Essay #1 - British Literature to 1800 Is God In This Paper...

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10/12/07 British Literature to 1800 Is God In This Paper?: An Analysis of Ben Jonson’s “Still to Be Neat” and Robert Herrick’s “Delight in Disorder” The self-publication of Ben Johnson’s first folio in 1616 under the label “Workes” was quite an audacious move for his time – both the act of self-promotion and the self-legitimizing title selection were revolutionary. His revealing title page demands for the same level of reverence that one would feel in front of a marble tomb from St. Peter’s Basilica, perhaps implying that he expected to be posthumously preserved in society’s consciousness. It is ironic that he was charged for “popery and treason” in the early seventeenth century, but was not condemned a little over a decade later for this blatant assertion of imperial and religious influence. More than anything, it demonstrated just how much he believed in his own convictions. This expansive ocean of confidence inspired the writer Robert Herrick to cast his own line as well, and in 1648 “the most devoted of the Sons of Ben” (Greenblatt 1653) published a volume of poetry entitled Hesperides . Both Jonson’s influential poem, “Still to Be Neat”, and Herrick’s follow-up, “Delight in Disorder”, are in iambic tetrameter and flow lyrically in the style of early seventeenth century Cavalier poetry. Taken literally, “Still to Be Neat” seems to be about a man’s discontent with a woman’s desire to maintain a perfect public image. The speaker challenges her to redress her inclination to be “powdered” and “perfumed”, repeating “still” four times to emphasize how constant use of the same device - no matter how divine - can be mundane (lines 1-3). With the mention of a “feast” as a public event defined by formalities and etiquette, the reader understands that the speaker feels estranged both by the woman’s need to be faultlessly Huang 2
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made-up and also by pressures from proper society. The Norton Anthology of English Literature points out that in Jonson’s writing, “the shared meal among friends often becomes an emblem of communion” (1248). This connection to the controversial topic of
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This essay was uploaded on 04/21/2008 for the course ENG 240 taught by Professor Ingram during the Fall '07 term at Davidson.

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Essay #1 - British Literature to 1800 Is God In This Paper...

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