"TO THE FAIR CLARINDA, WHO MADE LOVE TO ME, IMAGINED MORE THAN WOMAN" Aphra Behn (1688) Aphra Behn pursues the theme of forbidden love that gained her a reputation as a scandalous woman who wrote poetry, drama, and prose more appropriate for a man. Behn's focus on passion and sex, deemed improper for female Restoration writers, but completely appropriate for their male counterparts, elicited the ire of many of her contemporaries. Her work sold well, however, for a time, then remained uncelebrated until almost three centuries later, when feminist critics gave her the credit due her remarkable achievements. In "To the Fair Clar-inda" Behn writes of the joys of making love to a hermaphrodite, an individual equally male and female. She formats her first 17 lines as couplets with exact rhymes with the exception of lines 9, 10, and 11, all three of which rhyme. She then indicates a break in flow and manner of address by inserting white space and closing with six lines of couplets featuring eye rhymes.
Behn's speaker begins by addressing her love interest as "Fair lovely maid," then agrees to address her as "lovely charming youth," if that name "more approaches truth." She continues to play with the idea of balance inherent to the presence of masculinity and femininity in one body by using the term This to refer to the youth and that to refer to the maid. The speaker declares she may "pursue" the youth "without blushes," as long as "so much beauteous woman" remains "in view," a prelude to her claim that "for sure no crime with thee we can commit; / Or if we should—thy form excuses it." In the three rhyming line, Behn continues to emphasize balance as she claims she struggles against Clarin-da's "charms . . . in vain," even though her "deluding form" gives "us pain," and "the bright nymph betrays us to the swain." Swain was a common label for a shepherd, while a nymph was a mythological female being. Behn basically writes that the beauty characteristic of the female induces the speaker to submit to the aggression of the male. She adopts the serpent as a traditional phallic symbol as she concludes the first portion of the poem with the couplet "For who that gathers fairest flowers believes / A snake lies hid beneath the fragrant leaves." She also enjoys wordplay with the imagery of the flowers, as maids gather flowers, but those maids are also often considered flowers to be gathered, or deflowered, by males.
In the final six lines Behn drops the exact rhyme, perhaps departing from the idea of perfect balance. She addresses Clarinda now as neither maid nor youth, but instead as "Thou beauteous wonder of a different kind" and uses a male and female name in the second line, "Soft Cloris with the dear Alexis joined." Here Behn may suggest the joining caused by the act of physical sex. She continues, "Whene'er the manly part of thee would plead," indicating the making of a sexual proposition, "Thou tempts us with the image of the maid." She concludes by referencing mythological figures to comment on, or perhaps criticize, the 18th-century's sharp distinction between love and friendship: "While we the noblest passions do extend / The love to Hermes, Aphrodite the friend." In Greek mythology Hermaphroditus, offspring of the messenger god Hermes and the goddess of love Aphrodite, matured androgynous. Behn's use of the term noblest implies that not only is the speaker's love of both man and woman innocent but that those passions are elevated ones, superior to the passions inherent in strictly heterosexual relationships.
"TO THE IMMORTAL MEMORY AND FRIENDSHIP OF THAT NOBLE PAIR, SIR LUCIUS CARY AND SIR H. MORI-SON" Ben Jonson (1629) Ben Jonson celebrated two friends, also members of the SoNS oF BEN, in the classical ode form. A formal approach, the ode was used only for celebrating serious topics, most notably distinguished events or persons. In this case Jonson salutes an admirable friendship. Henry Morison died, probably of smallpox, at the young age of 20, leaving his younger friend, Lucius Cary, second viscount Falkland, to mourn his passing. Cary, also a poet, became a war hero, and he would die at the Battle of Newbury in 1643 after serving Charles I at court and in Parliament. of a sensitive nature, and having recently become dis
"TO THE IMMORTAL MEMORY AND FRIENDSHIP OF THAT NOBLE PAIR,
illusioned with the political climate, he may have intentionally made himself a target. No doubt his passion attracted Jonson, who was one of several well-known writers to celebrate Cary.
While many poets imitated the ode form, its transformation into English proved a challenge; many English odes had stilted presentation. Petrarch provided a model in Italian and Ronsard in French some decades before any English poets used the form. Although Michael Drayton labeled some of his poems odes, they more closely resembled ballads. Jonson was the first to naturalize the Pindaric ode in English in the late Renaissance; his poem has long been labeled the first "great" ode in English. Jonson adopts the classic Greek presentation of the ode by a chorus, which moved about the stage, dividing the poem into three portions. The chorus first chanted the strophe, then turned to cross the stage in the opposite direction during the antistrophe, then stood still to chant the epode. Jonson labels the three divisions the Turn, the Counter-Turn, and the Stand. Conforming to a fixed pattern, the four 10-line turns and counterturns incorporate rhyming couplets with varying line lengths, while the 12-line stands are even more complex.
Jonson adopts as his theme the classical concept of friendship, the poem incorporating thought from Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoic philosophers. Friendship is viewed as, according to the critic R. V. Young, "the fruit of shared virtue, as a spiritual reality transcending material circumstances and mortality." Jonson celebrates Morison's life as one of integrity, rather than touting any physical or material accomplishments. This may be clearly seen in the third stanza, or first stand, when the speaker asks,
For what is life if measured by the space,
Not by the act?
or masked man, if valued by his face,
Because Jonson's era viewed the Pindaric ode as an impassioned form, his poem contains various startling figures of speech and ideas to emphasize a classic form through original patterns and references. For instance in the first stanza, or turn, an infant of Saguntum, whose birth occurs as the great warrior Hannibal sacks his town, "looking then about" as he leaves the womb, "Ere thou wert half got out, / Wise child, didst hastily return," at which point his mother's womb is compared to an urn. In stanza 4, or the second turn, Jonson adopts water as an extended conceit for death, rather than using it as the traditional symbol of new life:
And sunk in that dead sea of life
So deep, as he did then death's waters sup;
In the second counterturn, stanza 5, the speaker says, "Alas, but Morison fell young:—/ He never fell, thou fall'st, my tongue," allowing Jonson to pun on the word fall, by referencing the Latin fallo, which means "to make a mistake." In another rhetorical oddity Jonson concludes stanza 8, the third counterturn, with the word Ben, then begins the following stanza, the third stand, with the word Jonson. In the next stanza, the final turn, Jonson inserts what George Parfitt has labeled his often used language of morality, the terms great and good. While those words are abstract, Jonson habitually surrounded them with concrete terms to emphasize the morality of his subject. In this case he describes the two friends as united not by feasts or orgies, "But simple love of greatness and of good / That knits brave minds and manners, more than blood." Ultimately their friendship offered them more in common than had they been related by birth.
Jonson successfully adopts the Pindaric ode to make clear his message regarding the true value of friendship. He concludes with the metaphor of harvest as death, allowing emphasis on the positive effects of a moral life, as he writes of the youthful pair, "Who, ere the first down bloomed on the chin / Had sowed these fruits, and got the harvest in."
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