My Paradise Lost

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Two years later, Rev. Holmes was driven out and First Parish officially joined the Unitarian community. In a painful decision, the Dana family left the building in which nine generations of their ancestors had worshiped and join Holmes and other traditional Congregationalists in founding the Shepard Congregationalist Society named after the "soul-melting preacher" of their past.

Compiled by Martin H. London: Westminster, John Knox Press, , In a letter to his wife written years after the move, Richard described how his father's new found faith placed the family under a "cloud" which lasted throughout his youth. Its ambition to end Unitarian influence was entering into its third decade and failing. When Dana wrote for The Spirit of the Pilgrims, a periodical one historian has called "the Unitarian-baiting organ" of Boston, he was participating in an exhausted, protracted battle which appeared to have little effect on the minds and habits of practicing orthodoxy.

Sweeter, Allston Boston, Houghton Osgood, , Biographers suggest that Dana's conversion was instantaneous, a result of attending revival meetings led by Lyman Beecher, the evangelical preacher who traveled to New England to "deliver it from immorality. Of the four poems published in the New York Review, three "The Dying Bird," "Fragment of an Epistle," and "The Husband and Wife's Grave" were written before the winter of the commonly-held season of his conversion.

These poems offer a glimpse of a man who, if not wholly persuaded of, was strongly attracted to Christian orthodoxy. That poem, with its proclamation of "The Mystery,-the Word" cannot be understood unless placed within a traditional Christological context. How influential was Calvinism on Dana's work? Dana's first critics insisted that it was the spring from which his poetry flowed. VII, ed. Calvinism asserts three things: that sin exists, that sin is punished, and that it is beautiful that sin should exist to be punished The heart of the Calvinist is divided between tragic concern at his own miserable condition and tragic exultation about the universe at large.

He oscillates between a profound abasement and a paradoxical elation of the spirit. To be a Calvinist philosophically is to feel a fierce pleasure in the existence of misery. In large part, this is the spirit most of Dana's critics disapproved of. Emerson called this "hereditary spirit" a "disease. Douglas L. Wilson Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, , Hunter, Richard Henry Dana Sr.

Boston: Twayne Publishers, , Both were of a delicate and nervous constitution, habitual invalids Another well-known explication of this agonized conscience can be found in William James' series of lectures on the "sick soul. Although James never mentions Calvinism by name, his discussion of those who "cannot so swiftly throw off the burden" of sin recall the prior century's view of in Melville's words "Puritanic gloom.

Until a "deeper kind of consciousness," is reached, resting not in "simple ignorance" but something "vastly more complex," sin becomes for sick souls a constant presence, the "fixed background of their imagination. Evidence of this close identification is most explicit in "Daybreak," a reveille in nine Spenserians detailing the difficulties of devotion. The poem's epigraph is taken from the passage in which the character Pilgrim, having spent the night in "Peace" the name of his bedchamber , greets the dawn with song.

Yet this epigraph does not include Pilgrim's morning song, one of several examples of verse contained within the prose allegory of Pilgrim's Progress.

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Cheerful is thine eye; And yet in the broad day it must grow dim. Thou seem'st to look on me, as asking why My mourning eyes with silent tears do swim. Although Pilgrim's hymn is replaced by the speaker's failure to greet the morning, this "holy hour" 16 meditation on the "ills and pains of life" 17 exists within a world where in Bunyan's words "the weariness of inward sickness" stir up dreams of heaven.


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The poem's strong association with Calvinist poetics does not stop with Bunyan. Pilgrim's Progress offers a departure point and return, but "Daybreak" recalls the work of Dana's more immediate predecessors.

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When the Sun confronts the poem's speaker with the fact of Nature's power to dispel grief, he responds: I feel its calm. But there's a sombrous hue, Edging that eastern cloud, of deep, dull red; Nor glitters yet the cold and heavy dew; And all the woods and hill-tops stand outspread With dusky lights, which warmth nor comfort shed. Still--save the bird that scarcely lifts its song-- The vast world seems the tomb of all the dead; The silent city emptied of its throng And ended, all alike, grief, mirth, love, hate, and wrong.

James Thomson's The Seasons supplies the speaker's Miltonic rhetoric. Both works were American best sellers in Cowper, who wrote the popular Calvinist hymns "God moves in mysterious ways" and "Oh for a closer walk with God," was also the author of The Task which was the overall bestselling book in America in , the year Dana was born. Instead, Dana spent much of his time avoiding becoming overwhelmed by the era's shift in aesthetic and religious sensibility.

His relevance as critic is not in the originality of his thought or the relevance of the solutions he proposed. Rather, his value as a reviewer and cultural arbiter consists of the ways in which his critical works "struggle" with problems, many of which were of a philosophical nature, he would later return to in poems like "The Dying Raven" and "Thoughts on the Soul.

As a writer for "the most formidable representative of New England intellectualism," Dana reviewed several examples of the new Romantic literature. New Haven: Yale University Press, , Rathbun, American Literary Criticism: Vol. Hall, , Everett, Edward T. Channing, acted as a buffer for some of the revolutionary ideas of the new sensibility since many of these ideas were "seldom indigenous.

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His review of William Hazlitt's Lectures on the English Poets ostensibly defends the poet from charges of egotism and escapism. Dana's promotion of the literature of his compatriots was also tinctured with a concern for contemplation and higher truth. Neither was the sober yet keen style of Dana's reasoning, a result perhaps of his training in law. The passage makes a case for a liberalizing of the range of poetic materials based on a faith in the principle of analogy. Through the process of analogy, all things are connected, a knowledge of one object, regardless of what that is, leads to knowledge of another object.

Herein lies the power of this epistemological principle: through the agent of imagination, it accounts for everything, inversely illustrating Emerson's dictum, " whoever discredits analogy Yet affirming that "there is nothing lonely in nature," he grounded his current discussion firmly in Wordsworth's preface for Lyrical Ballads and what he called the "new phasis" of Romantic contemplation.

Among his contemporaries, the nature of his admiration and praise was unique as it balanced between the competing demands of moral and aesthetic criticism. Despite this admiration, however, when Dana turned from writing criticism to verse, particularly that which depicted the natural world, he was content to adopt a variety of strategies that we associate with more traditional modes of imaginative representation, including typology, allegory, and didacticism. The adoption of these traditional modes within what Dana conceived of as the armature of the contemplative Romantic poem does not appear to be the result of conscious forethought.

Yet there are strong hints of a deliberate design. For those hints, we now turn to an examination of Dana's first poem, "The Dying Raven. Even in its earlier incarnation, "The Dying Raven" revealed the tensions which would later mark Dana's religious writing. Bryant published the poem in but not before challenging Dana's ornithological observations, substituting "Raven" for "Crow" in the poem's title.

He reasoned that the poem's litany of "magnificent titles" given to a bird whose character is "not generally highly thought of" would be greatly improved if it were matched with a bird whose symbolism was widely recognized. Dana responded to the change with a joke: "There is something mighty incongruous to my mind in a man, in the heart of New England, lamenting over a bird which he knows nothing but of Scripture.

Ironically, it was Dana's lack of conviction in these commonplaces that constitute a large part of the poem's tension.

If we momentarily set aside our present inquiry, "The Dying Raven" would still call for special attention, if only for its significance to the poet. The lyrics were Dana's first and, next to "The Little Beach Bird," were the most frequently anthologized of all his poems during the nineteenth century.

Edgar Allan Poe defended himself against charges of plagiarizing parts of the poem for "The Raven," which included publishing an explication of the metric differences between "The Raven" and Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Despite these identifying marks, however, the ethos of the poem appears at odds with its chosen form.

This late admission reveals the poem's interest in "lamenting" a verb in the present progressive tense over "lament" a subject or verb in the past tense and its commitment to portray "dying" before understanding death. In other words, the poem is a monody Gk "alone song" sung by a solitary figure who is not alone, an epicedium Gk "funeral song" sung over a dying, but not yet dead, body.

The poem resembles what the "uncouth swain" of Milton's Lycidas might have composed if he'd been present on the Irish seas for the drowning of Edward King. His modeling of what is arguably the most important single volume of the Romantic period was prescient and deliberate. Naturally, Dana's poems also show the impact of later poems by Wordsworth "The Excursion" which Dana references at the start of "Changes of Home" and especially the theological thought of Coleridge; they also show glimpses of Keats and even Byron.

Its blank verse evokes Coleridge's "The Nightingale," although it lacks a fluid conversational style and treats that poem's ideality more as foil than as inspiration. Addressing that poem's central claim—"In nature there is nothing melancholy"—the speaker of "The Dying Raven" begins with the question, "Come to these lonely woods to die alone?

The loneliness and solitude of the dying crow co-exist with the exuberance of the "blessed bands" of the crow's companions. Their activity is described as a jubilant mob-scene but is nevertheless purposeful. The speaker's summarizes their playful movements thus: Over my head the winds and they make music; And grateful in return for what they take, Bright hues and odors to the air they give.

Thus mutual love brings mutual delight,-- Brings beauty, life; for love is life,--hate, death.

The Poetical Works of Oliver Wendell Holmes — Volume 09 by Oliver Wendell Holmes

This opening passage is a pastiche of Romantic verse, most notably Coleridge's line from "Dejection: An Ode. Like the crow who "peers" at his reflection in the stream, nature is too absorbed in its own giving and taking to connect with man.

Its "mutual love" is a removed scene from the real world of experience below where a single crow, secluded from the rest of his companions, dies alone on the forest floor. The allusions to Coleridge and to a lesser degree, Wordsworth are intentional, yet the poem does not achieve its "form" by calling into question Coleridgean insight or the ideational structure associated with Romantic lyric meditation.

Dana lacked the distance necessary to either refute or develop further the poetics of the "new phasis. Its skepticism concerning the natural world is betrayed by its hesitance, illustrated in the speakers oft-made equivocations of "as if" and "seems. For example, in an attempt to square the experience of nature's fecundity with the apparent cruelty and meaninglessness of the dying crow, the speaker shifts from naturalistic to typological description and back again rather suddenly: Thou Prophet of so fair a revelation!

Thou who abod'st with us the winter long, To speak comfort unto lonely man, Didst say to him, though seemingly alone 'Mid wastes and snows, and silent, lifeless trees Or the more silent ground, it was not death But nature's sleep and rest At line 46, the crow becomes "Priest of Nature, Priest of God, to man! First, as one who brings "faith," hope," and love referred to in line as "universal love" , the crow represents the culmination of the three theological virtues found in St.

Paul's letter to the Corinthians 1 Cor. Secondly, the poem suggests the presence of the doctrine of the Trinity.

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As one who is "brought down" for the sake of others, the crow's death is redemptive as Christ's was. Lastly, the titles "Prophet" "Priest" and "King" join the dying crow with the munis triplex, or the three-fold office of Christ, a Christological doctrine which interpreted the work of the son of God as mediator.

Of the three traditions, the doctrine of munis triplex appears not merely illustrative as the first two allusions are but determinative of the poem's topos. It is also the only tradition that can properly be called "typological.