An English Poet Anne FInch
Anne Finch (1661-1720) was one of England's published female poets who discussed in her works such topics as melancholy, marriage, love, female rights, and many other sensitive topics. Due to her legendary wittiness, perfect sense of humor, and specific manner of putting thoughts on papers, she is considered to be one of the greatest poets of the 19th century. Born in the family of William Kingsmill and Anne Haslewood, who were quite progressive, she got the education unlike the majority of females of that time and read numerous works of classic poets, greek and roman mythology masterpieces. She learned French, and Italian and this also shaped her mind and transformed a young lady into a deep thinker ready to share her ideas with the reader.
In her works, she always drew upon her experiences, demonstrating awareness of the overall climate of that time. Anne was a highly spiritual person and touched upon numerous sensitive topics which were vital for everybody. The collection of works that appeared in her lifetime was Miscellany Poems, on Several Occasions. Unfortunately, her poetry was forgotten after her death, and only thanks to W. Wordsworth people started admiring her works again in 1815.
The spleen is the title of a poem written by Anne Finch Countess of Winchelsea (April 1661-5 August 1720) in the year 1709.
The Spleen Poem Analysis: An Expression of Poet’s Experiences
She is greatly known for her poems about depression and feminism, among these is Spleen, which will be the focus of this analysis. The poem was written mostly as an expression of her experiences with the Spleen disease and the resulting depression she went through, something she artistically did with success, by an entanglement of elements to bring out the poem aesthetically, seeing the poem survive ages and becoming one of the greatest pieces of poetry of all time.
Among the elements of her poem, Anne Finch employs a range of styles throughout the poem, she pays less attention to rhyme suggesting that the poem is a free verse, to a keen reader, on the contrary, impressionism would be the style of the poem, this is because, Anne employs a great deal of imagery and symbolism throughout the poem, to create the impression of her anguish and state of depression. She discusses the subject with a high degree of seriousness, suggesting that the type of poem is an ode, however, being the sole speaker in the poem, the delivery of subject matter and how she expresses her thoughts and emotions depict Spleen as a lyric.
The Elements of the poem and their importance
The poems category falls in the Augustan era, which was in the 18th century, a time when the Roman poetic literature was at its climax, this is evident throughout the poem in form of, literary expression, vocabulary, diction and most of all, the medical discourse among other elements that one comes across while reading the poem.
Anne employs a wide range of aesthetic elements and poetic devices such as, diction, figures of speech and styles to serve her purpose of conveying intense emotion by depicting severe depression and pain, among these, are; mood, metaphors and imagery, in an era when the field of poetry was marked by a great few. These elements are discussed one at a time herein to show their artistic function which is that of conveying and intensifying the readers emotions and how they achieve the purpose.
The mood of the poem is melancholic, this is depicted by the sad feeling aroused as one reads the poem, for instance, the words in the second stanza, ...Thy gloomy terrors, round the silent bed, And crowd with boding dreams, the melancholy head; despite the condition, the cure for her disease remains a mystery.
The tone in the third stanza sounds condescending, this is seen in the way Anne scorns those who feign illness and emotions from less harsh diseases. It appears to suggest that, should there ever arise the need for distinction, then one should tell a serious illness from a less serious one, by the overt expression of the pain that results from such a state, however, at the end of the poem, she sounds resolved and settled with her fight against the depression caused by the disease, seeing that it had even baffled the physicians who according to her, knew much and had gained quite a lot from their efforts to cure the disease, Till thinking thee tove catched, himself by thee was caught, Retained thy prisner, thy acknowledged slave,(sic).The style and choice of words by Anne in this poem suggests concreteness, this is seen by how they articulate to achieve their intended meaning, for instance, the words from the third stanza, In vain, to chase thee, evry art we try, Now, Harmony, In vain we bring from Harmony, no help is had the words in the fourth stanza also tell of Annes fear, fear that the illness might take over her power and abilities away, Oer me alas! Thou dost too much prevail, -- I feel thy force, whilst I against thee rail; I feel my verse decay, and my cramped numbers fail.
Anne also employed figures of speech greatly in her poem, among these are, imagery, irony, anaphora, rhymes and connotation among others, for instance, the personification of the Spleen in the first stanza, What art thou, Spleen, which evry thing dost ape? where she asks rhetorically, and when she depicts the Spleen as willfully changing its form, only to cause harm as its remedy gets harder to find, or fix thee, to remain in one continud shape She uses this to express the maze posed by the disease.
Another instance of figurative speech, is the use of anaphora in the third stanza, In vain, to chase thee, evry art we try; In vain all remedies apply; In vain which is depicted by repetition of the words In vain to begin the successive lines, Anne uses this style to express the efforts made in vain, trying to ease the pain or find harmony through abuse of substance and indulgence.
To express her loss of control over emotions as she succumbed deeper into depression with all efforts seeming futile, she employs irony as seen in the third stanza, music that soothes, thee, if too sweetly sad, and if too light, but turns thee grayly mad the music that sooths yet saddens and when played lightly gets one mad, all this tell of the good things she and those in a similar situation do to overcome depression but they never seem to work as they would expect.
The end rhyme in the third stanza, I feel thy force, whilst I against thee rail, I feel my verse decay, and my cramped numbers fail; is used to tell of her progressive deterioration of health, the consequential impact of the disease to her career and the apparent helplessness of physicians around her.
The connotative description in the first stanza, Now a dead sea thoult represent, A calm, of stupid discontent; then dashing on the rocks, wilt rage into a storm. The sea representing the overt symptoms of depression, and more precisely when it took her through psychological torture that those on the outside could not see, she relates this to a calm sea, and the fact that those on the outside refer her covert symptoms of anguish, as the only roads to telling what she is going through, means that they only realize the presence of the sea when it gets turbulent.
In conclusion, Annes style and artistic expression is magnificent and captivating, she manages to achieve her purpose of conveying her intense emotions and experiences from depression in a unique way. Her artistic expression is of great significance as it is through this that the reader visualizes her situation and gets to walk through her mental realm, and is able to imagine her psychological condition by getting a glimpse of how one feels like when depressed.
Anne Finch, essay by James Nunn, Poets on Poets, Carcanet Press, Manchester, 1997. ISBN 1-85754-339-4
The Spleen (Folger); The Spleen, a Pindaric ode (1701 Gilden); The Spleen. A Pindaric Poem (1713 MISC).
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