Wednesday, June 13, 2012

In any case it is difficult to stand outside of one’s desires and see things of their own volition.


The dead have no nationality


Fools beget their own kind.

Analysis of The Flea by John Donne.

Click here for the poem:


The Flea is a good poem to dig under, mainly because of the witty sexual innuendoes tucked in each stanza. It is without a doubt the cleverest – but also oddest – pick up line I’ve stumbled across!
A little background is useful before undressing this poem. The author, John Donne, was at this time experiencing frustration because he had juts married the love of his life, Anne More, although it was deeply against her parent’s wishes and since they were powerful people, they got Donne thrown into prison. This poem was probably written before the pair got married – the reason of which will soon become evident.
What makes the poem memorable, and what must be grasped is the object the flea represents – the consummation of Donne and Anne. In the old times, people believed that during intercourse blood would mingle, and Donne has taken the fact that the flea has sucked blood from both himself and his lover to his advantage in arguing that the flea now possesses a mingling of their blood, and “pampered swells” from the richness of it. Yet, he laments that that was “more than we would do,” which is the point in the poem when we realize the lover refuses to lose her virginity, afraid the marriage with Donne would shame her, and the poem is therefore a disguised wooing attempt.
Bearing in mind that the flea now possesses three blood types – Donne’s, his lover’s and its own – there are now “three lives” in one flea and Donne uses this to further argue that the lover must not attempt to swat the flea (which she would probably do under the circumstances, assuming that the wooing may be getting creepily out of hand and too figurative), as the flea is their “marriage temple,” holding their holy unity within “living walls of jet,” which refers to the flea’s skin. The speaker argues that by swatting the flea, the lover not only commits “self-murder,” but also sins thrice because there are, after all, “three lives” within that flea.
So, after all the speaker’s efforts to protect this flea, the climax of the poem arrives as the lover – probably disturbed beyond compare at this points – swats it anyway and smears her “nail in blood of innocence,” the innocent object being of course the flea. Here is when the speaker has no choice but to lament and complain – he questions where the flea was “guilty” and wonders at her “cruel and sudden action.” However, what truly turns this poem comedic is the final three lines, where the speaker gives one more clever shot at trying to get this girl, despite everything that has gone wrong. “Just so much honor when thou yield’st to me,” he says, “Will waste, as this flea’s death took life from thee.” He refers to the girl’s “false fears”, which is her fear of losing her virginity due to her parent’s “grudge.” Donne says she has really no reason to be afraid of wasting any extra honor because the amount of honor she has already lost sinning, by killing the flea that consummated their love, can’t be more than the amount of honour she’d potentially lose if the two make love. Everything will ‘cancel out’ and yielding to him won’t make a difference regarding her honour, and Donne doesn’t mind about his own either. Moreover, she “find’st not thyself, nor [. . . the speaker] the weaker now” so it is not as if her ego would suffer a blow either. So, even though Donne began this rebuttal with “’Tis true,” he still manages to whip things around and eventually essentially say, “Why not do it anyway” to his lover.
It is funny to think that John Donne – who later become a priest – ever came up with such a metaphor!

Words pale and lose their savor while pain is always new.

My analysis of a poem we studied at school:

40-Love by Robert McGough 


Here is another poem about love – but a rather tricky relationship. The first thing that must be noted upon viewing this poem is definitely its structure, something many modern poets like to play with (most notably, E.E. Cummings). The first two words of the poem announce that the couple is middle aged, like the title suggests (the “40” in 40-love refers to age). In another context, 40-Love is also a term in tennis that is called when a player is one point away from victory whereas the other opponent’s score remains as zilch. So, cleverly, the structure is divided so that when the poem is read, our eyes leap back and forth across the center like a ball hit across a net over and over again. With this in mind, the poem becomes a tennis match between a couple, and the blank space in the middle is their net. The shortness of the poem is a simplicity asset, taking us to the poem’s message quicker (like a quick tennis game). “The net will still be between them” is our best lead pertaining to their relationship. They may not be so happily in love after all. The net is more than just an object in their game, but a metaphor for a division in their daily lives – a barrier that blocks communication. I also liked how the two “be’s” were opposite each other in the structure of the poem. It is almost as if the poet was drawing a connection between the two behind the net, hinting that although they are inevitably linked and similar, they are separate. Robert McGough is actually known for being a performance poet, as he often likes to perform his poems. In fact, when I listened to Robert McGough reading 40-Love, the recital was recorded with sounds of birds chirping, and each word of the poem accompanied by a ping of the tennis ball. This is what makes the poem most special – it is written not only for reading, but also experiencing. The poem is designed to trigger you imagination, and that is why I like it.

Easy to see that naught save sorrow could bring a man to such a view of things. And yet a sorrow for which there can be no help is no sorrow. It is some dark sister traveling in sorrow's clothing.

I also read Day of Tears by Julius Lester and had issues with that too. Thing is...
it's special because it's a novel told in dialogue and jumping back and forth with time, so effort deserves commendation, but the main problem I have with it is repetition - the story line and language of the novel seems already-written, like a pale imitation of William Faulkner or Cormac McCarthy. The metaphor of rain was lovely but dished out one time too many - really. First time, it was lovely (rain as 'hard as sorrow,' 'God's tears, etc.') but after a while it stuck to the reader too much. And in the bad way. I do not mean the story was not well built, but I do think it could have been more special, written with thicker language, and its message not too 'obvious' to make it a deeper piece of writing. Especially when the grandmother speaks of the school report - that was unnecessary. Could have been tucked away like a treasure expected. This would enhance the message, which is terribly important. So in all, this novel had a few gems but they could have cooperated better as a whole. For better connections with the slave trade horrors, go read Chains, I've heard it's quite good.

Life is a memory, and then it is nothing.

Midway through annotating first batch of quotes! Currently working my way through
The Black Keys' Brothers album. Think I lost my slip of paper with all important page numbers in The Crossing and Cities of the Plain. Anyway, after those, I read The Chrysalids by John Wyndham. Plot is okay - character development way flawed - the characters seem built for something they wouldn't do, based on their original description, which is very disappointing. Yes, easy to read and Wyndham was commended for that but really, plot was missing major chunks of quality quote-grinding or bed-rock basing. It could have been a richer, better book in general. Plot is there but it needs gap filling. You cannot write a book and insert an 'oh by the way' along the way to make up for a lost comment. Because then what it leads up to becomes too obvious. No hidden literature anecdotes and nothing to dig for. Just everything with potential of digging strewn on the surface. Sad to say that most of the nice language was taken from quoting the Bible, presumably. The idea of the story was fine as well, so it really is a small shame. So, I'm calling this book a hopeful disappointment - maybe a play or movie could turn it into something more entertaining. Should be commended at least for readability, though, I could zip through it comfortably.