Equally important is the function of the figure of death in the sonnet. Some of the most startling moments in the sonnet emerge when the text generates what appear as arbitrary and even unwanted associations. Finally, one must call attention to the long tradition that has read the sonnet as DGR's personal expression of regret.
But in a crucial sense the sonnet is arguing that sin and regret are a function of a misconceived idea of virtue, purity, and marital faithfulness. The Troxell Collection manuscript is a late copy made for the printing of the poem in the Ballads and Sonnets volume. Once printed in August the text underwent only one alteration in proof before it was published in the Poems.
DGR made three significant changes later, when he came to republish it in the Tauchnitz edition of These changes seem to be responses to Buchanan's attack upon the poem. This week, while browsing at St.
To call this a "book of criticism," however, is to make it sound stodgier and more specialized than it is. Longenbach's book is a collection of linked essays, all examining what constitutes poetic virtue: what, in other words, are the distinctive excellences that poetry possesses, and how can we recognize these excellences when we see them?
Each essay is a delight to read. Longenbach, a poet, critic, and professor, is deeply learned yet wears this erudition lightly. He moves from poet to poet, poem to poem, now touching on Emily Dickinson, now moving to Wallace Stevens, now to Andrew Marvell. Longenbach's writing itself displays many virtues, but the most impressive might be his ability to write clearly--and beautifully--about abstract concepts.
Here he is, for instance, describing the virtues of that most unheralded of poetic virtues, restraint:.
Rather than fostering a poetry of direct statement, they employ extremely restrained diction in order to suggest something other, something spooky or mythic, than what the language of the poem also denotes. The formulation is boldly paradoxical--a limited limitlessness, a finite infinitude, a mortal immortality--but it is also accurate. For whatever else it is, the poem is the words on the page, and its drama of expressiveness is played out within the circumscribed arena of the linguistic medium, over which the poet has complete control.
Chaos, like order, is in art a concertedly crafted illusion. Longenbach works through several other virtues, including boldness, shyness, dilation, and surprise. In each instance, he addresses large-scale questions "Why does a human being make a poem?
Lovers of the poets Longenbach reads--W.
A virtuous woman is strong And worth more than Rubies itself; and when Her family hurt, she Hurt more herself. A woman shall be praised If she is a woman that Fear the Lord. A virtuous woman Qualifies with mind, spirit, Soul, and heart.
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