Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"Thou Blind Man's Mark" Essay

You might note that the third body paragraph is a little lacking. That is the point at which I stopped in class, and even though I stopped mid-sentence, I couldn't regain my sense of direction in that paragraph. I felt that there was little use agonizing over it, so here we go.

            Sir Philip Sidney’s poem, “Thou Blind Man’s Mark,” addresses desire and its ruinous ways. In conveying the speaker’s complex and bitter attitude toward desire, Sidney employs poetic devices including paradox, tone, and a specific diction. These and other techniques (such as personification and irony) complete the speaker’s portrayal of desire and his feelings about it.
            The first three lines of the poem include some paradox and irony. Consider the opening line, “Thou blind man’s mark, thou fool’s self-chosen snare…” Such nonsensical descriptions reflect the speaker’s nonsensical impression of desire. Sidney has opened the poem with such lines to emphasize the complicated and rather backward nature of that feeling called desire. At the end is another instance of paradox. The speaker claims to desire nothing but the knowledge of how to kill desire itself.
            Sidney’s harsh diction also holds a key to understanding the speaker’s complex attitude. Not only can one note the ironic and contradicting choice of words in the beginning, but also the harsh terms employed throughout the rest of the poem. He uses terms such as “worthless ware,” “thy smoky fire,” “mangled mind,” and repeats the phrase “in vain,” directing these at desire as though it were human. This personification is also essential to the delivering of the speaker’s attitude. He addresses desire as though it were a devilish man, giving him something besides an abstract idea to direct his animosity towards.
            The tone of this poem is noteworthy, because it basically is the attitude of the speaker; in this case, it is quite bitter. Sidney creates said tone with his diction and literary devices; lines like, “I have too dearly bought,/With price of mangled mind, they worthless ware;” are good indicators of tone, as well.
            Sir Philip Sidney reveals his speaker’s acrimonious attitude quite effectively through his tone, choice in words, and techniques. Paradox and personification were important techniques in establishing the speaker’s voice and mood. Desire appears to be an incensing sentiment to the speaker, as a result of the poetic devices that the author chooses.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

At Least Two Essays, Part Deux

Allow me to include a brief author's note before my essay (however, nothing is really brief when I say/write it). Whilst writing my first essay, I felt quite confident in my poetry-essay writing and my arguments. I wrote it sitting outside on this lovely day. I posted it. I took a break. I chose this essay a few hours later. I ended up hating the prompt and not being fond of the poem after reading it a million times. I couldn't bear to start over with a new prompt after all I had done trying to figure this one out (an essentially straightforward prompt, really). This essay is not great-- I say that not as defense, nor as an excuse, but...more like a warning. I've been feeling pretty good about my poetry reading and writing this past week or so, but for some reason, this one is giving me problems (even though the prompt itself isn't hard). So. Blah, blah, blah, I apologize ahead of time to anyone that may be offended by my less-than stellar performance. There are parts that I left unfinished, so if anyone has ideas, I welcome them. On a lighter note, I just learned that iguanas have a third eye. Cool.

"Evening Hawk" by Robert Penn Warren

From plane of light to plane, wings dipping through
Geometries and orchids that the sunset builds,
Out of the peak's black angularity of shadow, riding
The last tumultuous avalanche of
Light above pines and the guttural gorge,
The hawk comes.
               His wing
Scythes down another day, his motion
Is that of the honed steel-edge, we hear
The crashless fall of stalks of Time.

The head of each stalk is heavy with the gold of our error.

Look!  Look!  he is climbing the last light
Who knows neither Time nor error, and under
Whose eye, unforgiving, the world, unforgiven, swings
Into shadow.

          Long now,
The last thrush is still, the last bat
Now cruises in his sharp hieroglyphics.  His wisdom
Is ancient, too, and immense.  The star
Is steady, like Plato, over the mountain.

If there were no wind we might, we think, hear
The earth grind on its axis, or history
Drip in darkness like a leaking pipe in the cellar.
2006 Poem “Evening Hawk” (Robert Penn Warren)
Prompt: Read the following poem carefully. Then write a well-organized essay in which you analyze how the poet uses language to describe the scene and to convey mood and meaning.

          Robert Penn Warren’s poem, “Evening Hawk,” relies heavily on imagery and description to convey the mood and meaning of the work. The language and techniques—i.e., imagery, metaphor, simile, diction—employed in this piece thoroughly describe the scene.  Warren’s choice of highly symbolic and descriptive words, inclusion of metaphors and similes, and abundant visuals also enhance the conveyance of the poem’s significance.  
Imagery, as mentioned above, is easily the most conspicuous and important vessel for mood and meaning in “Evening Hawk.” The visual imagery that Warren includes sets the scene: a hawk is gliding through the evening in a very natural setting, as the sun sets on the world. The imagery is also layered; many of the visuals are symbolic of something relating to the passage of time, human nature/error, and history.
 The hawk itself appears to be a metaphor; perhaps representing time or the evening itself. This extended metaphor runs alongside quite a few other metaphors in the poem. The passage of time is a major part of this poem’s significance, and metaphors such as the hawk’s wing being a scythe that cuts down the day communicate this quite effectively. Similes, like metaphors, are used as very visual comparisons in this poem. For example, in the last stanza, the speaker states, “we might,…hear…history Drip in darkness like a leaking pipe in the cellar.” The poem compares the abstract elements of the poem (namely the passage of time) to more familiar ideas (the hawk, a scythe, a leaky pipe) via its metaphors and similes.  By doing this, one can not only easier fathom such intangible things, but also gather deeper meaning as s/he relates something such as time to a tangible, symbolic object.
Warren’s diction in the poem is intelligent, and he chooses words that are highly symbolic. The word choice reinforces the fact that the body of the poem is imagery-laden. The first stanza establishes the setting: “dipping through Geometries and orchids that the sunset builds, Out of the peak's black angularity of shadow, riding The last tumultuous avalanche of Light above pines and the guttural gorge…” The third stanza also establishes the philosophical, meditative mood of the poem (“…he is climbing the last light Who knows neither Time nor error, and under Whose eye, unforgiving, the world, unforgiven, swings Into shadow.”).  

At Least Two Essays, Pt. 1

          Poets Edgar Allan Poe and Hilda Doolittle (HD) use “the face that launched a thousand ships” as a subject for their respective pieces, “To Helen” and “Helen.” Though both authors use similar techniques to illustrate their subject’s intense beauty, the speakers of the poems seem to hold very different attitudes toward Helen. Poe and HD employ elements such as tone, diction, and imagery to convey the narrator’s feelings of reverence, passion, and even hatred, along with literary techniques like allusion, motif, and simile.
            Both speakers convey very different feelings toward Helen through the use of tone. In Poe’s piece, “To Helen,” the tone is clearly passionate and reverent. In his comparisons and allusions (“…thy beauty is to me, Like those Nicean barks of yore”), the speaker expresses love, admiration, and respect. This establishes the tone. The tone of “Helen,” on the other hand, suggests a more complicated tone; one with more of a “love-hate” feeling. As the speaker describes Helen’s physical beauty with phrases such as “God’s daughter, born of love, the beauty of cool feet and slenderest knees,” s/he simultaneously describes Greece’s hatred of the woman, “All Greece hates the still eyes in the white face.” Poe’s speaker uses a tone of admiration, while HD’s employs a more complicated tone of abhorrence.
            The speakers’ diction also delivers their dissimilar attitudes toward Helen. In “Helen,” the choice of words is strong, and hate punctuates the poem. The speaker uses the word hate or hatred a few times, along with such words as “revile” and “funereal.” The speaker of “To Helen,” conversely, is not so strong and bitter. The poem’s diction is much more classical, and focuses on descriptive, imagery-building words. The phrase, “On desperate seas long wont to roam, Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face…” exemplifies such language. The sophisticated diction reflects Helen’s classical beauty and the speaker’s respect for her.
            Finally, imagery is an essential part of both poems. Though both speakers use it extensively in describing Helen and her attributes, they still maintain divergent views of her. Poe’s poem couples allusion with imagery to create visions of Helen’s beauty (the speaker compares her to Psyche, Cupid’s legendary and gorgeous lover: “Ah! Psyche, from the regions which Are Holy Land!”). While “Helen” is narrated by someone who seeks to illustrate Greece’s contempt for her, s/he still acknowledges Helen’s qualities; the looks that were said to start a war. The last stanza of “Helen” covers her appearance and the loathing she inspires: “Greece sees unmoved, God’s daughter, born of love, the beauty of cool feet and slenderest knees, could love indeed the maid, only if she were laid, white ash amid funereal cypresses.” The whiteness of Helen’s skin appears as a motif in “Helen,” as well; it seems to symbolize her beauty being washed out of her.
            In conclusion, the speakers of both “To Helen” and “Helen” are similarly inspired but have quite different attitudes concerning their subjects. Tone, imagery, and diction are three of the main elements important to understanding said attitudes. The techniques placed alongside these elements, such as the “white” motif, Grecian allusions, and similes, are also important in distinguishing the speakers’ feelings.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Seventh Reading

I finally remembered the poem I spent most of zero period trying to think of! What a relief. It is "A Psalm of Life" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (I just knew it was a Longfellow poem).

I read this poem several times just as we were assigned, and I can't say that much changed between the first and seventh or so readings, in terms of understanding or meaning. Certainly, the more I read it, the more I liked it and appreciated it, so there must have been some change, but nothing that seemed notable. Maybe I'm doing it wrong. Does anyone out there know how to read?
Alright, I can read, but multiple readings did not reveal much more than a few metaphors. Now that I think of it, maybe I didn't find anything new or look at this in another light this time simply because I've re-read this poem a few times in the past.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Scottish Play, Currently On Broadway

So, this morning's late start at school graced me with the opportunity to watch last night's episode of The Colbert Report-- and it just so happened that Stephen's guest that night was Alan Cumming, a man in the Broadway adaptation of Macbeth. Cumming is an extremely interesting (and funny) man, and I sincerely wish I could go see him perform all sixteen roles that he has in Macbeth (there are only two other actors in the play). I implore everyone (at least all of my classmates) to check out last night's episode, and just skip to the end, with Cumming's interview. It is awesome. Also, just go check it out on YouTube. If anyone actually has spare time.

Macbeth isn't a dirty word to Alan Cumming, but whatever he whispered in Stephen Colbert's ear sure is.  
This link better work. 

Also, I found a couple of scenes from the actual play (ok, I've lost the second one, so deal with it):

Macbeth Active Reading Notes: Act V

  • a doctor and "waiting-gentlewoman" (I suppose Lady Macbeth's lady-in-waiting) are watching Lady Macbeth, who apparently has been asleep since Macbeth went "into the field" (he has gone to suppress the revolt of the Scotch nobles)
    • Lady Macbeth has been sleepwalking, and even writing letters in her sleep
  • the gentlewoman doesn't want to tell the doctor what she has heard Lady Macbeth say in her sleep, for she is afraid of getting in trouble 
  • Lady Macbeth appears, still seemingly asleep (though her eyes are open)
  • "she has light by her continually; 'tis her command." --Lady Macbeth is afraid of the dark now
  • she keeps rubbing her hands; she thinks she sees a bloodstain that she cannot remove
    • here, the famous lines come in: " Out, damned spot! out, I say!--One: two: why, then, 'tis time to do't.--Hell is murky!--Fie, my lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account?--Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him."
  •  "The thane of Fife had a wife" though she had nothing to do with the murder of Lady Macduff, it weighs on the queen's conscience
  • the doctor tells the lady to keep an eye on Lady Macbeth, and to make sure she doesn't hurt herself
  •  "He cannot buckle his distemper'd cause Within the belt of rule." Macbeth cannot control the discontented nobles
  • Menteith, Caithness, Angus, Lennox, and soldiers begin their march
  • I don't really know what to say about their conversation. Hm.
  •  "The devil damn thee black, thou cream-faced loon!" What a lovely insult
  • a servant comes to tell Macbeth that the English soldiers are approaching
  • Macbeth is...well, he's not a happy camper at the moment. Rude.
  • Macbeth calls for Seyton, and asks for his armor 
    • is 'Seyton' really pronounced like 'Satan'? What an unfortunate name
  • he wants the doctor to cure his wife of what "weighs upon [her] heart"
  • the doctor says that the power to cure herself lies only Lady Macbeth; Macbeth doesn't like this, so he ridicules medicine
  •  "I will not be afraid of death and bane, Till Birnam forest come to Dunsinane."
  •  the soldiers arrive at Birnam forest
  • Malcolm orders the soldiers to take branches from the trees to conceal their numbers
  • Macbeth is confident that he will be safe in his castle, and that he will be victorious 
  • "What is that noise?"/ "It is the cry of women, my good lord"
  • Lady Macbeth is dead
  • a messenger tells Macbeth that as the soldiers approached, he thought he saw the forest move (for they were camouflaged )
    • Macbeth threatens to hang the messenger if he is lying (he obviously doesn't believe him)
  • uh, well, this is the shortest scene in here
  • I'm not sure what to say about this except that they are preparing to attack
  • Macbeth compares himself with baited bear (in reference to the popular sport of the time, bear-baiting)
  • Young Siward asks Macbeth his name
    • Macbeth fancies himself pretty scary; Siward just hates him
  • they fight, and Macbeth kills Young Siward
  • Macbeth has avoided fighting with Macduff, for he knows that he is already guilty of killing his family
    • Macduff provokes him; they fight
  •  we should talk about Macbeth and Macduff's conversation; I feel I'm missing something important 
  • Ross tells Siward that his son (Young Siward) is dead
  • Macduff enters, holding Macbeth's head
  • I suppose...this is the end. Aw. 

Life of Pi AP Exam-Style Multiple Choice Questions

         Our good old nation was just seven years old as a 
    republic when it became bigger by a small territory.
    Pondicherry entered the Union of India on 
    November 1, 1954. One civic achievement called
5  for another. A portion of the grounds of the Pondicherry 
    Botanical Garden was made available rent-free for an
    exciting business opportunity and—lo and behold—
    India had a brand new zoo, designed and run according
    to the most modern, biologically sound principles.       

 10            It was a huge zoo, spread over numberless
      acres, big enough to require a train to explore it, though
       it seemed to get smaller as I grew older, train included.
      Now it’s so small it fits in my head. You must imagine a
       hot and humid place, bathed in sunshine and bright
15  colours. The riot of flowers is incessant. There are trees,
      shrubs, and climbing plants in profusion—peepuls,
      gulmohurs, flames of the forest, red silk cottons,
      jacarandas, mangoes, jackfruits and many others that 
      would remain unknown to you if they didn’t have neat
20  labels at their feet. There are benches. On these benches
     you see men sleeping, stretched out, or couples sitting,
     young couples, who steal glances at each other shyly and
     whose hands flutter in the air, happening to touch.
     Suddenly, amidst the tall and slim trees up ahead, you
25 notice two giraffes quietly observing you. The sight is not
     the last of your surprises. The next moment you are startled
     by a furious outburst coming from a great troupe of monkeys,
     only outdone in volume by the shrill cries of strange birds.
     You come to a turnstile. You distractedly pay a small sum
30 of money. You move on. You see a low wall. What can you
    expect beyond a low wall? Certainly not a shallow pit with
    two might Indian rhinoceros. But that is what you find.
    And when you turn your head you see the elephant that was
    there all along, so big you didn’t notice it. And in the pond
36 you realize those are hippopotamuses floating in the water.
    The more you look, the more you see. You are in Zootown!