How do I remove myself from this forum?
Nancy Gish wrote:
> First, this is the second part of the poem--the S. The M is in the
> first half:
> I would come in a shirt of hair
> I would come with a lamp in the night
> And sit at the foot of your stair;
> I would flog myself until I bled,
> And after hour on hour of prayer
> And torture and delight
> Until my blood should ring the lamp
> And glisten in the light;
> I should arise your neophyte
> And then put out the light
> To follow where you lead,
> To follow where your feet are white
> In the darkness toward your bed
> And where your gown is white
> And against your gown your braided hair.
> Then you would take me in
> Because I was hideous in your sight
> You would take me in without shame
> Because I should be dead
> And when the morning came
> Between your breasts should lie my head.
> Like the narrator of "The Love Song of Saint Nacissus," this narrator
> imagines himself both victim and murderer, and the sex and gender are
> explicit. Metaphor relies on some indication that a trope is involved.
> What in either section of this in any way suggests it is "really" about
> something else, and if that is the case, what is any language ever
> "really" about? Poems may be about many things, but they are not about
> anything at all. This poem, for example, is not about the Holocaust
> (which had not yet happened) or about the beauty of Nature or about the
> dreariness of dark streets that argue with an insidious intent. If it
> is not about anything in it, what is it about?
> Second, of all the possible things this never mentions or has even a
> single word for, why choose writing poems as what a description of
> self-flagellation and abjection and strangling and slaughter is "really"
> about? Why have words and images at all if they point simply to
> something else not even implied, let alone named?
> Perhaps one of the greatest difficulties in early Eliot criticism is the
> assumption that whatever image is there, it is really not about itself
> or anything like it but is really about something else. Eliot started
> this, no doubt, by sending generations of critics off on a "wild goose
> chase" after the holy grail. But he did acknowledge that later. The
> grail legend only really appears for a part of Section V of TWL, not
> surprisingly since so much of the poem was drafted before Weston was
> even published.
> I think in any reading, one must start with what is in the language, and
> then turn to other implications when there are tropes sending one off to
> other possible meanings. Here I find nothing at all that suggests any
> reason to read it as not "about" what it is about but as "about"
> something it has no words for.
> Sidney, for example, says quite clearly in the first lines of sonnet 1
> that he is "Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show." His
> trope is set up from the beginning. He seeks words, studies inventions
> fine, and yet Invention flees. That is why he is "great with child to
> speak." The poem is explicitly about finding words to express love.
> Donne's poem is, likewise, explicitly about longing for God to break
> down his resistance to the divine and his betrothal to "your enemy."
> Its theme is overt from beginning to end, so when the sexual image
> arises in the couplet, it is part of a single extended metaphor whose
> application has been defined in each quatrain.
> I am at a loss to see any analogy in "The Love Song of St. Sebastian,"
> which is far more like a Browning monologue spoken by a madman, whose
> preoccupations with S & M are the single set of images throughout.
>>>>[log in to unmask] 04/03/05 5:46 AM >>>
> At 12:47 PM -0500 4/1/05, Nancy Gish wrote:
>>Please read "The Love Song of St. Sebastion" [...]
>>There is nothing IN the poem except an image of murder and S & M.
>>Example of "perversity":
>>I would come with a towel in my hand
>>And bend your head beneath my knees;
>>Your ears curl back in a certain way
>>Like no one's else in the world.
>>When all the world shall melt in the sun,
>>Melt or freeze,
>>I shall remember how your ears were curled.
>>I should for a moment linger
>>And follow the curve with my finger
>>And your head beneath my knees--
>>I think that at last you would understand.
>>There would be nothing more to say.
>>You would love me because I should have strangled you
>>And because of my infamy;
>>And I should love you the more because I had mangled you
>>And because you were no longer beautiful
>>To anyone but me.
> Reading these lines, I am reminded of situations that presumably have
> little or nothing to do with sex or gender but that nonetheless get
> figured in poems as sexual or gendered (or cross-gendered). Example:
> when the speaker in Sidney's first sonnet of _Astrophel and Stella_
> writes about how difficult it is for him to get onto paper the poem
> that he knows he has inside of him, he figures the unwritten poem as
> his unborn child, and himself as a woman in labor: "great with child
> to speak, and helpless in my throes." Another example: when Donne in
> "Batter my heart" wants to experience religious ecstasy, he begs God
> to rape him, "for I / Except you enthrall me, never shall be free /
> Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me." I wonder if Eliot in the
> lines quoted above may not be struggling against an impulse to write
> beautiful, lyrical, Romantic poems, figuring such poetry as a woman
> who seduces him but whom he must subdue, or kill, or at least mangle,
> in order to be free to write the poems that he wants to write, poems
> that he would love even if no one else did. If so, the "mangling" in
> this early poem becomes "dislocation" in his 1921 essay "The
> Metaphysical Poets," where he writes that a contemporary poet must
> attempt "to force, to dislocate if necessary, language into his
> meaning." I suppose one could say that to characterize the act and
> the product of poetic creation in terms of violence, whether sexual
> or not, requires a certain "perversity" of imagination, but it's a
> perversity that's provided more than one poet with a compelling