Thursday, 26 April 2012

Cinnamon pears



Today I made cinnamon pears with the excess orange cream I made yesterday, since the cream was drying too fast. I really don't know why.

Anyway, to make the pears,
Pears
Cinnamon
A little sugar
Evaporated milk

Halve pears and rub them in cinnamon and a little sugar if it's not sweet. Drizzle some evaporated milk if you wish. It gives a burnt but creamy taste.

Bake in oven at 230C for 20-30 minutes. Drizzle with orange cream. You may use evaporated milk instead, but for optimal thickness you had better cook the milk in a pan with cinnamon and sugar.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Orange chicken

Based on a dish I had at a restaurant in my hometown. It's called orange cream chicken though I couldn't taste cream or butter. However they used evaporated milk, which I am using right now.

The orange sauce:
1 large orange (a sweet one)
1 tin evaporated milk
Ground cinnamon
Salt
Sugar

Put 1/2 a tin of milk in pan at low heat. Cut oranges into small slices and peel them. Add peeled orange into pan and squeeze some juice in for a nice orangey flavour. Add a little salt and if it's too sour, some sugar, and ground cinnamon. You can leave it there for at least half an hour - if the heat is low enough, hours will do.

The chicken:
2 chicken thighs
Salt
Oregano
Garlic powder
1 orange
1 onion
Olive oil.

Cut onions into large chunks. Rub in salt and oil.
Slice oranges into flat round rings. If too sour, add sugar. Dash a little cinnamon onto rings.
Place onions in baking dish to form a layer. On top place a layer of orange rings.
Marinate chicken thighs in salt, oregano and garlic powder.
On top of orange place thighs. This lets the chicken juice run into the furit and veg, and lets the onion and orange juice seep into the chicken. Orange is in between to prevent it from burning.
Preheat an oven for 30 minutes.
Place baking dish in oven at about 200C. It may take 40 minutes to cook.

Take out chicken and serve with orange sauce.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Emily Dickinson : There's a certain slant of light



There's a certain slant of light,
On winter afternoons,
That oppresses, like the weight
Of cathedral tunes.
Heavenly hurt it gives us;
We can find no scar,
But internal difference
Where the meanings are.

None may teach it anything,
'Tis the seal, despair,-
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the air.

When it comes, the landscape listens,
Shadows hold their breath;
When it goes, 't is like the distance
On the look of death.

Interior of Salisbury Church by Turner
I first encountered this poem perhaps 5 or 6 years ago, when some publisher was publishing some pretty hardcover volumes of poetry, slim and with a white cover and a ribbon bookmark attached to the spine. This caught my eye (it was printed on the back.) I did not buy it however, as the book was expensive for someone at school, and I instead bought Elizabeth Barrett Browning. 
Interesting she mentions the cathedral and heavenly. So I presume it is some theological matter Emily is concerned over. I suppose the slant of light is like the rays of the sun, which can be seen as an enlightenment as well as an oppression - which are paradoxical qualities. Again, winter and light are paradosical. When reading winter you think of night or evening, not day, and it is darkness, not light that comes to mind. Still, the T's in line 1 would make a T sound in winter in line 2 sound better and weightier. I must say Emily was a master of sound.


It is this enlightenment that hurts us in a heavenly way of all things - strange qualities to juxtapose. Possibly this truth is wholesome and yet disillusioning. We know it's no physical pain but it is a change in the way we think.


I don't know whether the thing that cannot be taught is the light or the heavenly hurt, but how does one go about teaching an inanimate object? I never can understand Emily Dickinson. I can only presume the it meant is the human mind that doubts and realises. The words imperial and seal go together here, and the affliction whatever it is is major and cannot be changed. This sounds suspiciously like someone who has lost his faith but I have never heard of Emily Dickinson being an agnostic so I can't say. 


And when this enlightenment comes a great change is wrought, employing strange hyperboles. Nature seems to be swayed. The landscape could be the surroundings - people, or the audience who have been told a new truth. The shadows of things past and obsolete are in threat of being obviated, which is why they seem to hold their breath in suspense. The final 2 lines are completely incomprehensible, as is typical for a Dickinson poem.  


Let's assume this enlightenment, when it goes, either because it's disproved, or (this sounds more poetic) the moment of truth is no longer wonderful, that feeling of wonder seems so distant, that it seems to die away. The word "death" is a bit strange here, it is morose and melancholic, and you wonder why Dickinson would use such a great word. If we say it's the moment of realisation that disappears the word death is extreme. But if we say it is a belief that's being challenged, the word death signifies a revolution in thinking.  Emily Dickinson seems more personal than a prophet of social issues so I doubt my own analysis. 


But what if we're talking about a temporary crisis of faith? Would not then the word "death" be appropriate? Yes, the scene of a gloomy cathedral (not church, it is something more imposing) makes you think of life and death. And if the narrator has a crisis of faith in the midst of religion, it is fitting that extreme words are used. Also, let's consider the "cathedral" tunes which are like the slant of light and fit it into the picture. The weight of tunes could be the bells or the organ which play hymns. Music can be heavenly, it fills us with the sense of the sublime (as very clever churchpeople have exploited) but it hurts because you know that amidst the glory is the sense of punishment for sins, and the presence of death (if we mean the Westminster Abbey). I don't know if America has famous cathedrals to bury the dead but anyway this is a guess. Perhaps Emily is trying to tell us, all the mercy churches are supposed to represent come with a darker meaning? That we are doomed sinners? The internal difference sounds redundant, as if from  a silly schoolgirl's pen. Bearing in mind Emily was a grown woman it must carry a deeper meaning. There is no trace (or scar) of how cruel religion can be in daily life, perhaps, but the internal difference is what is felt within, and that is what is important. The church does not simply whip people for being sinners, but then the threat of retribution is painful and leaves a scar, which is the internal difference where the meaning are.


Winter in Vetheuil by Monet
Feel free to contradict my suppositions. I hang on a thin thread, because I know nothing of Emily Dickinson, because she was a recluse, and what she may have thought of we may never know.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Plum chicken


This is the recipe for plum chicken. My mum baked it using my recipe, so I can't tell you how long it took for her, Michelle, but here's my original recipe.

2 chicken thighs (medium to small pieces)
Plums (my mum used 6)
Salt
Pepper
Dried oregano (we used McCormick's brand)
Cinnamon powder
Ginger powder
Ginger cut into thin slices
White sugar

Cut plums into halves and boil in water over low heat. Add cinnamon powder and cut ginger slices and sugar. Stir and leave for perhaps 20 minutes. Taste to see if it is sweet enough. Then cool the plums in the syrup and refrigerate overnight. This will let the plum flavour diffuse into the syrup and the sugar into the plums.

Heat an oven at 200C for 30 minutes.Marinate 2 chicken thighs in salt, pepper, ginger powder and oregano. You  may drizzle a little plum syrup over the chicken.

Cut onions into large cubes and rub with oil and salt.  Place onions on a baking tray so they touch each other in a layer, then place a layer of plums (the one you boiled) over it. Then over the plums place the chicken thighs. This enables the fruit and onions to keep the chicken moist underneath, and the chicken and onions protect the plums from burning in the oven.

Roast  for about 30 minutes. If it is not cooked roast longer, perhaps 40 minutes.

Since you don't like onions, substitute them with soft sweet pears rubbed in oil and a little salt. It is really juicy and nice.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Keats, negative capability and magic: reviewed and roasted

I'm sadly neglecting several resolutions, but it occurred to be that Keats is full of magic and fantasy, which is why I love him. I also read a few articles on the web about theories of sorcery in Keats. Let's take a look at his narrative poems.
A Mermaid by JW Waterhouse

In the Eve of St Agnes, I think it is James Twitchell who says that Porphyro is a vampire who wishes to devour Madeline. (Eerily familiar, because Edward Cullen creeps into the bedroom staring at Bella). He grows faint, argues our scholar, because her crucifix round her neck is killing him. Only when she undresses does he gather the strength to seduce her. Someone called Mary Arseneau says that Madeline is a mermaid, because there is a passage that says her dress falls down her knees like a mermaid in seaweed. She is a femme fatale, a dangerous woman just like a mermaid. I know Madeline is pure, innocent, blah blah blah, but Keats invented Negative Capability. It's when you don't know the answer to something. In this case we don't know Madeline's thoughts, and even if we asked Keats wouldn't know, because she is a woman and he was only 24 when he wrote about her. Negative Capability isn't really illogical as such, because when used well, the characters' actions are perfectly within the scope of believability and even character, it's just we don't understand their motivations. Also, the background truth isn't clear. Angela says that Madeline plays the conjuror by conforming to the superstition that fasting, praying and sleeping naked on St Agnes' Eve will reveal your future husband in your dream that night. The thing is that while Keats was impious and disliked superstition, he was a Romantic not fond of science and philosophy, for destroying beauty. Strangely he makes Madeline's dream have Porphyro, and her lover really comes to see her to bring food and seduce her. So is it really a spell that worked? She and Porphyro glide like phantoms into the night, and the doors seem to magically open for them. You could also argue that Madeline, pure lovely Madeline inviting Porphyro into bed is out of character, and she seems to be in a dreamlike wakefulness. So does Porphyro hypnotise her with a spell? She doesn't look bad, or the "charm is fled." So is there a charm? Is Porphyro's seduction of her really because he is a rake (Keats doesn't think so) or because Madeline summoned him with a spell? Alternately the song he sings, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, to woo her, makes her wish he was a passionate monster, not a sober young man he acts. Does the song affect her reason, and might it be a spell as well? The owls and witches in the last stanza are suggestive, and we think of a folktale, indicating magic is in the air. Madeline is depicted as a mermaid, formerly a Syren of the Sea (in the original manuscript), a Vivien enchanting her Merlin, and somewhat like a snake. Is she a seductress? She's meant to be a good girl with an appetite, methinks, but her seductress act is unconscious. Keats couldn't get women, and so made Madeline what he saw in women: a lovable woman who tempts you. He couldn't enter her mind fully, which is Negative Capability. But by doing so he makes her convincing and real. It is like real life: a nice girl who doesn't go out to tempt you just like that, but does so unconsciously. She has a sexual instinct, but she wouldn't go out to sleep with you. It is just in her nature to be tempting men and perhaps disappointing them when she doesn't love them enough. Keats saw Fanny Brawne as a tempter and couldn't understand her - and I think it affected him somewhat. He didn't think she was capable of loving deeply at first because she was a flirt. But to the point. Vivien seduced Merlin and made him teach her all his magic. Madeline enchants Porphyro and makes him teach her the facts of life - though unconsciously. 

While Lamia is magical, Eve of St Agnes is more ambiguous. It is set in the mediaeval era, and distance in the past creates magic for some reason. Fantasy novels are often set in the past. Interestingly, Madeline talks about being a "dove forlorn" after having been ravished by Porphyro. Someone mentioned that in Greek mythology, Tereus raped Philomena and cut out her tongue so she couldn't tell on him, but anyway she managed to do so, with her tapestry, and then the gods turned her into a nightingale. She is described, having prepared for bed, like a tongueless nightingale who longs to express what she can't express (presumably her passion for Porphyro). When she is ravished, she cannot express her horror to others, rendering her tongueless, or she might be locked up and punished for losing her virtue. But luckily, Porphyro had intended to marry her all along, and anyway we all know she enjoyed it, she is just scared of the consequences. Indulging in dream-sex still makes you lustful even if you don't in real life, because you know you really want to. That is why I cannot blame Porphyro as much as as some people would like to. Keats couldn't really make magic so evident here, so he gives allusions to magical events. But we can see that ravishment is a metaphor for change - for loss of innocence. It is what makes her willing to follow him home and run from her family. She also knows love is not what she expected - not just an ideal passion, but a drear and pallid suitor. So her metamorphosis into a bird is a symbol of change, of a bird with wings to escape.

It is curious Keats spends so much time describing the exotic food here. Of course he was a Romantic, and Byron was far more exotic, but perhaps there is some significance. Exotic = sensuous, especially when it comes to foreign people. Porphyro's Italian name contrasts with Madeline, hildebrand, Maurice. Candied apple might be the forbidden fruit, for all you know. And they are all sugar-sweet, like idealised passion.

Porphyro is chill, dreary and pallid at Madeline's bedside, but when she complains he is all this, and implores him to come to her. Only then does his long-suppressed passion really express itself. You see despite all the nudity he has been decent until then. Is she then conjuring a spell? I think it is more likely she is giving free rein to her desires, and therefore his, but note that both do not act themselves, Madeline because she thinks she dreans, Porphyro because she invites him to. She accuses sober Porphyro of not being what he was (passionate in her racy dream) but this is his true self. Porphyro becomes totally different by jumping into bed, and so does Madeline. This out of character thing is like an enchantment. Love does make us act strangely, like some magic potion cursed Tristan and Isolde (and no, I do not find that story romantic).  This might be due to the incantations they recited to each other.


Saturday, 14 April 2012

Sweet poison and sleep: Charlotte Brontë and Keats

These are the opening lines to Ode to a Nightingale by Keats:

MY heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
  My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
  One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,         5
  But being too happy in thine happiness,
    That thou, light-wingèd Dryad of the trees,
          In some melodious plot
  Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
    Singest of summer in full-throated ease.  10
O for a draught of vintage! that hath been
  Cool'd a long age in the deep-delvèd earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country-green,
  Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South!  15
  Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
    With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
          And purple-stainèd mouth;
  That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
    And with thee fade away into the forest dim:
by WJ Neatby
I wouldn't normally compare Keats to Charlotte, because she revered Scott, Wordsworth, Burns and Byron, but then I discovered Keats through her. In the Penguin edition of Jane Eyre, one passage refers you to a quotation from Keats: "Do I wake or sleep?" And since Charlotte was a Romantic in many ways we have a case for her.

But let's compare Keats with Keats. I had been troubled, to be honest, by whether Porphyro actually raped Madeline. Keats didn't think so, but then it does seem as if he took advantage of her. I reached a compromise: his intentions were initially good, but then the seeming rape is due to Madeline's drowsiness. Between a waking state and dream she receives him into her bed. So yes, she is conscious, but not fully. This is confirmed by Keats' descipriton of this state in Nightingale.  Probably Madeline thought that since this is a dream she can do all the guilty stuff she never dared in real life. Too bad it all turned out to be too, too solid flesh - literally, as she wakes with him beside her. Besides, if she idealised the man she might think he wouldn't dare do such a thing as taint her honour, and therefore his turning up in her room at night must be a dream as it is supposedly out of character. That is why the virtuous girl gives in unexpectedly, as she is supposed to be pure and free from mortal taint and this is strange. But if she idealises Porphyro as an honourable man who wouldn't hurt her, when she wakes up in that half-state why does she blame him for being pale and not romantic, unlike her idea of him in her actual sleeping dream? So her idealisation is both an active hero and honourable gentleman. This doesn't make sense, but then dreams don't make sense. Since she was half-awake her mind wasn't working as it ought to. Let's assume we have two Madelines: real Madeline and dream-Madeline. Dream-Madeline (her romantic unconscious) wants a brave active hero to take her away. But her real-life reason tells her of course that wouldn't be a good thing, would it? It is this reason that also tells her Porphyro can't be there in her bedroom except in a dream, so she indulges in her dream fantasies of sleeping with him, because she thinks she's in a dream. Confusing, isn't it? But if Keats intended it this way it shows his talent for character paradoxes and duality.

Now to Keats and Charlotte Bronë. Marcus at Victorian Literature says that Lucy Snowe desires a sweet draught of poison more than wholesome bitters. Full of the senses, very Romantic and Keatsian methinks. The poison is obviously a drug that kills her inside. Possibly Charlotte borrowed from Keats, I don't know. But this sweet poison is company, her friendship with Graham, which while pleasant agonises her because she lies to herself that they can be splendid friends, and she knows she can never be more to him. Lies are sweet but they are poisonous because Charlotte held the truth above everything else, surprisingly for a Romantic.

Now read this from Jane Eyre:
"Dread remorse when you are tempted to err, Miss Eyre; remorse is the poison of life."
"Repentance is said to be its cure, sir."
"It is not its cure. Reformation may be its cure; and I could reform--I have strength yet for that--if--but where is the use of thinking of it, hampered, burdened, cursed as I am? Besides, since happiness is irrevocably denied me, I have a right to get pleasure out of life: and I WILL get it, cost what it may."
"Then you will degenerate still more, sir."
"Possibly: yet why should I, if I can get sweet, fresh pleasure? And I may get it as sweet and fresh as the wild honey the bee gathers on the moor."
"It will sting--it will taste bitter, sir."
Again, it is sweet poison. Charlotte seems to be telling us that what is pleasurable is sinful and guilty, because you are lying to yourself that what you want is good and pure and true and will make you happy. In this case Rochester's sweet poison is really bad, unlike the more ambiguous Lucy's.

In Villette when Paul is on the verge of leaving Labassecoeur, Lucy frantically looks for him,fearful she will not see him. Madame Beck asks her to stay in bed where she will be given a sedative.
 I was consumed with thirst -- I drank eagerly; the beverage was sweet, but I tasted a drug.
It is sweet poison again, for it is a sleeping-draught to ensure Lucy does not see M Paul before his departure. It is meant to prevent her from seeing the truth, which is wholesome bitter. But instead of stupor Lucy is excited. She rises from her bed to the park.  But why call the chapter "Cloud"? Lucy is under a cloud, because she is depressed by Paul's departure. But the word Cloud brings more to mind the sensation of drowsiness, not vibrant, but sluggish. Her mind is clouded, perhaps. Yet she is excited. But then why cloud? It is here Lucy sees the main characters in her story, like a tableaux.

Strangely the Brettons and de Bassompierres are here too, oblivious to her solitary presence. It is here she finds out what they think of her - she is a sort of pet they like to content, but the fact she hasn't been asked here shows she is not their equal - this equality not in wealth, but equality in happiness, fortune and company.  Graham seems to know she is there, though her face is covered, and would approach her but she gestures him not to. She thinks that he is not indifferent to her, and cares for her as a friend, though it is nothing compared to the way he is with his other closer friends. This is a time of truth, it seems. The cloud might therefore be Lucy's presence, for she is insignificant to the rest, like a pale vaporous form. For an analogy look at I Am by John Clare.

It is here she sees M. Paul with his ward Justine-Marie, and immediately assumes they are going to be married, as he is attentive to her. Also she is wealthy. So yes, she is under a cloud because she is deluded: no light passes through. Lucy thinks M. Paul will marry her for her money and because she is the niece of his first love. The love she thought he had for her (Lucy) is to her sweet poison because she thinks it is untrue, though later we find out it is true. But in a way it is poison because her hopes are crushed when he dies later.

Mrs Pryor tells her daughter caroline she is sweet to her. Caroline responds
Mamma, I am sorry papa was not good. I do so wish he had been. Wickedness spoils and poisons all pleasant things. It kills love. If you and I thought each other wicked, we could not love each other, could we?"
James Helstone, Mrs Pryor's late husband, was sweet poison. He came to her when she was poor and lonely, and she thought him an angel. After marriage she realised he was bad and cruel and unloving.

There's a scene in Villette when everyone drinks from a goblet some kind of brandy except Paulina, who is the youngest. She smells it, thinking it must be tasty, only when she is given a little she finds it tastes horrid. It was only good when it was forbidden. I thought this was to show how cute and innocent Polly was, (not liking guilty pleasures) but now I think of it, it might well be a symbol of how sweet the unattainable is to us though it is not wholesome. Graham's friendship and regard is to Lucy such a pleasure, because it is forbidden for her to reveal her feelings for him and he is unattainable. We see in this case a flash of intelligence from Polly, which coincides with Lucy's feelings, hence making them suitable companions

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Isabella or the Pot of Basil

Published in 1818 Isabella is one of Keats' early works. Later when his publishers offered to publish it, thinking it would be popular, he tried to prevent them, saying it was rubbish. Compared to the mature Keats seen in the Odes and Lamia, Isabella seems melodramatic. Neither is its rhythm anything compared to the sensuous image-filled Eve of St Agnes. Taken from a story from Boccaccio's Decameron, it is not an English mediaeval or Classical Greek story but an Italian one.

by Holman Hunt
The story is about a girl called Isabella who dwells with her two brothers who own a thriving business. She and a clerk of the brothers called Lorenzo fall in love with each other. When the brothers notice this they think their sister's reputation will be compromised as Lorenzo is beneath her in station and they want to marry her off to a nobleman with estates. (In the original Isabella was entering Lorenzo's room or vice versa, seen by the brothers). So they tell Lorenzo they have business to do elsewhere and get him to come along. Then they take him to a forest and kill him and bury him. When they return and Lorenzo is absent for so long Isabella asks where he is, the brothers reply he is away on business and her heart breaks. However, in a dream Lorenzo tells her he has been murdered and where his body is. With her nurse Isabella goes to the forest, unearths the corpse and takes Lorenzo's head. She then buries it in a pot filled with soil and a basil plant. She carries the pot with her wherever she goes. Her tears water the basil, and the brothers wonder how the plant grows so luxuriantly. One day they examine the plant and see Lorenzo's hair emanating from the pot. Frightened they take the pot away and run away. Without her basil Isabella pines away and dies of grief.

by Waterhouse
Interestingly their love is described before the setting is told. This is one of Keats' defects. Putting in the background later spoils the passion and interest created and it is always interesting to know how they came to know each other first. It is melodramatic and overdone but then Boccaccio's stories were not always profound, and for this we must lay the blame on Boccaccio rather than Keats. Their love is obsessive, like the mediaeval chivalric ideal of love. But they sound like young teenagers obsessed with each other rather than mature adults, reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet somehow, or rather, another lesser work on vampire-love.
VIII.

“O Isabella, I can half perceive
  “That I may speak my grief into thine ear;
“If thou didst ever any thing believe,
  “Believe how I love thee, believe how near        60
“My soul is to its doom: I would not grieve
  “Thy hand by unwelcome pressing, would not fear
“Thine eyes by gazing; but I cannot live
“Another night, and not my passion shrive.
They are in a bower of hyacinth and musk, a prelude to the sensuous Keats. It is one of my favourite phrases. Interestingly, a blue hyacinth means constancy.  I suppose it foreshadows Isabella's deadly love? There is a little too many Greek references without reason or feeling, unlike the Odes and his later poems. You get the idea Keats was trying to over-impress.

Still, you get a lot of nature here:
But, for the general award of love,
  The little sweet doth kill much bitterness;
Though Dido silent is in under-grove,
  And Isabella’s was a great distress,
Though young Lorenzo in warm Indian clove
  Was not embalm’d, this truth is not the less—
Even bees, the little almsmen of spring-bowers,
Know there is richest juice in poison-flowers.
Stanzas 14-17 are remarkably powerful, more than those dwelling on the young lovers. The brothers have a well-established business inherited from ancestors, which prey on suffering workers. They care only for themselves and their profits. One wonders whether Keats was an abolitionist. Keats is over-vehement in some lines, but it adds to the power of the whole thing. I wonder whether he was thinking of his strict and tight-fisted guardian.
And for them many a weary hand did swelt
  In torched mines and noisy factories,
And many once proud-quiver’d loins did melt
  In blood from stinging whip;
Keats seems to be raging against the monuments or possessions of rich merchants as being shallow compared to pure feeling and humanity. Is this a revoke of the cold-hearted industrial era for the pursuit of the individual and humanity? Marble founts are manmade and remind you of wealth, tears are natural and remind you of our essential humanness and vulnerability. Red-lined accounts smacks of concrete commerce, different from the poetic Grecian songs which were his ideal - he was fond of Grecian things though he knew no Greek.
Why were they proud? Because their marble founts
  Gush’d with more pride than do a wretch’s tears?—
Why were they proud? Because fair orange-mounts
  Were of more soft ascent than lazar stairs?—
Why were they proud? Because red-lin’d accounts        125
  Were richer than the songs of Grecian years?—
Why were they proud? again we ask aloud,
Why in the name of Glory were they proud?
Some digression follows. I am reminded of my boring three months studying Chaucer's digressions in the Nun's Priest's Tale for the A-Levels.
by Strudwick
The point I am trying to make is that after comparing the English translation of Decameron to Keats, Lorenzo's killing is actually more justified in the original version. Because the girl (Lisabetta) goes to his room at night, whereas Keats cuts out the suggestive matter. One could sympathise with the brothers who wish to avenge their sister's ruin in the 19th century (it was honourable) so he chose to make their murder all the more heinous. Also, there is no mention in the original of the brothers being cruel sadistic slave-drivers. This seems to be a more modern motif, perhaps inserted to increase dramatic effect, or a way for Keats to show that he kept up with the times. Associating with radicals like Leigh Hunt perhaps this influenced him. But sadistic employers in a mediaeval story is a contrast from the contemporary Regency era in which Keats wrote. Slavery was an issue even in that later era, but is it possible Keats wanted to show how backward and brutal the Middle Ages could be? And by that extension, how Mediaeval the 19th century was in using slaves? One thing doesn't support this theory: Keats loved the Middle Ages. He dreamt of it, wrote about it, made it sound beautiful and nostalgic. I think the cruel employers are more likely a fairy-tale element to make the poem sound interesting. On the other hand this is an Italian Mediaeval era rather than an English one. I have no idea what he thought of the Italian Middle Ages.

But then Boccaccio was part of the Early Renaissance. This is another clue. A Romantic resisting an industrial Victorianisation might have sympathy for a classical Grecian or mediaeval era ideal conflicting with a developing Renaissance world. The evil brothers' trade could then be seen as part of the cruel more commercial renaissance infringing upon the absorbing passion of Lorenzo and Isabella, and the  old Grecian songs and natural state. Of course Keats couldn't write about his own era, because the story is set centuries ago. But he could draw analogies between his era and a previous one, and the similar conflicts they underwent.  

by WJ Neatby
You may find more illustrations here.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

La Belle Dame Sans Merci (The Beautiful Woman Without Mercy)

LBDSM was written by Keats in 1819, and published in 1820. He wrote one version but an altered version was published. Critics agree the original was the best. Anyway it was largely dismissed by Keats, possibly because it was too melodramatic and romantic (like Isabella and the Pot of Basil, his earliest narrative poem.) Like The Eve of St Agnes it is set in the mediaeval era, a time of nostalgia worshipped by the Regency and Victorians, the way some of us worship the Regency era as a time of opulence and splendour and romance. This is a key aspect of Romantic poetry, and you can find elements of the past (some of them Greek) in the more imaginative poets.
by Sir Frank Dicksee
by Frank Cadogan Cowper
by Waterhouse
by
Arthur Hughes
by WJ Neatby
by Henry Meynell Rheam

I.
O WHAT can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has wither’d from the lake,
And no birds sing.


II.
O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms! 5
So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel’s granary is full,
And the harvest’s done.


III.
I see a lily on thy brow
With anguish moist and fever dew, 10
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too.


IV.
I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful—a faery’s child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light, 15
And her eyes were wild.


V.
I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She look’d at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan. 20


VI.
I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
A faery’s song.


VII.
She found me roots of relish sweet, 25
And honey wild, and manna dew,
And sure in language strange she said—
“I love thee true.”


VIII.
She took me to her elfin grot,
And there she wept, and sigh’d fill sore, 30
And there I shut her wild wild eyes
With kisses four.


IX.
And there she lulled me asleep,
And there I dream’d—Ah! woe betide!
The latest dream I ever dream’d 35
On the cold hill’s side.


X.
I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried—“La Belle Dame sans Merci
Hath thee in thrall!” 40


XI.
I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
On the cold hill’s side.


XII.
And this is why I sojourn here, 45
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is wither’d from the lake,
And no birds sing.
Though this is not a great production, nothing like Lamia or the Odes, the fantasy air disguises a deeper realistic meaning. Keats wrote this poem when he was about 24, at a time when he was in love with Fanny Brawne I think, and this poem reflects a young man's experience of love for a woman. La Belle Dame Sans Merci is depicted as a tempting seductress of knightly men.  But it is ambiguous: it is she who deceives him, or does he delude himself? How does she deceive him? She has him in thrall, in love with her, but what is so dangerous about that? What truly cruel or wicked thing did she do to him? She hasn't killed him or stolen his money. No, the meaning lies deeper than that. Keats is lamenting a young man's unhappy love.  This theme is universal: a young man tempted by a beautiful woman who tells him she loves him truly, until he believes it (though she may not love him as much, and may only be flattered by his attention). He is drawn into a web of passion and deceit till he can't get out of it, though her heart may not be in it. And I doubt the fairy woman's heart was in it, if she lured so many men. The fairy's song she sings is a mere metaphor for the words a man finds sweet in a beautiful woman, like a siren that sings horribly but men are attracted to it. It is fairy-like, and therefore alien, because he doesn't understand it, and Keats doesn't understand the subtleties of feminine wiles. He felt that Fanny was a flirt and yet she intrigued him so. He couldn't understand it fully himself. Indeed Keats wrote to his friends he sees women either as angels or horrible people. For bluestockings he had no sympathy (awww, I feel sad at this). LBDSM is Keats' attempt to characterise a woman who tempts him, a woman with no mercy for his feelings of great passion and hopes for innocence and fidelity. The fairylike woman could be seen as nearly childlike, making you think of innocence, but she is not, she has deceived other knights apparently.

What could the garland be? I have really no idea, but giving flowers to your beloved then was a romantic thing. In Ruth by Mrs Gaskell, the seducer Bellingham weaves garlands for Ruth's head. I read somewhere that apparently roses are a symbol for female genitalia(!!!) and that flowers are sexual symbols.

Talking about the mediaeval chivalric idea of love, knights were supposed to be loyal, faithful worshippers of unattainable women who were married or above him. The fairy could then be above the knight, being mystical and singing sweetly, and being immortal. But the other men she has deceived had, like him cherished a Romantic ideal of a sweet, immortal woman who loved them and were disillusioned. They are pale, their ideal being dead. Keats did not take the poem very seriously, so it might have been the result of youthful anguish over a girl, but it is possible he saw it satirically, and made it a parody of the wretched romantic individual (think Sorrows of Young Werther.) After all Sorrows of Young Werther had been published decades ago and it is likely Keats would have heard of the contemporary culture surrounding it, including young men committing suicide after reading the book, after being rejected. This also symbolises the death of the chivalric ideal of love, lamented centuries after the mediaeval era. But I sense Keats' biting satire at fools who believe they are sincerely beloved. LBDSM could be a flirtatious girl who breaks men's hearts.
The fairy is wild, with long flowing hair - not the image of a traditionally good woman. The fact he wove flowers round her, and if flowers are really symbols of female genitals, or at least, erotic, it is very significant of what they might have done. She feeds him and takes him to her cave and lulls him to sleep. Feeding is rather like tempting someone, or satisfying his appetite for love, and her elfin grot symbolises a strange world far away - the world of emotions. Lulling him to sleep is akin to giving him dreams, he is not awake or conscious. Her love for him is nothing more than a dream. Interesting he talks about her wild wild eyes though I think it was for rhyme and rhythm. Someone has argued wild has a more sexual meaning. Well, it does make you think of animals. And the sleeping and the kissing and the cavern ... I'm no Freudian, but supposing Keats had thought of a uterus symbol as a cavern? An unexplored dark region of excitement? The 19th century was full of censorship and it is possible they had to resort to symbols to depict all the bawdy stuff. 

I don't know anything about the Bible, but it's possible there was a Biblical reference here. Roots and honey and manna are familiar (I got my vague Biblical symbols from Victorian novels in case you're wondering). I think some people were hungry and desired food, and they got what they wanted in the form of manna and honey. I don't know about roots, but Keats may have put that in out of lack of things to say. Not every line is significant in poems - they have to rhyme and fill it scenes you know. But even though she fed the knight the earlier victims were starved. The food then was unsubstantial and unreal.
by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Who is that ghostly dog in the background? Why is he there? A dog is a domestic thing and real, so it doesn't make sense. But could be be a monster? It is interesting the knight puts his arm round the fairy as if he is protecting her, though she is in charge. It bears a resemblance to real life when men think they are holding the reins and end up being betrayed by an unloving treacherous woman.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Introduction to Creative Writing Submission

This is meant for my creative writing course, which will end (yay!) finally in May.

I think I can safely say that my greatest literary influence is Charlotte Brontë. When I wrote my story, I sought to set it in the Victorian era, hoping to emulate her. For what characterises Charlotte Brontë's work is a deep sense of the individual, great depth of feeling and vivid images. It does not matter that her characters may be crudely drawn - because they are drawn from the perspective of a flawed, unseeing narrator. But what stands out is that narrator.  Her heroine is always placed in trying circumstances, and has independence of thought, trapped though they are in a world they cannot belong to. I thought at first I would write about a 1870's Darwinian setting, when science and ideas are booming in an industrial era. There would be a Darwinian radical protagonist, and there would be conflict between the Church and Darwinism which it opposed. The world would be an alternate universe, of course, to play with my ideas. Some form of genetic engineering called transmuatation would be invented, and there were wizards and magic. Only that wizards would be what we call scientists, and the magic they played with is akin to our science. There were some flaws in this plan, however. The theme was survival in a harsh, changing world of materialism and commerce, and the unworldly heroine would feel she was old-fashioned and unfavoured by natural selection. This heroine was interested in wizardry. If I wanted to depict a battle between magic and science, I could not make magic science, or science magic.

I immersed myself into Charlotte Brontë again. As I delved deeper and deeper I realised that she was a child of the Romantics. The Romantics emphasised the tortured, isolated individual, conflicted with a changing world. The setting might be pastoral or fantasylike, but the mind of the individual would be startlingly advanced. What was particularly appealing was their Gothic and otherworldly influences - something I wanted to incorporate with psychological realism. It is set in the past, in another universe, and I felt that a more mysterious air would fit in with this. I wanted to challenge the postmodern notion that good literature has no exciting plot. No, I decided, the setting would be in the Romantic era, in the 1810's, and the protagonist would be a hero.

Some time later I stumbled upon the works of John Keats. Keats was of course one of the major poets of the Romantic era. His works were not well-received in his lifetime and his style was individual. I saw in his poetry a new fount of inspiration. Lamia and La Belle Dame Sans Merci in particular are surrounded by an otherworldly air, Lamia being about a half-snake-half-woman who entices a human mortal. But she is no monster: she is drawn sympathetically, and she symbolises the ideal who cannot survive in a practical world. She is complex, tragic and yet deceptive. How wonderful, I thought, to use fantasy as a metaphor! The limits of the fantasy genre is that plot precedes psychological development, but Keats has proven us wrong. I had now got a rough idea of my background, and I shall fill in the details. 
 The scene is the Romantic era, the 1810's. It was a time of change - a time of war, when industry changed the landscape, when Luddite riots went on against the harsh manufacturers. It was also a time of great poetry steeped in emotion and experimentation.  The new wealthy manufacturers were gaining position and respectability beside the aristocracy.  My hero, I decided, would be shaped by this change.  He would be the younger son of a baronet's son, upper-class with an uncertain future, as he would have to earn his own living, probably by becoming a clergyman or barrister.  He is no realist, being an introspective dreamer. His childhood is disrupted when his siblings grow up and he is too young to be a suitable companion for them. And he is distanced from the other children in the country town as they are of a different class, and he is shy. His secret wish is to become a wizard though no one in the family knows much about wizards and magic. His life is changed for the better when a new bookseller, Mr Bronwyn sets up shop, and they get to know each other. Mr Bronwyn is an emerging middle-class tradesman who is largely self-educated but well-read, intelligent and courteous. He, his niece Helena and Charles become firm friends, and he teaches the children all he knows about magic. But as time passes magic becomes obsolete and unwanted, and Charles is again distanced from the friends he knows and loves as if they were his own family.

How does fantasy fit in? Years ago to be a wizard was to be a distinguished gentleman. People respected and courted them, they were learned scholars and dined at the finest tables of the day. In Charles' era much of magic has faded and only a few wizards are left. Magic is still respectable though less popular. It does not earn you a good living. By becoming a wizard he is leaving reality for a course he worships.  Magic is accessible only to well-off gentleman, who can afford a good education at a good school and at the University. To be an acknowledged wizard you must attend a University. Charles is fortunate in this sense. However, the working classes are in revolt against the wealthy manufacturers and the aristocracy who they feel are leeching on the soil. Wizards, being an institution for the wealthy and the upper-classes are becoming notoriously unpopular. There is also a rising awareness of science and engineering which can surpass the wonders of magic. Magic is the province of learned gentlemen with nothing better to do but be learned and unworldly, and only the gifted can truly excel at it. Most real practical magic has disappeared and much of the remnants are in the form of books and theory.

But this is about the rise and fall of class. Charles, due to his inability to earn a good living, is doomed for a less easy life.  He is no materialist but he is affected because this would mean he cannot keep the company he is used to. His ideals clash with practicality. Mr Bronwyn eventually rises as a well-off publisher and stationer, and educated his niece well. However, the down-to-earth bookseller has become proud and over-eager to be in fashionable society. He pressures Helena to be more like a lady, less bookish and to marry a wealthy man. Helena, like Charles, is trapped. She longs to be in the society of intellectuals and to rise, but she is unhappy because she cannot fit in. Helena is not part of the natural aristocracy, those born to survive well. She longs to return to her happy childhood of truth and sincerity. Charles and Helena fall in love and plan to marry.  This is thwarted by Mr Bronwyn who desires a better match for his niece, and Charles' family who want him to marry a wealthy heiress, the daughter of a manufacturer. Charles feels he can be true and happy with Helena, but cannot afford to marry her.

In the meantime, Charles' dabbling in wizard studies lead him to start a revolution in modern magic. Scoffing at the rigid scholars' adherence to ancient rituals, he seeks new ways with Helena, who cannot receive a wizarding education being a middle-class girl. He also discovers a new talent in John Waters, son of a farmer who is unable to receive the education to become a recognised wizard, as he is neither wealthy or high-born. John Waters' roots lie in the farmer-poet John Clare, who taught himself to read and became a well-known poet in his lifetime. But poetry could not feed him and he died in poverty.
I have chosen to write about Mr Bronwyn's stories of folklore to the children, focusing on the warmth he gives them. There is also a fragment of Charles' return to his hometown to discover his disillusionment in his old friend and family. It is a story, essentially, of changes wrought by time, and how it destroys the individual.


Note: How to type an umlaut e as in Brontë for Html:

Type & euml;
no spacing between & and e

Friday, 6 April 2012

Mad Sentences

I got this from Traxxy at Thesquee's site. Being a fan of Richard Armitage she made up one of those mad word-games about him. Yup, you fill in some words, (verb, noun, adverb, adjective) and then they will use them in their own sentences.
Hilarity ensues.
A Richard Armitage mad lib for April Fool`s Mad Lib
There are so many reasons to Eat Richard Armitage. First of all, he`s Gothically Tasty, and he has the most Furry Tail you could ever Mutilate. Secondly, he`s a/an Sublime actor, and oh that VOICE! It`s so InspiredSolitary and makes me all gooey inside. Every time I see him, I want to Sleep. He always plays such interesting characters too. My favourite is definitely Mr Thornton, because as Mr Thornton, he really gets to Builds his Toes and love that. My second favourite character is Margaret, whose Stormily Potato is the best I`ve ever seen. What else can I Spanks? I Eat Richard Armitage. He`s Dreamily the best Coffin I have never met.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

This is for the April session of the Classics Challenge at November's Autumn. I was actually hoping to feature a Pre-Raphaelite painting, or even a Gothic or Romantic one, but oh no, none of my classics feature a pre-rapaelite painting, so I had to settle with a pretty pastoral picture. It's Lady in a Landscape, Ambleside, by Walter Hugh Paton, 1828-1895.

Does the picture suit the book? I'm not sure. Paton is a Victorian, and since the book is set in the Regency era, this may not be so appropriate. On the other hand, the book was written in the Victorian era (by Anne Brontë, none the less!) Anne Brontë, like her sister, Charlotte, has the curious distinction of mixing Victorian and Regency/Romantic. Looking at the cover, I was preparing myself for pastoral life (a mild form of Thomas Hardy, maybe?) but no, this is no Thomas Hardy. Hardy is melodramatic, but not Anne Brontë. I don't know what to think. Sure the scene is set in the countryside, where Helen Huntingdon escapes from her husband, and it is full of the usual gossips, but the mild blandness of the colours do not do justice to the malice and passion of the book.

On the other hand, you could argue that Anne was calmer, more rational, more realistic in her works compared to Charlotte and Emily. The plot is no Gothic melodrama, but an example of Victorian social realism, though it is set before then. Unlike her sisters, Anne was more topical for her era, and all her characters seem real. She was a respectable Victorian rather than a crazed Gothic enthusiast. And this is reflected in the mild landscape. The vicious husband, Arthur Huntingdon is true (based partly on Branwell Brontë), the hero is a gentle fellow, not a dashing spark, and the heroine is a battered wife, not a fainting maiden of nineteen. But all this violence doesn't tie in with the autumn yellows. The picture is no Romantic storm but a well-painted series of trees and soil and fence in the distance. Does it not make more sense?

I don't know whether the publishers were aware of this, but the lady in the picture sits all by herself, her hands on the lap. A pale Victorian ideal of rural repose, but is that all? She is smartly dressed, no ordinary peasant-girl is she. She might be a depiction of a middle-class lady contemplating the rural scene before her. This is no common peasant pastoral-scene you often see in classic book covers (see Thomas Hardy especially), but it may have been influenced by Turner or Constable. I know nothing of these things, perhaps Katherine of November's Autumn may be able to enlighten me. The fact the lady is sitting alone brings to mind the isolated individual of the Romantic era: after all, Helen's story is set in that era, and she is alone much of the time, choosing to keep apart from the villagers, and raising her young son by herself. She works as a painter of landscapes, and this suits the model who sees nothing but landscape, there being no other people. It brings to mind a pure, unadulterated place, untainted by industrial change. Does Anne favour this sort of place? I rather think so. She disliked being away from home, her rural Haworth in Yorkshire.

And though very much a realist Victorian, Anne was a child of the 18th century and the Romantics. The stories she would have read in her childhood, the 1820's and 30's, were melodramatic things from Blackwood's Magazine. The plot of the novel, too, is reminiscent of the late 18the century realism-romances, like those by Frances Burney, author of Cecilia and Evelina. It is essentially a Romance, though like Hardy, a caution against the romantically-minded. (A Romance in the 19th century meant adventure or a story set in earlier times.) A woman running away from her husband is still something to talk about and not a commonplace thing among the gentry, to which Helen belongs.  An emphasis on human relationships, especially the romantic ones, before Helen marries, and adultery, is also a characteristic of a romance though typically human relations are less profound in romances. Adultery, however, was considered the sort of thing  the ancestors of the Victorians wrote about, especially in silver-fork novels. The class of characters who seem to stand out in Helen's early life are upper class, also an old-fashioned feature.  The witty admonitions against gallant young men is also of an earlier era, rather than the more socially conscious Victorians who were more interested in the middle-class life than upper-class society and its racy gossip. The uncouth, swearing men though of wealth and good birth, are also found in 18th century romances, and this is what made the book disagreeable to the clean Victorians. So are the mention of mistresses, something you will find in Jane Austen  more than in a typical Victorian classic (illegitimate children rather than mistresses are mentioned in Victorian novels. It is the result rather than the process that was described). But where is this hinted in the picture? The isolated heroine of romantic ideals is there, so is a landscape that shuns an industrial evolution (very Wordsworthian). What about passion and heights? To look at it you must see the full painting, which is here below.

Does not the lady seem small compared to the trees and the distant lilac hills? Anne was very religious: there may be some hint here that I don't see. Perhaps the pious Helen's feelings are reflected in the great hills (the wonders of God, perhaps?) It's not however, as formidable as the paintings of the previous eras, it is naturalistic rather than supernatural. The walls of the meadow are not even, either, sublime rather than classically symmetrical, something John Ruskin the Victorian critic wrote about. It is this irregularity which is nature. On the other hand, if your imagination runs wild, you could think of the uneven brick walls as some kind of ruin. This is no castle but remember we are looking at a real landscape. The walls are the only manmade structure apparent here, and assuming we see it as a pseudo-ruin it makes us think of structures long gone and destroyed, of epics vanished to be replaced by faithful realism. A farmer's life preceding a nobleman's castle. I am probably over-interpreting a simple thing though.

Look carefully at the left-hand side of the book cover. Hidden among the trees is a gentleman's estate - a high building. It doesn't stand out at all: it is part of the more noticeable greenery. I believe earlier artists liked to emphasise the house, but here it is nature, not the house that is important. Helen prefers nature to artifice, the down-to-earth Gilbert Markham to the aristocratic, hypocritical and rakish Arthur Huntingdon, her husband. It is among Nature she makes her living and her independence, and in a great hall she feels lonely and trapped.

Ambleside where it was painted is in the Lake District, the residence of the early Romantic poets among them Wordsworth, Southey and Coleridge. I think this is very apt.

Here is another edition:
I don't know the painter, but the colour and mood is similar to John Atkinson Grimshaw. The bleak green sky and dead trees against a great, dimly-lit hall reflects Helen's escape from her husband, a parting from a place she finds gloomy. It is Victorian rather than Romantic, but the mood is reminiscent of Romanticism (Grimshaw was good at this). A castle-like structure, haunted looking trees, isolation, these are significant.

For a comparison, see a painting by Turner, the book cover of Penguin Popular Classics' Shirley by Charlotte Brontë. It is set in Richmond, Yorkshire, and I felt the cover reflected the book well. However I am trying to look at Anne, who is greatly underrated due to her sisters' uniqueness, and if she was not a Brontë I suspect her reputation would be much better. Turner bridged the romantics and the Victorians, I believe, and it is Wildfell Hall which does this. Assuming Paton was an artistic descendant of Turner this would be even more apt. For the Brontës were the bridge between the Victorians and the Romantics in their style of writing, even though Victorianism was far advanced in fiction at the time they wrote. It looks back to a past, nostalgic to Charlotte's ideals, less perfect in Anne's discerning eyes.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Romanticism in Thomas Hardy

Stumbled upon this article, and I thought I would post it up. I actually wished to write about Darwinism in Thomas Hardy's novels, but this piece has neatly summed up something I ought to have but didn't notice before: Romanticism. Here is another one on Darwinism in The Woodlanders. Also, a review on Jude the Obscure.

If you have read Tess of the d'Urbervilles, you might have been struck by the sheer imagery and symbolism abounding throughout. Like some of Hardy's novels, it is full of legend and dreams, a very Romantic attribute, but unlike the genuine Romantics, it is full of Darwinism, shattering the ideal and putting forward the real.  Hardy seems to have been wistful about Romantic ideals but he wrote about reality - almost all his heroes and heroines suffer tragedy because of circumstances and their delicate natures. But let's stop and look out for Hardy's possible influences. I read Keats' Lamia and was struck by the similarity in that poem and this passage from Tess. See Chapter 27.
Taken from the Victorian Web, provided by Philip Allingham.
Not a human being was out of doors at the dairy. The denizens were all enjoying the usual afternoon nap of an hour or so which the exceedingly early hours kept in summer-time rendered a necessity. At the door the wood-hooped pails, sodden and bleached by infinite scrubbings, hung like hats on a stand upon the forked and peeled limb of an oak fixed there for that purpose; all of them ready and dry for the evening milking. Angel entered, and went through the silent passages of the house to the back quarters, where he listened for a moment. Sustained snores came from the cart-house, where some of the men were lying down; the grunt and squeal of sweltering pigs arose from the still further distance. The large-leaved rhubarb and cabbage plants slept too, their broad limp surfaces hanging in the sun like half-closed umbrellas....
She had not heard him enter, and hardly realized his presence there. She was yawning, and he saw the red interior of her mouth as if it had been a snake's. She had stretched one arm so high above her coiled-up cable of hair that he could see its satin delicacy above the sunburn; her face was flushed with sleep, and her eyelids hung heavy over their pupils. The brim-fulness of her nature breathed from her. It was a moment when a woman's soul is more incarnate than at any other time; when the most spiritual beautbespeaks itself flesh; and sex takes the outside place in the presentation.
 The first paragraph idealises the real and the natural, very pastoral like the early Romantics (think Wordsworth). You may see much of the real countryside too in George Eliot, though she isn't a Romantic. The next one pays tribute to the second generation of Romantics, the wild imaginers of fantasy and far lands (Shelley and Keats), the bold exaggerators of beauty and ethereal qualities. Yes, a snake is a natural thing, but making out a supposedly good woman as a snake is rather exotic, and it shows a deeper, darker feeling. I am speaking of Keats' Lamia, a snake who is turned into a beautiful woman. Like Tess, she is a temptress. In both cases, both woman understand something of the intimate relation (especially Tess), and yet depicted as sympathetic.

Angel placing Tess on a gravestone
Lamia is like a goddess, whereas the realistic philosopher is portrayed as harsh and cynical. Angel Clare, Tess's suitor and husband, initially sees Tess as unearthly - he calls her Artemis, some character in Greek mythology, elevating her to something she is not, and believing her to be pure and virginal (she is not, even though she is sympathetic.) It is an ideal of her he worships, just as Lycius the young philosophy student worships Lamia. The snake is a disturbing motif, possibly something out of Paradise Lost (I have never read the poem by the way), but I understand that the snake tempts Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. Lamia's spiritual beauty is somewhat fleshly, because it is her beauty that first attracts Lycius. But here realism sets in: while Lamia has to lower herself and act the woman, not the goddess, to attract Lycius, it is Tess's otherworldliness (her reserve) that attract Angel. She is to him a goddess rather than a real woman with a sexual instinct. And yet he is very much physically attracted to her, there is a great deal of description of her naturalness and her eyes and bare arms. Like Lamia, Tess resists marriage, seeing realistically that Angel sees in her what she is not, but Angel, like Lycius, forces his beloved to marry him. When Angel discovers Tess is not a virgin and let herself be seduced by a man still living, he lays her on a gravestone while sleepwalking, symbolising the death of his dream-woman. This is very Gothic, as it makes you think of gloomy churchyards. Lycius dies after Apollonius reveals Lamia to be a snake, and Lamia vanishes. There is probably more in Tess that speaks of Romanticism, but as I haven't got a copy of the book, I can't flick through it easily.

In case you're wondering, Hardy did write 2 poems to Keats.
Tess in Ophelia pose, after receiving Angel's proposal
What about Jude the Obscure? Now here is a Romantic figure - or should I say, two Romantic figures? Sue Bridehead may be very much a New Woman, but her sexual frigidity and ethereal qualities place her among her Romantic predecessors. The theme of passion and adultery is also a very Romantic thing (though it was to be prominent in late Victorian works, which is why I don't like late Victorian compared to early Victorian).

It is Jude Fawley, however, who is the main character. Isolated because he is well-read but a lowly stone-mason, he longs to educated himself at Christminster and become a clergyman, but due to his lack of education, cannot. This survival of the fittest theme (Jude is weak and dies at the end) is very Darwinian, but it is his Romanticism that is at fault - a dreaming man with sensitive ideals. Hardy is showing the death of Romanticism and how its principles cannot survive in an industrial Victorian world.  There is no true democracy, as Jude's noble mind cannot raise his status. I do not know which Romantic poem or poet Jude is based on, but he is reminiscent somewhat of Hamlet, who achieved great status in the Romantic era. I think Jude has some resemblance to Keats, though unlike Keats, he could not better himself, and Keats was born in better middle-class circumstances. Keats studied to become an apothecary and gave it up for poetry, just as Jude leaves his hometown to try to get a place at the University. Keats did not achieve success in his lifetime; neither did Keats, though he was noticeably more successful decades after his death. They were both men of vision and feeling. Jude's attempts to better himself looks forward to later democracy when it became possibly of poor men to go to school and college. Even Jude's out-of-wedlock relationship with the unattainable Sue has a Romantic precursor in Shelley's relationship with Mary Godwin, later his wife.

And what about Jude's son, Father Time? He is old-fashioned, a figure of the past in the present, who kills himself and his siblings, because they "are too menny" and eat on the Fawleys' scarce money. It is Darwinism  again killing the weak children, though the prophetic young soul speaks of the Romantic.