A WAY OF SAYING IT: WHAT POETRY IS AND IS NOT

We reach and strain with our thoughts, trying to grasp what poetry is, trying to somehow distinguish it from all that is not poetry, but without success.  Then we come across something as simple as this statement by A. E. Housman:

Poetry is not the thing said, but a way of saying it.”

And it is as though the sun has risen, dispelling the darkness; because that is exactly what poetry is.  It does not lie in the thing said, however significant it may be.  It lies, rather, in how that thing is said.

All of the traditional paraphernalia of poetry, whether rhyme, rhythm, alliteration or assonance, are merely means to this end — saying the thing in a way that makes it poetry.  Their use, of course, is no guarantee at all that the result will be poetry, but we know that they are used with poetry as the goal.

Prose, we may say then, is the reverse; it is not so much how a thing is said as what is said.  It is meaning that is important and the key element.

We should not misunderstand this and think that poetry has no meaning, but rather that what meaning it carries is molded to the manner in which it is presented, however important the meaning may be — if it is to be poetry.

We may separate the meaning from the poem by explaining it in ordinary, everyday English, but by doing so we cause the meaning to lose its poetry.  If that were not so, we would all constantly be speaking poetry.

 So poetry is a way of saying something, a special way, and there are various tools and manners that may be used in so speaking — again like rhyme and measure and rhythm, alliteration (repetition of consonant sounds) and assonance (repetition of vowel sounds), but not all of these tools are essential for writing a poem.  It all comes back to a way of saying something.

We may go on to remark that obviously, then, poetry is not ordinary, everyday speech, which concentrates more on just saying a thing than on how that thing is said.  Poetry is the changing of one’s common speech pattern to say a thing in a way that makes it more pleasing or interesting or effective, or all three combined.

Sometimes the line between poetry and ordinary speech may seem blurred at first, but with a little reflection it is recognized nonetheless.  When W. H. Auden wrote his poem September 1, 1939, he was talking about the outbreak of World War II, the invasion of Poland by German forces — and he was seemingly conversational in doing so; we see, however, that this would not have been his everyday speech — not the way he ordered a meal, nor the way he talked to a friend.  And it is that little change that makes all the difference in transforming something from prose to poetry:

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade;
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night

 We find the end rhymes — dives / lives, bright / night, afraid /decade.  And we find “odd” ways of saying things, such as

Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth…

Eliminate the rhyme, however, say instead that people all over the world are angry and afraid, and the poetry dissolves — vanishes into prose.  

We tend to think that poetry is cut up into lines (and it usually is), while prose is divided into paragraphs.  But actually poetry and prose are somewhat like human gender behavior, which shades from one extreme to the other.  Some men are very stereotypically masculine; others are very stereotypically feminine; but between the two poles are found all the people who fall somewhere between.  In the change from prose to poetry, as in human gender roles, we find a graduated scale.  Some poets border on prose, but never fall completely into it, or they would not be poets.  There is still something to their way of saying the thing that is recognizable as poetry.

But the matter is a little more complex.  Even in prose, people often do not write as they commonly speak.  They leave little things out; they use “big” Latin or Greek-based words, instead of plain and simple Anglo-Saxon; they say things more concisely, and perhaps more effectively.  There is a vast difference in even so small a matter as an invitation to dinner:

1.  Do you wanna have dinner with me tomorrow?
2.  Your presence is requested at a dinner honoring the accomplishments of H. N. Featherwood.

And then there is poetry:

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table; 

One comes to recognize and to distinguish poetry from the other two kinds of speech, the ordinary and the formal.  What one must be wary of is prose that is disguised as poetry by being divided into lines in imitation of poetry.  Some people who write this way think they are writing poetry, and some critics are deceived into thinking the same.  But those who realize that poetry is not just dividing prose into lines on a page, but rather is a way of saying something that is different both from ordinary and formal speech, will not be fooled.

Some would-be poems include the bare minimum of the special way of saying something that is poetry, and sometimes not even that.  We should not confuse that kind of writing with the “conversational” yet quite poetic manner of Walt Whitman in his Shut Not Your Doors:

Shut not your doors to me proud libraries,
For that which was lacking on all your well-fill’d shelves
       yet needed most, I bring,
Forth from the war emerging, a book I have made,
The words of my book nothing, the drift of it every thing,
A book separate, not link’d with the rest nor felt by the intellect,
But you ye untold latencies will thrill to every page. 

But, you may say, no one talks like that!  And I reply that you have grasped the point.  No one talks as Walt Whitman wrote in poetry.  You may think they do for a few words or a line, but the poetry will out.

The same may be said for Robert Frost, another sometimes even more “conversational” poet.  Look at the beginning of his Birches, where he fools us into thinking that we are just listening to the rambling conversation of some New England ruralite, and it is only gradually as we read on, and feel the rhythm, and begin to sense his increasingly revealing way of speaking, that we become aware that what seemed to begin as conversation was actually just the path into poetry:

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.
But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay.
Ice-storms do that.  Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain.  They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust —
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You’d think the inner dome of heaven had fallen. 

When reading Frost, one often has the feeling of being tricked into submitting to some sort of peculiar farmer’s incantation, because what seems ordinary speech at first increasingly weaves a charm of words, as though Frost were a kind of New England shaman chanting away, putting a folksy spell upon us, as in his After Apple-Picking:

My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off. 

This incantatory nature of his writing is one of the most pleasing things about Frost.  And again, it is a way of saying it; it is poetry.

So we know, in theory, what poetry is and what it is not.  But that does not mean we have defined poetry.  We must still be able to distinguish between poetry and mere verse — between what is genuinely poetic and what just uses some of the tools of poetry but does not succeed in being poetic.  For that we can only return to another statement of Housman: that poetry is known by its effect on us.  But here we are back again at the beginning, reduced to saying that “good” poetry is a matter of opinion and taste formed by education and experience.

David

 

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DRUMMER HODGE: STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND

Boer War drummer boy writing his mum

Thomas Hardy — yes, the same man who wrote Jude the Obscure, Tess of the d’Urbervilles and those other famous novels of Britain — wrote a very meaningful poem about the Boer War (1899-1902).  In that war the British (and men from British possessions) fought against the people of Dutch ancestry in parts of what is now South Africa — against the people called the Boers (boer is Dutch for “farmer”).

Hardy had news of a drummer killed in that war, a young fellow — probably a boy, really — who was from Dorchester, in the region of south England that Hardy wrote about in his novels under its old name, Wessex (“West-Saxony”).  Drummers in that war might be as young as 13 or 14, getting into the military by lying about their age.

Here is the poem:

They throw in Drummer Hodge, to rest
  Uncoffined – just as found:
His landmark is a kopje-crest
  That breaks the veldt around;
And foreign constellations west
  Each night above his mound.

Young Hodge the Drummer never knew –
  Fresh from his Wessex home –
The meaning of the broad Karoo,
  The Bush, the dusty loam,
And why uprose to nightly view
  Strange stars amid the gloam.

Yet portion of that unknown plain
  Will Hodge forever be;
His homely Northern breast and brain
  Grow to some Southern tree,
And strange-eyed constellations reign
  His stars eternally.

It is a very sad and lonely poem, bringing to mind the useless suffering and futility of war.  Let’s look more closely, part by part:

They throw in Drummer Hodge, to rest
  Uncoffined – just as found:
His landmark is a kopje-crest
  That breaks the veldt around;
And foreign constellations west
  Each night above his mound.

It is, of course, a rough and hasty military burial — not even, we may say, respectful; just throwing the young body into a hole dug in the ground, with no coffin at all — the body just as it was found in the field.

His landmark — that is, the physical feature of the landscape by which one might roughly identify where the grave lies — is just a kopje-crest, meaning one of those hillocks, often consisting of or surmounted by large, bare rocks and stones, that rise here and there above the veldt, the level fields that stretch into the distance.  A kopje (pronounced “cop-yuh”) means literally a “little head,” but it is just one of those often stony, isolated hillocks one sees in movies of Africa, with a lion lounging atop one of its big boulders.  “That breaks the veldt around” means the the kopje rises up above and interrupts the flatness of the surrounding land.

We know already that this “Drummer Hodge” is, as we would say, still “just a kid,” likely no more than 17 and possibly not even that.  And we really do not know what his name was.  Yes, Hodge is a genuine family surname, but in the England of Hardy’s time it was also used as a nickname for any country boy or man — “that farm kid.”  When the newspapers asked “what Hodge was saying” on a particular matter, they meant the views of the average British man from the agricultural countryside.

So really Drummer Hodge is anonymous, just one of those farm boys who enlisted for the illusion of military glory.  It is paradoxical that in the film The History Boys,  an enthusiastic teacher — “Mr. Hector” — says of Hodge in this poem, “the important thing is that he has a name,” and he proceeds to tell his student how it was at this period of history that ordinary soldiers began to be remembered by name, commemorated on war monuments.  It is a poignant and effective scene in the film, but the part about Hodge having a name is an error, which writer Alan Bennet later recognized and acknowledged.  Hodge actually is, in this poem, an “unknown soldier,” though of course we know he was a Wessex country boy.

Hardy emphasizes, partly by his use of Afrikaans (South African Dutch dialect) terms such as kopje, veldt, and so on, the “foreignness” of the resting place of Drummer Hodge, how alien it all was to him.

Above the mound of his grave, “foreign” constellations west each night.  Here west is a verb meaning “to move toward the West, to set in the West.”  So Hardy is really saying that strange constellations (star patterns) unfamiliar to Hodge would move and set each night in the wide sky above the little mound where his grave lay in the vast veldt.

The next segment of the poem repeats and emphasizes some of the elements of the first part:

Young Hodge the Drummer never knew –
  Fresh from his Wessex home –
The meaning of the broad Karoo,
  The Bush, the dusty loam,
And why uprose to nightly view
  Strange stars amid the gloam.

Hardy tells us that young “Hodge,” fresh from the Wessex countryside, never even had the time get to know and understand his alien surroundings in Africa — the Karoo (broad, dry plateau land), the Bush (the wild, uncultivated lands away from the towns) — and the dusty loam, the dry soil of southern Africa.  And Hodge never had the time, before he was killed, to learn why strange stars — stars he did not recognize — rose in the sky each night “amid the gloam,” meaning in the time after the sun had set, when the stars come out.

Now all of this is significant in Hardy’s transmission to the reader of just how alien his African surroundings were to this Wessex boy, who, being a farm lad, would have been well familiar with the soil, the trees, the hedgerows, and the constellations above southern England.  He was sent off to die in an alien land quite “foreign” to him, from soil to sky.

Paradoxically, Hardy tells us…

Yet portion of that unknown plain
  Will Hodge forever be;
His homely Northern breast and brain
  Grow to some Southern tree,
And strange-eyed constellations reign
  His stars eternally.

Hodge, buried in the dry, alien soil of Africa, now becomes part of that soil.  His “homely” breast and brain will be absorbed by the roots of some strange African tree.  And “strange-eyed” constellations reign his stars eternally,” means that the unfamiliar (“strange-eyed”) stars overhead that dominate the sky in patterns unknown to Wessex will be those over Hodge’s grave forever.  He will never again see England, but will become part of the soil and growth of Africa, lost forever in that alien land.

There is something remarkably like this near the end of My Mother’s Castle, the autobiographical account of the French author Marcel Pagnol, who talks about the sad death of his young country friend Lili des Bellons, who knew every leaf and bird and trail of his home hills, yet who similarly was killed in land that was foreign to him, a dark northern forest in the First World War:

“In 1917, a bullet striking full on cut short his young life, and he fell in the rain upon tufts of cold plants whose names he did not know.”

Again, in the film The History Boys, the student discussing Hardy’s poem remarks that there is a parallel between

Yet portion of that unknown plain
  Will Hodge forever be;
His homely Northern breast and brain
  Grow to some Southern tree…

and “golden boy” Rupert Brooke’s poem The Soldier:

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

Brooke (1887 – 1915) — who joined the British navy, died of the effects of a sequence of illnesses that ended with blood poisoning, and was buried on the island of Skyros, in Greece, not living to see his third decade of life.

In the previously-mentioned film, “Mr. Hector” replies perceptively to the student, saying of the two poems that “It is the same thought,” but adds that Hardy’s is the better, because it is “more down to earth…quite literally, down to earth.”  And it is, though both poems are very good.  In Brooke, the young man buried remains something alien in that foreign soil — “a richer dust concealed.” But Hardy is more the realist:

Yet portion of that unknown plain
  Will Hodge forever be;
His homely Northern breast and brain
  Grow to some Southern tree…

Drummer Hodge becomes absorbed into that alien environment, becomes as much a part of it as the kopje and the “Southern tree” that grows from his remains.  Quite literally, as Mr. Hector says, “down to earth.”

We should note the use of the word “homely” here.  It does not mean “plain and unattractive in appearance,” but it does mean unsophisticated and we may say, “as one would find him at his home.”  It is not negative, but just reflects his “country boy” nature — open and simple, direct and unpolished.

It really is a very striking poem, not filled with the reflected glory of Brooke, but with the acceptance of hard things as they are that we find in Hardy’s novels, which is one of the reasons why he is one of the few novelists I can read and take seriously, along with John Steinbeck.

The “aftereffect” of Drummer Hodge is somewhat like that of these lines from William Wordsworth’s A Slumber did my Spirit Seal:

No motion has she now, no force;
She neither hears nor sees;
Rolled round in earth’s diurnal course,
With rocks and stones and trees.

But with “Hodge” they are alien rocks, alien trees, alien earth and sky — and he gradually becomes one with them, as the days, months, and years pass ceaselessly on.

There is a very telling comment about the Boer War in the film Dean Spanley.  An elderly British father of two sons, one of whom died in the conflict, asks the surviving son, “Did we win the Boer War?”  The reply is, “I believe we lost more slowly than the other side.


David

HOUSMAN’S EASTER HYMN

In the previous posting I discussed the profound sense of insecurity and alienation expressed in Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold.  Now I would like to look at another poem by Alfred Edward Housman, his Easter Hymn.  In it the poet addresses Jesus directly:

EASTER HYMN

If in that Syrian garden, ages slain,
You sleep, and know not you are dead in vain,
Nor even in dreams behold how dark and bright
Ascends in smoke and fire by day and night
The hate you died to quench and could but fan,
Sleep well and see no morning, son of man.

 But if, the grave rent and the stone rolled by,
At the right hand of majesty on high
You sit, and sitting so remember yet
Your tears, your agony and bloody sweat,
Your cross and passion and the life you gave,
Bow hither out of heaven and see and save.

The poem might easily be titled The Agnostic’s Easter.  In it Housman expresses the matter in two opposing “ifs.”  

In the first part he tells Jesus that if he is merely dead and buried in his garden tomb, unaware that his mission failed, unaware that his life and death not only did not destroy hate but sometimes even fanned its flames, then Housman wishes him a peaceful eternal sleep.

But if, on the other hand, Jesus was resurrected from the tomb as many say in Christianity, and has ascended to heaven and assumed power, Housman asks him to remember his suffering on earth, and — it is implied — to consider the suffering of humanity, and to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.  “Bow hither out of heaven and see and save.”  

It is a bold poem, and in it Housman is essentially saying, “I do not believe you are still alive and in heaven, and not just lying for some two thousand years in a tomb in the Near East, but if by chance you are living and up there, then look down at the sufferings of humanity (that of the poet included) and please help us.”

The unspoken result of the poem is, interestingly, the same conclusion reached by Arnold in Dover Beach:  no help is coming, and we are out here on our own in the universe, and must get by as best we can.  Housman made his “prayer,” and no help came in reply.  So one is left with the conclusion that of the two “ifs” in the poem, the first was the correct one.

That is why, again, there is a kind of underlying bitter humor in the poem, which makes the title Easter Hymn all the more meaningful.  It is not surprising, then, that Housman is said to have once described his own position as that of a “High-church atheist,” meaning that while culturally he had been influenced by the traditional Anglicanism of England in which so many were raised, intellectually he could not accept the notion of a “God” as the term was understood in Christianity.

That, of course, was a controversial position in his time, which accounts for his Easter Hymn being left unpublished until after his death in 1936, appearing among his Manuscript Poems published in 1955.

The poetic attitude of Housman is expressed briefly and succinctly in the preface he attached to the publication of his book More Poems:

They say my verse is sad; no wonder;
Its narrow measure spans
Tears of eternity and sorrow,
Not mine, but man’s. 

This is for all ill-treated fellows
Unborn and unbegot,
For them to read when they’re in trouble
And I am not.

That is why the poems of Housman appeal so readily and effectively to us today.  He understood human suffering and the transience of life, and he speaks to us still.

What does he mean by writing his poems for “all ill-treated fellows, unborn and unbegot”?  He means all those who were, at the time he wrote this verse, not yet born nor even yet conceived.  And by saying the poem is “for them to read when they’re in trouble and I am not,” he means his poems are for those like him, who will have his poems in the future to read when they are in trouble, but Housman will by then be long dead and beyond all his troubles — “and I am not.”

 

David

 

 

THE RECEDING TIDE: ARNOLD’S DOVER BEACH

Michael Schmidt calls Matthew Arnold’s poem Dover Beach “the greatest single poem of the Victorian period.”  Greatness in poetry is a matter of personal taste, but one can say that probably no single poem so eloquently expresses the growing spiritual discomfort of the time. Arnold was born the day before Christmas in 1822; Dover Beach was likely written in 1851, after his marriage.  That means he wrote it when about 29 years old.

It would be easy to suppose that Dover Beach came in reaction to the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, which shook the foundations of Christendom, but actually that book was not published until 1859, some eight years after the poem was written.   Yet Dover Beach — though written earlier, was not published until 1867, eight years after Darwin’s revolutionary book appeared, and by then the feelings of uncertainty and alienation expressed in Dover Beach had become even more widespread due to the immense public controversy over human evolution, which many felt to be in direct conflict with the biblical teaching of creation.  For some the loss of belief in creation as recorded in Genesis was the loss of belief in Christianity in general. That is why for readers at the time of the poem’s publication, Dover Beach bespoke the decay of faith that came with the ever -increasing proofs that the biblical account was simply wrong.  And if one could not trust the biblical account of creation, logical thought ran, who knew what, if any, of the remainder of its accounts were trustworthy, including the Resurrection?

One must keep in mind that even before Darwin, there was a growing gap in the public mind between the nature of the physical world as pictured in the Bible and the nature of the physical world as it was being revealed by the discoveries of science in the early to mid 19th century, particularly the revelations of the growing science of geology and the rising attention paid to fossils and their implications — including the first scientifically-described dinosaur — Megalosaurus — named in 1824 — astonishing creatures nowhere named or revealed in the books of the Bible.

We may say, then, that the crux of the matter is that previously, people had looked to the Bible to explain matters; but in the first half of the 19th century, they had begun to turn instead to science and to related inventions.  And the discoveries of science were often not easy to harmonize with the Bible.

This is, of course, a simplification.  Many still held to literalistic views of the Bible, others modified their views to fit new scientific discoveries while not losing their overall faith in Christianity.  But to others the writing on the wall was plain to read, and today, looking backward, we can see that in the first half of the 19th century, serious cracks were appearing in the edifice of Christian belief that would lead to its even more rapid crumbling in the latter half of the 2oth century.

So Dover Beach has great meaning even today, with the increasing abandonment of Christianity in Europe (and more gradually in America as well).

The meaning we today assign to Dover Beach, then, telescopes the changes of the 19th century into an overall loss of faith in the dictates of clergyman and Bible; and without that faith, many felt the ground slipping away from beneath their feet.  Many found science and invention an inadequate replacement.  Such people were left with that abandoned “we are entirely on our own now” feeling — that sense of being placed between the loss of the presumed certainties of Christianity and the disturbing revelations of science — that Dover Beach best expresses.

Now let’s take a look at the poem:

DOVER BEACH

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits;–on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!

Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanch’d land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl’d.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night. 

Let’s look at the poem part by part:

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits;–on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!

We may assume that the poet is standing at an open window in the British seaport of Dover, which is situated just across the English Channel from France, which lies only about 21-22 miles across the Strait of Dover, that portion of the Channel that separates Dover in England from Calais in France.

We do not yet realize it, as the poem begins, but the poet is already speaking to another person.  We may assume, historically, that it is his wife; they spent their honeymoon in Dover.   Of course by extension, it is really the reader.

So Arnold begins by saying that the sea is calm tonight; the tide is full — meaning the sea is at its highest in the tidal cycle — high tide as opposed to low tide.  He tells us the moon lies fair upon the straits, meaning the moon is shining its light down and is reflected beautifully upon the waters in the Dover Strait.

Arnold sees a light gleam and then vanish in darkness off where he knows the French Coast lies — probably the appearing-vanishing light of a lighthouse on that far shore.  The cliffs of England — the famous White Cliffs of Dover — stand glimmering in the moonlight and rise vast and high at the edge of the water.  They are white chalk cliffs, composed largely of calcium carbonate formed from the fossil skeletons of countless one-celled sea creatures.  Arnold began by telling us “the sea is calm,” and now says the white cliffs stand “out in the tranquil bay.”  That repetition adds to the sense of peace.

And now Arnold issues his invitation to the unseen person with him:  “Come to the window; sweet is the night-air.”  And then comes a sudden change in the poem, with the word “only”:

Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanch’d land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Having told us all is peace and beauty, now he adds an “except,” by beginning his next sentence with the word “Only….”

He points out this exception by drawing attention to the line of white spray where the waves of the ocean meet the shore, “where the sea meets the moon-blanched land.”  “Moon-blanch’d” means turned whitish in appearance by the moonlight.

 “Listen!” he urges:

Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Arnold’s companion (and we, of course) now hear the sound made by the sea as the incoming waves roll and cast the pebbles landward atop other pebbles, and then the retreating wave pulls and rolls them out seaward again, countless pebbles grating together.  So we know this is not a sandy beach, but rather a “shingle” beach, one made of rocks and pebbles.  We hear the grating roar of pebbles grinding on pebbles all along that line where sea and land meet.  We hear it cease and begin again with each arriving wave as it rolls and casts its pebbles “up the high strand,” meaning up the higher beach.  This pushing and pulling of the waves upon the pebbles at the water line creates a “tremulous cadence” — meaning the rising and falling beat caused by the slow, repetitive sound of the sea and its pebbles, cast forward and pulled back.

These grating pebbles and waves with their repetitive cadence “bring the eternal note of sadness in.”  Arnold tells us that in spite of the beauty and tranquility of the night and the sea and the cliffs, the sound of the pebbles grating in the waves brings in that eternal feeling of sadness, which here manifests as sound –an eternal note that lies behind all the fleeting “sound” of happiness and peace.

Arnold’s next remarks add the depth of centuries, of time past, to what he has already said:

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,

Sophocles (496-406 B.C.  was an ancient Greek writer of tragedies.  Arnold tells us that the tragedian heard the same eternal note of sadness that he hears in the waves at Dover, only Sophocles heard it long before on the Aegean Sea, which lies between Greece and Turkey.  It brought to Socrates’ mind the turbid (dark, filled with sediment, in turmoil) ebb and flow (decrease and increase, like the waters receding and advancing again, in an endless cycle) of human misery.

If Arnold had something definite from the works of Sophocles in mind, it may have been these lines from a chorus in his work Antigone:

For others, once
the gods have rocked a house to its foundations
the ruin will never cease, cresting on and on
from one generation on throughout the race—
like a great mounting tide
driven on by savage northern gales,
surging over the dead black depths
roiling up from the bottom dark heaves of sand
and the headlands, taking the storm’s onslaught full-force,
roar, and the low moaning
echoes on and on
(Chorus 656-666, translated by Fagles)

We need not be too literal about that, however.  The important matter is that Arnold is saying that the same sadness he hears in the waves of the the Strait of Dover in the 19th century was heard many centuries before by the tragedian Sophocles in the waves of the Aegean Sea against its shore, and Arnold feels it gave Sophocles the impulse to thought in writing.

“We find also in the sound a thought,” Arnold says, meaning that it inspires a thought in him, as it did in Sophocles; and then he tells us what particular thought it inspires in him at Dover.

He makes an analogy:

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl’d.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Just as the tide is full tonight, he says, so the Sea of Faith was once full, meaning that life was once filled with religious faith (by which, of course, he means the Christian faith).  That Sea of Faith once encircled the world (Arnold means primarily the British/European world) like a shining belt (he uses the old term for a belt or sash, “girdle”). “Furl’d” (furled) here means “rolled up around” like a sash encircling the earth.

“But now,” he says, “I only hear its long, withdrawing roar.”  He perceives that the Sea of Faith is receding, pulling away from the world just as the water of high tide will gradually ebb away from the Dover shore.  He knows the tide at Dover will recede, and already he senses the Sea of Faith ebbing, its tide going out.  He “hears” it retreating, “to the breath of the night wind,” meaning that he sees faith fading away like the tide receding on the shore below him in the night, as the cool wind of night blows.  By combining this recession of faith with the coolness of the night wind (remember that the night air was previously “sweet?”) he makes the air of night, which formerly had seemed fresh and tranquil, into a kind of cold darkness stealing over the world with the loss of faith.  Faith is disappearing “down the vast edges drear and naked shingles of the world.”  By “shingles,” again Arnold means shingle beaches — beaches of rocks and pebbles rather than sand.  That gives us a picture of bleakness and harshness as faith pulls away from the world, its receding tide leaving behind only dreariness and emptiness and naked, rocky shoreline — the world as Arnold perceived it to be without religious faith.

And now Arnold gives us the emotion that comes to him as a result of this picture of the loss of faith in the world:

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night. 

He tells the person with him, “Let us at least be true and faithful to one another, because we have nothing else upon which to rely now.”  The world that seems to be a land of dreams, so varied and so new, is now really — Arnold feels — just an illusion.  Now that faith is gone, we see it as it is without that faith.  It has no joy, no love, no light, no certainty, no peace, no help for pain.  It is as though we find ourselves in the darkness on a plain (“darkling plain”) swept with the confused alarms (calls to arms, urgings to battle, warning sounds) of struggle and flight, where ignorant armies come together violently and clash in battle by night.

So in essence, Arnold is saying:

The night is beautiful and tranquil here on the Strait of Dover, with the moonlight shining on water and land, and a light appearing and  disappearing far off on the coast of France.  Come to the window, because the night air is sweet.

Except, look down there where the waves of the sea meet the land.  I hear the pebbles carried forward and pulled back by the waves; I hear the pebbles grating on one another, creating a dull roar.  Sophocles heard the same sound centuries ago on the shore of the Aegean sea, and the sound evokes an eternal sadness.  It makes me think of an analogy:

Just as the tide is full tonight, so the Sea of Faith was once full — people had a belief on which to base their lives and thoughts.  But now that belief is fading and disappearing.  I can sense it disappearing just as the tide turns, and as it recedes, the waves pull back from the shore below me, retreating into the darkness, leaving only harshness and bare “reality” behind.

Oh, my love, let us at least be true and faithful to each other, because there is no other refuge left to us in this world, which seems to offer so much but really offers only illusions; and we are left here alone in the darkness and conflict, just as if we were on a plain in the dark of night, filled with the noises and cries of battle while all around us ignorant armies clash.

Of course such a simple summary has none of the poetry of the poem itself!

I should add that there is an interpretation of the following lines that makes no sense to me:

But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Again and again you will see it stated on the Internet that the words “But now I only hear” really mean, “But now I alone hear.”  I do not think that is a defensible interpretation.  The clear sense of the phrasing means essentially, “Once the Sea of Faith was full, but now I hear only its withdrawal from the world, like the sea pulling away from the shore into the darkness.”  To state that Arnold means “I alone hear” would mean that he was the only one in the middle of the 19th century who perceived or felt that faith was beginning to disappear from the world, and historically we know that to be untrue; so I do not think that is a likely thing for Arnold to assert.  One should stick to the plain meaning of the language here, in my view, without needlessly confusing the matter.

As for the “ignorant armies” clashing by night, it is possible that Arnold borrowed this notion from an ancient historical account by Thucydides of the Battle of Epipolae, where Athenians and Syracusans fought one another in the confusing darkness.  Arnold, of course, applies it to human conflict and confusion in the darkness left by the retreat of the bright “Sea of Faith”– human dissension in general, in a world that seems to have lost its meaning.

I will not discuss the poetic techniques used by Arnold at present, because I offer his poem as a lead-in to a simpler work by Alfred Edward Housman for this Easter weekend.  That article will come soon.

David

POETRY, VERSE, PLASTIC FLOWERS AND INTELLECTUALISM

When it comes to the evaluation and criticism of poetry, all is opinion and personal taste.  Taste, it is true, can be developed, but who can say that a man’s liking for a painting of waterlilies by Monet is any more sincere than the liking of some people for plastic or silk flowers?

I have always had a great deal of difficulty in trying to initiate people into the appreciation of the hokku as opposed to modern haiku, precisely because of that difference in taste.  To me the preference for modern haiku is akin to those who are still on the plastic flowers level, but in spite of that one must recognize that people will like what they will like, and even the old Latin saying tells us that there is no arguing about taste.

Nonetheless, people will argue.  And of course people will criticize, whether the work in dispute is a painting or a poem.

No one, to my knowledge, has ever successfully and adequately defined poetry.  Alfred Edward Housman made a useful distinction between poetry and verse:  he said that the former is literature, the latter is not.  So William Blake may present us with poetry, while Hallmark is likely to give us only verse.

As for the nature of poetry, Housman fell back upon his version of the common saying of the uneducated buyer of antiques:  “I don’t know anything about it, but I know what I like.”  Housman, however, put it this way when asked for a definition:

I replied that I could no more define poetry than a terrier can define a rat, but that I thought we both recognized the object by the symptoms which it provokes in us.”

And that is indeed how most of us recognize what we call poetry — because of its effects on us.  Yet that leaves us back where we started:  individual ability to recognize poetry is a matter of education and taste.  Generations were moved by Trees, written by Joyce Kilmer, verse that to me is unquestionably on the “plastic flowers” level, and unbearable to read.

So there are differences in taste, and these differences are largely a matter of personal preference and education.  An unsophisticated taste in verse will leave one liking Trees.  An educated taste will find it appalling.  That is just one of the realities of life.  We may say that one who dislikes Trees has good taste while one who likes it has bad, yet that again is just a matter of personal taste and personal opinion.  It simply means that to us, “good” taste means educated and experienced taste, while “bad” taste means uneducated and inexperienced.

That is why I look on the bulk of modern haiku as simply bad taste.  I have had the benefit of knowing what hokku once was, and can recognize that modern haiku is just a mutated offshoot, the distorted creation, largely, of mid-20th century would-be poets who misperceived and misunderstood the nature of the hokku, and so created the “haiku” according to their own misconceptions.  If I had not had that education and experience, however, I might likely hold a different and less “advanced” view.

Housman tells us that poetry is not dependent upon meaning; that in fact there is much writing that is poetic yet devoid of real meaning.  And indeed, he tells us, some of the most poetic writers — among them William Blake — were actually mad to a greater or lesser degree.

I have to say that Housman is correct.  There are some works that have the logic of bedlam, yet are very poetic, such as the lines from Xanadu,

And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

We should not be surprised to learn that Xanadu is forever unfinished because Coleridge, while writing down the poem, which had come to him in an opium dream, was interrupted by the arrival of a visitor, and the remainder was forgotten.  It is mad poetry, but poetry nonetheless, and that is why it persists in finding a place in college anthologies.

Not all that appears in such anthologies is poetry, however.  Some of it is merely prose disguised as poetry, and that can be said of a good part of what has been written in the 20th century.  There is, for example, a good deal of attention given to the “rediscovered” verses of Lynette Roberts, but quite honestly I can find hardly more poetry in some of her writing than in a waiter’s description of the lunch menu, for example the beginning of her Poem from Llanybri:

If you come my way that is … 
Between now and then, I will offer you 
A fist full of rock cress fresh from the bank 
The valley tips of garlic red with dew 
Cooler than shallots, a breath you can swank 
In the village when you come. At noon-day 
I will offer you a choice bowl of cawl 
Served with a ‘lover’s’ spoon and a chopped spray 
Of leeks or savori fach, not used now,
In the old way you’ll understand…

Yes, it has some Welsh terms like cawl (a kind of Welsh version of Irish stew) and “savori fach” — her spelling of Welsh safri fach — “little savory,” which is the herb Satureja montana, Winter savory in English), and mention of the traditionally Welsh “lover’s spoon,” but in my view that hardly qualifies it for the acclaim it presently receives.  So even though I have a weakness for things Welsh, I cannot, using Housman’s criterion, recognize “Llanybri” as poetry because of the absence of symptoms evoked by it.  So for me, it is merely verse.  “Swank” by the way, is used here as a verb meaning to “ostentatiously display.”  Oddly enough, Roberts eventually gave up writing after converting to the fundamentalistic, mind-controlling sect called Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Much of what has been written as poetry in the 20th century onward remains for me merely verse.  It has become too intellectualized, too consciously clever, too conventionally “poetic” according to what fashion at present considers poetry to be.  And the real poetry has been lost in the process.

What passes for poetry these days is little advanced from what it was in Louis Macneice:  a kind of over-intellectualized verbal assembly that seems to come from too much association with other “poets,” who encourage each other unhealthily into more and more writing with less and less poetry in it, for example these lines from Snow by Macneice:

The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural.  I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

All intellectualism, no poetry.  Macneice only talks about the “drunkenness of things,” but Coleridge, in Xanadu, gives it to us directly and unmediated.

All too often, modern would-be poets think that merely dividing prose into the lineation of poetry makes poetry.  It does not.  Yet this kind of pseudo-poetry, found often in the writings of Gary Snyder and many others, in my view, has even made its way into present-day college anthologies.  One can only hope that young poets will remain uninfluenced by their example, but so far that does not seem to be the case.  More and more genuine poetry has given way in English-language writing to mere lineated prose or  surrealistic constructions of words used in odd ways.

One may bemoan what has become of poetry, but then poetry has a very limited space in modern life.  It has become largely the province of those who want to think of themselves as poets or as poetic, a very ingrown little society that appears to be securely walled off from the rest of the world.  Would-be poets seem to write for, and be read by, other would-be poets.  That means a particular negative trend, if found in poetry journals and anthologies, can grow and overwhelm a period of writing like a tsunami.  It seems we are at present the victims of such a flood of bad taste in the “world of poetry,” and we can only hope that a recovery and reconstruction will come soon.

That, however, requires education.  It requires experience.  It requires stepping out of the limited and limiting circle of present-day poetry, so that the individual may rediscover what Housman found to be true –that poetry is recognized by its effect on us.  But there are effects and effects, and all too many people seem to have lost or forgotten the symptoms created by genuine poetry, and are settling for mere intellectualism and peer approval.  Both are death to poetry.

But again, that is personal taste and opinion.  So I encourage readers not to think they must like a poem simply because it is printed in a college anthology, or dislike a poem because it finds no place in such a work.  Educate your taste.  Experience poetry from all periods and of all kinds.  Do not rely merely on the opinions of “authorities” for your taste in poetry.  Take them into account if you will, but do not accept them uncritically.

David

TO SEE THE CHERRY HUNG WITH SNOW

I have always been very fond of the poetry of Alfred Edward Housman.  He is not a verbal fireworks poet like Dylan Thomas or Gerard Manley Hopkins.  He is more straightforward, with a sense of transience remarkably like that of the Japanese hokku writers.

Housman told the truth.  Unlike Mary Carolyn Davies, who tells us that “pain rusts to beauty,” Housman had a more realistic view of things.  He would not say that like iron, pain rusts to beauty.  He would say that as the blade of a knife is dulled by time and wear, so the sorrows of life may be dulled by the passage of  days and years.  In his poem The Rain it Streams on Stone and Hillock, he says to someone who has died,

Tomorrow I shall miss you less,
And ache of heart and heaviness
Are things that time should cure.

And he adds,

Oh soon enough will pine to nought
Remembrance and the faithful thought
That sits the grave beside.

But the dulling of sorrow by time does not lessen the pain of the human condition:

But oh, my man, the house is fallen
That none can build again;
My man, how full of joy and woe
Your mother bore you years ago
To-night to lie in the rain.

So Housman knows life; he knows the brevity of youth; he knows that what is will alter, whether it be joy or pain.  And that leads us to one of his best-known poems, Loveliest of Trees:

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

 Now of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

First, let’s go though the poem part by part, so that we may be certain we understand the poet’s phrasing and vocabulary:

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Housman tells us the cherry is the loveliest of trees; the cherry trees stand all along the woodland road, and they are covered in (“wearing”) white (white blossoms) for Eastertide.  White, for those who have lost touch with religious custom, was associated with Easter.  “Eastertide” means here Easter time — the time of year when Easter happens. “Tide” is an old word meaning “time.”

Many Americans misunderstand “woodland ride” as meaning that Housman must have been astride a horse or sitting in a carriage, but in British usage, a woodland ride was just a rural road, a reasonably wide and worn pathway through a wood.  It comes from the days before cars, when a path broad enough for horse riding was called a “ride.”  But riding is not actually intended by the term.  So we may assume that the poet is walking leisurely and thoughtfully along a woodland road where many lovely cherry trees are in bloom at Easter time.

Next, Housman does something surprising in poetry: he talks mathematics, and his mathematics are based on what to “church folk” in those days was common knowledge gleaned from the Bible, from Psalm 90:10:

The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

So Housman reckons,

Now of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

Housman (or rather the young man speaking through Housman) tells us that out of his life, out of his threescore (a score is twenty, so threescore is sixty) years plus ten years, meaning out of the seventy years allotted to him for his lifespan, twenty will not come again.  So we know he is a young man in his twentieth year, a young man of twenty.  For him, those twenty years are “past” — at least almost — and will never come again.  Subtract those twenty (a score) years from the seventy years of a man’s lifespan, and that leaves our fresh young man only fifty years of life.  He tells, us, with bittersweet good humor,

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

Realizing that he only has fifty more years in which to live, our young man, who obviously loves things of beauty, knows nonetheless that they are transient, impermanent, as he himself is.  So he tells us that the fifty springs he has ahead of him are little enough time (“little room”) in which to look at such lovely things as the blossoms of spring; therefore he is going to take the time to walk through the woodlands while the cherries are covered in white bloom, to “see the cherry hung with snow” (the “snow,” of course, is the white blossoms).

There is a rather odd misunderstanding of the last line of the poem flitting about on the Internet, asserting that by “to see the cherry hung with snow,” Housman meant he would not only go in spring to see the blossoms, but also in winter to see snow on the cherry trees.  It should be obvious, however, that he was simply using a descriptive metaphor:  snow = white blossoms.  How do we know this?  First from the poem itself:

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

The first line tells us: “And since to look at things in bloom….”  Winter snow is not “things in bloom,” and that is obviously the subject.  We may add that a cherry tree in winter does not hold snow on its bare limbs luxuriantly, as an evergreen tree does.  So a cherry in winter is not a stunning sight like a cherry covered with spring bloom.

We also know this from Housman’s use of the snow = white blossoms equation in the first verse of his poem #XXXIX from A Shropshire Lad:

‘Tis time, I think, by Wenlock town
The golden broom should blow;
The hawthorn sprinkled up and down
Should charge the land with snow.

We may also turn to other English poets for similar usage — first to  Robert Bridges for the snow = white blossoms equation, in his poem Spring Goeth All in White:

Spring goeth all in white,
   Crowned with milk-white may:
In fleecy flocks of light
   O’er heaven the white clouds stray:

White butterflies in the air:
   White daisies prank the ground:
The cherry and hoary pear
   Scatter their snow around.

“Milk-white may” in the first line means white hawthorn blossoms.  “Prank” in the sixth line means “adorn,” “decorate,” “ornament.”

We may also take a quick look at the first lines of Springtime in Cookham Dean, by Cecil Roberts:

How marvellous and fair a thing
It is to see an English Spring,
He cannot know who has not seen
The cherry trees at Cookham Dean,
who has not seen the blossom lie
Like snowdrifts ‘gainst a cloudless sky
And found the beauty of the way
Through woodlands odorous with may…. 

Again, “may” in the last line means hawthorn blossoms, not the month.

But back to Housman.  There is, as I said, a kind of bittersweet humor in this verse.  One might call the poem a young man’s “apology for his use of time,” his response to someone accusing him of “slacking.”  But Housman knew that what would really be wasted was the all-too-brief beauty of the cherry trees in blossom along the woodland road (the woodland ride), and so knowing that life is brief, he gives us this little argument for appreciating things of beauty, for seizing the day, complete with the mathematics to back it up.

Housman was a classicist, a scholar of Greek and particularly a professor of Latin.  One might therefore think him dry as dust, all endless conjugations and grammar and “Mr. Arbuthnot, please translate line three on page 37,” but obviously he had poetry in his soul and he understood the brevity of life and the sweetness of spring.

There is an odd kinship between this poem and Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.  But we have the feeling that the latter is a mature man’s poem, while Loveliest of Trees is a young man’s poem.

David


RUST, PAIN, BEAUTY AND TIME

I like to respond, when it is practical and possible, to what I notice people are coming here to find.  Some of them, no doubt, are literature students in high school or college; others are perhaps just curious.  So when my “statistics” page shows me that several people have come looking, for example, for the meaning of the words “pain rusts into beauty,” from a poem by Mary Carolyn Davies, I like to provide what they want.  

I mentioned the poem in an earlier posting.  But here it is on its own:

Iron, left in the rain
And fog and dew,
With rust is covered. — Pain
Rusts into beauty too.
I know full well that this is so:
I had a heartbreak long ago.

It is not a perfect poem.  It has its “loopholes,” and we can see that the writer is generalizing and not really telling us the whole truth of the matter, but nonetheless she has her point.

What I mean is this:  she tells us that iron when exposed to water, whether as rain, fog, or dew, will oxidize.  The surface will chemically alter to iron oxide, which is rust.  That is the foundation of the poem.  The flaw in the foundation is that she is looking at the process from only one point of view, that of the aesthete — the person looking for beauty.  Rust is beautiful to some people, those who overlook that it is also often harmful.  Any farmer knows that rusting machinery is slowly being destroyed from without.  Iron that rusts is iron changing, decaying.

It is upon this process of change and decay that the poet builds her conclusion, which comes in the the lines that follow:

Pain
Rusts into beauty too.
I know full well that this is so:
I had a heartbreak long ago. 

Davies tells us that just as iron (which seems hard and permanent and unyielding) rusts, similarly pain rusts into beauty.  Notice, however, that she did not actually tell us in the first part of the poem that iron rusts into beauty; she just assumes that everyone will hold that view, which is the aesthetic point of view but certainly not the universal view.  So we may say that her premise is flawed, and upon this premise she bases what is also the implied flawed conclusion:  that all pain rusts to beauty, and that is simply not true.

But how does she know that pain rusts to beauty?  She tells us it is because she had a heartbreak long ago.  What that heartbreak was she does not reveal, but we may assume (correctly or not) that it was unrequited love for a young man.  Over time she just remembers the beauty of her love and not the hours and days and weeks of tears and misery — the way an old woman looks back on the crushes of her schoolgirl days.

But there are many kinds of heartbreak, and time does not turn all of them to beauty; it merely dulls the memory, if one is fortunate.  There are some cases of heartbreak that never rust to beauty.  That is the fundamental flaw in this poem, a failing which makes us feel that the poet is using hyperbole — exaggeration — to make her case.  She is being “poetically selective.”

The poem is essentially a re-stating of the old saying, “Time heals all wounds.”  But there are some wounds that time never heals in this lifetime.  That is the whole truth that the partial truth of this poet is not revealing.  Because of that, we sense that she is not being entirely honest with us.  She does not tell us the whole truth in either her premise or in her conclusion.  Beauty is is in the eye of the beholder, and by no means all people see rust on iron as beautiful, nor does everyone’s pain transform into beauty.  

The poem leaves one feeling that the poet would have made a better case had she said it all differently — if she had noticed a particular instance of iron becoming beautiful through rusting — and that in a particular case of heartbreak, the pain corroded into beauty.  Instead, she has falsely generalized and has told us an untruth in the process.