Saturday, June 9, 2007

Week 2: Herbert & Crashaw

17th century religious poetry. Not as thrilled with Herbert, but did enjoy Crashaw (perhaps why I'm a Medievalist?!); overall, though, while there are some interesting ideas, it's just not my thing. Here's the study guide.

Connections with Other Poets/Poems
  • John Milton -- both Crashaw & Herbert live within a generation of Milton and are faced with similar concerns: the emerging Protestant religion and the degree to which works and faith are divisible from each other; the grace of God is crucial. While Milton champions a public religion and conversion ("justify the ways of God to Man"), Herbert considers the inward state of an individual man -- himself -- and his personal struggles in Christian living. Crashaw focuses on a duty to mankind to encourage conversion, thus presenting a more public face. The other connection with Milton is the notion of a "Christian society" -- all three men envision this possiblity, with Milton and Herbert focusing on the loss of it in the loss of Eden & Crashaw the potential for its return in Heaven. The government is not mentioned explicitly in either poet; instead the individual (who influences the state -- hence the conversion of the wealthy woman, the Countess of Denbeigh) must change and affect society through encouraging others -- for Herbert through right actions & for Crashaw in encouraging others in the faith.
  • T.S. Eliot -- looking at a vision of religion and the relationship between the individual convert and the larger society (which, of course, Eliot changes position on as his envelopment within the Anglican church corresponds to a wider view of the reader's role in understanding his writing). Also, Herbert & Eliot are both connected to Little Gidding, thus should explore more specifically what that connection entails. More when I do Eliot.
  • Medieval dream vision Pearl with Herbert's "Pearl" -- Pearl views Heaven as a way to recapture his earthly loss -- he has buried his Pearl and lost her, while Herbert rejects the worldly interests and uncovers his pearl.
  • Wordsworth -- someone else try this one as I don't know Ww well enough yet, but he apparently was influenced by Herbert.
  • Yeats' "Second Coming" and Herbert's "Easter Wings" -- the form of "Easter Wings" is somewhat like a gyre and the desire for a center that does hold is present in both of them. Yeats, because society rejects what Herbert finds so compelling, finds this center impossible to maintain and views growth and development more as a progression of alternating values while Herbert champions a stable, Christian societal order.
  • In general, the exam regularly has a question on religious verse and its relationship to society -- forming or reflecting it, or denouncing it.

General Questions
  • Norton introduces Crashaw's poetry as "challenging formal restraints and generic limitations." How would we classify him generically and then how precisely does he challenge these boundaries? (Esp. if someone knows something about "emblematic" poems)
  • How do these poets conceive of language as a representation of truth or as an imperfect reflection of man's best efforts? To be Augustinian about it, one could consider the fixed sign that has multiple interpretations; or one could connect this with Derrida.

1 comment:

Josh said...

I found Donne's Holy Sonnets a lot more interesting as far as Renaissance religious lyrics go, but it was a long time ago that I read Herbert and Crashaw for this exam, so my opinions are inevitably slanted. I do think that as far as the question of religious lyric and society goes, "The Collar" is a good one. It's a really striking portrayal of a man whose desires for a more secular life come into conflict with an awareness of God's true will for him, all done with a quick but decisive intervention from God Himself. But the poem seems to acknowledge and sympathize with the pull away from religion even as the view is rejected.

I'll have to look up the other ones to say more about them ...