October 2018 ~ All About English Literature

For Exclusive Notes and Analysis

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Pope's use of Supernatural Machinery in the poem "The Rape of the Lock" or Role of Sylph in the poem "The Rape of the Lock"

Pope's use of Supernatural Machinery in the poem "The Rape of the Lock" or Role of Sylph in the poem "The Rape of the Lock"

In his dedicatory letter to Miss Arabella Fermore, Pope writes “The machinery, Madam is a term invented by the critic to signify that part which the Deities, Angels and Demons are made to act in a poem”. From the ancient epics like The Iliad, The Odyssey, The Aeneid, The Paradise Lost, The Ramayana and The Mahabharata, we find God and Goddesses intervening in human affair. When the first edition consisting two cantos was brought out in 1712, it had no elements of supernatural machinery. But Pope wanted to make the resemblance of his poem to a complete epic.

Pope borrowed his supernatural machinery from two sources. He took the name of Ariel from Shakespeare’s The Tempest and the idea of the sylphs from a French book Le Comte de Gabalis by Abb-de-Villars. It has an account of the Rosicrucian mythology of spirits. According to the mythology, the four elements are inhabited by spirits, which are called sylphs (air), gnomes (earth), nymphs (water) and salamanders (fire). Pope mixed it with Platonic conception that soul never dies, but continues to live on in a changed form as spirits. Thus Pope’s sylphs are the souls of beautiful women, still having many of their former vanities and frivolities. 
Ariel, the leader of all the spirits, has warned Belinda of her impending disaster:

“Fairest of mortals, thou distinguished care of thousand bright inhabitants of air!” again in the lines we get:

“Know then, unnumbered spirits round thee fly,
The light militia of the lower sky.”

Therefore, Ariel assigns different works to the spirits when Belinda joins the fashionable band. One was given the charge of Belinda’s fan, another was to take care of Belinda’s ear-rings, the third was to take care of her watch, and the fourth was to gourd her favourite lock. Ariel was to take charge of her dog, Shock.  The important duty of guarding the petticoat was given to fifty chosen sylphs. Ariel warned the pygmy band of spirits against negligence of their duties. Punishment was to be given to those who failed to perform their duties according to their nature and size.

The sylphs are diminutive airy spirits having “Insects wings”. They can assume either sex when required. The sylphs have the power to see into the future. Therefore Ariel knows that some disaster threatens the ‘brightest fair’ (Belinda). But the exact nature of the disaster was not known to them. They can look into the hearts of mortals.  They perform services of all kind for the fair sexes. Thus Ariel withdraws helplessly as soon as he sees an earthly lover lurking in the heart of Belinda. The sylphs remain helpless and do not affect anything in the poem because Belinda does not follow the advice of Ariel.

Pope’s object in introducing supernatural machinery to heighten mock-heroic effect of the poem and the same time tends it more impersonal in tone and so less distasteful the Fermor family.  This help converting a mere personal squib into a masterly and playful satire upon the follies and frivolities of the fashionable young ladies and beaux of his time.
Addison, a reputed essayist of the 18th century advised him against the introduction of the machinery in a long narrative poem like The Rape of the Lock.  George Holden in his famous book, The Age of Pope, points out, “It is Pope’s use of  his machinery, moreover, which more than any other single feature made the poem the single success that it is.” In the ultimate analysis, Pope’s machinery remains a sure proof of his artistic excellence.

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Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Trace Wordsworth's attitude towards Nature as revealed in the poem “Tintern Abbey”. or "Tintern Abbey" records different stages in Wordsworth's appreciation of Nature. Discuss.

Trace Wordsworth attitude towards Nature as revealed in the poem “Tintern Abbey”. or "Tintern Abbey" records different stages in Wordsworth's appreciation of Nature. Discuss.
Panoramic View of Wye River Flowing through forest beside dilapidated Tintern Abbey

Tintern Abbey gives us”, as Moody and Lovett say, “almost a complete programme of Wordsworth’s poetic career”. The poem is especially memorable as Wordsworth’s own exposition of his changing attitude towards nature from his early boyhood to his mature age.

His first stage in his love of Nature was as Hudson puts it so nicely, “simply a healthy boy’s delight in freedom and open air” which the poet calls in the poem “the coarser pleasures of my boyish days” like boating, skating, bird catching etc. It was to him a mere playground giving him all these feeling of physical sensation. Stop ford Brooke has rightly observed that in the first stage of his acquaintance with Nature it was not he that was in search of Nature but it was Nature who allured the boy but eluded him with its beautiful and myriad manifestation. At this stage Nature was but,

“Secondary to my own pursuits
And animal activities and all
Their trivial pleasure” (“The prelude”)

In the second stage, his own love for nature baffled his own power of description. He says, “I can’t paint what then I was”. The coarser pleasure of his boyhood days and his glad animal movements were all gone by. Nature was to him all in all. This was the stage when

“…. The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock
The mountain, and the deep gloomy wood,
Their colours and their forms, were then to me
An appetite.”

The world of eye and ear came near to him and the sensuous beauty of nature was loved with an unreflecting passion altogether untouched by intellectual interest. Wordsworth’s passion for sensuous pleasure found a full expression in the cry of Keats, “O, for a life of sensation rather than thought.”

But the mental repose of this stage was terribly shattered by the heat and fervor of the French Revolution. He, for a moment, lost faith in nature. All the ‘aching joys’ and ‘dizzy raptures’ of youth were gone and his mind was diverted to the tragedy of humanity. He gained faith in the dictum which Keats was to declare after lapse of many years – “Nature may be fine but human nature in finer still”. For in the interim he had heard the “still sad music of humanity”. Nature now opens to him the gate of spiritual meditation and suggested to him the deeper truth of human life

The third stage is marked by his moralistic interpretation of Nature. Now he looks at Nature not with a painter’s eye, but as a translator who can explain its hidden meaning. The poet thought that the beauty of Nature has the power to lead us from joy to joy, to comfort us, to mould our character and so to feed our mind with lofty thoughts. Now he experiences a kind of spiritual uplift, a sublime state of meditation in which he feels within himself a presence of the Divine spirit that animates mystic thoughts in him. He felt the vibration of the same mighty soul every where, in the light of the setting sun, in the waves of the sea, in the living air, in the blue sky and in the mind of man.

Celebrated critic Myers has rightly described Tintern Abbey as “the consecrated formulary of Wordsworthian faith.” For the poem formulates the main aspects of Wordsworth’s nature cried in superb poetic diction, Tintern Abbey is an epitome of Wordsworth’s philosophy of nature and man.


Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Consider John Donne's "The Good Morrow" as a Metaphysical Love Poem

Consider John Donne's "The Good Morrow" as Metaphysical Love Poem

Metaphysics, as the term denotes, is a study of abstract concepts; while ‘meta’ means beyond and ‘physics’ means science of concrete things. Metaphysical poetry mainly deals with such concepts as love, faith, soul, death, and God. The key features of Metaphysical poetry consists: abrupt beginning, argumentative expression of emotional contents, use of wit and metaphysical conceits, conversational tone, colloquial language, striking blend of thought and feeling, amalgamation of disparate images, and irregular rhythmic pattern. John Donne is one of those poets and his “The Good Morrow” bears the signature marks of metaphysical love poetry.

Love is the predominant tone of the poem. The poem opens in a dramatic way. The lover wants to know from his beloved what they did before they loved. The question is asked at dawn after their last night experience of love making. This sexual form of love is found to be so significant and powerful than other forms of love. Compared to this, their love for sucking milk from the mother’s breast, for praising the lovely scenes around the country, and for snoring slumber are all immature, childish and full of ignorance.

Obviously there is a shift from physical to spiritual love, sleeping to waking period, sensuous appearances to ideal reality and as if from platonic cave to the world of light in the poet and his beloved. Here the poet seems to have touched the metaphysics of Plato.

Another characteristic of metaphysical poetry is the use of conceit, i.e far-fetched imagery. “The Good Morrow” abounds in the use of conceits. Unconscious lovers have been compared with the breast feeding babies. These are conceits from various sources – ‘the Seven Sleeper’s Den’ (Roman Mythology), ‘Sea-discoverers’, ‘maps’, ‘sharp North’, ‘declining West’ ‘hemispheres’ (Geography), ‘whatever dyes was not mixed equally’ (Scholastic Philosophy).

Naturally, metaphysical poetry includes argumentative expression of emotional content. “The Good Morrow” presents love in an argumentative manner, and is developed through a series of seemingly logical stages, and the connections are marked by the words like “But”, “If”, “Or’, “And”, “For” etc. The poem also moves logically from past to present to future. The lovers’ belief and doubt about the immortality of their love is logically presented:

“If our two loves be one, or thou and I
Love so alike, that none doe slacken, none can die.”

Since the lovers originally love each other with equal intensity and passion, the lovers argue that they will continue their love for each other until death and even after their death.

The tone of the speaker in the poem is conversational, easy and colloquial. The vocabulary is at once affectionate and dismissive: ‘not wean’d’, ‘sucked’, ‘childishly’, ‘snorted’ etc. ‘Morrow’, ‘troth’, ‘slacken’ are the colloquial words that bind the poem to the metaphysical poetry tradition.

“The Good Morrow” celebrates the true genesis of metaphysical style of love. Thus, the sudden beginning, the abstract theme (love), its logical and argumentative development using conceits, use of colloquial words in a conversational tone, and an absence of rhythmic pattern certainly places “The Good Morrow” in the genre of metaphysical poetry.


Sunday, 14 October 2018

What are the causes of French Revolution? Discuss the impact of French Revolution.

What are the causes of French Revolution? Discuss the impact of French Revolution.
Destruction of Bastille

The French Revolution, which broke out in 1789, had affected not merely the political and social destiny of France, but exerted a far-reaching and profound influence in shaping the destiny of the whole continent. Centuries of oppression came to an end. People everywhere were inspired with democratic ideals, and the power of the king and the aristocrats came crumbling down. A wonderful humanitarian enthusiasm and gorgeous dreams of progress and perfections were thus kindled in ardent young soul. As Wordsworth puts it:
                             “But Europe at the time was thrilled with joy
                             France standing on the top of golden hours
                             And human nature seeming born again.”

There were several causes for the French Revolution:
1.     The French society consisted of three orders or ‘estates’- the clergy constituted the First Estate; the nobility (advocates, doctors or merchants), the Second Estate; and the rest of the population (almost 95%), belonged to the Third Estate. The first two estates enjoyed special privileges (e.g. Exemption from paying taxes) while the Third Estate suffered untold misery and poverty.
2.     The court of Louis XVI was known for its extravagance and pomp. The king believed in the divine right of theory and ruled in an arbitrary manner. Besides Queen Marie Antoinette was an arrogant and irritated the already frustrated mass.
3.      A bunch of writers-cum-philosophers like Rousseau, Voltaire with their writings left exercised a tremendous impact to ignite the revolutionary spirit.
4.     The American War of Independence also supplied the oxygen to the French people.

All these brought matters to a boiling point and with the attack of Bastille on 14th July in 1789, the French Revolution began. When the concept of absolute monarchy was rejected Louis XVI sought foreign help. This enraged the mob and the horrifying September Massacre took place. Thousands of royalists, priests and nobles were killed on the street. Louis XVI was beheaded. From 1789 to 1799 there was a Reign of Terror.

The effects of French Revolutions are-
1.     Before the French Revolution, Catholicism had been the official religion of France. The French Catholic Church had been very powerful and nearly all of France’s population had been Catholic. However after the French Revolution France’s churches had lost much of their power.
2.     The French revolution destroyed the social discriminating class system in France and declared equality for all. The revolution came up with the equality and career open to talents.
3.     This revolution led to the declaration of rights of man and citizens. The constitutional assembly or parliament came out with the document of human rights. It granted political liberty, like freedom of speech, press, association, worship and ownership of property.
4.     The Bourbon monarch that had ruled France for over 400 years came to end by the French revolution. The monarchy rule was abolished in 1792 and replaced it with the Republican form of Government.
5.     The French revolution contributed to the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte to power without which he would have died a common man. He provided the strong military leadership.
6.     The revolution gave birth to the revolutionary ideas of  “liberty, equality and fraternity” which is the base of democracy of the world.

The French Revolution stirred the British people and affected their literature in a major way. There was a complete break with the Age of Reason and a new kind of literature known as the Romantic Revival came into exist with the publication of Lyrical Ballad (1798). Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey, Byron, Shelley and Keats were the poets who specialised in this style of poetry. The prose literature of the time was illuminated by the works of Lamb, Hazlitt, De Quincey.

The drastic change from the rural to the urban that was brought about by the Industrial Revolution had repercussions on literature also. 



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