Thursday, February 18, 2010

English II Topics Romanticism

Please post your responses under the appropriate thread, please.


  1. Mr. Sharp you don't have a thread for Robert Browning... or if you do it isn't showing up for me. So I am posting my analysis here- sorry.

    “My Last Duchess” starts out with a duke pointing out a picture of his late wife. His tone is not nearly as remorseful as one might expect, he states her existence quite plainly and rather than reminisce upon his love for her he speaks not of his lost love but first of the painting itself. In the first line he mentions who the subject is, then spends the next 5 lines focused entirely upon the quality of the painting nor does he come back to the subject of his late wife until he criticizes her in lines 21-3, before which she is still little more than an object he references. His tone is arrogant and condescending of his duchess, describing her as almost child-like and scornfully criticizing her happy nature as “too soon made glad, too easily impressed” as though she should be mournful and difficult to please instead. In the next few lines we learn it was jealousy that was responsible for his distaste as she did not hold him as far above the rest as he desired. He seems to say that he never told her what was wrong until it was too late, her unhappiness, or perhaps death is described as when “all smiles stopped together” after which he moves on. He seems to have no feelings at all that linger from her death, he rushes in and out of his story before continuing to entertain his guest, never missing a beat all the while. This, more than anything, is what I find unnerving about the poem- his indifference to her tragedy that is conveyed in the direct and unflinching manner in which he delivers the story. I feel sorry for the duchess’ demise, though the Duke did not appreciate her, from his descriptions it seems as though she had a lovely personality and would have been the sort of person everyone enjoyed. The poem has a conversational tone and yet that does not make the Duke any less imposing, and were I standing with him listening I would have the urge to run away- his tone reminding me unmistakably of a predator after eating his prey. I did not understand what made this a romantic poem as I was reading it, the narrator seemed to destroy everything that is pure or beautiful in the poem by his need for control, his deceased wife was natural and innocent before he destroyed it and his art is there not for the art’s sake but the rarity of it giving it all a forced, as opposed to natural and beautiful, feel.

  2. No thread for William Blake, either.

    "The Sick Rose" by William Blake perfectly encapsulates, in very few lines, the Romantic's despair at seeing Nature destroyed. It evokes in the reader a quiet kind of despondency. Blake doesn't assume to aid the Rose, but instead sits back and observes achingly its illness. He makes the disease destroying it seem hopelessly inevitable, and the reader feels the same.

    The Rose, representative of beauty in nature, is in mortal danger from an "invisible worm" in a "howling storm." The worm is representative of technical and urban progression, the "howling storm," the rapidly changing and accelerating world of the Industrial Revolution. The worm's "dark secret love" is of money (a secret because he hides it under the guise of "Progress"). The metaphor of a worm attacking a rose is perfect to describe what Blake saw: no fight, no instantaneous death, but rather the painful decay of something beautiful and helpless.

  3. Here is my response to "My Last Duchess" by Robert Browning:

    Browning begins the poem with a painting, then goes on to talk about the painting's artist, and then the Duchess herself and the Duke's feelings towards her. This progression makes the poem sound like a full story, almost like the person in the poem is recounting everything he can remember about the Duchess, describing her in full detail using both imagery and dialogue. The painter, Fra Pandolf, says that even he cannot capture her beauty in paint. By using a name, Browning increases his imagery. Giving a name to something makes it more real, more believable. The person reminiscing in the poem speaks not of the sadness he feels when he looks at her portrait hanging on the wall, only of the memories he still holds of her. All of these memories, both good and bad, create a complete explanation of the Duchess, and it also gives way to describing the Duke. The poem states that he is not completely sure whether or not she truly loved him, and whether he really loved her, for the poem ends talking of another sculpture, not of her portrait. This poem is different than other romantic poems, for instead of being wistful and longing, he is simply remembering everything he can about her. The Duke in the poem does not skip over the bad characteristics of the Duchess, and he is forthright and honest about his feelings.

  4. William Blake's "The Lamb"

    Structurally, "The Lamb" has a simple chanted, almost call and response flow that manages to embody the spontaneity that romanticism is known for. The focus on nature than romanticism has in abundance is evident from the outset of "The Lamb," human subject matter instead replaced with talk of the birth of a lamb. Blake goes on to personify the lamb's wool as clothing of "delight, softest clothing, wooly, bright," celebrating something so commonplace and natural it lends a feeling of unease. The repitition of "Little lamb, God bless thee!" at the end of the poem also emphasizes the idea that we are all God's creation, and that thus we should be cherished equally.

    Personally, this poem unnerves me, mostly through the intense personification of a farm animal, the lamb. The idea that a human is calling upon a lamb's ignorance in "who made" it makes me question Blake's motives in writing the poem. If Blake's motive was to question nature's self-consciousness, he came across creepy instead of philosophic.

  5. he doesn't havea thread for Robert Browning because he told us to scratch it off and that we weren't supposed to respond to that poem

  6. "The Last Duchess" By Robert Browning

    The poet, quite conversationally, informs readers that the prior Duchess who is pictured on the wall is no longer alive, within the first sentence. He draws me in, as if I am his visitor, saying, "I call That piece a wonder, now," and I must wonder why the painting is a wonder now. Did it mean nothing to him then, when it was painted? Within two sentences, the poet has captured his reader, not an easy task.

    It soon becomes apparent that the husband was jealous of any attention paid by his wife to others, as it was "not her husband's presence only, called that spot of joy into the Duchess's cheek." The Duke faults his dead wife, as if she was "too easily impressed; she liked whate'er she looked on, and her looks went everywhere."

    The poet makes light of nature, and its effect on his dead wife - her enjoyment of the cherries someone brought her, the white mule she rode. These were fool's gifts compared to his 900 year old name.

    The poet's fancy speech becomes more stilted towards the end of the poem, as if he has become uncomfortable. He grows almost defensive of his resentment of his dead wife.

    For a poem written during the time of Romanticism, this seems to be a case of "Love Gone Bad" that would make it on our best tacky TV "Not Really Journalism" shows.
    Written by Carolyn J. (mom of Katie J)