Lit & The Arts Two Poems: Compare and Contrast

Discussion in 'Literature & The Arts' started by Off_the_Street, Oct 19, 2004.

  1. Off_the_Street

    Off_the_Street New Member

    Alfred Noyes (1880-1958) wrote The Highwayman at the age of 26; it was a huge success; people memorized it, it has been reprinted countless times.

    T.S. Eliot (1888-1865) wrote The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock at the age of 23; it was a huge success; people memorized it, it has been reprinted countless times.

    And yet these two poems could not be further apart. One used metaphor and simile, great rhyme, rolling rhythm, plot development, and an ending which leaves the reader, man or woman, often in tears.

    The other is incredibly more abstract, has quirky rhyme and scansion, and intellectualizes to the point of boring many readers to tears.

    Any yet the latter is considered great poetry, while many people believe the former as being not much more than light verse -- or at least, verse not angst-filled enough for 20th-century (and, I suppose, 21st century) anomie.

    Why is this?

    I'd like to propose we take two poems (they don't have to be the two above) that are similar in some respects and different in others -- and discuss them, not only from a poetics point of view, but as how they represent both the poet and the milieu.

    Anyone interested?
     
  2. amantine

    amantine Premium Member

    I have a book which contains The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. I have to admit that I haven't read it yet, because I wanted to finish The Waste Land first and that poem is very large. I agree Eliot is difficult, but I don't think it is boring.

    If you can find a link to the Highwayman I would like to compare them.
     
  3. Off_the_Street

    Off_the_Street New Member

  4. Zsandmann

    Zsandmann Premium Member

    e e #@!&% - anyone lived in a pretty how town

    OMG I had to read this for school, its almost as bad as Faulkner's dang stream of conciousness
     
  5. bigdanprice

    bigdanprice New Member

    Its a question of what they are writing about:
    Eliot is a modernist writer using a great deal of symbolism to make social commentary.

    Lets do a textual analysis... Check out the English degree student!!
    S`io credesse che mia risposta fosse {this is taken from Dante's inferno}
    A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
    Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
    Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
    Non torno vivo alcun, s'i'odo il vero,
    Senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

    Let us go then, you and I,
    When the evening is spread out against the sky
    Like a patient etherized upon a table; {metaphor}
    Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
    The muttering retreats
    Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
    And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells
    Streets that follow like a tedious argument {the line actually follows}
    Of insidious intent
    To lead you to an overwhelming question...
    Oh, do not ask, `` What is it? ''
    Let us go and make our visit.


    The point is that ELiots poem contributes to a genre and a social ideology.
     
  6. bigdanprice

    bigdanprice New Member

    I think I misread your inital post sorry, dont mean to be condersending....:af:
     
  7. Off_the_Street

    Off_the_Street New Member

    Bigdanprice says:

    "The point is that ELiots poem contributes to a genre and a social ideology.

    What do you mean? Any poem contributes to a genre; if i write an Elizabethan sonnet, I am contributing to a genre.

    What do you call Eliot's genre, other than 'that genre of poems which are filled with angst and don't have a consistent rhyme'?

    You can say that Noyes contributed to 'that genre of poems which glorify doomed love'!

    But what I don't understand is why do so many people consider Eliot's work to be great and Noyes' to not be great?

    Is there something inherently better or more beautiful about the phrase

    I should have been a pair of ragged claws / scuttling across the floors of silent seas

    as compared to, say

    The moon was a ghostly galleon, tossed upon cloudy seas.?

    I believe that only two kind of poets regularly write blank verse: really good ones and really bad ones.

    Eliot was a great one, but, absence any scansion and rhyme, what are we left with? Imagery? I like to compare Eliot's fog with that of Sandburg

    Sandburg says

    "THE fog comes
    on little cat feet.
    It sits looking
    over harbor and city
    on silent haunches
    and then moves on."


    With the same subject in Prufrock:


    "The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
    The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
    Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
    Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
    Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
    Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
    And seeing that it was a soft October night,
    Curled once about the house, and fell asleep."


    Now, I'm not crazy about old Eliot, but I have to admit his imagery is way better than Sandburg's.

    And I suppose you can make a case for his "cute" epithet of the protagonist as a pseudo-Hamlet:

    "No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
    Am an attendant lord, one that will do
    To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
    Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
    Deferential, glad to be of use,
    Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
    Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
    At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
    Almost, at times, the Fool."


    I guess the reason I prefer Noyes to Eliot (although I certainly don't deny Eliot's greatness) is that I look on poetry not as an exercise in intellectualism, but more as an exercising (and even "exorcising" LOL) of one's emotions.

    And this is why (going back fifty years further), while I think Gerard Manley Hopkins is one of the greatest (if not the greatest) of the 19th century poets, I prefer Tennyson or Byron.
     
  8. amantine

    amantine Premium Member

    Can't poetry be both an exercise in intellectualism and an exercising on one's emotion as you call it? I think you don't do justice to Eliot by saying all he does is just a exercise in intellectualism, just a good example of intertextuality. I think he considered a great poet because he was able to combine emotion with intellect and originality. I admit that Baudelaire was a large influence, but still his style is very original.

    I think good poetry isn't clear on the first read or to the unprepared mind. In the Netherlands we had a group of poets in the 1880's which charaterized good poetry as follows: "Poetry is not a fair maiden that points out every trouble along the way and leads us by the hand. No, she is a strong woman that sends the heart and mind to darker territories, but also gives us power to resurrect ourselves greater than before. She is not affectionate, nor considerate, but an intoxication."
     
  9. Off_the_Street

    Off_the_Street New Member

    Amantine says:

    "Can't poetry be both an exercise in intellectualism and an exercising on one's emotion as you call it?"

    I'm sure it can, I just don't see as much of that commonality in Prufrock.

    "I think you don't do justice to Eliot by saying all he does is just a exercise in intellectualism, just a good example of intertextuality. I think he considered a great poet because he was able to combine emotion with intellect and originality."

    Well, Amantine, you tell me: What emotions do you feel after reading Prufrock? There may be some sort of existential loneliness or anxiety, but how strong is that?

    Look at "The Highwayman". Excitement and danger, true (yet forbidden) love, madness and jealousy, nasty police, the supreme sacrifice for love, rage and madness, and death!

    And at the end, a ghostly l'envoi of love conquering even death:

    "And still of a winter's night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
    When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
    When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
    A highwayman comes riding— Riding—riding—
    A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door."


    "I admit that Baudelaire was a large influence, but still his style is very original."

    I never thought of Baudelaire as an influence; I figured that Eliot, like Conrad Aiken, was more a disciple of Ezra Pound. I need to re-read Les Fleurs du Mal.

    (On a side note, we should think about a compare-and-contrast between Baudelaire and Verlaine!)

    You gotta understand, Amantine, that I like Eliot a lot. As a matter of fact, although I'm not an expert on 20th century poetry, I consider him the equal or the better of every poet who wrote in the English Language (except for Yeats) during the last century.

    But my point is that I (and just about everyone else) can follow the story, follow the imagery, be pulled along by the rhythm and rhyme, and re-live the emotions of The Highwayman, and I simply can't do that with Prufrock.

    "Poetry is not a fair maiden that points out every trouble along the way and leads us by the hand. No, she is a strong woman that sends the heart and mind to darker territories, but also gives us power to resurrect ourselves greater than before. She is not affectionate, nor considerate, but an intoxication."

    I like that. I like that a lot.
     
  10. amantine

    amantine Premium Member

    How could I forget Pound? The epigraph to the Waste Land names him directly as an influence and Pound also corrected the poem.

    I think you can't deny that Eliot's poem contains a lot of emotion as well, especially in the end. It's just not as visible as in the Highwayman and it is not the same emotion. The Highwayman seems to me a bit sentimental, a bit overdone. I like it still, but Eliot's poem is more reserved. It doesn't need two deaths to get its point across.

    It depends on your own preferences which poem you rate higher. I like Eliot's poem more, but the Highwayman is still nice. Emotionally, I like both; there's times for reserved poetry and for sentimental poetry. Stylistically, I like Eliot better; he uses all that intertextuality and has a more interesting rhythm, whereas the Highwayman just has an interesting rhyming scheme.