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« Anthony Madrid, Guest Blogger May 13-19 | Main | "The Rape of Persephone" [by Justine Bienkowski] »

May 12, 2012


Greetings, Mr. Madrid. I will take the bait, and defend "And Pan did after Syrinx speed / Not as a nymph, but for a reed." First and foremost, it wants to make sense and it does; or, it makes the sense it wants to make; or, again, it offers the sense it wants us to make of it. I'd add to your reading the suggestion that the gods have foreknowledge of these metamorphoses (in fact, they directly or indirectly cause them), but they pursue love (or, as we read this today, they stalk it) anyway—they play the game. You skip to the utility, the clever turn: beauty becomes song (or the means of song, or the ends). (Of course, the glory belongs to Marvell, who takes Appollo's laurel.) OK. Let's assume, though, that Marvell wrote "as" in that last line. Or do we need to read it as "for" in order to read the poem as we have? Actually, if we read the stanza's transformations in terms of an objectification of love (and the "hunted"—yikes!—loved one), "as" makes good sense. Pan wants to use the nymph as a reed. He does not pursue her "as" a nymph; he pursues her "for" her reediness [ima read ima reed ima read]. Furthermore, the language change (from "as" to "for") reflects the linguistic metamorphosis of "nymph" to "reed." What would Syrinx have to say about this? Maybe: Blow me, Pan.

i LOVE the quotations idea OMG but i'm coming back to try to defend the AS after i celebrate mother's day.

Just to repeat, more flatly and dully, JTJ's point.

Apollo pursued Daphne for the laurels she would be come, Pan pursued Syrinx for the flute she would become. Neither wanted nymph as nymph. One so that she would grow into a tree, the other for the reed...

God pursues girl, god loses girl, god gets garden.

Gotta say, cut through JTJ's self-satisfied patter, he's got a point, & so does JSC. I'm convinced, pardner. Sorry.

I have to admit, sadly, that I didn't even understand how "as" was possible before, and now I do. It still sounds like hell to me, but.

Listen, I'll tell you what I told Kateri. My deal is I can't shake my grammatical intuition that when you say something like "I spoke to her as a friend," it is surely *you* who are being the friend. So when the lines say Pan chased after Syrinx "not as a nymph," I'm like, Well, duh! why would he want to take on the form of a nymph and then chase her?

I know, I know . . .

"He chased after her, not {insofar as she was} a nymph, but {because he wanted} a reed." Got it, got it.

I still think the {for/for} version is better, though.

oh yeah, what he said.

i might also add that it's pretty random what sounds funny or wrong to our ears or senses of grammar. e.g., like to the lark at break of day arising; shall i compare thee TO a summer's day, etc. Maybe if a poem was written by a copy editor, it might be interesting to consider the meanings of commas, etc.; but poets and editors of poetry are/were generally such poor copy editors that (as a former copy editor), I would go insane if I read poetry with these kinds of copy-editing concerns in mind.

It's Cioran, says the thing about quotes is what's good to read...

So A . . . I've been thinking a lot about the erotics of Marvell's Georgics, and have decided that in addition to what you and JTJ and JSC say is going on, what "not as a Nymph" also gets you is a kind of literalism--Pan doesn't want the female body, he wants to fuck natural objects. Earlier in the poem, apples drop themselves upon the speaker’s head; nectarines and peaches crush themselves upon his mouth. This is a compensatory fantasy in which natural objects—unlike woman, unlike one’s readers—capitulate, unbidden, to the speaker’s desires. The eroticism of the poem is ecological: sex with fruit, and grass and trees. “Stumbling on melons, as I pass, / Ensnared with flowers, I fall on grass” (l. 39-40). What do you think? --Sandra

(What I meant by pointing to lines 39-40 is that this scene is consistent with the later inversion of Ovidian myth--the desire FOR trees and reeds. It's a kind of rape scene: the flowers fell/fuck the speaker, the speaker falls on/fucks the grass.) Is this nerdy enough for ya?

Hmm. I feel like it's misleading to say Marvell wants to fuck the stuff! I mean, *kinda*. But isn't it more like he's saying the peach and the melons and the grass are actually *better* than sex? His whole drift is "What do we need sex for when we have nature?" How paltry kisses are, compared to that peach, etc.

Pan and Apollo, too. They don't wanna screw. They want reeds and leaves. ’Cuz reeds and leaves are nice! They trip you up? No matter, they catch you softly. No rape here. Rape is what happens over there in Ickyland where you have to deal with real women.

Anyway, such is my reading of this upside-down poem.

I wrote a long blah blah blah in response. Shorter version is: I agree with you. Natural objects are preferable to human ones. Question is: why? how? I don't know how one can write eroticism--the pastoral and Ovidian erotics of the hunt--out of Marvell's substitutions. Long version has to do with georgic as the genre of motivity, pastoral of quiescence, Marvellian allegory as committed to a horizontalizing of the relationship between (human) tenor and (non-human) vehicle. See? Blah, blah, blah.

But see, I still think you're resisting the spirit of the thing! You're wanting sex to be The Thing, primary. If he falls on the grass, it's really sex. But Marvell's whole deal is about turning that worldview upside down. Sex is off yonder and it's no damn good. Right here where it's green you get all the sensual delight (and even play!) you could possibly ask for. Part of his point is that not all amorous delight has to come out as sex.

For sure you know Žižek's joke about how somebody was telling him that if he (Žižek) didn't want to share his Chinese food at a restaurant, that was because he didn't want to share his lover's body with other people. Žižek wanted to know why it cdn't be understood the other way on: He doesn't wanna share the lover's body because he doesn't wanna share the Chinese food.

Same kinda reversal going on in Marvell. *You would think* the garden is just a consolation prize, but it is The Thing. Sex is the pale substitute.

(Wait, is this one of those deals where we're both saying the same thing, and I'm just being dense?)

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