the light fantastic

vague ramblings re: early british lit

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Milton, "Il Penseroso" "L'Allegro"

The two poems are reminiscent of the twin masks of theatre (the comedy and tragedy ones). Specifically, both poems address the Orpheus myth, where the musician followed his dead wife into Hades and played such a sad song that even the lord of Hades was moved and he allowed their reunion. "L'Allegro" talked about the joy of "his half-regained Eurydice (ln150)" focusing on the cusp of happiness before the tragic end which is mostly the flavor of the first poem. "Il Penseroso" focused on the moment right before, the sad song with "such notes as, warbled to the string/ Drew iron tears down Pluto's cheek (ln 106)" reflecting on the more subdued subtle joy in greiving.

Overall, the vein of "L'Allegro" seems like the musical term allegro, where the entire movement is light and upbeat, much akin to a child skipping. The eight beat stanzas and the rhyming couplet lend to a whimsical rhythm and Milton uses very simple rhymes, like light-dight, hand-land, pied-wide, to lend an effortless air to the joy described in the poem. There are images of spring and instances where youthful mirth is alluded to, such as "the dapple dawn..through the sweetbriar (ln 44, 47)" and the furrowed land where the various townsfolk work with a utopian diligence (lns 64-69). The inclusion of Queen Mab and Puck also give a magical feel to the happiness that is sought by the narrator of the poem, and the constant use of mellow vocaculary such as "lulled asleep(ln 116)" and "busy hum of men" give a idyllic ambience to the poem, which is quite fitting with "L'Allegro."

On the other hand, the second poem uses black, leaden, melancholy, solemn with very meaningful words that almost induce the very definition of themselves. Milton doesn't actually view Melancholy as a bad thing necessarily, yet there is a clear distinction between the joyful welcome and beckoning that Mirth receives and the reluctant acceptance of Melancholy. The joy that Melancholy brings is only applicable to the afterlife, where the contemplative nature of the narrator is finally fulfilled by the infinite time in which he has to be melancholy (studious).

It's a bit ironic, that the happy poem starts with such a dark introduction with Cerberus and blackest midnight (never in the Il Penseroso is such a degree of blackness used) and the second poem has the shorter stanzas that mildly denounce the deluding joys.


Blogger Daniel Lupton said...

Christina, I think this is an interesting post and a thoughtful analysis of the poems. My big criticism is that you don't include much evidence from the texts; for instance, your third paragraph talks about the types of words Milton uses in Il Penseroso, but you don't include any examples! The previous paragraph only contains a few examples as well. You're doing great analysis, but it's just as important to support those great ideas fully with evidence taken directly from the text.

2:45 PM  

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