Notes on readings for 1/28

In the readings from January 28, three poems should receive special emphasis.

Shakespeare, Sonnet 129 (“Th’expense of spirit in a waste of shame”)

For notes on this dense poem, please consult the Oxford Shakespeare edition of the sonnets. Whenever I put a Shakespeare Sonnet in a handout, the sonnet number (printed in blue on the screen) is a hyperlink to the page of notes in this edition.

George Herbert, “Prayer” (1)

As with Donne’s “Valediction: forbidding Mourning,” I’m giving this to you in its seventeenth-century spelling. A modern-spelling version is here:

Prayer” (I), ed. N.J. Endicott, in Representative Poetry Online (University of Toronto, n.d.).

The number “(1)” is not part of Herbert’s (or his printer’s) title; in modern texts it distinguishes it from the other poem titled “Prayer” in Herbert’s book The Temple.

The PDF on Sakai includes dictionary links for some words that may be hard to guess the meanings of. In addition:

Christ-side-piercing spear (6)

during the Crucifixion, according to the Gospel of John, a Roman soldier stabbed Jesus with a spear; John 19:34 q.v. Cf. Wikipedia s.v. “Holy Lance”.

The six-daies-world (7)

in the Book of Genesis, God is said to have taken six days to make the world.

in ordinarie (11)

likely in the sense given in OED, 3rd. ed., s.v. “ordinary,” n., P2: “in an official capacity.”

Stevens, “The Snow Man”

A good poem for a pandemic winter.

Author: AG

Associate Professor, Department of English, Rutgers University, New Brunswick