I have a question about some lines in TSE's "La Figlia che Piange":
"So I would have had him leave,
So I would have had her stand and grieve,
So he would have left
As the soul leaves the body torn and bruised,
As the mind deserts the body it has used."
In his book, "Words Alone", Denis Donoghue writes of these lines,
"The violence of the abandonment, 'As the soul leaves the body torn and
bruised' and 'As the mind deserts the body it has used' suggests the lover's guilt,
commensurate with Dido's vow of vengeance in Book IV: 'when cold death has
severed soul and body,' 'cum frigida mors anima seduxerit artus.' "
and later Donoghue adds this additional commentary on the lines:
"The violence of 'As the soul leaves the body torn and bruised'-whether we
read 'torn and bruised' as qualifying body or soul-becomes compulsive with the
near-repetition, 'As the mind deserts the body it has used.' Grammatically,
the lines are nearly identical, but the change from 'soul' to 'mind' the
intensification of 'leaves to 'deserts,' and the spilling-over of 'torn and
bruised' on 'used' disturb the Gregorian movement of the poem."
If I read Donoghue's essay correctly, he is saying that the lines, "As the
soul leaves the body torn and bruised,/As the mind deserts the body it has used"
are nearly identical not just grammatically, but also in meaning.
I read these lines quite differently. I agree with Donoghue that the first
line, "As the soul leaves the body torn and bruised" is an echo of Dido from the
Aeneid and that the "soul" and "body" come from the same person.
But I see a shift in the second line, 'As the mind deserts the body it has
used'. I read the "mind" as belonging to the male protagonist and the "body it
has used" as belonging to the female who has been 'wronged' by the male. In
other words, the lines appear to be nearly identical, but in fact evoke a much
I think the narrator of the poem ultimately sees himself as a 'user' of the
woman's body (even if, as is evident in the poem, he has strong feelings for
her). Limitations in the male narrator will inevitably lead to the abandonment
of the woman by him, just as Aeneas abandoned Dido.
So, my question is: Is Donoghue correct that the lines are essentially echoes
of each other, or are they conveying vastly different ideas?
-- Steve --