- After reading the lecture, answer one of the main questions, which will appear in bold type. This question is due no later than Thursday, February 8. Following that will be other questions, in black, which you should read and think about--they may help you answer the main question. However, you are not required to answer these questions in writing.
- Your responses to other students' answers are due by midnight on Sunday, Feb 11. Remember: in order to get the full 20 points, you MUST respond thoughtfully to at least 3 or 4 other people's postings. This set of discussion questions is worth a possible 20 points.
- Late answers and responses receive 0 points, so post early :)
We will be using the Canvas Discussion Board for this class. Click on the link below to get to the Canvas portal, sign in, and then click on the box for this class. You will find the "Discussions" link on the left side of the screen:
Some critics feel that the Songs of Innocence are better crafted poetry than the Songs of Experience, because the satire in them is more subtle and thus more powerful than the outright anger in the Songs of Experience. Based on the poems we read, do you agree?
- In "The Chimney Sweeper" (Innocence), how does Blake evoke sympathy for the little chimney sweeper at the beginning of the poem?
- How does he increase your sympathy, both for the speaker and for Tom Dacre, in the second stanza?
- Why does Blake choose to end the third stanza with a reference to coffins? Why not include the Angel with the key in that stanza?
- How are the coffins symbolic in the poem?
- How are black and white used in the poem?
- How does the ending of the poem evoke even more sympathy for the chimney sweeps?
- What point(s) is Blake trying to make in this poem?
- In "Holy Thursday" (Innocence), how does Blake contrast the children and the adults in charge of them?
- What sort of imagery does he use to portray the innocence of the children?
- How is color used symbolically in this poem?
- What point is being made in the last line of the poem?
- In these poems, how does the singsong meter contribute to the satire?
- Why does Blake begin "Holy Thursday (Experience) with questions, instead of statements?
- In the second stanza, Blake refers to a "song"; who is singing?
- In the third stanza, Blake uses quite a bit of imagery, but very little specific detail about the daily lives of the poor children; why?
- What is the tone of the last stanza?
- Look at the meter of the poem; how does it compare to the meter of the Innocence "Holy Thursday"?
- How does Blake use color in "The Chimney Sweeper" (Experience)?
- The child in the Innocence version of the poem cries "'weep! 'weep! 'weep!" too; is that line used the same way in both poems?
- What is the tone of the last stanza of the poem?
- In general, what is Blake's attitude toward organized religion, as it is revealed in these poems?
1. Some critics have argued that Wordsworth unrealistically idealizes childhood. Based on "Tintern Abbey" and "Ode: Intimations of Immortality," do you agree?
2. Critics disagree about the message of "Ode: Intimations of Immortality." Dean Sperry sees it as "Wordsworth's conscious farewell to his art, a dirge sung over his departing powers." Lionel Trilling disagrees; he believes that Wordsworth, who was 32, and a month away from his marriage to Mary Hutchinson in April 1802, when the poem was written, was in an optimistic mood. Trilling sees the poem as a dedication to new powers, about the value of felicity and order which nurtures vision and wisdom. What is your opinion on this issue?
Note: "Tintern Abbey" was composed at the end of a happy trip through Wales with Dorothy. "No poem of mine was composed under circumstances more pleasant for me to remember than this." He composed it, he says, in his head, recited it aloud, and wrote it down when he got to Bristol.
- The form of the poem is basically blank verse; but the rhythms are unpredictable. Why would Wordsworth choose to make the meter irregular in places?
- What tension or conflict is the speaker exploring in the poem?
- What specific ideas are opposed or contrasted in the poem?
- Does Wordsworth use contrast and opposition in the same way that Blake does?
- What role does Nature play in this poem? How is it a catalyst for the poet? How does it serve to heighten contrasts or teach lessons? What role does it play in evoking ideas and insights?
- What does the speaker feel he has lost as he has grown past childhood? What does he feel he has gained?
- At the end of the poem, he invokes Dorothy, his sister; why does he mention her? How does she serve as both a real, concrete person and as a metaphor?
Note: "Ode: Intimations on Immortality" was composed in two phases. The first four stanzas were written during Wordsworth's time at Grasmere, in March 1802, and the rest was written in March 1804. In an 1815 letter to Catherine Cookson, Wordsworth says that the "Immortality" ode "rests entirely upon two recollections of childhood, one that of a splendour in the objects of sense which is passed away, and the other an indisposition to bend to the law of death as applying to our particular case." In other words, like most of us, Wordsworth couldn't imagine himself ever dying, even though he knew, rationally, that it happens to everyone.
The "Immortality" ode inspired Coleridge's "Dejection: An Ode." It's interesting, if you have the time, to read both poems together and see how differently the two authors treated the same subject.
- Is the tone of the "Immortality" ode different from the tone in "Tintern Abbey"? If so, how?
- What oppositions or conflicts appear in the poem? How does the speaker set up those oppositions? Are they ever resolved?
- The poem is written as an irregular Pindaric ode; why are the meter and rhyme scheme so irregular? How does that lack of "neatness" complement the content of the poem?
- What role does Nature play in this poem?
- Some critics feel that the poem is complete after stanza 10, and that stanza 11 is unnecessary. Do you agree? If so, why? If not, what do you think it contributes to the poem?
1. In what ways do the Ancient Mariner and his journey in "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" serve as a metaphor for any poet and the writing process?
2. Coleridge calls "Kubla Khan" a fragment; do you think it is really unfinished, or is Coleridge deliberately misleading the reader? Explain.
- What "Gothic" elements do you find in "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"? (I.e., how are magic and horror mixed in the story the Mariner tells?)
- How do the natural and the supernatural overlap in the story?
- In a letter to his brother George, written in March 1798, Coleridge wrote, "I believe most steadfastly in original sin; that from our mothers' wombs our understandings are darkened; and even where our understandings are in the light, that our organization is depraved, and our volitions imperfect, and we sometimes see the good without wishing to attain it, and oftener wish it without the energy that wills and performs." Do you see this point of view in the poem?
- The Mariner never seems to give a reason for killing the bird; why do you think he did it?
- How is the Albatross, and the Mariner's killing of it, symbolic?
- How is the color "white" symbolic in the poem?
- What is the symbolic implication of the fact that the Mariner wears the Albatross around his neck?
- What is the symbolic significance of the fact that the Mariner is doomed to wander forever, telling and retelling his tale?
- What is the symbolic significance of the fact that he tells the tale to a wedding guest?
- Coleridge uses the traditional ballad form in this poem, but includes some irregularities in its rhyme and meter; how does this form complement the message and content of the poem?
- How does Coleridge's use of similes enhance the drama of the story?
Note: The last lines of "Kubla Khan" allude to Shakespeare's play, A Midsummer Night's Dream, specifically to the passage Dorothy Wordsworth had used to describe her first sight of Coleridge:
The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The form of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
- "Kubla Khan" is written mostly in lines of 4 stressed syllables, although the meter is irregular, as is its rhyme pattern. How does the form of the poem complement its content?
- The poem does not seem to tell a story or follow a logical progression. Does it have a logic of any sort which orders or shapes it?
- In "Kubla Khan," Coleridge uses a lot of repetition; why?
- What role does Nature play in the poem?
- The poem is full of allusions to travel literature of the time, and also alludes to the Book of Revelation. How do those allusions contribute to the content or message of the poem?
- Most of the descriptions of the landscape in the poem are inspired by the area between Coleridge's cottage and the Somerset coast. He merges the actual English landscape with exotic locations described in books. Why does he choose to merge the real and the imaginary?
- Many critics see this poem as a metaphor for artistic creation, as a vision of the inspired poet. What elements and lines allow them to interpret the poem in this way?
- How are opposites and contraries used in the poem?
- In "Frost at Midnight," Coleridge does not use the supernatural in nearly as dramatic a way as in his demonic poems; but how does he imbue the physical objects around him with a sense of the mysterious?
- How does Nature influence memory in the poem?