• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Death and Agricultural Decay in "The Garden of Proserpine

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Title: Death and Agricultural Decay in "The Garden of Proserpine" Algernon Swinburne pens the desolate poem, "The Garden of Proserpine" evoking the gloom of life in the Underworld. He however poeticizes death by personifying and deifying it as Proserpine, Goddess of the Underworld, while using nature/garden to stress the blight of death as a disorder in nature. "Most obviously, the queen of the Underworld, the maiden who goes down to Hades and rises again, evokes the issues of death and immortality which are so prominently discussed throughout the Victorian age" (Louis 313). By delving into the myth behind Proserpine we gain greater understanding of the poem, themes, imagery and concerns. As a child of the Victorian era, Swinburne rejects religion in favour of atheism, skepticism and Greek mythology. It must be noted that Proserpine is the wife of Pluto, god of the Underworld while her mother is Ceres, mother earth, hence one can observe the merger of both death and agriculture themes. ...read more.

Middle

The poppy is a wild flower which historically symbolizes sleep and death: sleep, because of its opium content and soporific effect; and death, because of its commonly blood-red colour (Grieve). In the Pagan and Christian tradition, death is likened to a sleep. Indeed, in tandem with this comparison, Proserpine's garden becomes "the sleepy world of streams / ... (and) dead dreams" (l.8) while the fallen "bow themselves and slumber" (l. 35). At the end of the poem, deathly dreams end in a "sleep eternal in an eternal night" (l. 95-96). Death is portrayed as a sleep because of the state of unconsciousness experienced and prevailing darkness. In Proserpine's garden lies a vinery and winepress. Grapes and wine have many meanings: they are "a sacrificial symbol" (Unwin 66), symbolize "death" (Unwin 60), "rebirth" (Unwin 60) and "contact with the gods" (Unwin 60). Therefore one can link these symbols of wine as they pertain to the myth of Proserpine for Proserpine's winepress represents an instrument of human sacrifice from which men's blood is squeezed. ...read more.

Conclusion

The bleak, cheerless aspect and palling darkness pervade the atmosphere. In this accursed garden, there is "no growth of moor or coppice/ No heather-flower or vine" (l. 25) and "flowers are put to scorn" (l. 64). Swinburne reinforces the point that there is no beauty in death. The recurrent pallid colour in the poem refers to deathly sickness. According to Encyclopedia Mythica, the sickly body of water which flows through Proserpine's garden is the mythological River Styx which means the river of hate. The River Styx separates the living from the dead and conveys the living souls to the other side (Dawson). Allusions to the Styx lie in the verse, "wan waves and wet winds labour/ weak ships and spirits steer" (l. 19-20). In sum, "The Garden of Proserpine" tells of a poisoned, disordered Nature where there is no life, health, nor beauty. The ground does not give her good yield, the ambience of heavy with sleep, the yearly seasons do not follow their natural order and the prevailing colours are pallor and redness. The poem underscores man's futility to control his fate, and existence. Since time marches on, gradual decay and desolation result. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Other Criticism & Comparison section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Other Criticism & Comparison essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    The English Patient

    5 star(s)

    Hana - A young Canadian who serves the Allies as a nurse in World War II. Only twenty years old, Hana is an excellent nurse who takes good care of her patients. She has quickly learned that she must not become emotionally attached to her patients, as she has seen too many young soldiers slip out of her life.

  2. Compare the extent to which the sexuality of Jeanette and Celie is portrayed in ...

    Jeanette's lesbianism is hinted throughout the book, one example being the banana bar she is offered by the lesbian shopkeepers. The banana bar is a phallic ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 1 http://homepage.ntlworld.com/matt_kane/interpretations.htm reference, and it symbolises the rejection of heterosexuality. A gypsy woman tells Jeanette she will "never marry" (P.

  1. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost and If Sleep and ...

    The last two lines then feel like a fade out, not simply because of the repetition, but due to the return of the rhythm and the absence of a new linking word: all four lines of this stanza rhyme5. Going further on the other side, the poem "If Sleep and Death ..."

  2. A River Runs Through It

    A slow moving current feels like peace and tranquility, while a waterfall is tumultuous and disorderly. At some points, you may take the opportunity to branch off into a little brook or stream, in pursuit of something new and exciting.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work