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Module 1: Poems from World Literature

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Poems and Sonnets of World Literature

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Good morning and welcome to today’s session. Today we are taking a look at two very famous sonnets. Sonnet 130 by Shakespeare and Love Sonnet XVI by Pablo Neruda and these 2 are considered as representative poets of their age and we know that their reputation rests beyond the works that they have written, they also have become iconic figures in the kind of traditions and works that they have begun to represent. (Refer Slide Time 0:37) William Shakespeare lived in the 16th century from 1564 till 1616. He got to witness the reign of 2 monarchs. He started writing during the Elizabeth a period and he continued to write even after the Ascension of James I. Helsby all means the best-known English playwright, poet, he is also considered as the greatest of all times, he is certainly the most representative figure of the Elizabethan period who totally changed the grammar of drama and how plays were received, were conceived and staged. And he also dramatically changed the profession of drama itself and he challenged all kinds of conventional notions about the training that a dramatist was said to have received. He also acted in his plays. He began to produce his own plays, he was partly the owner of the company in which he initially used to act, the Lord Chamberlain’smen, later renamed asking’s men after the Ascension of King James I. And we find him arriving in London as a penniless, friendless man who is not trained in the classical methods, who have very little formal education. But by the time he leaves London, we get to know that he is the most famous playwright, he goes back to Stratford-upon-Avon, that's where he was born, to buy the second-largest house and he had set the standard for not just the Elizabethan drama about all kinds of drama that followed. His reign was very prolific, he wrote comedies, histories and tragi-comedies. This is apart from the number of poetical and other productions that he had to his credit. Some of his important works, plays which were also huge successes include the Hamlet, Othello, king lear, Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet. He had altogether authored 39 plays. I am not sure if it would be entirely right to say that he had authored because he had not written and published any of his works. All of his works were staged. His works were printed and published together astheFolio, the first folio came out after his death. He has to his credit154 sonnets, 2long narrative poems, there are also certain works, the authorship of those are a bit congested. There were several collaborations that he had with many of his contemporaries. One of his contemporaries remarked this about him. ‘He isn't an age but for all time.’It was Ben Johnson who gave this immense tribute to William Shakespeare. (Refer Slide Time 3:09) Pablo Neruda, the other poet that we are looking at today, he lived from 1904 till 1973. So he is a 20th-century poet. His real name was Ricardo Eliecer Neftali Reyes Basoalto. He is a Chilean poet. Pablo Neruda used to be his pen name initially and later it became his legal name as well. He is a Nobel laureate. He is recognised as the most famous Spanish-speaking poets of all time. He was very active in Chilean politics, he was a diplomat, he held on his communist beliefs, he also lived in exile for a while. So heled a very active and adventurous political life. His political poetry was also quite famous along with the love poetry that he wrote. He was a keen reader of Shakespeare's sonnets. There is evidence to show that he was an admirer and owned a copy of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Marquez remarked this about him that he is the greatest poet of the 20th-century in any language. So here we are trying to bring together these 2 poets separated by centuries to see the kind of sonnets that they produced and to look at the similarities despite the many etiquettes and centuries that separate them. (Refer Slide Time 4:18) The Sonnet as a poetic form needs is briefly taken a look at. The term derives from the Italian term, Sonnet to. It means a little sound or song. Traditionally, the sonnet is a 14line poem, itis written in the iambic pentameter. There are 2 important, 2 famous models after which the sonnets are generally written. One is the Petrarchan model, it is named after Petrarch, Italian poet. This, the Petrarchan model, thePetrarchformofSonnetwriting was introduced to England in the early 16th century by Thomas Wyatt and the Petrarchan Sonnet form has two stanzas, the octave and the sestet. So there is an order conventionally in which sonnet form progresses. There are an argument and observation, a question or something to which one is supposed to respond to and finally, there is a turn or a volta which kind of gives a point which is radically different from the one which is discussed in the previous stanza. (Refer Slide Time 5:16) The 2nd kind of sonnet form is the Shakespearean sonnet. It has 3 quatrains and a couplet. In the couplet, we find that ification or even a refutation of the previous 3 stanzas. It is said that the final couplet, it also has an epiphanic quality to it. There is also another form, the Spenserian form which is also derived from the Shakespearean form but it slightly deviates from it. (Refer Slide Time 5:41) Shakespeare’s sonnets were published in the year 1609 and this was in the early 17th century. He published a set of sonnets, altogether 154 and this was very strangely dedicated to one Mr W.H. Who this WH is, we are not very sure of. Initially, people used to think that it is his patron, the Earl of Southampton but later, there is also this argument that it could be William Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke but this fair young man that he refers to Mr W.H as he continues to be the sole character in all of these 154 sonnets. And this is how the original reads. “The online begetter of these inspiring sonnets, Mr W.H, all happiness and that eternity promised by our ever-living poet wisheth the well-wishing adventurer in setting forth.” T.T, it is supposedly the publisher, Thomas Thorpe but these initials are given in such cryptic forms that it is difficult to say for sure who WH or TT is. But these are the general conjectures about these initials. (Refer Slide Time 6:55) Neruda also had published his sonnets prolifically. This was in 1959. It was published first in Argentina. His sonnets were titled “100 love sonnets” and they were divided into 4 different parts, morning, afternoon, evening and night. The Sonnet that we are taking a look at today, it belongs to the first part, the morning. All of these sonnets were translated into English, there are different versions. The most widely accepted translation is that of Stephen Tapscott but today we are looking at a different version when we are looking at Sonnet 16. His sonnets ere dedicated to Matilde Urrutia, she was a Chilean singer and she is considered to be Neruda’s ultimate muse. The interesting fact is that Neruda began his affair with Matilde Urrutia even when he was married to his 2nd wife and then he gets married to Matilde Urrutia. Just like Shakespeare has dedicated all of his sonnets to Mr W.H, we find Neruda dedicating all his sonnets to Matilde Urrutia. This is what he has to say. “I made these sonnets out of wood; I gave them the sound of that opaque pure substance, and that is how they should reach your ears… Now that I have declared the foundations of my love, I surrender the century to you: wooden sonnets that rise only because you gave them life” (Refer Slide Time 8:08) Let us first take a look at Sonnet 130 by William Shakespeare. This is considered as one of the most famous sonnets out of the154. Many of his sonnets are taught and it continues to be read in different locations and this stands out for the specific reasons that it can be seen as a counter to the many Elizabethan traditions. In Shakespeare’s plays, we find him reacting against the conventions and also moving against the classical notions which were dominant in defining and in judging the drama of those times. And in the sonnets, we find him doing pretty much the same thing. Sonnets are conventionally seen as love poetry, as apart of love poetry and we find him talking about love but in a totally different way, in a completely subversive way if one could say that. I read this sonnet out for you. Sonnet 130. “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun. Coral is far redder than her lips red, If snow is white, why then her breasts are dun: If hairs are wires, black wires grow on her head: Ihave seen roses damasked, red and white, But no such roses see me in her cheeks, And some perfumes are there more delight Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks. I love to hear her speak, yet well I know, That music hath a far more pleasing sound: I grant I never saw a goddess go, My mistress when she walks treads on the ground. And yet by heaven, I think my love as rare, As any she belied with false compare.” So this is how the Sonnet reads. A little more background about the sonnet form in England. There was a time when the sonnet form did not have much respectability in England because it was a foreign thing, it was an Italian thing. It was practised by a lot of Europeans. But we find that from the time of Phillips Henry onwards, it gets a certain kind of respectability, we find several poets writing and publishing sonnets. When Shakespeare is writing there is already a tradition and accepted tradition for writing sonnets. There is an accepted content, there is an accepted form. We find him moving away from that accepted form which is the Petrarchan sonnet and we also find him bringing his own genius, his own original element to this writing. So this as you can see, it is clearly not the conventional kind of love poetry. It begins stelling us what his mistress is not. My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun. And he says, coralis perhaps far more red than her lips. And about her complexion, the poets have been doing. He is being more realistic and saying it is more tanned and about her hair, he compares it to black wires, nothing very flattering. And he talks about how he has seen roses which are better than the mistress’ cheeks and perfumes which are perhaps better than the odour that's he gives out. And he also says while I love to hear my mistress I have to admit that I have heard more pleasing sounds in my life and also he is not attempting to do any kind of outlandish comparison. He is not comparing his mistress to goddess-like many other poets used to do. Instead, he is saying, my mistress when she walks treads on the ground. It is a very realistic, very straightforward and a seemingly unflattering kind of writing. But the couplet changes it all. He has these two stanzas at the beginning where he talks about what his mistress is not and how he would rather plain-speak rather than trying to praise her and exaggeratedly flatter her. He comes to this couplet and he makes this statement which almost sounds like a confession. “And yet by heaven, I think my love as rare, As any she belied with false compare”. He is doing many things with this one single stroke. He is talking about the kind of poetry which existed in England during the Elizabeth a times before Shakespeare’s times, saying that he would not tow that line trying to falsely compare. He will not tow that line by trying to go after he sees exaggerated comparisons which are sometimes meaningless as well. Somecriticshavealso felt that this is perhaps more realistic and that seems more genuine than any kind of exaggerated praise or any kind of exaggerated flattering. (Refer Slide Time 12:59) Do you see how this resonates and how this complements the love sonnet that Neruda wrote, sonnet16? The version that we have is the translation byMarkEisner. I read this sonnet to you, love sonnet 16 by Pablo Neruda. I do not love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz or arrow of carnations that propagate fire: I love you as one loves certain obscure things, secretly, between the shadow and the soul. I love you like a plant that does not bloom but carries the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself, and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose from the earth live dimly in my body. I love you without knowing how, or when or from where, I love you directly without problems or pride: I love you like this because Idonotknow any other way to love, except in this form in which I am not nor are you, so close that your hand upon my chest is mine, so close that your eyes close with my dreams.

There are other translations and other versions as well that you could find. Here also, we find Neruda almost replicating the tone that Shakespeare had produced in the early 17th century. Neruda is writing in the 20th century where there are still stereotypical notions about love, there are stereotypical ways in which love can be talked about, love can be expressed. He is titling his sonnets as Love sonnets and this is definitely dedicated to the woman that he loves, a woman whois real and whois there in flesh and blood and the poems begins with a negative note, Ido does not love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz… So it also in a similar way begins by saying how he does not love and what his love exactly is. So he also rejects all kinds of exaggerated notions and many conventions and stereotypical images that are used to talk about love. (Refer Slide Time 14:54) And when we look at this sonnet love sonnet16, we also need to bear in mind that this is apart of the first segment of these collections, the morning part. It seems as a surrealist love poem, it is very transparent. That is what most critics agree about. This was written in Spanish and what this poem proposes to do we can see in our reading that it first sets up certain symbols and then it goes onto deny all those stereotypical symbols of beauty and purity. Itis giving us a certain set of symbols which can be rejected and the poet also rejects that. We find Shakespeare’s Sonnet130 also doing the same. He is giving us those symbols, giving us those usual elements to which love or in general the objects of love are compared. Then he goes on to reject them and completely move to a different line of argument altogether. So here, in Neruda’s poem, we find that he is, Neruda is almost letting the reader experience the process of writing as well. (Refer Slide Time 15:58) In the poem, he uses the word ‘love’ 9 times. We find the speaker addressing his lover but we do not get to know much about the speaker himself except that the cares only about love and nothing about the notions or the stereotypical ideas about love. And we find almost a similar kind of attitude in the narrator Shakespeare's sonnet as well. Itis an intimate poem. And this is what makes Neruda’s sonnet slightly different from that of Shakespeare. In Shakespeare’s sonnet, we do find that he is rejecting the notions, he is moving against mistress is, whether it is an imaginary thing or whether it is based on any relationship that he had, there is no way of knowing it. But in Neruda’s we see that the poem, the intimacy of the poem can be used to access certain details about the nature of the relationship as well. (Refer Slide Time 17:03) If we take a look at the poem again, it is very direct about the secrecy and the intimacy that it implies. In the 3rd line, I love you as one loves certain obscure things, secretly and again in the next stanza, I love you like a plant that does not bloom but carries the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself. So terms such as secret, hidden, it also gives us the nature of the relationship and at the time of this writing, Neruda was really having this relationship in secret. He was still married to his 2nd wife, he was living mostly in exile and his beloved, the Chilean singer, Matilda, she used to follow him wherever he was, that is what the reports say. And this relationship was kept undercover fora long time for various reasons. And when we know about the other kinds of lives thatNerudaled, this poem assumes a different tone and input altogether given that he was a political person as well. He had an active political life. He was living in exile, he was a diplomat and when such a person is writing this explicit love poetry which also reveals intimate secrets about the nature of the relationship, we do find that elevates this love poetry to a different level altogether. And just as we find in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130, here also we find the narrator, the speaker moving towards a mode of confession towards the end of the poem in the final segment. “I love you without knowing how or when or from where, I love you directly without problems or pride: I love you like this because Idonotknow any other way to love, except in this form in which I am not nor are you.”So in both these sonnets, in sonnet130byShakespeare and sonnet 16 by Neruda, we find that the speaker, the narrator of the sonnet while the is addressing his ladylove, he loves to occupy this position of individuality where he decides not to bind himself or themselves by the rules set by the society, by the convention about love, about the nature of love, about the kind of language to be used when one is in love. So this is a total rejection of all kinds of standards which were set until that point to time and we also find this emerging as a different kind of a love note altogether. Some critics and readers have wondered whether Neruda is the right kind of person to write this love sonnet because he was married thrice and the relationships also overlapped each other. He was if you take the case of this sonnet and Matilde with whom he was having a relationship as stated, he started this affair even when he was married to his 2nd wife. So people have raised questions about the credibility and authenticity of this kind of love which is getting expressed here but what is important is that what emerges as strikingly different and secondly important is not the personality of the speaker which is revealed but the kind of love and images which are being presented, subverted and also reinforced differently. And we find Shakespeare andNerudadoingit at different points of time. One, in the early 17th century and the other one in the mid-20th century. And centuries apart, we find similar kinds of emotions and similar kinds of attitudes getting reflected with the underlying agenda of moving against the conventions and also about bringing in a unique kind of individuality for these expressions. There could be several ways in which one can go into the details of these poems and look at the terms used, the diction and undertake a more detailed poetic analysis. I certainly encourage you to do that after having read these 2 poems. Having introduced these 2 words which are complementary in nature despite the centuries that separate them from each other, we also begin to wrap up this lecture. I also encourage you to take a look at the other sonnets by Neruda and by Shakespeare and see how you can also find similarities and even contrasting features given that they were written in 2 separate centuries and 2 different languages. And this is also about the kind of universality and the kind of appeal that world literature also talks about where we can bring together works produced in different literary traditions in different literary periods to perhaps talk about similar kinds of notions and similar kinds of ideas. Thank you for listening and I look forward to seeing you in the next session. Good morning and welcome to today’s session where I introduce to you the Ugandan epic poem, 'Song of Lawino' by the Ugandan poet, Okot p’Bitek. (Refer Slide Time 0:21) Okot p’Bitek was a Ugandan poet. He lived from 1931 till 1982. After his poetry, after his style of writing, even an Okot School of poetry or the East African Song school emerged. It was also known as comic singing. They focused on dramatic verse monologue as you can see when you take a look at this poem. P’Bitek used to borrow many features from traditional songs and he attempted to bring African forms, native African forms and traditions into his writings and his highlight was not using European traditions, to move away from the European traditions which he thought had begun to dominate most of the traditional forms which were prevalent in Africa. (Refer Slide Time 1:06) The major works of p’Bitek include The Lost Spear, a poem that was the first word that he had got published. He also wrote one long novel, Lak Tar, that was in 1953 and he worked on many issues related to social anthropology and one of his important critiques of social anthropology in the context of Africa is African Religions in Western Scholarship. His thesis which he completed in 1964 was titled Oral Literature and its Background among the Lacoli and Lang's. And in 1971, he published a collection titled Two Songs. In 1975, he brought out a collection of essays titled Africa’s Cultural Revolution. In 1974, he brought out another collection of Acoli songs, The Horn of My Love and in 1978, he also published this set of tales which was a refreshing take on some of the famous African tales which was titled Hare and Hornbill. And these widely different books as you can see, they are from different genres, they focus on different aspects of African life and these widely different books are however united by Okot’s concern that the nations of Africa should be built on African and not on European foundations. So this is a very anticolonial and a different kind of postcolonial rhetoric altogether. (Refer Slide Time 2:33) Song of Lawino, the epic poem that we are trying to take a look at today, this was published in 1966. The title in Acoli language was “We're pa Lawino” and Acoli, Acoli language especially in the Lua province, that is a tonal language. And it is considered that Song of Lawino is one of the most widely read works from sub-Saharan Africa. This is narrated from the woman who is named Lawino and it is a first-person narrative. This epic poem, that is how it is structured, it was written during Okot’s involvement with the Gulu Festival. Gulu was the place where he was born and he has engaged actively in many of the traditional forms and the many festivals which used to showcase the traditional art forms and the traditional ways of being. Okot was strongly influenced by the traditional songs in terms of composition, the techniques, the themes. So we find him almost replicating the entire tradition in this process of bringing out Lawino except that just like the African traditional way of composing songs go by, he also used to run his material, run his poem through his friends and across his friends, he used to accept the critiques and the suggestions given by them and the Song of Lawino, this epic poem has undergone several revisions in that sense. So the process of writing the process of composition itself has a traditional underlying rationale to it. The poem, Song of Lawino, it is based on a real social problem in rural areas, especially in East Africa. And it is about the educated African man’s contempt for the ways of their parents and their wives and it also addresses the conflict of cultures. It is narrated from Lawino who is a woman and also the wife of another character of Ocol and we find her, Lawino emerging as not just an isolated case but almost like a spokesperson for Africa itself. This could be described as an African woman’s lament and she is lamenting this fact that her husband has been abandoning the local traditions, the native African traditions in favour of the Western traditions. (Refer Slide Time 4:48) There was a response to Song of Lawino which Okot himself had composts, this came out in 1970 and this in the form of Ocol, Lawino’s husband responding to the charges levelled against him and unlike the Song of Lawino, Song of Ocol was written in English, there was no Acoli version. Due to the immense success and popularity of both of these works, Song of Lawino and Song of Ocol and in some of the editions, you can find both of these epic poems being united in one single book, Song of Lawino and Song of Ocol together. (Refer Slide Time 5:18) And Ocol and Lawino have become common nouns, in the many references to Africa and they have also become two characters who are now seen as prototypes of two opposing cultures and
two opposing approaches to the cultural future of Africa. (Refer Slide Time 5:40) The raster of Lawino is what the Song of Lawino mostly focuses on. We find the character transforming these different segments and different chapters of this poem and through her own character, through her own articulations, we also get to follow her line of argument and how she presents this problem which is rather imminent and immediate in the context of Africa. In the first 5 chapters, we get an almost perfect portrait of a woman scorned, she is lashing out at Ocol and the woman that right now Ocol is favouring, Clementine. She is a westernised woman. After these first 5 chapters, we do not find any reference to Tina or Clementine, the other woman. And from chapters 6 to 11, Lawino is less concerned with her own personal plight. On the other hand, she defends the customs of her ancestors, she attempts comparisons between Western and Acoli ways, it goes to address more social issues than her own personal concerns. The last 2 chapters 12 and 13, they try to tie both these concerns together, the personal aspect as well as the social aspect. And on the whole, what gets highlighted here is Lawino’s desire to win back Ocol’s admiration, her husband’s admiration and it also offers a commentary on the whole of Acoli community, there is an appeal for the renewal of traditional ways. One here also needs to keep in mind that Lawino seems to be okay with polygamic practices and that is seen as something which is traditionally built into most of the African community. So her problem with the other woman, Clementine is not necessarily the polygamous relationship but it is mostly focused on the westernised ways that Clementine represents and how Ocol, her husband prefers to choose the westernised ways over the traditional ways. (Refer Slide Time 7:28) Clementine is Ocol’s new westernised educated wife and she is presented in stark contrast with that of Lawino. And one may have different opinions about the approach that Lawino has towards Clementine about the different ways in which gender operates over here. We shall not be going into too many details of this, I will perhaps this introduce this poem to you, just introduce this entire body of writing to you for you to read and analyse and make your own judgement. (Refer Slide Time 8:00) The imagery in the Song of Lawino is something that we shall briefly focus on today’s lecture. We find that in Song of Lawino as well as in the Song of Ocol later on, we find Okot p’Bitek completely avoiding the stock of common images of English literature. So when we are reading the English version, we get a feeling of freshness and except that it gives a feeling of freshness for every reader and a sense of Africanness for African readers. So that is how the imagery, the translated imagery rather is placed. And Okot has also succeeded in using English as a tool to reach a wider audience. And this he manages to do by staying away from the non-European traditions and images and also by not borrowing foreign elements that would perhaps distort his message. So he sticks to traditional elements as far as possible but at the same time, the form of this work, this epic poem, it needs some kind of an appropriation as well because Okot is forced to take the ideas of individual authorship, of spoken verse, of rhyme, of division into chapters, of the printed word, these are the things that he borrows from the Western tradition because In Acoli language, in Acoli Song tradition, there is no idea of a long poem authored by a single person.