Thursday, March 13, 2008

The New Critics and "The Pillar of Fame"

Herrick, Robert. "The Pillar of Fame."The Norton Introduction to Poetry. J. Paul Hunter, Alison Booth, and Kelly J. Mays. 9th edition. New York: Norton, 2007. 285.

The New Critics analyze words, content and structure/form in order to find tensions that ultimately resolve. The poem can be analyzed merely as a self-contained entity and has a singular effect. The visual structure of the poem most notably lends towards tension. While a pillar seems strong in its foundations, there is a frailty presented in the word choice of "charmed and enchanted" (line 3). While most of the poem exists within the realm of perfect rhyme, the few partial rhymes draws extreme attention to conflicting ideas. These partial rhymes occur in the center of the poem (where the poem is at its theoretical weakest) and at the very end (where the poem is at its theoretical strongest). The tension between weakness and strength of a pillar is in the end resolved, implying that despite its trials, the pillar will stand as a foundation.

1. What is the relationship of the title to the rest of the poem?

2. What do you believe is the chief paradox in the text? What is its importance?

3. How do all of the elements in the text support the text's main paradox?

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