The Purpose of this Blog

Your task on this blog is to write a brief summary of what we learned in class today. Include enough detail so that someone who was ill or missed the lesson can catch up with what they missed. Over the course of the term, these 'class scribe' posts will grow to be a guide book for the course, written by students for students.

With each post ask yourself the following questions:
1) Is this good enough for our guide book?
2) Will your post enable someone who wasn't here to catch up?
3) Would a graphic/video/link help to illustrate what we have learned?


Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Browning's 'The Bishop Orders his Tomb'

'The Bishop Orders his Tomb'

Rome, 15--

Vanity, saith the preacher, vanity!
Draw round my bed: is Anselm keeping back?
Nephews -sons mine ... ah God, I know not! Well —
She, men would have to be your mother once,
Old Gandolf envied me, so fair she was!
What’s done is done, and she is dead beside,
Dead long ago, and I am Bishop since;
And as she died so must we die ourselves,
And thence ye may perceive the world’s a dream.
Life, how and what is it? As here I lie
In this state-chamber, dying by degrees,
Hours and long hours in the dead night, I ask
“Do I live, am I dead?” Peace, peace seems all.
St Praxed’s ever was the church for peace;
And so, about this tomb of mine. I fought
With tooth and nail to save my niche, ye know:
— Old Gandolf cozened me, despite my care;
Shrewd was that snatch from out the corner South
He graced his carrion with, God curse the same!
Yet still my niche is not so cramped but thence
One sees the pulpit o’ the epistle-side,
And somewhat of the choir, those silent seats,
And up into the aery dome where live
The angels, and a sunbeam’s sure to lurk:
And I shall fill my slab of basalt there,
And ’neath my tabernacle take my rest,
With those nine columns round me, two and two,
The odd one at my feet where Anselm stands:
Peach-blossom marble all, the rare, the ripe
As fresh-poured red wine of a mighty pulse.
- Old Gandolf with his paltry onion-stone,
Put me where I may look at him! True peach,
Rosy and flawless: how I earned the prize!
Draw close: that conflagration of my church
- What then? So much was saved if aught were missed!
My sons, ye would not be my death? Go dig
The white-grape vineyard where the oil-press stood,
Drop water gently till the surface sinks,
And if ye find...ah God, I know not, I!...
Bedded in store of rotten fig-leaves soft,
And corded up in a tight olive-frail,
Some lump, ah God, of lapis lazuli,
Big as a Jew’s head cut off at the nape,
Blue as a vein o’er the Madonna’s breast...
Sons, all have I bequeathed you, villas, all,
That brave Frascati villa with its bath,
So, let the blue lump poise between my knees,
Like God the Father’s globe on both his hands
Ye worship in the Jesu Church so gay,
For Gandolf shall not choose but see and burst!
Swift as a weaver’s shuttle fleet our years:
Man goeth to the grave, and where is he?
Did I say basalt for my slab, sons? Black -
’Twas ever antique-black I meant! How else
Shall ye contrast my frieze to come beneath?
The bas-relief in bronze ye promised me,
Those Pans and Nymphs ye wot of, and perchance
Some tripon, thyrsus, with a vase or so,
The Saviour at his sermon on the mount,
St Praxed in a glory, and one Pan
Ready to twitch the Nymph’s last garment off,
And Moses with the tables...but I know
Ye mark me not! What do they whisper thee,
Child of my bowels, Anselm? Ah, ye hope
To revel down my villas while I gasp
Bricked o’er with beggar’s mouldy travertine
Which Gandolf from his tomb-top chuckles at!
Nay, boys, ye love me -all of jasper, then!
’Tis jasper ye stand pledged to, lest I grieve.
My bath must needs be left behind, alas!
One block, pure green as a pistachio-nut,
There’s plenty jasper somewhere in the world -
And have I not St Praxed’s ear to pray
Horses for ye, and brown Greek manuscripts,
And mistresses with great smooth marbly limbs?
That’s if ye carve my epitaph aright,
Choice Latin, picked phrase, Tully’s every word,
No gaudy ware like Gandolf’s second line -
Tully, my masters? Ulpian serves his need!
And then how I shall lie through centuries,
And hear the blessed mutter of the mass,
And see God made and eaten all day long,
And feel the steady candle-flame, and taste
Good strong thick stupefying incense-smoke!
For as I lie here, hours of the dead night,
Dying in state and by such slow degrees,
I fold my arms as if they clasped a crook,
And stretch my feet forth straight as stone can point,
And let the bedclothes for a mort-cloth drop
Into great laps and folds of sculptor’s-work:
And as yon tapers dwindle, and strange thoughts
Grow, with a certain humming in my ears,
About the life before I lived this life,
And this life too, popes, cardinals and priests,
St Praxed at his sermon on the mount,
Your tall pale mother with her talking eyes,
And new-found agate urns as fresh as day,
And marble’s language, Latin pure, discreet,
- Aha, ELUCESCEBAT quoth our friend?
No Tully, said I, Ulpian at the best!
Evil and brief hath been my pilgrimage.
All lapis, all, sons! Else I give the Pope
My villas: will ye ever eat my heart?
Ever your eyes were as a lizard’s quick,
They glitter like your mother’s for my soul,
Or ye would heighten my impoverished frieze,
Piece out its starved design, and fill my vase
With grapes, and add a vizor and a Term,
And to the tripod ye would tie a lynx
That in his struggle throws the thyrsus down,
To comfort me on my entablature
Whereon I am to lie till I must ask
“Do I live, am I dead?” There, leave me, there!
For ye have stabbed me with ingratitude
To death -ye wish it -God, ye wish it! Stone -
Gritsone, a-crumble! Clammy squares which sweat
As if the corpse they keep were oozing through -
And no more lapis to delight the world!
Well, go! I bless ye. Fewer tapers there,
But in a row: and, going, turn your backs
- Ay, like departing altar-ministrants,
And leave me in my church, the church for peace,
That I may watch at leisure if he leers -
Old Gandolf, at me, from his onion-stone,
As still he envied me, so fair she was!

For your homework, analyse how Browning uses beginnings and one other aspect (voice/ character?) to tell the story in this poem.

5 comments:

  1. Beginning is used to set up mystery surrounding the character of the Bishop, and his life. The narrative gap created by the narrator's hesitation of "ah God I know not!" causes the reader to question whether or not he has admitted to a sin in the presence of God. the suspense and mystery which arises from this hesitation creates the Bishop's character as one of a secretive nature, and the possibility of his sinful life.

    The repetition of "vanity" at the beginning of the poem represents the admission of the sin which he is about to commit. His vanity stems from his want to out do his predecessor, Gandolf, in the way he orders his tomb on his deathbed. This vanity is also portrayed through the way the Bishop claims "old Gandolf envied me" about the girl he hints at having at one point in his life. By repeating "vanity", it could show that the Bishop knows his pride and greed on his deathbed is a sin, but wants to break the rules in order to be remembered , which is reflected by his vague mentioning of a girl.

    Jess.

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  2. In The Bishop Orders his Tomb, Browning uses the beginning of the poem to establish the importance of the Bishop as a narrator and to form mystery around his character. Oration dramatic monologue is the form of the poem. This exposes the Bishop's self centred ways as he does not let the listeners intrude. This too creates mystery, as the readers occupy the same space as the audience in the monologue, and therefore we are left with unanswered questions, forming a sense of curiosity. This notion is also set up through a narrative gap, which is included in the opening. Browning includes the line "ah God, I know not! Well -" The caesuras within this line can be used to symbolised a literal gap due to the persistant breaks, creating curiosity about what is within the gaps. The beginning of a poem is used to introduce the narrative style and expose a glimpse of the story, creating both suspense and mystery.

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  3. Browning has used the aspect of character in "the bishop orders his tomb" to help us understand the reasons why the bishop orders such an extravagant resting place. The bishops very first word provides us with an insight into the bishops character. The word "vanity" which ties into the cardinal sin of pride is an unusual word for a clergymen to use to describe himself, which leads us to believe he is in fact a sinful person. this is then emphasised in the line "Nephews -sons mine ... ah God, I know not!" this means he is unsure whether they are his actual sons or not. This provides us with enough detail to realise that the bishop has not adhered to his vow of abstinence, the line continues into "Old Gandolf envied me, so fair she was!" which implies that his predecessor wished to have his position with a beautiful mistress. this only fuels the bishops desire to have a tomb that will be the envy of "old Gandolf". This aids the readers view of the bishops sinful and selfish character which helps us understand why his final wishes are not that of love for his family, but of decorations for his tomb
    Ray T

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  4. Browning uses the aspect of beginnings in this poem to establish the sense of mystery and secrecy that is surrounding the character of the Bishop.
    The line 'Nephews - sons mine... God, I know not!' hints at the fact that the Bishop who was thought of as having no children might actually have a son. This is enforced by the 'she' the Bishop talks about. The she whos relationship with the Bishop resulted in Gandolf's jealousy.
    Browning also uses the aspect of character to show us the personality of the Bishop. A man who is thought of as being modest and selfless uses the word 'Vanity' to start off his dramatic monologue. This one word sets the stage for the rest of the poem, showing the Bishop as being a controlling and sinful character.
    Mumtas

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