Freeman, F. W. Robert Fergusson and the Scots Humanist Compromise. Edinburgh: Edinburgh university Press, 1984.
Maclaine, Allan H. Robert Fergusson. New York: Twayne, 1965.
"DANCE, THE" Sir John Suckling (1648) In
"The Dance," Sir John Suckling adopts the figurative language of personification to transform the emotions love, hate, and pride, and the mental configurations reason, fancy, and folly, into characters. The dance to which the title refers describes their interactions, as each changes partners several times, except the couple Love and Folly, who remain together throughout the three six-line stanzas. The rhyme pattern is aabbcc, with the final line of each stanza concluding with the word hell. Suckling emphasizes that people experience all of these emotions and states, simply forming varying combinations depending upon circumstances. However, while other permutations occur, love and folly always remain together. The poem's message that love is always doomed by foolish acts remains bleak, although its sprightly form moves with a jolly momentum that promotes reader pleasure.
The first stanza opens with imagery of "Love, Reason, Hate" speaking as "Three mates to play at barley-break." They form couples: "Love Folly took; and Reason, Fancy; / And Hate consorts with Pride." "Love coupled last," and its choice will prove disastrous, as it can never separate itself from Folly. In the second stanza, as readers continue to visualize partners dancing, "Love would Reason meet, / But Hate was nimbler on her feet," and "Fancy looks for Pride." Although Love hoped to couple with Reason, Hate, Fancy, here meaning desire untempered by intelligence, and Pride all interfered, leaving Love again with Folly as a result of the other couplings. By the third stanza, all partners rest briefly. When they execute another change, "Pride / Hath now got Reason on her side" and "Hate and Fancy meet," all remaining "Untouched by Love." Love only touches Folly again, despite Folly's "dull" nature, "So Love and Folly were in hell."
Suckling is considered by modern critics at times an adept poet, at other times one who presents disjointed and unreadable lines. In "The Dance," he establishes a strong metaphor for human interactions that become ritual, with scripted steps. That allows him to offer his philosophy regarding love and the likelihood that engagement in that most common of human emotions will lead to success for any random couple. A person who loved games, Suckling probably would not bet on the chance that love can ever win out, because of the folly of human nature, a fact made clear in his sentiments expressed in this seemingly light-hearted poem. The repeated word hell rings loudly as literally the last word about love, for it closes each stanza and the entire poem. The connotation of hell as a place not only of punishment but of no escape throughout eternity, an endless dance in Suckling's construction, remains inescapable.
Was this article helpful?