New, Peter. George Crabbe's Poetry. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1976.
"VINE, THE" Robert Herrick (1648) Blatantly erotic, Robert Herrick's poem "The Vine" has been labeled by psychoanalytic critics a lyric wet dream, its opening lines reading,
I Dream'd this mortal part of mine
Was Metamorphoz'd to a Vine;
Which crawling one and every way,
Enthrall'd my dainty Lucia, where the term enthrall'd means "fettered" or "bound." Replete with the figurative language (figure of speech) of hyperbole, the poem offers skillfully developed metaphors, which incorporate imagery from nature while representing in actuality body parts, framed by a playful tone of carnality. Those critical of Herrick's work in his day as sinful and a disgrace to his station based their opinions on works such as "The Vine." Later scholars view the poems as simply celebratory of human nature and physical nature, which Herrick greatly enjoyed.
The speaker's "Tendrils" take by "surprise" Lucia's "small legs and thighs," while his "Nerv'lits" embrace her "Belly, Buttocks and her Waste [Waist]." Herrick sounds much like a schoolboy, exploring his sexual fantasies through the excuse of a dream. The vine "writhing hung" about Lucia's head and "behung" her temples, after which Herrick references the mythical Bacchus, who also found himself "ravisht by his tree." Verbs such as writhe and crawl suggest actions of a serpent, a traditional phallic symbol and a symbol of temptation and seduction. Eventually the vine makes "All parts" of Lucia "one prisoner," then creeps "with leaves to hide / Those parts, which maids keep unesy'd." unfortunately for the dreamer, the "fancie" grows so strong it awakens him, after which he experiences an erect penis. Herrick's final two lines describe that experience, as the speaker notes that after his dream he "found (Ah me!) this flesh of mine / More like a Stock [stalk] then like a Vine."
VIRGIL (70 b.c.-19 b.c.) Born Publius Vergilius Maro near Mantua in Cisalpine Gaul, in the northern region of present-day Italy, the poet whom modern readers would know as Virgil enjoyed an excellent education as he matured on a farm. He traveled to Rome and became a follower of Epicureanism and part of the colony led by Siro the Epicurean on the Gulf of Naples. He began writing poetry as part of that group, starting in 42 B.C., the Eclogues, a work that would greatly influence poets of the English Renaissance and beyond. In Eclogues Virgil depicts the pastoral Greek life as idyllic, populating his verse with shepherds, shepherdesses, and other figures and allusions that would become conventions during Renaissance times. Virgil's own model was Theocritus, whose pastorals Virgil made more applicable to the common reader by adding humor to ideology. He introduced Greek "Arcadia" to English poets, transforming the rugged landscape of Greece into a landscape of the ideal. He remained interested in revealing truths about human nature through the use of the pastoral trope. Later poets could apply to their own cultures and times Virgil's focus on human passion and ideals, as well as his thoughts on Roman politics and on the power of art, specifically poetry, to transcend human suffering. Because Roman civilization represented the roots of European politics and culture, Virgil became the undisputed patron to whom European poets later turned for inspiration and a model.
Eclogues would be translated many times from Latin into English, with the proper versification remaining in dispute by critics. Virgil employed the meter of dactylic hexameter, with exactly six metrical stresses per line in a strict pattern. For writers in English both capturing the sense of his Latin words and perfectly imitating his style proved challenging. Many employed the alexandrine, a 12-syllable iambic line, to meet that challenge. They also occasionally used a feminine ending, rather than the masculine specific to Virgil, and altered the number of feet and stresses. Eclogues also offered a strong example of irony, what the poet Horace termed molle atque facetum, translated by Guy Lee as "sensitive and witty" or "sensitive and ironic." Lee writes that the power of the Eclogues rests in its quality of incantation, or chant and songlike properties, the repetition for emphasis of words and phrases, and its use of antithesis. Poets of the 17th and 18th centuries would adopt all three artistic techniques.
Virgil also wrote the epic poem titled Aeneid, the first six books of which he fashioned after Homer's epic the Odyssey, purportedly written during the dark ages of Greece. The last six books he wrote in response to Homer's Iliad. He spent his final 10 years at work on the distinctively political poem at the request of octa-vius, or Augustus, Caesar, who requested a poem celebrating his feats in strengthening the Roman Empire. Virgil converted the hero's story from one of fearless courage in devotion to political and private ideals to one of a heroism imbued with a sense of justice and an awareness of the humanity in each of the opposing forces.
Although Virgil died before its completion, the Aeneid became one of the most important writings in literature. It contemplates and celebrates the establishment of an entire culture, tracing the development of its laws and moral credos. This emphasis makes the work didactic, but also perfect for adaptation as a model by any poet who wanted to engage in verse his era's struggle with political and social order. Thus Virgil's hero became a moral paragon, establishing a new reflection on heroism. The poem celebrates two virtues. Humanitas, an empathy we feel for others due to the shared human condition, and pietas, loyalty to one's family, culture, and religions, offered excellent themes for adoption. They easily found emphasis in English Renaissance and Reformation poetry, as poets struggled with religious dispute, the king's position as church leader, regicide, plots against the government, the struggle for identity by Parliament, and the right of men to rule. England's 18th century added to that mix of social conflict the rising powers of what would later be termed the middle class and the rumblings of the Industrial Revolution and its redistribution of wealth and power from the country to the city. Virgil's work also gave voice to 18th-century tension resulting from what many viewed as an "occupation" of the English throne by a "foreign" power, the Hanoverians.
Virgil's third influential work, the Georgics, celebrates the life of the farm during an era when Italy was torn by civil war. Its four books required eight years for the writing and were influenced by Hesiod, who had produced the first didactic poetry, Works and Days. The 2,188 hexametric verses of the Georgics contain the famous emphasis on the life of the beehive as metaphor for human society. Virgil depicts the helplessness of humans before the majesty of nature, the hardships they had to endure in order to produce simple food, the reverence due to deities who controlled various aspects of nature, and an awareness of the seasonal cycles that represent life and death. His combined work so influenced Dante Alighieri's writing of the Divine Comedy that the ancient poet appears as a crucial character who acts as the narrator's guide through Purgatory and Hell.
In addition to Dante only a few of the poets influenced by Virgil were Mary Astell, William Browne, George Crabbe, John Dryden, Ben Jonson, Anne Killi-grew, Christopher Marlowe, John Milton, Alexander Pope, and James Thomson. Virgil's work and influence continue to inspire scholarship as well as artistic production. His poetry remains readily accessible in both print and electronic forms.
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