Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Analysis of Autumn (Journal 20)

Personally, I think that attempting to analyse poetry in the way we go about it in class is absolutely horrid. In my opinion, if poetry was writing merely to get a point across, there would be no point in writing it in verses, and it might as well be prose. Poetry is written to inspire emotions, as well as to send a message in the case of some poems. The way we pick it apart in class is torturous and unethical (add extra stress on the unethical). We look at all the little pieces and try to figure out what they are saying, but do we really look down into what they mean? When we discussed Flower-de-Luce by Longfellow we looked at everything meant in each of the stanzas, but did any of us take the time to understand the grief the poet was trying to express? Of course not.

Autumn is all about Longfellow's feelings at the coming of that season. He writes about things one might see with the approach of a grand king of old, proceded by tempests, and accompanied by banners and golden bridges and most of all that feeling of grandeur that little else can inspire. He sees all of the good things ready for harvest and depicts autumn as the wonderful spirit that blesses all of this and makes it so. To put it concisely, the author loves autumn.

The poem had many characteristics of Romanticism writing. It had the exotic element in the form of ancient kings and Asian silk. It was all about nature and its beauty, which is a definite sign of Romanticism. It also used a lot of really lovely imagry, which is very common in Romantic literature. He write that the sheaves were like flames on an alter, which is a rather dazzeling image. Though that does bring up my notices that Romanticism writers were not very fond of religion, considering he put the image of a burning alter in his poem.

Friday, December 9, 2011


Most of the Romantic poets seemed to have pursued similar themes in their poetry. Nature is abound in the poems, no matter what their aim is. They love to reference far away places, and care little for religion. One difference between the poets is that some have a focus on loftier themes than others. Even with the Different themes, there is just an absolute ton of similarities, and it makes it a little hard to tell which author is which. I honestly wish I had more Romantic poetry read so I could choose poets with more different styles.

If it does not have abundantly described nature in it, it is not a Romantic poem. In The Chambered Nautilus, written by Oliver Holmes, the mollusk in question has all the favorable features it possesses described in boundless extent, as well as the beach its abandoned shell was cast upon (1-7). The shell is described as a ship of mother-of-pearl, on something of an enchanted beach, complete with sirens and mermaids. Longfellow's poem written after the death of Nathanial Hawthorne takes time to describe the weather, the setting, and the people around when he found out his friend had died (which really seems a little superfluous) (1-14).

Another Romantic poetry theme is that of strange and far away places. The exotic is dear to a poet's heart. In Holmes' poem, the shell is found on that wondrous shore with mythical maidens abound. In another of Longfellow's poems, he describes the coming of autumn like that of an ancient king in all of his splendor (5-6). Both of these are really quite exotic because how often do you see mermaids or long dead kings? They take so much care to put these things in that I have not read a single Romantic poem without a mention of something similarly strange and weirdly exotic.

Another similarity between Holmes and Longfellow is that neither seem to care much for religion. In The Chambered Nautilus, Holmes writes that the sea creature should grow to be free even of heaven (33-34). Longfellow's poem of mourning is surprisingly void of any mention of an afterlife, which is normally a comforting thought to those who have lost someone they love. I think that via this omission it is reasonable to infer that Longfellow thought little of religion. While lack of religion is not really a standard of Romantic writing, I have noticed that it does occur quite a bit.

The big difference between Holmes and Longfellow is their choice of themes. When Holmes was writing The Chambered Nautilus, he was trying to express his thoughts on how important it is for a person to continue growing through out their lives. Both of Longfellow's poems were about his feelings and perceptions, instead of more serious themes. In addition to that, they used different meters and rhyme schemes, but that really is not much worth mentioning.

Holmes, Oliver. "801. The Chambered Nautilus. Oliver Wendell Holmes.
1909-14. English Poetry III: From Tennyson to Whitman. The Harvard Classics."
Bartleby.com: Great Books Online -- Quotes, Poems, Novels, Classics and Hundreds
More. Web. 07 Dec. 2011.

Longfellow, Henry. "Sonnets. Autumn. The Belfry of Bruges and Other Poems. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. 1893. Complete Poetical Works." Bartleby.com: Great Books Online -- Quotes, Poems, Novels, Classics and Hundreds More. Web. 09 Dec. 2011. .

Longfellow, Henry. "Hawthorne. Flower-de-Luce. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. 1893. Complete Poetical Works." Bartleby.com: Great Books Online -- Quotes, Poems, Novels, Classics and Hundreds More. Web. 09 Dec. 2011. http://www.bartleby.com/356/224.html.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Chambered Nautilus

The Chambered Nautilus is a really interesting poem with some really nice imagery in it. However, if anyone reading this has ever seen a nautilus before, they would have trouble understanding why in the world anyone would take the time out of their life to write a poem about such a horribly ugly creature.
The poem gives a few pretty interesting verses at the end to try to explain why the nautilus is so grand, and that the poem is not just an interesting attempt to romanticise a small monster of the deep. Holmes writes "Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast, Till thou at length art free" (Holmes 33-34). So, while mourning the death of this disgusting creature, Holmes makes an allusion to one of the nautilus' more peculiar traits, that of constantly growing. The nautilus grows a new shell every time it outgrows its old one, but instead of disconnecting from the old one it grows the new shell attached to it. Over time these chambers form a rather lovely shell (if anything on such an ugly creature can be called lovely to begin with). The chambers fill with air and help the nautilus to swim.
Assuming the peculiar traits of the nautilus have something to do with the meaning of the poem, it is safe to assume that the poem praises the constant growth of the thing and at the same time jibes at religion when he writes the above quoted lines. Apparently, Holmes tried to live up to his own standard while writing the poem, and tried a new meter and rhyme with it (Love). I will admit, he really did manage to make the putrid, half-squid, tentacled mass sound rather pretty.
The poem also exemplifies some characteristics of Romanticism writing well. It personifies the sea as a mourning mother in one of the verses, as is often done in the Romanticism period (Holmes 23-24). I have also noticed the the Romantic writers tend to have a bit of disdain for religion about them. Holmes also shows this, when he encourages the spirit of the dead sea monster to continue growing even that heaven cannot hold him.
I think that this poem is really lovely, despite its slightly odd object. The way he describes the shell as a "ship of pearl" and how it "sails the unshadowed main . . . where the siren sings" (Holmes 1-5) You could almost imagine the seeming product of radioactive water as a thing of beauty, which is a little strange to tell the truth. My partiality to poems about the ocean could play a part in my enjoyment of the poem, but even so it must be admitted that it really is a wonderful poem. Even so I can not get the image of that horrible thing out of my head. I mean just look at it-
Holmes, Oliver. "801. The Chambered Nautilus. Oliver Wendell Holmes. 1909-14. English Poetry III: From Tennyson to Whitman. The Harvard Classics." Bartleby.com: Great Books Online -- Quotes, Poems, Novels, Classics and Hundreds More. Web. 07 Dec. 2011. .
Love, C. "'The Chambered Nautilus'." In Barney, Brett, and Lisa Paddock, eds. Encyclopedia of American Literature: The Age of Romanticism and Realism, 1816–1895, vol. 2, Revised Edition. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2008. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 07 Dec. 2011. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= EAmL0443&SingleRecord=True.

Monday, December 5, 2011


Irving's writing style fits to a tee the Romanticism period. For instance, his stories were about creatures largely considered to be mythological (except the devil, who is largely considered to be alive and well). In Rip Van Winkle, his main character is very child like and innocent, seeking to help other but neglect his own work (Irving "Rip"). Many Rationalist writings had such characters. In addition to this, the characters who are more grown up and have flaws like greed are vilified, as in the case of Tom Walker and his horrid and miserly wife (Irving "The Devil" 242). Another Romantic theme that made its way into Irving's stories is the strong focus on nature. When Rip Van Winkle's wife will not leave him alone, he goes into the mountains for refuge with his dog, Wolf (Irving "Rip"). The more important parts of The Devil and Tom Walker take place in a forrest as well, like when Tom Walker first meets the devil (Irving "The Devil" 244).

There is a really big difference between Rip Van Winkle and The Devil and Tom Walker. Rip Van Winkle is sort of a story written to entertain, just something to make a reader smile. There is nothing at all serious about it. The Devil and Tom Walker has a moral to it, even if it is a little far fetched. The end warns against dealing with the devil, which could be taken more figuratively and serve as a rational moral to refrain from avarice (Irving "The Devil" 250). Also, one deals with fairies and the other with religion. Although, if the author put fairies and the devil in the same category as all other made up characters, I suppose it could be a similarity instead. On the note of similarities, both stories had a horrible wife character in them, whose sole purpose in life seemed to be being terribly unpleasant. In addition to that both styles seemed almost dream like as well, as if Irving was relating the events of a dream instead of telling a fairy tale or myth (though I suppose a fairy tale is a very dreamy thing by its very nature).

Despite my initial overlooking of a moral to Rip Van Winkle, a literary criticism I read pointed out a potential moral I had missed while reading. It said that the story could be seen as a warning to people who refuse to look change in the face, and wake up one morning to find everything changed (Watts). Personally, I do not really see it because when a person is forced to realize a complete change in an instant, bad things generally happen. In Rip Van Winkle nothing really unpleasant happened, and he even gained a good deal of peace by the loss of his nasty wife (Irving "Rip"). Therefore, I stick to my initial idea the Rip Van Winkle did not really have a moral, and was written entirely to entertain.

Irving, Washington. "The Devil and Tom Walker." Comp. Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, Ph.D. and Douglas Fisher, Ph.D. Glencoe Literature. American Literature ed. Columbus: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2009. 97-99. Print.

Matthews, Washington Irving. "4. Rip Van Winkle By Washington Irving. Matthews, Brander. 1907. The Short-Story." Bartleby.com: Great Books Online -- Quotes, Poems, Novels, Classics and Hundreds More. Web. 05 Dec. 2011. .

Watts, Linda S. "'Rip Van Winkle'." Encyclopedia of American Folklore. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2007. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. December 5, 2011. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= EAFolk704&SingleRecord=True.