in Herbert the resolution is satisfactory and deeply felt.

We see in Herbert a poet who although essentially derivative of Donne, used the medium of Metaphysical poetry for a sincere exploration of his own faith, and in doing so broadened the scope of the genre to allow the poet a more personal approach than that apparent in Donne, an approach which was in turn taken up by Henry Vaughan.
Herbert and Vaughan
Henry Vaughan shares Herbert's preoccupation with the relationship between humanity and God. Both see mankind as restless and constantly seeking a sense of harmony and fulfilment through contact with God. In 'The Pulley' Herbert writes,
Yet let him keep the rest,
But keep them with repining restlessnesse:
Let him be rich and wearie, then at least,
If goodness leade him not. yet wearinesse
May tosse him to my breast. (p.136)
Similarly, in 'Man' Vaughan writes,
Man hath stil either toyes or Care,
He hath no root, nor to one place is ty'd,
But ever restless and Irregular. (p.273)
Both poets are conscious of the sinfulness of mankind, but in other respects their attitudes towards mankind seem to differ. Herbert is primarily concerned with perfecting himself. He wants to feel God's presence among the simple, natural things of life, and his humility is too deeply felt for him to openly criticise his fellows. Vaughan, in contrast, has the arrogance of a visionary. He feels humility before God and Jesus, but seems to despise humanity. This attitude is apparent in 'The World', in which he refers to the 'doting lover', 'darksome statesman', and 'fearfull miser', and particularly in these lines from 'Man',
. . . [Man] hath not so much wit as some stones have
Which in the darkest nights point to their homes, (p.273)
The ending of Vaughan's poem 'The World' clearly shows the influence of Herbert. In Herbert's 'The Collar' we see the expression of anger and frustration at the apparent fruitlessness of serving God being stilled by the intervention of God.
But as I rav'd and grew more fierce and wilde
At every word,
Me thought I heard one calling, Child!
And I reply'd, My Lord! (p.135)
In a similar manner Vaughan contemplates the madness of humanity, and receives understanding from a voice:
But as I did their madness so discusse
One whispered thus
This Ring the Bride-groome did for none provide,
But for his bride. (p.272)
Another area in which Vaughan's style is clearly derivative of Herbert's is in the opening lines of some poems. For example Herbert's 'The Pulley' begins,
When God at first made man,
Having a glasse of blessings standing by; (p.136)
Here he is discussing a sacred subject in the most casual colloquial manner. Similarly Vaughan begins 'The World' with,
I saw Eternity the other night (p.271)
These two openings also illustrate the most striking difference between the two poets, which lies in the scope of their vision. Herbert is down-to-earth and simple in his imagery, his images having impact because they are more 'domestic' than one would expect for such a grand subject. For Herbert God has 'a glasse of blessings', and he describes God's blessings in commonplace terms,
At first thou gav'st me milk and sweetnesses;
I had my wish and way:
My dayes were straw'd with flow'rs and happinesse;
There was no moneth but May, ('Affliction' p.122)
In contrast, Vaughan's images are more universal, or cosmic, even to the point of judging man in relation to infinity.
I Saw Eternity the other night
Like a great Ring of pure and endless light (p.271)
In contrast to Herbert's 'milk and sweetnesses' Vaughan sees God's gift as,
A way where you might tread the Sun, and be
More bright than he. (p.272)
The term 'visionary' is appropriate to Vaughan, not only because of the grand scale of his images, but also because his metaphors frequently draw on the sense of vision:
They are all gone into the world of light!
. . . Their very memory is fair and bright
. . . It glows and glitters in my cloudy breast.
. . . I see them walking (p.275-6)
And while Eternity is 'Like a great ring of pure and endless light', the 'darksome statesman' is likened to a blind creature: 'Yet digged the Mole'. Where Herbert presents his ideas through down-to-earth associations with common words, Vaughan communicates mystical, transcendental, flashes of spiritual insight.

Vaughan made no secret of his indebtedness to Herbert for literary and spiritual guidance. Herbert's poems were published under the title The Temple, and Vaughan entitled his volume Steps to The Temple. Vaughan said of Herbert, 'The blessed man whose holy life and verse gained many pious converts, of whom I am the least.' Vaughan's poetic debt to Herbert lies chiefly in his having borrowed a conceptual framework in which to structure and present his ideas. Some of Vaughan's ideas even seem to have been borrowed from Herbert, but it is reasonable to suppose that he felt he was sharing the ideas, rather than stealing them. But Vaughan also made an important contribution of his own, in presenting his transcendental, spiritual vision so strikingly.

Metaphysical poets

Metaphysical poets

John Donne, one of the most famous Metaphysical Poets
The metaphysical poets were a loose group of British lyric poets of the 17th century, who shared an interest in metaphysical concerns and a common way of investigating them, and whose work was characterised by inventiveness of metaphor (these involved comparisons being known as metaphysical conceits). These poets were not formally affiliated; most of them did not even know or read each other. Their poetry was influenced greatly by the changing times, new sciences and the new found debauched scene of the 17th century.
Origin of the name

Poet and critic Samuel Johnson, who gave the school its now-used name
In Life of Cowley (from Samuel Johnson's 1781 work of biography and criticism Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets), Johnson refers to the beginning of the seventeenth century in which there "appeared a race of writers that may be termed the metaphysical poets". This does not necessarily imply that he intended metaphysical to be used in its true sense, in that he was probably referring to a witticism of John Dryden,[1] who said of John Donne: "He affects the metaphysics, not only in his satires, but in his amorous verses, where nature only should reign; and perplexes the minds of the fair sex with nice speculations of philosophy, when he should engage their hearts, and entertain them with the softnesses of love. In this . . . Mr. Cowley has copied him to a fault." Probably the only writer before Dryden to speak of a certain metaphysical school or group of metaphysical poets is Drummond of Hawthornden (1585-1649), who in one of his letters speaks of "metaphysical Ideas and Scholastical Quiddities." [2]
Their style was characterized by wit and metaphysical conceits--far-fetched or unusual similes or metaphors, such as in Andrew Marvell’s comparison of the soul with a drop of dew ;in an expanded epigram format,with the use of simple verse forms,octosyllabic couplets,quatrains or stanzas in which length of line and rhyme scheme enforce the sense.[3]The specific definition of wit which Johnson applied to the school was: "...a kind of discordia concours; a combination of dissimilar images, or discovery of occult resemblances in things apparently unlike." [4] Their poetry diverged from the style of their times, containing neither images of nature nor allusions to classical mythology, as were common.[5] Several metaphysical poets, especially John Donne, were influenced by Neo-Platonism. One of the primary Platonic concepts found in metaphysical poetry is the idea that the perfection of beauty in the beloved acted as a remembrance of perfect beauty in the eternal realm. In a famous definition Georg Lukács, the Hungarian Marxist critic, described the school's common trait of "looking beyond the palpable" and "attempting to erase one's own image from the mirror in front so that it should reflect the not-now and not-here" as foreshadowing existentialism[6]. Though secular subjects drew them (in particular matter drawn from the new science, from the expanding geographical horizons of the period, and from dialectic) there was also a strong casuistic element to their work, defining their relationship with God.[7] .

Critical opinion
Critical opinion of the school has been varied. Johnson claimed that "they were not successful in representing or moving the affections" and that neither "was the sublime more within their reach."[8] Generally, his criticism of the poets' style was grounded in his assertion that "Great thoughts are always general," and that the metaphysical poets were too particular in their search for novelty. He did concede, however, that "they...sometimes stuck out unexpected truth" and that their work is often intellectually, if not emotionally stimulating.[9] The group was to have a significant influence on 20th-century poetry, especially through T. S. Eliot, whose favorable essay The Metaphysical Poets (1921) helped bring their poetry back into favor with readers.[10]

Metaphysical poets
• John Donne (1572–1631)
• George Herbert (1593–1633)
• Andrew Marvell (1621–1678)
• Saint Robert Southwell (c. 1561–1595)
• Richard Crashaw (c. 1613–1649),
• Thomas Traherne (1636 or 1637 – 1674)
• Henry Vaughan (1622–1695)
The following poets have also been sometimes considered metaphysical poets[citation needed]:
• George Chapman (c. 1559–1634)
• Thomas Carew (1595–1640)
• Abraham Cowley (1618–1667),
• Edward Herbert (1583–1648)
• Richard Leigh
• Katherine Philips (1632–1664),
• Sir John Suckling (1609–1642)
• Edward Taylor (c. 1642–1729)
• Anne Bradstreet (c. 1612–1672)
• John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester (1647–1680)

Sources: -24.07.2010

The Lumber Room

Text Analysis

The text under analysis is written by an outstanding British novelist and short story writer Hector Munro. Hector Hugh Munro (December 18, 1870 – November 13, 1916), better known by the pen name Saki, was a British writer, whose witty and sometimes macabre stories satirized Edwardian society and culture. He is considered a master of the short story and is often compared to O. Henry and Dorothy Parker. His tales feature delicately drawn characters and finely judged narratives. Saki's world contrasts the effete conventions and hypocrisies of Edwardian England with the ruthless but straightforward life-and-death struggles of nature. Nature generally wins in the end.
Owing to the death of his mother and his father's absence abroad he was brought up during his childhood, with his elder brother and sister, by a grandmother and two aunts. It seems probable that their stem and unsympathetic methods account for Munro’s strong dislike of anything that smacks of the conventional and the self-righteous. He satirized things that he hated. Munro was killed on the French front during the first world war.
In her Biography of Saki Munro’s sister writes: “One of Munro’s aunts, Augusta, was a woman of ungovernable temper, of fierce likes and dislikes, imperious, a moral coward, possessing no brains worth speaking of, and a primitive disposition.” Naturally the last person who should have been in charge of children. The character of the aunt in The Lumber-Room is Aunt Augusta to the life.

The story tells about a little orphan Nicholas who was trusted to his tyrannical and dull-witted aunt. One day Nicholas was “in disgrace”, so he duped his Aunt into believing that he was somehow trying to get into the gooseberry garden, but instead had no intention of doing so but did sneak into the Lumber Room. There a tremendous picture of a hunter and a stag opened to him. Soon his aunt tried to look for the boy and slipped into the rain-water tank. She asked Nicholas to fetch her a ladder but the boy pretended not to understand her, he said that she was the Evil One.

The story presents extremely topical subjects. Actually, the whole novel can be divided into two parts: Child’s world and Adult’s world. The author seems to be suggesting that adulthood causes one to lose all sense of fun, imagination. Adults become obsessed with insignificant trivialities, like the Aunt which is obsessed about punishing and nitpicking on the children. Children in Munro’s stories are very imaginative. Nicholas imagines the whole story behind the tapestry while the Aunt comes out with boring stories and ideas like a circus or going to the beach. She tries to convince Nicholas about the fun of a trip to the beach, of circus, but lacks the imagination to sound convincing. She describes the beach outing as beautiful and glorious but cannot say in detail how it will be beautiful or glorious because she is not creative. As for the Lumber room, it is symbolic of fun and imagination of the child’s world which is definitely lacking in the adult world. It emphasizes the destruction of life that adulthood and pride can bring. The Aunt’s world is full of warped priorities. She puts punishment and withholding of enjoyment as more important than getting to know and molding the lives of the children. She keeps all the beautiful and creative things of the house locked away in a lumber-room so as not to spoil them but in doing so, the purpose of the objects which is to beauty the house, is lost, leaving the house dull and colourless.

The excerpt is homogeneous. The story is narrated in the 3rd person. This allows the reader to access the situation and the characters in an unbiased and objective manner. This is especially so because the characters are complex, having both positive and negative viewpoints. The third person point of view is impersonal which fits the impersonal atmosphere of the household.

The text can be divided into several parts:
• The exposition, in which we learn about little Nicholas, his cousins and his strict aunt. Nicholas got into his aunt’s disgrace. So his cousins were to be taken to Jagborough sands that afternoon and he was to stay at home. The Aunt was absolutely sure that the boy was determined to get into the gooseberry garden because I have told him he is not to.
• The complication, when Nicholas got into an unknown land of lumber-room. Forbidden fruit is sweet and truly the lumber-room is described as a storehouse of unimagined treasure. Every single item brings life and imagination to Nicholas and is symbolic of what the adult of real world lacks. He often pictured to himself what the lumber-room was like, since that was the region that was so carefully sealed from youthful eyes. The tapestry brings to life imagination and fantasy within Nicholas, the interesting pots and candlesticks bring an aesthetic quality, visual beauty which stirs up his creative mind; and lastly a large square book full of coloured pictures of birds. And such birds! They allow Nicholas to learn in a fun and exciting way.
• The climax of the text. While the boy was admiring the colouring of a mandarin duck, the voice of his aunt came from the gooseberry garden. She got slipped into the rain-water tank and couldn’t go out. She demanded from the boy to bring her a ladder, but he said her voice didn’t sound like his aunt’s. You may be the Evil One tempting me to be disobedient. Justice must be done. The Aunt tasted the fruit of her own punishment on the children. She is accused of falling from grace, of lying to Nicholas about jam and thus termed the Evil One. She feels what it is like to be condemned.
• The denouncement. The Aunt is furious and enforces in the house. She maintained the frozen muteness of one who has suffered undignified and unmerited detention in a rain-water tank for thirty-five minutes. Nicholas was also silent, in the absorption of an enchanting picture of a hunter and a stag.

The plot is ordered chronologically, each episode is given with more and more emphasis. The author’s choice of vocabulary and stylistic devices is admirable. The author uses a large variety of stylistic devices, such as epithets, which can be divided into two categories: those, which are related to Child’s world (grim chuckle, alleged frog, unknown land, stale delight, mere material pleasure, bare and cheerless, thickly growing vegetation) and the one, which depicts a Grown-up’s world lacking any clear thinking (frivolous ground, veriest nonsense, considerable obstinacy, trivial gardening operation, unauthorized intrusion). They help the author to emphasize a deep dissension between generations, to convey a thrilling power of child’s creative mind. There are a lot of metaphors (often sustained) in the story: a circus of unrivalled merit and uncounted elephants (to lay stress on the Aunt’s narrow-mindness), the flawlessness of the reasoning, self-imposed sentry-duty (characterizes the Aunt as a very strict person), art of fitting keys into keyholes and turning locks, region that was so carefully sealed from youthful eyes, many golden minutes of a ridiculously short range. With the help of these stylistic means the offer unfolds a theme in which stupidity, moral degradation, hypocrisy and ambition play their sorry parts.
There are some similes in the text: Bobby won’t enjoy himself much, and he won’t race much either; the aunt-by-assertion (The author uses Nicholas’ own word choice to show that he does not accept his aunt’s authority over him. This also may be a subtle criticism of Nicholas’ rebellious attitude.); and some periphrases: the Evil One, the prisoner in the tank. (These devices provide author’s irony and essential clue to the character).
The author also enriches the story with a device of rhetorical question: But did the huntsman see, what Nicholas saw, that four galloping wolves were coming in his direction through the wood?; and hyperbole: How did she howl. The following stylistic devices contribute to the expressiveness of the text.

There are two traits always present in Hector Munro’s books, which single him out of commonplace writers, they are irony and witty. The style of writing is satirical in a humorous way. The author uses a witty tone to mimic characters in order to subtly criticize them. The criticism is done in a subtle way that is humorous. For example, Aunt's condescending tone in describing Nicholas’ prank: disgrace, sin, fell from grace. The author is obviously using the Aunt’s own word choice to reveal her self-righteous, holier-than-thou attitude. This is a subtle criticism of her arrogance which she is blind to.
The author uses irony to poke fun and criticize the Aunt. For instance, trip to Jagborough which is meant to spite Nicholas fails. Instead of being a punishment for the child, it became a treat for him whereas it became a torture to those who went. The Aunt’s conception of “the paradise”. The real paradise is the Lumber-room not the garden. This reveals the irony that the ideal world of an adult is dull and boring to that of a child.
The story is a remarkable insight into human character. It also reveals Aunt’s virtues and vices. In the story the Aunt is represented as a self-righteous and moralistic person. She uses a hypocritical tone and exaggerates a child’s prank comparing it to a grave sin. She thinks of herself as a wiser - she doesn’t like to be in the wrong. Being cold, lacking of love, she is more concerned with punishing the children: she keeps jam and goodies away from them, she bars them from the beautiful places in the house like the garden and lumber-room. Unable to understand and communicate with children, she is not even aware when her son’s feet was hurt. She dictates their lives for them, insisting on where they should go for entertainment. It is evident, that the author’s sympathy lies with the children.

The ending of the story reveals the author’s social comment about the differences between the world of the child and adult. Though the Aunt is furious, Nicholas is thinking about the hunter tricking the hounds by using the stag as a bait. It is a representative of his own life, he is like a hunter able to escape the hound (which represents his aunt and the dull reality of the adult world) by trickery and strategizing.

To sum up, the author’s style is remarkable for its powerful sweep, brilliant illustrations and deep psychological analysis. The story reveals he author’s great knowledge of man’s inner world. He penetrates into the subtlest windings of the child heart. Giving the author his due for brilliance of style and a pointed ridicule of many social vices, such as snobbishness, pretence, self-interest. The author’s attitude towards grown-ups is a little bit cynical. It’s quite obvious that when describing the hard-heartedness and indifference of Adult’s world he is not indignant but rather amused. His habitual attitude is that of expecting little or nothing of his fellow men. His ironical cynicism combined with a keen wit and power observation affords him effective means of portraying reality without shrinking before its seamy side. The charm of this story lies in its interesting plot and exciting situation. At the same time it conveys deep thought, keen observation and sharpness of characterization. These very qualities assure the author of an outstanding place in the annals of literature and in the hearts of all who love good stories.


The Dumb Waiter

Analysis of Major Characters
The audience is meant to sympathize with Gus, the well-meaning, slightly slower junior partner-in-crime to Ben. We are in the same position as Gus: like Gus, we are not familiar with the job they are going to perform, we don't know what exactly is happening upstairs from the basement, and Ben's betrayal should be as much of a shock to us as it is to Gus. Gus is somewhat child-like, pestering Ben with numerous requests, complaints about their environment, and questions. He is generally submissive to Ben's orders—everything from making tea to investigating outside the door—though he stands up for what he believes in, as with the "Light the kettle" argument.
Gus is more sensitive than Ben to issues of traditional human concern. He often touches upon deeper issues Ben does not wish to contemplate—about death, the dull routine of life, and the nature of the elusive employer Wilson. He is concerned with the consequences of his job. He is haunted by the image of their messy murder of their last victim, a girl, and is anxious about this next job. He is fed up with the dull routine of life, but can do nothing to get out of it. His recurring trips to the bathroom underscore his imprisonment to routine, especially in contrast with Ben, who never goes to the bathroom. Unlike Ben, he has no hobbies, which accounts for his awareness of his static life.
If one were to read The Dumb Waiter as an allegory of capitalist slavery, then Gus is the employee who, because life offers him so little, recognizes something wrong with the class structure. He sees cracks in the façade of Wilson—he is unafraid to yell and peer up the serving hatch to where the god-like figure reposes—but still feels uneasy in his presence, as most underlings do with their powerful bosses. He also places accountability on Wilson as the controller of the means of production; although Ben tells him otherwise, Gus believes that Wilson owns the café and should therefore pay for the gas meter (he is also miffed that Wilson, or the person upstairs, wants tea while they are hungry and thirsty). Gus's class-consciousness includes some shame about his poverty, but it is less than that exhibited by Ben. When they send their working-class food up the dumb waiter, Gus calls out the brand names as if announcing a fancy dinner menu. Many productions of The Dumb Waiter will give the actor playing Gus a Cockney accent to emphasize his lower-class standing, but little else is known about his background. We learn that he has not seen his mother in a long time, that he enjoys soccer, and is somewhat unfamiliar with the richer sport of cricket.
By the end of play, Gus becomes somewhat resigned to his life enslaved to routine. He accepts Ben's instructions to kill by mechanically repeating them. When he realizes that Ben is betraying him, his silence does not seem like one of shock. Rather, he has turned into a dumb waiter—manipulated by others to carry out their directions, unable to speak for himself.
Ben is the more dominant of the two criminals. As such, they resemble the various couples in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, who also complement each other with submissive and dominant traits. Ben broods and reads his newspaper, and his silences are as much a feature of his character as his dialogue. Whether Gus is asking him about the job, Wilson, or if he ever gets bored with life, Ben refuses to enter into a meaningful discussion. Part of the reason, of course, is that he does not want to reveal the purpose of the job: to execute Gus. The other reason is that Ben's chilling silences are laced with a defensive violence. Harold Pinter has defined speech as a strategy designed to cover the nakedness of silence, and Ben is a prime example. He compensates for his naked silences with a constant aura of violence and intimidation. And just as he frequently checks his gun to maintain his potential for violence, his often-venomous speech further obscures his naked vulnerability. In the argument over the phrase "Light the kettle," the marriage of violent speech and violent action seems appropriate when Ben chokes Gus while screaming "THE KETTLE, YOU FOOL!"
Ben's language denotes other parts of his personality, especially his shame over his lower class. He feigns understanding the names of the orders for exotic dishes sent down via the dumb waiter (where upstairs, presumably, someone of higher standing, physically and socially, presides). When they run of food in the basement, he tells Gus (who yells up the hatch) to observe decorum, then strains to make a formal apology. He is also immensely pleased when the person upstairs uses Ben's phrase "Light the kettle." Like Gus, Ben is a slave to the organization (one with several "departments"), but he does not have the same class-consciousness as Gus; his partner is more aware of their unfortunate lot in life, while Ben considers themselves "fortunate" and diverts himself with hobbies. He also accepts whatever Wilson tells him to do, making him as much a manipulated mute carrier of actions as Gus is to Ben—a human "dumb waiter." His betrayal of Gus at Wilson's behest is an unsettling reminder of what workers will do to gain the acceptance of their superiors.
Wilson never appears in the play, but he is directly or indirectly behind the messages from the dumb waiter and speaking tube. His obvious theatrical corollary is Godot in Beckett's Waiting for Godot. Both are off-stage characters who exercise a powerful, god-like influence over the on-stage characters. When Gus suggests that Wilson is playing "games" with the men (the orders for food), it raises the possibility of Wilson's having a sadistic personality—a malevolent god. Not only is he going to execute Gus, for unknown reasons, but he will put him through an agonizing final day. Gus also mentions that Wilson put them through tests several years ago to prove themselves, so we know that Wilson may also be paranoid (a reasonable expectation for the head of a crime syndicate).

Sources: › ... › The Dumb Waiter-24.07.2010

Great Expectations

Analysis of Major Characters
Great Expectations presents the growth and development of a single character, Philip Pirrip, better known to himself and to the world as Pip. Pip is by far the most important character in Great Expectations: he is both the protagonist, whose actions make up the main plot of the novel, and the narrator, whose thoughts and attitudes shape the reader’s perception of the story. As a result, developing an understanding of Pip’s character is perhaps the most important step in understanding Great Expectations.
Because Pip is narrating his story many years after the events of the novel take place, there are really two Pips in Great Expectations: Pip the narrator and Pip the character—the voice telling the story and the person acting it out. Dickens takes great care to distinguish the two Pips, imbuing the voice of Pip the narrator with perspective and maturity while also imparting how Pip the character feels about what is happening to him as it actually happens. This skillfully executed distinction is perhaps best observed early in the book, when Pip the character is a child; here, Pip the narrator gently pokes fun at his younger self, but also enables us to see and feel the story through his eyes.
As a character, Pip’s two most important traits are his immature, romantic idealism and his innately good conscience. On the one hand, Pip has a deep desire to improve himself and attain any possible advancement, whether educational, moral, or social. His longing to marry Estella and join the upper classes stems from the same idealistic desire as his longing to learn to read and his fear of being punished for bad behavior: once he understands ideas like poverty, ignorance, and immorality, Pip does not want to be poor, ignorant, or immoral. Pip the narrator judges his own past actions extremely harshly, rarely giving himself credit for good deeds but angrily castigating himself for bad ones. As a character, however, Pip’s idealism often leads him to perceive the world rather narrowly, and his tendency to oversimplify situations based on superficial values leads him to behave badly toward the people who care about him. When Pip becomes a gentleman, for example, he immediately begins to act as he thinks a gentleman is supposed to act, which leads him to treat Joe and Biddy snobbishly and coldly.
On the other hand, Pip is at heart a very generous and sympathetic young man, a fact that can be witnessed in his numerous acts of kindness throughout the book (helping Magwitch, secretly buying Herbert’s way into business, etc.) and his essential love for all those who love him. Pip’s main line of development in the novel may be seen as the process of learning to place his innate sense of kindness and conscience above his immature idealism.
Not long after meeting Miss Havisham and Estella, Pip’s desire for advancement largely overshadows his basic goodness. After receiving his mysterious fortune, his idealistic wishes seem to have been justified, and he gives himself over to a gentlemanly life of idleness. But the discovery that the wretched Magwitch, not the wealthy Miss Havisham, is his secret benefactor shatters Pip’s oversimplified sense of his world’s hierarchy. The fact that he comes to admire Magwitch while losing Estella to the brutish nobleman Drummle ultimately forces him to realize that one’s social position is not the most important quality one possesses, and that his behavior as a gentleman has caused him to hurt the people who care about him most. Once he has learned these lessons, Pip matures into the man who narrates the novel, completing the bildungsroman.
Often cited as Dickens’s first convincing female character, Estella is a supremely ironic creation, one who darkly undermines the notion of romantic love and serves as a bitter criticism against the class system in which she is mired. Raised from the age of three by Miss Havisham to torment men and “break their hearts,” Estella wins Pip’s deepest love by practicing deliberate cruelty. Unlike the warm, winsome, kind heroine of a traditional love story, Estella is cold, cynical, and manipulative. Though she represents Pip’s first longed-for ideal of life among the upper classes, Estella is actually even lower-born than Pip; as Pip learns near the end of the novel, she is the daughter of Magwitch, the coarse convict, and thus springs from the very lowest level of society.
Ironically, life among the upper classes does not represent salvation for Estella. Instead, she is victimized twice by her adopted class. Rather than being raised by Magwitch, a man of great inner nobility, she is raised by Miss Havisham, who destroys her ability to express emotion and interact normally with the world. And rather than marrying the kindhearted commoner Pip, Estella marries the cruel nobleman Drummle, who treats her harshly and makes her life miserable for many years. In this way, Dickens uses Estella’s life to reinforce the idea that one’s happiness and well-being are not deeply connected to one’s social position: had Estella been poor, she might have been substantially better off.
Despite her cold behavior and the damaging influences in her life, Dickens nevertheless ensures that Estella is still a sympathetic character. By giving the reader a sense of her inner struggle to discover and act on her own feelings rather than on the imposed motives of her upbringing, Dickens gives the reader a glimpse of Estella’s inner life, which helps to explain what Pip might love about her. Estella does not seem able to stop herself from hurting Pip, but she also seems not to want to hurt him; she repeatedly warns him that she has “no heart” and seems to urge him as strongly as she can to find happiness by leaving her behind. Finally, Estella’s long, painful marriage to Drummle causes her to develop along the same lines as Pip—that is, she learns, through experience, to rely on and trust her inner feelings. In the final scene of the novel, she has become her own woman for the first time in the book. As she says to Pip, “Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching. . . . I have been bent and broken, but—I hope—into a better shape.”
Miss Havisham
The mad, vengeful Miss Havisham, a wealthy dowager who lives in a rotting mansion and wears an old wedding dress every day of her life, is not exactly a believable character, but she is certainly one of the most memorable creations in the book. Miss Havisham’s life is defined by a single tragic event: her jilting by Compeyson on what was to have been their wedding day. From that moment forth, Miss Havisham is determined never to move beyond her heartbreak. She stops all the clocks in Satis House at twenty minutes to nine, the moment when she first learned that Compeyson was gone, and she wears only one shoe, because when she learned of his betrayal, she had not yet put on the other shoe. With a kind of manic, obsessive cruelty, Miss Havisham adopts Estella and raises her as a weapon to achieve her own revenge on men. Miss Havisham is an example of single-minded vengeance pursued destructively: both Miss Havisham and the people in her life suffer greatly because of her quest for revenge. Miss Havisham is completely unable to see that her actions are hurtful to Pip and Estella. She is redeemed at the end of the novel when she realizes that she has caused Pip’s heart to be broken in the same manner as her own; rather than achieving any kind of personal revenge, she has only caused more pain. Miss Havisham immediately begs Pip for forgiveness, reinforcing the novel’s theme that bad behavior can be redeemed by contrition and sympathy.

Sources: › ... › Great Expectations-24.07.2010

Great Expectations

Short Summary
Great Expectations is the story of Pip, an orphan boy adopted by a blacksmith's family, who has good luck and great expectations, and then loses both his luck and his expectations. Through this rise and fall, however, Pip learns how to find happiness. He learns the meaning of friendship and the meaning of love and, of course, becomes a better person for it.
The story opens with the narrator, Pip, who introduces himself and describes a much younger Pip staring at the gravestones of his parents. This tiny, shivering bundle of a boy is suddenly terrified by a man dressed in a prison uniform. The man tells Pip that if he wants to live, he'll go down to his house and bring him back some food and a file for the shackle on his leg.
Pip runs home to his sister, Mrs. Joe Gragery, and his adoptive father, Joe Gragery. Mrs. Joe is a loud, angry, nagging woman who constantly reminds Pip and her husband Joe of the difficulties she has gone through to raise Pip and take care of the house. Pip finds solace from these rages in Joe, who is more his equal than a paternal figure, and they are united under a common oppression.
Pip steals food and a pork pie from the pantry shelf and a file from Joe's forge and brings them back to the escaped convict the next morning. Soon thereafter, Pip watches the man get caught by soldiers and the whole event soon disappears from his young mind.
Mrs. Joe comes home one evening, quite excited, and proclaims that Pip is going to "play" for Miss Havisham, "a rich and grim lady who lived in a large and dismal house."
Pip is brought to Miss Havisham's place, a mansion called the "Satis House," where sunshine never enters. He meets a girl about his age, Estella, "who was very pretty and seemed very proud." Pip instantly falls in love with her and will love her the rest of the story. He then meets Miss Havisham, a willowy, yellowed old woman dressed in an old wedding gown. Miss Havisham seems most happy when Estella insults Pip's coarse hands and his thick boots as they play.
Pip is insulted, but thinks there is something wrong with him. He vows to change, to become uncommon, and to become a gentleman.
Pip continues to visit Estella and Miss Havisham for eight months and learns more about their strange life. Miss Havisham brings him into a great banquet hall where a table is set with food and large wedding cake. But the food and the cake are years old, untouched except by a vast array of rats, beetles and spiders which crawl freely through the room. Her relatives all come to see her on the same day of the year: her birthday and wedding day, the day when the cake was set out and the clocks were stopped many years before; i.e. the day Miss Havisham stopped living.
Pip begins to dream what life would be like if he were a gentleman and wealthy. This dream ends when Miss Havisham asks Pip to bring Joe to visit her, in order that he may start his indenture as a blacksmith. Miss Havisham gives Joe twenty five pounds for Pip's service to her and says good-bye.
Pip explains his misery to his readers: he is ashamed of his home, ashamed of his trade. He wants to be uncommon, he wants to be a gentleman. He wants to be a part of the environment that he had a small taste of at the Manor House.
Early in his indenture, Mrs. Joe is found lying unconscious, knocked senseless by some unknown assailant. She has suffered some serious brain damage, having lost much of voice, her hearing, and her memory. Furthermore, her "temper was greatly improved, and she was patient." To help with the housework and to take care of Mrs. Joe, Biddy, a young orphan friend of Pip's, moves into the house.
The years pass quickly. It is the fourth year of Pip's apprenticeship and he is sitting with Joe at the pub when they are approached by a stranger. Pip recognizes him, and his "smell of soap," as a man he had once run into at Miss Havisham's house years before.
Back at the house, the man, Jaggers, explains that Pip now has "great expectations." He is to be given a large monthly stipend, administered by Jaggers who is a lawyer. The benefactor, however, does not want to be known and is to remain a mystery.
Pip spends an uncomfortable evening with Biddy and Joe, then retires to bed. There, despite having all his dreams come true, he finds himself feeling very lonely. Pip visits Miss Havisham who hints subtly that she is his unknown sponsor.
Pip goes to live in London and meets Wemmick, Jagger's square-mouth clerk. Wemmick brings Pip to Bernard's Inn, where Pip will live for the next five years with Matthew Pocket's son Herbert, a cheerful young gentleman that becomes one of Pip's best friends. From Herbert, Pips finds out that Miss Havisham adopted Estella and raised her to wreak revenge on the male gender by making them fall in love with her, and then breaking their hearts.
Pip is invited to dinner at Wemmick's whose slogan seems to be "Office is one thing, private life is another." Indeed, Wemmick has a fantastical private life. Although he lives in a small cottage, the cottage has been modified to look a bit like a castle, complete with moat, drawbridge, and a firing cannon.
The next day, Jaggers himself invites Pip and friends to dinner. Pip, on Wemmick's suggestion, looks carefully at Jagger's servant woman -- a "tigress" according to Wemmick. She is about forty, and seems to regard Jaggers with a mix of fear and duty.
Pip journeys back to the Satis House to see Miss Havisham and Estella, who is now older and so much more beautiful that he doesn't recognize her at first. Facing her now, he slips back "into the coarse and common voice" of his youth and she, in return, treats him like the boy he used to be. Pip sees something strikingly familiar in Estella's face. He can't quite place the look, but an expression on her face reminds him of someone.
Pip stays away from Joe and Biddy's house and the forge, but walks around town, enjoying the admiring looks he gets from his past neighbors.
Soon thereafter, a letter for Pip announces the death of Mrs. Joe Gragery. Pip returns home again to attend the funeral. Later, Joe and Pip sit comfortably by the fire like times of old. Biddy insinuates that Pip will not be returning soon as he promises and he leaves insulted. Back in London, Pip asks Wemmick for advice on how to give Herbert some of his yearly stipend anonymously.
Narrator Pip describes his relationship to Estella while she lived in the city: "I suffered every kind and degree of torture that Estella could cause me," he says. Pip finds out that Drummle, the most repulsive of his acquaintances, has begun courting Estella.
Years go by and Pip is still living the same wasteful life of a wealthy young man in the city. A rough sea-worn man of sixty comes to Pip's home on a stormy night soon after Pip's twenty-fourth birthday. Pip invites him in, treats him with courteous disdain, but then begins to recognize him as the convict that he fed in the marshes when he was a child. The man, Magwitch, reveals that he is Pip's benefactor. Since the day that Pip helped him, he swore to himself that every cent he earned would go to Pip.
"I've made a gentleman out of you," the man exclaims. Pip is horrified. All of his expectations are demolished. There is no grand design by Miss Havisham to make Pip happy and rich, living in harmonious marriage to Estella.
The convict tells Pip that he has come back to see him under threat of his life, since the law will execute him if they find him in England. Pip is disgusted with him, but wants to protect him and make sure he isn't found and put to death. Herbert and Pip decide that Pip will try and convince Magwitch to leave England with him.
Magwitch tells them the story of his life. From a very young age, he was alone and got into trouble. In one of his brief stints actually out of jail, Magwitch met a young well-to-do gentleman named Compeyson who had his hand in everything illegal: swindling, forgery, and other white collar crime. Compeyson recruited Magwitch to do his dirty work and landed Magwitch into trouble with the law. Magwitch hates the man. Herbert passes a note to Pip telling him that Compeyson was the name of the man who left Miss Havisham on her wedding day.
Pip goes back to Satis House and finds Miss Havisham and Estella in the same banquet room. Pip breaks down and confesses his love for Estella. Estella tells him straight that she is incapable of love -- she has warned him of as much before -- and she will soon be married to Drummle.
Back in London, Wemmick tells Pip things he has learned from the prisoners at Newgate. Pip is being watched, he says, and may be in some danger. As well, Compeyson has made his presence known in London. Wemmick has already warned Herbert as well. Heeding the warning, Herbert has hidden Magwitch in his fiancé Clara's house.
Pip has dinner with Jaggers and Wemmick at Jaggers' home. During the dinner, Pip finally realizes the similarities between Estella and Jaggers' servant woman. Jaggers' servant woman is Estella's mother!
On their way home together, Wemmick tells the story of Jaggers' servant woman. It was Jaggers' first big break-through case, the case that made him. He was defending this woman in a case where she was accused of killing another woman by strangulation. The woman was also said to have killed her own child, a girl, at about the same time as the murder.
Miss Havisham asks Pip to come visit her. He finds her again sitting by the fire, but this time she looks very lonely. Pip tells her how he was giving some of his money to help Herbert with his future, but now must stop since he himself is no longer taking money from his benefactor. Miss Havisham wants to help, and she gives Pip nine hundred pounds to help Herbert out. She then asks Pip for forgiveness. Pip tells her she is already forgiven and that he needs too much forgiving himself not to be able to forgive others.
Pip goes for a walk around the garden then comes back to find Miss Havisham on fire! Pip puts the fire out, burning himself badly in the process. The doctors come and announce that she will live.
Pip goes home and Herbert takes care of his burns. Herbert has been spending some time with Magwitch at Clara's and has been told the whole Magwitch story. Magwitch was the husband of Jaggers' servant woman, the Tigress. The woman had come to Magwitch on the day she murdered the other woman and told him she was going to kill their child and that Magwitch would never see her. And Magwitch never did. Pip puts is all together and tells Herbert that Magwitch is Estella's father.
It is time to escape with Magwitch. Herbert and Pip get up the next morning and start rowing down the river, picking up Magwitch at the preappointed time. They are within a few feet of a steamer that they hope to board when another boat pulls alongside to stop them. In the confusion, Pip sees Compeyson leading the other boat, but the steamer is on top of them. The steamer crushes Pip's boat, Compeyson and Magwitch disappear under water, and Pip and Herbert find themselves in a police boat of sorts. Magwitch finally comes up from the water. He and Compeyson wrestled for a while, but Magwitch had let him go and he is presumably drowned. Once again, Magwitch is shackled and arrested.
Magwitch is in jail and quite ill. Pip attends to the ailing Magwitch daily in prison. Pip whispers to him one day that the daughter he thought was dead is quite alive. "She is a lady and very beautiful," Pip says. "And I love her." Magwitch gives up the ghost.
Pip falls into a fever for nearly a month. Creditors and Joe fall in and out of his dreams and his reality. Finally, he regains his senses and sees that, indeed, Joe has been there the whole time, nursing him back to health. Joe tells him that Miss Havisham died during his illness, that she left Estella nearly all, and Matthew Pocket a great deal. Joe slips away one morning leaving only a note. Pip discovers that Joe has paid off all his debtors.
Pip is committed to returning to Joe, asking for forgiveness for everything he has done, and to ask Biddy to marry him. Pip goes to Joe and indeed finds happiness -- but the happiness is Joe and Biddy's. It is their wedding day. Pip wishes them well, truly, and asks them for their forgiveness in all his actions. They happily give it.
Pip goes to work for Herbert's' firm and lives with the now married Clara and Herbert. Within a year, he becomes a partner. He pays off his debts and works hard.
Eleven years later, Pip returns from his work overseas. He visits Joe and Biddy and meets their son, a little Pip, sitting by the fire with Joe just like Pip himself did years ago. Pip tells Biddy that he is quite the settled old bachelor, living with Clara and Herbert and he thinks he will never marry. Nevertheless, he goes to the Satis House that night to think once again of the girl who got away. And there he meets Estella. Drummle treated her roughly and recently died. She tells Pip that she has learned the feeling of heartbreak the hard way and now seeks his forgiveness for what she did to him. The two walk out of the garden hand in hand, and Pip "saw the shadow of no parting from her."


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Break, break, break’

Break, break, break,
On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me.
O well for the fisherman’s boy,
That he shouts with his sister at play!
O well for the sailor lad,
That he sings in his boat on the bay!
And the stately ships go on
To their haven under the hill;
But O for the touch of a vanish’d hand,
And the sound of a voice that is still!
Break, break, break
At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
Will never come back to me.


Victorian Poets

• Matthew Arnold
• Charlotte Bronte
• Emily Bronte
• Elizabeth Browning
• Robert Browning
• Ralph Waldo Emerson
• Gerard Manley Hopkins
• Rudyard Kipling
• Christina Rossetti
• Dante Gabriella Rossetti
• Alfred Tennyson
• Oscar Wilde
Victorian Poetry
The Victorian Period literally describes the events in the age of Queen Victoria’s reign of 1837-1901. The term Victorian has connotations of repression and social conformity; however in the realm of poetry these labels are somewhat misplaced. The Victorian age provided a significant development of poetic ideals such as the increased use of the Sonnet as a poetic form, which was to influence later modern poets. Poets in the Victorian period were to some extent influenced by the Romantic Poets such as Keats, William Blake, Shelley and W. Wordsworth. Wordsworth was Poet Laureate until 1850 so can be viewed as a bridge between the Romantic period and the Victorian period. Wordsworth was succeeded by Lord Tennyson, Queen Victoria's favourite poet.
Victorian Poetry was an important period in the history of poetry, providing the link between the Romantic movement and the modernist movement of the 20th Century. It is not always possible to neatly categorise poets in these broad movements. For example Gerard Manley Hopkins is often cited as an example of a poet who maintained much of the Romantics sensibility in his writings.
Female Victorian Poets
Before the Victorian era there were very few famous female poets. In the early nineteenth century writing was still seen as a predominantly male preserve. However despite views such as this the Victorian period saw the emergence of many important female poets.
The Bronte sisters were perhaps better known for their romantic novels but their poetry, especially that of Emily Bronte, has received more critical acclaim in recent years. Many have suggested that her works were a reflection of the difficulties women of that period faced. Other significant female poets include Elizabeth Browning and Christina Rossetti. Christina Rossetti in some ways could be viewed as a more typical Victorian poet. Her poetry reflected her deep Anglican faith and frequently pursued themes such as love and faith.

The Lady of Shalott

By Tennyson

On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro' the field the road runs by
To many-tower'd 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 veil'd,
Slide the heavy barges trail'd
By slow horses; and unhail'd
The shallop flitteth silken-sail'd
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 tower'd Camelot;
And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
Listening, whispers, " 'Tis the fairy
Lady of Shalott."
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 shepherd lad,
Or long-hair'd page in crimson clad
Goes by to tower'd 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.
A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley sheaves,
The sun came dazzling thro' the leaves,
And flamed upon the brazen greaves
Of bold Sir Lancelot.
A red-cross knight for ever kneel'd
To a lady in his shield,
That sparkled on the yellow field,
Beside remote Shalott.
The gemmy bridle glitter'd 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 blazon'd baldric slung
A mighty silver bugle hung,
And as he rode his armor rung
Beside remote Shalott.
All in the blue unclouded weather
Thick-jewell'd shone the saddle-leather,
The helmet and the helmet-feather
Burn'd like one burning flame together,
As he rode down to Camelot.
As often thro' the purple night,
Below the starry clusters bright,
Some bearded meteor, burning bright,
Moves over still Shalott.
His broad clear brow in sunlight glow'd;
On burnish'd hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow'd
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 look'd down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shalott.
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 tower'd Camelot;
Down she came and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat,
And around 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 --
Thro' 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,
Turn'd to tower'd Camelot.
For ere she reach'd 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 around 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."

Early spring

Once more the Heavenly Power
Makes all things new,
And domes the red-plow’d hills
With loving blue;
The blackbirds have their wills,
The throstles too.

Opens a door in heaven;
From skies of glass
A Jacob’s ladder falls
On greening grass,
And o’er the mountain-walls
Young angels pass.

Before them fleets the shower,
And burst the buds,
And shine the level lands,
And flash the floods;
The stars are from their hands
Flung thro’ the woods,

The woods with living airs
How softly fann’d,
Light airs from where the deep,
All down the sand,
Is breathing in his sleep,
Heard by the land.

O, follow, leaping blood,
The season’s lure!
O heart, look down and up
Serene, secure,
Warm as the crocus cup,
Like snowdrops, pure!

Past, Future glimpse and fade
Thro’ some slight spell,
A gleam from yonder vale,
Some far blue fell,
And sympathies, how frail,
In sound and smell!

Till at thy chuckled note,
Thou twinkling bird,
The fairy fancies range,
And, lightly stirr’d,
Ring little bells of change
From word to word.

For now the Heavenly Power
Makes all things new,
And thaws the cold, and fills
The flower with dew;
The blackbirds have their wills,
The poets too.

The Charge of the Light Brigade

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!’
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Some one had blunder’d:
Their’s not to make reply,
Their’s not to reason why,
Their’s but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.
Flash’d all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turn’d in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder’d:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel’d from the sabre-stroke
Shatter’d and sunder’d.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro’ the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder’d.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!

The Eagle

He clasps the crag with crookèd hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring'd with the azure world, he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.

Alfred Tennyson

Alfred Tennyson was born August 6th, 1809, at Somersby, Lincolnshire, fourth of twelve children of George and Elizabeth (Fytche) Tennyson. The poet's grandfather had violated tradition by making his younger son, Charles, his heir, and arranging for the poet's father to enter the ministry. (See the Tennyson Family Tree.) The contrast of his own family's relatively straitened circumstances to the great wealth of his aunt Elizabeth Russell and uncle Charles Tennyson (who lived in castles!) made Tennyson feel particularly impoverished and led him to worry about money all his life.
He also had a lifelong fear of mental illness, for several men in his family had a mild form of epilepsy, which was then thought a shameful disease. His father and brother Arthur made their cases worse by excessive drinking. His brother Edward had to be confined in a mental institution after 1833, and he himself spent a few weeks under doctors' care in 1843. In the late twenties his father's physical and mental condition worsened, and he became paranoid, abusive, and violent.
In 1827 Tennyson escaped the troubled atmosphere of his home when he followed his two older brothers to Trinity College, Cambridge, where his tutor was William Whewell — see nineteenth-century philosophy. Because they had published Poems by Two Brothers in 1827 and each won university prizes for poetry (Alfred winning the Chancellor's Gold Medal in 1828 for ÒTimbuctooÓ) the Tennyson brothers became well known at Cambridge. In 1829 The Apostles, an undergraduate club, whose members remained Tennyson's friends all his life, invited him to join. The group, which met to discuss major philosophical and other issues, included Arthur Henry Hallam, James Spedding, Edward Lushington (who later married Cecilia Tennyson), and Richard Monckton Milnes — all eventually famous men who merited entries in the Dictionary of National Biography.
Arthur Hallam's was the most important of these friendships. Hallam, another precociously brilliant Victorian young man like Robert Browning, John Stuart Mill, and Matthew Arnold, was uniformly recognized by his contemporaries (including William Gladstone, his best friend at Eton) as having unusual promise. He and Tennyson knew each other only four years, but their intense friendship had major influence on the poet. On a visit to Somersby, Hallam met and later became engaged to Emily Tennyson, and the two friends looked forward to a life-long companionship. Hallam's death from illness in 1833 (he was only 22) shocked Tennyson profoundly, and his grief lead to most of his best poetry, including In Memoriam , "The Passing of Arthur", "Ulysses," and "Tithonus."
Since Tennyson was always sensitive to criticism, the mixed reception of his 1832 Poems hurt him greatly. Critics in those days delighted in the harshness of their reviews: the Quarterly Review was known as the "Hang, draw, and quarterly." John Wilson Croker's harsh criticisms of some of the poems in our anthology kept Tennyson from publishing again for another nine years.
Late in the 1830s Tennyson grew concerned about his mental health and visited a sanitarium run by Dr. Matthew Allen, with whom he later invested his inheritance (his grandfather had died in 1835) and some of his family's money. When Dr. Allen's scheme for mass-producing wood carvings using steam power went bankrupt, Tennyson, who did not have enough money to marry, ended his engagement to Emily Sellwood, whom he had met at his brother Charles's wedding to her sister Louisa.
The success of his 1842 Poems made Tennyson a popular poet, and in 1845 he received a Civil List (government) pension of £200 a year, which helped relieve his financial difficulties; the success of "The Princess" and In Memoriam and his appointment in 1850 as Poet Laureate finally established him as the most popular poet of the Victorian era.
By now Tennyson, only 41, had written some of his greatest poetry, but he continued to write and to gain in popularity. In 1853, as the Tennysons were moving into their new house on the Isle of Wight, Prince Albert dropped in unannounced. His admiration for Tennyson's poetry helped solidify his position as the national poet, and Tennyson returned the favor by dedicating The Idylls of the King to his memory. Queen Victoria later summoned him to court several times, and at her insistence he accepted his title, having declined it when offered by both Disraeli and Gladstone.
Tennyson suffered from extreme short-sightedness — without a monocle he could not even see to eat — which gave him considerable difficulty writing and reading, and this disability in part accounts for his manner of creating poetry: Tennyson composed much of his poetry in his head, occasionally working on individual poems for many years. During his undergraduate days at Cambridge he often did not bother to write down his compositions, although the Apostles continually prodded him to do so. (We owe the first version of "The Lotos-Eaters" to Arthur Hallam, who transcribed it while Tennyson declaimed it at a meeting of the Apostles.)
Long-lived like most of his family (no matter how unhealthy they seemed to be) Alfred, Lord Tennyson died on October 6, 1892, at the age of 83.