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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

3 Poems to Ponder

When trying to understand poetry it certainly helps to know the type of poetry that was popular during the time a given poem was written. Well, more than that, it helps immensely to ENJOY the poetry. Anytime you read a carpe diem, like this one from ee cummings:

(ponder,darling,these busted statues
of yon motheaten forum be aware
notice what hath remained
--the stone cringes
clinging to the stone,how obsolete

lips utter their extant smile . . . .

a few deleted of texture
or meaning monuments and dolls

resist Them Greediest Paws of careful
time all of which is extremely
unimportant)whereas Life

matters if or

when the your-and my-
idle vertical worthless
self unite in a peculiarly

partnership(to instigate
business . . . . even so,let us make haste
--consider well this ruined aqueduct

which used to lead something into somewhere)

it is nice to at least be AWARE of Marvell's version:

To His Coy Mistress

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, Lady, were no crime
We would sit down and think which way
To walk and pass our long love's day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Shouldst rubies find: I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood,
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow;
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.
For, Lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.

But at my back I always hear
Time's wing├Ęd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song: then worms shall try
That long preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust:
The grave's a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.

Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapt power.
Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

and the pleasure is tripled if you're aware of Donne's sort of similar take- not a carpe diem poem, but another sophist attempt to get a lady to let you stick in in there:


Marke but this flea, and marke in this,
How little that which thou deny'st me is;
Me it suck'd first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea our two bloods mingled bee;
Confesse it, this cannot be said
A sinne, or shame, or losse of maidenhead,

Yet this enjoyes before it wooe,
And pamper'd swells with one blood made of two,
And this, alas, is more than wee would doe.

Oh stay, three lives in one flea spare,
When we almost, nay more than maryed are.
This flea is you and I, and this
Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is;
Though parents grudge, and you, w'are met,
And cloysterd in these living walls of Jet.

Though use make thee apt to kill me,
Let not to this, selfe murder added bee,
And sacrilege, three sinnes in killing three.

Cruell and sodaine, has thou since
Purpled thy naile, in blood of innocence?
In what could this flea guilty bee,
Except in that drop which it suckt from thee?
Yet thou triumph'st, and saist that thou
Find'st not thyself, nor mee the weaker now;

'Tis true, then learne how false, feares bee;
Just so much honor, when thou yeeld'st to mee,
Will wast, as this flea's death tooke life from thee.

Having said that, ee cumming was aware that he was playing with a convention, and expected the reader to be aware, and there is no reach here. The author's intent is known, and is obvious to those in the know, so there's no stretch when it comes to reading the text. He EXPECTED readers to be aware of other poems with similar themes. He's playing with them, the way Eminem expects you to be aware of Snoop Dog's older songs in order to fully enjoy Eminem's newer ones.

You can go too far when it comes to seeking authorial intent to understand text.


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