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Notes from a poetry appreciation class [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2008-3-16 08:36:46 |Display all floors
I sat in a poetry appreciation class at an American university a few years ago. Here are the notes and handouts I would like to share with you.


The Jasmine Lightness of the Moon   
-- To A Solitary Disciple

by William Carlos Williams

Rather notice, mon cher,
that the moon is
tilted above
the point of the steeple
than that its color
is shell-pink.

Rather observe
that it is early morning
than that the sky
is smooth
as a turquoise.

Rather grasp
how the dark
converging lines
of the steeple
meet at a pinnacle—
perceive how
its little ornament
tries to stop them—

See how it fails!
See how the converging lines
of the hexagonal spire
escape upward—
receding, dividing!
—sepals
that guard and contain
the flower!

Observe
how motionless
the eaten moon
lies in the protective lines.
It is true:
in the light colors
of the morning

brown-stone and slate
shine orange and dark blue

But observe
the oppressive weight
of the squat edifice!
Observe
the jasmine lightness
of the moon.

[ Last edited by changzhou007 at 2008-3-18 12:21 PM ]
lines.jpg

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Post time 2008-3-16 08:39:46 |Display all floors

the sky / is smooth / as a turquoise

At first glance, this poem may not seem especially loaded with metaphors. There are some obvious cases - the eaten moon, the jasmine lightness, the lines as sepals of a flower. But, as we look closely, metaphors underlying our understanding of even the simplest lines appear. We need to look closely because some of them are such basic conceptual metaphors that we use them unconsciously and automatically, without effort, as part of our ordinary language.

Consider "the sky / is smooth / as a turquoise" How can something we see but not touch be smooth? How does smoothness apply to vision? There is a basic metaphor that Seeing Is Touching, where the eyes are understood as limbs that reach out and perceive what they touch, as in

Her eyes picked out every detail of the decorations in her new house.

He couldn't take his eyes off her beautiful figure.

She ran her eyes all over her boy friend's apartment.

She blushed when their eyes met.

His eyes traced the outline of his shining new car.

You see, when we run our fingers across something as smooth as a turquoise, nothing interrupts the continuous motion. Similarly, when we scan a perfectly empty, clear blue sky, there is nothing to stop our gaze, no clouds...The metaphor of Seeing Is Touching maps the smooth stone onto the uninterrupted, empty blue sky.

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Post time 2008-3-16 08:41:51 |Display all floors

how the dark / converging lines / of the steeple / meet at the pinnacle

Another line that might not at first be taken as metaphor is "how the dark / converging lines / of the steeple / meet at the pinnacle " The metaphor used here is that Form Is Motion, in which a form is understood in terms of the motion tracing the form. It is common to speak off lines "converging" or "meeting" as if they were moving. We say

The road runs up and down through the mountainous region.

The hiking trail stretches along the sea shore.

The fence dips and rises in parallel with the terrain.

The roof slopes down.

You see, those examples are based on a common way of understanding static shapes metaphorically in terms of a motion tracing that shape.

The words "converging" and "meet" in  "how the dark / converging lines / of the steeple / meet at the pinnacle " make use of the metaphor of Form Is Motion. What makes a steeple seem to "point upward" is that its lines appear to move in an upward direction, "meeting" at the point. When an object moves, of course, it has momentum and can exert a force on anything in its path.

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Post time 2008-3-16 09:04:03 |Display all floors
Let's move on to the next few lines of the poem.

"perceive how
its little ornament
tries to stop them—

See how it fails!
See how the converging lines
of the hexagonal spire
escape upward—
receding, dividing!"


There are two metaphorical events here. First, the linear forces converge on the ornament. Second, the ornament remains unmoved. At this point, another metaphor comes into play, the metaphor of Events Are Actions (performed by Agents or Actors). Both metaphorical events are thereby understood as actions. The lines are metaphorically in motion, and therefore they are agents/actors trying to escape, and the ornament is metaphorically an agent/actor trying to stop this motion.

The use of Form Is Motion to describe the lines converging and meeting  is fully conventional. It is the normal way to think and talk about such a geometric figure. Until the phrase "tries to stop them", we are instructed to see things only as we might normally see them. It is at this point that the poet instructs the disciple to see something he would not normally see: the lines not merely moving, but trying to escape, the ornament trying to stop them, and lines escaping successfully, and keep going and then "receding" and "dividing"

to be continued...

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Post time 2008-3-16 12:10:26 |Display all floors
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Yummy, it is my favorite snack item.

Thanks for uploading and sharing with us. I'll read them carefully.

[ Last edited by rainbow at 2008-3-16 12:19 PM ]
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Talk in English rather than talking about English.

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Post time 2008-3-16 12:40:13 |Display all floors
Originally posted by rainbow at 2008-3-16 12:10
.
.
Yummy, it is my favorite snack item.
Thanks for uploading and sharing with us. I'll read them carefully.


Are the dishes too spicy?

Form Is Motion is so commonplace in English that people talk and think about it everyday, even don't notice it, like we say

The mountain rises to an altitude of four thousand meters.

The road dips just ahead.

The trees along the coast tilt landward.

The new freeway encircles the entire city.

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Post time 2008-3-16 12:41:21 |Display all floors
"—sepals
that guard and contain
the flower!"


As the ornament fails to stop the lines from escaping, which continue to go upward to hold the moon, like sepals holding and guarding their flower. Here, the image of the flower is mapped onto the image of the moon, with the sepals - the outer green cover that contains the bud and that holds the petals - (sepals) are mapped onto the lines that have escaped from the steeple.

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