The Style guide should be: MHRA
Choosing ONE of the following poems or passages, place it in the context of the work from which it was taken and comment on those linguistic and thematic aspects that enable you to place it within its period.
Your task is to identify and discuss an extract (poetry or prose) from a text studied on the course, in the light of your knowledge of the period. You should pay particular attention to what is distinctively Victorian, as well as commenting in detail on matters of style and language. This differs from the kind of practical criticism exercise with which you might already be familiar. You will be practising close-reading critical skills, but in addition you are expected to place the passage in various related contexts:
place it in the context of the work from which it was taken
comment on linguistic aspects
comment on thematic aspects
place it within its period
Your critical and analytical reading of the words on the page should be informed by your knowledge of the literary and cultural history of the Victorian period and the text’s relationship to the social, political and economic history of the nineteenth century. You should approach this by thinking about how the text you have chosen to analyse may be compared with other texts on this course.
In structuring your response, you might choose to start with style and language – the words on the page ̶ and build out to these wider contexts. However your commentary is organised, the critical analysis must be clear and relevant to the question.
The poem I’ve chosen is ‘Satia te Sanguine’ by Algernon Charles Swinburne.
If you loved me ever so little,
I could bear the bonds that gall,
I could dream the bonds were brittle;
You do not love me at all.
O beautiful lips, O bosom
More white than the moon’s and warm,
A sterile, a ruinous blossom
Is blown your way in a storm.
As the lost white feverish limbs
Of the Lesbian Sappho, adrift
In foam where the sea-weed swims,
Swam loose for the streams to lift,
My heart swims blind in a sea
That stuns me; swims to and fro,
And gathers to windward and lee
Lamentation, and mourning, and woe.
A broken, an emptied boat,
Sea saps it, winds blow apart,
Sick and adrift and afloat,
The barren waif of a heart.
Where, when the gods would be cruel,
Do they go for a torture? where
Plant thorns, set pain like a jewel?
Ah, not in the flesh, not there!
The racks of earth and the rods
Are weak as foam on the sands;
In the heart is the prey for gods,
Who crucify hearts, not hands.
Mere pangs corrode and consume,
Dead when life dies in the brain;
In the infinite spirit is room
For the pulse of an infinite pain.
I wish you were dead, my dear;
I would give you, had I to give,
Some death too bitter to fear;
It is better to die than live.