[Milton-L] Fwd: Poetry Daily's Poet's Pick April 12, 2007

Nancy Charlton pluscachange at comcast.net
Thu Apr 12 12:08:34 EDT 2007

Hello all --

Poetry Daily has a special feature during April 
every year: poets choosing and commenting upon 
favorite poems. I thought you might enjoy today's 
offering, as it has more than a little to say 
about Milton, and for me at least was a 
delightful rediscovery of a poem I hadn't thought 
much about. I think my own last encounter with 
"On a Drop of Dew" involved some kind of 
comparison to convex mirrors in Mannerist 
paintings, something that doesn't hit home very 
hard emotionally. But today it gets magneted to 
my refrigerator to be contemplated and memorized!

Nancy Charlton

P.S. A visit to the Poetry Daily web site is a 
daily treat for me, and it is awesome to find 
hundreds of people writing excellent poetry in an 
era which seems to limite itself to hip-hop and Hallmark.

>X-Originating-IP: []
>Date: Thu, 12 Apr 2007 06:00:00 -0700
>Subject: Poetry Daily's Poet's Pick April 12, 2007
>To: "pluscachange at comcast.net" <pluscachange at comcast.net>
>From: "Poetry Daily" <staff at poems.com>
>Reply-To: staff at poems.com
>Poet's Pick April 12
>Andrew Marvell: "On a Drop of Dew"
>Selected by J. Allyn Rosser
>National Poetry Month 2007
>Letter from the Editors
>Dear Readers,
>Our thanks to J. Allyn Rosser for today's special Poet's Pick!
>We are bringing you a special poem each weekday 
>in April as part of our annual fund-raising 
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>Thank you so much for your support! Enjoy today's special poem!
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>J. Allyn Rosser's Poetry Month Pick, April 12, 2007
>"On a Drop of Dew"
>by Andrew Marvell (1621-1678)
>     See how the orient dew,
>   Shed from the Bosom of the Morn
>     Into the blowing roses,
>   Yet careless of its mansion new;
>   For the clear region where 'twas born
>     Round in itself incloses;
>   And in its little globe's extent,
>Frames as it can its native element.
>   How it the purple flower does slight,
>      Scarce touching where it lies,
>   But gazing back upon the skies,
>     Shines with a mournful light;
>        Like its own tear,
>Because so long divided from the sphere.
>   Restless it rolls and unsecure,
>     Trembling lest it grow impure,
>   Till the warm sun pity its pain,
>And to the skies exhale it back again.
>      So the soul, that drop, that ray
>Of the clear fountain of eternal day,
>Could it within the human flower be seen,
>   Remembering still its former height,
>   Shuns the sweet leaves and blossoms green;
>   And, recollecting its own light,
>Does, in its pure and circling thoughts, express
>The greater heaven in an heaven less.
>     In how coy a figure wound,
>     Every way it turns away:
>     So the world excluding round,
>     Yet receiving in the day.
>     Dark beneath, but bright above:
>     Here disdaining, there in love.
>   How loose and easy hence to go,
>   How girt and ready to ascend;
>   Moving but on a point below,
>   It all about does upward bend.
>Such did the manna's sacred dew distill;
>White, and entire, though congealed and chill.
>Congealed on earth: but does, dissolving, run
>Into the glories of th'almighty sun.
>  J. Allyn Rosser Comments:
>Andrew Marvell was, among other things, a friend 
>to Milton as well as his immediate successor in 
>the post of Latin Secretary to the Council of 
>State. For some 20 years Marvell served as both 
>satirist and statesman­a risky combination. 
>Interceding in Milton's behalf after Cromwell's 
>death and Charles II's reinstatement in 1660, he 
>proved instrumental in saving Milton's neck. 
>Forget paradise­without Marvell, even Paradise 
>Lost might have been lost. Marvell's significant 
>contribution, though quantitatively scanty, to 
>the art of lyric poetry remained unrecognized 
>for nearly two centuries after his death, though 
>he did catch the attention of Lamb and Hazlitt 
>in the early nineteenth century. His reputation 
>was more firmly established when T.S. Eliot 
>praised him for a quality he could not find a 
>word for ("wit" seemed too limiting) but which 
>Eliot deemed "precious and needed and practically extinct."
>"On a Drop of Dew" is a poem of stunning 
>ingenuity and grace. I love the aptness of its 
>central metaphor and the easy elegance of its 
>elaboration; the natural logical progression; 
>the exquisite symmetries and perfect proportions 
>both technically and contentually; and the 
>lightness of tone set against serious subject matter.
>Marvell's image of that dewdrop beading up on a 
>rose petal, a drop whose surface tension makes 
>it seem to flex with all its might away from 
>contact with the flower, is arresting all by 
>itself. The dewdrop's efforts to keep from so 
>much as touching the rose (our most perfect 
>emblem of earthly beauty and transience­though 
>dew itself is even more transient) is not just 
>heard but experienced in the alliterative and 
>open vowels of the line, "It all about does 
>upward bend."  The near-grunting quality of the 
>line simulates the dewdrop's straining to 
>preserve its hermetically global state, 
>rejecting any committed adherence (it "rolls" 
>and is "unsecure") to the rose. The following 
>line's four successive unstressed syllables in 
>"Moving but on a point below" practically tiptoe 
>over that point­the prosody won’t touch down 
>until it absolutely must. The syntax also 
>demonstrates the drop's unwillingness to do 
>anything but gird itself defensively, in the way 
>the poem's first thought spirals toward 
>completion: "See how the orient dew... Frames... 
>its native element..." follows a winding, eight-line trajectory.
>The parallels of dew and soul, sun and God, sky 
>and heaven are complicated and deepened by the 
>poem's pervasive conflation of liquid and light: 
>"So the soul, that drop, that ray / Of the clear 
>fountain of eternal day..."  The dew, as 
>ambassador from the heavens, is a miserable 
>failure.  It has failed to achieve communion 
>with the created world by refusing to embrace 
>carnality.  The dewdrop, neither purely water 
>nor purely light, isolates itself, merely 
>reflects and "shuns," fixating on its "former 
>height" and "recollecting its own light."  It is 
>"its own tear"­now, how pure is that? Its entire 
>being is regret for its being, a ray divided 
>from "eternal day." Finally it is compared to 
>manna, being sacred, white, entire­but "chill." 
>The dew lacks the all-inclusive love of God, 
>here represented by the compassionate warmth of 
>the sun. Manna is described as congealed, whose 
>definition lies somewhere between "frozen" 
>(water) and "coagulated" (blood); it means both 
>and neither. Marvell gently condescends to this 
>un-Christlike, pathetically puritanical dewdrop, 
>which is such a prude that "th'almighty sun" has 
>to take pity on it, "exhaling" it back again. 
>There may be some exasperation in that exhalation.
>It should be noted that Marvell also wrote "On a 
>Drop of Dew" in Latin, titled "Ros," meaning 
>"dew." There is some controversy about which of 
>the versions was written first. The idea that 
>the Latin version (Latin being closely 
>associated with higher learning and the church) 
>has a twin in English (an heaven less?) offers 
>another delightful facet to the reflective 
>surfaces of this singular drop of dew.
>  About J. Allyn Rosser:
>J. Allyn Rosser has won this year’s New 
>Criterion Poetry Prize, and her new collection, 
>Foiled Again, will be published this Fall by 
>Ivan R. Dee.  Her previous books are Misery 
>Prefigured, which won the Crab Orchard Award, 
>and Bright Moves (winner of the Morse Poetry 
>Prize). Her work has appeared recently in Slate, 
>Poetry, The Georgia Review, The Atlantic 
>Monthly, The Kenyon Review, and Best American 
>Poetry 2006.  She teaches at Ohio University.
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>Allyn Rosser in supporting Poetry Daily 
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