I will be looking at the use of the moon by Archibald Macleish in his poem ‘Ars Poetica’. The second verse of this poem talks about the moon in every line and even repeats the line “A poem should be motionless in time As the moon climbs,” twice in the verse. I think Macleish has used the moon to help define his understanding of what exactly poetry means to him. Macleish believes that poetry is something that should be universal and pure of creation. He uses the moon in similes throughout the second verse to talk about this idea. “A poem should be motionless in time” talks about the universality of poetry. Macleish believes that poetry should be an emotional extension of the writer as emotions are universal. Anyone, anywhere, at any time should be able to understand the emotions being conveyed in a poem. The poet also talks about the cycles of the moon and how we do not see the moon change during these cycles. This is a further exploration of the purity of human emotions and how we do not need to be aware of them for them to exist.
Why do we seek value and meaning in literature?
Literature has often been a form of emotional catharsis for writers. Through their literary works, writers try and convey their feelings about a particular matter at hand or some personal issue. However, sometimes writers try and educate readers regarding the wrong doings of society as a whole. This is why I think we seek value and meaning in literature. We as a race have become so immune to the pressures and confines of society that we follow a set pattern or routine that has been laid in front of us without ever questioning it. I think that some writers recognize these societal flaws and try and isolate themselves from such confines. Through their works, they try and educate readers. Those who seek meaning and value in literature realize these societal constraints and want to break away from them. Literature provides the escape that they look for in search of their own truth on the matter.
The beauty of ‘Importance of Being Earnest’ isn’t in it’s setting or characters, but is in its portrayal of human hypocrisy which is universal by nature. Hence, it does not matter where the play really takes place as that element is present throughout the ages in every region of the world. However, it would be quite interesting to see ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ being played out in 14th century China when the Chinese aristocratic society was on the rise. One of the themes of this play is also marriage so it would be interesting to see the cultural differences and ways that marriage proposals had to be done in different aristocratic societies. Furthermore, it would be intriguing to see the acceptable wealth and definition of wealth to marry in that society. The adaptability and transference of ideas of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ is what makes this play a timeless classic.
Movie adaptations are always insightful when trying to analyze a literary piece. The movie adaptation of ‘Importance of being Earnest’ is no exception to that. Oscar Wilde tries to convey the hypocrisy that ran rampant in British society during the Victorian period. While the play is sufficient enough to understand that message, the movie helps refine and reinforce that message. The reason for that being the descriptive and detailed scenes added in the movie by the director. Furthermore, the actors do a brilliant job of bringing alive the characters and clearing the lines of hypocrisy. The movie even adds a few scenes that helps bring out the theme of the play even more. One such scene is when there are thugs chasing Algy because he did not pay his debts but in the very next scene he gives a speech to Jack regarding morals. While there are some purists who claim that such changes should not be encouraged in movies, one must understand that different adaptations have different interpretations of literary pieces and they should be appreciated for trying to shine a different light on Wilde’s work. After all, literature is all about one’s interpretations and understanding.
I think that through this poem, Yeats is criticising the way poets and writers approach literature in the modern age. This poem addresses writers as ‘scholars’, men who study the art of writing and understanding literature. While technical mastery of any subject is important, literature is something that cannot be confined within a set of rules. Yeats describes these scholars as bald, old, and learned who keep editing their work in order to find art that is perfect.Yeats also describes these scholars as men who are confined in their studies and try their best to keep improving their work. I believe that this very aspect of modern literature is what Yeats is criticising. Literature is something that comes with experience and with emotion. Literature should be an intimate form of emotional catharsis for writers instead of technical storytelling. By claiming that the great romantic poet Catullus was the inspiration of many writers, Yeats is telling writers to pursue the art of literature the way Catullus did; free-flowing and for one’s own soul.