Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Robert Herrick's "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.

Tho Kingdom's fall,
This pillar never shall
Decline or waste at all;
But stand for ever by his own
Firm and well fixed foundation. (lines 9-13)

In "The Pillar of Fame," Herrick's use of one structured stanza noticeably employs visual devices to cement the strengths and "weaknesses" of a pillar's form. The center lines, such as "Tho Kingdom's fall," suggest that struggles may arise that can weaken a man made kingdom. This short and abrupt line is complete with punctuation which emphasizes the pause and consequent importance, infering the apparent frailty. However, the lengthening lines following, show that these things will not affect the immorality of the pillar. Endowed with the firmest of structures, spaced liberally and deliberatly through out, the pillar itself is regaining its strength after the threat of trials have been made. Still lengthening the line, the last couplet concludes as a solid foundation to an everchanging, yet ever strong poem.

Herrick also employs various poetic traits. The ending words in lines 9-11 are masculine rhymes, rhyming one syllable "perfectly." These perfect rhymes suggest that at this point in the poem, the speaker's understanding of the pillar is diffinative. Fall, shall, and all are very strong words, determined to set the tone of absolutness as the reader nears the end of the poem. However, as the reader comes to the last two lines, there is no perfect rhyme. This lack of a perfect rhyme, or use of partial rhyme, draws an extreme attention to the last line "Firm and well fixed foundation." This emphasis shows that while the pillar is indeed strong, it is perhaps not strong in comforming to the ideals of society. Understanding that rhyme represented the flow of the universe, the speaker's deliberate use of partial rhyme suggests that the pillar is above the societal understandings of the universe because the pillar of fame is the one who has actually transcended time. The alliteration in the last line shows that the pillar is the foundation, a simple basis which stands on its own merits.


woodstl said...

I am somewhat bothered that the visual techniques of the poem that I tried to portray on the blog did not come through. There is a very distinct structure to this poem and it leads to the very importance of it. For the correct formating, visit [http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/herrick/pillar.htm]

Amy L said...

I like this poem and felt that the structure of it was appropriate. Even simply the formation of each line to the reader is unique in that each line gets longer as the poem goes on. This creates not only a literary foundation, but also a foundation in the sense of the last line is the longest, therefore it is strong and is "holding up" the preceding lines of the poem.

Prof. L said...

I don't know: the pillar at Luminarium looks pretty shaky!

What do you make of "charm'd and enchanted"--is the pillar of fame as reliable as the image suggests, or must it be constructed with the proper hocus pocus?

woodstl said...

The structure in the book is much more firm and unwavering in comparision to the online version I cited. However, the online version is more useful than the blogged format of the quote.

As for "charmed and enchanted," I didn't focus on that section so I missed the meaning of those lines perhaps (line 3). However, looking back it is clear that the words themselves lean towards an instability. "As to withstand"-the tone of uncertainty suggests that there is a possibilty that the pillar will not withstand the blow (line 4).