(a) Read Donne's 'The Extasie' and pay particular attention to points (i), (ii) and (iii). Addresser and addressee are the subjects of the text but are they both present in the situation of the utterance? Examine the use of tense and pronoun in the closing stanzas.
To our bodies turn we then, that so Weak men on love revealed may look; Love's mysteries in souls do grow, But yet the body is his book. And if some lover, such as we, Have heard this dialogue of one, Let him still mark us, he shall see Small change, when we are to bodies gone.
(b) Consider Thomas Carew's 'A Rapture' in relation to the same questions. Celia is addressed directly, but the discourse concentrates on images and narratives drawn exclusively from the speaker's imagination and reading. Consider the way in which the dominant syntactic units (the pronouns and the commending verb phrases) suggest immediacy and spontaneity while the referential images continually shift the text away from the present toward the sphere of metaphor, myth and classical learning. In short, does the text create a deliberate tension between the situation of the utterance and the mental world of the speaker? Compare with Donne's 'The Flea' and Marvell's 'To His Coy Mistress'. Does the effect of the enjambed couplet in all three poems foreground the uneasy relation between the poetic (text, structure, artifice) and the imagined situation (see (iv))? The following is the opening verse paragraph:
I will enjoy thee now, my Celia, come,
And fly with me to Love's Elysium.
The giant, Honour, that keeps cowards out,
Is but a masquer, and the servile rout
Of baser subjects only bend in vain
To the vast idol; whilst the nobler train
Of valiant lovers daily sail between
The huge Colossus' legs, and pass unseen
Unto the blissful shore. Be bold and wise,
And we shall enter: the grim Swiss denies
Only to tame fools a passage, that not know
He is but form, and only frights in show
The duller eyes that look from far; draw near,
And thou shalt scorn what we were wont to fear.
We shall see how the stalking pageant goes
With borrowed legs, a heavy load to those
That made and bear him: not, as we once thought,
The seed of gods, but a weak model wrought By greedy men, that seek to enclose the common, And within private arms impale free woman.
(c) Consider Donne's 'The Canonization'. This is arguably the most disorientating of all metaphysical poems. The presence of the addressee seems to be validated by the addresser's urgent questions and declarations, but who is this person? The deictic features suggest that he/she has some influence upon the speaker's relationship with his lover, but is this direct (the addresser's friend, relative, employer even) or imagined (perhaps the speaker addresses his own problems and doubts or confronts God with them) (see (i) and (ii))? Our enquiries are not helped by the poem's shifts between broader contextual images (kings, soldiers, wars, etc.) and self-referential invocations of the poetic (see (iii)). The following are the first and third stanzas:
For God's sake hold your tongue, and let me love,
Or chide my palsy, or my gout,
My five grey hairs, or ruined fortune flout,
With wealth your state, your mind with arts improve,
Take you a course, get you a place,
Observe his Honour, or his Grace,
Or the King's real, or his stamped face
Contemplate; what you will, approve,
We can die by it, if not live by love, And if unfit for tombs and hearse Our legend be, it will be fit for verse; And if no piece of chronicle we prove, We'll build in sonnets pretty rooms; As well a well-wrought urn becomes The greatest ashes, as half-acre tombs, And by these hymns, all shall approve Us canonized for love:
(d) Lastly, Herbert's 'A Wreath'. Consider how Herbert combines the textual and referential functions of poetic language. Is the repetition of words and phrases merely a complex pun on the image of a wreath (the interweaving of components)? Or does this, combined with the thematic-semantic foregrounding of the rhyme scheme (give, live; straight, deceit), produce a form of metasyntax, a secondary pattern of meanings, common to all forms of poetic writing (see (iv) and (v))? Compare the poem with a similar pattern of interactions between the referential and material elements of language in Herbert's 'Paradise'. In your opinion is Herbert's work an exaggeration or an honest disclosure of a dependency between the referential-functional purpose of language and its enclosed poetic-textual structures?
A wreathed garland of deserved praise, Of praise deserved, unto thee I give, I give to thee, who knowest all my ways, My crooked winding ways, wherein I live, Wherein I die, not live: for live is straight, Straight as a line, and ever tends to thee, To thee, who art more far above deceit, Than deceit seems above simplicity. Give me simplicity, that I may live, So live and like, that I may know thy ways, Know them and practise them: then shall I give For this poor wreath, give thee a crown of praise.
Was this article helpful?