Thursday, February 24, 2005

On Lewis Carroll and Thomas Hardy

For tutorial next week, we are to find a Victorian poem and read in class. This is to a be an exercise in reading poetry (this being a poetry class, I guess being able to read poetry is important).
The poem I will probably read in class (it's a toss-up between Carroll or Hardy) will be Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky (pg 1032). For any of you that haven't read it, I encourage you to do so; because not only is it the most random, nonsensical poem you will ever read, but I guarantee that by the end of it, you will know what it is about, despite the made-up words and randomness. Let me try to tie Carroll with the Victorians.
Carroll was a Victorian (He was Professor of Math at ChristChurch College at my beloved Oxford!). And this being an age of many new things and new ideas, I will venture to say that, along with all the technological/social advancements and experiments, Carroll was doing the same with language. He was challenging people to see language in a new way. A way that could be manipulated to the fancy of the author. Just like nature was being manipulated by human ingenuity. Jabberwocky does use made-up words, but it has its own logic. In this way, it very Victorian.

Now, if I could change gears for a moment.

Thomas Hardy is another Victorian that interests me. His poem Hap (pg 1049) is another example of the Victorian style. This poem is more in line with the gloomy, meloncholia the Victorians were also known for. But it is, as Prof. Kuin noted in Lecture, straight to the point. I can imagine a Romantic like Wordsworth stretching this poem to many lines and pages. But Hardy gets to point and conveys exactly what he's feeling. Yet, like all great poets, he does this in a profound and moving way. Again, something very Victorian.

There you have it, a brief look at the two sides of Victorianism!

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Romantic and Victorian

In my last post I mistakenly called Matthew Arnold a Romantic poet. In my ignorance, I thought I was right; but Prof. Kuin pointed out:

Actually, it's Victorian, not Romantic. If you read some Keats or Wordsworth, you can tell the difference. Victorians tend to discuss feelings more directly, more "sincerely". Glad you enjoyed it. Wonderful poem.

I now stand corrected!
I even took Prof. Kuin's advice to heart and read some Wordsworth (reading Keats is a work in progress). What he said is true (no surprise here!), Victorians are much more direct in how they express themselves. I'm not saying one is better than the other, and I'm not saying I like one more than the other, but the difference is noticable. Take for example Wordsworth's "Scorn Not the Sonnet" and Arnold's "Shakespeare." They both are poems in praise of someting, but they do it in different ways.
Wordsworth, being a Romantic era poet, uses more metaphores and evokes the past to make his point. He compares the sonnet to a small lute, and tells of how these great poets of the past did such amazing things with it. But he does it in a very "flowery" ornamented way: Instead of just saying the sonnet is great, he says it's a like a soul-animating trumpet!
Arnold, on the other hand, in "Shakespeare" (notice even the simplicity of the title) is more direct. The third stanza is a prime example, he tells you what he thinks. Not to say he was a dim-wit and couldn't write as ornamented as Wordsworth, I'm sure he could. And there are examples in the poem where he makes some stunning metaphores and comparisons. Line 5 is an example: "Planting he stedfast footsteps in the sea..." That is a pretty powerful image: A firm foot steping into the powerful sea. I guess in a lot of ways Shakespeare is like that. He was (and still is), a dramatist who is to be given the utmost respect. What else do we study in high-school that dates back to the Reneisance? Maybe a few arbitrary poems in Writer Craft that we soon forget after the final exam? Maybe some art in Art class? Nothing really to write home about! Matthew Arnold coveys the greatnes of Shakespeare in a much more direct and sincere way than maybe Wordsworth would have.
Both great poems, and not too long! "Scorn Not the Sonnet" can be found on pg. 737 and "Shakespeare" is on 987.

I think is quasi-essay rant is over.
I look foreword to what you all have to say!

P.S.: Is it just me or is Wordsworth's "She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways" not just one of the most beautiful poems? Read it, it's just 12 lines long and is on pg. 721.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

My "Obsession"

So I just read Matthew Arnold's The Scholar-Gypsy. When Prof. Kuin told us in tutorial that this is a poem about Oxford, and all Oxford students know and love it, my ears pricked up. You see, I have a fascination (it's probably better to call it an obsession) with Oxford University. I was in England this past May and spent some time in Oxford and fell in love. I think this would happen to anyone interested in history (or is a nerd like me, and passionate about education).

This poem tells the interesting story of a student at Oxford who left the school and joined the Gypsies. He promised to tell the world all the wonderful things about the Gypsies (about their powers of imagination and unorthodox way of see the world), but he never came back to tell the story. He was often spotted here and there, but never stayed long in one place. What makes The Scholar-Gypsy so cool is that it names many places and landmarks in Oxford like Godstow Bridge and Christ Church Hall, among others. I guess that's why Oxford students love it so much. I don't feel there is any point in giving quotes from the poem, it's not that long, only 250 lines (that's like a couple of pages from The Iliad). I suggest that you read it, it's a great example of a poem from the Romantic period.