A blog for the comprehensive understanding of Literature, Applied Linguistics and ELT

January 23, 2010

Wordsworth's Mysticism

William Wordsworth is an eminent mystic poet of the Romantic Age with an amazingly subtle mind and a deviant capacity for expressing personal beliefs and thoughts. Wordsworth was a true mystic. His mystical experiences are principally revealed in the context of his treatment of nature. Wordsworth never confined his verse within the vivid portrayal of the sights, sounds, odors, and movements of various elements of nature. He aimed at attaining something higher and divine and leaving behind a record of his mystical experiences in nature and human life in his poetry. So his poetry is not simply an artistic encapsulation of lovely and tranquil aspects of nature but also a comprehensive account of his mystical experiences.

Wordsworth's Mysticism

Wordsworth’s mysticism is remarkable for its meditative mood and pantheistic conception of nature. It is moulded by the belief that nature is a living being and the dwelling place of god. Nature is the means through which a man can come into contact with god. Wordsworth maintains that a divine spirit pervades through all the objects of nature. As a true pantheist he also says that all is God and God is all. Many of his poems can be studied with this contextual consideration. This perception is particularly reverberated in Tintern Abbey, where he says with great devotion:
“...And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something for more deeply infused,
Whose dwelling is the light of the setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:”
He finds the existence of god even in the mind of man. Wordsworth upholds that there is a pre-arranged harmony between the mind of man and the spirit in nature, which enables man to form a relationship or communication with nature. The relationship is materialised when the mind of man forms a kinship with the thoughts of nature. And it is this cordial and intellectual junction between man and nature that helped to shape his belief that nature has the power to teach and educate human beings. Man accomplishes perfection and practical knowledge through the education he receives from nature. He believes that the person who doesn’t receive education from nature is worthless and his life is unsuccessful. The poet considers nature as a bountiful source of knowledge. He also believes that nature is the nurse and the protector of the mankind. Nature’s benignity considers only the welfare of human beings. In his words, nature is:
“The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul.
Of all my moral being.”
In Wordsworthian belief, nature is capable of alleviating the tormented mind of man. The beautiful and frolicsome aspects of nature are an infinite source for healing power. The material life sometimes become so stark and painful that human beings loose the aspiration for living. When life becomes such unbearable then the sweet and affectionate contact with nature can easily drive away the cloud of cynicism from the mind of the viewer of nature. The noise and disturbance of the town or city life may make human life intolerable but even the recollections of nature in some lonely room can eliminate the burden of desolation, anxiety and suffocation:
“But oft, in lonely rooms, and ‘mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them
In hours of weariness, sensation sweet.
Felt in the blood and felt along the heart;
And passing even into the purer mind
With tranquil restoration...”
Wordsworth, like a true mystic, sees life in all objects of nature. According to him, every flower and cloud, every stream and hill, the stars and the birds that live in the midst of nature, has each their own life.

Wordsworth honours even the simplest and the most ordinary objects of nature and human life.  For him nothing is mean or low, since everything that is present in the universe is touched by divine life.

To conclude we ought to say that Wordsworth never looked at nature like the way we do. With great devotion and enthusiasm, he sought to read the profoundest meaning of human life in nature. In the way of doing so he forged himself as a great poet of nature with a true mystical vision.
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January 19, 2010

Phrase Structure Grammar

Phrase Structure Grammar (also known as PS Grammar) is a type of grammar discussed by Noam Chomsky in his book Syntactic structure (1957) as an illustration of a generative device. It is a component of his Transformational Grammar (also known as Transformational Generative Grammar). PS Grammar contains rules which are not only capable of showing the constituents/ terminal elements/components of a linear structure (sequential order of an ultimate constituent) but also of specifying the rules that help to bind the parts together to arrange the sequence. That means, in such grammar the linguists are basically interested:
  • in the constituent parts of a  sentence,
  • in the syntactic devices used to link the constituents together, and the ways in which various parts relate to each other.
Phrase Structure Grammar is different from the Immediate Constituent Analysis (also known as IC Analysis) of the earlier linguists. It is formalized by Noam Chomsky and other scholars as a system of generative rules. These rules are known as Phrase Structure Rules (also known as PS Rules, Constituent Structure Rules, Branching Rules). Generally Phrase Structure Grammar takes the form of a set of rules, such as the following:

S → NP+VP

NP → Determiner+N

VP → Verb+NP

The sentence “The man captured a bird” can be analysed in terms of the following PS rules and a tree diagram or phrase marker:

S → NP+VP

NP → Det+N

VP → V+NP

N → man, bird

Det → the, a


References

Varshney, Dr. R.L.  An Introduction of Linguistics & Phonetics. Dhaka: BOC, n.d.
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January 16, 2010

Quotations by Robert Frost

Frost, Robert (1874-1963), American poet


"I am not a nature poet. There is almost always a person in my poems."
~Robert Frost

"A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom."
~Robert Frost

"I'm against a homogenized society, because I want the cream to rise."
~Robert Frost

"Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your
~Robert Frost

"A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel."
~Robert Frost

"Happiness makes up in height for what it lacks in length."
~Robert Frost

"In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on."
~Robert Frost

"Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired."
~Robert Frost

The best way out is always through.
~Robert Frost

"The reason why worry kills more people than work is that more people worry than work."
~Robert Frost

"The brain is a wonderful organ. It starts working the moment you get up in the morning and does not stop until you get into the office."
~Robert Frost

"The world is full of willing people, some willing to work, the rest willing to let them."
~Robert Frost

"You can be a rank insider as well as a rank outsider."
~Robert Frost

"...Earth is the right place for love;
I don’t know where it likely to go better"
~Robert Frost, Birches

"There is a singer everyone has heard,
Loud, a mild-summer and mild-wood bird,
Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.
He says that leaves are old and that for flowers
Midsummer is to spring as one to ten."
~Robert Frost, The Oven Bird

"I never dared to be radical when young
For fear it would make me conservative when old."
~Robert Frost, 'Ten Mills,' A Further Range, 1936

"Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow."
~Robert Frost, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

"The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep."
~Robert Frost, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

"Most of the change we think we see in life is due to truths being in and out of favor."
~Robert Frost, The Black Cottage

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."
~Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

"There is much in nature against us. But we forget:
Take nature altogether since time began,
Including human nature, in peace and war,
And it must be a little more in favor of man,
Say a fraction of one percent at the very least,
Or our number living wouldn't be steadily more,
Our hold on the planet wouldn't have so increased"
~Frost, Our Hold on the Planet

‘Men work together,’ I told him from the heart,
‘Whether they work together or apart.’
~Frost, The Tuft of Flowers

'He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And likes having thought of it so well
He says again, ‘Good fences make good neighbors’
~Frost, Mending Wall

"Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in."
~Frost, The Death of the Hired Man

"Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired."
~Frost, After Apple-Picking

"From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire."
~Frost, Fire and Ice
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January 1, 2010

The Poetic Imagery of Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas is widely regarded as one of the 20th Century's most influential lyrical poets, and amongst the finest as such of all time. His acclaim is partly due to the force and vitality of his verbal imagery that is uniquely brilliant and inspirational. His vivid and often fantastic imagery was a rejection of the trends in the 20th Century poetics. While his contemporaries gradually altered their writing to serious topical verse, Thomas devoted himself to his passionately felt emotions. Thomas, in many ways, was more in alignment with the Romantics than he was with the poets of his era. He was considered the Shelley of the 20th century as his poems were the perfect embodiments of 'new-romanticism' with their violent natural imagery, sexual and Christian symbolism and emotional subject matter expressed in a singing rhythmical verse. His rich rhetoric and imagery gave his poetry a magical touch.

Poetic Imagery of Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas attached great importance to the use of imagery, and an understanding of his imagery is essential for an understanding of his poetry. Thomas' vivid imagery involved word play, fractured syntax, and personal symbolism. Thomas’ poetic imagery shows the use of a mixture of several techniques, the most prominent being the surrealistic, imagistic, and metaphysical. But the bible, his study of Shakespeare and other English poets also laid under contribution. Thomas as a resourceful "language-changer", like Shakespeare, Dickens, Hopkins and Joyce, shaped the English language into a richly original mélange of rhythm, imagery and literary allusion. Here follows a brief discussion on Dylan Thomas’ poetic imagery along with a critical inquiry into the major woks by this poet:

Nature Imagery

Dylan Thomas is especially renowned for his celebration of natural beauty. Some of his poems contain vivid and refreshing pictures of nature, even though he does not have any philosophy of nature to offer. The influence of the Romantic poets is seen in his recurrent vision of a pristine beauty in nature. Indeed, Thomas was a nature poet in the sense that much of his truest inspiration arose from a natural scene which he had observed long and lovingly. This is particularly seen in Poem in October. In this poem Thomas illustrates nature wonderfully alive with ordinary sights and sounds. In his thirtieth birthday when he comes out of the town, he finds the whole nature is greeting him. Thomas sees himself on his way to heaven or in the sight of heaven. The whole scene seems holy to him. He feels a complete harmony with nature. The wood seems to him to be his neighbor, the herons to be priests and the waves of the ocean rise high as if in honour and worship of their creator. The birds are calling and the gardens are blooming. In short, the poem encapsulates one of the most remarkable accounts of wonderful vivid nature pictures with a general atmosphere of joy.

Imagery of death

Death is a frequent theme in Dylan Thomas’ poetry, especially in the corpus of his mature work. Thomas employs different interesting and unorthodox images to present various aspects of death. In the poem Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night, for example, he emphasizes resistance towards death as he repeats this appeal in the last line in every stanza. Imagery is used by Thomas to create the theme of his poem and what it means. Although readers are unaware of the details behind the on coming death of Thomas’ father, the motives of the author for writing this poem are very obvious. In this Thomas is asking his father through pleading words to fight against the darkness that is taking over and leading him into the afterlife.

Initially, Thomas uses images of fury and fighting in the lines "do not go gentle", "good night" and "dying of the light" to emphasize the resistance towards death. With these images, Thomas conveys death as the end and where darkness prevails. He takes his stand within concrete, particular existence. He places birth and death at the poles of his vision. Excessive images of anger and rage towards death exemplify the passion Thomas feels for life.

Secondly, Thomas brings into action images of "burn" and "rave at close of day" to show and emphasize the resistance towards death. Contrasting images of light and darkness in the poem create warmth of living and the coldness of death, so as to discourage people from choosing the dreary, bitter coldness of death:
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
In addition, Thomas uses images of " wise men" and " grave men [who] have not used their blinding sight" to tell his dying father that all men either smart or ignorant need to fight against death. A man peacefully may prepare to die only when he has made his true contribution to society. Here Thomas shares an attitude towards death, which is very much similar to Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a snowy Evening:
The Woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Sexual Imagery

Sexual imagery is recurrent in Thomas’ poetry. He uses sexual imagery almost everywhere. The influence of the seventeenth-century metaphysical poets is often cited in connection with Thomas' unconventional religious imagery. Thomas speaks with directness and passion on the theme of sex quite similar to Donne. Thomas’ work shows the same fusing of sexual and religious imagery as it is seen in Donne’s poetry. In both poets there is an intense consciousness of death. Donne preached a sermon in his grave-clothes and Thomas’ poems show a similar fixation with the physical fact of death:
And I am dumb to tell the lover’s tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.

Imagery of Growth and Decay

The imagery of Destruction and creation are very much common in Thomas’ poetry. Like Thomas Hardy, he indicates a driving force of the universe, which both generates and destroys. Many of his poems can be studied in this contextual consideration. In The Force that through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower, for instance, he indicates that an invisible cosmic force is responsible for both creation and destruction. The process of life goes on because of the operation of this force. Again, this force is working in the animal, vegetable and human world. This is the force that destroys the roots of trees and also acts as the destroyer of the poet’s youth. The force is watering the ground and withering away the mountain spring. In the same way, the very worm, which is eating up the body of the dead lovers, will also eat up the poet when he is dead:
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.

Imagery of the Subconscious

During the 20th century Thomas was being hailed as the most spectacular of the surrealist poets, or poets who used fantastic imagery of the subconscious in their verse. And it cannot but be so in the age of Freud, Jung and Bergson. Dylan has uncanny insights into the processes of the mind, much more profound than that of any other poet. He penetrates deeper into the human soul than even Freud and his followers.

In his best works he captures psychological moods which have been rarely captured, especially those of childhood and adolescence. He himself matured early, and his early poetry is the poetry of an adolescent. In The Hunchback in the Park Thomas talks about a solitary hunchback who eats bread from a newspaper, drinks water from the chained cup of the fountain, and sleeps at night in a dog-kennel. These details about him show that he is a homeless outcast, not a normal member of society. He is doubly an outcast, because of his deformity and vagrancy, and therefore an object of mockery to the truant boys playing in the park.

Religious Imagery

Dylan Thomas’ interests were psychological but they were also religious. Indeed, God and Christ are rarely absent from his poems since he takes imagery largely from the Bible. For example, in the poem After the Funeral we see religious imagery when the poet regards the woods as a kind of chapel where a religious ceremony would be held in honour of his deceased Aunt. He visualises four birds who will fly over her, making the sign of the cross in order to bless her spirit. Again, in the poem A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London we have religious imagery like: “Zion of the water bead” and “the synagogue of the ear of corn”. The words “Zion” and “synagogue” provide a sacramental quality to enhance its religious appeal.
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