Thomson and the assigned close reading

On page 46 of the Gibbes, Hartley House reading assigned for this week there is a passage taken from a poem by James Thomson of no title and beginning with the phrase “Bear me, Pomona, to thy Citron groves!” (46). This passage is a rather famous one, being cited by Goethe and a number of more recent sources. It is used in the text to relate the narrator’s feeling when in Bengal and to encourage Arabella to visit Bengal (or merely to make her feel jealous or a number of alternate possibilities). The purpose of the inclusion is fairly obvious, the narrator says in reference to the poem that “…poetry, Arabella, is the natural language where all is loveliness, and magnificence, and power exhaustless as infinite,” (46) and that there is an “immensity of [her] subject” (47). This meaning that the poetry is intended to give a sense of the scope to Arabella. In other words, I have provided the specific function of the poem in the text.

Now although we have the specific function since our narrator just told us what it was, the prompt did ask for a close reading, so I think it is worthwhile to go back and do one. In the poem itself there is slight mysticism or personification of various elements of nature (the breeze fanning, the fruit fever-cooling, the berries being in ‘humble station and unboastful worth’, and the ‘pride of vegetable life’). This adds to the mystery of the place being described. There is allusion to Jove (roman god) and Pomona (character in paradise lost), who everyone reading the poem is likely to be familiar with and be able to tie in their understanding. Furthermore there is slant rhyme in some of the couplets coat // jove, wave // shade, etc which is either coincidence or intended to bring attention to those parts of the poem (one is mid-way through and the other is at the end so this is likely). This seems to add to the text a certain amount of mythology (literally) and a more displaced sense of mysticism. Thus we have a close reading done of this poem.

As to why Sofia Goldborne ‘obsessively’ quotes English literary works it appears that the works are used to reinforce ideas within the text in a clean-cut way. In this specific passage I would say it does a good job of adding reinforcement, she describes “its fever-cooling fruit : deep in the night the massy locust sheds quench my hot limbs” (46) as “glowing descriptions of a climate and its characteristics” (46-47) which in turn are applied to Bengal. It doesn’t get much more straightforward in application than that. The choice of words on this question make me think I am being led to say that Goldborne is in some way trussing up her references in an attempt to make it more academic or hard to read but I don’t get that impression at all. Perhaps we should recognize that author’s considered these works as important to their own, or that since the audience should have prior knowledge then they should be able to reference them (references are, of course, a literary tradition going much further back than the 1700s). This paragraph addresses the last two questions of the prompt.

Joshua Jolly

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Thomson and the assigned close reading

  1. I like you focus on function, I think your blog is very understanable and has a nice flow in logic. To deepen your ideas I think it would be helpful to go back and explore why exactly Sophia uses these passages to reinforce her ideas? What connotations do they contain which can bring added meaning to what Sophia is trying to express?

    Great Blog! Thanks!

    Like

  2. The main point is, “This passage is a rather famous one, being cited by Goethe and a number of more recent sources. It is used in the text to relate the narrator’s feeling when in Bengal and to encourage Arabella to visit Bengal (or merely to make her feel jealous or a number of alternate possibilities).” I do think you can improve the post by mentioning what other sources use the passage, rather than making a vague statement.

    Extra Credit 9/25/2

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s