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Thread: Charlotte Smith

  1. #1
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    Charlotte Smith

    Hi,

    Let me know if this is the wrong place for this and where a more appropriate place might be, if so.

    I'm a student studying literature and I was hoping somebody might help me understand a poet, or at least direct me to a good site for this kind of thing. I'm studying the Romantic Period now, and have been asked to read several poems by Charlotte Smith. The trouble is...I can't make heads or tails of what she's talking about half the time. I keep picturing Yoda writing this down with a half eaten bag of mushrooms on his desk. For example:
    ========================================
    To Night.

    I love thee, mournful, sober-suited Night!
    When the faint moon, yet lingering in her wane.
    And veil'd in clouds, with pale uncertain light
    Hangs o'er the waters of the restless main.

    In deep depression sunk, the enfeebled mind
    Will to the deaf cold elements complain,
    And tell the embosom'd grief, however vain,
    To sullen surges and the viewless wind.

    Tho' no repose on that dark breast I find,
    I still enjoy thee—cheerless as thou art;
    For in thy quiet gloom the exhausted heart
    Is calm, tho' wretched; hopeless, yet resign'd.

    While to the winds and waves its sorrows given,
    May reach—tho' lost on earth—the ear of Heaven!

    =======================================
    In deep depression sunk, the enfeebled mind
    Will to the deaf cold elements complain,
    And tell the embosom'd grief, however vain,
    To sullen surges and the viewless wind.

    Huh?

    It's like she's writing in another language or is writing gibberish. I know that it's not just how they talked back then because I can get through Blake and some of Robinson just fine. Are some poets turning English into a Rubic's Cube on purpose? Is this some sick game some of them play, where you do all this decrypting, and then the payoff is supposed to be some transcendent understanding?

    So, if someone can help me decipher some of this, or get me started at least so I don't show up to my next class without a clue what's going on, that'd be great. I don't even know what specific questions to ask on this one. Maybe, here's one: What image am I supposed to think of when she says "And tell the embosom'd grief, however vain, To sullen surges and the viewless wind?" Tell it what? What is the It that's being told?

    Sorry for such a long post. Again, if this kind of thing belongs elsewhere, just let me know where that might be. Thanks for any help you have to offer.

  2. #2
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    The passage means that the writer, feeling depressed and weak ('the enfeebled mind'), tells her intimate sorrows or grievances ('the embosom'd grief') to nature ('the deaf cold elements'), i.e. the wind, the night, etc.

    She doesn't really expect the 'cheerless' night to answer, but still finds a sort of solace, or repose, in watching the night and telling it of her troubles.
    Last edited by Pecksie; 01-26-2009 at 01:50 PM.

  3. #3
    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    Break it up like a sonnet, and read it Quatrain by Quatrain, and see how the argument develops, and which elements work, and how they work together. I would read it generally as Petrarchan, in terms of argument development, and then see how the pivot occurs from the top to the bottom.

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