of "People Leave Each Other in Poetry"
Mr. Siegel looked
next at songs having to do with people leaving each other from the plays
of William Shakespeare. He read this from Much Ado about Nothing:
"This belongs to the
sooner said than done [category]," said Mr. Siegel, "but it's good."
The reason for the definite, permanent melody," he explained, is that "vowels
don't have the obstruction consonants have." He explained that the
wide vowel sounds--"i" "o" and "e"--of the first line--"Sigh no more, ladies,
sigh no more" -- are very deep and can convey pain. At the same time, the
line is, he said, "one of the most melodious in the language."
Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more;
Men were deceivers
One foot in sea, and one on shore;
To one thing constant
Then sigh not so,
But let them go,
And be you blithe
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into, hey nonny,
We then heard a song from As You Like It,
Mr. Siegel said was "not about a man and woman" but about ingratitude:
Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;
And later there are these lines:
Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
Thou dost not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remembered not.
learned, hated ingratitude. Of "Freeze, freeze, thou bitter
sky," Mr. Siegel said, "The grandeur of this line is its sharpness and
wideness at the same time. There is a comparison between what a cold
sky can do and ingratitude can do--a person not remembering"--and Shakespeare
says the second is worse. Ingratitude is a form of leaving by a person,
putting aside the meaning of what someone has done for you.
The last poem Mr.
Siegel read was John Dryden's "The Secular Masque," written in 1700.
It describes the leaving of an entire century and addresses the 1600s,
saying: I'm glad you're leaving, you were no good! All the things you chased
after were corrupt, all your wars were useless, all your lovers untrue.
Dryden says the 17th century was:
All, all of a piece throughout!
Thy chase had a beast in view.
Thy wars brought nothing about;
Thy lovers were all untrue.
'Tis well an old age is out.
And time to begin a new.
"We can feel things
have deceived us," said Mr. Siegel. This "is a saying the 17th century
was essentially a failure and deceived one--it promised something and didn't
deliver the goods." The poem is angry, but it has dignity.
Mr. Siegel described this as "one of the mighty stanzas," of English poetry.
"It is stately and it is lyrical" he said. "The implication is: in
a century things were looked for, and they didn't happen."
Eli Siegel provided
what persons in the centuries have looked for--the means of understanding
ourselves and the world. As this lecture showed, that understanding
is in his statement, "All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the
making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves."
return to beginning of "People Leave Each Other in Poetry"
Chapter 7, Love and Reality
Self and World: An Explanation of Aesthetic Realism by Eli Siegel