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Rafael Velez

on 20 November 2013

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Towards a New Poetic Language

Metaphysical Poetry
Milton's verse does not fit into any of the contemporary poetic schools of poetry.
In the tradition of Spenser and the Elizabethan poets, he mixes classical, mythological and biblical references; he adopts the elegance of the Elizabethan style.
In the tradition of the Metaphysicals, he sometimes uses the kind of wit associated with their conceits.
His work, however, has none of the striking images that enable the reader to see ordinary things as extraordinary, and the content is no longer obviously personal or linked to everyday life.
Classical Latin verse was also influencial. His diction is often stylised with many words derived from Latin; his syntax is complex and his style ceremonial and elaborate.


CARE-CHARMER Sleep, son of the sable Night,
Brother to Death, in silent darkness born,
Relieve my languish, and restore the light ;
With dark forgetting of my care return.
And let the day be time enough to mourn
The shipwreck of my ill adventured youth :
Let waking eyes suffice to wail their scorn,
Without the torment of the night's untruth.
Cease, dreams, the images of day-desires,
To model forth the passions of the morrow ;
Never let rising Sun approve you liars
To add more grief to aggravate my sorrow :
Still let me sleep, embracing clouds in vain,
And never wake to feel the day's disdain.
This figure that thou here seest put, It was for gentle Shakespeare cut, Wherein the graver had a strife With nature, to out-do the life : O could he but have drawn his wit As well in brass, as he has hit His face ; the print would then surpass All that was ever writ in brass : But since he cannot, reader, look Not on his picture, but his book.
Not a coherent group.
Some feminist voices against this label.

Aemilia Lanier
Lady Mary Wroth
Anne Bradstreet
Katherine Philips
Followers of the tradition. Spenser’s model.

Gilles Fletcher,
George Wither,
Michael Drayton,
Phineas Fletcher
Henry More.
Professional poet
Social Lyric
Characteristics of his poetry:
Gravitas (serious matters)
Cavalier Poets:
Thomas Carew, Robert Herrick, John Suckling and Richard Lovelace.
Coterie Poet
Writing anti-poetry:

Metaphysical poets:
George Herbert, Richard Crashaw, Henry Vaughan.
Lyric: not meant to be sung and not part of a sequence.
Commitment of the lyric to print culture.
Sense of lyric as full and complete work in itself.
Lyric as genre
17th century poetry
A comparison
Poetry in the 16th and early 17th centuries
Poetic “schools”

Common words (OE origin)
17th Century
Mythological allegory,
High sounding word-clusters
Bucolic References
16th Century
Short, pointed style: strong line, juxtaposed sentences.
Plainness :
Weight, gravitas: Ben Jonson
Conceit: John Donne
17th Century
Courtly behaviour
16th Century
Of Mans First Disobedience, and the Fruit
Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal tast
Brought Death into the World, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat,
Sing Heav'nly Muse, that on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That Shepherd, who first taught the chosen Seed,
In the Beginning how the Heav'ns and Earth
Rose out of Chaos: Or if Sion Hill
Delight thee more, and Siloa's Brook that flow'd
Fast by the Oracle of God; I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventrous Song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above th' Aonian Mount, while it pursues
Things unattempted yet in Prose or Rhime.
And chiefly Thou O Spirit, that dost prefer
Before all Temples th' upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for Thou know'st; Thou from the first
Wast present, and with mighty wings outspread
Dove-like satst brooding on the vast Abyss
And mad'st it pregnant: What in me is dark
Illumin, what is low raise and support;
That to the highth of this great Argument
I may assert Eternal Providence,
And justifie the wayes of God to men.
Tell me about man's first sin, when he tasted the forbidden fruit and caused all our troubles, until Jesus came and saved us.

Inspire me with this knowledge. You are the heavenly spirit who inspired Moses in his teachings.

I'm asking for your help because I want to write a great work different from any that was ever written before.

I want you to teach me, Holy Spirit, because you value goodness more than fancy churches.
You know everything. You were there at the Beginning. You sat like a dove with your wings spread over the dark emptiness and made it come to life.
Enlighten me where I am ignorant and strengthen my abilities so that I can correctly explain God's great purpose to men.
Restoration Poetry
Restoration period characterized by:

1. Return to order after the disorder of the years leading up to the reinstatement of the monarchy.

2. Literature reflects this in its balanced style and its interest in the intellect rather than the imagination.

3. Poetry developed a public voice.

John Dryden (1631-1700)
The most well-known of the Restoration poets. He borrowed from the preceding poetic traditions:

1. From Spenser and Milton: interest in classical texts, using biblical and classical references to give his writing dignity, and adopting their Latinate dicition and complex syntax.

2. From the metaphysicals: the conceit, replacing their ingenious comparisons with more logical ones.

Three Poets, in three distant Ages born,
Greece, Italy, and England did adorn.
The First in loftiness of thought surpass'd;
The Next in Majesty; in both the Last.
The force of Nature cou'd no farther goe:
To make a Third she joynd the former two.

Term derives from the period of literary achievement during the rule of the Roman Emperor Augustus (27BC-AD 14) when the great poets Virgil, Horace and Ovid flourished.
Writers of the eighteenth century such as Alexander Pope, Joseph Addison, Richard Steele and Jonathan Swift admired and imitated them, seeing in their own desire for order and pattern a parallel with the classical world.

The Reflective Tradition
Counter to Pope's school, poets such as:
James Thomson (1700-48)
Thomas Gray (1716-71)
William Cowper (1731-1800)

Attempted to broaden the poetics tradition, replacing the satirical mood with a reflective one.
They drew on nature as a link to the human values that had been lost in urban and court life.
SEE! W I N T E R comes, to rule the varied Year,
Sullen, and sad; with all his rising Train,
Vapours, and Clouds, and Storms: Be these my Theme,
These, that exalt the Soul to solemn Thought,
And heavenly musing. Welcome kindred Glooms!
Wish'd, wint'ry, Horrors, hail!---With frequent Foot,
Pleas'd, have I, in my cheerful Morn of Life,
When, nurs'd by careless Solitude, I liv'd,
And sung of Nature with unceasing Joy,
Pleas'd, have I wander'd thro' your rough Domains;
Trod the pure, virgin, Snows, my self as pure:
Heard the Winds roar, and the big Torrent burst:
Or seen the deep, fermenting, Tempest brew'd,
In the red, evening, Sky.— Thus pass'd the Time,
Till, thro' the opening, Chambers of the South,
Look'd out the joyous Spring, look'd out, and smil'd.
Thomson, The Seasons, Winter.


The spacious firmament on high,1
With all the blue æthereal sky,
And spangled heavens, a shining frame,
Their great Original proclaim:
Th' unwearied sun from day to day,
Does his Creator's pow'r display,
And publishes to every land
The work of an Almighty hand.


Soon as the ev'ning shades prevail,
The moon takes up the wond'rous tale,
And nightly to the list'ning earth,
Repeats the story of her birth:
Whilst all the stars that round her burn,
And all the planets in their turn,
Confirm the tidings as they roll,
And spread the truth from pole to pole.


What though in solemn silence, all
Move round the dark terrestrial ball?
What though, nor real voice nor sound
Amid their radiant orbs be found?
In reason's ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice,
For ever singing as they shine,
The hand that made us is divine.
Joseph Addison, Divine Ode
Secret marriage to Ann More, Egerton’s niece (1601)
“John Donne,
Ann Donne,

dismissed from his position, imprisoned briefly; his father-in-law denied them Ann’s dowry
lost all chance of making a career in public service and lived for years in considerable poverty
“I know that some of the poetry to which I am most devoted is poetry which I did not understand at first reading”
T.S. Eliot, “The Use of Poetry & the Use of Criticism” (1933)
Metaphysical difficulty?
A flea as a temple (Donne, “The Flea”)
O stay, three lives in one flea spare,
Where we almost, yea, more than married are.
This flea is you and I, and this
Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is.
Though parents grudge, and you, we're met,
And cloister'd in these living walls of jet.
Discordia Concors (III):
If they be two, they are two so 25
As stiff twin compasses are two ;
Thy soul, the fix'd foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if th' other do.
And though it in the centre sit,
Yet, when the other far doth roam, 30
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.
Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th' other foot, obliquely run ;
Thy firmness makes my circle just, 35
And makes me end where I begun.
Parting lovers as a pair of compasses (Donne, “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning”)
Discordia Concors (II):
Tears as coins (Donne, “A Valediction: Of Weeping”)
Let me pour forth My tears before thy face, whilst I stay here, For thy face coins them, and thy stamp they bear, And by this mintage they are something worth.
Discordia Concors:
Johnson, Life of Cowley:
“a kind of discordia concors; a combination of dissimilar images, or discovery of occult resemblances in things apparently unlike. . . . The most heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together”
Metaphysical wit:
John Dryden, Discourse of Satire (1693):
“He [Donne] affects the metaphysics, not only in his satires, but in his amorous verses, where nature only should reign; and perplexes the minds of the fair sex with nice speculations of philosophy, when he should engage their hearts”
Samuel Johnson, Life of Cowley (1779):
About the beginning of the seventeenth century appeared a race of writers that may be termed the metaphysical poets. . . The metaphysical poets were men of learning, and to show their learning was their whole endeavour. . .
The term “Metaphysical”:
John Donne, by Isaac Oliver (1616)
The Royal Collection
John Donne and
Metaphysical Poetry
Donne in his shroud, by Martin Droeshout (1633)
National Portrait Gallery, London
Poems, only printed after his death (1633). 2nd ed, most famous of his love poems grouped under the title Songs and Sonnets
In life, he only published devotional works, sermons or religious polemic
1640, Izaak Walton’s Life of Donne
Character & reputation:
King James, by Nicholas Hilliard, c. 1603-09
Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Attempted to obtain royal patronage, but the king refused him a position at Court and suggested he take Holy Orders
1615: he agreed & his fortunes mended. He was named Royal Chaplain
Received a degree of DD from Cambridge (at the king’s command)
1621 made Dean of St Paul’s. Famous for the power and eloquence of his sermons
Royal Patronage:
Donne as a melancholy lover. Unknown artist, c.1595
National Portrait Gallery,
Roman Catholic family
Studied at Oxford & Cambridge & Inns of Court
Adventure: joined expeditions under Essex (Cádiz) and Ralegh
1593: brother Henry dies in prison. Soon afterwards Donne renounces his faith
1597: Secretary to Sir Thomas Egerton; treated as friend in his household
contemporary description of him: “a great visitor of Ladies, a great frequenter of plays, a great writer of conceited verses”
John Donne:
Detail from Visscher’s View of London (1616) showing the Globe Playhouse
The rise of
professional theatre:
The playhouses

(The Earl of) Leicester’s Men: founded 1559.
Leading actor: James Burbage (1570s).

The (Lord) Admiral’s Servants/ Men: founded 1585. Leading actor: Ned Alleyn

The (Lord) Chamberlain’s Men: founded 1594.
Leading actor: Richard Burbage
Emergence of professional companies:
The rise of
professional theatre:
The players
N. Udall. Ralph Roister Doister (c.1552; printed 1566)
The development of
Elizabethan drama:
The plays
Tudor drama:
The interlude
Machinery and
special effects
Johannes de Witt’s sketch of The Swan, c.1596
Bull and bear-baiting rings:
Inn yards
1551: Licence required for professional companies
1572: Statute 14: An Act for the punishment of Vagabonds Vagabonds (players had to enter the service of a nobleman in order to avoid being declared vagabonds and expelled from the city)
Regulating drama:
The first English tragedy:
by Th. Norton & Th. Sackville
Performed by the “gentlemen
of the Inner Temple”,
January 1562

Comedy: Plautus & Terence
Tragedy: Seneca
Influence of classical models:
Fulgens and Lucres (Late 15th c. ; printed 1512)
Here is co[n]teyned a godely interlude of Fulgens
Cenatoure of Rome. Lucres his doughter. Gayus
flaminius. [and] Publi[us]. Corneli[us]. of the
disputacyon of noblenes [And] is deuyded in two
p[er]tyes, to be played at ii. tymes. Co[m]pyled by
mayster Henry medwall. late chapelayne to ye ryght reuerent fader in god Iohan Morton cardynall [and] Archebysshop of Cau[n]terbury.
Performing at the Inns of Court:
The hall at Gray’s Inn
Performed between acts of another play
Performed between courses of a banquet
The term “interlude”:
Drama and the theatre
in 16th c. England
Thargument of the Tragedie.
Performing at banqueting-halls:
The Banqueting-hall at Hampton Court palace
Antony and Cleopatra
Julius Caesar
King Lear
Romeo and Juliet
Timon of Athens
Titus Andronicus
Let`s play Shakespeare
Born 1564—died 1616
Parents: John and Mary Arden Shakespeare
Mary—daughter of wealthy landowner
John—glovemaker, local politician
Early Life
A mix of old and very new
Rural and urban words/images
Understandable by the lowest peasant and the highest noble
Shakespeare’s Language
The Globe Theater
The Rebuilt Globe Theater, London
Shakespeare wrote in “Early Modern English.”
EME was not very different from “Modern English,”
Shakespeare’s Language
The Poetry

154 Sonnets
Numerous other poems
Location of Stratford-upon-Avon
From: http://www.where-can-i-find.com/tourist-maps.html
Adapted from http://www.public.asu.edu/~muckerrm/English_321_S2005/Introduction.ppt
Shakespeare: His Life and Times
Elizabethan Theatrical Conventions
38 plays firmly attributed to Shakespeare
14 comedies
10 histories
10 tragedies
4 romances
Possibly wrote three others
Collaborated on several others
The Plays
Theatre Career
Member and later part-owner of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, later called the King’s Men
Globe Theater built in 1599 by L.C.M. with Shakespeare as primary investor
Burned down in 1613 during one of Shakespeare’s plays

These control the dialogue.

A theatrical convention is a suspension of reality.
No electricity
Women forbidden to act on stage
Minimal, contemporary costumes
Minimal scenery
Use of supernatural
Types of speech
Audience loves to be scared.
Last speaker—highest in
rank (in tragedies)
Multiple murders
(in tragedies)
Multiple marriages
(in comedies)
Use of disguises/
mistaken identity
To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That Flesh is heir to? 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; Aye, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause.
Action and Inaction
Hamlet fits in a literary tradition called the revenge play, in which a man must take revenge against those who have in some way wronged him. Yet Hamlet turns the revenge play on its head in an ingenious way: Hamlet, the man seeking revenge, can't actually bring himself to take revenge. For reason after reason, some clear to the audience, some not, he delays. Hamlet's delay has been a subject of debate from the day the play was first performed, and he is often held up as an example of the classic "indecisive" person, who thinks to much and acts too little. But Hamlet is more complicated and interesting than such simplistic analysis would indicate. Because while it's true that Hamlet fails to act while many other people do act, it's not as if the actions of the other characters in the play work out.Claudius's plots backfire, Gertrude marries her husband's murderer and dies for it,Laertes is manipulated and killed by his own treachery, and on, and on, and on. In the end,Hamlet does not provide a conclusion about the merits of action versus inaction. Instead, the play makes the deeply cynical suggestion that there is only one result of both action and inaction--death.
George Herbert


PRAYER the Churches banquet, Angels age,
Gods breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth ;

Engine against th’ Almightie, sinner's towre,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six daies world-transposing in an houre,
A kinde of tune, which all things heare and fear ;

Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse,
Exalted Manna, gladnesse of the best,
Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,
The milkie way, the bird of Paradise,

Church-bels beyond the stars heard, the souls bloud,
The land of spices, something understood.
Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May
(To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time)
By Robert Herrick
(1591 - 1674)
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles today
To-morrow will be dying.
The glorious lamp of Heaven, the sun,
The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run.
And nearer he's to setting.
That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.
Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may for ever tarry.
To his Coy Mistress
by Andrew Marvell

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love's day;
Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood;
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow.
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.

But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long preserv'd virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust.
The grave's a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.

Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may;
And now, like am'rous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour,
Than languish in his slow-chapp'd power.
Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball;
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life.
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

Más tiempo el tiempo, más el mundo, ¡y nuestros!,
no fuera crimen tu esquivez, señora.
Sentados los caminos pensaríamos
dónde apurar de un lento amor las horas:
tú, por el Ganges y sus rojas aguas,
tributo de rubíes; por el Húmber
yo y mi pena, amargando su marea.
Desde el Diluvio en cerco, cederías
hasta la Conversión de los Judíos:
más vasto que un Imperio crecería
mi vegetal amor, y más despacio.
Un siglo en alabanza de tus ojos,
cien años más en contemplar tu frente,
el doble en adorar entrambos pechos
y treinta mil cada secreta parte.
Por revelar el pie, la ceja, el rizo,
un haz de siglos y una edad entera
para tu corazón, sol de tu cuerpo.
Por ti, señora, pródigo no fuera
dilapidando siglos, eras, astros.
Mas a mi espalda, cada vez más cerca,
del tiempo escucho siempre el carro alado
y frente a mí despliega sus desiertos
la vacua eternidad; ya disipada
tu hermosura y mi voz vuelta fantasma
de tu deshecho oído, tu obstinada
virginidad abierta será brecha
al asalto callado del gusano:
polvo serás, cenizas mi deseo.
La tumba es aposento solitario:
si allí nadie te ve, nadie te besa.

Mientras tu piel se encienda con tu sangre
como se enciende con el sol el alba,
mientras tu ser transpire deseoso
por cada poro fuegos perentorios,
goza, gocemos hoy, mientras se puede.
Antes a tiempo al tiempo devoremos
como amorosos pájaros de presa
que entre sus lentas fauces consumirnos.
Acumulemos toda nuestra fuerza,
toda nuestra dulzura, en una esfera,
y las puertas de hierro de la vida,
en la brutal porfía desgarrados,
abra nuestro placer: si no podemos
parar al sol, ¡que gire más de prisa!

Versión de Octavio Paz
Full transcript