A summary of a classic short story
‘The Lumber-Room’ is a classic short story about a child who is too clever for the adults. Specifically, it is about how one clever but mischievous boy, Nicholas, seeks to outwit his aunt so he can gain access to the lumber-room with its hidden treasures and curiosities. But the story might also be viewed as an analysis of the nature of obedience, and the limited adult view of the world, when contrasted with the child’s more expansive and imaginative outlook. You can read ‘The Lumber-Room’ here.
In his Biography, Saki – real name Hector Hugh Munro – recalled his childhood of the 1870s, in which ‘the flower and vegetable gardens were surrounded by high walls and a hedge, and on rainy days we were kept indoors’ where the ‘windows [were] shut and shuttered’. It may be, then, that the adult Munro – reinvented as the Edwardian fiction-writer Saki – was recalling his own upbringing in ‘The Lumber-Room’, which sees the young Nicholas being kept indoors as punishment, deprived of the ‘treat’ of a trip to Jagborough Sands and denied access to the gooseberry garden outside the house. Read the rest of this entry
A reading of a classic poem
‘The Scrutiny’ is a poem by Richard Lovelace (1617-57), one of the leading Cavalier poets of the seventeenth century. The poem is essentially a defence of ‘playing the field’ and a renunciation of the poet’s former declaration of faithfulness to his lover. Below is ‘The Scrutiny’ and a few words by way of analysis.
Why should you swear I am forsworn,
Since thine I vowed to be?
Lady, it is already morn,
And ’twas last night I swore to thee
That fond impossibility.
Have I not loved thee much and long,
A tedious twelve hours’ space?
I must all other beauties wrong,
And rob thee of a new embrace,
Could I still dote upon thy face. Read the rest of this entry
A summary of a classic Sidney poem
Astrophil and Stella is one of Elizabethan poetry’s finest achievements. In 108 sonnets and a handful of songs, Sir Philip Sidney produced the first sustained sonnet sequence in English (though not, contrary to popular belief, the very first). Sonnet 71, beginning ‘Who will in fairest book of nature know / How virtue may best lodged in beauty be’, is one of the best-known poems from the latter half of the sequence (many of the ‘greatest hits’ in Astrophil and Stella are found in the first forty or so sonnets). Here is Sonnet 71, along with some notes towards an analysis of this intriguing and deftly crafted poem.
Who will in fairest book of Nature know
How virtue may best lodged in beauty be,
Let him but learn of love to read in thee,
Stella, those fair lines which true goodness show.
There shall he find all vices’ overthrow,
Not by rude force, but sweetest sovereignty
Of reason, from whose light those night-birds fly;
That inward sun in thine eyes shineth so.
And not content to be perfection’s heir
Thyself, dost strive all minds that way to move,
Who mark in thee what is in thee most fair;
So while thy beauty draws the heart to love,
As fast thy virtue bends that love to good.
But, ah, Desire still cries: ‘Give me some food.’ Read the rest of this entry