One of Brooks’s big arguments in The Well Wrought Urn is that you can’t summarize (or paraphrase) a poem and retain its meaning. The poem says something. Book Source: Digital Library of India Item : Cleanth ioned. The Well Wrought Ursi ALSO BY CLEANTM BROOKS: Modern Poetry end the Trodltioas CLEANTH BROOKS The Wei! Wrought Urn STUDIES IN THE.
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Still, in a sense, we are a part of nature, and are subject to its claims, and participate in its beauty. The two elements can hardly be separated in Belinda; in her guardian, Ariel, they cannot be separated at all. Both Mirth and Melancholy are solitary, silent inhabitants of the breast, that neither receive nor transmit communi- cation; no mention is therefore made of a philosophical friend, or a pleasant companion.
There is a sense in drought the man and the remembered days are one and the same. Unlike the scientist, who seeks to cleanse his work of all ambiguity, the poet thrives on it because with it he can better express experience.
From Cleanth Brooks, The Well-Wrought Urn, ch
A fight in which the opponents cannot be killed is only a sham fight. Lady Macbeth, on the other hand, by employing a ruthless clarity of perception, by discounting all emotional claims, offers him the promise of bringing about the course of events which he desires.
It is true that Gray does not restrict himself un the sculptured figures of Memory, Honor, Knowledge; and ufn is true that he calls some of them by their less flattering names: The tone is ironical, but the irony is not that of a narrow and acerb satire; rather it is an irony which accords with a wise recognition of the total situation.
But 1 must confer that I feel the solution is asserted rather than dramatized. Even after the cottage dinner, when we are told of Phillis that. The essential structure of a poem as distinguished from the rational or logical structure of the ‘statement’ which we abstract from it resembles that of architecture or painting: With Stanza II we move into the world presented by the tins, into an examination, not of the urn as a whole— as an entity TOa Wall WroBglif lira with its own form— but of the details which overlay it.
William Empson has commented on the function of the images in the famous fourteenth stanza: He inspects the poems— he does not emote over them. Any attempt to view it sub specie aetemitatis, we feel, must result in illusion. And the rich, al- most breathing world which the poet has conjured up for us contracts and hardens into the decorated motife on the um itself: Perhaps this is to overload an otherwise innocent phrase.
He is therefore not forced to choose between regarding them as either a hypocritical disguise or as a poetic and graceful adornment. Again, ironically, the Weird Sisters who have given Macbeth, so he has thought, the priceless gift of knowledge of the future, have given the real future to Banquo. They would seem to be suspiciously like the pleasures which engage the children on this May morn- ing and in which the speaker of the poem regrets that he can- not fully indulge.
Indeed, one is tempted to complete tlie parallel by suggesting that Belinda is, at this point, like Adam, being prepared to leave her happy garden world of innocence and maidenly delight for a harsher world, the world of human society as it is and with the poetic illusions removed.
Poems are not simply “messages” expressed in flowery language.
We had therefore better not discount the effect of such allusions on an appreciation of the poem, even though it may brokos difficult to assess the particular function of each of them in detail.
Landor regarded it as a tin-kettle tied to the tail of an otherwise noble poem; and certainly the epitaph has come in for very little praise ever since the poem was published. Shakespeare, we may be sure, was no such monster of calculation.
Precisely how these symbols work— how Milton gives the illu- sion of full day, dawn, noon, and night, and yet manages to keep both poems bathed in their special quality of coolness, is a matter to be discussed in detail a little later on.
Or, to move closer still to vrooks by considering the temporal arts, the structure of a poem resembles that of a ballet or musical composition. When Macbeth, at the beginning of Scene vii. She is a congeries of biological processes boroks her too evident mortality is proclaimed at every pore. Even so, the reader may not be altogether convinced, as I am not altogether convinced, that the epitaph with which the poem closes is adequate.
The Well Wrought Urn | work by Brooks |
No son of mine succeeding. What the speaker has lost, it is suggested, is something which is fleeting, shadowy, and strange, but something which possesses a quality of insight and wholeness which no amount of other perception-least of all patient analysis— will duplicate.
The myth of the sylphs is, thus, of the utmost utility to Pope: Most of all, if the teasing riddle spoken finally by the urn is not to strike him as a bewildering break in tone, he must not be too much disturbed to have the element of paradox latent in the poem emphasized, even in those parts of the poem which have none of the ener- getic crackle of wit with which he usually associates paradox.
Now he attempts to establish more definitely his attitude toward the whole experience. Flesh or spirit, merely a doxy or purely a goddess or alternately, one and then the otheris more easily managed in our poetry, and cleantn, for that matter, in our private lives.
The poet is certainly entitled, if he chooses, to let it go at that. The structure of a poem resembles that of a ballet or musical composition. But the greater poems of our tradition are more ambitious in this matter: Surely, it is perfectly clear here that the child, coming upon the world, trailing his clouds of thee, is like the sun or moon which brings its radiance with it, moon- light or starlight or dawn light. But the poem is no such reverie: A man dressed in a drunken hope is garbed in strange attire indeed— a ridiculous dress which accords thor- oughly with the contemptuous picture that Lady Macbeth wishes to evoke.
The Well Wrought Urn
If one consults the typical practice in teaching literature and the behavior of the more popular critics, particularly through the war years, he will find plenty of evi- dence for the truth wgought this statement. For that reason he is almost pathetic when the wrougnt rationalism which his wife urges upon him fails.
It is worth remembering that it is thus that Shakespeare, with his unshrinking clarity of vision, repeatedly sees him. Pope is too fine an artist to have it happen other- wise.