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Language and Body in Augustan Poetic Author(s): Thomas E. Maresca Reviewed work(s): Source: ELH, Vol.

Language and Body in Augustan Poetic Author(s): Thomas E. Maresca Reviewed work(s):

Source: ELH, Vol. 37, No. 3 (Sep., 1970), pp. 374-388 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

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LANGUAGE AND BODY IN AUGUSTANPOETIC

BY THOMAS

E. MARESCA

WhenSwift'sAeolists,swollenwiththeirdivinewinds,deliver

"

theiropinionsby eructationand

to be the noblestAct of a RationalCreature,"'theiropinion, howeverSwiftianandextreme,hasmanycounterpartsinAugustan

satire. They stand,chronologicallyand ideologically,midway betweentheswollen,flatulent,and averbalShadwellofDryden's MacFlecknoeand the stultifyingyawnof Dulness,whose" un-

creatingword

worksand thoseofothermajorAugustanwritersextendsa net- workof ideas thatties togetherlanguageand body,wordand thing,withknotsofpeculiarcomplexity.The paperthatfollows is an attemptto loosensomeofthoseknots. In MacFlecknoe,Drydenconcentratesthemainelementsofhis attackon Shadwellin thewell-knownlinesofFlecknoe'sopening

soliloquy,in the courseof whichthe aged princereviewsall of

thecharacteristicsthatqualifyShadwellfortheempireofnon-

sense: Shadwellis meaningless,verbose,tautological,in essence exactlylikehis putativefatherFlecknoe.As Flecknoehimself

says,

long knownthat DrydensatirizesFlecknoeand Shadwellby attributingto themthreeofficeswhichtheygrosslydistort,those ofprophet,priest,and king.Not coincidentally,orthodoxChris- tianitytraditionallyattributesthoseofficesto Christ.Drydenin MacFlecknoeconsistentlyappropriatesforhis satiricpurposes ideasdrawnfromChristictheology,particularlyfromthetheology

oftheLogos. The Logos,thesecondpersonoftheTrinity,also

bearsthe

FlecknoeemostresemblestheFather'sannouncementoftheking-

shipofhisSon inBook V ofParadiseLost,butit also and more

affirmthe Giftof BELCHING,

"

(IV. 654) concludesThe Dunciad. Amongthese

"

"

Sh

alonemyperfectimagebears

(15) .2 We have

"

perfectimage' ofhis father.The situationin Mac-

1A Tale ofa Tub, ed. HerbertDavis (Oxford,1957), Sect. VIII, p. 96. All quota- tionsfromA Tale are to thisedition.

2 quotationsfromDryden are fromThe Poems Kinsley (Oxford,1958).

of John Dryden, ed. James

374

Language and Body in AugustanPoetic

importantlydrawsuponthesamesortofconceptionsthatMilton utilizedin BookIII, thedialoguein HeavenbetweentheFather

and theSon aboutthefateofman. Therethesecondpersonis elaboratelypresentedin his capacityas the Logos,the perfect
expressionoftheFather,andthedialoguebetweenthetwodrama-

tizesexplicitlytheimplicitrelationshipbetweenthem.The rela-

tionshipis,inhumanterms,tautological.WhattheFatherspeaks,

theSonembodiesandrepeats.In

his Fathershone/Substantiallyexpress'd" (III. 139-140).3 To

make the relationshipeven moreclear,MiltonbuildsChrist's speechoutofalmosteverydeviceofrepetitionknownto Renais- sancerhetoric-forexample:

Milton'swords,intheSon

"

all

ForshouldMan finallybe lost,shouldMan Thycreaturelateso lov'd,thyyoungestSon Fallcircumventedthusbyfraud,thoughjoin'd Withhisownfolly?thatbe fromtheefar, Thatfarbe fromthee,Father,whoartjudge Ofallthingsmade,andjudgestonlyright. OrshalltheAdversarythusobtain

His

Hismalice,andthygoodnessbringtonaught (III. ? 150-58)

end,andfrustratethine,shallhefulfill

The wholedialogueis formedfromjustsuchdramatizationofthe

basic theologicalrelationship,and I

MacFlecknoe drawsuponthissamerelationship.A fewlinesfur-

theron,Drydenmakesthisexplicitwhenhe has Flecknoerefer to Shadwellas a Christicanti-typeof his 'Old Testament' precursors:

suggestthat Dryden in

HeywoodandShirleywerebutTypesofthee,

Thoulast

greatProphet of Tautology

(929-30)

The fundamentalpointofthisrestson theroleof theLogos in creation.God createsby and throughtheWord;theWordis theagentand modelof creation.WhatFlecknoeand Shadwell produceamountsto a travestyofthisdivinecreativity.God is tautological:hisessenceandexistenceareidentical.He expresses himselfin tautologies:in the Logos, who mirrorshim;in his declarationto Moses," I am thatI am"; in hiscreationofman inhisownimage.But Godis tautologicalbecausethereis nothing

3All quotationsfromMilton are fromJohnMilton: CompletePoems and Major Prose,ed. MerrittY. Hughes (New York, 1957).

ThomasE. Maresca

375

outsidehimselfto whichhe can refer;he encompassesall being andprovidesitsgroundand source.God createsoutofthisfull- nessofbeing;Flecknoeand Shadwellcreateoutoftheirvacuity. Thereis no distinctionbetweenthemand theircreations,just as therecan be no distinctionbetweenthemas persons.Here,of course,liesthetotaldifferencebetweentheircreativityandGod's:

hiscreationis reallydistinctfromhim,just as theSon is really distinctfromtheFather.The divinetautologyresultsin infinite variety,thehumanone in mererepetition.God unitesthreein one,butFlecknoeand Shadwellmerelyrepeatonein two (thus Shadwell'snameinthepoem-MacFlecknoe). TheLogosbridgesthegapbetweenhumananddivine,between materialandspiritual;FlecknoeandShadwellreversethatprocess and use the wordto divide,to subtractsoul frombody. Their

creationsaremarkednotbylifebutbycorporeality.Sheerphysi-

cal bulkistheirdistinguishingcharacteristic:FlecknoecallsShad-

well

"

A Tun ofMan '

(195); "his goodlyFabrickfillstheeye"

(103).

(25); "loads of ShA-.- almost choakt the way

Appropriately,Drydendepictsthisby meansof an essentially blightedsexualityandubiquitousscatology.Shadwell'sthroneis

erectedonthesceneof"Lewd loves,andofpollutedjoys" (71); he earlypracticedthe lore of Love's Kingdom (124); Psyche

sprungfromhisloins(1925)-surely an unlikelysourceforPsyche.

Flecknoeoffersto teachhim

Pangswithoutbirth,and fruitless

Industry"(148), a lessonhe seemsnotto need,sincehe begins

thepoem"big withHymn (41) and endsit stillflatulentand

swollen,a "mountainbelly witha

"

"

tympanyofsense (193-94)

"

certainlythe longestfalsepregnancyin literature.Dryden's

frequentlyde-

"

"

doubtthatwhenthe echoescall from Pissing-Ally (47) it

"

Shadwell " theyaresaying-especiallysince,a fewlineslater,

"

(50). At any rate,all of

consistentuse of the abbreviation " Shy-,"

mands,despitethemeter,a monosyllabicandscatologicalreading.

I

is

Shadwell'ssongis said to attractthe littlefishesas does " the

MorningToast, that Floats along

thisdefinesthe natureof Flecknoe'sand Shadwell'sart. Com- pletelymaterial,it representstheoverflowoflifeandenergyonly inthemostgrosslyparodicsense;it is formedfromtheremnants

ofliferatherthanfromlifeitself. Drydenforcesus to see Shadwellas a travestyof Christ,a reductioad absurdumofthedivinetautology.The satiremakes Shadwell'sflesh,hismodeofexistence,exclusivelyverbal,while

376

Languageand Body in AugustanPoetic

at the same timedemonstratinghow he convertsall wordsto

flesh,reducesthemtoinertmatter.Shadwell,tautologicalinevery

respect,becomesthevehicleforhis

of the word: he is " Swell'dwiththe Pride of [his]Celestial charge"; he bearsthewordwithinhim,"big withHymn." The obverseof this confusionof literatureand reality,spiritand matter,can be seenin Flecknoe'slaterdescriptionof Shadwell,

ownveryliteralincarnation

"

A Tun of Man in thy Large bulk is writ"

(195), wherethe

word once again mergesinto the flesh. In these images we are dealing witha parody,a debasement,of the centralmomentof Christianhistory.If theIncarnationof Christprovidesthe nexus of human and divine,of fleshand spirit,Shadwell's false preg- nancyshattersthatconnection.What he producesis thecomplete

reification,the total corporealization,of word and spirit. His flatulenceparodies the idea of the Word withinthe word,and his verbaland physicalconstipationforthe durationofthe poem (Shadwellneverspeaks in MacFleckno'e) quite literallyembody thetotal sterilityand self-enclosureofhis works. All ofthiselaboratetheologicalparaphernaliaprovidesthebasis forthe poem'smode ofprocedure:the playingwiththe theology of the Logos subvertsthe frameworkof realityand bringsinto being an exclusivelyverbal world-but a verbal world that is paradoxicallytrappedin matter.If God, in creatingthroughthe Word,made a materialworldcapable ofrisingto spirit,Shadwell throughthedegradationofthewordcreatesan immaterial,verbal worldwhichis quickly sinkinginto matter. In an ambivalent sense,thisworldpossessesno realityoutsidethe printedpage. It existsas literatureexistsand drawsits sustenancefrom-and only from-literature;thisexplainsthe superabundantallusionswhich punctuatethe poem. On the otherhand,literatureexistsin this worldas onlythe physicalrealityofthe printedpage-" loads of

Sio- almost choakt the way"

upon itself.It cannothave referenceto any realityoutsideitself and so mustbe tautological. Ultimatelyin such a worldthe artifactachievesthe same level of existenceas the artist-or vice versa-and the artistpays the

priceforhis own hackwork,as does the " yet declaimingBard"

(9213) at the end of MacFlecknoe. His inabilityto make clear

distinctionsin the realmof art produces,in the realm of

a worldwhichis all Love's Kingdom,populatedonlyby Humor- ists,Hypocrites,and Virtuosos. Sloppy art, Dryden is arguing,

(103).

Such a world closes

being,

Thomas E. Maresca

377

effectsa confusioninreality;or,putanotherway,ourartembodies therealitywelivein,thereforeconfusionin artand confusionin realityare necessarycorollariesof each other. This relation betweenartand realityis essentiallytherelationshipofthefirst andsecondpersonsoftheTrinity,tautological,twoversionsofthe samething.Thus the incoherenceof Flecknoe'sand Shadwell's mindsis theincoherenceoftheworldtheycreatearoundthem, andtheythemselvesarenomoreorlessrealthantheircharacters

BruceorLongvil. ElementsofthissamesituationarediscernibleinAbsalomand Achitophel,whereDrydenemploysbodiesas debasingmetaphors in a quite similarway. He describesall of the poem'svillains as markedlycorporealand leaves the poem's heroesvaguely etherealandspiritual.Absalom'svillainsexistinourimaginations primarilyas physicalentities-"that unfeather'd,two Leg'd

thing,"Achitophel'sson (170);

inform'd[his]TenementofClay" (158); Corahwithhis" Moses's

Face " (649); and even " The wellhungBalaam " (574). Cor-

porealimagerymarksall therebelsand theiractivities,dragging

themdownfromthe realmof spirittheywouldusurpto the worldofmatter.Imagesofeatingandoffoodaboundinthepoem,

frequentlyin semi-blasphemouscontexts.Jewishrabbis and

Jebusitesagreethat it is theirduty"Tespouse his

whomtheyeat and drink"

in theMass, unchew'dand Crude" (113).

porridgeforthePaschalLamb

ofthisimageryand its ideologicalclimaxin the poemoccurin David's concludingspeech. The processof corporealizationto whichtherebelshave all beensubjectedtherereachesits nadir

ina symboliccannibalism:

Achitophelhimself,who "o'r

Cause by

(107). The plotitselfis " swallow'd

"

Nadab "made new

(576). The finaltransformation

AgainstthemselvestheirWitnesseswillSwear,

TillViper-liketheirMotherPlottheytear:

AndsuckforNutrimentthatbloodygore

WhichwastheirPrincipleofLifebefore.

(1012-15)

These strikingcorporealimagesall achievea commoneffectin the poem: theyconstitutea symbolicenactment,in the moral realm,of the publicrebellionand its concomitantwithdrawal fromgrace.TheydebasetheimageofhismakerthatDavid bears byreducingthatimageintheindividualandin societyto a mere physicaleffigy,a thingto be torn,used,consumed.They are,

378

Languageand Body in AugustanPoetic

ifyouwill,simplyotherversionsofthegoldencalfto whichthe rebelswouldreduceDavid (66). In theIncarnation,ChristdomesticatedtheWordintherealm of flesh.Dryden'sFlecknoeand Shadwellreversedthat action by themselvesbecomingonlywords-notsymbols,onlywords. They have referenceto nothingoutsidethemselves:theyare completelyself-referentialandtautological.Thebodyinthisview

is not a symbolof a spiritualor intellectualstatebut ratheris thespiritualorintellectualstatebecausethattoohas beenthor-

oughlycorporealized:the

son,isbothhisfather's " hudledNotions

(172). OpposedtotheIncarnationoftheWordstandstheliterali-
zationoftheflesh.Swift'spracticewithLilliputians,Brobding-

nagians,andLaputansobviouslybearson this;hisllouyhnhnms perfectlyexemplifythe total literalizationand consequentde- humanizationofan intellectualconstruct,animalrationale.The Platos,Virgils,Wottons,andBentleysoftheBattleoftheBooks

playout

shapelessLump" (172), Achitophel's

"

"

(171) and

"

Anarchy"

thesameprocessand illustrateas nicelyas does Mac-

Flecknoethatin theprocessofmakingeverythingliteraturewe makeeverythingonlything-justbooks,physicalobjectsto be shelved,sorted,separated,etc. Swift'sbriefcommenton the

evolutionof zeal in A Tale of a Tub summarizesthe whole process:

However,forthisMeddlyofHumor,[Jack]madea Shiftto finda veryplausibleName,honoringit withtheTitleofZeal; whichis,

perhaps,themostsignificantWordthathathbeeneveryetproduced

in

AnalyticalDiscourseuponthatSubject;whereinI havededuceda

anyLanguage;As,I think,I havefullyprovedin myexcellent

Histori-theo-physi-logiccdAccountofZeal, shewinghow it firstpro-

ceededfroma Notionintoa Word,andfromthenceina hotSummer, ripnedintoa tangibleSubstance.(Sect.VI,p. 86)

This,I think,is thecentralsituationofAugustanpoetic.The Incarnationprovidesa field,a pointofcontactbetweentheintel- lectuallyconceivedverbaland the sensuallyperceivedphysical:

it offers,in effect,a guaranteeof the validityof thoughtand poetryandan assuranceoftherealityoftheextra-subjectiveuni- verse.Consequentlythebestpoetryis notjust a visionoftruth, but is truth;it offersthe " goldenworld" thatSidneyspokeof and whichso muchof Neoplatonicestheticsjustified.In good poetry,the verbal and the real coincideand truthmanifests itself.At theoppositeextreme,in the veryworstpoetry,there

ThomasE. Maresca

379

is no correlationbetweenthe verbalworldand the real world. Rather,themalformedverbalconstructmirrorsexactlythedis- tortedintellectualvisionthatengendereditanda strangetravesty of the Platonicvisionof truthappears: such poetryis self- supportingandinternallyconsistentbecauseit neverescapesthe distinctworldsof wordand thingto enterthe worldof spirit whichwouldcontradictit. It possessesin superabundancethe excellencewe presentlypraisein contemporarypoetry,internal coherence,becauseit possessesonlytherealityofoneconscious- ness. It implicitlyrejectsanalogyas actuallyexistingand pre-

sents rathera

chosenbecausehe mostresemblesFlecknoeand becausein turn his charactersmostresemblehim. Whenlanguageis properly employed,art approximatesnature;whenit is improperlyem- ployed,artproducestheartificial. Somesatiricusesofthetraditionalmetaphorofthemirrorof art may helpto clarifyall of this. The essentialpointof the commonplaceuse ofthemirrormetaphoris, of course,thatart imitatesreality,whetherthatrealityis conceivedofas a physical

particularor a Platonicidea or anythingbetweenthose two extremes.In satiricusesofthemetaphor,stressis laid uponthe superficialnatureof the reflectioninvolved:onlysurfacesare reproduced;the imitationis confinedonlyto the material,the bodyalone. The followingis fromA Tale ofa Tub:

totallysubjectiveuniverse-thusShadwellis

A certainAuthor,whoseWorkshave manyAgessincebeen,entirely

lost,doesin hisfifthBook and eighthChapter,say of

Griticks,that

theirWritingsare the Mirrorsof Learning. This I

literal Sense, and suppose our Author must mean, that whoever designsto be a perfectWriter,mustinspectintothe Books of Criticks,

and correcthis Inventionthereas in a Mirror. Now, whoevercon- sidersthat the Mirrorsof the Antientsweremade of Brass, and sine Mercurio,may presentlyapply the two Principal Qualificationsof a True Modern Critick,and consequently,must needs conclude,that these have always been, and must be foreverthe same. For, Brass is an Emblem of Duration, and when it is skillfullyburnished,will cast Reflectionsfromits own Superficies,withoutany assistance of

Mercury frombehind. All the other Talents of a Critickwill not require a particularmention,being included,or easily deducible to

understandin a

these.

(Sect. III, p. 63)

Let us pass overthenarrator'sinterestingliteralismand thepos-

sible significationsof Mercury and brass to concentrate on the extremelycorporeal version of artistic reflectionthat Swift here

380

Language and Body in Augu-stanPoetic

describes.The mirroritselfis presentedas a solidsurfacethat resistspenetration;the imageis quite physicallythrownback fromthis superficies.The conceptionand the languageare Lucretian;thisis in factLucretius'descriptionof the behavior of atomsin the formationof reflectedimages.4Such language and such a sourcefirmlylock the kindof reflection,criticism, and artSwiftis talkingaboutin an absolutelycorporealworld,

a worldthatis exhaustivelydescribedas bodiesin motion;spirit is totallyabsent. Such criticismformsthe adequatebase from whichGrubeanart develops.That art,like the criticalmirror, revealsitselfas a seriesofpeculiarlyimpenetrableoutsides,sur- faceswithno content,such as the tub itself.Swiftdescribes Grubeanartinexactlythismannerearlyin theTale:

theGrubaeanSageshavealwayschosento conveytheirPrecepts

Fables,

and theirArts,shutup withinthe Vehiclesof Types and

whichhavingbeenperhapsmorecarefuland curiousinadorning,than was altogethernecessary,it has faredwiththeseVehiclesafterthe usualFate ofCoachesover-finelypaintedand gilt;thatthetransitory

Gazershave so dazzledtheirEyes,and fill'dtheirImaginationswith the outwardLustre,as neitherto regardor consider,the Personor thePartsoftheOwnerwithin.(Introduction,p. 40)

Such surfaceadornment,such artificiality,is exactlythe art and learningof Pope's dunces, who, in Aristarchus'words, "Like buoys,that neversinkinto the flood,/On Learning'ssurfacewe

but lie and nod

practicesin The Rape oftheLock. The scene of Belinda's toiletin Canto I of The Rape of the

Lock furnishesan elaborateand importantuse ofthemirrorimage. There Belinda engagesin a complexartificewhichparodies the processof trueart and producesa verycorporealversionof the

goldenworldof art as she

And keenerLightningsquicken in her Eyes "

"heav'nly Image"

debases theidea seenin themirrorofthemindand reproducedin themirrorofart-a conceptionthatformsthebasis ofmostNeo- platonic esthetics. The whole situation simply literalizesthe metaphorof the mirrorof art and reifiesthe art work. Signifi- cantly,the art workin thiscase is not the mirroritself,noris it

"

(IV.

241-2).5 And such,too, is the art Belinda

"

Sees by Degrees a purerBlush arise,

(I. 148-44). The

(I. 125) she sees in the glass imitatesand

'

' All

Cf. De RerutmNatura,IV. 97 ff.and IV. 150ff.

quotationsfromPope are fromthe TwickenhamEdition, ed. John Butt

and New Haven, 1939-1961).

(London

ThomasE. Maresca

381

in themirror,butis ratherBelindaherself.She performsa com- pletelytautological,reflexiveact,beginningandendinginherself;

she

and worshipped,artistand artifact.Such an artifactnot only distortsSidney'sNeoplatonicversionoftheartwork,butrecreates

quiteexactlythekindofartthatPlatobannedfromhisrepublic.

Belindaexplicitlyimitatesan imitation,theironically heav'nly

Image" she sees in themirror.We cannotforgetat thispoint thatPlatopejorativelylinkedartandthemirroras bothillusory,

bothrepresentersof a falsely-seemingreality,so thatBelinda's adornmentofthemirrorimageremovesheryetfurtherfromthe

ideallyconceivedreal.

thissectionofPlato'sargument:

is bothpriestessand goddessof her own cult,worshipper

"

Let me cite the concludingremarksof

Wemayconclude,then,thatall poetry,fromHomeronwards,consists inrepresentinga semblanceofitssubject,whateverit maybe,includ-

ingany kindofhumanexcellence,withno graspofthe

. Stripwhatthe poethas to say of its poeticalcoloring,and I think youmusthaveseenwhatit comesto in plainprose.It is likea face whichwas neverreallyhandsome,whenit has lost the freshbloom

ofyouth.6

Plato's judgmentis far too harsh to be applied literallyto the fragileBelinda, but it does forceanotherperspectiveon Pope's

ambiguous use of comparativesin

" purerBlush." Taken in its widestimplication,thispassage parodiesthewhole late Renaissance notionof the poet and his relationto the cor-

poreal and the ideal worlds. Belinda is explicitlya creatorgod

whosefiat " calls forthall the Wondersof her Face

she engagesin the same kind of world-buildingthat Renaissance poetssaw as thehighestreachoftheircraft.7This lies behindher

invoking the Cosmetic"-rather thancosmic-" Pow'rs " (124)

and her selectingfrom"The

(130) . It accountstoo forthepresencehereoftheunitedtortoise and elephant,miniaturizedinto combs: althoughthey are only superficialartifactshere,surelytheybringwiththemechoes of theirfamousappearancein Locke's discussionof falsenotionsof substanceas an illusoryexplanationof the structureof the uni-

reality .

"

keener Lightnings "

and

"

(42), and

"

various Off'ringsof the World"

6 The Republic of Plato, trans. F. M. Cornford (New York, 1963), X. 600, p. 331.

7See, for example, Sidney's Defence of Poesie or Tasso's Reflectionsupon Heroic Poetry.

382

Languageand Body in AugustanPoetic

verse.8Heretheirunionformsa stepin theformationofa false worldof false art that extendsfromthe generaldisorderof "UnnumberedTreasures" (129) and "The variousOff'rings of the World" (130) to the fullyrealizedbut stilldisordered plenitudeof " Here Files of Pins extendtheirshiningRows,/

Puffs,Powders,Patches,Bibles Billet-doux" (137-38). Belinda

createsa Whiggishworld,a highlyornamented,unpatterned plenitudeofwhichsheis centerandexemplar-whichis precisely, in small,herrolein thewholeofTheRape oftheLock.9 The same confusionof artistand artifactthat we saw in MacFlecknoeprovidesthecoreofPope'spassage: Belindapaints, and whatshepaintsis herself.The mirroronlyreturnsa surface appearance:whatis affectedis not the intellectualvision,but onlythecorporealsurface,ofBelinda'sface. Pope's linesmake prominentalso anotheraspectofthiswebofideas: thereflexive natureofbad art. It is always,in thelanguageofMacFlecknoe, tautological.It beginsand endsin itself.We cannotemphasize thispointtoomuch,becauseit is so antitheticalto whatwehave allbeentaughttorecognizeas a virtueinpoetry.By thesestand- ardsofjudgment,poetryfailswhenit doesnotgo outsideitself,

whenit is self-contained,whenit is the subjectiveexpression of a subjectiveworld-likeBelinda's,even whenthat worldis internallyconsistentand self-supporting-likeBelinda's. Pope elegantlyinsistsonthispointat theendofTheRape oftheLock whenthe Muse, with" quickPoeticEyes," sees Belinda'slock metamorphosedintoa star. Belinda,whohas been the sun in her own miscreateduniverse,is movedby properpoetry,by Pope'sownMuse,fromcentertocircumference,fromfalsedivinity to truepoeticimmortality.The poemopenswith" thoseEyes

thatmusteclipsetheDay"

(I.

14) and Belinda'svisionof the

8'Essay on Human Understanding,II. xxiii.2.

'Ralph

Cohen,in "The AugustanMode

in EnglishPoetry,"Eighteenth-Century

(12).

Studies,I (1967), 3-32,arguesthat theselinespresent" an invertedprospect"

It seemsto me that the " prospect" is not invertedat all, culminatingas it does in

a fullyrealizedmicrocosm.Rather,the seriousflawwouldappear to be the prospect

itself," implyinga

not necessarily)to an infinitybeyondman's comprehension" (31): these are the veryaspectsof theprospectthatPope apparentlyregardswithhorrorand whichmade

worldlocatable in Newtonianspace and time,leading (though

it a naturalvehicleforBelinda'sperversionofartintomaterial,time-boundartificiality.

Thus I would have to argue that in Pope's view-and implicitlyin Dryden's and

Swift's-theprospectis not one of the major modesof Augustanpoetry,but one of thethreatsto it.

Thomas E. Maresca

383

"

of

name " midstthe Stars" (V. 150) by the Muse. So then: styleis not sufficient.Consistencyis not sufficient. An informingvisionis notsufficient.Merewordsarenotsufficient, and most of all body is. not sufficient.By extrapolation,this Augustanpoetic demands a poetrythat weds word and body, thoughtand thing,in small as the Incarnationdid in large. It demandstoo that poetrybe in that same way historicallyverifi- able, at least to the extentthat its consistencyand integritybe measurednotbyitsownrulesorthesubjectiverulesofitscreator, but by some valid externalyardstick.It demands,that is, that poetryspilloverintolife: " pure art," " art forart's sake," even "doing yourown thing" or any of a dozen recentcliches-these are its enemy. It presupposesa verifiableand usable cosmic structureagainst whicha poet can measurehis work,in which he can locate it, and to whichhe can appeal to provehis poem's truthand permanence-just as, to give a briefexample which sums up muchof this,Tom Jonescan appeal to the substantial and theideal Sophia to provehis truthand constancy:

He replied,'Don't believemeuponmyword;I havea bettersecurity,

pledgeformyconstancy,whichit is impossibleto see and doubt.'- 'What is that?' saidSophia,a littlesurprised.-'I willshowyou,my charmingangel,'criedJones,seizingherhand and carryingher to theglass. 'There, beholdit therein thatlovelyfigure,in thatface, that shape,thoseeyes,thatmindwhichshinesthroughtheseeyes. Can themanwhoshallbe in possessionofthesebe inconstant?Im- possible!My Sophia;theywouldfixa Dorimant,a Lord Rochester. You couldnotdoubtit,ifyou couldsee yourselfwithany eyesbut

a

heav'nlyImage in the Glass " (I. 1925);it closeswiththesetting

"

those fairSuns " (V. 147) and the inscriptionof Belinda's

yourown.'

(TomwJones,Book XVII, ch. 12)10

The quotationfromTom'Jonesmakes explicitanotheraspect of thispoetic: the conventionof what we must call the " trans- lucent" body,throughwhichthe ideal formrevealsitself.Swift

uses it explicitlyin a birthdaypoem to Stella whenhe notesthat "Although [her]Size and Years are doubled," her formis not,

"Made

." Hi Dryden too employs

the conceptin the almost disembodiedheroes of Absalom and Achitophel,and particularlyin " GodlikeDavid " (14), " Israel's

up so largelyin [her]Mind

10 The text quoted is that of Edmund Gosse (New York, 1898), VI,

p. 392.

"On Stella's Birthday. WrittenA.D. 1717-/19/,The Poems of JonathanSwift,

ed. Harold Williams (Oxford, 1958), II, 721-22.

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Language and Body in AugustanPoetic

Monarch,afterHeaven'sownheart " (7), at whoseword" His TraintheirMakerin theirMasterhear>"(988). The corollaryto thisin the satirictraditionwe have been examiningis exactlythat" opaque" bodywhichhas recurredin workafterwork-Shadwell's" TunofMan,"Achitophel's" pigmy

body"i frettedto decay,thegrotesquedistortionoftheLaputans, thehideousdegenerationoftheStruldbrugs,thestubbornopacity

ofthewomanflayed,theGrubean

withJudgment,maycostyoua Tooth,andpayyouwithnothing

buta Worm" (Tale,Sect.I, p. 40).

whichBelindaadornsandwhose" heav'nlyImage" sheworships, thesametotallycorporeal,material,reifiedbodythatmarksthe

duncesas, governedby purelymechanicallaws ofmotion,they

followDulness" by sureAttractionled,/And strongimpulsive

gravityofHead

conceivedultimatelywithouthumanity,bodymanifestingitselfas thing,as object. The oppositeand equallyappallingerroris the bodyas mereword,thatis as sound,breath,meaninglessrhetoric:

Swift'sAeolistsbelchingtheirraisond'etre. Shadwellis almost uniqueinthathecombinesbothoftheseextremes,simultaneously

"

Nut,whichunlessyouchoose

It is thesameopaquebody

"

(DunciadIV. 75-6). These are humanbodies

a "mountain belly" and a

"tympany of sense," swollen and

" bigwithHymn."His onlycompetitoris Dulnessherself,who is bothleadenand windy,and whosecareerculminatesin the reductionofall wordsto theirultimateunintelligibleparodyin theunarticulatedvocalbreathofherapocalypticalyawn. Wordsthemselvessharethesamefateas humanbodies:they becomemerethings,ortheyarereducedtoonlysounds,atomistic fragmentshavingno meaningoutsideofthefortuitouscombina- tionstheyfallinto.SwiftillustratesboththeseextremesinBook

III of Gulliver'sTravels,amongthe variousprojectorsof the

AcademyofLagado. Pope showsan evengreaterdisintegration oflanguageintomaterialpartsinthecourseofAristarchus'speech in TheDunciad:

'Tis true,onWordsis stillourwholedebate, DisputesofMe orTe,ofautorat, To soundorsinkincano,0 orA, Orgiveup Ciceroto C orK.

(IV. 219-292)

For furtherillustration,we mustlook past Swiftand Pope to

Sterneto see a worldconceivedas governedby wordswhichare

materialand obeymechanicallaws,and humanbeingswhocan

ThomasE. Maresca

385

onlyexistthroughthefaultymediaofthosewords,suchas Walter Shandy or Tristramhimself. The basic language of Tristram Sharndyis atomism:thewordconceivedofas a solid,impenetrable material object, moving through infinitespace and forming momentaryconstellationsofmeaningas it collideswith,slidesoff, circlesaroundorlinkswithotherdissimilarparticles-even as the charactersofTristramShandybehave,thosebewilderedfolkwho can onlyexplicatethemselvesthroughsomemoreor less material versionof art, Toby throughhis miniaturebattlefields,Walter withauxiliaryverbs,Tristramwiththe madlyintransigentwords of his own biography.In Sterne'sworld,wordsare bodies and move bodies,and bodies frequentlyare words,as in the case of Dr. Slop's famoussquirt,or as in answerto the question" Where was Uncle Toby wounded?" In such a world,bodies behave grammatically-as does Trim's when he reads the sermon-and

words mechanically and

" nose" and

worldis Locke's,withonlya greateremphasisplaced on the asso- ciationofideas; Locke's versionofthe associationofideas is only anotherone of Walter Shandy's (inaccuratelyrecounted) con- sistentlyinadequate attemptsto explain the world he lives in. The Shandy worldis the worldof dawningWesternscience,a world where the atomic hypothesishas triumphedover Aris- toteliangeneraand Platonic ideas and its atomisticimplications are beginningto be felt.

atomistically--as do "bridge"

and

"

whiskers."It is a mistaketo thinkthat Sterne's

I do not mean this in any loose or haphazard way: I mean

preciselythat the kind of ideas about languageand body I have been discussingwereshaped by the premisesand implicationsof whattheAugustansknewas thecorpusculartheory.Almostfrom the Restorationonwards,some formof atomictheorydominated scientificinvestigation,banishingolder ideas of the nature of bodies and along withthemestablishednotionsof the relation- ships of bodies and souls and spiritsof all sorts."2Once again,

Swiftmakes the implicationsand importanceof atomic theory explicitby castingthe mad narratorof A Tale of a Tub as a latter-dayLucretius;the epigraphand his numerousquotations fromDe RerumNatura trailwiththemtheunmistakableaura of Epicureanmaterialismand atheism.'3Swift'shack even presents

12 For the importanceof atomictheoryin thisperiod,see R. IH. Kargon,Atomimnn in EnglandfromHariot to Newton (Oxford,1966).

13 The followingis a translationof the Tale's epigraphand the linesfollowingit in

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animpeccablecorpuscularcaseforthematerialnatureandeffect oflanguage,paraphrasingand quotingLucretiusto theeffect thatairandwordsareheavybodiesleavingconsequentlymaterial impressionsonimplicitlymaterialminds.He quotestherelevant Lucretianlines,whichI giveinCreech'stranslation:

'Tiscertain,then,thatVoicethatthuscanwound

Is all

Material; Bodyevery Sound.

(Introduction,p.36)

Sucha notionoflanguage,evenallowingforSwiftianexaggera- tions,standsat a farremovefromanyattempttoseecorrelations betweenanobject'snameanditsnature,oranyofthelessextreme formsthenaivefaithinthevalidityoflanguagehastaken.Con-

trastitonlywiththeideaoflanguageas

nature-summedup in BenJonson'sterse" Speak,thatI may

mirrorofman'sinmost

seethee '4-and

thegulfbetweentheconceptionsbecomesclear.

It is thepossibilityofthisnotion,thechancethatbad artcan call intobeinga chaotic,purelymaterialworld,thatalarms DrydenandPope and Swift,and theirultimatecondemnation ofall theirvillains-Flecknoe,Shadwell,theGrubStreethack,

Belinda,Dulnessandherminions-isthattheyarecreatingjust

sucha

thisbecauseofthesharedfaithofDryden,SwiftandPope in theabilityoflanguagetoreflectandtoaffectreality.Conversely, andequallyparadoxically,in Sterne,wheretheLucretianswirl ofatomshas becometheonlyreality,languageis powerlessto controlthephysicalworldat all,or evento adequatelyreflect

it,becausetheverydiversityit helpsto createoverwhelmsit. Allthatcanbe achievedis a cockandbullstory,simultaneously endlessandunbegun,inclusiveandinconsequential. Thereareofcourseotherconsiderationsbehindtherelationsof bodyandlanguage.Forinstance,wehavealreadymentionedthe Neoplatonicnotionthatartisticlanguageimitatesandrecreates the worldof ideas ratherthanmerelyphysicalreality-the Sidneyangoldenworldofartas opposedto thebrazenworldof

world.Paradoxically,they-thevillains-canonlydo

Lucretius: " I love to pluck freshflowers,and to seek an illustriouschapletformy head fromfieldswhenceere this the Muses have crownedthe browsof none,first because my teachingis of high mattersand I proceed to unloose the mind from

the close knotsof religion

Library(London,1924), I. 928-32.

. ."

De RerumNatura,trans.W. H. D. Rouse, Loeb

"

Timber,or Discoveries,in CriticalEssays of the SeventeenthCentury,ed. J. E.

Spingarn(Oxford,1957), T,41.

Thomas E. Maresca

387

nature.A corollaryto thattheoryis,ofcourse,theconventionof the'translucent'worldand the'opaque"' worldas theyappear inart;theoneenablesus to seethroughitto theidealorspiritual worldbeyond;theotherstopsourvisionat itself,forcingus to acceptits merelyphysicalrealityand consequentlyto see it as deprivedof spiritand grace. (Swift'sbrazen,Lucretianmirror furnishesan excellentinstanceofbothofthese.) Andthereare too the simplernotions,preservedmainlyin the pictorialarts, ofbodiesas ononehandideal,Apollonian,andontheotherhand as privations,as bearingin themselvesthemarksofthefalland thelossofgrace.But atomismnegatedthesemodesandreplaced themwitha newandterrifyingvisionofthebodytotallywithout grace,a corporealitythatexcludedall otherformsof existence, all othermodesofbeing.It is thisthataccountsinlargepartfor thepeculiarsatiricusesofbodiesas debasingdevicesinAugustan literature;it is thisthatfinallyradicallyalteredtherelationship oflanguageand bodyforAugustanand all subsequentart.

State UniversityofNew York StonyBrook

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Languageand Body in Augu-stanPoetic