“For I Am Missing You…”

In Memoriam by Alfred Tennyson is a wonderful piece full of despair for his friend whom he loved like a brother, and this hopeful tone that offers the reader some solace from the unfortunate situation of a death. Such imagery that suggests this sort of praising to God and allowing his love to make a person feel better, there is definitely an argument in the early stanzas/ the prologue, “thy foot / Is on the skull. Which thou hast made.” (67-8) but there are just as many places where Tennyson seems to be almost showing a hatefulness to God and bitterness to how swiftly a person’s life can end, almost as if God should be benevolent. I remember once writing a paper for an American History class on whether God is benevolent or omnipotent, based on the idea of the genocide of the Jewish community. The idea was that is God aware of these terrible things and letting them happen or is he unaware and only has time to focus on so many things at one time, because if he knowingly allows these atrocities to occur he can not be seen as benevolent, but if he fixes all the terrible things in the world then he cannot be seen as omnipotent for he would then allow terrible things to happen . 
Tennyson seems almost to be chastising these people who believe that their loved ones will always make it home, and if not chastising then he is definitely writing in cynicism. He writes about how a father can send his son to his death, how a mother can think that her prayers may have any effect on saving her son, and a girl whose only worry is for how she will appear to her beloved. The image of the naive girl is carried a little farther than that of the mother or father however, “O somewhere, meek unconscious dove, / That sittest ranging golden hair; / And glad to find thyself so fair, / Poor child, that waitest for thy love!” (145-8) and then gives her even further vanity by making her set the hair again with trappings that no one would care about save she and other silly women. In this same chapter we see that there is also the image of a mirror, something that is to be used to see into the soul, and it appears that this girl’s soul is too wrapped up in her vanity to worry about whether the man she waits for is even alive. 
We see a lot of references to boats and the sea, especially as Arthur Hallam’s remains were being brought from Italy on a boat. Tennyson likens the sails of this boat to a shroud of death, but also to wings, “Spread thy full wings,” (204) almost as if the boat were a bird or perhaps the angel of death ferrying the man home. The imagery of the boat also evokes the idea of Charon (Death) and his boat that moves along the River Styx, ferrying those who have died to their final resting place in the Underworld where they shall either be granted eternal happiness in Elysium or eternal pain in Tartus. Coupled with this image of Charon/ Death we also see a reference to the god Pan and his pan flute that was made out of a reeds so that he could always feel that closeness to his love, “since the grasses round me wave, / I take the grasses of the grave, / And make them pipes whereon to blow.” (438-40). There is a decided murkiness to whether he believes in God or gods, or if this is just imagery that he is accustomed to seeing and has introduced this into the narrative.


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.