ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURNE QUESTIONS FOR E335 VICTORIAN LITERATURE
Assigned: Algernon Charles Swinburne. "Hymn to Proserpine" (1496-98), "Ave Atque Vale" (1500-05).
"Hymn to Proserpine"
1. Why do you suppose Swinburne employs such an unusual verse form and rhythm -- what psychological effects does he seem to be aiming at? What state of mind does such verse convey? Describe the style's effects on your own consciousness.
2. Characterize Swinburne's language in terms of the opposition spirit/matter, or symbolic/literal.
3. Who is Proserpine, and why does the speaker pray to her?
4. What is the speaker's attitude towards Christianity? Is the new Christian faith the real enemy in this poem, or is something else responsible for the defeat of the pagan world view and religion?
5. What consolation does the speaker draw from the formerly powerful pagan gods, or from some other source?
"Ave Atque Vale"
6. How is this poem "stoic" in tone? What consolation, if any, does the speaker offer to Baudelaire and to those grieving over his death?
7. What relationship, if any, is posited between the living and the dead in this poem? What attitude, that is, should the living take up towards the dead, and, at least by conjecture, vice versa?
8. How does Swinburne convey a sense of what matters about Baudelaire's poetry? How, for example, does Swinburne's nature imagery seem "Baudelairean," if you have read some of that French author's work?
9. What role do the speaker's references to Classical religion play in this elegy? How do they create a bond between the speaker and the departed Baudelaire?
Edition: Greenblatt, Stephen et al, eds. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 8th ed. Vol. E. New York: Norton, 2006. ISBN Package 2 (Vols. DEF) 0-393-92834-9.