Break, Blow, Burn: Day Three

William Shakespeare: The Ghost's Speech

While undeniably poetic, with an amazing use of language, symbolism, and all, I guess this didn't have the same oomph to me as a standalone poem. It feels like part of something larger in a way the other works didn't. But I guess that could be a case of what the definition of a poem is, really.

Even in the description, Paglia refers to how certain lines fit into and fulfill ongoing themes within the play as a whole. But, moving past that point, it is very reminiscent of the last work we reviewed by Shakespeare, whereby you can read it through once and immediately understand everything being said. It's probably been so long since I've read Shakespeare, going back to my abandonment of higher education in my teens, that I've carried around ever since the false baggage of its dense wordplay and hard to decipher imagery.

That said, the stuff works on multiple levels, so even though a cursory read will reveal the story, delving in deeper shows the craftsmanship. Notably how so many of the overall play's themes are echoed in this small passage.

One reference by Paglia does seem to be a leap, one which I'm completely ready to take, but I just couldn't sign on. Regarding the use of stole in line 10 ("Upon my secure hour thy uncle stole"), Paglia says that Hamlet's father, sleeping at this point, is shown to be passive, and robbed of his potency. She writes, "The hushed sense of trespass gives the murder a homoerotic tinge, as if its violation of a hidden pocket of the body rehearses male-on-male rape." Now, I'm clearly rotting for the homoerotic, but a brother pouring poison into his sleeping brother's ear? I'm just not getting that vibe.

Although, this passage alone has put Hamlet on my future reading list.

John Donne: The Flea

Wow, what a delight. Who knew a poem about a flea biting two people could take on such erotic metaphor? A flea biting the poet, his fiancé, thus becoming in effect their child because it is now made of their combined blood. As well as a powerful question of sexual mores, because this flea was able to take blood from her before the man who loves her has caused her to bleed on their wedding night.

Fun stuff. Paglia described this as being from the Metaphysical school of British Poetry, as well as surrealist art and, although I don't know that I need a lot of this type of poetry in my future, this was definitely rewarding and engaging.

John Donne: Holy Sonnet I

Despite the spirituality noted in the title, it seems Donne has an interesting relationship with his God. His dying body in need of repair from God as he approaches his death. And despite his antagonistic relationship with his Savior, given the fact that the amount of sin in his body makes him think he is hell-bound, he still wants to be rescued.

Most notably is to think this came from the same author as the previous poem.

John Donne: Holy Sonnet XIV

It seems an odd turn of events that, on a site where people so often seek to integrate their sexuality and spirituality, we find strange precedence of a sexualized spirituality in this sonnet. Donne seems once again conflicted in his religion, although not questioning its essence.

This poem is the source of the phrase "Break, Burn, Blow," which is the title of Paglia's book.

As a teaser for those who have yet to join the discussion, Paglia, in the space of this 14-line poem finds sexual innuendo, "a paradox conflating erection with resurrection," a poet "playing with transsexual and homoerotic effects," and ends her essay interpreting the last line by stating "We will never be pure until we are abducted and raped by God." Whew.

Along these lines, my guess is Paglia is just getting started at this early stage of the book.


rainbowboi's picture

I like this one.

Ok, so I don't really have time to read the first two, but I have already read Holy Sonnet 14 in class so I kind of know about it. We really tore apart the few poems we read...I'll basically just regurgitate it.

The paradoxes are striking in this sonnet--he must be imprisoned to be free, won't be pure unless he's raped by god. It sounds as if he's surrendering himself to god, but at the same time he's saying how he is unable to let God in. THEN he says how he's married to the makes me wonder what Donne must have done to make himself feel so guilty.

I definitely don't see where Paglia is coming from with the whole homoerotic stuff, but then again, I didn't actually read her interpretation. Its another nice poem b/c it takes a little more time to figure out than Shakespeare's sonnet, but it's still not too hard (I obiously don't like exerting myself...).