Julia Mitchell’s Canonball Paper on Isable Pagan’s “A Love Letter” and “A Letter”.

Julia Mitchell

November 22, 2015

Word Count: 796

Canonball Paper

The Other Sides of Romance

In this class, we have discussed the importance of the use of symbols of nature, gender roles, and issues of social class. While they are all extremely important topics to cover, there could have been more discussions on the topic of romance and how in some poems the women are portrayed as being extremely dependent on them. Isabel Pagan’s “A Letter” and “A Love Letter”, allows a different view into the topics that we have discussed in class by showing contradicting sides to the same story of romance.

“A Letter” gives an overall feeling of freedom and willfulness, something we have seen a lot in other poems we have read. But unlike other poems we have discussed, this poem portrays an overwhelming feeling of confidence and certainty of her situation. Specifically, on line 13, “It is my lot to live my lane”, in the footnotes it says “my lane: alone; without a mate”. She is basically saying that she would rather be by herself, be independent, and do her own thing rather than have someone disrupt her way of life. This phrase could also be a double meaning, such as lane meaning path. Which could be implying she chose her own path. She chose her own way and did not allow someone else to direct her. She did it herself, for herself. By doing this, it gives her independence and creates an image of a strong, independent woman. This poem differs from the other poems we have read such as, “The Faithless Knight” by Caroline Norton. In this poem, the woman is entranced by the knight and only focuses on him. She spends her days looking for him out her window and when she finally sees him, she thinks he looks at her but in reality it was just a passing glance. She spends every day waiting for this moment to happen and it consumes her life. Unlike in “A Letter”, where the woman lives for more than just the love of another, this poem has the woman focus on that love and has it engulf her life. Many of the poems we have read deal with relationships and tend to have a focus on the romantic aspect of them. “The Faithless Knight” specifically focuses on the need to be loved and to love. “A Letter”, does not talk about love like that. She talks about her wants and how she would publish her songs if she had the “power” to. It is not the love of someone else that defines her. It is important that we are able to see a woman talking about herself in a nonromantic sense. She is focusing on herself and not using another person to add value to her person. While it is important to see this side of things, “A Love Letter” shows the other side of things.

“A Love Letter” contradicts this by focusing on the effects of having a significant other has on her. Such as on lines 13-14,”When absent from your company, tis great uneasiness to me”. Unlike the other quote, where she takes comfort by the fact that she is without a mate, in this poem, having someone with her is what brings her comfort and being without them causes her to lose that comfort. Pagan decided to show both sides of this need or lack thereof for love. “A Love Letter”, although having the focus being on her need and want of love for the other person, and having a dependence on their love, Pagan makes it so she is secure enough to want to be loved and to love, but she is also secure enough to want to be alone, which is seen in “A Letter”. Despite having that dependence on their love, she also shows strength by finding confidence in it. It is important being able to see the women in these poems being able to directly state their wants and needs. In many of the poems we have read, the authors use nature as a way to indirectly and abstractly state their desires, but Pagan takes a different focus to this and takes a more direct route in expressing her wants by keeping them in the real world rather than relating them to an abstract image of nature.

Pagan takes on different views to the same story, but is still allowing both of them to show security in what they want, all this opens a different view into the things we have seen in this class. It is important to explore this side of things especially since she shows a character that is stronger and has more presence than what we have seen in the other poems we have read.




On my honor,

I have neither given nor received any unauthorized aid on this assignment.

Julia Mitchell

The Bird or the Cage?

In class we focused mostly on the finch poems and the whole idea of the bird in the cage for women. Women have been likened to songbirds, and caged birds constantly throughout literary history, and it’s not stopped. In Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, there is an entire song for Joanna called Green Finch and Linnet Bird.

In it, Joanna is sitting in her own cage, her room, singing while an actual caged bird is there singing as well just in case the audience didn’t get the parallel.The whole song, which is unlike in style to the others, just hammers home the fact that Joanna is a little singing songbird who needs someone to free her. Interestingly though, once she is free, she is not innocent and foolish. Anthony rescues her and she asks him “so we run away and all our dreams come true?” and when he answers that he hopes so she assures him nightmares never go away. She knows more about the world from her time in a cage than the idealistic Anthony.

Another caged bird is Elizabeth Comstock from the game Bioshock Infinate. Like Joanna this metaphor is blatantly obvious and repeated. You meet the Lutece twins, omniscient people who live between the boundaries of space time (weird I know) and one of the choices they have you make is what broach to pick for Elizabeth’s  neck ribbon, the bird or the cage.

She is even called a songbird in game. Her father, the leader of the people of Columbia (where the came takes place also a floating city in the sky) locks her away for fear that “The False Shepherd,” your character Booker, will corrupt her and stop her from her purpose of destroying the world below by drowning it in fire. Her cage is a giant statue of an angel, but on the inside it has the shape of a cage. You even find a model of it eventually, pictured below.

Like in the poems, the captor is her parent and repeatedly asks her to come back, to be protected assuring her that he wants what is best for her. After escaping, being beaten up and even killing someone, Elizabeth is horrified with herself at the moment but she still prefers it to going back. She even makes Booker promise to kill her to prevent them from taking her.

The question of is it better to be safe and imprisoned or unhappy and free was also brought up in class, and these two more modern examples show that most prefer unhappy freedom than to live life safely locked away. The bird and the cage are still common themes in our narratives, but instead of the unsure argument the finch poems seemed to have, where some supported protecting the birds in cages and others advocated letting them go, the more contemporary narratives seem to all agree that freedom is better even if one the person is unhappy.

Libby’s Canonball Paper on Susan Evance’s Three Sonnets

*I can’t figure out how to post this on the Canonball page. I’M SORRY.*

Susan Evance: An Introduction to “Nature Poetry”

Through the study of Romantic Era poetry, it is quickly learned that it is also often called “nature poetry.” Throughout the semester, the poets we have read have continually endowed the landscape around them with human life, passion, and expression. Nature, across all Romantic Era poets, is idealized as a place where the individual could find freedom from societal laws and standards, and, as seen most commonly in our RoWoPo authors, escape from life circumstances. Susan Evance, a poet included in Feldman’s anthology, provides an essential viewpoint of nature within the realm of the Romantic Era. Evance reveals nature’s influence and possible impact in the life of a speaker, specifically in how nature communicates with humanity in a number of different ways, and in turn, provides peace in the life of the nature observer. Susan Evance’s three sonnets, “Sonnet to the Melancholy” (242), “Sonnet Written in a Ruinous Alley” (243), and “Sonnet to a Violet” (243), should be added to the RoWoPo canon almost as an introduction to Romantic Era poetry because Evance writes about nature in a way that gives it voice and life, which predicates the significance of the communication between humanity and nature, and the value that nature brings to the lives of those who notice it.

In the poem entitled “Sonnet to the Melancholy” (242), the speaker opens the reader’s eyes to what is happening in nature around her. The speaker talks about seeing the “wintry tempests” (line 1) while sitting upon a “lone rock” (line 2). She sees “sea-birds” (line 3) flying past her as the “roaring of the stormy wind” are “rushing thro’ the caves” (lines 4-5). In line 6, the speaker identifies these occurrences in nature as “the voices of those viewless forms.” In this poem, Evance clearly demonstrates nature’s ability and willingness to communicate with humanity through a number of different means. In lines 9-10, the speaker responds to nature with what she is feeling by saying, “Then, Melancholy! thy sweet power I feel, / For there thine influence reigns o’er all […]” This apostrophe directed towards the melancholy heightens the conversation occurring between nature and the speaker in a way that almost causes nature to become the melancholy that the speaker is feeling. As the speaker is sitting and experiencing the nature happening around her, the power and influence of the presence of nature grows as it maintains a deep effect on the speaker’s mood. Finally, in the last two lines, nature seems to have the power to take her away from the melancholy she is feeling – “My raptur’d spirit soars on wing sublime / Beyond the narrow bounds of space and time” (lines 13-14). The speaker is so captivated and moved by the nature around her that she is mentally and emotionally transported away from the melancholy.

This communication between nature and the speaker is again depicted in the second poem entitled “Sonnet Written in a Ruinous Alley” (243). The “winds of evening moan” (line 4) and “loud the gust comes […] faintly murmurs” (lines 5-6) and “the owl begins her melancholy wail, / Filling with the shrieks the pauses of the breeze” (lines 7-8). Once again, Evance gives a voice to nature through many different means: specifically, the wind and an owl. The last stanza of this poem reveals nature’s ability to help the speaker escape from whatever she wishes to escape – nature “engage[s] my mind” (line 9), she “hear[s] their sadly-sweet, expressive song” (line 12) and the “visionary sound” (13) causes the “spells of rapture” to which “all my soul is bound!” (line 14). Once the speaker notices and listens to the nature around her, her soul experiences a moment of euphoria and she is perfectly at peace. Evance writes about nature in such a way that reveals that nature has value to offer to the world and its listeners. In this poem specifically, nature’s capacity to make itself known in the lives of those who listen to it is exemplified. Thus, nature gifts its listeners with euphoric and peaceful experiences.

In both “Sonnet to the Melancholy” (242) and “Sonnet Written in a Ruinous Alley” (243), it is interesting that the words “forms” and “rapture” are both used because this is key in understanding Evance’s beliefs about the influence and power of nature. The speakers in these two poems both experience “forms” by which they are ultimately “ratur’d.” In “Sonnet to the Melancholy,” the speaker experiences “viewless forms” (line 6) and in “Sonnet Written in a Ruinous Alley” the speaker sees “forms which not to earth belong” (line 10). These forms are the elements that the speaker is seeing, hearing, learning, feeling, and experiencing in the nature around her. The forms “rapture” her soul and spirit – they captivate her, produce euphoria, or carry her to another place or sphere of existence. Evance shares with her readers the power that nature has to not only communicate with whomever is around it, but also to take a person’s soul to another realm of reality in which they experience happiness or peace.

In the final poem, “Sonnet to a Violet” (243), Evance implores her readers to pay attention to nature because of its valuable offerings to the world. The poem tells the story of a violet that has tremendous beauty, one that shows the “rosy tints of morn” (line 4) who’s “velvet form” is “beautiful to view” (line 5). This sight of the violet then causes the speaker to wonder about all the other violets that grow where no one sees, where “foot-step never trod” (line 10). The speaker describes these undiscovered violets as “Unadmir’d, unnotic’d” (line 11) and are “unseen” (line 10) before they “die neglected” (line 14). In this poem, Evance writes about an opposing experience of when nature is ignored or neglected instead of appreciated and noticed. The speaker does not notice the beauty and value of nature, and therefore does not have a moment of ecstasy or peace. There is no connection or communication with nature, therefore, the speaker misses the valuable encounter that nature offers. Evance calls the violets “flowers of genius” (line 13), signifying that nature has this power to instill peace and “rapture” those that observe and internalize it.

Susan Evance’s three sonnets, “Sonnet to the Melancholy” (242), “Sonnet Written in a Ruinous Alley” (243), and “Sonnet to a Violet” (243) all provide an important introductory view of nature for our understanding of “nature poetry” in the Romantic Era. Evance writes about nature as a communicator – one that connects and relates to its viewers and listeners. In “Sonnet to the Melancholy” and “Sonnet Written in a Ruinous Alley,” the way that Evance gives voice and life to nature causes the speakers of the poem to experience a euphoric and peaceful moment apart from the reality of life they are currently experiencing. In “Sonnet to a Violet,” Evance offers the perspective of life without nature – a speaker that does not notice or appreciate nature, and therefore, does not experience ecstasy or peace that nature predicates. In these three poems, Evance establishes the essentiality of nature in the overall experience of life – that with it, nature offers peace, contentment, and elation that is contingent upon internalizing and noticing it.

Megan Palmer’s Canonball Paper on Cobbold’s “The Nurse and The Newspaper”

Elizabeth Cobbold’s poetry is remarkable and significant to a well-rounded understanding of British Romantic Women’s Poetry for several reasons, including the fact that she managed to not only publish poetry while under the societal constraints that went along with being a woman during the Romantic period, as well as the fact that her poem “The Nurse and The Newspaper” both follows and stands distinct from the literary characteristics of poetry that were common to her time.

Cobbold was born in London in 1767, and was highly educated throughout her younger years (Feldman 185). She published her first book, a collection of poems which was very well-received by the public, when she was just sixteen (Feldman 185). Later, after her second marriage resulted in her becoming the care-taker of not only her own seven children, but also her husband’s additional fourteen, she continued to write and publish her poetry (Feldman 185). Though she struggled to balance the demands of housework and the “woman’s sphere,” she was able to keep producing work, and her dedication as well as her ability to work through societal constraints in order to develop her writing should be reason enough to include her work in a study of British Romantic Women’s Poetry. However, her writing gives quite a few more reasons for her inclusion as well.

An analysis of Cobbold’s poem “The Nurse and The Newspaper” reveals several ways in which her voice is both traditional as well as unique within the Romantic period of Women’s Poetry. Initially, even a cursory glance at her title illustrates how her poem is similar to others within her genre. “The Nurse and The Newspaper; An Occasional Epilogue to a Play Represented for the Benefit of the Ipswich Lying-in Charity” is lengthy, a characteristic that is shared by several other Romantic Women’s poem titles (Cobbold 192). For example, Anna Seward’s “An Evening in November, Which Had Been Stormy, Gradually, Clearing Up, in a Mountainous Country” is similar in that it, too, requires several breaths to say aloud (Seward 656). Not only is Cobbold’s title format similar to other titles in her genre, it is also similar in content. Like Seward’s “To Honora Sneyd, Whose Health Was Always Best in Winter,” “The Nurse and The Newspaper” is extremely explanation-heavy (Seward 654).

Furthermore, the format of the body of Cobbold’s poem also exhibits literary characteristics common to those used in the Romantic period. Her strict rhyme scheme in “The Nurse and The Newspaper” is similar to the one Felicia Hemans uses in her poem “Epitaph on Mr. W—, a Celebrated Mineralogist” (Hemans 282). In Hemans’ first four lines, she illustrates this rhyme scheme, ending with “list… / Mineralogist… / power… / [and] Penmaenmawr…” (Hemans 282). The alternation of rhyming couplets is incorporated in Cobbold’s poem too, as seen in her first four lines ending with “bye… / cry… / at… / [and] quiet…” (Cobbold 192).

Delving deeper into the analysis of Cobbold’s “The Nurse and The Newspaper” discloses another way in which her poem is similar to others within the British Romantic Women’s Poetry genre. Several British Romantic Women authors deal with gender roles in their poetry, and Cobbold is no exception, though her comments are more subtle than others’. In Anna Letitia Barbauld’s “Washing-Day,” she states her feminist perspective clearly in lines nine and ten when she speaks to housewives directly, saying that they reside with “bowed soul” “beneath the yoke of wedlock” (Barbauld 67). Though her feminist outlook is not as overt as Barbauld’s, Cobbold comments on gender roles as well, and therefore displays a very common feature within the genre of British Romantic Women’s Poetry. She weaves another common characteristic of the genre as well, since her use of italics coincides with her feminist voice. Cobbold uses italics to convey in a tongue-in-cheek manner her stance on gender roles. In lines ten through twelve of “The Nurse and The Newspaper,” Cobbold has her speaker exclaim “Why, though no Scholard, I can read the News: – / But can I understand it? – No; I fear / There’s nothing in my way to study there” (Cobbold 192). Just like writers such as Barbauld, Cobbold manages to include a feminist perspective in her poem, however subtle. Her italics throughout the poem serve to make the nurse’s commentary on the newspaper come across to the audience as somewhat sarcastic. This in turn serves to further Cobbold’s own social commentary on gender norms and how the societally mandated woman’s sphere is not so different from the men’s sphere after all.

Finally, Cobbold’s poem “The Nurse and The Newspaper” brings a unique voice into the genre of British Women’s Poetry. Her poem acts very simplistically on the surface as a piece of propaganda, or an advertisement, while it acts on a deeper level as a comment on gender roles. So far, “The Nurse and The Newspaper” is the only poem that we have studied in this course that incorporates such a common theme of British Romantic Women’s Poetry into propaganda. Because of this, as well as the several previous reasons, “The Nurse and The Newspaper” and Cobbold’s voice in general, would make an excellent addition to the discussion about British Romantic Women’s Poetry.

Terri La Rue’s Canonball Paper: Bayfield’s “The Danger of Discontent”

Terri La Rue

ENGL 375

December 1, 2015

On Bayfield’s “The Danger of Discontent”

During the Romantic period, many female poets addressed the common Romantic theme of love and marriage. Given the different dynamics and inequalities between men and women of the time period, many also chose to look deeper into more complex related themes of unfaithfulness and betrayal. While Mrs. E.-G. Bayfield’s poem “The Danger of Discontent” is a less recognizable Romantic poem than others in the canon, it shares clear similarities indicative of the period. “The Danger of discontent” addresses the common Romantic themes of naivete, infidelity, and disappointment in love and marriage, all framed in the popular style of a warning to the reader. Alongside the additional theme of filial respect and loyalty, these factors together serve to give unique insight into the plight of young women of the Romantic era.

Throughout the poem, Bayfield’s poetic speaker works hard to emphasize the extent to which Mary is read as naïve, wishful, and unrealistic, often through careful word choice and emphasis. The character is referred to as “simple Mary” in line fourteen as a way to discredit her sense of judgment and make her appear inexperienced and foolish. The way she refers to her parents also adds to this aspect of Mary’s character. She uses the traditionally childish “Mama” and “Papa”, which gives the reader the impression that this is a little girl with the fantasies of a little girl, rather than an adult woman who is any position to be getting married or making mature choices. What’s more, certain phrases, including home of my own, lover, and man of my heart are printed in italics. These read with an almost dreamy sound and serve to give the reader a heightened sense of the wishful, idealized feeling described. The italics also give the sense that the things they describe are abstract, possibly unreachable concepts. With these calculated words and italics placed throughout the poem, it becomes easy for the reader to see Mary as more of a daydreaming child than a grown woman. This kind of “self delusion” is a common trend in among Romantic women poets, particularly in such examples as the “Faithless Knight”, “The Month’s Love”, and “The Spider and the Fly”. Like Mary, the female characters featured in these related pieces read as foolish and pitiable, a popular theme in the canon.

Like many other poems of the period, “The Danger of Discontent” also addresses themes of male betrayal and infidelity and, consequently unhappy marriages. These are echoed in poem’s like Heman’s “Indian Woman’s Death Song”, the Countesses of Morley’s “Epilogue” and Little’s “The Month’s Love”. As in “The Month’s Love” Bayfield’s poetic speaker addresses women as a group, allowing the poem to come across not so much as the tale of one naive young woman but as a warning to all women. Specifically Mary tells us “no keener anguish can sorrow impart,/Than that which is caus’d by the man of your heart (32-33).” This theme of warning seems to be a popular one for our Romantic women poets, giving the reader a more universal feel of the female experience for women of this class and status. One noteworthy line is the one in which our poetic speaker laments that “tho’ much she [Mary] respected her conjugal vows,/They were held very light by her profligate spouse (12-13).” This is clearly a critique on the different standards and expectations for husbands and wives. Mary’s lover is obviously unfaithful, and the reader gets the sense that this is seen as something to be expected. Despite all her dreams of the “man of her heart,” she was clearly unable to find a man capable of that same devotion. What’s more, her husband is described as rude and tyrannical, a word whose force drives the point of the power dynamics and inequality between the husband and wife (16). Many poems have earned a place in the canon through their critique of the different roles and expectations of the sexes, something which comes through clearly in “The Danger of Discontent.”

While this poem does have some things in common with more obviously feminist-leaning poems like “Epilogue”, it remains, to a degree, problematic. The speaker insists on infantilizing Mary and showing her as being incapable of making her own choices, and repeatedly ridicules her for her hopes. In addition to the persistent mocking of Mary, we can also see her as having a lack of agency through the surprising theme of filial respect. In addition to being naïve and wishful, Mary actively snubs her parents advice and warnings, dismissing them as “severe” and “austere”. The poetic speaker seems to suggest that this is something the reader should be condemning Mary for. Mary herself says “Dear parents… oh! forgive/The ingrate, who would not your maxims receive (24-25).” She sees herself as deplorable for her attempts to leave her childhood home and to make her own path rather than listen to her mother and father. Therefore, while this poem could be read through a feminist lens given that it warns women against placing their happiness in the hands of men and husbands, it’s also important to note the more dangerous aspect of this warning. Mary is still a character without agency, having gone directly from the care and ownership of one man, her father, to being subservient to another. Moreover, the reader may note that Mary’s wish is never one of independence or freedom. Even when she realizes her mistake in trusting a man to make her happy and content, she still laments “Fain, fain would she now to your mansion repair,/And, press’d to your bosoms, forget ev’ry care (26-27).” The reader sees Mary as wanting to return to her childhood and to the care of her parents rather than to any real home of her own or life of her own. In the end, the character only seems to exist in the context of her relationship with others and their positions of power. Whatever happiness or success a woman in Mary’s position achieves is ultimately granted by someone else

Given what has been read so far for this class, this poem deserves a place in the canon because it provides a clear portrayal of societal roles and expectations for most women of Romantic period. Moreover, it is an excellent example of those common themes of naivete and childishness, warning, and heartbreak, and gives readers a new and interesting insight into the role of family ties and their powerful effects on young women during this time period.

Word Count: 1075

I pledge…

Works Cited

Feldman, Paula R. British Women Poets of the Romantic Era an Anthology. Baltimore (Md.):

Johns Hopkins UP, 1997. Print.

The Spider and the Fly

All our talk today about victim blaming in “the Spider and the Fly” made me think of a movie I saw called “The Devil’s Carnival”. In the movie, three sinners are sent to Hell which appears to be a carnival, and are given one last chance to see if they deserve to be in heaven. These three sinners include a man who killed himself after his son died, a thief who was gunned down by police, and Tamara whose obsessive and abusive boyfriend killed her. They are put through scenarios inspired by Aesop’s Fables, and in the end only the man who committed suicide proved himself worthy of a second chance. Special attention is drawn to Tamara, and she gets the worst tale as she continues to trust even after her fable was designed to teach her not to. Her fable is “the Scorpion and the Frog” in which she fills the role of the Frog and one of the carnival workers is the Scorpion. The song is even called “Trust Me” and Tamara pays the price for doing so.

After this ordeal, the audience is really talked out of sympathizing with Tamara as she gets discredited like the Fly in our poem did. The Fly knew what would happen, and the movie shows Tamara being killed for trusting the wrong person twice. During the credits however she gets another song, this time with the Devil.

In this song, she begs to not go to sleep because, as the title states, in all her dreams she drowns. With the cut of at the end and the Devil as the Captain always telling her it’s time to go to sleep, we see her trust on again betrayed and she stays in Hell.

Like “the Spider and the Fly,” “The Devil’s Carnival” discredits the person who has been abused and harmed because they should have known better. The Fly states knowing not to go to the Spider, and the movie sets it up to have the audience believe Tamara should know from experience not to trust people who are sweet talking her and promising better things. Still, this does not change the fact that both the Fly and Tamara are horribly treated whether it ends in murder, rape, damnation, or some combination of the three. The parallel also caught my attention because the perpetrators get off freely. The Spider had his meal and went on with his life, and in the movie, after Tamara is attacked in “Trust Me” the Doll, the Scorpion’s assistant gives a song about the fable called “Prick! Goes the Scorpion’s Tale.” While I cannot find the scene for this moment the video below has the song which makes the death much more like a rape. Still, during this scene the Scorpion is all smiles and cheering along with the other Carnies in the crowd.

Anyway, this post was made simply because the parallels drew my attention, and it is still shocking that this pattern of victim blaming while the perpetrator gets away clean is still so common and also still so popular in media.