“PUT YOUR BACKS INTO IT!!!”

Each poem we read this week spoke to the particular idea of work and capitalism in the Victorian Era when factories were creating a materialistic society for everyone and inflation of currency occurred. A lack of money coupled with gouged prices created a world where people were treated less like humans and more as cheap labor, especially as it took a while to get any sort of labor laws instituted, or even get them enforced. Higher demand meant that there was a greater need for people who could create the products wanted, but that also meant that these people would be worked to near death in order to achieve the desired results. 

John Davidson’s poem, “Thirty Bob a Week” shows a small slice of what the life of an upper-working class person who has a family to feed on a small sum of money each week. The narrator shares with (who I presume to be his boss) how hard it is to live on what little money he makes, and that this person he is speaking to does not understand what it is like to be stuck in a dead-end job just barely making ends meet. We see this highlighted in the lines, “I mean that having children and a wife, / With thirty bob on which to come and go, / Isn’t dancing to the tabor and the fife;” (38 – 40) it is at this moment that he actually states that living on a small sum in very difficult and not at all fun. 

The poem that I was most taken with out of those we read today would have to be Thomas Hood’s “Song of a Shirt”, because it detailed exactly how I picture the Industrial Age in my mind. All of the imagery in this poem seems to project the amount of pain that was felt by all workers who were forced to endure terrible situations in order to live from day to day. A particular segment caught my eye, “Sewing at once, with a double thread, / A Shroud as well as a Shirt,” (31 -32) because there is this imagery of the double thread and being caught in a sort of loop of the Industrial Era, and it directly linking to death. We see more links between death and consumerism or industrialization in Browning’s “The Cry of the Children” when the children speak of a girl named Alice who died and they muse that, “Was no room for any work in the close clay” (42). Due to the fact that Alice is dead she now no longer has to work in the factory or mine anymore. 

Stepping back a little from the direct links to the workers themselves in the theme for this week, we see two other poems that show something more like capitalism or materialism. The first, Tennyson’s “The Lotos-Eaters”, give a rather abstract look on materialism in the Victorian Era, but the moment that the mariners partake of the lotos fruit they are lulled into a state of apathy for everything around them. “Eating the Lotos day by day, / To watch the crisping ripples on the beach, / to lend our hearts and spirits wholly / To the influence of mild-minded melancholy,” (105 – 109) shows this idea of forgetting about everything else when focused on needing something, and how this need can overrule all other thoughts. Christina Rossetti’s poem “Goblin Market” bears a story of capitalism gone wrong as well or the need for something overriding all common sense. “I ate and ate my fill, / Yet my mouth waters still;” (165 – 166) shows that thought that has run through most people’s minds that what they have had will never be enough to sate their need. There is so much pressure to buy things that we do not need, but this is just the way that capitalism continues to move.

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Women, and How They Can Really Mess With Your Art

In preparation for class this week, we read four poems that all seemed to focus on specifics of art and the feelings that could sway how that art is depicted. It is of no great surprise, that women, sexual attraction, lust, love, etc. would be prevalent in artwork generated by men who had any sort of love for women or the womanly form. Within the society of today, we still see a great many artistic creations aimed at expressing appreciation for women, mainly in today’s music. 

Many of our poems this week had a woman or lover as the focal point to the narrative, and showed how this could influence art. One particular poem, however, took the idea of women being a muse of sorts, and combined that with the need for artistic freedom and the depiction of more than just the bare bones of life, Fra Lippo Lippi by Robert Browning. The way that Browning has Lippo speak about art, and his paintings, as a gift that allows humanity to experience “… things we have passed/ Perhaps a hundred times nor cared to see; / And so they are better, painted — better to us,” (301 – 303). We are sometimes blind to those things that are right in front of our faces until an outside opinion comes to open our eyes, and this can be well done through art or any sort of artistic expression. Browning mentions something of a similar sort in another poem of his, Andrea del Sarto. The character Andrea is lamenting over how his wife has affected his art and the lack of work he has due to her wishing him back from Rome, but he still feels that art is an expression of humanity and that within it that the an artist as “Pouring his soul, with kings and popes to see, / Reaching, that heaven might so replenish him, / Above and through his art — for it gives way,” (108 – 110). 

Many artists will attribute a muse to being their reason for crafting certain pieces of artwork, writing poems, or composing music. Oftentimes that muse is seen as a woman to whom they have fallen in love with, or a person who happens to strike a particular chord in a person’s creativity. In the poem A Musical Instrument by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, we see the god Pan creating his iconic flute from the reeds. “He tore out a reed, the great god Pan, / From the deep cool bed of the river,” (7 – 8) may seem to only mean that Pan is procuring reeds to construct his flute, but he really is taking this particular reed in so that he could have the woman who tried to flee him, Syrinx. Syrinx is said to have been turned into a reed upon that river, thus the reason that Pan constructed a flute and named it after his apparent love. We can also look at Christina G. Rossetti’s poem, In An Artist’s Studio, to see a woman’s influence on art in our poetic selection. “One face looks out from all his canvasses, / One selfsame figure sits or walks or leans,” (1 – 2) shows the readers that this man has used the same woman in the majority of his portraits, to the point of obsession. She has become his muse, despite their relationship ending in a very negative way. 

The Catalysts

I was always told that if I followed my heart I could never actually do anything wrong. Well that was nice in theory, but sometimes your heart is the most vile part of your entire body, and all it does is fuck everything up. We grow up assuming that everything we do is going to lead toward the best of outcomes, this may be true for some people, people who have the ability to always come out smelling like roses. As children we don’t really know what things are considered right and wrong, only what our parents or elders etch out as a moral code. My code was shot to hell from the beginning, and no matter how many ways you look at everything I have done I cant blame all of it on my upbringing. They will say that I should have known better, that to endebt my life to people who would later be some of the most significant people in the world — no matter that they are still rather unknown — was an idiotic choice. When you’re young power can be a hell of a drug. Everything we do will inevitably tip the scales for one side or another, and many of us signed on for this job when we were barely old enough to tie our own damn shoes. Keep to the shadows, and carry out the missions. That was the way things are supposed to be done. Don’t ask questions, follow the directive and claim your payment. Sometimes we would have to kill, other times we would infiltrate an organization in order to bring it to its knees. Some people call us mercenaries…. we call ourselves The Catalysts.

I rose quickly through the ranks and became the Catalyst Queen. People would never know my face, but my name was spoken everywhere, and usually in hushed tones. Funny enough, I thought that this meant I had finally found my place in the world. Maybe I thought being feared meant I had garnered that respect that all Catalysts craved. How wrong I was. Not only did no one know who I really was… but people seemed to sense that there was something off about me. Maybe it was the stench of a well placed secret that would soon begin the next war, or perhaps the lingering aroma of power.

(Story idea perhaps…. or just a little light musing)

Shalott 

I know that we weren’t supposed to make a specific post for this class, but after talking about musical adaptations of the poem Lady of Shalott, I couldn’t help myself. I present to you, ‘Shalott’ by Emilie Autumn. Emilie uses victorian and other classical references in many of her songs, but I remember the first time I read Lady of Shalott 5 or so years ago I immediately recognized it in this song 🙂 

Shalott by Emilie Autumn

Thoughts from Inside the English Building…

Bright orange bricks that have seen too much sun…. perhaps they were once a bright red like all the others that litter the campus, but that’s the point right? Age is a beautiful thing when we think about colleges. We want that aged look on these buildings.

I count two windows that are propped open to let in the chill of that winter air, or maybe to displace the feeling of claustrophobia that can overcome a person once they are trapped in this place for too long. That feeling of not being able to leave, and no matter how far forward you seem to move there will always be a cloying stench of failure wrapping itself tightly around the throat, skin blanched from the need to dispel the grotesque mass lodged there.

One lone bench. Separated from all the other  offered seating and resting carelessly in a corner. At first look, you would suspect there to be the feeling of lives unlived. Two windows rest on either side. This bench can see all that is happening at all times, constantly being a part of the scenery while never having to interact with the main story. One could get lost in a book and still have the noise of others surrounding them, never letting a person get too caught up in their words and losing touch with reality.

Snow. It is winter, just after the snow storm that only happens every 3 or so years. Massive rocks, covered in moss are now sporting a new covering of soft white. They appear to look like turtles who have been covered in a map. Perhaps this is what people think of when imaging the Isle of Tortuga. That large turtle that supposedly supports all of the world upon its back. Even the one sitting right outside the glass panels of the wall I stare through seems to be of a turtle design. Unintentional I am sure. What if that is what we look like to others in the cosmos? Nothing more than a bright patch of white snow splattered haphazardly across a rock.

In total, the entire picture is one of beauty. A serene scape that only occurs once in a lifetime.. perhaps in ever. Never will the snow fall in precisely that same pattern, and I will never be here to capture the life that exists in even the most seemingly lifeless tableus. Leaves are dancing, enjoying the wind that has allowed them the chance to do a final dance before laying peacefully on the ground in order to make way for those that will be born in a few months time. True beauty is found here…..

A little piece of my literacy narrative….

The ability to master the elusive arts of reading and writing in the English language are things that today are openly viewed as rather trivial pursuits in light of all the other qualifications needed within the workforce, but being literate is not be taken lightly. These words that I write would be completely meaningless to someone who did not comprehend the basics of language or possess the ability to take in the many useless symbols we know as letters and decode the message they are meant to convey. What a sad fate it would be to have a life in which these symbols were left to do little more than taunt the onlooker with a message they could not understand.