TS Heavy Hitters Poll #4: John Donne vs William Blake

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed

'O my America, my new found land' / 'England's green & pleasant land'.

Poll Results

OptionVotes
John Donne 10
William Blake 9


tetrahedron of space (woof), Monday, 23 August 2010 13:25 (ten years ago) link

I've never read as much Blake as I should; what I have is just astounding.

Donne, however, is one of my touchstones. What a perfect execution of a tricky conceit:

MARK but this flea, and mark in this,
How little that which thou deniest me is ;
It suck'd me first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea our two bloods mingled be.
Thou know'st that this cannot be said
A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead ;
Yet this enjoys before it woo,
And pamper'd swells with one blood made of two ;
And this, alas ! is more than we would do.

O stay, three lives in one flea spare,
Where we almost, yea, more than married are.
This flea is you and I, and this
Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is.
Though parents grudge, and you, we're met,
And cloister'd in these living walls of jet.
Though use make you apt to kill me,
Let not to that self-murder added be,
And sacrilege, three sins in killing three.

Cruel and sudden, hast thou since
Purpled thy nail in blood of innocence?
Wherein could this flea guilty be,
Except in that drop which it suck'd from thee?
Yet thou triumph'st, and say'st that thou
Find'st not thyself nor me the weaker now.
'Tis true ; then learn how false fears be ;
Just so much honour, when thou yield'st to me,
Will waste, as this flea's death took life from thee.

Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 23 August 2010 13:26 (ten years ago) link

this is a REALLY tough call & more on this subject later.

gross rainbow of haerosmith (underrated aerosmith albums I have loved), Monday, 23 August 2010 13:34 (ten years ago) link

Blake in a heartbeat. But the artwork could be swaying that vote. I've never seen a Donne painting.

Karen D. Tregaskin, Monday, 23 August 2010 13:35 (ten years ago) link

Aw, come on. I'm trying to work. You can't do this. Not today. Not ever. First instinct is to go with Donne, but I'm not voting yet, need time to consider.

Hide the prickforks (GamalielRatsey), Monday, 23 August 2010 13:36 (ten years ago) link

http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/About/General/2010/8/11/1281546327184/Exhibtion-of-etchings-by--006.jpg

Everything is an attempt / to be human

thomp, Monday, 23 August 2010 13:36 (ten years ago) link

When I visited London I made a point of spending at least two hours at the Tate Gallery just so I can soak in the Blake drawings.

Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 23 August 2010 13:38 (ten years ago) link

To CHRIST

WILT thou forgive that sinn, where I begunn,
Which is my sinn, though it were done before?
Wilt thou forgive those sinns through which I runn
And doe run still, though still I doe deplore?
When thou has done, thou hast not done, 5
For, I have more.

Wilt thou forgive that sinn, by which I'have wonne
Others to sinn, and made my sinn their dore?
Wilt thou forgive that sinn which I did shunne
A yeare or twoe, but wallowed in a score? 10
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I have more.

I have a sinn of feare that when I have spunn
My last thred, I shall perish on the shore;
Sweare by thy self that at my Death, thy Sonne 15
Shall shine as he shines nowe, & heretofore;
And having done that, thou hast done,
I feare noe more.

Donne's depths are incredible. Blake is dazzling and his depths are comparable. Not sure how I will vote.

gross rainbow of haerosmith (underrated aerosmith albums I have loved), Monday, 23 August 2010 13:39 (ten years ago) link

For me, it is definitely Donne, but there's a lot of despites: despite Blake's vision, despite the incredible lyrical clarity of his early verse, despite Blake's art and the design of his pages, despite Blake's awesome politics, in the end Donne's busy, speaking, over-thinkative verse is the lyric poetry I love best:

WHEN my grave is broke up againe
Some second ghest to entertaine,
(For graves have learn'd that woman-head
To be to more then one a Bed)
And he that digs it, spies
A bracelet of bright haire about the bone,
Will he not let'us alone,
And thinke that there a loving couple lies,
Who thought that this device might be some way
To make their soules, at the last busie day,
Meet at this grave, and make a little stay?

If this fall in a time, or land,
Where mis-devotion doth command,
Then, he that digges us up, will bring
Us, to the Bishop, and the King,
To make us Reliques; then
Thou shalt be a Mary Magdalen, and I
A something else thereby;
All women shall adore us, and some men;
And since at such time, miracles are sought,
I would have that age by this paper taught
What miracles wee harmelesse lovers wrought.

First, we lov'd well and faithfully,
Yet knew not what wee lov'd, nor why,
Difference of sex no more wee knew,
Then our Guardian Angells doe;
Comming and going, wee
Perchance might kisse, but not between those meales;
Our hands ne'r toucht the seales,
Which nature, injur'd by late law, sets free:
These miracles wee did; but now alas,
All measure, and all language, I should passe,
Should I tell what a miracle shee was.

tetrahedron of space (woof), Monday, 23 August 2010 13:39 (ten years ago) link

I don't know: I've read more Blake, but still only barely glanced into the prophetic books, and I feel I can't really say. The idea of work that creates a whole world you could choose to drown in, like his, if you so chose, is kind of a big thing for me. But, on the other hand, Donne has chops.

thomp, Monday, 23 August 2010 13:46 (ten years ago) link

Over time I've come to like Blake's shorter verse than his prophetic stuff (although the illustrated books are surely one of the greatest manifestations of artistic vision ever). His shorter verse and his didactic aphoristic stuff, like the Marriage of Heaven and Hell, always send energy coursing through my veins.

The ambivalent moral energies that spark such incredibly vibrant imagery. Stuff like this -

The bat that flits at close of eve
Has left the brain that won't believe.

oh and from the same poem

Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.
Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.
We are led to believe a lie
When we see not through the eye
Which was born in a night to perish in a night,
When the soul slept in beams of light.

Born in a night to perish in a night.

Come on.

But yeah, Donne has different glories.

Hide the prickforks (GamalielRatsey), Monday, 23 August 2010 13:54 (ten years ago) link

I struggle with the bigger prophetic books, tbh. Feel a bit flattened by those long lines, and that it's an uphill and academic exercise to figure out what is going on/what it all means. I'll persist, bcz obvs I think they might contain the secrets of the universe and the human faculties, but they never really lock in my head. Daughters of Albion, Europe A Prophecy and America a Prophecy, though, no problems at all.

It's another reason Donne gets it for me: I can happily read anything by him, since he'll throw something odd or brilliant or funny or head-twisting into otherwise dull or dutiful verses.

tetrahedron of space (woof), Monday, 23 August 2010 13:56 (ten years ago) link

But I mean yeah, that:

The bat that flits at close of eve
Has left the brain that won't believe.

is a v persuasive argument for Blake. At its brightest, his aphoristic style is incredible - alien, opaque, driving you into yourself to puzzle things out (unlike most mot juste aphoristic stuff), like Heraclitus turned up in c18th Lambeth.

tetrahedron of space (woof), Monday, 23 August 2010 14:18 (ten years ago) link

I struggle with the bigger prophetic books, tbh. Feel a bit flattened by those long lines,

This. Every now and then a brilliantly lyrical line will appear, but I'm not sure it's quite worth it for all the Rintrah roars in Urizen's cage while the Valas break the seal! stuff.

Hide the prickforks (GamalielRatsey), Monday, 23 August 2010 14:25 (ten years ago) link

I will not bother to do an elaborate comparison between these two, trying to pinpoint their strengths and various crotchets. I am a Donne man from way back. I will be a Donne man when I die. John the Divine speaks my language. William the Wild speaks to others more than to me.

Aimless, Monday, 23 August 2010 17:01 (ten years ago) link

Blake's beautiful and wild and fiercely bright but Donne will own my heart for all time - the tension, the cleverness, the prettiness of his poetry sets my brain alight.

missed two gucci mane punchlines and had to rewind (c sharp major), Monday, 23 August 2010 17:09 (ten years ago) link

kind of surprised by how one-sided this thread is - I love Donne a lot but Blake is a giant, a titan, a coursing storm of poetic power

gross rainbow of haerosmith (underrated aerosmith albums I have loved), Monday, 23 August 2010 17:25 (ten years ago) link

holy crap this one is so hard!

horseshoe, Monday, 23 August 2010 17:25 (ten years ago) link

love these dudes

horseshoe, Monday, 23 August 2010 17:25 (ten years ago) link

i feel like i would need to be a great deal more mature and a great deal more pure of heart to really ~get~ Blake, is the thing, whereas Donne hits me right in the struggling messiness of my current self.

missed two gucci mane punchlines and had to rewind (c sharp major), Monday, 23 August 2010 17:27 (ten years ago) link

i don't know about mature; first time i felt like i got blake, even though we read him in high school, was in college. we read The Book of Thel and it was...i'm trying to think of a better way to put it than "it hit me like a ton of bricks" but it did. so did "Good Friday 1613. Riding Westward," of course, so i have no idea how i'm going to vote.

horseshoe, Monday, 23 August 2010 17:30 (ten years ago) link

Wow that 'To Christ' poem is stunning.

cajunsunday, Monday, 23 August 2010 17:41 (ten years ago) link

I don't think I can split these but factoring Blake's pictures feels like cheating, a little.

'ray Clamence (Noodle Vague), Monday, 23 August 2010 17:43 (ten years ago) link

on blake's side is the "william blake?" "william blake!" "william blake?" "william blake!" "what do you mean, william blake?" "i mean william blake!" exchange from bull durham

horseshoe, Monday, 23 August 2010 17:44 (ten years ago) link

Blake's got Dead Man on his side too on the movie front.

'ray Clamence (Noodle Vague), Monday, 23 August 2010 17:46 (ten years ago) link

yeah, i love that movie

horseshoe, Monday, 23 August 2010 17:46 (ten years ago) link

http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/About/General/2010/8/11/1281546327184/Exhibtion-of-etchings-by--006.jpg

Everything is an attempt / to be human

― thomp, Monday, August 23, 2010 7:36 AM (4 hours ago)

I remember seeing this article recently about this picture in the Tate, and its caption...the image is from "The Book of Urizen." Blake had an awesome, complicated mythology that he invented himself. Over and over, he tells this sort of creation myth of humanity...I am going to do a terrible job of summarizing it but I'll try anyway. Basically that eternal spirits make themselves limited/mortal by signing on to having five senses/human bodies. The people in this picture are Los, on the right, an Eternal who is kind of the spirit of imagination & creativity, who has his brother Urizen, on the left, in shackles. Urizen is kind of a demiurge figure, over & over he gets man to sign on to laws & other limiting/structuring frameworks. Los, in this book, had to make Urizen take on a human form to get him to stop fucking things up. "An attempt to be human" in this context, and in Blake's works in general, is a sort of Miltonian fall. Which is bonkers, that these two tiny lines are at the same time a really beautiful sort of affirmation about the struggle of human existence, and the beauty of it; but also within this mythology a heartbreaking fall from cosmic potential.

This is why I voted Blake btw.

full of country goodness and green pea-ness (Abbbottt), Monday, 23 August 2010 17:58 (ten years ago) link

Blake is one of those people whose vision (and strength of vision) keep me going, keep me believing in imagination, keep me trying to fight and create!

full of country goodness and green pea-ness (Abbbottt), Monday, 23 August 2010 18:00 (ten years ago) link

Neither of these is a particular favourite. Apart from the short lyrics, some of which I love, Blake is too obscure for me. Even "Milton" frustrates me by its opacity and it's a model of clarity compared to most of the longer poems. I don't much like his very mannered pictures either although there must be a kind of genius in creating a personal style that's so immediately recognisable.

I remember reading a introduction in an old copy of Donne's collected poems (by Herbert Grierson from memory) that argued his most conspicuous weakness was that he didn't love beauty for its own sake. I'm sure this'd be considered a fusty and even impertinent criticism of Donne nowadays, but it gets to the heart of my problem with him: I prefer poets who are more in love with beauty for its own sake. The most obviously beautiful passage in Donne is the "for whom the bells" toll sermon, but I don't find that kind of beauty often enough in the poetry. The St Lucy Nocturnal is perhaps the most obvious exception.

Donne still edges this, though.

frankiemachine, Monday, 23 August 2010 18:23 (ten years ago) link

not gonna choose

max, Monday, 23 August 2010 20:33 (ten years ago) link

you cant make me choose

max, Monday, 23 August 2010 20:33 (ten years ago) link

the morgan library had a blake exhibit up a few months ago, it was stunning

max, Monday, 23 August 2010 20:33 (ten years ago) link

You have to choose.

Everyone has to choose.

How do you think I feel betraying the one true force-of-nature radical in English literary history for a minor Anglican divine of the 17th Century?

It hurts. But I did it.

tetrahedron of space (woof), Monday, 23 August 2010 20:42 (ten years ago) link

Wait I forgot to vote. I did it now.

tetrahedron of space (woof), Monday, 23 August 2010 20:43 (ten years ago) link

but max...it's a poll

gross rainbow of haerosmith (underrated aerosmith albums I have loved), Monday, 23 August 2010 21:15 (ten years ago) link

Marvell >>> Donne

acoleuthic, Monday, 23 August 2010 21:16 (ten years ago) link

Nah, but nice try.

'ray Clamence (Noodle Vague), Monday, 23 August 2010 21:18 (ten years ago) link

And I'm geographically obliged to defend Marvell but nah.

'ray Clamence (Noodle Vague), Monday, 23 August 2010 21:19 (ten years ago) link

acoleuthic, Marvell hit some pretty high notes, but Donne has more range, more depth and more staying power. My guess is that you just haven't found the experience that will allow you to connect with Donne's anguish, yet.

Aimless, Monday, 23 August 2010 21:25 (ten years ago) link

it's true that Marvell connected with me more as a student - his metaphor was grander, more bombastic, more instantly ingenious - perhaps Donne's subtlety and phrasing will win me over

acoleuthic, Monday, 23 August 2010 21:28 (ten years ago) link

Marvell's "The Garden" and "To His Coy Mistress" are his only really memorable poems imo; he was second-tier.

Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 23 August 2010 21:31 (ten years ago) link

really really dig the Mower poems and A Dialogue Between The Body And The Soul

acoleuthic, Monday, 23 August 2010 21:34 (ten years ago) link

I love Marvell, but c'mon...

Un peu d'Eire, ça fait toujours Dublin (Michael White), Monday, 23 August 2010 21:34 (ten years ago) link

and On A Drop Of Water

acoleuthic, Monday, 23 August 2010 21:35 (ten years ago) link

OK FINE I tried.

acoleuthic, Monday, 23 August 2010 21:35 (ten years ago) link

Blake, btw.

acoleuthic, Monday, 23 August 2010 21:36 (ten years ago) link

I wd probably end up voting Donne as il miglior fabbro but then I will probably just not vote.

'ray Clamence (Noodle Vague), Monday, 23 August 2010 21:38 (ten years ago) link

Marvell >>> Donne

― acoleuthic, Monday, August 23, 2010 5:16 PM (26 minutes ago) Bookmark Suggest Ban Permalink

lol at you

max, Monday, 23 August 2010 21:43 (ten years ago) link

it's true that Marvell connected with me more as a student - his metaphor was grander, more bombastic, more instantly ingenious - perhaps Donne's subtlety and phrasing will win me over

― acoleuthic, Monday, August 23, 2010 5:28 PM (14 minutes ago) Bookmark Suggest Ban Permalink

still loling

max, Monday, 23 August 2010 21:43 (ten years ago) link

"perhaps"

Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 23 August 2010 21:48 (ten years ago) link

Blake in a heartbeat. But the artwork could be swaying that vote. I've never seen a Donne painting.

― Karen D. Tregaskin, Monday, August 23, 2010 6:35 AM (9 hours agoBookmark Suggest Ban Permalink

This is absolutely correct.

SYNTAX ERROR (remy bean), Monday, 23 August 2010 22:53 (ten years ago) link

really appreciate the evidence here, particularly the precis of blake's worldview, abbott

schlump, Monday, 23 August 2010 23:00 (ten years ago) link

The article with the picture thomp posted is a pretty satisfying intro to how challenging/rewarding it is to talk about Blake. One thing I love about him is how real everything was to him, he had absolute faith in artistic vision, his own and those he admired. Por ejemplo, on Milton: “If historical facts can be written by inspiration Miltons Paradise Lost is as true as Genesis or Exodus." All the couplets people love in "Auguries of Innocence" about seeing eternity in a grain of sand, I think that was real to him. And so was all the messy, multivalent meltdown in his long works like Jerusalem. I think Los was as real to him as Milton anyone else in his life – Milton being another character in his poetry.

Soapboxing this much about Blake...ILX has never felt so much like my real life.

full of country goodness and green pea-ness (Abbbottt), Monday, 23 August 2010 23:57 (ten years ago) link

I also love that Blake dethroned his idols (Swedenborg & Milton's treatment in "Marriage of Heaven & Hell"), that he never attended a church but had such a powerful (and original) relationship with Christ.

full of country goodness and green pea-ness (Abbbottt), Monday, 23 August 2010 23:59 (ten years ago) link

A quick question, Abbott; if you knew nothing about Blake but the text of his poems, would you derive as much pleasure from them? It seems to me you are elevating the poet, but often on grounds apart from his poetry. This is legitimate enough, but it is worth recognizing as a different thing than loving his poems through their own life as poems.

Aimless, Tuesday, 24 August 2010 00:16 (ten years ago) link

Marvell >>> Donne

― acoleuthic, Monday, August 23, 2010 5:16 PM (3 hours ago) Bookmark Suggest Ban Permalink

i didn't read the rest of this thread after this point, so maybe this has been covered, but you're a crazy person

horseshoe, Tuesday, 24 August 2010 00:53 (ten years ago) link

haha looks like everybody already covered this; good job, guys

horseshoe, Tuesday, 24 August 2010 00:54 (ten years ago) link

A quick question, Abbott; if you knew nothing about Blake but the text of his poems, would you derive as much pleasure from them? It seems to me you are elevating the poet, but often on grounds apart from his poetry. This is legitimate enough, but it is worth recognizing as a different thing than loving his poems through their own life as poems.

― Aimless, Monday, August 23, 2010 8:16 PM (38 minutes ago) Bookmark Suggest Ban Permalink

i can speak to this, actually; i am visually kind of dumb, so that i appreciate Blake's images and work hard to incorporate them into my experience of reading his poetry, but the language alone is what first struck me and it's still the essence of my reading experience.

horseshoe, Tuesday, 24 August 2010 00:55 (ten years ago) link

everything Abbott said about Blake otm

horseshoe, Tuesday, 24 August 2010 00:56 (ten years ago) link

he's a hero

horseshoe, Tuesday, 24 August 2010 00:56 (ten years ago) link

hi there not to be "that undergrad guy" but the visuals are as much a part of the text of (many of) blakes poems as the words! which is to say that loving the visuals is as important a component of"loving his poems through their own life as poems" as loving the (word-part) language is!

max, Tuesday, 24 August 2010 01:12 (ten years ago) link

but hey i am one of those people who thinks people should pay closer attention to the length and direction of the dashes emily dickinson use[s/d]

max, Tuesday, 24 August 2010 01:13 (ten years ago) link

that's totally true; sometimes undergrads know what's up

horseshoe, Tuesday, 24 August 2010 01:14 (ten years ago) link

holla

max, Tuesday, 24 August 2010 01:17 (ten years ago) link

i didn't read the rest of this thread after this point, so maybe this has been covered, but you're a crazy person

― horseshoe, Tuesday, 24 August 2010 01:53 (21 minutes ago)

you all know how I operate on ILX by now - it's not trolling, but it's not incontrovertible statement of opinion either - consider it a testing of the waters coupled with my own undergraduate leanings - Donne will receive more attention from me as a result of this for sure

dunno how I'd start on Blake because the dude is operating on a level of inspiration that invites an 'all or nothing' response - either I'll say 'yes, he is immutable force of human creativity' or I dive into all his works trying to find apposite signifiers and methods of expression - to briefly compromise, I'll state that the scope and loose organisation of his work is probably the most attractive aspect of his poetry - he has enormous and all-encompassing ambition but the good sense to cluster his manifestos in discrete and approachable fragments which themselves respond to focused analysis - he also isn't afraid to mix his forms - poetry, prose and art - depending upon how each part of the whole needs to be expressed

acoleuthic, Tuesday, 24 August 2010 01:22 (ten years ago) link

i appreciate how consistent yr taste is louis

max, Tuesday, 24 August 2010 01:24 (ten years ago) link

how do you mean? is that sarcasm? or do you mean that was a very lj-esque explanation

acoleuthic, Tuesday, 24 August 2010 01:25 (ten years ago) link

no, no. i just like that you know what you like, and why

max, Tuesday, 24 August 2010 01:27 (ten years ago) link

but the thing is that I DON'T know what I like - ILX especially has changed my mind on things SO much - read some of my early posts and compare! my tone is frequently convinced, but always open to challenge - the dogmatism is more of a throwdown than immutable tapestry

and another thing's for sure: I need to think about Blake a lot harder before giving him any close analysis

acoleuthic, Tuesday, 24 August 2010 01:33 (ten years ago) link

you like ambition! dont you? thats what i always got from you

max, Tuesday, 24 August 2010 01:50 (ten years ago) link

well we all have our staples, and successfully expressed dialogue with the spiritual in poetry is a big thing of mine - blake's personal communion with god is breathtaking to behold, and he states it with such nuance and skill that I'm perfectly happy describing it as ambition rewarded.

so yes, I dig ambition, be it Blake's religious humanism or Donne's highly structured, ornate metaphysics - Blake's rambling and wholly idiosyncratic nature appeals in particular, but that's not to say I can't find enormous worth in both styles, and worths that the other style does not share

acoleuthic, Tuesday, 24 August 2010 01:55 (ten years ago) link

(although as I've said, even within that ramble, Blake manages to conjure discrete segments whose power is terrifyingly focused - which is probably my favourite kind of writing)

acoleuthic, Tuesday, 24 August 2010 01:57 (ten years ago) link

Dryden's the one major poet from this period whose work I barely know.

Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 24 August 2010 01:57 (ten years ago) link

By the wayside, Dryden was the heir to a mighty heritage, but his aims, methods and means are no longer seen sympathetically, even when they are viewed understandingly. Those who love him are a vanishingly small minority.

I would count myself among those who may understand him, but cannot love him. Whatever I value most in him is the least characteristic of his work. Just the way it is.

Aimless, Tuesday, 24 August 2010 03:07 (ten years ago) link

A quick question, Abbott; if you knew nothing about Blake but the text of his poems, would you derive as much pleasure from them? It seems to me you are elevating the poet, but often on grounds apart from his poetry. This is legitimate enough, but it is worth recognizing as a different thing than loving his poems through their own life as poems.

When I read Blake it is usually from the Johnson/Grant-edited Norton Crit edition, or less often the Erdman Complete Poetry & Prose, far more often than facsimiles of his amazing & beautiful handmade books (which I do love & cherish, but sometimes you just want to be able to read black ink on a white page). I mean why I prefer the Norton, too, is it's just easier too lug around and crack open (I took the damn thing camping with me 3x this summer, the time I didn't I felt lonely w/out it).

I think his images are really important, but they are also the #1 way Blake fucks with you. He rearranged the order of his pages, of his images, changed colors, changed themes, from book to book. If you have some idea that you have it figured out, that you know what X text means based on the placement of Y image, there's such a chance he switched it around, or changed it just enough to blow your theory, in another version. (I love this too, about Blake, that you never really know where to stand with him, or where he stands – I think this is why locas like me get these sorts of feelings about the dude.)

If you mean I am reading to much into his bio, well, that's (one reason) why everyone else in my lit classes hated me. I don't know why "death of the author" has been such a forceful center of thought for so long, but I could never really swallow it. Especially with Blake! since in "Milton A Poem" he makes himself a central character, and throws in his wife & his dead brother too. If you can't think about an author's life when considering their work, especially if they make a work that sort of intimately invites you into their life...I don't know, man. I really admire the dude, as a person, as an artist, as a spirit, you know? I think that's ok. But even if he was "MYSTERY AUTHOR" of "ANONYMOUS" who juust put a guy called William Blake in a poem, just like he put a guy called Milton in a poem – if we had no images, or anything, I would still love him! Even if we just had some bonkers thing like "Four Zoas." Though I think this is kind of a silly question, because we DO have his images and we have so many delightful bios of him that are basically rorschachs of their era.

full of country goodness and green pea-ness (Abbbottt), Tuesday, 24 August 2010 04:19 (ten years ago) link

hey abbott if anyone gives you shit for bringing an authors bio into readings of his or her work i got your back

max, Tuesday, 24 August 2010 04:21 (ten years ago) link

I don't know why "death of the author" has been such a forceful center of thought for so long, but I could never really swallow it.

otm. fwiw i think it's less of a center of thought these days.

horseshoe, Tuesday, 24 August 2010 04:58 (ten years ago) link

By the wayside, Dryden was the heir to a mighty heritage, but his aims, methods and means are no longer seen sympathetically, even when they are viewed understandingly. Those who love him are a vanishingly small minority.

includes me. But it's complicated – I wrote my doctorate on him back in the day. Will probably ramble a little abt him once I've woken up.

tetrahedron of space (woof), Tuesday, 24 August 2010 07:47 (ten years ago) link

So yeah, I do love Dryden, but it's a complicated relationship. I lived with him for abt 5 years, so when I go back now, it's for pleasure, but I'll likely bump into something that makes me think 'I got that wrong' or trips an academic switch in my head. Can make me a little tense.

I do love him, though - dunno if I can say why, clearly. I think the core of it is his delight in it all - in making verse, in trying things out, in building strange ornate structures or rushing along a story, and above all in arguing - love his rhetorical energy and versatility, how he bounces around flipping between reasoned argument and jokes and magpie allusiveness and mock-modesty to win a scrap.

There's all sorts of detail that I enjoy, too - his knack for a good word, the metrical command, how naturally and easily he can hit rhymes in couplets, the syntactical deftness that lets him carry you over multiple lines.

Almost all of this would apply to Donne too, but that shows up the limits of Dryden: Donne's immediate presence & emotional vitality isn't there in Dryden - where Dryden's moving, it tends to be indirect, reserved; and Dryden belongs to this world. Very little spiritual or anguished about him

tetrahedron of space (woof), Tuesday, 24 August 2010 10:28 (ten years ago) link

Dryden was the heir to a mighty heritage, but his aims, methods and means are no longer seen sympathetically, even when they are viewed understandingly.

You can say this about Pope, Swift, Coleridge, Arnold – hell, any English poet.

Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 24 August 2010 12:24 (ten years ago) link

I think it's more a case with Dryden than almost any of the others that you mention there, tbh. Pope has his catchy couplets, still in popular usage on occasion, but also his po-mo Dunciad (if you will - I won't, but you see what I mean), Swift has Gulliver and his 'savage indignation' (A Modest Proposal), even the madness of A Tale of a Tub sits quite nicely with the literature of doubt and uncertainty, Romantic post-Romantic stuff tends to be fairly easily swallowed, we're still living in an age which values inspiration/newness/individuality etc.

I've always found, despite recognising much of the virtues tos/woof describes, him extremely resistant to sympathetic reading. I like what he does, but I often find myself impressed rather than affectionate towards him. All the others you cite, I find more sympathetic, if not actually 'better'.

Hide the prickforks (GamalielRatsey), Tuesday, 24 August 2010 12:33 (ten years ago) link

I don't know why "death of the author" has been such a forceful center of thought for so long, but I could never really swallow it.

you're in luck Abbott - as far as I know reading & paying close attn to the author's bio is very much back in use as a valid strategy

gross rainbow of haerosmith (underrated aerosmith albums I have loved), Tuesday, 24 August 2010 13:13 (ten years ago) link

Was a bit unsure about the 'mighty heritage' myself - didn't know whether that meant English or Classical. If the former, the (then) perceived-as-major poets in the generation before him are now massively unfashionable - Waller, Denham and Cowley. Jonson prob the heaviest hitter who's a direct ancestor; Donne & the metaphysicals already suffering from that 'great wit, awkward verse' rep that afflicts them through to the revival in the last century. The latter's nearer the mark, but he's building, emulating and stealing to create an English trad as much as inheriting.

(btw Abbott, awesome repping for Blake.)

tetrahedron of space (woof), Tuesday, 24 August 2010 13:26 (ten years ago) link

I don't know why "death of the author" has been such a forceful center of thought for so long

It's not this so much for me as, in reading poetry as a poet, I always want to find out what I can learn or derive inspiration from in what I am reading. Therefore, while it is interesting for me to know the poet's biographical details and connect them to the imagery, ideas or tone of the poem, I can't really learn how to be that poet, as a means of incorporating what is good in their work into my own. Their lives are their exclusive property and I can't filch bits of their identity. (Of course, many a young writer tries this tactic, but they look pretty ridiculous trying to be Pound, Kerouac or Edna St. Vincent Millay.)

Aimless, Tuesday, 24 August 2010 17:05 (ten years ago) link

William Blake would not want you to be him anyway! Inspiration not memory.

sharkless dick stick (Abbbottt), Tuesday, 24 August 2010 20:44 (ten years ago) link

I mean, I think since he was criticizing Shakespeare & Milton for taking on Greek & Latin influences, and hoping for a day when "the Daughters of Memory" would become "the Daughters of Inspiration," that is why I think that. I didn't call him or anything.

sharkless dick stick (Abbbottt), Tuesday, 24 August 2010 20:50 (ten years ago) link

haha you seem to be very tuned to him!

horseshoe, Tuesday, 24 August 2010 20:51 (ten years ago) link

Agree about Dryden. I used to know an Eng Lit lecturer who (like woof) wrote his doctoral thesis on Dryden and was a massive enthusiast. He got very disheartened that because his students routinely avoided Dryden despite his best advocacy and because the reasons they gave always seemed so utterly predictable and unfair. I doubt he'd have had similar problems with any other "major" poet (post-medieval, anyway). My own (admittedly half-hearted) attempts to engage with Dryden were not a success.

Batter my heart three personed god perfectly illustrates some of my problems as a (partial) Donne dissenter. For me it's too much bravura display. It's all about Donne, really, not God. Herbert, for example, may not match Donne for fireworks but is so much better at conveying religious feeling.

frankiemachine, Wednesday, 25 August 2010 10:05 (ten years ago) link

It's all about Donne, really, not God. Herbert, for example, may not match Donne for fireworks but is so much better at conveying religious feeling.

Guess as a starting point I'd tentatively agree. Would say, however, that I prefer fireworks to, for instance, The Collar which I think is brilliantly successful in its intent (and indeed is a great poem). So then you start getting into the question of what religious feeling is, and then when I get there, then I start saying that Donne was one of the greatest explorers and configurers of what religious feeling is, pushing the limits and exploring the boundaries of that feeling, that there has ever been, and so, while I'd agree with the premise, I'd end up saying that even there, Donne is the better poet.

GamalielRatsey, Wednesday, 25 August 2010 10:18 (ten years ago) link

Still haven't voted btw. Finger hovering over Donne, but then I think 'The fire, the fire is falling!', and remember the intensity with which I enjoyed Blake as a teenager.

GamalielRatsey, Wednesday, 25 August 2010 10:22 (ten years ago) link

Pairing Herbert and Donne would have caused some real torment.

Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 25 August 2010 10:56 (ten years ago) link

Remember being awe-inspired when I first read the Nocturnal Upon St Lucy's Day - love, darkness, rhythmic brilliance, brilliance of imagery in detail and in the whole, and yes, the convoluted wit, in this case reminding me slightly of some of Ben Jonson's poetry. I know it turns some off, but the way that the perspectives turn and slot into place, like an astrolabe, or the right viewing of a masque, is just utterly brilliant.

GamalielRatsey, Wednesday, 25 August 2010 11:37 (ten years ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

System, Saturday, 28 August 2010 23:01 (ten years ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll's results are now in.

System, Sunday, 29 August 2010 23:01 (ten years ago) link

donne by a burning bright tiger whisker. always was fond of donne. blake i don't know so well. someday!

scott seward, Monday, 30 August 2010 00:04 (ten years ago) link

i refused to vote in this poll it was impossible

horseshoe, Monday, 30 August 2010 00:17 (ten years ago) link

yeah i didnt vote either

max, Monday, 30 August 2010 00:27 (ten years ago) link

the real winner.................................................

..........................................................................................was poetry

max, Monday, 30 August 2010 00:27 (ten years ago) link

ten years pass...

Hilarious beatdown:

https://www.nybooks.com/articles/1981/12/03/there-is-no-penance-due-to-innocence/

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 24 October 2020 07:50 (one month ago) link


You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.