Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Analysis of "Premonition" by George Santayana

Original poem reprinted online here: "Premonition" by George Santayana
More information about the Poet:  George Santayana

The prophet as lover. Vice versa?  This is what I was thinking when I was rereading this poem.  It's not like Marlowe's poem, "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" where the speaker tries to create the world for the love; rather, this poem works more on the general level -- as though the environment should be enough.

     The muffled syllables that Nature speaks
     Fill us with deeper longing for her word;
     She hides a meaning that the spirit seeks,
     She makes a  sweeter music than is her.

The first quatrain has three separate components: the speaker, nature, and the other.  Note how the speaker listens to Nature which "speaks," and creates "music"  but what does this do to the speaker --
"long" as though the sound was missing.  But note the usage of "us" in the second line bringing in the other to feel the same way.

"A hidden light illumines all our seeing, / An unknown love enchants our solitude."  The repetition of "our" forces the perspective of the speaker onto the other -- but the perspective, this "hidden light" and "unknown love" brings a sense of desperation.  The speaker wants the "us" to know the hidden and unknown, "We feel and know that from the depths of being / Exhales an infinite, a perfect good."  These lines confirms  that the speaker wants the other to "feel" from deep and bring up this "perfect good."  These generalities are more based on his positive prophecy for "our" future.

But the turn:

     Though the heart wear the garment of its sorrow
     And be not happy like a naked star,
     Yet from the thought of peace some peace we borrow,
     Some rapture from this rapture felt afar.

The repetition of emotion in the last two lines -- "peace" and "rapture" are so disparate that it makes the speaker seem more desperate like how it was "hinted" earlier with the "sorrow" and "happy" lines.  So many quotes.  Why?  This is where the speaker hints on the separation on what the speaker wants versus what the other wants -- and nature -- the setting is going against him now instead of for him.  The other is against him and so is the world.

"Our heart strings are too coarse for Nature's fingers / Deftly to quicken as she pulses on"  And note how the speaker then turns on Nature.  It's nature's fault, "And the harsh tremor that among them lingers / Will into sweeter silence die anon" note the alliteration of "sweeter silence" to somewhat turn the sentiment of the poem.  From the accusatory voice to the silence that is sweet -- but from after Nature is done (and in some ironic way the speaker's silence would be just as sweet).

"We catch the broken prelude and suggestion / Of things unuttered, needing to be sung"  Note how the singing goes back to how Nature was.  This feels like a swan song that the speaker is asking for the other.  And the usage of "prelude" brings another sense of irony since nothing seemed to begin, only the emphasis on ending, "We know the burden of them, and their question / Lies heavy on the hart, nor finds a tongue."  Another way to state the "sweeter silence" except the speaker acknowledgs that this is something he knows before rather than the other.

     Till haply, lightning through the storm of ages.
     Our sullen secret flash from sky to sky,
     Glowing in some diviner poet's pages
     And swelling into rapture from this sigh

"diviner poet's pages" yes, this seems self=referential for the words; however, the action is a sigh that causes the rapture.  But what is remembered -- something "haply."  The bombastic "storm of ages" hides this "sullen secret flash" -- the burst of something out of nothing.  Is this something that the "us" experiences or something the speaker wants to see, even only for a second.

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