“Long Live Love”

— a monument to now

“*Listen* To Me”


I begun the day in a wistful way—
Your loquaciousness
is so very precious
Ur mind’s delicious
– – – – – – – – –
Despite all this adversity
this ever so harsh reality
& De Profundis’ centrality
– – – – – – – –
You dominate my mind totally
Visions of you so consume me
My constant motif is but you

—but t’was fleeting and soon faded away
. . . . . . .
So listen to me now and do not say,
or utter, a single ‘fucking’ word.
I’ll speak from where they say,
reason does not dare descend.
. . . . . .
Oh for the hands they are a telling,
they are tolling for last orders.
Ignore this play with wording,
it’s just sum wit rejoinders.
. . . . .
Because you do know me and I so know you,
let’s send to hell this thing called reason.
Let all caution be exiled to Timbuktu,
sense!? Let it sing to the horizon.
. . . .
Hear the heart drown out the head,
let reason go, let it sail to a vortex,
Quick to silver, subside to sand,
let it quarry a swirl of Semtex:
. . .
East lays laden with forbidden fruits of Eden;
Shades of purple, orange ‘n’ London-grey;
The road must now be undertaken for
Xanadu opens with a vision of jay.
. .
I know but one deep immutable truth,
you r my singular fountain of youth
.
send me by strive, your kiss of life.

I do know well the Greek modes of love /
I do know my station on their Dionysian-derived cline // oft depicted as a triangle (△) encircled in psychology journals:

“Greek Love”
— Humankind’s attempts to classify love /lʌv/ (the four-lettered word that conquers all else) starting with Sappho.

It’s out there (my station), I am an outlier. I’m now well beyond the pale, o loved one, I’m upon the opposite side of the river from the legions of righteous ones. I read it said that I’d be labeled a serial sinner (you know, condemned as a renegade reprobate). Myth and make believe — the tract I refer to — is though, but a form of statecraft (a claim that would once have been enough to see me be tethered to a stake and to feel the pain of the flame lick and lash at my naked floundering feet, see: 📙 “Hammer of Witches”). Myth and make believe (our “mumbo-jumbo,” jay) are the modus operandi for…, the mode to use when…, concocting statecraft. You see, statecraft is penned patronage. It is paid patronage for the poets and prose makers that write (well) what their paymasters want to be read and remembered. History is verily the victor’s diktat. (What that we are informed is seminal and pivotal, gospel and sacrosanct, the scripts and texts, the tracts and tomes that underpin our understanding, define our being and determine the circumference confines of our culture and civilisation, are what yesteryear’s men of good fortune decided they liked, determined should not be burnt and declared be deemed divine: “Praise You ma’Love.” The anthologies and authoritative lists are set in stone albeit of age-old codex form [more pulpwood cedar ‘n’ larch then than igneous granite {graveyard-grade} ‘n’ sedimentary clay {desert-baked}]. Diligently now, they are being scanned and transcribed to reside in digital form [with audio to boot]. Electronic egalitarianism yes! [1]  But, a further consolidation of what is and what isn’t canonical. Shibboleth — that’s the name given to the centurion gatekeeper who’s older than Rome and Athens — goes back, and I can painfully attest to this, to the bubbling springs of Babylon and the torrential downpours of Uruq. I mean — mouth the following ‘K.R.-style’ — “Come On” Dear reader!” Do we really believe that the carver of the Löwenmensch figurine — a lion-cum-human hewn from a woolly mammoth’s tusk — was anything other than a man; gifted with gold, or the like, by the then chieftain whose Machiavellian right-hand man had deduced that if the clan were to willingly waste there time worshiping an idol, they’d be less likely to question hereditary hierarchy and more likely to conduct their affairs in an opiated kind of way [pay your taxes, your dues to Caesar, do it faithfully, do it obediently for, who are we {who were they?} to hold the powers that be to account? we accept you had to rape and pillage the village in order to teach, you had to kill to save, war is peace, let man control woman in matrimony {thus he’ll not hit back at his master but instead wallop his wife when he gets home} and six + nine is no more or no less that fifteen on the clock {Look for the numbers, it is all about the numbers, not around the numbers, but into the numbers. seven has been found to be divine ((but only if read in ancient Hebrew form [[the power and the divinity is lost in translation]] for in that script, in Genesis 1:1 — “In the beginning, …” — we will note that the number seven is written all over it [[(1) there are seven words in this opening verse (2), there’s 28 letters in total {{divisible by seven}} (3), the first three words have 14 letters {{divisible by seven}}, (4) the last four words have 14 letters too {{divisible by seven}} (5), the words: God, heaven, and earth also add up to 14 letters {{divisible by seven}} (6), the remaining words add up to 14 letters as well and (7) the middle word in Genesis 1:1 — when written I reiterate, emphasis and underscore, in ancient Hebrew form — is the shortest, with two letters, but, ‘but,’ the words to the right and left of it have 5 letters each so, combining with either would give us seven too {{proof positive of the almighty one, no? irrefutable evidence of The Invisible Hand or — dare we utter an or… or evidence that wordsmiths have been at play, crafting away, for several millennia or more? (((it is a known known that the good scriptures, while filled themselves with numerical patterns — hidden meanings — expressly forbade us, those made of clay, to dabble in such pursuits; to quote Deutronomy 18:10–12: “Let no one be found among you who … practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable.”)))}}.]])) seven is heaven — oh yes! It rhymes, but what of the sinuous serpentine six? and it’s naughty partner in crime: number nine? ((On six: In Revelation 13:18, the number of the Beast is written with the Greek symbols for 600 and 60 and 6. On nine: This number is related to the number six, being the sum of its factors — 3×3=9, and 3+3=6 — it also purported to be the number of finality and/or judgment; you see, it was in the 9th year of Hosea’s supremacy that the King of Assyria destroyed the northern capital city of the Israelites and too, it was the the 9th year of King Zedekiah’s reign that Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, conquered the southern city of the Israelites.))}.].) And, to the unforgiving wilderness of solitude and exiled abstinence that I face on this side of the river’s bank, I say unto you: I know well the lines of “De Profundis” for recently, I’ve poured over them again and again. I hear it has a word count of circa 50,000 but this wasn’t noticed by I. I was, you see, carried away by the assonance (imagined) and the associations… the adages and the aphorisms… the allegories and the allegations:


Yet each man kills the thing he loves
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword.

I, ____, take you, ______, for my lawful wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death DO us part:

📘 “De Profundis”
— analysis, audio & book in HTML/PDF formats.

— § —


NOTES

[1]   Suffice to set out here — from the surfeit that’s out there free of charge — are the following six (I show no fear & no favour in their selection):
1. — ancient-literature.com
2. — archive.org
3. — classics.mit.edu
3. — gutenberg.net.au
4. — gutenberg.org
5. — sacred-texts.com

📕📕📕

{S.} {O.} {S.}

Last night, I was literally saved by a book


so, in deference and in homage of,


I do hereby present to thee


an encomium entitled:


“Between Bookends”


dedicated to


the book


Brave New World
Aldous Huxley
 
“Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly – they’ll go through anything”
 
Science. Technology. Want for nothing. Maximum pleasure. Welcome to a world where society exists without war, poverty, sickness or unhappiness, where instant gratification and mass consumerism sooth the inhabitants into happy conformity. One man stands to challenge all this: Bernard Marx, alone in harbouring a longing to break free. His attempt to do so sets off a chain of events that could disrupt everything.” — Is this Brave New World that Huxley imagined where we are headed, or are we already there? Take the drugs and float away through Huxley’s relentless cityscape, and you might find answers to questions you didn’t know you should be asking. (This is taken from a too be published 2021 edition introduction by Yuval Noah Harari.) [1]


Brighton Rock
Graham Greene
 
“Heaven was a word: hell was something he could trust.”
 
A gang war is raging through the dark underworld of Brighton. Seventeen-year-old Pinkie, malign and ruthless, has killed a man. Believing he can escape retribution, Pinkie is unprepared for the courageous, life-embracing Ida Arnold, who is determined to uncover him. This is Graham Greene’s chilling exposé of violence, class, and gang warfare inspired many imitators. Few, if any, can match the originality of Brighton Rock, and of Pinkie – one of fiction’s most unnerving and compelling villains.


Catch-22
Joseph Heller
 
“He was going to live forever, or die in the attempt.”
 
It’s the closing months of the Second World War and Yossarian has never been closer to death. Stationed in an American bomber squadron off the coast of Italy, each flight mission introduces him to thousands of people determined to kill him. But the enemy above is not Yossarian’s problem – it is his own army intent on keeping him airborne, and the maddening ‘Catch-22’ that allows for no possibility of escape. Penguin, the publisher, writes, “No book has satirised military madness so hilariously and tragically. It is the tale of one man’s struggle to survive the sheer lunacy of war.”


The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories
Angela Carter
 
“Midnight, and the clock strikes. It is Christmas Day, the werewolves birthday, the door of the solstice still wide enough open to let them all slink through.”
 
We grow up on fairy tales but it is only later we realise what we have been fed. Angela Carter saw the power of these dark stories – stories in which objects betray, children threaten, men turn into animals and women are unsafe. Erotic, subversive, ancient, modern: the tales in this book pulse with a vivid, radical imagination. Turn the key, enter the chamber. Carter untwists our old tales and offers them up with sensuality, depravity, humour – and a mirror held up to ourselves. (From a yet to be published 2021 edition with an introduction by Laura Dockrill.)


Slaughterhouse 5
Kurt Vonnegut
 
“So it goes.”
 
Billy Pilgrim – hapless barber’s assistant, successful optometrist, alien abductee, senile widower and soldier­­ – has become unstuck in time. Hiding in the basement of a slaughterhouse in Dresden, with the city and its inhabitants burning above him, he finds himself a survivor of one of the most deadly and destructive battles of the Second World War. But when, exactly? How did he get here? And how does he get out? Travel through time and space on the shoulders of Vonnegut himself. This is a book about war. Listen to what he has to say: it is of the utmost urgency.


The Old Man and the Sea
Ernest Hemingway
 
“But man is not made for defeat,” he said. “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”
 
In the baking sun, in a small village off the coast of Havana, lives an old fisherman named Santiago. It has been eighty-four days since he last caught a fish. The locals call it bad luck. Refusing to accept defeat, Santiago sets off in his tiny skiff alone, fishing further out than ever before. It is here, over a number of days, that he, his will and his character are tested beyond imagination. Faced with bad weather, hunger and thirst, the old man finds himself in battle with a giant marlin, a fish bigger than any to have been caught before. Nature is not kind and gentle in this fable, nor is Hemingway. You hold in your hands one of the very best pieces of writing to have ever been created.


When Breath Becomes Air
Paul Kalanithi
 
“Even if I’m dying, until I actually die, I am still living.”
 
This magnetic, hopeful book was first published in 2016. Adored by millions of readers, it is a Vintage Classic already and a book that will stand the test of time. — We often ask ourselves how we should be living. In Paul Kalanithi’s deeply moving memoir, he is forced to ask himself the question, ‘how do you live when you are dying?’ At thirty-six, having just finished his training to become a neurosurgeon, he was faced with a devastating cancer diagnosis. This is his memoir. From student, to doctor, to patient, to father, and to writer, Paul preserved his last years and legacy in this truly unforgettable book.


To Kill A Mockingbird
Harper Lee
 
“It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.”
 
This evocative and amusing novel has charmed and inspired generations. — Summers for Scout in the Deep South are long and golden. Her story is one of innocence, and growing up. It is also about justice. When Scout’s father Atticus Finch, a lawyer, agrees to defend a black man against an accusation by a white girl, he takes on the prejudice of the whole town. Through the case, Atticus teaches Scout that your imagination is not just for childhood games, but for understanding other people. Because you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.


Stoner
John Williams
 
“He learned silence and did not insist upon his love.”
 
For nearly fifty years this book existed as quietly as its protagonist before it was rediscovered. It is now regarded as one of the most heart-stopping and beautiful classics of the twentieth century. — This is the great forgotten novel of the last century – a quiet book; the story of a quiet life. William Stoner is a man who learns to contain himself, but beneath the surface lie passions and principles. An undistinguished career, an unhappy marriage, a bitter conflict with a colleague; Stoner endures. He is a different kind of hero. This wise, moving story seethes with the power and beauty of an individual life.


The Handmaid’s Tale
Margaret Atwood
 
“Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”
 
Atwood’s Handmaids have become a symbol of feminist resistance. This masterpiece blurs the boundaries between fiction and news headlines. — Imagine a world where women’s bodies are controlled by men. Where society has descended into religious patriarchy and censorship. Where the environment has been destroyed and a powerful few hold the reins to all wealth and freedom. Welcome to Gilead. This is the story of Offred, a Handmaid forced into sexual servitude, in the country once known as the USA.



Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness . . .
. . . Beauty is truth, truth beauty, — that is all
          Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.


— John Keats (extract, “Ode on a Grecian Urn”)


NOTES

[1]   Vintage Classics [Penguin, 2021]: “MOST LOVED. MOST RED.” — ten must-read modern classics. You get me, don’t you:

William Burroughs and, Maurice Girodias (a bootleg pornographer and renegade Parisian publisher; he inherited Olymipa press — think: Henry Miller’s 1934 novel, “Tropic of Cancer,” which had explicit sexual passages and could not therefore be published in the United States; Anaïs Nin’s “Winter of Artifice” (1939) and James Joyce’s “Haveth Childers” Everywhere and “Pomes Penyeach” (1932) — and ran, for a time, Obelisk Press, notable publication firsts were Burroughs’ “The Naked Lunch” and, “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov).
 
“Nothing is true, everything is permitted.”

“Elsewhere”

_ that’s where i am _

“Elsewhere”


Elsewhere Anchises,
 
Fatherly and intent, was off in a deep green valley
Surveying and reviewing souls consigned there,
Those due to pass to the light of the upper world.
It so happened he was just then taking note
 
Of his whole posterity, the destinies and doings,
Traits and qualities of descendants dear to him,
But seeing Aeneas come wading through the grass
Towards him, he reached his two hands out
In eager joy, his eyes filled up with tears
And he gave a cry: “At last! Are you here at last?
I always trusted that your sense of right
Would prevail and keep you going to the end.
And am I now allowed to see your face,
My son, and hear you talk, and talk to you myself?
 
This is what I imagined and looked forward to
As I counted the days; and my trust was not misplaced.
To think of the lands and the outlying seas
You have crossed, my son, to receive this welcome.
And after such dangers! I was afraid that Africa
Might be your undoing.” But Aeneas replied:
“Often and often, father, you would appear to me,
Your sad shade would appear, and that kept me going
To this end. My ships are anchored in the Tuscan sea.
Let me take your hand, my father, O let me, and do not
 
Hold back from my embrace.” And as he spoke he wept.
Three times he tried to reach arms round that neck.
Three times the form, reached for in vain, escaped
Like a breeze between his hands, a dream on wings.


Virgil, “The Aeneid” (Book VI). Translated from the original Latin by Seamus Heaney (1939-2013); published by The New Yorker in 2016.

^ I have now read this a dozen or more times and only now, is a meaning emerging. I’ve no context (((I could dig but I shan’t — i.e., I could read up on Virgil’s “The Aeneid” and/or look into a good half-millennia’s worth of essays and tomes that draw out and align his Roman founding myth with that of Ancient Greece’s — I did though happen across a few painted works of art on the subject and these are depicted below))) but what’s beginning to form in my mind is a passage depicting a dream, double vision, wanting a heartfelt wish to materialise, wanting beyond want a thing that is neigh on impossible to get or to have. More devastatingly so because, even if it were to be realised, the ramifications of it — I speak here more personally now — would soon act to indelibly taint and mar the realised dream. Back to the poem, some things can never be sated; sons and fathers reaching in vein to bridge breaches. Must there be fault-lines along this cline? I know not, if ever I had a connection, it has long since gone (I don’t feel beholden, I don’t feel denigrated). As my woman said to me, no response stings more than apathy. To elicit consternation and ridicule is better than a snoring Lecturer on student presentation day or, a swipe left without a second glance or a moment’s hesitation (I don’t recall if rejection’s a swipe to the left or to the right but, you get the point don’t ‘you,’ oh fic-fuckin-ticious you). Mums ‘n’ daughters; Freud (Sigmund) ‘n’ Freud (Lucian) & the Oedipal complex and, the impassioned lyrics “The killer awoke before dawn / He put his boots on / He took a face from the ancient gallery / And he walked on down the hall // He went into the room where his sister lived / And then he paid a visit to his brother / And then he walked on down the hall / And he came to a door / And he looked inside / Father? / Yes son / I want to kill you / Mother, I want to… /// was it ‘fuck,’ or just ‘kill’ too? Etc. etc. I’m sic n tired of relying on context for understanding, for my long-run weakness to blindly adhere to the interpretations of others. Literature is art, art is in the eye of the beholder, it is for me — in my isolation wing of solitary confinement — to decide what I see and what I feel when I happen across a piece of poetry.

Virgil reading “The Aeneid” to Augustus, Octavia, and Livia
By Jean-Baptiste Wicar (1762–1834) (1790).
“Aeneas flees burning Troy”
By Federico Barocci (1535-1612) (1598).
“Aeneas meets Dido”
By Rutilio di Lorenzo Manetti (1571-1639) (c. 1630).

I grasp

for you

“Verse XIV”

 
In this hour I feel you like never before
*
As you lay there imprisoned in a state of isolation, I lay here restless in the straight jacket of my making.
*
I see the naïveté of a youth transcend to the reason of an adulthood. Along has come a first dose of morbid fear: a realisation that this is life and no, no it’s not going to unfurl and happen but that it is, it is unraveling and happening.
*
In this hour I need you like never before.

Click here to see Bidoonism's pictorial profile of Lucian (
Click to see Bidoonism’s pictorial profile of Lucian “the lothario” Freud.

“Come On Gaius”

 
I love beginnings
Love! “So strong!” It is though
Oh how much I know this
Venus to Uranus
Exploded with a kiss
&
I hate though endings
Hate! “Too strong!” Not at all
All conspires against us
The mean and religious
Everything does curse us.
 

 


NOTES
 
[1]   Uranus _ 27 known moons _ 7th planet from the Sun; named after the Greek god of the sky _ I’ll believe in Pluto ’til I die _ Twenni-seven, huh! Twen Tee Sev En, HUH!

 
Excuse me while I kiss the sky,
you got to get it while you can.
Love cannot save us from fate,
go back to her, I’ll go to black.
 

Oh Brightest Star

you’re far paler than my moon


لا أخلو منك أبدًا
ولا للحظة / ولا لبرهة
ولا لثانيةٍ واحدة

A literary analysis of John Keats’ poem: “Bright Star” (1819) of which there are known to have been several versions.

“Bright star”


Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art—
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,

The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—

No—yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,

Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.


— John Keats (1819)

Literary Analysis

1. The poet

John Keats (1795–1821) was an English Romantic poet who died at twenty five and is today one of the most analysed contributors to English literature. The poetry of Keats is heavily loaded with sensualities and thus is in line with other Romantic poets who wittingly or otherwise wrote to accentuate emotion by way of emphasising (and poetically amplifying) the imagery of nature. I could dig a little deeper here, actually I kind of did, but I did not really want to over-focus on the poem’s context because somehow it makes the analysing of the poem more humdrum in that we would basically know its motivation (its muse and/or, for other poems, the implied and intended meanings — subtext, I feel, all too often is revealed by context). [1]  Maybe I’m being foolish, should analysis be but a guessing game? Should we concoct everything from the strings of punctuated words alone? Is it about us or them or the text? Yeah it’s a bit of all three but which should we emphasise? It comes down, I guess, to why we bother to pursue the task of textual analytics in the first place: is it for pleasure or is it for purpose?

2. The poem

Well, let us begin by going to the heart of the matter: the poem’s narrator — almost certainly Keats him very self — is saying: (i) I want to be with the one I love day and night forevermore else (ii), I want to die here and now. Put differently, a life spent without being intimately entwined with the object of one’s lust and obsession is not one worth living . . .

Paolo_Veronese_-_Unfaithfulness_-_Google_Art_Project
Faith No More
“Unfaithfulness”
by Paolo Veronese (1575)
Paolo_Veronese_-_Unfaithfulness
London Calling
Paolo Veronese (1528–1588)
Room 9 ‘Venice 1530–1600,’ National Gallery, London, United Kingdom

. . . In the first recorded draft of “Bright Star,” dated to early 1819, we read loves unto death; whereas, in a later version, death is an alternative to (ephemeral) love. This poem is a classic ‘English’ — or ‘Shakespearean’ — sonnet: three stanzas of four lines apiece then the two-line rhyming couplet at the end. It is punctuated as a single sentence and uses the expected rhyme — A-B-A-B-C-D-C-D-E-F-E-F-G-G — with a customary volta:

No—yet still stedfast, ...

occurring after the octave. Arguably there is something of a second volta marked by the caesura and the dash, when this turn of emotion is expressed:

—or else swoon to death.

As a dictionary will tell you, as it told me, an ‘eremite,’ or hermit, is someone who lives in seclusion from society, usually for religious reasons (to ponder the seminal question of why and/or in penance for an actual or imagined thought or act). This guides us to the notion of a solitary unblinking star, to a connotation of ever-present light and (reassuring) oversight.

2.1 Synopsis

Addressed to a star — this “patient, sleepless Eremite” — the poem tells of the narrator’s desire to be as constant as a star with regard to being beside their loved one. The first eight lines are not about love or even human life; Keats looks at a personified star. By the sestet we find the narrator upon their lover’s chest and read that that’s where they desire to spend every moment from that exact one, to eternity. Life is finite, youth and the intensity of initial love are fleeting. If one knows one’s end is fast approaching, why on earth, why in the world, would they not seek to be a star and lodge forever more, pillow’d upon their loved one?

2.2 Imagery & symbolism

The Star
The use of the star as an image within the poem will most likely have been to emphasise steadfastness; a dutiful and resolutely firm unwavering presence (as is my love for you). Could this star be Venus? But as a planet, it ain’t so steadfast. [2]  Could it be The North Star? Yet astronomers say this one ain’t the brightest of the bunch. Could it be the Andromeda Nebula (NGC 224) seen as a collective one?

In Greek mythology, Andromeda is the daughter of King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia of Aethiopia (the latter we are obliged to assume is some variant of a self-obsessed and overly vain step-mother). Andromeda is the Latinised form of Ancient Greek Ἀνδρομέδα (Androméda) meaning: “ruler of men.” When Cassiopeia boasts that she is more beautiful than the Nereids (the 50 daughters of Nereus and Doris — spirit nymphs of the ocean), Poseidon (god of the sea, earthquakes, storms, and horses; considered one of the most bad-tempered, moody and greedy of the Olympian gods) sends the sea monster Cetus to ravage the coast of Ethiopia as divine punishment. As a consequence, Andromeda is chained to a rock as a sacrifice to sate the monster, but is saved from death by Perseus (son of Zeus and, before the days of Heracles, one of the greatest Greek hero monster slayers; he beheaded the Gorgon Medusa for Polydectes and saved Andromeda from Cetus) . . . with a happy ever after ending for he escorts her on his magic carpet over Arabia to Greece to reign as his queen.
 
As a subject, Andromeda has been popular in art since classical times. In the Renaissance era, a popular source was Ovid’s “Metamorphoses.”

Andromeda & Perseus
From left to right: “Perseus (upper right) and Andromeda (left)” by Joachim Wtewael (1566–1638) (c. 1611); “Andromeda” by Gustave Doré (1832–1883) (1869) and, “Andromeda chained to the Rock by the Nereids” by Théodore Chassériau (1819–1856) (1840), hanging @ The Louvre Museum, Paris.

But, as Keats was an Englishman and stargazers there do like to go on about the ‘North star,’ let’s suppose that it was this one (the brightest star in the constellation of Ursa Minor/Little teddy Bear; .a.k.a., ‘Pole Star’ / ‘Polaris’) — which historically it was assumed that the heavens rotated around — that the narrator is eulogising as “Bright Star.” Never mind though the exact one. Regardless of the star in question, it is said that stars, in poetic prose, personify a quiet and universal fixedness, the limitations of which are implied even as the star itself is praised. Shakespeare used such imagery in his play Julius Caesar when Caesar likens himself to the ‘Pole Star’ (yes, that’s the ‘North Star’). Shakespeare also celebrates love by way of the star as a symbol in Sonnet, № CXVI, see this excerpt:


… Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove:

O no; it is an ever-fixed mark, 

That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wandering bark,

Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.


William Shakespeare (№ CXVI)

Although stars may have ‘lone splendour’ (the likening of one to an ‘Eremite’ emphasises the sense of removal from the tangible world of humanity and, dare I say, aloofness), its cons are spelled out too: solitary & sans sensitive (in tandem with its steadfastness & splendidness). “Bright Star,” like other romantic poems, amplifies natural phenomena but Keats masterfully compares and contrasts.

You see, some natural phenomena is seemingly unchangeable — the seven stages of a star’s life-cycle, the rise and fall of black holes, plate tectonics too are not of a human scale nor almost, is a glacier’s creep — and is thus in stark contrast to the restlessness of humankind’s romantic passion. However, certain forms of love (Mania: obsessive love, from the Greek term ‘μανία,’ meaning “mental disorder,” from which the term “manic” is derived) can seemingly be construed by the afflicted individual as immutable. As one critic wrote of Keats’ usage of the star imagery in this poem, “The human heart can never be tranquil like the star, for human emotions know the conflict of joy and pain.” [3]

The Sea
Such an evocative body: the oceans, the seven seas, the ebb and flow on the tidal Thames with images of Londinium and tales of the Congo/Kongo; The Bay of Biscay and the Spanish Armada; clipper ships on voyages to Arabia and the Orient for spice; discovery ships seeking out new passages amongst ice-sheets and icebergs; HMS Bounty botany & mutiny, Tahiti, the Cherokee-class HMS Beagle w/ Galapagos finches on the mind.

The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,

Sewn in sailcloth, a plank at rear, one in front, a half-mast the backdrop for the call: “All hands bury the dead.” Was this the case for Usāmah bin Muḥammad bin ʿAwaḍ bin Lādin? It’s known there’s controversy about the veracity of this occurring out in the Indian Ocean on May 3rd, 2011… kept cryogenically, the more likely fate. After star-gazing and alongside the watching of an open fire, the setting and rising sun most surly be humankind’s infatuation with gazing at the sea and listening, if not for siren calls, then to the calls of (colloquially called) seagulls.

The Pasture
Its grazing not gracing so what springs to mind if not new born lambs encountering an unseasonably late snowfall — after all, it’s not deep and entrenched, it is new, soft and just a mask-like coating or veneer . . .

Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—

. . . — shepherds and their hooked crooks: we can rise with Marlowe (Red sky at night / Shepard’s delight) we can fall with Raleigh (Red sky in the morning / Shepard’s warning). Take either or both; mountains and moors are a world away from nascent industrialised urban squalor. Pure Love is a world away from perfunctory love. Stars are enduring, seasons (in Europe) are short-lived.

— § —


NOTES

[1]   Keats knew, it is assumed, that he was dying from tuberculosis — think Edgar Allan Poe and his poem: “Annabel Lee” {T.B. got George Orwell too, an artery burst in his left lung, killing him @ 46 yet he got hitched, in a hospital bed, the year before to one: Sonia Brownell; in attendance. amongst others, were Lucian Freud, Evelyn Waugh.} — and “Bright Star” is in no small part about this awareness. This delivers unto us con-text. When one first dwells on the sonnet’s closing sestet, we may question the utility of living forever if the one we love isn’t immortal too (i.e., Fanny Brawne, the real-world actual person who is almost certainly this poem’s mortal muse, isn’t being characterised as an undying goddess) yet, for Keats, a man in his early twenties well aware that he’d not likely see his 27th birthday —


Excuse me while I kiss the sky,
you got to get it while you can.
Love cannot save us from fate,
go back to her, I’ll go to black.

— living a normal lifespan (to be spent beside his ‘fair love’) would be tantamount to living forever.

I’d like to make note of the following words, words typed by Rumaan Alam in his review of a 2019 book on Lucian Freud entitled: The Lives of Lucian Freud: The Restless Years, 1922-1968


When I visit museums, I rarely listen to the guided tours and often try to look at the work before I read any explanatory wall text. I want to make up my own mind, or at least let my eye have first crack at things.

“Girl with a White Dog”
by Lucian Freud (1922–2011) (1950–1) — Oil paint on canvas, 76.2 cm by 101.6 cm @ The TATE, London. As Laura Freeman wrote in The Sunday Times, “No coiffure, no powdered shoulders, no airbrushed thighs. With Lucian Freud, paint becomes flesh. Skin puckers under armpits. Veins spread bluely across breasts in unheated studios. Skin is waxy-sallow in London winter light. He leaves out nothing. Not even a mole.”
“The painter must give a completely free rein to any feeling or sensations he may have and reject nothing to which he is naturally drawn.” -- Lucian Freud (1922–2011)
Lucian Freud
“The painter must give a completely free rein to any feeling or sensations he may have and reject nothing to which he is naturally drawn.”
— Lucian Freud (1922–2011)
“An artist should appear in his work no more than God in nature. The man is nothing; the work is everything.” -- Lucian Freud (1922–2011)
Lucian Freud: a self-portrait on aging.
Lucian Freud (1922–2011) once said, “An artist should appear in their work no more than god in nature. The human is nothing; the work is everything.”
just dust
“Sometimes, I feel the past and the future pressing so hard on either side that there’s no room for the present at all.”
― Evelyn Waugh

— § —

[2]   Venus can often be seen within a few hours after sunset or before sunrise as the brightest object in the sky (other than the moon) from both the East End of London and Rome’s Vatican City (née Papal States).

— § —

[3]   It is best not to be too literal. A star’s heart is the diametric opposite of ‘tranquil’ for it is an atomic bath of nuclear fission and fusion converting atoms of hydrogen into helium and generating tremendous amount of fire|🔥|نار [feisty, fervid & all-consuming]. Yet, my moon, you to me can be a sensuous soporific “Sea of Tranquility” (“Mare Tranquillitātis” / 8.5°N 31.4°E).

“The Grave of Love”

— a poem considered
— poetry critiqued

A literary analysis of Thomas Love Peacock’s poem: “The Grave of Love” and, an introduction to Peacock’s essay “The Four Ages of Poetry” (1820), P. B. Shelley’s response to it, “A Defence of Poetry” (1821) and the precursor to both, Philip Sidney’s “Apology for Poetry” (1595).

“The Grave of Love”


I DUG, beneath the cypress shade,
What well might seem an elfin’s grave;
And every pledge in earth I laid,
That erst thy false affection gave.

I press’d them down the sod beneath;
I placed one mossy stone above;
And twined the rose’s fading wreath
Around the sepulchre of love.

Frail as thy love, the flowers were dead
Ere yet the evening sun was set:
But years shall see the cypress spread,
Immutable as my regret.


— Thomas Love Peacock (c. 1807)

Literary Analysis

1. The poet

Thomas Love Peacock (1785–1866) was an English poet, novelist and official of the East India Company. Peacock left school at thirteen but, by way of assiduous reading, made himself an accomplished classical scholar and a master of both French and Italian literature. He was not an author by vocation, but his executive position at East India House, allowed him the time to pursue an avocation as writer of essays etc. (it is worth noting that the East India Company is indelibly linked to the U.K.’s former colonial domineering of India). Peacock was too, a good friend of the noted Romantic poet P. B. Shelley and it is clear that both were influenced by the work of the other. Peacock tended to satirise the intellectual tendencies of his time in his works of fiction in which, “conversation predominates over character or plot.” It is widely said that his best poetic verse is found within his novels. Peacock’s finest literary achievements are his inimitable satiric novels — Headlong Hall (1816), Melincourt (1817) (based on the “idea of an orang-outang mimicking humanity!) and Crotchet Castle (1831) — in which his procedure is to collect a group of argumentative eccentrics in a country house and set them to talking. His protagonists represent extreme or bigoted or visionary points of view on all sides of the important topics of the time. In one of his best-known works, Nightmare Abbey (1818), he constructs (satirises) characters drawn from the eminent poets of the time, including Shelley as “Scythrop Glowry,” Samuel Taylor Coleridge as “Mr Ferdinando Flosky” and, Lord Byron in the guise of “Mr Cypress” — the latter, a misanthropic poet destined for exile.

Some English Romantics:
01. — S. T. Coleridge
02. — John Keats
03. — P. B. Shelley
04. — Lord Byron

The novel Gryll Grange (1860) was once described as being the last and “mellowest fruit from Peacock’s tree.” It considered a key concern of the (mid-Victorian) era: the championing of civilization, harmony, and completeness against both technology and religious asceticism (‘prudishness’). The main plot of the book concerns Mr Falconer who is an idealist, ascetic, and classicist. Falconer lives in a tower attended by seven virgins, but is persuaded to join a convivial house party at Gryll Grange, where he woos and wins its presiding genius, Morgana Gryll.

— Why ‘seven’? Please do tell me.

Peacock’s, “The Four Ages of Poetry” (1820) is a satirical perspective on the history of poetry and its societal role (see below). He adapts the Greek and Roman view of literary evolution as a slow demise from the early golden age into his own trajectory, that has two rises and falls — the first age being the age of iron; the second, of gold; the third, of silver; and the fourth, of brass (cf. [1] Shelley’s, “A Defense of Poetry” (1821) and [2] Philip Sidney’s “An Apology for Poetry” (1595) — both discussed below).

2. The poem

What is, when all’s said and done, this thing called love? Well my woman ((Oh! My man))… analysis by analysis, a step or a few forward, one or two back, we will learn what it encapsulates, what it can be defined as and, how it unfolds and immutably entraps those that fall for Venus’s nectar — like a black hole, there’s various entry points but no known exit/s. To be clear, “The Grave of Love” was in fact an untitled poem. It was found amongst Peacock’s belongings after his death. According to Edith Nicholls (Peacock’s grand-daughter) it was probably written in or around 1807. Unlike what I’d first guessed — the burial of an infant child — Edith speculated that the poem was to a young woman, one Fanny Falkner, whom he had loved. Edith wrote that, “They were engaged when she was eighteen, and he was twenty-two. For a few months they were entirely happy in mutual affection and sympathy. … The engagement was broken off in an unjustifiable manner by the underhand interference of a third person, and the young lady, supposing herself deserted, married another man.” I have titled it as I have because the venerable Arthur Quiller-Couch included it in The Oxford Book of English Verse (1919) as “The Grave of Love.”

“The Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250–1900”
— An anthology of English poetry, edited by Arthur Quiller-Couch, that had a very substantial influence on popular taste and perception of poetry for at least a generation. It was published by Oxford University Press in 1900. Interestingly, it was carried widely around the British Empire and was seen as a near essential ‘knapsack book.’ Quiller-Couch dedicated it to Trinity College, Oxford calling it, “a house of learning; ancient, liberal, humane, and [his] most kindly nurse.” In the preface, penned in 1900, he wrote, inter alia, “To be sure, [one] must come to such a task as [the compiling of this anthology] haunted by their youth and the favourites they loved in days when they had much enthusiasm but little reading.”


A deeper import
Lurks in the legend told my infant years
Than lies upon that truth we live to learn.


— Arthur Quiller-Couch (1900)

2.1 Synopsis

“The Grave of Love” is not a poem that’s often subject to analysis; the most precursory of searches will attest to this. Yet, it speaks of love (lost) and thus it speaks to me. It follows then that I read this and reread it many a time. I happened across it initially in, I think, a Norton anthology. In sum, the poem seems to be about a person — the narrator — laying someone to rest, but doing so metaphorically speaking and actually too. So, not burring the actual person or merely a thought of a person but the making of a shrine of sorts to symbolically lay that person to rest. The elfin bit made me think of an infant but this just did not and does not fit with the false affection and the immutable regret.

2.2 Vocabulary

Yep, yep we all have dictionaries but, I do think that having the following word meaning reminders readily @ hand will aid both understanding and appreciation.

Cypress tree
— (Or branches of it) Symbolic of mourning.

Elfin
— A person or their face) small and delicate, typically with a mischievous charm.

Ere
— [archaic] preposition: before (in time).

Erst
— A long time ago; formerly.

Immutable
— Unchanging over time or unable to be changed.

Regret
— We should note, I’m reliably informed, that the word “regret” had a much stronger meaning in 1807 than it does today.

Sepulture
— A small room or monument, cut in rock or built of stone, in which a dead person is laid or buried.

Thy
— [Archaic] A form of the word “your.”

2.3 Literary & Poetic Devices

The poem consists of three stanzas of four lines apiece. There’s rhyme aplenty:

shade / laid
above / love
set / regret

Allusion
— The making of an indirect reference of a person, place, &c. For instance in this poem “elfin” implies the object of the poem was not just small in frame but cheeky somehow too.

2.4 Analysis

Was DUG all caps for emphasis, or should it not have been? Have I merely reinforced a typo of a kind or was this the poet’s want? Anyway, there’s bitterness,

erst thy false affection gave

there’s remorse,

rose’s fading wreath /
the flowers were dead

and there’s regret:

Immutable as my regret.

Misunderstandings and seemingly run-of-the-mill errors of judgment can have monumental consequences, don’t I know it. Oh don’t I bloody fucking know it. You feel for the narrator, there digging the grave, he (let us assume it is a ‘he’) does this metaphorically so to speak (and yes, the poem itself is a metaphor too) but it is palpable: the earth, the sod and the mossy stone, all hark of the Emerald isle — the island of Great Britain — so too is the quintessential twined wreath of roses — red / English country garden etc. etc. — but then, amongst all of this, is the Cypress tree . . .

Etymology: Cypress tree
— The word cypress is derived from the Old French ‘cipres,’ which was imported from Latin ‘cypressus,’ which is the latinisation of the Greek κυπάρισσος (kyparissos). And then we have the knowledge of the Romantic era’s love of all things Greek by way of good Italian architecture, art and writing. In Greek mythology, Cyparissus (kyparissos) was a boy beloved by a deity (probably Apollo). In one well known version of this myth, the favorite companion of Cyparissus was a tamed dear, which he then accidentally killed with his hunting javelin as it lay dozing serenely in a wood. The boy’s grief was such that it transformed him into a cypress tree. Hence that tree became the classic symbol of/for mourning ((we know about Fig leave and Olive branches don’t we ;P)).
 
The myth is thus aetiological: it explain, or it tells us the reason for why this tree is of this particular significance culturally speaking.

Apollo, Hyacinthus and Cyparissus making music
“Apollo, Hyacinthus and Cyparissus making music”
— by Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov (1834)
Apollo, Hyacinthus and Cyparissus making music
“Cyparissus”
— by Jacopo Vignali (c. 1625)

. . . the sigh press tree. Well, this lifts the tragedy of laying a loved one (or a terminated love affair) to rest to a higher plane. Timeless poetry can put one’s emotional ephemerality into some degree of perspective and for poetry’s roots, where do we go if not to The Iliad and The Odyssey; the foundational texts of Western literature. Where do we seek solace if not to poems and poetry, to long-read (or long form) articles and tomes that deal with the nature of the human condition. I mean, the sun had set and the flowers were dead.

Frail as thy love

Who’s love exactly?. . . Was it — this love 💔 — frail because it was false (‘fake’)? Frail because it was fickle (‘fleeting’)? Or frail because the giver of this love became feverish and then passed away?

Knowing the context (the notes of Edith Nicholls etc.) is — I feel more and more — an impediment not an aid to usefully analysing poetry.

— § —

The Four Ages of Poetry &c.

“The Four Ages of Poetry,” an essay of 1820 by Thomas Love Peacock, was both a significant study of poetry in its own right, and the stimulus for the 1821 essay: “A Defence of Poetry” by P. B. Shelley. Both are, in a way, nuances of the arguments made by Philip Sidney’s 1595 An Apology for Poetry (in which Sidney responds to some points made by a puritanical contemporary of his).

In essence, “Four Ages” (see the full essay, with commentary, here) is a utilitarian attack on the Romantic poets of Peacock era; characters indeed that he was closely and amicably associated with. Note well that Peacock was first and foremost a satirist and thus tongue n cheek was the order of the day — in other essays Peacock would write in defence of such poets! In a nutshell, Peacock offered a mocking account of how poets originally developed a claim to be historians and/or moral and ethical guides. He argued that: practice is mainly rooted in expression, so it should not be held as fact. In a counterpoint essay — “A Defense of Poetry” — Shelley places the poet on a pedestal see the full essay, with commentary, here). Arguably Shelly’s case for the poet is built upon the essay Philip Sidney wrote — “An Apology for Poetry” — back in 1595 that defended poets and poetry from prudish puritans see the full essay, with commentary, here). The shoulders of giants. . . ; decline and fall. . . & moment’s monuments. . .

First published in the journal Literary Miscellany in 1820, Four Ages was Peacock’s satirical perspective on the history and societal role of poetry. He describes the golden age as the age of Homer, the silver age as “the poetry of civilized life,” with two kinds of poetry, “imitative and original.” Peacock holds Virgil as an example of a strong imitator, and casts the original poetry of the silver age as the emergence of comic and satirical forms, and notes of the age the “labored polish of versification” as a new obstacle to poetry’s previously unencumbered music of sound and sense. The [Romantic], brass era is marked, according to Peacock, by poems of “verbose and minutely-detailed description of thoughts, passions, actions, persons, and things.” Peacock concludes that industrialised civilization has outgrown the need for poetry, and that as societies become more complex the intellectual role that poets had held is more effectively taken on by philosophers and statesmen. In the brass age, Peacock argues, the poet is “a semi-barbarian in a civilized community.”

Objection your Honour!

Shelley retorted to Peacock by saying that, “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” Shelley’s essay — “The Defence of Poetry” — contains many allusions to Peacock’s Four Ages, e.g., “If I know the knight by the device of his shield, I have only to inscribe Cassandra, Antigone, or Alcestis on mine to blunt the point of his spear;” taking one instance of a favourite character from each of the the three great Greek tragedians. Shelley begins with reason and imagination, defining reason as logical thought and imagination as perception, adding, “reason respects the differences, and imagination the similitudes of things.” From reason and imagination, humankind may recognise beauty, and it is through beauty that civilization comes.

Language, Shelley contends, shows humanity’s impulse toward order and harmony, which leads to an appreciation of unity and beauty. Those in “excess” of language are the poets, whose task it is to impart the pleasures of their experience and observations into poems. Shelley argues, that civilization advances and thrives with the help of poetry. This assumption then, through Shelley’s own understanding, marks the poet as a prophet, not a man dispensing forecasts but a person who “participates in the eternal, the infinite, and the one.” He goes on to place poetry in the column of divine and organic process: “A poem is the very image of life expressed in its eternal truth … the creation of actions according to the unchangeable forms of human nature, as existing in the mind of the Creator.” The task of poets then is to interpret and present the poem; Shelley’s metaphor here explicates: “Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted.”

Today, Defence of Poetry is considered by far the most important of Shelley’s prose writings. In it, Shelley claims that poets have the capacity to be philosophers; that they are the creators and protectors of moral and civil laws; and that if it were not for poets, scientists could not have developed either their theories or their inventions.” Shelley opens his essay by discussing the two faculties of the human mind: reason and imagination. He highlights the difference between them and says:“Reason is the enumeration of qualities already known; imagination is the perception of the value of those qualities, both separately and as a whole. Reason respects the differences,and imagination the similitudes of things. The reason is to imagination as the instrument to the agent, as the body to the spirit, as the shadow to the substance.”

From the Romantic era, let’s rewind to the Elizabethan era. Philip Sidney in his 1595 “Apology for Poetry” reacts against the attacks made on poetry by the puritan and anti-theatrical writer, Stephen Gosson. To, Sidney, poetry is an art of imitation for specific purpose, it is imitated to teach and delight. According to Sidney, poetry is simply a superior means of communication and its value depends on what is communicated. The claims Gossen made (and were then countered by Sidney) are as follow:

  1. Poetry is the waste of time;
  2. Poetry is mother of lies;
  3. It is nurse of abuse;
  4. Plato was right to have banished poets from his ideal world.

For Sidney, (1) poetry is the source of knowledge and a civilizing force, for Sidney. Gossen attacks on poetry saying that it corrupts the people and it is the waste of time, but Sidney says that no learning is so good as that which teaches and moves to virtue and that nothing can both teach and amuse so much as poetry does. He contends that ancient Greek society respected poets quite considerably. The poets are always to be looked up. So, poetry is not a waste of one’s time. Sidney claims (2) that poet does not lie because he never affirms that his fiction is true and can never lie. The poetic truths are ideal and universal. Therefore, poetry cannot be false per se (or as others have put it, “the mother of all lies”). Sidney rejects too the notion that poetry is “the source of abuses.” To him (3), it is people who abuse poetry, not vice-versa. Abuses are more nursed by philosophy and history than by poetry, by describing battles, bloodshed, violence etc. On the contrary, poetry, the argument goes, helps to maintain morality and peace by avoiding such violence and bloodshed. Moreover it brings light to knowledge. Sidney (4) contends that Plato in his Republic wanted to banish the abuse of poetry not the poets. He himself was not free from poeticality, which we can find in his dialogues. Plato never says that all poets should be banished. He called for banishing only those poets who are inferior and unable to instruct the children.

As Sidney sees it, art is the imitation of nature but it is not slavish imitation as Plato views. Rather it is creative imitation. Nature is dull, incomplete and ugly. It is artists who turn dull nature in to golden color. He employs his creative faculty, imagination and style of presentation to decorate the raw materials of nature. For Sidney, art is a speaking picture having spatiotemporal dimension (belonging to both space and time or to space–time). For Aristotle human action is more important but for Sidney nature is important. Nature vs. Nurture. . . Oh how I want it to be the latter (we can hope society, family and parenting can improve) but all indications are that it’s nature, our dee en ay & our genes, that overrides and supersedes and is writ large 😦


REFERENCES

📙  An Apology for Poetry (1595)
📙  Melincourt (1817)
📙  The Four Ages of Poetry (1820)
📙  A Defence of Poetry (1821)
📙  Crouchet Castle (1831)
📙  Headlong Hall and Nightmare Abbey (1850)
📙  Gryll Grange (1861)
📙  The Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250–1900 (1919)

Brett-Smith, H. (Ed.) (1923). Peacock’s Four Ages of Poetry, Shelley’s Defence of Poetry, Browning’s Essay on Shelley (2nd ed.). Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Eliot, C. W. (Ed.) (1909). Percy Bysshe Shelley – A Defence of Poetry. English essays, from Sir Philip Sidney to Macaulay. The Harvard classics, Volume 27. New York: P. F. Collier & Son.

Eliot, C. W. (Ed.) (1909). Sir Philip Sidney – The Defense of Poesy. English essays, from Sir Philip Sidney to Macaulay. The Harvard classics, Volume 27. New York: P. F. Collier & Son.

Peacock, T. L. (1817). Melincourt. London: T. Hookham.

Peacock, T. L. (1831). Crotchet Castle. London: T. Hookham.

Peacock, T. L. (1850). ‘Headlong Hall’ and ‘Nightmare Abbey’. New York: George P. Putnam.

Peacock, T. L. (1861). Gryll Grange. London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd.

Quiller-Couch, A. T. (1919). The Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250–1900. Oxford: Clarendon.

“Annabel Lee”

I love with a kind of love 💓
that’s far more than love /

This post carries a literary analysis of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem: “Annabel Lee” (c. 1849). It is a powerful testament to love and particularly poignant in that it was the last poem Poe penned prior to passing.

“Annabel Lee”


It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea:
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Laughed loud at her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went laughing at her and me—
Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we—
Of many far wiser than we—
And neither the laughter in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee:

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.


— Edgar Allan Poe (c. 1849)

Literary Analysis

1. The poet

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) as you (may) know was an American writer and poet. He’s widely regarded as a key figure in the American Romanticism movement and was one of the pioneers of the all-American short story (i.e., a novella — see e.g., Joseph Conrad’s “The Secret Sharer” for an English equivalent).

Some English Romantics:
01. — S. T. Coleridge
02. — John Keats
03. — P. B. Shelley
04. — Lord Byron

Poe wrote “Annabel Lee” on the eve of his demise. It wasn’t published until he was dead and buried (I don’t think cremation was a done thing back then unless of course you were on the banks of the Ganges at e.g., a ghat at Benares). Poe died at 40 and was either dying of rabies or dying or rum when discovered in a state of delirium on a New York street. In a nod to Nietzsche or a coincidence a continent apart Poe once upon a time mused: “Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.”

In-depth profile:
Edgar Allan Poe

2. The poem

I am increasingly thinking I’m presenting all this topsy-turvy (tipsy as I am from the dashing dealt by crashing white horses, that are themselves corralled by Atlantic swell). I should present an analysis of the poem before the poet. I mean I’m a full on liberal-minded person, I’d advocate legalising it all and (I here mean to say) I am against capital punishment in all circumstances (thus I do believe human life, once born, is sacrosanct) yet (and this is the point I’m trying to ground compassionately) I feel it’s the poem we should cherish/castigate; love/loath; be moved by or be indifferent to and not the poet. Poets, like plumbers and plum pie producers, live and die. Poems, unlike plumbing or pies of plum do not necessarily have short shelf lives (some span centuries [e.g., Marlowe, Raleigh, Shakespeare and my starry-eyed Edmund Spenser — o how my eyes are blighted for not seeing you], some last millennia [e.g., Catullus, Homer, Horace, Ovid, and my electric Sappho]). It is then, a submission to you here that the poem should be of greater concern than the poet. Am I wrong? … Never mind (for now).

2.1 Synopsis

The story of “Annabel Lee” is about L O V E — there’s no ambiguity about that. But, was this a swan song? A eulogy to his imagined maker? (A declaration of loyalty to the good lord o high on up above.) Or, was it about the death of a loved one; a loved one who, due to reactionary elders, was separated from their lover? (Oh how my mind runs wild, oh how everything inevitably comes down to you and me!) You see, unfortunately, it has all been written on stone. There is precious little scope to read into it what we desire, need and want to because, received wisdom tells us “Annabel Lee” is a story of fresh/young/honeymoon-period love, that’s been cut short. The consensus view too is that the narrator is indeed Poe himself. (Circumstance/context informs us that Poe lost his wife, Virginia Eliza Clemm, in the year prior to producing this poem. Her death profoundly altered his state of mind — I’ve often wondered what’s worse losing a loved one to breakup or to death, yes the latter’s final {could anything be worse?} but, the former’s a perennial jailer’s chain around one’s soul that gives delusional hope of a reconciliation and a reuniting. This chain and the mirages it creates live on and live on and live on. Chained as thus, one comes to utterly obsess and be defined by this vain hope. It shapes one, it defines and it ‘distorts’ one.)

Virginia Eliza Clemm. -- Virginia married Poe when she was 13 and he 27, they were first cousins.
Virginia Eliza Clemm
— Virginia married Poe when she was 13 and he 27, they were first cousins. Poe painted this portrait in the hours after her parting.

Literary critics are pretty much unanimous in stating that Virginia’s drawn out demise and eventual death had a substantial effect on Edgar Allan Poe, who “became despondent and turned to alcohol to cope. Her struggles with illness and death are believed to have affected his poetry and prose, where dying young women appear as a motif, for instance in “Ligeia” and “The Raven” too. I ask you, I ask you here and now, is all true love doomed to fail? does pure love, unconditional love ever run smoothly? Think of the story of Venus and Mars — a tale of lustful love, that’s then forbidden (in a humiliating way). Once upon a time Venus (a.k.a., ‘Aphrodite’ and/or, in Greece, ‘Venus de Milo’) is wedded to Vulcan, Roman God of Fire, but she finds him too boring (prosaic & formulaic). She then has a passionate affair with Mars (Ares in Greece). But Vulcan suspects what is going on and he crafts a fine metallic mesh (sometimes described as being invisible) and entraps Venus and Mars on a sofa in order to expose them to ridicule. They — stuck on this sofa — are then humiliated in front of the other gods on mount Olympus.

Forbidden_Love
A magical kiss then, a love forbidden
Venus_and_Mars_National_Gallery
Venus and Mars
by Sandro Botticelli (circa 1484)
Piero_di_Cosimo_-_Venus,_Mars,_and_Cupid
Venus, Mars & Cupid
by Piero di Cosimo (c. 1490)

Guilty as charged
I know full well my insertion of forbidden kisses and treacherous trysts is off-topic (i.e., subject matter not in sync with the “Annabel Lee’s” theme). But in my defence I claim insanity as manifested in limerence; OLD disorder, if you do so prefer it called.
“I rest my case”
Quod Erat Demonstrandum, QED

In sum, many moons ago the poem’s narrator lived happily with Annabel Lee with whom he was madly in love with. Yet it is alleged that god’s angels got jealous of this pure love and orchestrated her downfall (“sending cold winds”). The narrator is utterly devastated but, his love for her continues (intensifies even?). He states that their two souls are one and will always be so (even when separated temporarily by death). He carries her everywhere, day and night (he sleeps beside the seaside at her tomb). The poem makes clear: that true love resides in souls and therefore is immortal (so to speak). Love and death are the duel themes of “Annabel Lee” (the infiniteness of love; the unfairness of death at a young age). For Poe (et al.) love is the greatest force present in the universe and nothing can destroy it; not the winged seraphs nor even, death. Although his beloved leaves the mortal world, he feels her presence 24/7.

2.2 Literary & Poetic Devices

This poem has six stanzas of variable length and structure. The poem’s rhyme scheme is said to be ABABCB throughout (something that i myself am still trying to learn to read).

Conrad Geller describes “Annabel Lee” as a festival of auditory effects, with a delightful mixture of anapests and iambs, internal rhymes, repetitions [and] assonances.” Indeed. Literary devices are techniques that writers use to convey their ideas and feelings (poetic devices serve the same aim but are specific to poetry and thus distinct from prose). Literary devices are employed to articulate one’s point and purpose by way of wordplay.

Alliteration
— The repetition of consonant sounds in the same line e.g., /w/, /th/ and /l/ sounds in the line: “But we loved with a love that was more than love.”

Allusion
— The making of an indirect reference of a person, place, &c. For instance in this poem “seraphs in heaven” imply that biblical angels can act quite demonically.

Assonance
— The repetition of vowel sounds in the same line e.g., /a/ and /i/ in: “It was many and many a year ago,” and: “This maiden she lived with no other thought.”

Enjambment
— The continuation of a sentence without the pause beyond the end of a line or couplet. These have been used to great effect in “Annabel Lee” An example of this form: “And this maiden she lived with no other thought; Than to love and be loved by me.”

Imagery
— Used to enable readers to use their various senses e.g., we are moved to imagine cold marble forms and port to promenades in the dead of night accompanied only by memories and the sound of the lapping ocean waves.

Internal Rhyme
— The internal rhyme is rhyme within a given line of a poem. Here for example in: “For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams” we have “beams” and “dreams.”

Personification
— Give human characteristics to inanimate objects e.g., the wind becomes human somehow and on it is carried death’s angels: “The wind came out of the cloud by night, / Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.”

Symbolism
— Language (or words) used to signify ideas and qualities distinct from literal meanings. “The sea” is the symbol of evil and darkness, “moon” and “the stars” Annabel Lee’s undying beauty.

Refrain
— The usage of repetition for emphasis and reinforcement etc. Examples here are (1) In a kingdom by the sea and (2) Of the beautiful Annabel Lee. This helps with the rhyme and rhythm (that Geller et al. are so enamored with).

2.3 Analysis

Let us start with the title, the name of the object of the narrator’s ceaseless obsession:

Annabel is a feminine given name of English origin, a combination of the Latin name Anna, which comes from the Hebrew word for grace, and the French word belle, meaning beauty.
— Thus Annabel means: ‘Beauty of Grace.’

Lee is a name that can be a first name or a surname. It means a meadow (in a lee would be where one would erect “Silken Tents” &c.). Gardens are sown in clearings; Eden was a garden.
— Thus Lee (here) implies: an ‘idyllic place.’

The poem begins in a way that is deliberately close to the typical beginning of a fairy tale; an echo of “once upon a time,” and the second line brings to mind the figure of a lone maiden locked up in a faraway kingdom (think Rapunzel and Charles ‘Bluebeard’ Perrault).

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,

Stanza 1
[4] ...Annabel Lee
[6] ...loved by me.
Stanza 2
[3] ...love--
[4] ...Lee;
[6] ...me

We feel the chill of a cold hard marble mausoleum.

Chilling and killing
nighttime tides and offshore breezes
shut up in a sepulchre

… the devil and the deep blue sea

While she’s resting, he is not:

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams

At night we can close our eyes and fantasise, but in the day, we must do our duties despite being most wholly dead on the inside. He’s angry with Mr Maker, ain’t he? Poe, I mean, I mean, the poem’s speaker is riled by the way this Annabel of his was cruelly snatched away; by how the divine beings are behaving (the: the winged seraphs of heaven).

We are left to wonder what/who these ‘highborn kinsman’ are, a ref. (reference) to reactionary societal norms (for me) a def. (deference) to the almighty (for he)? (hu)man(kind) . . .

as all men know

. . . know that Tuberculosis (TB; “consumption”) is an infectious disease caused by bacteria that typically reveals itself by way of a chronic cough fever and night sweats, and weight loss. We know and it seems Poe did too that tea bee was spread from one person to the next through the air:

A wind blew out of a cloud
the wind came out of the cloud by night

But even if we know with science and reason the reason for why — technically and medically speaking — somebody or someone was taken away from us doesn’t mean we shan’t be consumed with the question of why; shan’t become torn with the injustice and unfairness of it all. Depth sounding — love knows no bounds, the limits are fathomless:


Oh how the sounding sea,
Resonates within me.

Olaus Magnus Historia om de nordiska folken
“Resounding”
by a Viking called Utgivningsår (circa. 1555).

On Sexton

“At night, alone, I marry the bed.”


I dig . . .
I find . . .
the rest is but the hull of a husky shell,
i.e., “rind.”

Mine. ^   Etched with an undertone of gritstone, it is mine to the very grind. And now, on to the main course: the tone-deaf chef’s pièce de résistance . . . Born and raised in a patriarchal household, Anne Sexton was, we read, troubled and troubling in more ways than one. If you already know the context then, so be it. But, if you don’t, I’d suggest you read the poems before your get to know the poet. I present below three of Sexton’s poems and then, each of the trio are discussed.

|  9th November, 1928, Massachusetts.
|  4th October, 1974, Massachusetts.



Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard . . .
. . . god owns heaven but He craves the earth.

Sexton’s. ^   Albeit a little snipped here and there; emphasis is my very own. In flowery verse a literary critic did once write, “American poetry is in a boundless debt before Anne Sexton’s dark, gruesome [and] bold spree of inspirational verses.” What I can hereby say — dear elusive & oh so very evasive reader — is let us ava gander @ some together.


REFERENCE

Sexton, A. (1981). Anne Sexton: The Complete Poems. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin.


1. The Kiss


My mouth blooms like a cut.
I’ve been wronged all year, tedious
nights, nothing but rough elbows in them
and delicate boxes of Kleenex calling crybaby
crybaby, you fool!
 
Before today my body was useless.
Now it’s tearing at its square corners.
It’s tearing old Mary’s garments off, knot by knot
and see — Now it’s shot full of these electric bolts.
Zing! A resurrection!
 
Once it was a boat, quite wooden
and with no business, no salt water under it
and in need of some paint. It was no more
than a group of boards. But you hoisted her, rigged her.
She’s been elected.
 
My nerves are turned on. I hear them like
musical instruments. Where there was silence
the drums, the strings are incurably playing. You did this.
Pure genius at work. Darling, the composer has stepped
into fire.


— Anne Sexton (1981 [n.d.])

“You’re dreamin’ darlin'” — s/he said that, s/he actually did. … Dance into the fire / To fatal sounds of broken dreams / Dance into the fire / That fateful kiss is what we had / Dance into the fire  // … I wander lonely streets / Behind where the old Thames does flow / I’ve gotta tell you a tale / Of how we loved and how I failed  // … The Kiss, you want to know of the kiss of kisses? well it is here — carried as it were in a resplendently resolute case made of Lebanese cedar (cedrus libani) and embossed with acanthus leaf marquetry in English oak (quercus robur): “Deeper than deep”. Luscious lips, Voluptuous hips, Gorgeous _ _ _  [🎬 Take two: You are the best, better than all _ _ _ ]:

2. The Breast


This is the key to it.
This is the key to everything.
Preciously.
 
I am worse than the gamekeeper’s children
picking for dust and bread.
Here I am drumming up perfume.
 
Let me go down on your carpet,
your straw mattress — whatever’s at hand
because the child in me is dying, dying.
 
It is not that I am cattle to be eaten.
It is not that I am some sort of street.
But your hands found me like an architect.
 
Jugful of milk! It was yours years ago
when I lived in the valley of my bones,
bones dumb in the swamp. Little playthings.
 
A xylophone maybe with skin
stretched over it awkwardly.
Only later did it become something real.
 
Later I measured my size against movie stars.
I didn’t measure up. Something between
my shoulders was there. But never enough.
 
Sure, there was a meadow,
but no young men singing the truth.
Nothing to tell truth by.
 
Ignorant of men I lay next to my sisters
and rising out of the ashes I cried
my sex will be transfixed!
 
Now I am your mother, your daughter, your brand new thing — a snail, a nest.
I am alive when your fingers are.
 
I wear silk — the cover to uncover —
because silk is what I want you to think of.
But I dislike the cloth. It is too stern.
 
So tell me anything but track me like a climber
for here is the eye, here is the jewel,
here is the excitement the nipple learns.
 
I am unbalanced — but I am not mad with snow.
I am mad the way young girls are mad,
with an offering, an offering…
 
I burn the way money burns.


— Anne Sexton (1981 [n.d.])

Before Poem 3 (below) recall that in Poem 1 (above) the bedside box of tissues were described as ‘delicate,’ well, a good equivalent of that word would be ‘fragile.’ That’s what I sense up there in “The Kiss,” down here, in “The Ballad,” I somehow see a way of escape, a liberation from reliance on all others, yes the evidently close relationship’s ended and that feels like a fate worse than death but, she (the poem’s narrator) now controls her sex one hundred per cent. … When all else fails / Who knows your ‘sensitive/sensual areas’ better than you yourself do:

3. The Ballad of the Lonely M


The end of the affair is always death.
She’s my workshop. Slippery eye,
out of the tribe of myself my breath
finds you gone. I horrify
those who stand by. I am fed.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.
 
Finger to finger, now she’s mine.
She’s not too far. She’s my encounter.
I beat her like a bell. I recline
in the bower where you used to mount her.
You borrowed me on the flowered spread.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.
 
Take for instance this night, my love,
that every single couple puts together
with a joint overturning, beneath, above,
the abundant two on sponge and feather,
kneeling and pushing, head to head.
At night alone, I marry the bed.
 
I break out of my body this way,
an annoying miracle. Could I
put the dream market on display?
I am spread out. I crucify.
My little plum is what you said.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.
 
Then my black-eyed rival came.
The lady of water, rising on the beach,
a piano at her fingertips, shame
on her lips and a flute’s speech.
And I was the knock-kneed broom instead.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.
 
She took you the way a woman takes
a bargain dress off the rack
and I broke the way a stone breaks.
I give back your books and fishing tack.
Today’s paper says that you are wed.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.
 
The boys and girls are one tonight.
They unbutton blouses. They unzip flies.
They take off shoes. They turn off the light.
The glimmering creatures are full of lies.
They are eating each other. They are overfed.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.


— Anne Sexton (1981 [n.d.])

A word or two on Poem 1

Right, so well, here’s what I’m thinking. Regarding “The Kiss,” it is evidently written in free verse (no consistent metre or rhyme patterns and thus seeks to be or is reminiscent of natural speech or the verbalising of thought unedited; the penning of it ~ يعني ~ as it is, not as societal conventions would render it be) yet, its imagery and biblical allusions — I am the resurrection and I am the life / I couldn’t ever bring myself to hate you as I’d like — make this both deeper and more umm, err, might we say: philosophical in craftsmanship [sic.] than just typed out random thought. There is in fact some rather explicit and purposeful structure: each of the four stanzas have five lines of which, the final one is very short.

...crybaby, you fool!
...Zing! A resurrection!
...She’s been elected.
...into fire.

I somehow see this as acting as a summary of the whole piece. Blooming lips, pert pouting buds, lipstick of a gaudy fresh blood red. Her mouth, smile and lust is enlivened once more. (Roses are red, oh I’m so blue.) The first is a cut, where the blood wells up, the second is the bloom of a rose. Elbow grease, the hard thankless task of tediously keeping the house. The Kleenex tissue brand is here for crying but everyone knows the man-sized box is innuendo for another kind of cleaning-cum-rejuvenating activity (see Poem 3). In the second stanza of “The Kiss” we feel the ecstasy and the release from chastity, the stripping off, the electric charge of a positive and a negative. Knots of cloth — can we read anything but Mary and her illicit pregnancy being dressed up as immaculate and divine? A body left on blocks in the dry dock, with a skin made for ocean waves, not an incessant bone dry breeze. I know! I know! come to stanza three and we are all about boats, the rigging, the wood, the hull daubed in, now flaking, Teamac. In a frenzy, you strip in a flash, you get that jolt. In the final stanza, we are given a description of the pleasure of the climax, the passion of the kiss — let us pretend we are here only discussing a (facial) lip kiss. Interestingly, tellingly, she brings in her lover even making them out to be the Master musician: a genius at eliciting arousal and fire. But, by saying they’ve stepped into the fire has foreboding but maybe, I only read this because I know of the context of Ms Sexton. (If you play with me, you play with fire. etc.)

A word or two on Poem 2

With regard to “The Breast,” Sexton is undeniably right. Men obsess and almost every straight girl that has a girl-on-girl fantasy focuses on the, I’ll be clinical for now, mammary glands. There’s a reason, a damn good and obvious one: mother’s milk, suckling and nurturing, the source for so many humans of safety and sustenance for their first six to nine months. Carpet (Delta of Venus?) straw mattress (a frolic in the haystack?). Stanza 2: gamekeeper’s children; Stanza 3: child in me. Others have said this poem speaks of the potent power one has by possessing a pair. In stanza 4 we get to hands (hers or another person’s) cupping, circling, caressing, cradling, concentric rings toward the areola and then the pinnacle: hillocks with attractively pigmented caps and volatile peaks. The power this part of one’s anatomy can and does have is made clear at outset, they are:

the key to everything.

We know what rhymes with silk and today, some say “got milk” when referring to MILFs. It’s wonderful how the narrator in the poem beckons and entices…

tell me anything but track me like a climber
...here is the eye, ...the jewel ...the excitement

… they (the narrator) don’t really care for your honeyed words — in this instance — they just want you to expertly handle and fondle these key attributes of theirs in an expert way, in a way to bring about erotic arousal. It ends rather interesting and cryptically:

I burn the way money burns.

What’s Sexton on about here, we are made to wonder. Don’t money make the world spin round? Ain’t it what we yearn for, a/the key to happiness? Lust’s insatiable (is it not, invisible reader?) I guess so too is retail therapy, like food, like sex we use it (burn it) for our pleasure, to sate our desires and needs. Money, doesn’t spend itself nor does fine food force its way into our glutinous gobs, we spend it and we transfer the cake from the plate to our lips (that too can be kissed and then on to our hips) and for the breasts, the knee-weakening givers of life, they can be left unloved in a breaker’s yard, wrapped away in cloth, cotton or silk-like Lycra or they can be taken out and given fresh air, handled with care and made to sing; to be made:

...alive when your fingers are...
[... handling them like a Master maestro.]

A word or two on Poem 3

Regarding “The Ballad of the Lonely M,” ask yourself (I do myself) why I am too embarrassed to write the word ‘masturbator’ and elected for the abbreviation ‘M’ in titling it here — oh why’s it so taboo, y OH y (we used ‘((m))’ didn’t we!). In marked distinction from Poems 1 & 2 (see up, my dearest one) this poem — seven stanzas (7 is synonymous with heaven) of six lines (6 is synonymous with sex) — follows a rhyme scheme: ABABCC, DEDECC, and so on and so forth.

death - breath
fed/spread/head - bed

Do I over-read?

came -- shame

Is this me over-reading? is this a reference to catholic guilt and/or the protestant work ethic (both as pompously prudish as they are puritanical), don’t all the monotheistic tones castigate and demonise the act of masturbation? For come along now! It’s the devil that makes work for idle hands. We should note that syllable counts in the lines of Poem 3 are not consistent or if there is a pattern, I don’t see it. But ladies and men we can see all sorts can’t we, I mean in numerology we trust, don’t we:

__ ___ __
  C  03  
  O  15  
  R  18  
  O  15  
  N  14  
  A  01  
  -  --  
  6  66  
__ ___ __

Fiction is clearly no stranger. I’d say this was so since even before “the lion man” — a hybrid figurine carved from mammoth tusk (that is carbon dated to be over 40,000 years old and is currently the oldest known evidence of religion and is on show at the Museum of Ulm in Germany). [1]  Oh think of Psyche getting her affection from Pan. The milkman, the handyman. The language of the poem is reasonably straightforward; the beauty of not being a full-on slave to rhyming scheme (the lines have different variations of stressed and unstressed words). Its focus is clear — I think — self-pleasure in the aftermath of a split up (‘the end of the affair is always death — the dog’s reflection in the mirror knows well of my own terminal torment, which dogs and hounds me). Yep the poem does not use the word ‘sex’ but it doesn’t really need to, does it? Not with lines like these:

I beat her like a bell. I recline
in the bower where you used to mount her.

Bower
—  A pleasant shady place under trees or climbing plants in a garden or wood.

The bower links to the:

flowered [bed]spread

And all of this makes me think of Adam and St/Eve in the garden of Eden. And then we come to the line that moves me the most:

At night, alone, I marry the bed.

What moves me? The word ‘alone’ comforted here by commas and being snugly mid-sentence. For good measure, this line is repeated verbatim, seven times. This though is far from lazy repetition. In my opinion this really drives home the shear power that the default to self-pleasure can have. It can become a daily necessity akin to food. Indeed, the metaphor for sexual satisfaction in “The Ballad of the Lonely M” is ‘being fed,’ which is extended from the beginning to the end of the poem. It is like food, it is required daily and it’s devoured ritually:

I am fed
a joint overturning [on a spit over fire]
plum
...eating each other. They are overfed.

The last stanza is very powerful, because the young & the glamourous (‘glimmering creatures’) are seemingly everywhere, undressing and copulating like rabbits. Whereas, the narrator alone, is marrying her bed, one hand dealing with the delta and the other attending to the subject of Poem 2. It has become a nightly ritual. It is her medicine, her compulsion:

I am spread out. I crucify.

To sum up

I do find the description of the narrator’s mons veneris and her delectable delta in the poem “The Ballad of the Lonely Masturbator” to be acutely accurate:

She’s my workshop. Slippery eye,
She’s not too far. She’s my encounter.
My little plum.

As Yesenia Hernandez writes, Sexton’s, “fearless account of emotions, desires, and actions usually only for private consumption makes her a brave poet participating in a form of liberty all her own.” Indeed, she is known for her very frank writing on depression, the female body and sex and thus explores what’s considered in some quarters taboo subject matter. As she does in Poem 3 (kisses nowadays, the subject of Poem 1, being quite okay). In Poem 3, Sexton is both vague and explicit in her descriptions of the emotions that result from the end of a love affair depicted through the guise of a female wedded to the act of daily masturbation. This candidness — Confessional poetics — may not be so much an attempt to bring these matters into the light and normalise them (for they are obv. part of the human condition) but as a form of personal self-help and therapy which just so happened to be appealing enough to etch her out a bit of a living too. I do not think artists such as her write with public service in mind, still less monetary gain. As someone else commented, Sexton writes for, “discovery and emotional release.” turning, as I’m driven to, to a troubling thing that I’ve read is that incest between mother (Anne) and daughter (Linda) is alleged/said to have been had.

— § —


NOTES
[1]   Lion man, an intriguing reading of what’s currently thought to be the world’s earliest known idol:

“The Lion Man is a masterpiece that was found in a cave in what is now southern Germany in 1939. Sculpted with great originality, virtuosity and technical skill from mammoth ivory, this 40,000-year-old image is 31 centimetres tall. It has the head of a cave lion with a partly human body. He stands upright, perhaps on tiptoes, legs apart and arms to the sides of a slender, cat-like body with strong shoulders like the hips and thighs of a lion. His gaze, like his stance, is powerful and directed at the viewer. The details of his face show he is attentive, he is watching and he is listening. He is powerful, mysterious and from a world beyond ordinary nature. He is the oldest known representation of a being that does not exist in physical form but symbolises ideas about the supernatural.” — The British Museum.

Talking of idols and ((m)):

See: Dark Light: Pure White vs. Jet Black

Come live with me

& be my love[r] forever.

A literary analysis of “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” by Christopher Marlowe (c. 1588).

“The Passionate Shepherd to His Love”


Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove,
That Valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.

And we will sit upon the Rocks,
Seeing the Shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow Rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing Madrigals.

And I will make thee beds of Roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of Myrtle;

A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty Lambs we pull;
Fair lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;

A belt of straw and Ivy buds,
With Coral clasps and Amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me, and be my love.

The Shepherds’ Swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May-morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me, and be my love.


— Christopher Marlowe

Adam Miller
“Save the Sheep”
by Adam Miller (1979– ) (c. 2017).

Literary Analysis

1. The poet

Christopher Marlowe (1564–1593) was an English playwright and poet of the Elizabethan era, his version of “Doctor Faustus” (c. 1589) is still being shown on stages around the globe today (see: Better the 😈 u no). Marlowe, it is said, was the foremost Elizabethan tragedian of his day. He also had, according to hearsay &c., a colourful life that can be correctly labelled as: short ‘n’ illustrious. While little is known about his fleeting time in London town (in distinction to his writings) stories of his ‘interesting’ affairs do abound and, let us be honest, who cares about fact checking when such tales are so titillating? He has often been described as a spy, a heretic, as well as a “magician”, “duellist” (a person who fights duels for their honour: pistols at dawn after a piss up and porn), “tobacco-user”, “counterfeiter” and “rakehell.” In short-form a rake was a ‘man’ who dealt in immoral conduct, particularly womanising. A typical rake would burn away his inherited wealth on fine wine, racy women and slanderous suggestive sing-song (think: libertine – o gawd n dyaames deen). If not out and out homosexual he was almost certainly bisexual. Homoerotic overtones and undertones have been noted in various of his works and, the object of the shepard’s obsession (see below) is neither obviously male or female ;P

2. The poem

What is this thing I hear they call “love?” What’s its fatal attraction? How is it that such an intangible thing can have such tangible consequences? J. H. Black. . . poetic step by poetic step we will dig and we will get to our Shangri-la. “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” is a so-called pastoral poem, which is set in the English countryside in the season of Spring (beautiful bunnies and lovely lambs e t c).

This type of poem — Pastoral lyric — typically expresses emotions in idyllic conditions and contexts. In quatrains (4 line stanzas) of iambic tetrameter (8 syllables per line, 4 measures per line with 2 syllables in each measure), the poem’s narrator, the shepherd, invites the object of his desire to experience the joys of nature not least, one can assume, the birds and bees in particular. The narrator hopes to be transported with his loved one to the garden of Eden, where clothes, contraception, gender identity and inhibition are things for future generations to fret about.

Pastoral poems have their roots with shepherds waxing lyrical as they tend their crops and dream deliriously of the oh so attractive one back in the village (they say: back to David in the Bible and Ancient Greek poetry too). The theme/undertone is carpe diem and gratification of sexual passions today, not tomorrow. Spring: a time of flowering and budding birth. You know, escape to the country, throw of the vestiges of modernity (clothes, deadlines, con-form-it-y). As one critic commented, “if we could get away from these rules, we could return to a pristine condition of happiness” and gave the so-called “free love” movement of the 1960’s as an example of this utopian belief (ironically it was the very modern and mass produced pill that aided and abetted all a dat).

The poem was published in 1599 — after Marlowe’s death — and was counterpointed with many poetic replies some earnest, some mocking. Remember the “love” in the poem isn’t made male or female but in perhaps the most famous responding poem, the gender is left in no doubt. “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd,” by Sir Walter Raleigh was penned in 1600:

 
Two poems: The Passionate Shepherd to His Love (by Christopher Marlowe, 1599) and, The Nymphs Reply to the Shepherd (by Walter Ralegh, 1600)
 

heart vs. head -- Youth gets slated; Youth becomes jaded and gets slated.
Youth becomes jaded / & then gets slated //


We see write away in “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd” that Raleigh’s narrator is an older more jaded character. Who with (assumed age and experience) is telling the starry-eyed Shepard that romanticised love is a fallacy. Harsh realities (work, health, societal constraints) and that we age, tire and with any relationship, once consummated, the petty individual idiosyncrasies will soon mire all of that pent up passion and lust. I like what one critic wrote: “Normally we should sieze the day because time flies. Raleigh argues that because time flies, we should NOT sieze the day.” The truth is that ultimately Raleigh is right, but I’ll defend to death the quest for attaining (or regaining) true passionate love.

Tempus Fugit — so, live for today or save for tomorrow? Usually translated from Latin as “time flies.” It was first use in poetic terms by Virgil (‘fugit inreparabile tempus’ – “it escapes, irretrievable time”). Yeah mate, time’s a-wasting.

Time does not stand still; autumn and winter — after the summer heat — inevitably follows the spring. We must face reality and not live by fantasy (but really must we?).

Walter Raleigh’s retort uses the same meter and references to give us readers “mirror images” of Marlowe’s work. The nymph character plays devil’s advocate as it were and points out by doing so that all of the sheep herder’s promises are transitory. Mirror, mirror on the wall should we go with the heart or the head:

flowers do fade
fields yield to the harvest
rivers rage

We live in a fallen world, we’re born sinners (so say the monotheistic tomes) ripening fruit will ultimately shrivel. Birds become crestfallen (one would think even more so if abruptly abandoned by their true loved one).

These opposing lines are particularly telling:

Marlowe:
By shallow Rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing Madrigals.

Raleigh:
When Rivers rage and Rocks grow cold,
And Philomel becometh dumb,

Symbolism

Madrigal
— a song (or poem indeed!) that’s usually about love and sung. It would be suitable for being set to music; thus thing of bird song and the music that is the dawn chorus in an English country garden.

Myrtle
— a flowering plant that’s native to the Mediterranean (not the green and pleasant land of England). It thus invokes notions of Rome and Greece. In Greek mythology Myrtle is sacred to Aphrodite (the goddess of desire and love). And we all know what an aphrodisiac is.

Philomela
— of Greek mythology, is invoked now and again in the poetry and prose of the Western canon. Identified as being the younger of two daughters of Pandion I, a King of Athens, the story goes that after being raped and mutilated by her sister’s husband, she first gets revenge and then morphs into a bird. Not just any bird, but a nightingale, a bird renowned for its song. It is said that because of the violence done to her, poets of later generations depict the nightingale’s mating calls to be sorrowful laments (yet ornithologists will tell you that its only the male nightingales that sing for love; somehow that okay for Marlowe’s shepherd because, it is not sexist to say he is a he — love though my dear J is universal as is obsession). To continue with my dig: Ovid and other servants of poetry & prose have accidentally (on purpose perhaps) made the claim that the etymology of her name was “lover of song” — derived from the Greek φιλο- and μέλος (“song”) instead of μῆλον (“apple” or “fruit” or “sheep”). Now! You know about Eve, Steve and the Apple, and I know what Westerners think we Arabs do with our camels and goats, much like what the English say the Welsh do with their sheep and the Americans say the Mexicans do with their asses and mules. Love is Love some say, love is blind the same and/or others say too.

fire|🔥|نار

feisty, fervid & all-consuming


All hushed and still within the house;
Without – all wind and driving rain;
But something whispers to my mind,
Through rain and through the wailing wind,
Never again.
Never again? Why not again?
Memory has power as real as thine.


Emily Brontë

Simonetta and Dante


I never really came alive until,
I more or less died —
I’d floated along by hushed breeze and sail
I’d slept whilst they rowed.
You’d emerged in a place so far away
You’d grown in harsh heat —
You felt real thunder and deep disarray
You searched hard for light.
We locked eyes and made our haven from all
We found our true selves
We then got split, but vowed this bond won’t quell
We’ll find by inked delves. . .

Simonetta_and_Dante___colour
“Simonetta Vespucci as Nymph” (c. 1480) and “Dante Alighieri” (c. 1495)
by Sandro Botticelli (c. 1445–1510).

“The Birth of Venus”
by Sandro Botticelli (c. 1445–1510) (c. 1485) @ The Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
“Primavera”
Left to right: Mercury, the Three Graces, Venus, Flora, Chloris, Zephyrus
by Sandro Botticelli (c. 1445–1510) (c. 1482) @ The Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
“Venus and Mars”
by Sandro Botticelli (c. 1445–1510) (c. 1485) @ The National Gallery, London.


Literature — art at its most sublime.


“Pallas and the Centaur”
by Sandro Botticelli (c. 1445–1510) (c. 1482) @ The Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

Now I don’t pretend to know much ado about nothing but Pallas is meant to be a Greek God, one of the Titans: a male. A centaur is a mythical half man half horse and thus, male too. So, who’s the lady depicted in the picture above? My inept investigations took me via a typo from the mythical Titan to the Italian painter Titian (a.k.a., Tiziano Vecellio) (c. 1488–1576) who also painted Venus (et al.). . .

Tiziano_-_Venere_di_Urbino
“Venus of Urbino”
by Titian (1534) @ The Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
Self-Portrait, c. 1567; @ The Museo del Prado, Madrid
Self-Portrait
by Titian (c. 1567) @ The Museo del Prado, Madrid.

. . .who lest we forget is the god of Love (the subject of this posting). Titian, incidentally and interestingly was called by his contemporaries, “The Sun Amidst Small Stars” (which is the last line of Dante’s (see ^ up) poem Paradiso), According to the art scholar Gloria Fossi (2000) Titian’s technique of the application and usage of colour has had a profound influence on Western art. From Titian I got to Bronzino (a.k.a., Agnolo di Cosimo) (1503–1572), well because, he also painted Venus (et al.) and like Titian was of the Venetian school. . .

Angelo_Bronzino_-_Venus,_Cupid,_Folly_and_Time_-_National_Gallery,_London
“Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time”
by Bronzino (c. 1544) @ The National Gallery, London.
. . . they say Bronzino’s somewhat elongated figures always appear to be calm and a little too reserved (i.e., lacking the agitation and emotion of those painted by some others) and believe it or not I sensed that in her fingers and in the leggy long-backed cheeky cherub. Well from there I found my way to Western painting (hovering over the link on the Bronzino page I saw a pic of the girl with the pearl…) and just had to see what was included in this, the people’s canon:

Hercules_&_telephus
Ancient Roman wall art, artist unknown (c. 6 BCE – 9), prosaically titled: “Herakles finds his son Telephos” @ The National Museum, Naples.
— this mural depicts the discovery of the child Telephos by his father, Herakles. Telephos, a minor figure mentioned in Trojan War stories (painted here being suckled by a doe). To the left sits a colossal personification of Arcadia, an impressive female figure who stares off into the distance (oh yeah, that ‘far-away-stare’ look). Follow the lion’s gaze, see where the lightening rod is striking (air-brushed out or added as a salacious afterthought?), see the udder suckling and the tender fawning of the knee…

Meisje met de parel
“The eyes”
by Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675), titled: “Girl with a Pearl Earring” (c. 1669) @ The Mauritshuis, The Hague, Holland.
— sometimes referred to as the Mona Lisa of the North… oh wow, you see into my soul don’t you. You, the finest pear of pearls the waters of the Persian Gulf ever did relinquish to the arid surrounds of the oasis of the soul.
soul meets soul
“The bum”
by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780–1867), titled: “The Valpinçon Bather” (1808) @ The Musée du Louvre, Paris.
— I didn’t get it at first but this is the chap who got titillated by notions of the Orient.*  Oh Edward Saïd! Oh Wilfred Thesiger!
The_Kiss_-_Gustav_Klimt_-_Google_Cultural_Institute
“The kiss”
by Gustav Klimt (1862–1918), titled: “The Kiss” (c. 1907) @ Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna.
— it certainly once, A3 sized and lovingly laminated, hung above the very epitome of my very own Delta of Venus (a.k.a. the Nymph of Nizwa).
Grant_Wood_-_American_Gothic_-_Google_Art_Project
“The connotation and the implication”
by Grant Wood (1891–1942), titled: “American Gothic” (1930) @ the Art Institute of Chicago.
— don’t dig, in this instance ignorance is bliss.


Literature — art at its most sublime.


NOTES

*   Orientalismus and them — who am I? who r U? Ways of Escape, wanting to be somewhere (anywhere?) other than here, but here’s not a geographic location, it’s a mindset that cannot, I fear, be vacated until the end of days. Ingres, who evidently had a penchant for the Orient, painted these paintings also:

“Odalisque with Slave” (L’Odalisque à l’esclave) **
by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780–1867) (1839) @ Fogg Museum, Boston.
“La Grande Odalisque”
by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780–1867) (1814) @ Musée du Louvre, Paris.
Hard to marry such colour and enchantment with this photograph of Ingres; yet in the self-portrait said to be by him in his 78th year, I detect an amazing head of youthful hair and a hint of a cheeky flair:

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
“Self-Portrait at Seventy-Eight”
by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780–1867) (1858) @ The Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
sketches by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
“Look into my eyes, look into my eyes, don’t look around the eyes, look into the eyes”
Sketches by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. (1780–1867)

**   An odalisque (اوطه‌لق) was said to be a, hmm, let us say ‘chambermaid’ in the time of the Ottoman empire. And on I’m driven to forage and dig, an internet hunter and gatherer am I. I subscribe to this self-imposed penitence, relentless is the yearn, incessant is the burn, bereft of zest, I am. So here (the anonymous) you(s) go:

“Odalisque”
by Jules Lefebvre (1834–1911) (1874) @ Art Institute of Chicago.

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