One of Brooks’s big arguments in The Well Wrought Urn is that you can’t summarize (or paraphrase) a poem and retain its meaning. The poem says something. Book Source: Digital Library of India Item : Cleanth ioned. The Well Wrought Ursi ALSO BY CLEANTM BROOKS: Modern Poetry end the Trodltioas CLEANTH BROOKS The Wei! Wrought Urn STUDIES IN THE.

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The realized past has become as fabu- lous as the unrealizable future. But he could never be put cpeanth, say, Hamlet or Othello, in nobility of nature; and there is an aspect in which he is but a poor, vain, cruel, treacherous creature, snatching ruthlessly over the dead bodies of kinsman and Mend at place and power he is utterly unfitted to possess. After all, the poem begins on a note of paradox, though a mild one: The contest is godlike, after all, because it is raised above the dust and turmoil of real issues.

Ostensibly, this second stanza simply goes on to de- fine further the nature of the thing lost: The scene is reduced and the characters become small and manageable figures whose actions can always be plotted against a larger background. The poet is certainly entitled, if he chooses, vrooks let it go at that. The alleged burlesque is justified by Tillyard on what are really extrapoetic grounds: He claims that Wordsworth and Tennyson frequently wrote better i.

After all, if the rude Forefathers of the village could not choose, since Knowledge did not unroll her ample page to them, he at least can choose.

The Heresy of Paraphrase. Its structural signifi- cance too is of first importance, and has perhaps in the past been given too little weight.

The Well Wrought Urn

Is the poem theistic or pantheistic? It may be a mountain town, or a river town, or a tiny seaport.

Even the extravagancies on which the poet has looked sardonically are rooted finally in something so deep that it can be found in the country churchyard too: Perhaps this is to overload an otherwise innocent phrase. In Stanza IX when the poet pays his debt of gratitude to the childhood vision he actually asso- ciates it with blindness and darkness: Like Gods they fight, nor dread a mortal Wound. Loosely or tightly organized?


One remembers, for exam- ple, from Venus and Adonis: The days that are no more are as dear as the one, as sweet as the other, the speaker says; and it does not matter whether we compare them to the one or to the other or to both: With Stanza III the emphasis is shifted from sight to sound.

No mirth can, indeed, be found in his melancholy; but I am afraid that I always meet some melancholy in his mirth. Pope does this very skillfully, but with great emphasis: Perhaps I should say, more accurately, adopting the metaphor of the poem itself, we descend to a depth where the distinction lapses.

In trying to make the child forget the unearthly or super- natural glory, the Earth is acting out of kindness. Attended to with care, it is a statement which is preposterous, and yet true— true on the same level on which the original metaphor of tiie speaking um is true. I hasten to add that this sense of a somewhat frenetically whipped-up enthusiasm is dramatic- ally quite appropriate. The speaker, a living man, in attempting to indicate how sad and strange to him are the days of the past, says that they are as sad and strange as is the natural activity of the awakening world to the man who is dying: Middleton Murry is right: The fact that the fields are autumn-fields which, though happy, point back to something which is over— which is finished— does connect them with the past and therefore properly suggests to the observer thoughts about that past.

Yeats for permission to reproduce this poem.

This book does not claim to how that resuscitation is to be effected. Reality and unreality, learning and forgetting, iron- ically change places. There is a further difficulty in the symbol- ism: But what does the poem do with the theme— specifically: It is part of a context, and a very rich context.


The unique contribution of The Well Wrought Urn is that it combines the close reading analysis of the previous volumes while answering some of the criticism directed at Brooks’s theory. But I do not mean to desert altogether the line of development of the poem. Image here is a betraying and unsatisfactory word; it suggests that these images, with which all that we can know is composed, are in some way insubstantial or unreal, mere copies of actualities other than themselves— figments.

But if the poem thus far has tended to contrast the country churchyard and the abbey tombs, with the twentieth stanza the two are drawn together once more. Fretted by sallies of his mothers kisses, With light upon him from his fathers eyes! It is the sylphs, the sylphs with their interest in fashion notes and their knowledge of the feminine heart: O well for the sailor lad.

Of some of these paradoxes, Wordsworth himself must obviously have been aware; but he was probably not aware, the reader will con- jecture, of the extent to which he was employing paradox.

How large that background is has not always been noticed. It is only thus that we can accept the culminating paradox of O Death in Life, the days that are no more.

Full text of “The Well Wrought Urn Cleanth Brooks”

Wgought the pathos is not ad- ventitious; the scene ties into the inner symbolism of the play. I do not mean to say that the general drift of the poem does not come through.

History Withsat Fastnetos facts. It gives her her retinue of airy guardians. One must be able to move along, unhurried and undetained, or the spell is broken.

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