A Night Thought by William Wordsworth
Lo! where the Moon along the sky
Sails with her happy destiny1;
Oft is she hid from mortal eye
Or dimly seen,
But when the clouds asunder fly
How bright her mien2!
Far different we–a froward race,
Thousands though rich in Fortune’s grace
With cherished sullenness of pace
Their way pursue,
Ingrates who wear a smileless face
The whole year through.
If kindred humours e’er would make
My spirit droop for drooping’s sake,
From Fancy following in thy wake,
Bright ship of heaven!
A counter impulse let me take
And be forgiven.
1 highlights a now common theme of sailing towards destiny or, as in “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” fate approaching.
2mien – air, bearing, or demeanor, as showing character, feeling, etc.
Unfortunately, I was not able to find this poem using an online database outside of a simple Google search. Nevertheless, I found this poem using Coffee Connection Poets, which is a poetry archive operating since 2008. I would like to provide some history and backstory for this particular poem, but I am having a difficult time finding anything of note that could be used for the historical context of this poem. I will continue perusing files and databases tonight, so please look for a comment added to this post with anything I may find. I believe this poem to be useful for the purposes of our class and the topics we have discussed this semester because Wordsworth adds to, and continues, our initial themes of sublimity and beauty as well as the Poetry of Nature vs. the Poetry of the Imagination as described by Coleridge. It is a relatively simple poem when compared to other works we have read this semester, but I do enjoy Wordsworth’s poetry and the emotions he as able to evoke from his readers as he simultaneously explores the imagination and reality of human existence in this poem.
Functioning as a peer-reviewed international e-journal, Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net can be an incredibly valuable resource for any student preparing a course paper on Romantic poetry, or any layperson looking to increase their knowledge of Romantic or Victorian-era poems. Michael Eberle-Sinatra serves as the founding editor of the site and specializes primarily in the Romantic section of the journal. He started the site in 1996, and as a result of its popular expansion, the journal “expanded its scope in August 2007 to include Victorian literature.” The journal is published four times a year “and received funding from the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.”
I am somewhat concerned about the site’s ongoing relevance, however, because the last shown journal issue dates back to February-May 2010. This seems to be due to a mysterious “backlog” that was addressed by the site’s editor on February 29,2012. It was also said that the editors are working on a new website for the journal, but they are obviously not finished with their technological pursuits. Despite this potential setback, the journals listed on the site contain numerous scholarly articles addressing many issues similar to what we have discussed in class (e.g. Young Romantics: The Shelleys, Byron and Other Tangled Lives, or Urban Realism and the Cosmopolitan Imagination in the Nineteenth Century: Visible City, Invisible World).
This resource seems to be quite reliable and useful for anyone looking to engage in research outside of the romantic text itself. In fact, if a student had an 8-10 page paper due for a class on Romantic poetry, I would highly recommend him or her to peruse this site for dependable guidance. It can be easy in class to focus on one or two interpretations of the assigned poems; however, I have found numerous scholarly sources that delve deep into the world whatever poem is the subject of their writing and continue to explore new corners and new imaginations of the text in question.
What is so valuable about this site is the abundance of articles and essays written by experts in the fields of Romantic and Victorian poetry that are available to everyone from a university professor to the general public. Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net links the article hyperlinks from their journal to Érudit, which is much like JSTOR – except for the incredibly convenient fact that there is no subscription, username, or password required to view and read each article. Every essay and literary evaluation is immediately viewable by the public and can be directly cited and incorporated into any student’s research paper or any professor’s bibliography for a book, article, or essay he or she may be pursuing.
I am sure that without this particular site anyone looking for research and further development of a topic relating to Romantic literature could find similar information from other sites; however, I truly believe that this particular e-journal provides a very organized and credible listing of scholarly information that will inevitably make the research process much more painless and streamlined for the emerging scholar – both professional and amateur.
One of the last things we mentioned in class was the not-too-distant image of dread and gloom lingering over the end of the Persuasion. Austen writes,
“Anne was tenderness itself, and she had the full worth of it in Captain Wentworth’s affection. His profession was all that could ever make her friends wish that tenderness less, the dread of a future was all that could dim her sunshine. She gloried in being a sailor’s wife, but she must pay the tax of quick alarm for belonging to that profession which is, if possible, more distinguished in its domestic virtues than in its national importance” (Austen 199).
It does seem that Austen places a cautionary note on the life that Anne and Wentworth have now found with each other at the conclusion of the novel. She puts a damper on a happy ending that foreshadows the idea that not much will really change in Anne’s life in that she will be silently in love with someone who may not be there much of the time if at all. Anne has once again found love with Wentworth only to remain alone and at the mercy of the Royal Navy that will hopefully bring her husband back to her from time to time until his retirement from the military. This may be a stretch, and it is pure speculation, but perhaps Austen’s choice to caution the reader about the relationship that Anne will have with Wentworth, who will likely be called away quite often by his military duties, stems from her beloved brother’s (Henry Austen) experience in the militia and Jane’s inability to entertain his company often because of his obligation to the militia.
Throughout Persuasion there are obvious moments in which Jane Austen provides a sharp commentary, whether direct or indirect, on the nature of men and women within 17th century society. Thomas Gisborne also gives an interesting critique of the nature of men and women in his 1792 text An Enquiry in the Duties of the Female Sex. At one point Gisborne says, “When nations begin to emerge from gross barbarism, every new step which they take towards refinements is commonly marked by a gentler treatment, and a more reasonable estimation of women” (Gisborne 257). Granted, this was written at a time when women were still looked upon as inferior to men, but I can’t help but notice how Gisborne still trivializes the woman by choosing “reasonable” as the adjective describing society’s (read “men’s”) estimation of women. This particular passage just seems somewhat trite and petty in its stance towards women even though it may have seemed quite intellectually liberal at the time of its writing. I just feel like he is saying something to the effect of “Well, yes I believe women are still inferior to me, but an evolving society has afforded them a more ‘reasonable’ stance in their own perpetual inferiority.” I think it just comes across as a backhanded compliment to me. While Gisborne provides this tart expository moment, Jane Austen does something quite similar regarding men and the stereotype that many women had, and still have, towards man and his view of women. Austen writes of Sir Walter, “ He hoped she might make some amends for the many very plain faces he was continually passing in the streets. The worst of Bath was the number of its plain women. He did not mean to say that there were no pretty women, but the number of the plain was out of all proportion…and once, as he had stood in a shop on Bond Street, he had counted eighty-seven women go by, one after another, without there being a tolerable face among them” (Austen 112). While Gisborne trivializes women through his choice of diction, Austen caricatures men by choosing to highlight, perhaps facetiously so, the stereotype that men care for nothing but the physical attributes of a woman.
In the last portion of Manfred, the title character speaks of his past with the Spirit in much the same way that the Ancient Mariner from Rime of the Ancient Mariner deals with his own transgression of killing the albatross, yet Manfred comes across with a serious sense of confidence and personal responsibility marked by strength that the Ancient Mariner does not seem to possess. For example, Manfred says, “What are they to such as thee?/Must crimes be punish’d but by other crimes,/And greater criminals? – Back to thy hell!/Thou hast no power upon me, that I feel;/Thou never shalt possess me, that I know: What I have done is done; I bear within/A torture which could nothing gain from thine” (lines 124-128). The words that most seriously hearken back to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner are “I bear within a torture which could nothing gain from thine.” In much the same way as Manfred recognizes the pain he must accept from the consequences of his past actions, the mariner had to accept the scorn and punishment of killing the Albatross by wearing it around his neck as well as continuing to suffer through a dark and painful world while his shipmates were all rescued from the dread of their lives through death. But as Manfred confronts the Spirit with this overwhelming confidence, the Spirit at one point demands to know if Manfred is trying to “make himself/Almost our equal” (line 106-107). I had some confusion on this line, and I am sure it is probably nothing extremely significant, but is the Spirit implying that Manfred could find equality with the spiritual realm by dying, and if so, what does it mean for Manfred to die but only make himself “almost our equal?”
In this post, I would like to focus on the idea of negative capability that was briefly written about by John Keats and its relation to a “Man of Achievement.” In his letter To George and Thomas Keats, John Keats writes,
& at once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in Literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously – I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason – Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half knowledge. (pg. 1047)
My question, though, revolves around why Keats feels that a having the quality of negative capability automatically predisposes someone to become a Man of Achievement. Negative capability, from Keats’ definition, seems as if it could be labeled as “blind faith” in which man simply believes something in the face of questions, doubts, and a general inability to provide concrete evidence for something. The footnote to Keats’ claim includes a reference to Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner as a prime example of negative capability. But could one consider the Ancient Mariner to have been a Man of Achievement through his own negative capability? I just don’t really see that as holding true in reference to the Ancient Mariner.
Alright, I know this is a few days late – it’s midterm time again – but I wanted to say a few things about Part III of Coleridge’s/Wordsworth’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. I recognize and completely understand other perspectives regarding the poem, but when I read through part III both on my own time and again in class with my group, I could not help but see the foundation and moral thread of Christianity throughout the storyline. I do still have questions regarding the mariner’s lone “survival” and whether or not one can look upon the preservation of the mariner’s life with the perspective similar to that of Christian salvation or if the men on his ship who lost their lives were in fact the ones delivered from the perils of this life. With the image of Life-in-Death and Death together on a distant ship pursuing and…
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