Marvell, Herrick, Donne, Milton: LONG

bill-sarah at mindspring.com bill-sarah at mindspring.com
Tue Jul 18 21:34:49 EDT 2000


Okay.  Somebody asked me to clarify something I said about poets a while ago; I've been feeling guilty ever since for not answering quickly.  My computer died (I rented a DVD, it died before I could watch it, I returned it, and it fixed itself.)  and when I logged back on, I had one hundred seventy messages.  I've just been through all of them and sent back numerous responses; I'm sure that you're all heartily sick of me by now.  Just part of my plan. . . I've no idea what to say about the poets, especially because I can't remember what I said in the first place and in a typical act of brilliance, erased all messages.  I'm so good.

Most of you will erase this; I don't blame you.  I don't mind, only do yourself a favor and read Donne.  He is incredible.

Okay.  Marvell: I think I said that I didn't like him as much, esp. when compared to Donne.  In "to his coy mistress," he writes Had we but world enough, and time. . . . an hundred years should go to praise/ thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;/ two hundred to adore each breast/ but thirty thousand to the rest/an age at least to every part/and the last age should show your heart."  We disliked him because he only got around to the heart after ages of concentrating on the body; he continues [if you don't sleep with me you'll die and] "then worms shall try/ that long preserved virginity,/ And your quaint honor turn to dust/ And into ashes all my lust."  This was in contrast to Herrick, another carpe diem poet, most famous for that "gather ye rosebuds while ye may" poem.  My favorite of his, though, was "Corrina's Going A-Maying."  In this, the speaker talks to his mistress, not coy, not virginal, not even astoundingly young but in her prime; I could give you quotes for this but it'd take forever.  The relationship in this poem also seems to be less about his lust and more about them both making the most of life together.

On Donne: sex in his poem isn't so much about the chase, about conquering and laying waste to virginity and slaking lust.  It's about a mutual enjoyment, love, even.  In "The Sun Rising" he writes "Thy beams, so reverend and strong. . . I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink/ But that I would not lose her sight so long;/ If her eyes have not blinded thine. . . . She is all states, and all princes I/ Nothing else is./  Princes do but play us; compared to this/ all honor's mimic, all wealth alchemy."  Also, the tangible grief in the poems written around the time of his wife's death endear him to me:  in A Valediciton; of Weeping, he writes "Let me pour forth/ My tears before thy face whilst I stay here,/ For thy face coins them, and thy stamp they bear."  I want to copy out this whole poem, because it's so beautiful.  The other one is A Nocturnal upon St. Lucy's Day, Being the Shortest Day.  "Study me, then, you who shall lovers be/ At the next world, that is, at the next spring;/ For I am every dead thing/ IN whom love wrought new alchemy./ For his art did express/ a quintessence even from nothingness."  I'll stop in the interests of keeping this email from going on forever.

As for Milton, I have a confession.  We read Milton at the very end of the class--during finals.  I only skimmed, so I couldn't tell you about Milton, because I haven't actually read Paradise Lost since ninth grade and my memory's lousy.  I can tell you anything you want to know about either Mary Baker Eddy and Mark Twain or the role of the Mother in Early American Women's Religons, esp. Shakerism.  Yeah, liberal arts educations.  An interesting tidbit: Milton was blind.  He dictated everything to his three daughters.  What changes or influences they made/were are unknown.

If anyone's actually made it this far, well, I'm impressed.  Thinking about it now, I've come to the conclusion that I didn't write this so that people could read it so much as I did so that I could stop feeling guilty.

Lizzie.
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