Wednesday, October 31, 2007

"The Columbine" - Jones Very

I want to look at one poem here, and leave the context for later.

The Columbine

Still, still my eye will gaze long fixed on thee,
Till I forget that I am called a man,
And at thy side fast-rooted seem to be,
And the breeze comes my cheek with thine to fan.
Upon this craggy hill our life shall pass,
A life of summer days and summer joys,
Nodding our honey-bells mid pliant grass
In which the bee half hid his time employs;
And here we’ll drink with thirsty pores the rain,
And turn dew-sprinkled to the rising sun,
And look when in the flaming west again
His orb across the heaven its path has run;
Here left in darkness on the rocky steep,
My weary eyes shall close like folding flowers in sleep.

This is a strange poem. The poet looks at the columbine long enough and in such a way that he actually thinks he is a flower. This is a version of Emerson, immersed in Nature, becoming a transparent eyeball.

But here, look at the widening sensual range - the eye comes first, but then he feels the breeze, he nods his honey-bell and the bee comes, he drinks the rain and feels the dew and sun. A more complete sensory experience, even though one might think the sensual possibilities of a flower would be quite limited.

And then the eye returns at the end, as the poet remembers that he is a person not a flower - his eyes close "like" the petals. It's all just a metaphor, no matter how intensely experienced.

Note how the return to reality is reflected in the bumpiness of the last line. The first 13 lines of the sonnet have 10 syllables, but the last line has 12 (counting "flowers" as one syllable), to jar the poet back to himself.

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