Posts Tagged ‘Literary Terms’
Ben Jonson’s “To Penshurst” is a classic example of an estate poem, a term the GRE Literature may want you to know. This form, which became fashionable in the 17th century, describes a landscape attached to a noble house and typically becomes a meditation upon the relationships between nature & culture. Here’s the opening- read the full text of “To Penshurst”
Thou art not, PENSHURST, built to envious show
Of touch, or marble ; nor canst boast a row
Of polish’d pillars, or a roof of gold :
Thou hast no lantern whereof tales are told ;
Or stair, or courts ; but stand’st an ancient pile,
And these grudg’d at, art reverenced the while.
Thou joy’st in better marks, of soil, of air,
Of wood, of water ; therein thou art fair.
Thou hast thy walks for health, as well as sport :
Thy mount, to which thy Dryads do resort, 10
Where Pan and Bacchus their high feasts have made,
Beneath the broad beech, and the chestnut shade ;
That taller tree, which of a nut was set,
At his great birth, where all the Muses met.
When dealing with 17th-century poetry, it may be helpful to classify poets as cavalier or metaphysical poets, as this distinction often appears on the GRE literature. According to The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia:
“The foremost poets of the Jacobean era, Ben Jonson and John Donne, are regarded as the originators of two diverse poetic traditions—the Cavalier and the metaphysical.”
A brief comparison of these authors will give you a pretty good idea of their divergent styles. While Johnson’s poetry is generally light or humorous in style, secular in subject, and often deals with love or sexuality, Donne’s is characterized by subtle argumentations and “metaphysical conceits,” often dealing with the soul or religion. Several metaphysical poets, especially John Donne, were influenced by NeoPlatonism. One of the primary Platonic concepts found in metaphysical poetry is the idea that the perfection of beauty in the beloved acted as a remembrance of perfect beauty in the eternal realm. (See John Donne – A Valediction Forbidden Mourning).
*sometimes considered metaphysical poets:
* Thomas Carew
* Abraham Cowley
* Richard Crashaw
* Edward Herbert
* Richard Leigh
* Richard Lovelace
* Katherine Philips
* Sir John Suckling
* Edward Taylor
* Anne Bradstreet
Sir John Suckling
An alexandrine is a line of verse containing 12 syllables in iambic hexameter — in other words, a line with six feet, each of which has the stress on the second beat. Most importantly for GRE purposes, you must be able to identify the last line of a Spensarian Stanza as an alexandrine. This is not, however, the only time they occur.
Poetry written in couplets is sometimes varied by the introduction of a triplet, in which the third line is an alexandrine. This occurs in the following example from Dryden, which introduces a triplet after two couplets:
A But satire needs not those, and wit will shine
A Through the harsh cadence of a rugged line:
B A noble error, and but seldom made,
B When poets are by too much force betrayed.
C Thy generous fruits, though gathered ere their prime,
C Still showed a quickness; and maturing time
C But mellows what we write to the dull sweets of rhyme.