Monday, February 17, 2014

Analysis of "Sonnet after Wyatt" by Clive James

Original poem reprinted online here: "Sonnet after Wyatt" by Clive James
Originally read: August 11, 2014
More information about the Poet: Clive James

I think the reference in this poem points towards Sir Thomas Wyatt.  How much does the speaker refers to the poet is unknown to me since I'm not familiar with Wyatt's work.  However, the poem, an Elizabethan sonnet, focuses more on eulogy or a least the sense of someone lost.

'The final naked stalking feet have fled. / My chamber, even when the summer sun / Streams in to light my books, and is dark instead:"  Here the athropomorphizing of the action gives a distinct personal memory.  The list of adjectives "final naked stalking" have a sense of vulnerability, but note how each adjectives adds a sense of character to the feet.  So when the image shifts to the room, the focus is more metaphorical -- the room is dark.

"Those shining walkers have all cut and run / Out of the shower, not wearing very much / Printing the air with pleasure for my eyes."  Note the colon before this sentence.  This description is more towards the dark in which phantoms or memories come to the forefront, "shining walkers" parade around "not wearing very much."  The memories are visible, "Printing the air with pleasure for my eyes," and, note, the "pleasure" stirs only through the language and the visual, but phantoms are still phantoms.

"As sweet to look at as they were to touch, / They stepped like firebrands in a friendly guise, / Brighter than day."  When a memory is built up so highly, the "sweet to touch" and the "pleasure" (both could be implying something a little more sexual -- the disappointment is builds up.  Phantoms are still phantoms -- even if they are "firebrands in a friendly guise."

"The voids they left behind / Ache at the point that most intensely felt / Their prettiness,"  Note the continuously switching of senses and adjectives or nouns that apply to other senses.  As mentioned earlier, "sweet to touch" and here "felt their prettiness."  With these combinations there's a sense of confirmation and then confusion.  Confirmation based on the "pleasure" and confusion based on trying to express such pleasure which has now escaped the speaker.

     where vision floods the mind
     With the same heat that first made the heart melt.
     So I, that now they flee but once they sought,
     Pine for the sight and perish at the thought.

And the concluding lines lead up to this conclusion.  The want coming from the speaker confirms that the scenes earlier on are just visions that "flood the mind."  But the poem continues to go tactile in which the memories create a heat and continues to melt the heart.

And then the duality of memory comes back -- wanting to remember or wanting to forget.  And in here, I feel the remember affects the speaker in a more positive way than negative.

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