Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Analysis of "from Anactoria" by Algernon Charles Swinburne

Poem found here: "from Anactoria" by Algernon Charles Swinburne


Based on the wikipedia article, this is just a portion of the longer poem which talks about Sappho's love and inspiration -- Anactoria.  But this is not the adoration love poem.  The first line of the rhymed couplet poem starts out with, "Yes, thou shalt be forgotten like spilt wine".  The Dionysian introduction brings a sense of push and pull in this relationship as the pull is, "Except these kisses of my lips on thine / Brand them with immortality;"  -- What the speaker thinks will happen versus the present.  There's definitely a play of lust here.

"but me -- / Men shall not see bright fire nor hear the sea,"  Note the idolization is to "Anactoria" and not to the speaker himself.  By downplaying himself there's a weird thing.  Yes, the love is being cast above him, but he is making himself memorable by stating he won't be memorable, "Nor mix their heats with music, nor behold / Cast forth of heaven, with feet of awful gold / And plumeless wings that make the bright air blind."  So here we go with this description.  This starts out as a forgettable section of the male, but look at the continued fall, especially with the telling line, "cast forth of heaven" which could be a reference to the the fall of Lucifer.  The lines have the speaker live in infamy like the devil while making the love famous -- but the love and the speaker will eventually be forgotten, right? Just that interaction, that kiss that brands them.

"Lightning, with thunder for a hound behind."  Note that this line contextualizes the blindness but also inserts the sound of thunder which deafens those who see,  what's left to the senses?  Not much, only what is known, "Hunting through fields unfurrowed and unsown, / But in the light and laughter, in the moan,"  This couplet represents more of the structure of this poem -- the talking about what's not there (hounds hunting  through unfurrowed and unsown) and what is apparent, but ubiquitous -- light and laughter.

"an in grasp of lip and hand," Now we're back to the physical, the what that is remembered, " And shudder of water that makes felt on land / The immeasurable tremor of all the sea, / Memories shall mix and metaphors of me."

The last line is what got me interested in the poem.  The unwrapping of the metaphors in the poem represents the speaker -- deconstructed into nothing relevant which makes the speaker even more relevant.  Furthermore,  the mixture of the obscenely grandiose and the intimate scene works for me here.  Both are immortal in separate ways.

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