Sedley (1719) Sir Charles Sedley gained a reputation for his bohemian lifestyle. Independently wealthy and a political figure, he found support from King Charles II, who enjoyed his frequent public antics. A
dramatist, Sedley included many songs in his performances, several of which remain interesting as lyrics included in modern anthologies. one of those is "Phil-lis Is My only Joy," a playful poem with a light tone fitting its subject. The speaker follows the first line, which repeats the title, with the seemingly disapproving description, "Faithless as the winds or seas," but he obviously enjoys her being, as the third line notes, "Sometimes cunning, sometimes coy." The use of repetition and alliteration, as well as the stanza form, indicates the poem was originally a song. The fourth line, "Yet she never fails to please," precedes a refrain of sorts in two sets of rhyming couplets, followed by the first stanza summary line:
If with a frown I am cast down, Philis smiling And beguiling Makes me happier than before.
The second stanza notes the speaker's dismay at discovering "too late I find / Nothing can her fancy fix," where fancy means her wandering eye. However, he adds that as soon as she does him one kind turn, he "forgives her with her tricks." A second refrain follows, along with a concluding summary line:
Which though I see, I can't get free,— She deceiving, I believing,— What need lovers wish for more.
Sedley stresses that an important part of love for his characters is game playing, in which deceit had a great part. His writing career focused on human foibles, something of which he knew a great deal through his own infamous lifestyle.
"PHOEBUS ARISE" William Drummond of Hawthornden (ca. 1616) William Drummond of Hawthornden wrote "Phoebus Arise" in the tradition of the aubade, a poem that features morning. The aubade also often focused on lovers who had to part as the sun rose. Drummond varies his theme from that of parting lovers to that of unrequited love, featuring a male whose female lover is expected with the dawn but fails to appear. The poem's voice may imply that she has died, as Drummond often featured death and defeat in his works.
In the classical tradition Drummond's speaker calls in the first line, "Phoebus arise," to the sun god Apollo, sometimes called Phoebus. According to mythology Apollo rode a golden chariot across the sky, which pulled the sun into place. The poem's speaker bids Phoebus "paint the sable skies / With azure, white, and red," then asks him to "Rouse Memnon's mother from her Tithon's bed," referring to Aurora, the goddess of the dawn. Aurora is to spread roses about the earth as the nightingales sing their greetings to Phoebus in a setting with "an eternal spring," alluding to the life in springtime that becomes abundant beneath the sun. The positive tone turns brooding in the eighth line, as the speaker, still addressing Phoebus, requests, "Give life to this dark world which lieth dead," hinting that death closely accompanies life and is symbolized by the night, or lack of natural light. Drummond personifies the deity, writing
Spread forth thy golden hair
In larger locks than thou wast wont before,
And, emperor like, decore
Drummond adopts a formal approach and uses hyperbole in describing the world's beauty by comparing it to human beauty and the value of gems. He then again suggests the manner by which humans understand opposites when he writes, "Chase hence the ugly night, / Which serves both to make dear thy glorious light, / This is that happy morn." As the speaker mentions that the day is a "long-wished one" in his own dark life, he makes clear man's position as fortune's pawn, writing that the day will reward his patience "(If cruel stars have not my ruin sworn, / And fates not hope betray)," then compares that hope to diamonds, extending the gem metaphor. The morning's true value is its ability to "bring unto this grove" his lover, "to hear and recompense my love." He does not merely want the gods to hear of his love for another, he wants them to reward him by forcing her to feel the same for him.
In the remaining 24 lines the speaker reminds Phoebus of a time when he also may have waited for a lover, but makes clear that "two sweeter eyes / Shalt see, than those which by Peneus' streams / Did once thy heart surprise." Therefore the speaker's mortal lover surpasses in beauty even Apollo's idealized lover. Drum-mond continues a classical tradition, as his speaker bids "zephyrs," or breezes, to play in the hair of his lover, then praises Phoebus again for banishing stars, offering a simile: "Night like a drunkard reels / Beyond the hills to shun his flaming wheels." The poem concludes on a wistful note, as all is prepared for the absent lover:
The fields with flow'rs are deck'd in every hue,
The clouds bespangle with bright gold their blue
Here is the pleasant place,
And every thing, save her, who all should grace.
Drummond's speaker appears destined not to see his lover, playing on the popular poetic conceit of unrequited love. He suggests that all the forces in the universe cannot control human emotion, although the speaker hopes that, by calling upon mythological deities who often altered man's fate, his wish for his lover's presence will be granted. Regardless of how well the speaker sets the scene, even calling upon the gods for aid, his lover cannot be forced to reciprocate his feelings.
"PILGRIMAGE, THE" George Herbert (1633)
George Herbert wrote "The Pilgrimage" as part of his collection The Temple. His six six-line stanzas depict a weary traveler who experiences an allegorical journey, never reaching his goal. Throughout his poetry Herbert stressed the futility of man's efforts to achieve grace, emphasizing the Calvinistic belief that only God may grant grace through predestination. "The Pilgrimage" serves to support this theme, with a hill, the traveler's illusive destination, symbolizing that grace.
The speaker begins in the middle of action, giving readers the impression that he has already long been at
"POET'S COMPLAINT OF HIS MUSE, THE" 323
this journey: "I traveled on, seeing the hill, where lay / My expectation." Herbert makes clear that the expectation is solely that of the traveler; it is his own invention. This becomes important in making the point that man's attempts to order his own life only serve to separate him from God. Herbert then employs a conundrum popular since classical times when the speaker must pass between two dangerous geographic points. On his left lies "The gloomy cave of Desperation," and "on the other side / The rock of Pride." As Odysseus had to steer his ship between Scylla, a man-eating sea monster, and Charybdis, a deadly whirlpool, the speaker has to navigate with special agility. The cave reference calls to mind Plato's analogy in which inhabitants of a cave find their knowledge of the world limited, as their perceptions are based on illusion. Herbert suggests the same idea and implies that pride aids in man's confusion, not allowing him to choose a path separate from his ego. The uppercase P in Pride personifies that emotion, and Herbert will use the figurative language of personification throughout the first verses of his poem, as in allegory.
In the second stanza, the traveler encounters "Fancy's meadow," where he is tempted to stop for a time but decides to move on in order to remain on schedule. He next reaches "Care's copse," a restful stand of trees that he passes "through / With much ado." Herbert incorporates irony in the suggestion of pride in the traveler's accomplishments, although he supposedly conquered pride early in the poem. The third stanza tells of "the wild of Passion, which / Some call the wold," where a wold means an "upland," an area generally devoid of trees. The traveler describes it as "A wasted place, but sometimes rich," then tells of being robbed of his gold. However, remaining is "one good Angel, which a friend had tied / Close to my side." As with all heroes on odysseys, this traveler requires a guide, a service the Angel may provide.
The traveler at last reaches his "gladsome hill," a place "Where lay my hope, / Where lay my heart." Herbert inserts a semicolon after the word heart, forcing a caesura for effect. The traveler continues his climb but suffers disappointment when he finds only "a lake of brackish waters." Apparently even his Angel has not been of aid. Herbert makes the point that man's expec tations will always fail him. He must depend instead on God. The traveler falls, "abashed and struck with many a sting / Of swarming fears," recalling the biblical 1 Corinthians 15:55, in which the apostle Paul questions Death regarding the strength of its "sting." This sting is nothing to be ignored; it drives the traveler to tears. He cries out to his lord, wondering whether tears remain his destiny. When he arises, he suddenly "perceived I was deceived." He has not reached his goal after all; his "hill was further," so he "flung away." He does not get far and tells the audience that he
Yet heard a cry
Just as I went, None goes that way
The poem concludes with the traveler's deciding, "After so foul a journey death is fair, / And but a chair." While the reference to the chair may seem odd to modern readers, Herbert had used it elsewhere. In his poem "Mortification" Herbert employs an allusion to a chair as a conveyance to death, writing, "A chair or litter shows the biere, / Which shall convey him to the house of death."
"The Pilgrimage" retains its bleak tone throughout, as man persists in self-delusion, receiving no reward of eternal life. Herbert's message remains clear. Man cannot find eternal life on his own, regardless of the well-meaning effort he exerts. God must grant that grace.
"POET'S COMPLAINT OF HIS MUSE, THE" Thomas Otway (ca. 1685) "The Poet's Complaint of His Muse" by Thomas Otway cannot be specifically dated, but it was written sometime during the 1680s. Best known for his dramatic tragedies, otway produced some verse, including this Pindaric ode. A challenging model, the Pindaric ode contains three parts. The first, a strophe, consists of two or more lines arranged as a unit that might shift from one metrical foot to another, its name derived from the Greek for "to turn." The second portion, called an antistrophe, was constructed in the same way as the strophe, often "answering" it. In a classical chorus the strophe might be sung as the chorus moved left to right, while the antistrophe might be sung as the chorus turned to move right to left. The third and final portion, called an epode, contrasted in form with the strophe and antistrophe. In Greek tragedy it would be sung as the chorus stood still. otway also reflects his knowledge of Pindar's focus on the hero and verbal mythology.
In an occasionally anthologized excerpt otway demonstrates the varying format of the Pindaric approach as his speaker tells of a poet driven mad for lack of inspiration. He seeks the traditional pastoral scene that acted as the focus of much traditional poetry. Instead he encounters a bleak landscape, barren of life and unable to inspire a bard. He climbs up a "high hill where never yet stood tree" and "Where only heath, coarse fern, and furzes grow." The elements prove dismal as the sheep are "nipped by piercing air" and bear "tattered fleeces" with no grass on which to graze. The negative effect on the bard, already mad, is made clear:
Led by uncouth thoughts and care, Which did too much his pensive mind amaze, A wandering bard, whose Muse was crazy grown, Cloyed with the nauseous follies of the buzzing town, Came, looked about him, sighed, and laid him down.
The lines demonstrate alliteration and vivid imagery and establish a cynical tone toward the bard, or poet, and toward the writing occupation.
otway counters the traditional pastoral presentation of the poet wandering among serene herds of sheep, taking inspiration from the shepherd's simple way of life. This pastoral employs irony and lacks the traditional lush greenery that promotes the health and happiness of the stock, which in turn supports not only the shepherd, but also the poet who wants to write of their existence. Otway presents a bleak physical landscape that supports the desperate mental landscape of his poet subject. His bard suffers from his contact with his subjects, rather than benefiting from that interaction. As a result madness is his only inspiration and nausea the effect of those with whom he interacts. otway's stage experience surfaces in the final line of this section, which amounts to stage directions for his poet.
In the poem's antistrophe Otway uses figurative language (figure of speech) to personify the earth. His speaker notes that the poet was "far from any path," instead lying where the earth Was bare, and naked all as at her birth When by the Word it first was made, Ere God had said:—
At this point the tone shifts from a negative view to a positive one, as the poet recalls God's command that "grass and herbs and every green thing grow, / With fruitful herbs after their kinds, and it was so."
However, the positive imagery exists only in the speaker's imagination, fueled by madness. The reader is quickly called back to reality through the startling contrast of "whistling winds," which blow "fiercely" around the wandering poet's head, and the speaker notes that "Cold was his lodging, hard his bed." The poet looks to "the wide heavens" as the only source of peace and will find that peace only after death. The final two lines from this excerpt reflect Otway's cynicism, as the speaker notes of the poet, "And as he did its hopeless distance see, / Sighed deep, and cried 'How far is peace from me!'"
In this landscape of hopelessness Otway prefigures later works, such as T. S. Eliot's The Wasteland. Had Otway lived in better circumstances and beyond his 33 years, he might have produced more poetry with the dramatic flare evident in "The Poet's Complaint of His Muse."
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