Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market

Biography

Christina Rossetti was born on December 5, 1830 in London to Gabriele and Framces Rossetti. The youngest of four children, she was characterized by her father as being the “storm” of her siblings and was known for her passionate temper. Looking back at her childhood, Christina Rossetti told her niece, “You must not imagine, my dear girl, that your Aunt was always the calm and sedate person you now behold. I, too, had a very passionate temper; but I learnt to control it. On one occasion, being rebuked by my dear Mother for some fault, I seized upon a pair of scissors, and ripped up my arm to vent my wrath. I have learnt since to control my feelings—and no doubt you will!” (“Christina Rossetti”). She eventually learned to control her fiery nature, probably mostly due to the influence of religion. Religion played a huge part in guiding Christina’s life, and her humble and reserved nature later in life was the product of living based off of Christian principles. The influence of religion on Christina’s life is evident in many of her works, and it is a huge contributor to the heavy religious tones in the Goblin Market.

Health played another huge role in Christina’s life. In 1845, she experienced a nervous breakdown, and this contributed to the health problems she had later in life. Although she was at first diagnosed with a heart condition, a later doctor said that he thought the problem was more psychological. Her illness caused her to be a semi-invalid for the rest of her life, and is mirrored in Goblin Market’s characterization of Laura when she becomes sick from eating the fruit of the goblins.

Christina’s humanitarian work also contributed to her poems. At the beginning of the 1859, the same year she wrote Goblin Market, she began volunteering at the St. Mary Magdalene Penitentiary. This institution helped “fallen” women get back on their feet. Her experiences at the penitentiary are reflected in Goblin Market, where Lizzie helps Laura, who is a “fallen woman,” and allows her to be redeemed.

Although Goblin Market is probably Christina’s most famous work, she began writing when she was very young and composed many poems privately before she became a public figure in the writing community. She didn’t officially submit an actual work of hers until 1848, when she was 17, and submitted two of her poems, “Death’s Chill Between” and “Heart’s Chill Between,”  to the very well-known literary periodical The Athanaeum. Her next submissions came in 1850, when the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, the literary circle in which her brother was prominent, released a literary journal called The Germ. Seven of her poems were published here, but since she published them under an anonymous name, she didn’t truly begin to make a name for herself until she released her volume of poetry Goblin Market and Other Poems in 1862.  Although she published many poems after this that achieved critical success, Goblin Market was generally considered her best and most famous poem, and it stayed that way up until her death on December 29, 1894.

Rossetti’s Christ and Brotherhood influences:

Two movements that were happening in Christina Rossetti’s time were the Tractarianism movement and the Pre-Raphaelites, both of which had an influence on Christina’s works.

Tractarianism began in the mid to early nineteenth century, and was split up into two different divisions. One of the segments, called the “Puseyites,” were active after 1845 and published works that attacked the liberal invasion of Christianity and what they saw as the weaknesses of the Church. These were significant in revitalizing the church’s commitment to its traditional values, and contributed to the Anglican Church’s establishment of the Eucharist. Rossetti uses the idea of the Eucharist—that, is the embodiment of Christ and salvation—to develop the fruit in her poem Goblin Market (Hill 457). Rossetti was a devout member of the Church of England converted to Tractarianism along with a few other Pre-Raphaelite women.

Christina was also a major part of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, even though she was never officially a member. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, founded by William Holman Hunt and a group of British artists and poets, shared the idea that art should be natural and should be prophetic. The movement encompassed both art and literature, and believed the two to be interchangeable. However, they mostly focused on paintings, and so they achieved little literary success besides Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Christina Rossetti, who, of course, was never officially part of the movement.

Although most of their movement focused on paintings, in the second phase of the Pre-Raphaelite movement the impact on poetry began to increase. During this time period there was a greater emphasis on the sensual description and a greater incorporation of eroticism in the paintings and poetry. This impact is very distinct in Rossetti’s “Goblin Market,” as she uses sensual language in her descriptions of the fruit the Goblins are trying to sell penning phrases like “figs to fill your mouth” and “pomegranates full and fine.”

The Sexual Nature of Goblin Market

There is a great deal of sexual imagery in Goblin Market, and one way it is presented is through Laura’s interaction with the goblins. Since she has no money, she can only pay by giving them a lock of hair, “reflecting the traditional association of hair with sexuality” (Brownley 180). There is also vivid sexual imagery during this scene, such as when Laura “sucked and sucked and sucked the more/Fruits which that unknown orchard bore/She sucked until her lips were sore” (line 128). This marks her initial entry into a sexual world, and the effects this has on her are immediate.

These effects have already been made evident by the story of Jeanie, who ate the fruits of the goblins and ended up dying. Rossetti clearly equates the choice of eating the fruits with a loss of sexual purity, which she illustrates when Lizzie mourns that Jeanie “should have been a bride” (line 313). Since a traditional requirement of marriage is for the bride to be sexually pure, Jeanie not being fit to be a bride shows that she was no longer chaste. Daisies are also not able to grow on her grave, and since daisies are a symbol for innocence, this shows that Jeanie has lost hers.

Although Lizzie is hesitant about going to the goblin market because she knows what happened to Jeanie, ultimately, her love for her sister causes her to compromise her own sexual purity in an effort to save Laura. Through this sacrifice, she is forced to confront her own fear about entering unknown sensual territory. Rather than being an entirely negative thing, this is portrayed as actually being enlightening, because “for the first time in her life/she began to listen and look” (lines 327-328). This makes her meeting with the goblins seem like a rite of passage, and shows that Lizzie needed to go through this experience—for both Laura and herself—to allow them to truly be grown up and marry, as they do at the end of the poem.

“Eat me, Drink me, Love me,” Tractarian Eucharist in Rossetti’s Goblin Market:

Christina Rossetti mixes her sensual description with the ideas of Christianity and sacrifice at the end of her poem with the actions and words of Lizzie when she sacrifices her body to help revitalize Laura. When Lizzie exclaims to Laura “eat me, drink me, love me” she is invoking that notion of the last supper and Christ’s sacrifice to save man (Rossetti line 471).

Towards the end of the poem, Lizzie begins to take on Christ-like qualities. She sacrifices her body to attain the only cure for Laura’s falling into temptation. Rossetti draws connection between the Garden of Eden and the forbidden fruit and the Goblin’s fruit, in lines 478 and 479 Laura asks, “Lizzie, Lizzie, have you tasted/ for my sake the fruit forbidden?” While that is the obvious connection, Lizzie’s sacrifice for another person whom she loves is more reminiscent of Christ’s sacrificing his life for humanities salvation. Lizzie brings salvation to Laura by allowing the Goblins to beat her and attempt to force-feed their fruit to her.

Conclusion 

The themes of Goblin Market are clearly directly related to Christina’s life. Her sexual uncertainty, a result of the fact that she never married, is reflected in the character of Lizzie, who is initially hesitant to enter the unknown world of sensuality. Religion, which Christina felt was so important, is also evident in the Christian elements of the poem, which go farther than the simple Adam and Eve motif and incorporates elements of the Eucharist. The blend of all of the elements she uses provides not only a sense of complexity in the poem, but provides some insight into the complexities of the author herself.

A Critical Introduction to Anna Laetitia Barbauld’s “Hymns in Prose for Children” by Alyssa Grammer and Becca Craigen

Author Biography

Born in Leicestershire, England on June 20th, 1743, Anna Laetitia Aiken, or “Nancy,” grew up in a home with easy access to education, as her father was a dissenting minister and schoolteacher for an all boys’ school.  It was the male influence that caused Nancy to later adopt a masculine voice when writing poetry.  Her father went on to teach at Warrington Academy, a dissenting college, and Nancy’s experiences there inspired her to begin writing poetry.  She published Poems (1773) and later, she joint published a book with her brother, John Aiken, called Miscellaneous Pieces in Prose (1773)On May 26, 1774, shortly after her success, Nancy married Rochemont Barbauld, a theatrical man that was considered by her close friends to be “instable due to his excitable nature” (Wakefield 31).  Together, Mr. and Mrs. Barbauld went off to Palgrave to teach at a school for boys.

It was her relationship with Charles, her adopted son from her brother John, and her experiences as a dissenting schoolteacher that inspired her to write Lessons for Children and Hymns in Prose for Children (1781).  The latter was a change from poetry to prose, much to her readers’ dismay; her critics thought it to be a waste of talent and time.

After retirement, Mr. and Mrs. Barbauld sought a home Stoke Newington, and it became the end for a lot of things in Barbauld’s life.  Her husband was on a fast track towards insanity, and in 1808, Mr. Barbauld drowned himself.  Three years later, Barbauld published her last piece Eighteen Hundred and Eleven; criticisms of the poem were harsh, and Barbauld wished to never publish her work again.  And, on March 9, 1825, in Stoke Newington, Anna Letitia Barbauld passed away of old age.  After her death, her niece, Lucy Aikin, published two pieces of Barbauld’s work, The Works of Anna Laetitia Barbauld, with a Memoir by Lucy Aiken (1825), and A Legacy for Young Ladies (1826).

Cultural Context

Dissenter Education

Dissenters were a religious group of Protestants who did not belong to the Church of England, which included Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists, Quakers, and others (Olsen 287-288). Stunted by intolerance, they opened their own academies, which covered topics of a broader range, although still learned by the rote memorization characteristic of the time (Olsen 225). This is true even in Barbauld’s revolutionary children’s literature, as it was written with the intention that it would be memorized and recited (Barbauld iv).

Attitudes Towards Children & Parenting

During the early 18th century, children were seen by adults as “small, unruly adults” who were meant to be frightened into submission. However, these ideas began to change. Childhood became a time with “a special state of innocence, during which children could be molded and shaped by love and education” (Olsen 52).  This led to the founding of children’s literature by John Newberry, who published Mrs. Barbauld’s works (Plumb 35). Barbauld experimented with a new style of writing that did not frighten children in her works Lessons for Children and Hymns in Prose for Children, among others. Her writing “revolutionized the culture of childhood, spreading a new way to teach literacy, a new religious mood, and the idea of associating childhood with rural life” (McCarthy ix).

Bluestocking Gatherings

In the 1750’s some society women such as Elizabeth Montagu hosted informal gatherings which were not characterized by the traditional gossip, but instead by intellectual conversation. This group, nicknamed the Bluestockings, came to be known for their dedication to freedom of expression and “the promotion of scholarship, literature, and culture” (Eger Introduction x). These women sought to protect female intellectuals, poets, and painters, while treading carefully to protect their social status. (Eger and Peltz 16-17). Barbauld was involved in this group, and the discussions that took place at these meetings certainly influenced her greatly.

Textual Analysis

Venturing from the literary realm of verse and into the literary realm of prose, Anna Letitia Barbauld wrote Hymns in Prose for Children to stimulate the “spirit of social worship” and to “impress devotional feelings […] on the infant mind” (Barbauld iv).  Assuming she would get criticism for writing in prose, Barbauld states in the Preface that her intention was to make it easier for children to recite the hymns from memory.  Barbauld justifies her decision on the basis that verse is “elevation of thought and style above the common standard” (vii).  Poetry would not be conducive in educating young infants.

In Hymns in Prose for Children, the reader will immediately notice the many biblical allusions that Barbauld introduces children to. The rhythmic cadence of the writing will immediately remind them of songs or psalms, as is appropriate for a “hymn” book.  It makes sense that Barbauld would choose to write in this fashion, as she intended for the children to learn as she did in school, through memorization and repetition.

Throughout her book of hymns, Barbauld addresses society’s hierarchy in her time. She first starts with the comparison between humans and animals.  Humans are able to speak and animals are not, so Barbauld wants the children to know that humans rank higher than animals. Her emphasis on obedience throughout the hymns stresses the values of her dissenting faith.  Literary critic, Lisa Zunshine, says Barbauld is “socializing children to the ideological creed of bourgeois society” by including a hierarchy within her work.

In addition, Barbauld also addresses slavery in society.  Hymn VIII emphasizes the role of the servant within the household; servants are treated like every other member of the household. While others would argue that Barbauld is justifying slavery as God’s divine plan, Barbauld’s dissenting faith is most important when trying to interpret this hymn.  It was such an integral part of her life; Barbauld grew up in a dissenting home and later married a dissenting minister.  It would be difficult for Barbauld to separate what she believed in when writing this work.

In the entirety of her writing, Barbauld ensures that the literature will be very accessible. She pioneers the decision to make both the book size small enough that children can hold it and the text size large enough that they will have no trouble reading it (McCarthy ix). She uses a combination of simple words the children will have learned in everyday life and new, more complex words for them to learn. Barbauld makes many comparisons that children will easily understand. The writing is also filled with springtime nature imagery and birth, inspiring a tone of hope and joy.

As the reader examines the text of Barbauld’s Hymns in Prose for Children, he or she should keep in mind the innocent perspective of the intended audience.  Feel wonder at the beauty of the earth, marvel at the incomprehensible scope of the creator, and celebrate the life given to them.

Works Cited

Barbauld, Anna Laetitia (Aikin). Hymns in Prose for Children. 4th ed. N.p.: Norwich and Trumbull, 1786. OneSearch. Web. 06 Dec. 2014.

“Children’s Literature.” The Columbia Encyclopedia. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013. Credo Reference. Web. 8 December 2014.

Eger, Elizabeth. General Introduction. Bluestocking Feminism: Writings of the Bluestocking Circle, 1738-1790. Ed. Elizabeth Eger. Vol 1. Brookfield, Vt.: Pickering & Chatto, 1999. ix-xi, xxvii-xxix. Print.

Eger, Elizabeth and Lucy Peltz. Brilliant Women18th Century Bluestockings. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008. Print.

McCarthy, William. Preface. Anna Letitia Barbauld: Voice of the Enlightenment. By McCarthy. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2008. ix-xii. Print.

Olsen, Kirstin. Daily Life in 18th Century England. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1999. Print.

Zunshine, Lisa. “Rhetoric, Cognition, and Ideology in A.L. Barbauld’s Hymns in Prose for Children (1781).” Poetics Today 23.1 (2002): 123-39. OneSearch. Web. 6 Dec. 2014

Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market: A Critical Introduction

Biography

Christina Rossetti was born in London, England on December 5, 1830 to Gabriele and Frances Mary Rossetti (Bell). Rossetti was three-quarters Italian and even spent her childhood speaking the language with her Italian father. She had a devotion to her parents, especially to her mother that she had dedicated all but two of her books to her mother (Bell). Sister of the famous pre-Raphaelite painter, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Christina was a product of her family and environment. As is evident in her poetry, Christina had a passionate love for Christianity and she often used her works to explore both the nature of religion and her own relationship to the Lord.  Frances Mary, Christina’s mother, was a devout follower of the Church of England and raised her children to become devout Protestants despite her husband’s relationship to the Roman Catholic Church (Bell).

Christina had a respect and admiration for all forms of life. This trait is best captured in the account of her and Dante Gabriel discovering little birds and her insistence on ‘plaintive verses’ about their happy existences (Bell). The overarching tone of Christina Rossetti’s life is one of calmness. She was blessed to have a life not terribly afflicted by tragedy nor war. Although she lost both her parents within her lifetime, Christina was able to handle their loss without excessive sadness.

Culture

Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market” was composed in the heart of the Victorian era and was greatly affected by the beliefs that were held onto so strongly in that time. Scholars read this poem as Christina Rossetti taking a stance on some of the major social questions of her time.

“Fallen Women” was the term coined for those women who did not comply with the expectations of Victorian Culture, and often associated with prostitution. Specifically, they would not comply with social standard of abstaining from expressing their sexual desire until after they were married. This phrase expressed the idea that a “sensible” woman’s sexual experiences should be completely limited to marriage. These women were considered impure and unable to be good wives or mothers.

Another major aspect of Victorian culture recognized in Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market” is man’s relationship with God. I originally read “Goblin Market’s”religious themes with the religious knowledge possessed by most modern Christians. But Christianity was very different back in the 1800’s.  The Victorian 1800’s God was a distant symbol of power and a looming threat to scare man into living a pure life; not the unconditionally loving Father we learn about today. The modern idea that your slate is completely wiped clean upon accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior was a foreign concept to most people in this time.

Analysis

“The Goblin Market” has a seemingly endless number of interpretations and this poem can be used to argue against everything from the Victorian ideals of chastity to the commodification of Victorian women and the echoes of a feminism to come.

“Goblin Market” was symbolic of man’s relationship with God. Most critics will jump to say that the character Lizzie is meant to be a Christ figure and they may be right; but I am not entirely convinced. After Laura tells Lizzie of the ecstasy she experienced from eating the fruit, Lizzie does not symbolically banish her from the Garden of Eden, but rather Rossetti goes on to describe the closeness of the two sisters. “Cheek to cheek and breast to breast, Locked together in one nest” (GM; 197-198) Despite the contrast between Laura and Lizzie, Rossetti never speaks of them as anything less than equals, despite Laura’s supposedly immoral actions. So the religious aspects of Goblin Market are not a spiritual redemption of a sinner, but a sign for society’s need to accept sinners where they are and not to be so quick to judge.

            Christina Rossetti takes the “Fallen Woman” that her culture so despised and devised a poem to recreate her as the prodigal son, not the woman cast to the wayside. “The Goblin Market” gives these poor souls a chance to “return from depravity to chastity, if not outright purity” (Escobar). Christina Rossetti uses the fall of Laura and the heroic salvation that Lizzie brings about to restore the fallen woman.

The redemption of Laura is seen best in Rossetti’s closing of the poem that tells the audience that “Days, weeks, months, years / Afterwards, when both were wives” both women bore children to their husbands (GM; 543-544). Marriage and children is the happy end of the women, but they are not defined by their roles as mothers and wives, so much so that neither their children nor husbands are given a distinct identity or name. The only names within the poem are the three women who tango with the Goblins: Jeanie who fell and passed away, Laura who fell and was saved, and Lizzie who saved her sister. There is a great power in names and only our women are privileged to be named in the poem.

“The Fallen Woman” trope is masterfully transformed into the “Prodigal Son” in Christina Rossetti’s capable hands. “The male profligacy, fraternal jealousy, and paternal compassion of the parable acquiesce to youthful curiosity, female transgression, and sororal kinship in the poem” (Escobar). Laura is not the woman cast to the wayside after her sin, but the prodigal daughter who is spared judgment of her actions by the redemptive love of her sister.

 

Works Cited

Bell, Mackenzie. Christina Rossetti; a Biographical and Critical Study. New York: Haskell House, 1971. Print.

Campbell, Elizabeth. “Of Mothers And Merchants: Female Economics In Christina Rossetti’s ‘Goblin Market’.” Victorian Studies 33.3 (1990): 343. Academic Search Complete. Web. 07 Dec. 2014.

Escobar, Kirsten E. “Female Saint, Female Prodigal: Christina Rossetti’s ‘Goblin Market’.” Religion & The Arts 5.1/2 (2001): 129. Academic Search Complete. Web. 07 Dec. 2014.

Scholl, Lesa. “Fallen or Forbidden: Rossetti’s “Goblin Market”” Fallen or Forbidden: Rossetti’s “Goblin Market” The Victorian Web, n.d. Web. 07 Dec. 2014.

 

Critical Edition – Browning’s “One Word More” by Emily Ballard and Mary Fielder

Bio

Robert Browning was born on May 7, 1812 in Camberwell, England. He was an only child and enjoyed the pleasures and luxuries of English upper class growing up including private tutors, traveling, leisure time, and the freedom to pursue his dreams of becoming a poet.

Robert and Elizabeth fell in love quickly and had a private wedding ceremony, partly because Elizabeth’s father forbade her from every marrying. Despite her condition, they traveled the world together, and E.B.B. later credits Browning for saving her life. After his publication of Sordello in 1840 received scathing reviews from literary critics, he took E.B.B.’s advice to approach the voice of his speaker from different angles in his writing style. The majority of Browning’s work focuses on the tension between hopes and sorrows in times of uncertainty brought about by the scientific discoveries of the nineteenth century.

Their writing styles were very different. While Elizabeth preferred the sonnet, inserting effusive romantic language, many of Robert’s poems took the form of the dramatic monologue in which the speaker frees himself of self-reflection.

Unfortunately E.B.B. suffered from a chronic illness that brought about her early death in 1861, leaving her husband to raise their 12-year-old son by himself. After his wife’s death, Browning moved back to London where he lived until shortly before his death. Browning became sick and died on December 12, 1899.

 

Cultural Context

Browning defied the conventions of Victorian poetry in as many ways as he followed them. Browning enjoyed rich intellectual friendships with many of his artistic contemporaries and was married to one of the most progressive and famous Victorian writers. Despite this, he had a very unique poetic style. He preferred to write about the personalities of other people rather than express his own feelings. Similar to other Victorian writers, he was concerned with the role of art, morality, corruption in organized religion, and corruption in governing bodies.

Browning pioneered the dramatic monologue. The use of dramatic monologues allowed Browning to discuss controversial subjects without disclosing aspects of his private identity. Artists and figures with religious ties were frequently the speakers in Browning’s poetry because they provided a good basis for him to discuss issues that mattered most to him. The subject Browning revisits most often is the purpose of art.

 

Critical Analysis

Robert Browning preferred to keep the details of his private life out of his poetry. Whereas E.B.B.’s gushy sonnet, “How Do I Love Thee?” reveals her most intimate feelings for her husband, Robert does not so readily expose his romantic life.

However, Browning’s poem, “One Word More,” stands out from his dramatic monologues. It is often considered “the one indisputable instance of Browning’s disclosure of his private self,” yet one can argue that he actually keeps his innermost feelings concealed by deflecting the attention away from himself and toward his wife (89 Martens). Nonetheless, he specifically dedicates it to E.B.B. and signs his name at the end R.B. – something he usually does not do in his poetry. Despite the fact that he dedicates the poem to his beloved wife, it is not the usual love poem. He explains that some of the greatest artists should resort to alternative mediums of creativity to express intimate feelings. Both Raphael and Dante “abandoned the medium in which they excelled in public” in order to make their love known to their lovers (Martens 90). Browning thinks this a peculiar yet helpful practice of artists: “Put to proof art alien to the artist’s, / Once, and only once, and for one only, / So to be the man and leave the artist, / Gain the man’s joy, miss the artist’s sorrow” (l. 69-72). Browning seems to think that leaving the medium one most excels in allows an artist to explore his more human side where he can find happiness through self-expression instead of focusing on the form of the art.

Browning wants E.B.B. to respect the fact that he wishes to keep his most intimate feelings for her between the two of them. He did not their worldwide fame to dictate their relationship. Browning considers it an honor and a blessing to be familiar with this highly esteemed poetess’s private self. Once again, Browning manages to conceal his intimate feelings. In “One Word More,” he speaks of the concept of love without mentioning specifics.

Browning’s reference to Moses in “One Word More” presents a connection between poet and prophet. Lines 172-179 of “One Word More” reference God’s appearance to Moses and the 70 elders in the book of Exodus (New Jerusalem Bible Exodus 24.9-11). The poem describes the scene in which Moses strikes a rock in the desert to bring forth water..

Browning uses the Biblical analogy to justify why he did not fulfill his promise to Elizabeth to write poetry that expressed his personal feelings. By likening himself to the oft-unappreciated and scorned prophet Moses, Browning explains why he does not use his poetry to express his deepest personal feelings.

Browning feels connected to the prophet Moses in his suffering the wrath of his audience. Browning’s satisfactory and joyful private life with EBB sets him apart from Moses. He does not want to expose that dear private life to an audience that harshly critiques his work as an artist. He communicates the Israelites’ ingratitude to Moses in order to parallel the reception that the public had to his unfamiliar style of writing. Perhaps Browning is cognizant of the audiences’ role in creating the speaker’s identities in his dramatic monologues and does not want the audience to be able to have that affect on his private self.

A Critical Introduction to William Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” — By Brennan Saddler and Bohye Kim

BIOGRAPHY

A major English Romantic poet, William Wordsworth was born on April 7, 1770 in the small town of Cockermouth on the northern border of the English Lake District, a quiet, natural refuge that would later inspire his poetry. His only sister, Dorothy Wordsworth, was born in 1771. She played a significant role in poet’s life as a silent listener, friend, inspirer, and traveling partner. After their mother’s death, Dorothy and Wordsworth were separated and educated in different parts of England. After completing his undergraduate education at Cambridge (1791), he became a fervent supporter of French Revolution in France, fell in love with Annette Vallon, and fathered an illegitimate child in 1792. After he was forced out of France by the war, Wordsworth visited Tintern Abbey for the first time in 1793. He returned to Tintern Abbey with Dorothy five years later, after the two were reunited. Here he composed “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey,” in which he discusses his soothing relationship with nature.

CULTURAL ANALYSIS

The French Revolution

Beginning in 1789, the French Revolution played an important role in politicizing the Romantic Movement. Wordsworth and other Romantics supported the French rebellion against the monarchy because they believed in the ‘Utopia of Democracy’ presented by Godwin and his followers, which “ ‘was based on the belief in the original goodness and the ultimate perfectibility of man’ ” (Beatty 26-27). Though initially angered by Britain’s declaration of war on France, Wordsworth retracted his support for the Revolution during the Reign of Terror. When Wordsworth first visited the Wye Valley and Tintern Abbey in 1793, he had just fled from France, for the political and social turmoil ravaging the country put his life in danger. Many suggest that Wordsworth is alluding to this social and political chaos when he recalls, “flying from something that he dreads” in line 71 of “Tintern Abbey” (Bromwich 4-7).

Industrialization

Though the Wye Valley is a rural and secluded area of Eastern Wales, the effects of the Industrial Revolution were felt even here. Since the onset of the Industrial Revolution, the town of Tintern in the Wye valley of Eastern Wales supported ironworks (Rezpka 155). Wordsworth notes signs of Industrialization in the Wye Valley when he ponders the “wreathes of smoke” being emitted from the rooftops of pastoral farms (“Tintern Abbey” 118-120). Since the poem’s publication, several scholars have traveled to the Wye valley and have confirmed that “the region showed prominent signs of industrial and commercial activity” (Levinson 29-30). In “Tintern Abbey,” Wordsworth also questions the presence of vagrants in the hills (“Tintern Abbey 21-23), which Levinson later confirms were “casualties of England’s tottering economy and of wartime displacement” (Levinson 29-30).

Walking tours and tourism 

Improved technology and infrastructure from the Industrial Revolution facilitated travel throughout Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, and thus a thriving tourism culture was born. Romantics often went on walking tours “as a way of both moving through a knowing world and knowing a world that was changing through enclosure and industrialization” (Gilroy 2). The emergence of travel literature also played a significant role in late 18th and 19th century British travel. This thriving tourism culture inspired Wordsworth’s visit to Tintern Abbey.

TEXTUAL ANALYSIS

Nature

As a nature poet, Wordsworth turned to nature for comfort. However, nature did not only provide him comfort while he was on his walking tour, but also in his mind. Throughout “Tintern Abbey,” Wordsworth recounts how the Wye valley was a place of comfort and solace for him throughout each stage of his life. He particularly recalls how the Wye valley functioned as his sanctuary when he was “flying from something he dreads”(Tintern Abbey 70-71) —likely after his tumultuous experiences in France in 1793. Writing “Tintern Abbey” five years later, he comments on how the valley now offers a comforting and sobering welcome that allows him to meditate on “the still, sad, music of humanity” (Tintern Abbey 89-91).

Even when Wordsworth is not physically present in the valley landscape, the memories of the geography and topography, as well as the feelings of comfort elicited by them are present in his mind. When seeking comfort from the “darkness,” “many shapes of joyless daylight,” and fever of the world” (“Tintern Abbey” 50-56), Wordsworth turns to his memories of the Wye landscape and the comfort it provided him while there: “How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee, / O Sylvan Wye!” (“Tintern Abbey” 56-57). The landscape reignites his “unremembered pleasure”—the comfort he found in it (“Tintern Abbey” 31). The comfort and memories are “Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart; / And [pass] even into my purer mind, / With tranquil restoration” (“Tintern Abbey” 28-30). Wordsworth’s relationship with nature was therefore rooted not only in great appreciation for nature on the surface, but for the comfort it provided in his mind as well.

Dorothy

Dorothy “plays a major role in the poet’s life as close friend, supporter of his vocation as writer, editor, and secretary, almost his ‘all in all’ ” (Mahoney 5). Her special place in the poet’s life is solidified through her role as a silent listener and observer. Wordsworth points out in his poem, “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey,” that Dorothy’s voice, her eyes, and her existence enables him to access his “former pleasures” (“Tintern Abbey” 117). While one group of scholars identify Dorothy as his helpmate only, others view Dorothy as her brother’s muse (Thomson 531).  James Soderholm argues that Wordsworth uses Dorothy for “his own poetic ends” (Soderholm 311). On the contrary, Heidi Thomson emphasizes that “Tintern Abbey” is the poem that “affirms the continuous necessity for a web of interlocution between Wordsworth and his sister to substantiate the myth of memory” (Thomson 533). As Thomson mentions, “Tintern Abbey” can be read as a warm sibling memory poem excluding any utility value granted upon Dorothy. Regardless, Dorothy provides Wordsworth with inspiration throughout his poetry and his life.

 

 

 

 

Critical Introduction: Barbauld’s “A Mouse’s Petition”

Born in 1743 to John Aiken, a minister and professor of classics at the Dissenting Kibworth Academy and his wife, Jane, Anna was the oldest of two children. Anna’s family was associated with a group of Christians who had separated from the Church of England known as Dissenters or Nonconformists. They opposed state regulation of religion and founded their own schools, churches, and communities, and some chose to sail the ocean blue to the New World. That being said, she entered into a world of social drama and change.

The small family resided at the school, and young Anna had a penchant for playing with boys, especially her brother John, and was seemingly a regular tomboy by today’s standards: “For the early part of my life, I conversed little with my own sex. In the Village where I was, there were none to converse with” (Griffiths 298). Though her mother tried her level best to keep Anna’s education limited to feminine responsibilities, after much pestering and begging, Anna convinced her father to teach her Greek, Latin, French, Italian, and much more. She quickly became well-read and flourished intellectually, but failed in the Victorian culture of femininity. This gave her a unique, misfit perspective that she later applied to her highly-acclaimed writing, which was first published when she was 30. Anna was convinced by her friends to publish her first book of poetry, entitled Poems, wich was instantly a sensation in the literary world; Poems had four more volumes published within the year, and Anna was put in the literary spotlight.

When placed within the context of the narrative of her father, Anna Barbauld’s sentiments in “The Mouse’s Petition” seem greatly influenced by her father’s philosophy and integrity.  Barbauld, if anything, could be seen to expand on his views on pacifism to encompass all creatures.

Anna Letitia Barbauld’s arguably most famous work, “The Mouse’s Petition,” centres itself around the circumstances of a single night, in which she discovers that her friend, Dr. Priestley, has been caging various animals and subjecting them to different forms of mixed airs – chiefly carbonic acid.  In the mouse’s personified plea for freedom, Samuel Coleridge, a good friend of Barbauld’s, praised her work saying, “thanks to Mrs. Barbauld, [. . .] it has become universally fashionable to teach lessons of compassion towards animals” (Coleridge, 313).  Thus, one of the major topics of exploration in “The Mouse’s Petition” becomes her environmental vision.  Likewise, Barbauld carries this same sense of moral obligation into other areas in the poem – overtly forming a parallel between the mouse and a plaintiff in a judicial court – as evinced by the title, “The Mouse’s Petition”, because a petition is “the most radical version of a political letter, which targets the heart of established power by directly addressing the monarch” (Shiner Wilson 98).  Along with her environmental vision and political message, Barbauld is also concerned with the social practice of exalting the lowest rung of humanity, as evidenced by the mouse’s plea:

So, when destruction lurks unseen,

Which men, like mice, may share,

May some kind angel clear thy path,

And break the hidden snare.  (Barbauld 45-8)

In other words, even men who are no more valuable socially than mice still deserve, as humans, freedom from the “hidden snare”.   As Barbauld herself argues in “An Address to the Opposers of the Repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts”, “Let her [the Church] still gather into barns, though she neither sows nor reaps.  We desire not to share
in her good things.  We know it is the children’s bread, which must not be given to dogs” (Barbauld 357-8).  Essentially, the Church, much like Dr Priestley, leaves the lowest of citizens, “nature’s commoners”, “The scatter’d gleanings of a feast / [For] frugal meals supply” (23; 17-8).  Even the inscription from Virgil at the beginning of the poem seems to highlight the conceit of the mouse representing the unfortunate, as it can be translated as, “have mercy on the subjects, defeat the proud” (27).

            Ultimately, one of the most interesting aspects of this poem is the difference between Barbauld’s intent and the impact which she had.  A central point of the poem is found outside of the text entirely, and presents itself as an author’s note added in 1773, where Barbauld writes:

The Author is concerned to find, that what was intended as the petition of mercy against justice, has been construed as the plea of humanity against cruelty. She is certain that cruelty could never be apprehended from the Gentleman to whom this is addressed; and the poor animal would have suffered more as the victim of domestic economy, than of philosophical curiosity.  (p. 37)

As Elizabeth Kraft contends, “Anna Aikin […] seems to feel authorial intent should carry more weight than it did in her own day,” and that a misinterpretation that brings about criticism of her friend is very unwelcomed (Kraft 2).  However, be this as it may, Mary Ellen Bellanca persists, saying Barbauld “deftly weaves a critique of Priestley’s work [with the mouse] with the playful wit of the light occasional poem and a web of allusion to the serious debate about animals” (Bellanca 57).  It is supremely interesting how this conversation seems to work:  that all critics acknowledge Barbauld’s intent, yet still find it so enticing to delve into rich text to discuss animal rights.

Bibliography – Author Biography

“Doddridge.” Doddridge. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Dec. 2014. Web.

            <http://www.kibworth.org/doddridge.html>

Griffiths, Ralph. “Works of Mrs. Barbauld.” The Monthly Review, Or, Literary Journal

            (1923): 298. Web. 6 Dec. 2014.

Lindbeck, Jennifer. “Anna Laetitia Aikin Barbauld (1743-1825).” Dickinson College.

            Dickinson College, n.d. Web. 06 Dec. 2014.

<http://users.dickinson.edu/~nicholsa/Romnat/barbauld.htm>.

Ockerbloom, Mary. “Anna Lætitia Aikin Barbauld (1743-1825).” Anna Lætitia Aikin

Barbauld (1743-1825). Universitiy of Pennisylvania, n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2014.

            <http://www.digital.library.upenn.edu/women/barbauld/biography.html>.

Bibliography – Cultural Context

Wakefield, Gilbert.  Memoirs of the Life of Gilbert Wakefield.  London: E Hodson, 1792.  Print.

Le Breton, Anna Laetitia.  Memories of Seventy Years. Ed.  Herbert Martin.  New York:  E P Dutton & Co, 1884.  Print.

Bibliography – Critical Analysis

Aikin, Anna Lætitia. Poems. London: Printed for Joseph Johnson, in St. Paul’s Church-Yard, 1773. Print.

Barbauld, Anna Laetitia.  “An Address to the Opposers of the Repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts. 1790.” The Broadview Anthology of Literature of the Revolutionary Period 1770-1832.  Eds. D.L. Macdonald, Anne McWhir.  Toronto: Broadview Press, 2010. 93-103. Print.

Bellanca, Mary Ellen.  “Science, Animal Sympathy, and Anna Barbauld’s ‘The Mouse’s Petition’.” Eighteenth-Century Studies 37.1 Exploring Sentiment (2003):  47-67.  Print.

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor.  The Watchman.  5 May 1796. Rpt. In The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Vol. 2. Ed. Lewis Paton. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970.  Print.

Kraft, Elizabeth.  “Hearing Eighteenth-Century Occasional Poetry by and about Women: Swift and Barbauld.” Aphra Behn Online: Interactive Journal for Women in the Arts 1640-1830 1.1 Pedagogy (2011):  1-16.  Web.

Shiner Wilson, Carol.  Re-visioning Romanticism:  British Women Writers, 1776-1837.  Philadelphia:  University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994.  Print.

A Critical Introduction to Lord Byron’s “Manfred” by Leigh Brown and David Guthrie

Lord Byron comes from a long, established tradition of Romanticism to which he played a part in shaping and polishing.  Manfred remains a great example of Byron’s contributions to the Romantic Movement and the establishment of what it is to be a Byronic hero.  Through the events of his life as well as the events and movements of the world, Lord Byron creates a mentality that drives the main issues of his play, Manfred; his use of the Byronic hero and subliminal nature creates a true illustration of Romanticism and literature in the 19th century.

Byron participated in the second wave of the Romanticism movement in the early nineteenth century.  This literary and cultural movement directly stemmed from a turn away from the Enlightenment ideals that spurred controversial events such as the French Revolution (Curran 26-27).  Because of the bloodiness and chaos of the French Revolution – and the revolutions it spurred in consequence – society’s mentality began to turn away from the doctrines that incented these episodes.  Though many writers were initially supporters of the Revolution, they were inevitably shocked by “its internal development, its repercussions in Britain, and its activities abroad” (Curran 50, 53).  It is important to understand the stark turn from these ideas while trying to understand the cultural context in which Lord Byron writes Manfred.  All while spurning the ideas of the preceding movement, Romanticism reflected the tensions of an age “at the intersection of competing philosophical traditions, of political and class divisions, of emergent gender distinctions, of high and low and sacred profane cultures, of battles of the books, and contested claims among the arts” (Curran xiv).

In Manfred, Byron goes against preceding canon and tradition by epitomizing the Byronic hero.  This character appeals to the Romantic tradition because of their strong and visceral personalities, sardonic sense of humor, tortured pasts, and link to supernatural elements.  Manfred’s implied incestuous relationship, his attempt at suicide, and his lack of sympathy make him a great example of this archetype.  Looking at the Romantic turn away from Enlightenment ideals, this description of what makes a Byronic Hero fits well into the Romantic canon.  Byronic heroes oppose the traditional set of standards of heroism by upholding different character values. These heroes define themselves by: rebelling against convention or society, having low tolerance for societal norms and social institutions, being isolated or choosing to be isolated from society, not being impressed with rank or privilege, having larger-than-life abilities and pride, being suspected of committing a crime or has been cursed, suffering from grandiose passions, and having a tendency to be self-destructive.  Manfred’s relationship that has doomed him shows his self-destructive nature and a facet of his overly passionate temperament.  However, the second act does much to uncover this representative personality.  Also, these characters ironically are purposefully constructed as dislikeable. When Manfred is advised by Chamois Hunter to be patient, Manfred responds:

Patience and patience! Hence—that word was made

For brutes of burthen not for birds of prey;

Preach it to mortals of a dust like thine, —

I am not of thine order (Byron 646).

Because the Chamois has acted as the traditional hero in saving Manfred from killing himself, the reader sees the switching of roles, and therefore a turn in the idea of heroic characteristics.  However, this does not make Manfred more likeable or admirable a character, but emphasizes his tortured soul and duality of his nature.  This quote also indicates the most dominant characteristic that makes Manfred such a perfect example of the Byronic hero.  He is someone cast apart from society, distinct from the social order and solitary.  When he says, “I am not of thine order,” he separates himself from his savior and therefore the world and society in which Chamois belongs.  His motivations are not entirely known, though the reader does get some insight into the tragic past from which he is running and the internal demons that haunt him and drive him.  Also, when Manfred is able to accept his overall fate, the reader is able to see that Manfred is an overall decent human being, something that the Byronic Hero receives at the very end of the narrative.

The isolated setting of Manfred is perfect for our Byronic hero. This setting is used to emphasize the sublime aspects in nature.  Many other contemporary poets of his time used similar settings when describing the sublime.  Look at Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Mont Blanc”, arguably the poem that showcases the sublime in the best way. What does “Mont Blanc” have in common with Manfred?  They both share this setting of harsh mountains and nature.  In the opening scene, the dialogue between a hunter and Manfred infers that the local environment is very hazardous and could easily take Manfred’s life.  One of the main criteria of sublime nature is to belittle human nature while building up nature.  By implying this inherent danger of simply being on the mountain Byron makes Manfred seem little.  Later, when we see him complete his journey to the summit, it then causes us to be placed in a state of awe at what this little human did against this towering dangerous mountain.

Next we look a list of sublime he encounters during his trek up the mountain.  First, the witch of the Alps is the character through which we can see the supernatural within the play.  She is indeed a nature spirit as Manfred summons her by flinging some water into the air and chanting some sort of incantation. He is also superhuman is her physical appearance:

Beautiful Spirit! With thy hair of light

And dazzling eyes of glory, in whose form

The charms of Earth’s least mortal daughters grow

To an unearthly stature, in an essence

Of purer elements” (Byron 648).

There are several ways of being superior to humans and here we see the sublime beauty and purity of nature. In Act III Scene III, the reader is introduced to the Three Destinies. In the opening monologue, the First Destiny goes on to describe in detail the various sublime aspects of the Alps: “The glassy ocean of mountain ice, / We skim its rugged breakers, which put on / The aspect of a tumbling tempest’s foam, / Frozen in a moment – a dead whirlpool’s image” (Byron 653). Here, ice is transformed into this permanent and strong embodiment of the Sublime.  Also note how Byron writes that the ice is “frozen in a moment.”  From this we are to understand that in order for any piece of nature to be Sublime, it must be enduring and permanent.  While Manfred is only familiar with Eternity, the Sublime, by default, embodies eternity (Higashinaka 68).  Manfred, then, must look towards this Sublime nature, the eternal being, for answers he cannot find himself.

Lord Byron lived in interesting times. The Romantics were originally supportive of the French Revolution but after receiving but a taste if its aftermath, they split away from this once glorious idea. The Romantics were turning a new leaf, they changed their ideals. Byron saw this change coming and created the Byronic Hero, a new archetype that embodied new traits. This Byronic hero was and is very distant cousin of the hero that save princesses and fights dragons for his king. Instead the Byronic hero took to isolation and punished himself for crimes that only he knows. Such ideas may stem from the Romantics’ original support of the French Revolution and living with the guilt for the rest of their lives.

 

 

Sources:

Bainbridge, Simon. Napoleon and English Romanticism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Chandler, James. England in 1819: The Politics of Literary Culture and the Case of Romantic Historicism. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1998.

Curran, Stuart. The Cambridge Companion to British Romanticism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Greenfield, John R. British Romantic Poets, 1789-1832: Second Series. Ed. John R. Greenfield. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 96. Detroit: Gale Research, 1990.

Lord Byron – Biography – Poet, Playwright.” Biography. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Dec. 2014.<http://www.biography.com/people/lord-byron-21124525>

Higashinaka, Itsuyo. “Manfred and the Sublime.” Revue de l’Université de Moncton (2005): 63. CrossRef. Web. 6 Dec. 2014.

Semmel, Stuart. Napoleon and the British. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004.

Anna Barbauld’s “The Mouses Petition”: by Meg Wilder and Grayson Wolf

Anna Barbauld was a pronounced English poet and essayist, bringing light to political, scientific, and gender issues in her society.  Unfortunately, her works were disregarded after her death and were not resurfaced until the feminist movement in the 1970s. Until this moment, her political works were mostly forgotten, and she was remembered for her work with children literature.

Barbauld’s contemporary society is best understood through the Enlightenment. Society observed great advances in areas such as natural sciences, art, and philosophy.  Proponents of the movement could not agree to what degree reason should be taken. Likewise, Romantics and other figures opposed the Enlightenments supposed neglect of the human spirit. Just as it dominated the contemporary society, the Enlightenment framed the literary scene in which Barbauld worked.  The Enlightenment era brought about radical changes to literature due to the need to fund a proper medium through which to impart knowledge.

Literature may have been enormously influenced by the Enlightenment, but it also was a medium through which many resisted stark empiricism.  Many writers proposed that there was more spiritedness to humanity than rationalism admits. “Although rationalizing philosophers repeatedly declared that superstitious customs had been eradicated, traditional practices were not eliminated but rather concealed” (Fara 490).  Letters, diaries and other personal writings reveal that traditional spiritualism (i.e. practices such as witchcraft and astrology) had not been supplanted by empiricism and was actually experiencing an underground revival.  Many mainstream writers were influenced by this resurgence; its mystical aspects allowed for a greater infusion of humanity’s mysterious qualities into literature.   These “essentialist views of language were inimical to scientific writers seeking to strip their prose of metaphorical allusions, but these views enriched the poetry of Romantic authors” (Fara 506-507).  Literature thus drew on both Enlightenment ideals and irrational sentimentalism.  As a publicly renowned writer, Barbauld had the unusual task of catering to both diametric ends of the Enlightenment literary scene.

Barbauld’s poem, “The Mouses Petition”, was written in response to her friend, Dr. Priestley’s animal experimentation.  Concerns for animal rights first appeared in the Enlightenment and Romantic periods.  A very literal reading of “The Mouse’s Petition” denounces the experimentation on animals for scientific development. Allegedly, she found a mouse in a cage and placed this poem inside the cage for Dr. Priestley to read.  Although Barbauld denies the meaning of her poem was a condemnation of Dr. Priestley’s inhumanity, her contemporary readers misread the poem as a judgment upon Dr. Priestley.  She explains, “her poem was about ‘mercy’ and ‘justice’” instead of humanity and cruelty (Ready 92). Barbauld’s status as woman in the Eighteenth Century caused the public read her poem wrongly by adding a great deal of sensibility to the piece, assuming she became emotional due to the cruelty imposed upon the animals and due to her gender.  In reality, Barbauld was attempting to make a political statement as well as a gender statement proving that women can be a part of the scientific realm.

The use of first-person narration from the perspective of the mouse gives the animal the ability to “suffer, feel, and reason” (Ready 97).  The mouse begs his captivator to “hear [his] pensive prisoner’s prayer,/For liberty that sighs” (Barbauld 1-2).  The personification of the mouse by making the “wretch” “tremble at th’ approaching morn” waiting for his fate evokes the image of the impoverished and enslaved (Barbauld 4, 7).  Upon first reading, one may assume Barbauld refers to women and gender inequality, but the mouse is more easily related to the poor (Ready 108). The mouse appeals to liberty and inane rights by telling his reader to “cast round the world an equal eye,/ And feel for all that lives” (Barbauld 27-28).  As a woman, Barbauld struggled to break through the gender molds society imposed upon women.  Barbauld used her poem to critique the treatment of the enslaved and impoverished, as well as critique the inequalities thrust upon women within the realm of science.

Barbauld’s writings allowed her to make unique critiques of culture.  Through her poetry, Barbauld could make claims concerning scientific endeavors without relinquishing sentimentalism.  The second stanza of “Mouse’s Petition” reads:

For here forlorn and sad I sit,

Within the wiry grate;

And tremble at the’ approaching morn,

Which brings impending fate. (Barbauld 5-8)

In this passage, Barbauld exhibits familiarity with the workings of a laboratory, perhaps due to her close relationship with Dr. Priestley’s personal experimentations.  Nevertheless, scientific understanding doesn’t negate sensibility.  The use of first person narrative and  melancholic diction evokes sympathy; the reader is supposed to identify with the mouse.  Thus, “Two hundred years on, at the end of a century that institutionalized the separation of art and science into what C. P. Snow called `the Two Cultures’, Barbauld’s work reminds us that science had not yet become a specialized activity” (Saunders 503).  Critique in the form of a poem serves as reminder that science cannot be pursued with reason alone.  Furthermore, Barbauld made an effort to emphasize Priestley’s “scientific and moral greatness, linking his discoveries to political freedom” (Saunders 504).  Scientific endeavors are intrinsically linked to the political sphere. Poetry thus became Barbauld’s medium to relate morality and rationality.

Coincidentally, poetry not only enables Barbauld to speak to the relationship between science and sensibility but also gives her a voice in a patriarchal society.  Historically, poetry was peculiar in that authority saw in it no threat to the status quo.  Kathryn Ready asserts, “writing about animals provided women— whatever their intended audience — with a socially accepted medium ‘for engaging in discussions of political ideas, national identity, and foreign policy’” (Ready 108).  Anything offensive could simply be dismissed as mere figurative language found in literature.  Julia Saunders notes:

Her use of scientific imagery demonstrates that women writers were also able to use the potentially explosive combination of verse mixed with chemistry in the cause of radical politics.  At the same time, she provides a critique of the activities of late eighteenth-century radical scientists, bringing a woman’s voice into a debate that has too long been assumed to be only for men. (Saunders 502)

As seen in the preceding paragraph, “even as a young woman Barbauld did not believe that her sex excluded her from using scientific language and ideas to express a political stance” (Saunders 505).  It was the medium of poetry that enabled this expression.

Anna Laetitia Barbauld balanced many opposing ideals through her work.  Her poetry gave her an outlet to denounce flaws in society. In doing so, she resisted society’s overbearing standards of femininity.  Despite the cultural pressure to either adopt or reject Enlightenment, she proclaimed sentimentalism is crucial to scientific endeavors.   Finally, she was capable of critiquing a close friend while still highlighting his noble characteristics.  Therefore, “The Mouse’s Petition” illustrates the multiple forces that influenced Barbauld.

 

 

Sources:

Barbauld, Anna. “The Mouse’s Petition.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Major Authors. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. Eighth ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2006. 1389-390. Print.

 Bellanca, Mary Ellen.  “Science, Animal Sympathy, And Anna Barbauld’s ‘The Mouse’s Petition’.”  Eighteenth-Century Studies 37.1 (2003): 47-67

Fara, Patricia. “Marginalized Practices.” The Cambridge History of Science. Ed. Roy Porter. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2003. 485-508. Print.

Hamm, Enrst. “Enlightenment.” Reader’s Guide to the History of Science. London: Routledge, 2000. Credo Reference. Web. 4 December 2014.

Ready, Kathryn J. “”What Then, Poor Beastie!”: Gender, Politics, and Animal Experimentation in Anna Barbauld’s “The Mouse’s Petition”” Eighteenth-Century Life 28 (2004): n. pag.Web.

Saunders, Julia. “‘The Mouse’s Petition’: Anna Laetitia Barbauld and the Scientific Revolution.”

The Review of English Studies 53.212 (2002): 500-16. JSTOR. Web. 23 Nov. 2014.

Siskin, Clifford, and William Warner. “If This Is Enlightenment Then What Is Romanticism?” European Romantic Review 22.3 (2011): 281-91. Web.

Wordsworth, William. “Letters of the Wordsworth Family.” Letter to Alexander Dyce. 10 May 1830. MS. N.p.

Wordsworth, William. “The Tables Turned.” Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation, n.d. Web. 02 Dec. 2014.

Critical Introdution: Lord Byron’s Manfred (Textual Analysis)

The Byronic hero is most notable for the human capacity of extremes. These extremes center on the capacity of good and evil: the mortal interacts with the supernatural; pleasure is only found in the acceptance of suffering; there is an unsteady balance between responsibility and resilience against consequences. The Byronic hero is both appealing and detestable to the reader because he represents both the best and worst in us, and his ethics are a reflection of our own desire for redemption. Human responsibility for one’s own good and evil is explored in Manfred through mortal interaction with the supernatural and the power of memory in the reconciliation of an individual’s deeds.

Memory

The plot of Manfred is driven by Manfred’s desire to repress his memory. He seeks out spirts of the earth to request “Forgetfulness— …. Of that which is within me” (1.1.136-137). Manfred is consumed with wanting to forget, not only the past, but also the implications that an incestuous relationship with his sister has on his own soul. Unfortunately, he cannot just forget the past because he recognizes that it is intertwined with the present. Thus, his nights and days are spent in seeking oblivion. Oblivion implies not just as a state of forgetting, but of not actively living. Manfred says that “I have no power upon the past, and for / The future, till the past be gulfed in darkness, / It is not of my search” (1.2.5-7).

Malaney, in discussing the ethical concerns of Manfred, asserts that “Manfred is haunted by the past, which prevents him from achieving a satisfactory relationship to the present … [he] undertakes a journey that remains forever out of phase with the possibility of ideal fulfillment” (Melaney 466). It is not just the memory of his past that Manfred wants to escape, but the memory of the evil he is capable of. He himself asks, “Think’st thou existence doth depend on time? / It doth; but actions are our epochs” (2.1.51-52). Actions define the passing of time, so actions define the quality of existence. Without memory, Manfred is suspended in a state of disrupted continuity; by trying to suppress the past, Manfred cannot live in the present.

As long as Manfred strives to forget, he will never know peaceful living. Eventually he determines that there is no way to drive away memory. He resigns himself to the suffering of memory and instead finds calm:

There is a calm upon me—

Inexplicable stillness! which till now

Did not belong to what I knew of life.

. . . .

… It will not last,

But it is well to have known it, though but once:

It hath enlarged my thoughts with a new sense,

And I within my tablets would note down

That there is such a feeling.

(1.1.6-8, 14-18)

In remembering Manfred recalls the knowledge of his own evil, and in seeking oblivion he tries to push away the weight of responsibility for that evil. However, it is only in remembrance that Manfred can find redemption. Rawes says that “memory is not only capable of imposing intensely painful recollections on him, but also capable of offering his consoling, comforting, and revitalizing memories… Obsessed with finding an escape from one kind of memory he has sought escape in all” (127).  In seeking to drive away the memory with the power to crush him, he also drives away the memory with the power to restore him.

In the final act, Manfred discovers that, although he has the capacity for evil, his life also has the capacity to experience good. It is the remembrance of the good in him that redeems him from being overcome with the evil. The Byronic hero recognizes that although humanity is capable of extremes both good and bad, as long as there is good not all is lost.

The Supernatural

Byron’s description of his Byronic hero looks at nature in terms of the sublime, and Manfred’s thought process plays an important role in understanding the supernatural aspects of the poem itself. Byronic heroes are “invariably solitary, and are fundamentally and heroically rebellious, at first against society only, and later against the natural universe or against God himself” (Thorslev 67). In his isolation, Manfred calls upon the Witch of the Alps:

Of Earth, whom the abstruser powers permit

At times to commune with them- if that he

Avail him of his spells- to call thee thus.

And gaze on thee a moment

(2.2.25-30)

Manfred calling upon the Witch of the Alps shows that he cannot turn back on his journey that he began. His own journey into the Alps represents the framework for the “threshold of the sublime” and it “has not resulted in a satisfactory solution to the problem of moral guilt.  (Melaney 464). Manfred creates a moment in which elements of the sublime have not been fully expressed. This also alludes to the theme of incest, because he calls on the Witch of the Alps in order to express his feeling towards her.

Throughout the play, the setting plays an important role. While the setting might seem very simple such as on the Alps or the Jungfrau Mountain both give off a sense of beauty and power. This reflects the power that Manfred seeks and the power that he could have as an individual.

In his journey of for supernatural aid, Manfred requests of the Witch of the Alps:

My long pursued and superhuman art,

Is mortal here: I dwell in my despair-

And live- and live for ever

To do this thy power

Must wake the dead, or lay me low with them.

(2.2.147-149,152-154)

Manfred expresses this concern that the world around him is holding him back from both death and a peaceful life. The death and guilt that he feels for his most beloved, Astarte, also plays a role in his despair. Manfred is also bereaved by the death of Astarte and is toured, because the Fates will not allow him to die in order to be with her. This influences the idea of the supernatural, because Manfred reaches beyond mortal bounds.

Time and experience also play an important role in understanding the Byronic hero, because a character such as Manfred senses that there is a bigger life than the life around him. His experience and sense of time leads him out of the human world into a world of nature is part of the sublime. Time also plays an important role, because the poem begins in the morning and ends at twilight. Over the course of the day, Manfred has to understand his past in order to understand how he can move forward. Manfred states in when talking to Nemesis:

I have outwatched the stars,

And gazed o’er heaven in vain in search of thee

Yet speak to me! I have wandered o’er the earth,

And have never found thy likeness- Speak to me!

Look on the fiends around- they feel for me:

I fear them not, and feel for thee alone.

 (3.1.141-146)

Manfred uses this as an understanding of being outside of time that he seeks an answer to understand his own past as a way to understand his own present and future. The conscious mind of his past plays an important role, because it provides him with a limited understanding of being able to reject the supernatural that is around him.

Industrialism v. Nature in “Garden” by H.D.

Prior to discussion on Tuesday, I really did not like this poem (or is it two sets of poems?).  I found it very ambiguous, and I didn’t quite understand what it was trying to say.  But, during discussion, Emily brought up the role of industrialization in the latter half.  The heat H.D. talks about could represent the machinery that is now a large part of the nation.  It’s stifling; therefore, nature cannot be fruitful.  H.D. ends with a bit of farming jargon.  She says, “plough through it, / turning it on either side / of your path”.  I am unsure of what kind of technological advances there were during this time in terms of producing crops, but I imagine there to be some machines that aided in helping nature thrive.  I felt like H.D. uses the imagery of farm machinery to tear down the other types that are hindering nature rather than tending to it.

Still puzzled over the first half, I tried to trace the theme of industrialization back to the first part.  Going against the creed of the imagist group, H.D. is repetitive about breaking a tree and “you,” whoever “you” is.  I couldn’t quite figure out this part, but it had me thinking about the strength of the rose in the first stanza.  Why is the rose so strong?  Following the theme of industrialization v. nature, I concluded that the rose is representing nature.  Nature is too strong to be broken by the threat of industrialization.

Sweetness through adversity?

The images in H.D.’s “Sea Rose” seem to hint at the underlying theme that things are not always what they seem; that there can be great beauty and value in what seems ugly or mundane on the surface level. Hardship and adversity are capable of producing  something good and worthy.

 

In the first stanza, the “harsh rose” that is “thin,” “meager,” and “sparse” at first seems like an inferior or marred version of what we normally envision as a rose. Normally, we might envision a rose as fresh, full, and beautiful—and even “wet” to suggest its freshness and livelihood.

However, this “harsh rose” is “more precious” because it has endured hardship and adversity. It has been “flung on the sands” and has been beaten by wind (10-13). H.D. ponders in the last stanza if this “spice-rose”—being dried and manipulated by the wind, similarly to the process of drying and grinding spices—will produce an “acrid smell,” since it has been tossed around and beaten around by these various forces. Judging from the previous stanza and how the adversity the flower experiences actually make the rose “more precious,” an “acrid smell” would seem inconsistent. Rather, the poet might suggest that the adversity the rose experiences might actually make it’s smell sweeter. This potential for sweetness is why the last stanza is left as a question–it makes us reconsider if hardship only produces negative results, or if something greater or sweeter may come of it.

Houses or Homes?

“Houses” by F.S. Flint is a difficult piece in which to ascertain the poet’s intended meaning.  Although the poet uses common language, ordinary syntax, and even punctuation, there is no clear message immediately after reading “Houses”. This difficulty in determining the intent of the poem arises from the poem’s widespread ambiguity.

In keeping with Imagism ideals, it is fitting to first address the ambiguous nature of how one is supposed feel after reading the poem. The projections of solitude in “Houses” can effect two primary conditions in the reader: serenity and loneliness.  Images such as the trilling of birds in the poplar trees, the bricked chimney-ed houses, and steamboats on the river seem to be pleasurable, or at least homey However, Stanza 3 highlights the lack of individuality in the scene:

 

No Wind,

The trees merge, green with green;

A car whirs by,

Footsteps and voices take their pitch

In the key of dusk,

far-off and near, subdued.

 

This depiction is much less inviting. The lack of wind is somehow disturbing. Furthermore, the blurring of the trees, the whirring of the cars, and the indeterminable whispers of the people simply show how the cacophony of images leaves no singular meaning. “Nothing will move them.” So is this good or bad? Are these homes, or are they mere houses?  It most likely depends on the reader. Someone who grew up in city life would relate to this scene, and it may be source of comfort for her (much like the open fields for a country boy or the high school for a PTA president). At any rate, it seems Flint finds this image disconcerting.

Is asking how one feels in response to the image an appropriate question? Perhaps we should first determine what the image is. At first, it seems that the speaker’s observations of the world around him. However, it could very well be a memory, which makes the depictions an image within an image (that of the dream). The organization of the poem lends itself well to this interpretation. The first stanza begins with familiarity. There are birds “in this poplar trees behind the house with the dark green door across the road.” This description not only shows the speaker’s intimate knowledge of the flora and fauna of any area apparently obscured from sight but also physically places the speaker within the scope of the scene. The next two stanzas become progressively more broad and less personal in their descriptions. The fourth stanza reiterates that the key image is the houses. Under the assumption of a dream or memory, the last line, “Nothing will move them”, could either refer to the houses or the memory of those houses at a particular time that quite possibly could last longer than the houses themselves. Either way, it is still uncertain whether this immovability is a source of comfort or angst.

Why did the dead men lose their bones?

“I think we are in the rats’ alley

Where the dead men lost their bones.”

T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land (l.115-116)

At this point in the poem, the reader still has no idea who is speaking in the ongoing conversation. There is certainly a fearful tone to the whole conversation, and a frightening suspicion that something terrible is going to happen. The lines above definitely contribute to this tone.

I had to puzzle over the second part of the line, because when I first read it I was really confused because I took it literally. What? Dead men can’t lose things. This poem is weird. Oh wait. It could be where they died….oooo that would actually make sense. So are the speakers about to die? And who are these dead guys anyway? Does it even matter who they are? No, they could very well be every man who ever died in a rough and tumble place, where the rats hide as they coax out a living from the muck humans leave behind.

And then there’s the bones. Why do they leave the bones behind, not their bodies? What about their families and friends that they also leave behind? These are not important, only their bones. I guess that bones are the structure of one’s body, and one could say the frame onto which our flesh embellishes to give a vision of the soul. It’s the physical foundation of our selves, and the only thing that remains of our selves on earth after the spirit departs and the temporary wears away. *

So exploring all the metaphorical meanings to bones, it’s important that the dead men lost their bones. So they lost the most basic thing that gave structure to their selves, the only thing that will remain after their spirit departs.

I think these lines can give a lot of insight into the waste land of Eliot’s poem. All of the layers of meaning are present in all of his writing, and can be interpreted differently if even a single word is altered. If he had said the dead men lost their bodies, or the dead men lost their spirits, then it would have meant the same thing in a more literal sense – the men died. But it would not have had the same layers of meaning as bones.

This very small switch would have changed the reader’s perspective of the speakers. In the poem, Eliot shows not only that the speakers fear that they will die, but that in dying they will lose the very foundation of their selves, and any mark they could leave upon the world.

 

*A side note – Bones is my favorite show and I’ve explored way to much metaphorical meaning from the image of a skeleton laid out on a table and examined for evidence from watching over 100 episodes…

What about the fish!

Ezra Pound’s “Salutation” is a beautiful example of Imagist poetry, it does not violate any of the rules about language, subject, images, and leaves just enough ambiguity that the reader’s interpretation never quite seems to capture the whole poem. My group talked about the Lost aspect of Europe after the war, how the people didn’t quite know where they were supposed to be, but still some found happiness in places they shouldn’t have. While I can see how that interpretation was reached I couldn’t help but think, “What about the fish?” The fish to me seems to be the key to the whole poem.

Lets look at the characters in the poem, the first is a generation of people who are smug and uncomfortable, the second the fisherman and his family, the third is the speaker, and the fourth is that naked fish running around in the lake. The poem is addressed to the group of people, so the salutations could be his welcoming or his farewell to a group who has just come to the area he and the fisherman are. If that is the case, that is one poor greeting or farewell calling them smug and all, he seems to be making a statement about their ability to accept other people.

That smug group, we will call them Caroline and Darcy from Pride and Prejudice to have a little fun, they walk in to a park it seems to have a nice walk and chat and then they see this fisherman out of his place, in the way of their view. Caroline becomes uncomfortable with the way the family dresses and is making one of those faces that express just utter annoyance and possibly disgust. She rhetorically asks “Why is this man and his dirty little family here in our beautiful little park?” She cannot accept that they are just having a nice lunch and being happy on a day more fitting of being in a park than working. Pound calls out this generation of people, and it doesn’t seem to only be limited to the aristocracy, it is a catholic idea about the people of England.

But what about the fish?! Why does he throw in the fish at the end? The second part of the poem reads differently than the first. The first half addresses the prejudices and pride of that smug generation, while the second half jumps to the conclusion that their pride gets in the way of their happiness. The speaker is happier than they who are uncomfortable because he lacks this pride and prejudice against a fisherman who decided to take a day off. The fisherman is happier than he because, well he is having a beautiful picnic full of fun and sunshine with his family, beats being on a boat surrounded by fish. The fish is happiest of them all, he has been freed! He is no longer hunted, for the moment, and most important of all he is not constrained by those items of cloth humans wear. Actually, I have no idea why pound finishes with “and do not even own clothing.” Maybe he is revisiting the idea of prejudice because the fish have none for each other. They don’t have clothes to base their prejudices off of, they are as bare as their neighbor and are content will being so.

“Garden” & The love letter

I will begin by honestly stating that this analysis began with an inspirational conversation with James during class. With that stated, section I of “Garden by Hilda Doolittle will be the subject of this analysis.

The opening stanza identifies that this poem is written to someone, or at the very least, about someone. This person is a former lover and the poem is the ending remark of some romantic relationship.

“You are clear / O rose, cut in rock / hard as the descent of hail.” The subject, hereafter called the lover, is “clear” in the way that he has made himself apparent. The “cut in rock” feels so similar to the idea of something being set in stone. and the “descent of hail” always leaves an impact and then the offending object disappears without a trace. This stanza paints the picture of a beautiful/handsome lover who has pained the narrator by turning from their relationship. He has said this decision is final and unchangeable and this great hurt has really impacted the narrator, like hail hitting an aluminum roof.

“I could scrape the colour / from the petals / like spilt dye from a rock.” The petals that are being scraped of their color are the love letters exchanged between the narrator and her lost paramour. The color she seeks to scrape from the page is the words/ink that no longer mean anything to them. And the difficulty of separating the words from the pages is reminiscent of trying to squeeze blood from a rock–an impossible task. This stanza shows the narrator heartbroken over the loss and wishing to destroy the flower of their love by rending the love letters that were once the beautiful petals that created the beauty of their love.

“If I could break you / I could break a tree.” The lover seems impossible to reach for the narrator, he is not heartbroken and she wants him to feel the same brokenness that is plaguing her. This feels like I an impossible task, seeing the “if,” and the narrator believes that if she was capable of making him heart, she could make a tree hurt–an object without emotion. This stanza feels like the equivalent of “talking to a brick wall.” The wall isn’t really listening to you and you can’t affect it through words.

“If I could stir / I could break a tree– / I could break you.” This line of empowerment no longer says that she cannot not reach his heart, nor is she incapable of even breaking the heart of a tree. This very honest line captures the despondency that overwhelms her broken heart. She has not broken his heart because she can hardly hold together the pieces of her own broken heart.

As someone who has felt the bite of dead love, there is a great power and weakness in this poem that accurately captures the difficulty of ending a romance. However, Hilda Doolittle is an Imagist and this could absolutely mean something TOTALLY different.