Thursday, January 30, 2014

Immortality through Poetry

After reading A Carcass by Baudelaire in class, I automatically thought of at least three poems that have a similar theme of immortality, which is a lot considering I'm not much of a poetry-enthusiast. In particular, Amoretti LXXV by Edmund Spenser stood out to me (probably because I really like it).

"One day I wrote her name upon the strand,
But came the waves and washed it away:
Again I wrote it with a second hand,
But came the tide, and made my pains his prey.
"Vain man," said she, "that dost in vain assay,
A mortal thing so to immortalize;
For I myself shall like to this decay,
And eke my name be wiped out likewise."
"Not so," (quod I) "let baser things devise
To die in dust, but you shall live by fame:
My verse your vertues rare shall eternize,
And in the heavens write your glorious name:
Where whenas death shall all the world subdue,
Our love shall live, and later life renew."

In the poem, a man is writing the name of his love in the sand in order to have her and their love immortalize. However, waves keep washing away what he has written. A female voice, most likely his beloved, tells him his work is in vain because you cannot make something immortal that isn't meant to be. He tells her she is wrong and that she will be immortalize through his sonnet ("…,but you shall live in fame: My verse your vertues rare shall eternize"). This line by Spenser is extremely similar to lines from Baudelaire's last stanza in A Carcass. It states, "…That I am the keeper of corpses of love Of the form, and the essence divine!" 


Kincy GIbson said...

This is an excerpt from Andrew Marvell's To His Coy Mistress.

...But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long preserv'd virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust.
The grave's a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.

...Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may;
And now, like am'rous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour,
Than languish in his slow-chapp'd power.
Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball;
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life.
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

We mentioned this poem in class while discussing Carcass. The poet also immortalizes Marvell's love through poetry. I remember reading this poem last year and being thoroughly grossed out when I read "then worms shall try that long preserv'd virginity." I also experienced the same reaction when I read Baudelaire describing the worms/maggots eat the decaying carcass just as how Marvell described the carcass of his lover. And both loves are preserved through poem itself.

Amy Clement said...

After talking about Baudelaire's idolization of Edgar Allen Poe, I took the opportunity to look back at some of my favorites of his. One that kept coming to mind in this unit was "Annabel Lee."

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me-
Yes!- that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we-
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.