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Green Thoughts, Green Shades

Green Thoughts, Green Shades: Essays by Contemporary Poets on the Early Modern Lyric

Edited by Jonathan F.S. Post
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 314
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  • Book Info
    Green Thoughts, Green Shades
    Book Description:

    Green Thoughts, Green Shadesis a strikingly original book, the first and only of its kind. Edited and introduced by noted seventeenth-century scholar Jonathan Post, it enlists the analytic and verbal power of some of today's most celebrated poets to illuminate from the inside out a number of the greatest lyric poets writing in English during the sixteenth and seventeenth century. Written by people who spend much of their time thinking in verse and about verse, these original essays herald the return of the early modern lyric as crucial to understanding the present moment of poetry in the United States. This work provides fascinating insights into what today's poets find of special interest in their forebears. In addition, these discussions shed light on the contributors' own poetry and offer compelling clues to how the poetry of the past continues to inform that of the present.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93571-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-2)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Green Thoughts, Green Shades
    (pp. 3-16)

    Green thoughts, green shadesis a book of original essays about lyric poetry written in English during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. What differentiates it from other recent collections concerned with the early modern period—to adopt momentarily the period nomenclature currently in use among historicist scholars—is the simple fact that all the essays printed here are written by practicing poets, by people who spend much of their lives thinking in verse and about verse. All the contributors are or have been distinguished teachers of poetry, often in workshop settings, sometimes in lecture halls at their schools and around...

  5. ONE The Face of the Sonnet: Wyatt and Some Early Features of the Tradition
    (pp. 17-40)

    In john ashbery’s “grand galop” the speaker listens back across more than four hundred years to what he goes on to call “that still-moist garden where the tooting originates.”¹

    It drifts away in fragments.

    And one is left sitting in the yard

    To try to write poetry

    Using what Wyatt and Surrey left around,

    Took up and put down again

    Like so much gorgeous raw material.²

    Green sounds? Herbage of pre-Elizabethan songs and sonnets drifting through late-twentieth-century New York? And who is this ever-later, still-prospective poet? Ashbery’s impersonal pronoun conjuresonewhose language, ifonesucceeds, will not beone’s...

  6. TWO Sidney and the Sestina
    (pp. 41-58)

    Among the many charms of the fourteenth edition of theEncyclopædia Britannica,few can match the pleasure of pure surprise elicited by the bold, unequivocal assertion: “The earliest sestina in English was published in 1877 by Edmund Gosse.”¹ InThe Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia(1593) Sir Philip Sidney, usually credited with being the first to employ the form in English, introduces three sestinas, each distinctly different from the others. The first, beginning “Since wailing is a bud of causefull sorowe,” is formally the most conventional, disposing its terminal words according to what have become orthodox permutations.² Invention of this established...

  7. THREE Naked Numbers: A Curve from Wyatt to Rochester
    (pp. 59-85)

    Covers are about books. But when you find books about covers, well, then you have wandered into a paradoxer’s paradise, a place where a sensualist’s eye might at any moment be turned on its own holdings, a literalist’s eye on the unsettled literary premises themselves, and an analyst’s eye on content’s uncontainability. In such regards the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in English poetry resemble our own era. Materialists, students of sensation, these poets knew how to redden a reader, inflame a page.

    Cover: the wild beast hides his hide under it, fills his belly with it. The cover he consumes...

  8. FOUR Ben Jonson and the Loathèd Word
    (pp. 86-108)

    “The profit ofgrammar,” wrote Ben Jonson in his preface toThe English Grammar,“is great to Strangers, who are to live in communion, and commerce with us; and, it is honourable to our selves. For, by it we communicate all our labours, studies, profits, without an Interpreter.”¹ Jonson’s dream of a language impervious to interpretation was at the heart of a lifelong and notorious quarrel with the stage.² With the exception, in our own era, of Samuel Beckett,³ one can scarcely think of a playwright of comparable stature so driven by animus toward the very essence—the collaborative essence—...

  9. FIVE Donne’s Sovereignty
    (pp. 109-135)

    I have the sunset over a rocky peak on my writing table. No, it’s just a red-and-golden dahlia in a black stone vase. No, it’s a sunset, if that’s what the imagination says it is. All right, it’s both.

    Poetry is the genre that will have such things both ways. The metaphysical poets of the seventeenth century took this as their unwritten gospel. They indulged metaphor, if with a classical lucidity. They whistled it down to the seed in their hand. What seed? Metaphysics. The inside. The invisible. Come and eat, imaginary concretenesses, or how will we know if the...

  10. SIX Anomaly, Conundrum, Thy-Will-Be-Done: On the Poetry of George Herbert
    (pp. 136-159)

    The Temple,comprising essentially all of Herbert’s poems, seems increasingly a private record, even as the prose workThe Country Parsonwas intended—for himself as much as for others—to be a publicly available instructional work: “a complete pastoral,” as Herbert puts it in his note to the reader.¹ In the prose we are told that the parson “condescends to human frailties both in himself and others” (chap. 27) and that

    the parson, having studied and mastered all his lusts and affections within, and the whole army of temptations without, hath ever so many sermons ready penned, as he...

  11. SEVEN Milton in the Modern: The Invention of Personality
    (pp. 160-175)

    What if we knew, to its determining hour, when Milton wrote each of his sonnets? He can’t have meant, in the ripeness or rottenness of their conception, for them to appear together, the way they do as specimen days in some collections. Yet he published them together himself, gaggled like geese in both 1645 and 1673, omitting only those the mercurial temper of politics rendered inopportune. Gathered together, yet rendered apart—Milton’s two dozen sonnets vary within and without, divided from each other and from the tradition. The sonnets are a peculiar instance, a peculiarly conflicted instance, where tradition proposes...

  12. EIGHT Finding Anne Bradstreet
    (pp. 176-190)

    This is a piece about anne bradstreet. But there is another subject here as well. Its nature? For want of an exact definition, it is subject matter itself: that bridge of whispers and sighs over which one poet has to travel to reach another, out of which is formed the text and context of a predecessor. That journey into the past—not just Anne Bradstreet’s but my own—is the substance of this essay.

    I have always been fascinated by the way poets of one time construct the poets of a previous one. It can be an invisible act, arranged...

  13. NINE Unordinary Passions: Margaret Cavendish, the Duchess of Newcastle
    (pp. 191-219)

    I’ve been a poet for twenty-three years, and I don’t cry easily. I’ve seen poetry at home in its inky T-shirt and at large in its designer dress. I’ve done time in poetry boot camp and at the top of Parnassus. I’ve joined workshops held in funeral parlors and delegations to the People’s Republic of China. I’ve raised consciousness, figuratively, in the presence of famous feminist poets and lost consciousness, literally, in the presence of renowned romantic poets. I’ve been dressed down by colleagues with thought disorders; I’ve received an honorary doctorate. I’ve awoken in the artist colony to find...

  14. TEN “How coy a Figure”: Marvelry
    (pp. 220-241)

    Because i sense that this meditation might now and again veer into rarefaction, I want to stress its roots in the mundane. The quotidian, which is my turf. Although I now live near and sometimes walk across the intersection of Hollywood and Vine, many years ago, like a lot of Angelenos, I grew up in Kansas, enamored ofLost HorizonandThe Wizard of Ozand other flights of fancy, and aspired to writing up different climes myself. Butplus ça change,and after all these decades and all these miles, I’m still plodding on, midwestern pedestrian as ever, even...

  15. ELEVEN Saint John the Rake: Rochester’s Poetry
    (pp. 242-256)

    I discovered rochester with wonder and delight when I was in my teens, with the 1948 British publication of Ronald Duncan’s selection, hardly a scholarly edition but a good starting point, with a stringently Poundian introduction. It contained some poems no longer attributed to Rochester, but they were in a vigorous style equal to his median work. It also contained “The Imperfect Enjoyment,” which only five years later V. de Sola Pinto was constrained to omit by the publishers of his Muses’ Library edition “owing to the risk of prosecution in this country [Britain] under the existing laws” (xlix). Things...

  16. TWELVE Edward Taylor: What Was He Up To?
    (pp. 257-288)

    Edward taylor’s poems—I think the story is by now well known—were discovered in a bound manuscript book in Yale University Library in the middle of the 1930s by a scholar named Thomas Johnson. Taylor had died in the village of Westfield, Massachusetts, in the summer of 1729. His tombstone said he was eighty-seven years old. He had arrived in the Massachusetts colony sixty-one years before, in 1668, when the entire English settlement in the New England forests consisted of something between twenty and thirty thousand souls and the village of Westfield not much more than a hundred. Johnson...

    (pp. 289-292)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 293-300)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 301-301)