Victorian Poetry We May Know Term Paper

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[. . .] stonehill.edu/geverett/rb/praxed.htm, lines 16-19).

There is also in this poem a strong insistence on the importance of the appearance of things - not simply in terms of the social status that they might bring, but simply for their beauty. For all their straight-laced and repressed qualities in matters of sexuality, the Victorians were sensualists. (One might well posit a psychological connection between the two: Told by society that they should not enjoy sex, the Victorians redirected the human desire for pleasure into rich foods, rich fabrics, beautiful art.)

The bishop spends much of his ruminations discussing the aesthetics of his tomb. In part, these are the calculations of a man determined to outdo his rivals even in death. But in part we have a real sense of the bishop's love of the beautiful materials that he is contemplating (lines 53 to 58);

Did I say basalt for my slab, sons? Black

'Twas ever antique-black I meant! How else

Shall ye contrast my frieze to come beneath?

The bas-relief in bronze ye promised me,

Those Pans and Nymphs ye wot of, and perchance

Some tripod, thyrsus, with a vase or so (http://faculty.stonehill.edu/geverett/rb/praxed.htm).

The Victorians were not a little obsessed with death; they were also not a little obsessed with feminine beauty and sexuality - and Victorian men were also not a little frightened of it. In Rossetti's "Jenny" we see the speaker admiring a sleeping woman, who is both sexual yet also made safe both by her obviously lower social standing and by the fact that she is asleep. Rossetti revised this poem a number of times - from 1847 to 1870 - trying to strike a balance between Victorian sensibilities and what we assume to be his own desires.

All versions are dramatic monologues in which the speaker addresses a dozing harlot in her rooms, but unlike "The Portrait," the later version of "Jenny" draws more, not less, attention to the dramatic setting -- not surprisingly, since Rossetti feared moral censure of the poem and wanted to make sure that the compromised speaker was not understood to be himself. Nevertheless, as with "the Portrait,' the revisions do emphasize the origin of the speaker's thoughts in experience, since the experience itself is more fully developed, with additional details about Jenny's room and about the speaker's character (http://www.scholars.nus.edu.sg/landow/victorian/authors/dgr/dgrseti2.html).

There is throughout this poem a lingering on the part of the narrator on the sensuousness (far more than the sexuality) of this world and this woman and on the distance between life defined by pleasure and the life of a proper Victorian:

This room of yours, my Jenny, looks

A change from mine so full of books,

Whose serried ranks hold fast, forsooth,

So many captive hours of youth,

The hours they thieve from day and night

To make one's cherished work come right (http://www.english.uwosh.edu/roth/Jenny.htm).

The contrast is not simply that, however, of the upright and virtuous life against the scandalous and criminal one (for Rossetti makes it clear in the opening lines that Jenny is a prostitute) but that between male and female worlds. Life for the Victorians was divided into strictly separated spheres: The worlds of men and women touching upon each other barely more than the worlds of life and death. This poem is in part an expression of regret at this latter divide:

But most from the hatefulness of man

Who spares not to end what he began,

Whose acts are ill and his speech ill,

Who, having used you at his will,

Thrusts you aside, as when I dine

I serve the dishes and the wine (http://www.english.uwosh.edu/roth/Jenny.htm).

But while the bishop regrets that he cannot live to defend his position and Rossetti's observer regrets his distance from Jenny, both know - both being Victorians - that people must do their duty, and follow their appointed paths.

Works Cited

http://faculty.stonehill.edu/geverett/rb/praxed.htm

http://www.english.uwosh.edu/roth/Jenny.htm

http://www.scholars.nus.edu.sg/landow/victorian/authors/dgr/dgrseti2.html [END OF PREVIEW]

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