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SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY POETRY & AUGUSTANISM
Transcript of SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY POETRY & AUGUSTANISM
Towards a New Poetic Language
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.
Not a coherent group.
Some feminist voices against this label.
Lady Mary Wroth
Followers of the tradition. Spenser’s model.
Characteristics of his poetry:
Gravitas (serious matters)
Thomas Carew, Robert Herrick, John Suckling and Richard Lovelace.
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
Poetry in the 16th and early 17th centuries
Common words (OE origin)
Short, pointed style:
Weight, gravitas: Ben Jonson
Conceit: John Donne
High sounding word-clusters
As the century waned, a gap widened between the old and new learning; as a result Dryden had more difficulty reading Donne than do modern readers, who enjoy the benefit of modern scholars’ recovery of much of that older learning.
Metaphysical poetry’s reputed taste for the obscure and the “far-fetched” has been overemphasized by critics.
That it is intellectual and that its allusions are likely to necessitate numerous glosses for modern readers there can be little doubt.
The ideal audience for Metaphysical poetry was small and select.
The chief trait of Metaphysical poetry in the eyes of Earl Miner (The Metaphysical Mode from Donne to Cowley, 1969) is its “private mode.”
He considers the most distinctive aspect of the love or religious experience in this poetry to be its individual and private character. Either because the poet senses a breakdown of social bonds or because these bonds threaten the integrity of private experience, the Metaphysical poet is in self-conscious retreat from the social realm.
Whether dealing with sexual or religious love, Metaphysical love poems develop the psychological aspects of loving which are always implicit, sometimes explicit in the Petrarchan tradition.
Sexual, Platonic, and religious love are frequently explored in terms seemingly more appropriate to one of the other types.
Describers of Metaphysical poetry have most often cited a cluster of traits, no one of which differentiates this mode from others.
Metaphysical poems are often dramatic, colloquial in diction and rhythm, and set forth in intricate and varied forms with respect to line lengths, rhyme schemes, and stanzaic configurations.
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 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.
DRYDEN'S EPIGRAM ON MILTON.
On My First Son
Farewell, thou child of my right hand, and joy;
My sin was too much hope of thee, lov’d boy.
Seven years thou’wert lent to me, and I thee pay,
Exacted by thy fate, on the just day.
O, could I lose all father now! For why
Will man lament the state he should envy?
To have so soon ‘scap’d world’s and flesh’s rage,
And, if no other misery, yet age?
Rest in soft peace, and, ask’d, say here doth lie
Ben Jonson his best piece of poetry.
For whose sake, henceforth, all his vows be such,
As what he loves may never like too much.
by John Donne
She's dead; and all which die
To their first elements resolve;
And we were mutual elements to us,
And made of one another.
My body then doth hers involve,
And those things whereof I consist hereby
In me abundant grow, and burdenous,
And nourish not, but smother.
My fire of passion, sighs of air,
Water of tears, and earthly sad despair,
Which my materials be,
But near worn out by love's security,
She, to my loss, doth by her death repair,
And I might live long wretched so
But that my fire doth with my fuel grow.
Now as those Active Kings
Whose foreign conquest treasure brings,
Receive more, and spend more, and soonest break:
This (which I am amazed that I can speak)
This death hath with my store
My use increased.
And so my soul more earnestly released
Will outstrip hers; as bullets flown before
A latter bullet may o'ertake, the powder being more.
Charles I at the hunt. A. van Dyck, 1635
Musée du Louvre, Paris
The Cavalier ideal:
R: Herrick. “Delight in Disorder”
E. Miner: “the foremost Cavalier ideal expressed in poetry is what we may call the good life... this ideal reflects many things: a conservative outlook, a response to a social threat, classical recollections, love of a very English way of life…”
simple, idiomatic diction
A studiedly careless outlook
preference for shorter lines, couplets, quatrains sonnets used rarely
Sir John Suckling, By A. Van Dyck (1632) The Frick Collection, New York.
light-hearted in tone, characterized by its gaiety and wit
Themes: typically trivial serious themes, rare (except the passing of time; honour/loyalty)
Love poetry: ‘common-sense’ attitude, often lightly cynical (rejection of Petrarchan idealization)
A manifestation of their political attitude: radically opposed to Puritan seriousness and gravity
Ben Jonson. By Robert Vaughan (1640)
National Portrait Gallery, London
Admirers of Ben Jonson (called themselves the ‘Sons’ or the ‘Tribe of Ben’)
Like Jonson, they try to blend classical learning with the traditions of ‘Merry old England’
They adhere to an ideal of elegance, harmony & wit
The Sons of Ben:
Richard Lovelace. By William Dobson, 1645-6
Dulwich Picture Gallery, London
Cavalier: term applied to the followers of Charles I in the Civil War (from Italian cavaliere, ‘knight’, ‘horseman’)
Poets of the reign of Charles I: Sir John Suckling, Richard Lovelace, Thomas Carew, Robert Herrick
Royalists: most of them fought for the king in the Civil War
Lord John Stuart and his brother.
By A. Van Dyck, 1638
National Gallery, London