In which I try to, “Discuss the differences in the ways the image of sunset functions in Wordsworth’s Intimations of Immortality and Coleridge’s The Lime-Tree.” (1994)
A paper written for Dr. Ault’s ENL 3241, FEB 01, 1994
… untitled …
Discuss the differences in the ways the image of sunset functions … yes, I will, eventually … but first I think there’s other much more interesting things to mention. For example, I wonder if I am the first to ever be strongly reminded of Paint It Black by the Rolling Stones while reading Intimations …by W.W., especially lines 17, 18, 98, and 7,8, and 9. Also, believe it or not, there is a song called Alive by Pearl Jam that is amazingly similar to Intimations …; incest, despair, etc. There is a line in a song called Black (again Pearl Jam) that goes, “I take a walk outside/ I’m surrounded by/ some kids at play/ I can feel their laughter/ so what do I say?” that jumped into my head somewhere around line 34. (Is it just a coincidence that two songs, both with the word ‘black’ in the title, both kind of ‘downer’ songs, were amazingly popular some 150-200 years after W.W. and S.T.C. were writing? Or is it that what our poets were expressing are/were universal emotions? I think the latter.) What the heck is the word ‘if’ doing in line 43? It doesn’t have a ‘then’ anywhere, or anything else for that matter, to justify it. If it’s supposed to be ‘as if’, then why the hell didn’t he just put the ‘as’ in the poem? And another thing … ! … ! … Why does S.T.C. put all these exclamation points all over the place? He puts ’em in the middle of the line so you have to go back and read the line again because none of the lines read as if there’s an exclamation point coming. When I read Lime-Tree the first time I just read it straight, w/o reading any of the footnotes or anything, and I thought it was a pretty cool poem. (I’ve always liked S.T.C. anyway.) Then I read all the fine print and I learn he wrote the poem to all kinds of people and changed it around 3/4 of the time. Now, I can understand revising a poem as time goes by, but he sent it off to different people as if he had written it specifically to that individual … ?! Isn’t that kind of like writing a love note and then saving it on your computer so that you can change what comes after “Dear,” whenever you meet a new girl? I think it is. I think it’s fairly cheesy to tell you the truth, unless he made it clear that it was not specifically to any one person … and I doubt he did. “I know someday you’ll have a beautiful life, I know you’ll be a star in somebody else’s sky, but why … why … why … can’t it be, oh can’t it be mine?” Why does it frustrate me so much that I can’t seem to write about Blake or W.W. or STC in any coherent way? Is it because what I’m reading comes across that way and that’s the only way my brain can deal avec it; or is it because what I’m reading is so similar to what’s already spinning and twisting in my head? (Billy Joel The Angry Young Man) Line 169 in Intimations … could stand to lose a ‘sing.’ I don’t think he should have worried about the rhyming, either. It makes the poem sound so … contrived, y’know? … especially around 190-199. (But that’s going back to the entire ‘spontaneous overflow of emotion’ argument … it’s simply impossible for something to simultaneously be spontaneous and in rhyme!!) Both poems share quite a few common threads: compare 44 in STC vs. 25 in WW, for example. Be they what they may, STC’s poem could have been written in the early childhood of WW’s poem, which begins in the same mood as Lime-Tree (at least until the first period). One last random thought: Have you ever read any Stephen King? On more than one occassion he has compared writing to masturbation and/or sex. I know many think what he writes is worthless pulp, but I happen to enjoy almost everything he’s written (and that’s the point, right?). In most of his books he has end-notes explaining, or simply stating, where he was and what he was thinking when the ideas came to him. Sometimes he just talks about writing in general or why he’s written something. These end-notes are more enjoyable to me than the actual stories. Because they’re real, if you can dig it. Discuss the differences in the ways the image of sunset functions…what is that? “… the function of the parenthetical intrusion… ” … what is that? If WW and STC or anyone is writing and conciously aware and worried about the possible “continuous, uninterrupted syntax” that might show up in the finished product, then what’s the point? (A question I am asked more often than any other!) I know Poe said somewhere that every word should be chosen with the aim of producing a desired effect upon the reader and I guess I can agree with that – if you’re writing something for money, or to sway a vote maybe. But poetry? Prose? I’ve picked up a pen and said to myself, “Okay, I’m gonna write a story to make the girl who reads it cry.” And I’ve done it…just write something like that to get an emotion, right? But is that writing? I don’t think so. It feels more like prostitution; it feels dirty, as if I’m disgracing the language by using it. I write (and by no means am I trying to compare myself to anyone else) for me, y’know? I don’t write for anyone else. Sure it’s nice if somebody reads something I’ve written and says, “Hey, this is neat-o.” But most of the stuff I write I throw in the bottom of my closet and don’t care if anyone ever reads or not. I don’t care what anyone reads into what I’m writing, that’s their business. I write because if I don’t my head will explode … there’s so freakin’ much swirling around in there and the only way I can ever seem to get release is to write it down. And even then it’s not like I’ve solved anything … just alleviated, temporarily, some of the pressure. If I try to write a letter to a girl (or even to a friend) I have to write and rewrite and edit and scribble and erase a million times and even then I don’t think I’ve said what I wanted to in the way I wanted. And I think I can communicate much better with a pen and paper than with my traitorous vocal cords. I can’t understand the concept of truly getting anything out of my head and into anyone else’s without it (my head or what’s in it?) being perverted and distorted during the journey. I mean, I try all the time (ha! who doesn’t?!) and I’ll probably never give up, but I don’t really see any hope of making it happen. (Shades of Descartes, how do I know there’s anything in anyone else’s head?) I should apologize for wandering around so much, but I really can’t. I will give a crack at the actual assignment, though.
I don’t think the parenthetical intrusion (line 71) in Lime-Tree is noteworthy until you realize that in at least one version of the poem STC omitted it. Then it becomes something to ponder for a moment. The meaning of the word ‘deeming’ seems to be changed somehow by the inclusion of line 71, although in what way I can’t determine exactly. If I wrote a paper for a class with a phrase like, “deeming its black wing had cross’d the mighty Orb’s dilated glory,” I guarantee it would be returned to me with an ‘awkward’ written illegibly in the margin. Try as I might, I can’t read this line sensibly. Is STC saying he hopes the rook flew into the reader’s view while the reader could see it? (Is it considered lucky to have a rook fly near you?) STC doesn’t write about the sunset in the same way as WW. In Lime-Tree I think the sunset has more of a calming effect than a desultory one. The whole poem is so descriptive and colorful (and, dare I say? upbeat) that it needed to ease into its ending in order to retain the feeling of loss and dejectedness with which it began. But if the setting sun is calming in Lime-Tree, it is suicidal in Intimations … When you get to the end of Intimations…, the sunset adds even more power to the desperation and Jesus-I’m-bummed-out-about-life feeling of the poem. I can agree that the sunset shows that everything is cyclical. But I think that WW had to end with a sunset because he began the poem talking about light. It’s as if he had no choice. Concerning the visual layout of the lines … I don’t see anything startling in Lime-Tree, the entire poem is the same physically (excepting line 43!); but in Intimations… there is a definite change. Excluding the 11th stanza, the poem’s shape is flowing and sinuous. The last stanza is a block. Except for “Is lovely yet;” the stanza is a solid, imposing chunk of characters. The “Is lovely yet;” is like a billboard in neon compared to the rest of the stanza. I think that this neon flash puts emphasis on the ‘innocent brightness’ of the preceeding line. And then ‘The clouds that gather…’ begins to bring the pace down, so that by the time your eyes get to ‘sober coloring’ you’re starting to forget about ‘ye fountains, meadows’ and ‘innocent brightness’ and starting to contemplate, well, Death. I also think it’s important (kien sabe?) to mention that in Lime-Tree STC is writing in the present tense, there is a single temporal setting throughout. WW moves from the past to the future and the sunset in the last stanza occurs in the present. I think (I think, I think, I think … there’s gotta be a better way to phrase that…) making the sunset happen in the present tense enhances the universality of the poem. (I mean it makes it seem, subconciously, as if the sun is always dark and life is dreary. If he had written it so we could say it was about a specific cloudy day when WW was in a bad mood, it wouldn’t be so depressing, y’know? But by putting it in the present tense he forces us to see the sun as always on the verge of going away from us.)