Aesthetic Realism Class in Poetry by Eli Siegel

Logo Lynette Abel, Aesthetic Realism Associate
Articles about current issues explained by Aesthetic Realism
Aesthetic Realism Seminars
Reports of Aesthetic Realism classes taught by Eli Siegel
The aesthetic relation of art and life, described by Aesthetic Realism
Links about Aesthetic Realism and related resources

Lynette Abel


Conclusion 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:

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more; 
     Men were deceivers ever; 
One foot in sea, and one on shore; 
     To one thing constant never: 
           Then sigh not so, 
           But let them go, 
     And be you blithe and bonny; 
Converting all your sounds of woe 
     Into, hey nonny, nonny.
     "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." 

We then heard a song from As You Like It, which 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.
     Shakespeare, I  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." 

To return to beginning of "People Leave Each Other in Poetry"

Resource: See Chapter 7, Love and Reality 
from Self and World: An Explanation of Aesthetic Realism by Eli Siegel