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Published: 07-10-2019

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Lust and Resignation in Robert Herrick’s “The Vine”

Love is one of the most prolific topics in all of literature. From the perverse to the overly romantic, poets and authors from about the planet continue to settle on adore as a vehicle for relaying their innermost thoughts, feelings, and perspectives. “The Vine,” written by Robert Herrick in the 1600s is ostensibly about a man who dreams that a element of him is a vine that gropes and subdues a young maid nevertheless, beneath the surface of this seemingly perverse affair lies a poem rich in explications on the nature of adore: a idea based on mutual interest and not, as most readers will conclude, enslavement.

As if predicting possible debauched misreadings of the poem, Robert Herrick disassociates both himself and the speaker in the initial two lines: “I dreamed this mortal part of mine / Was metamorphosed to a vine” (1-two). The word “dreamed” in this sense could refer to an actual dream or a a lot more poetic sense of wish, but in either interpretation, the word showcases anything that does not exist in common elements of reality. The use of the word “mortal” furthers this notion of literary dissonance, providing a connotation of deadliness, relentlessness, or otherworldliness, every depicting a mindset in which the “part”—both a phallus and a representation of a missing section, specifically as applied to romantic affairs—is misused, or altogether undesirable. “Metamorphosed,” generally a transitive verb, is utilized in this passage as “having undergone an abrupt alter,” solidifying the distance between the speaker (be it Herrick or not) as the events of the dream unfold.

In lines 3-8, the “vine” rapidly becomes transparent, losing its bucolic romanticism and gaining a sinister air of forced delight. A vine is a best metaphor for the speaker’s lustful involvement: it grows blindly, gropes its victims, and attempts to alter the environment in which it lives. Vines “crawl[…]one and each and every way,” depicting an absence in definite path they develop without insight, heedlessly stretching to places exactly where they are not wanted, similar to the phallic “mortal part” in line 1. Vines also “enthrall” innocent bystanders—the word “enthrall,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary, indicates both “to captivate” and “to enslave”—showing that a vine is not a chaste image of gardens and the pastoral, but one thing with malicious intent. From the lines “And with rich clusters (hid among / The leaves) her temples I behung, / So that my Lucia seemed to me/Young Bacchus ravished by his tree” (11-13), it can be deduced that the malicious intent with which vines act attempts to modify the areas where they grope. In this situation, that area is the physique of a young maid, who is imprisoned (and altered) by the vine.

In addition to the vine’s invasion of individual space, the vine in the poem mistreats Lucia with its base manipulation of her beauty. The vine adorns “rich clusters” upon the head of Lucia, replacing her beauty with the beauty of the vine. The speaker of the poem, then, has been metamorphosed into a vain organism outside of the mortal world where adore is mutual. Bacchus, interestingly adequate, is the god of wine creating in Roman Mythology. In line 14, this motif is used to show the reciprocity of the events in the dream the creation destroys, or “ravishes” in this sense, the creator. It is because of Lucia’s beauty that the vine gropes and adorns her physique, but that Lucia appears to the speaker as “Bacchus ravished by [a] tree” (13) shows the reader that it is not Lucia’s beauty, the item of her lovely existence, that faces manipulation. It is alternatively the vine—or, rather, the speaker who is metamorphosed to a vine—that is the victim in the poem.

The vine’s pastoral beauty has been distorted, with out provocation or control, into a sexual becoming with little appreciation for Lucia, a girl for whom it is recommended that the speaker has had prior feelings of romantic interest. This abrupt modify in tone does not only exist thematically, but also structurally the poem consists of best couplets, save for lines 9, ten, and 11. The further rhyme forces an extended macabre and appreciation for the thematic upheaval in the poem. Just as the speaker is not in manage of himself in the dream, so, also, does his handle of the poetic line lessen. Lines ten and 11 also function the 1st use of parentheses, a poetic “aside” in which the speaker appears remorseful about the actions of the dream, foreshadowing the speaker’s resignation in the final two lines of the poem.

From lines 14 onward, the dreamlike state of the poem is intensified, echoing the beginning lines. The lines “My curls about her neck did crawl,/ and arms and hands they did enthrall” show that the speaker is not in handle of his physique. The speaker did not “enthrall [Lucia] with his hands,” but rather his “arms and hands they did enthrall [Lucia]” (15). The imprecise subject in this line rivals the absence of standard romantic adjectives in line 7, where Lucia’s attributes are just listed : “Her belly, buttocks, and her waist.” The subject in the dream, as properly as Lucia, are indecipherable not because of a surrealistic impact, but solely to lessen the romantic notions of the poem and render a precision to the poem’s true meaning: lovers do not imprison their benefactors, nor do they manipulate their partners. The speaker of the poem, then, is an astonished figure whose mortal love for Lucia has been worn down into sexual conquest in the course of a perverse dream.

There is an air of anguish in the line “All parts there created on prisoner” (17). Not only is the line offset by parentheses, showing an extended pause and moral attrition for the events depicted, but the line also separates Lucia’s functions into an abstraction “all [of her] parts” (17) have been victimized by the vine’s lusty enterprise. Both in the dream and in reflections succeeding the dream, the speaker recognizes the lascivious behavior of the vine (his doppelganger), so attempts to conceal the “unespied” parts which encourage the aforementioned lusty behavior but this concealment, also, final results in a corruption of really like for which the speaker tends to make amends in the last two lines of the poem. Lucia, in addition to being a notable female name, is latin for “light,” so when the speaker of the poem shades the maid’s unespied parts, he is actually performing a disservice to her imminent virtue. The vine hides her beauty from the planet, captivating her not for a preservation of her beauty, but instead as a cultivation of its (the vine’s) own corruption. It is no shock, then, that this romantic avarice leads to “fleeting pleasures” (20), a far more acceptable euphemism for the sexual conquest that has been developing up since line 3. Even though the vine takes advantage of Lucia, there is an inkling of virtue in this act, for the poetic language affirms the speaker’s accurate thoughts about the events in the dream and lessens the perverse elements of the poem.

In “The Vine,” Robert Herrick establishes a series of vulgar photos to show a vine taking advantage of a young maid nevertheless, these images stay secondary to the diction of the poem, which creates the accurate meaning and implications for each the speaker and the poet. In the line “That with the fancy I awoke” (21), the speaker negates the lack of virtue in the “fleeting pleasures” of the prior line. Simply because the “fleeting pleasures” have been directed toward a lady in bondage, they were base and immoral however, the speaker describes the complete matter as “the fancy” (21). According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word “fancy,” here, implies “an hallucination” or “a delusion of the senses.” The speaker of the poem treats the entire dream with ill regard and recognizes the matter as a momentary lapse of purpose. Dreaming of taking advantage of young girls is not a pastime of the poet he instead relates the events of the dream in order to show his personal virtue, which becomes clear in lines 22 and 23.

Although the poem up to this point has consisted of sexual conquest, lusty plants, and ravished girls, the intent of the poem is produced completely clear in the lines “And identified (ah me!) this flesh of mine / Far more like a stock than like a vine” (22-23). The speaker is ashamed of the events that have unfolded throughout the course of the dream and appears delighted to clarify himself. The word “found” implies that there is anything that has been lost (i.e., the virtue of the speaker, the metamorphosed mortal portion) and regained by way of careful reflection. The use of parentheses to set off the speaker’s exclamation reaffirms the morose, however ecstatic joy in the speaker’s awakening. In spite of these brief explanations, it is the word “stock” that remains the most meticulous justification for the virtuous intent of the poet. The word “stock,” in addition to a hard stalk, is a term utilized in the art of grafting, a approach by which two plants are woven into every single other and continue to grow mutually. The “stock” (23), then, is the correct nature of the speaker’s “mortal part” (1). “Stock” is not only a symbiotic pastoral bond in which two beings nurture each and every other, but it is also a metonym for true love, an emotional attachment in which compassion and self-sacrifice replace libertine acts of sexual conquest or forced romanticism.

In “The Vine,” Robert Herrick uses the metaphor of a vine to show the selfishness and folly in sexual conquest. By way of his meticulously crafted diction, he provides the globe a slightly skewed take on the matters of accurate love, even bordering upon literary perversion, but nonetheless manages to show a heartfelt rendition of the nature of correct adore.

Works Cited Herrick, Robert. “The Vine.” Trans. Array The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Volume 1. Stephen Greenblatt. 9th Edition. New York: W. W. Norton and Organization, 2012. 1758. Print.
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