There’s a certain Slant of light 258

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There’s a certain Slant of light


Intro : Paradox :

Melancholy in ft of a ray of light

Traditionally connotes life
// Keats’ “Ode on Melancholy” : implication that feeling intensely includes grief

Keats’ ref to Persephone/ Proserpine forced to spend half the yr with Hades/Pluto ie myth of spring

Depression associated with wintriness

World sharing her mood of depression __ solipsism ?

Pbic : subjectivity __ pain as what is most difficult to share

  1. Oppressiveness


The chief characteristic of this feeling is its painful oppressiveness. "Oppresses," "weight," "hurt," "despair," and "affliction" convey this aspect.

Yet « pain » is « heavenly » __ interaction pain/pleasure (sublime) : this antithesis a running strategy of ED


Painful and yet intense : the oxymoronic phrases "Heavenly Hurt" and "imperial affliction" that link exultation with anguish

Painful ecstasy : heavenly also indicates origin of the pain

Light as symbol of divine power

_ immense

_ intangible

_ pervasive

Also // poet « slant » is oblique expression

Pain as difference

Beyond human correction, 'None may teach it—Any .' Though it penetrates it leaves 'no scar' ie no outward sign of hurt nor of healing

What it leaves is 'internal difference,' the mark of all significant 'Meanings. ' When the psyche is once stricken with the pain of such knowledge it can never be the same again. The change is final and irrevocable, sealed.

Redemption must be preceded by cscness of mortality & the Fall

« internal difference » : csness of the fall __ knowledge/csness

Consciousness of death

_ winter afternoons : a sense of an ending


_ cathedral tunes : solemn, majestic, like organ music __ Pealing bells suggestive of a funeral

_ seal : on official letter

  • A moment of stillness, poise ("the landscape listens, Shadows hold their breath")

Interiority __ pathetic fallacy

NB : Pathetic fallacy transition ½

  1. Inside/outside

External condition of nature induces in her a certain feeling or mood.


Depression = a lens thru wh meaning is perceived

Nature = expression of the self : solipsism , world as merely a projection of poet’s inner life

Synesthesia : light waves become sound waves and waves of pain __ everything comes back to the speaker : the light, internalized, registers as despair and is understood as death.

Personalized death __ the failure of naturalized death ie of experiencing it as part of nature, in a more indiferent, de-humanized way __ the real escape from mortality

Poem is about correlatives

The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an "objective correlative"; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.

(TS Eliot, « Hamlet and His problems ») 

Interior transformations generated by exterior wld which in turn color exterior wld

Premonition of death becomes death irself

Light casts death « on » ie in direction of the speaker

Slant light given a slant figural meaning that is felt obliquely (becomes explicit in ccl; here intimation of death becomes death itself

Thus knowledge, or csness, never direct but anagogical, relational

  1. Perception of Absence

Description of pain : impossible as such since pain a sort of vacuum outside time and space __ a formless thing that must be expressed in symbols that wld make it accesssible

Elsewhere : substance alternates with abstraction ; here unsubtantial vehicle fot sth amorphous

__ light as stimulus : no description but emotional resonance

« it »

« heavenly hurt, it gives us » : antecedent is slant of light ; but also refers, to figure « heavenly hurt » __ center of the metaphor, ie light as despair

Passage from light to sound ‘heft of cathedral tunes » vibration, waves

« air » also insubstantial

Where to locate meaning ?

_ meaning as manifestation of divine order : « out there »

_ meaning as generated within the self (light what initiates a reshuffling within the psyche)

Not really a « either/or » debate __ fusion of the two in metaphor shows analogy between the two, their equation in perception


Paradox or ultimate adequacy of imagery : image of departure departs itself _ ray disappears "'tis like the distance / On the look of death." Symbol of impermanence itself a fleeting moment __ interplay presence /absence


Slant light // slant meaning

Evanescence : no « landscape » proper : no tress, no snow, no fields

Yet pictorial as speaker does nothing but look


Aims at conveying experience of melancholy rather than expressing melancholy
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