An introduction to a classic fairy tale
A classic example of the fairy tale featuring ‘the animal as helper’, ‘Puss in Boots’ entered the canon of classic fairy tales when Charles Perrault included it (as ‘Le Chat Botté’) in his 1697 collection of fairy stories, although like many of the greatest fairy tales, an earlier version can be found in the 1634 Pentamerone, a collection of oral folk tales compiled by Giambattista Basile. How we should analyse ‘Puss in Boots’ has troubled authors, commentators, and illustrators over the years. George Cruikshank objected to ‘a system of imposture being rewarded by the greatest worldly advantages’. Before we look more closely at this aspect of the tale, here’s a brief summary of the ‘Puss in Boots’ tale:
A miller dies and leaves his three sons all he has: he leaves his mill to his eldest son, an ass to the middle son, and to the youngest son, he leaves his cat. The youngest son thinks he’s drawn the short straw with the cat, but the cat promises that if the son gets him some boots made, he will prove to be a worthy and helpful pet. Once the cat has some boots and a little bag he can wear, he goes off and hunts for rabbits. Having caught a rabbit, Puss in Boots takes it to the King, telling him that it’s a gift from the Lord Marquis of Carabas, the cat’s master. Read the rest of this entry
A commentary on one of Hopkins’s ‘Terrible Sonnets’
‘No Worst, There Is None’ is one of a group of sonnets the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89) wrote when he was suffering from depression in the 1880s, while living in Ireland. These are known as the ‘Terrible Sonnets’ because of the terrible fits of misery and despair which inspired them, and which they so brilliantly capture. Before we proceed to offer a few words of analysis of ‘No Worst, There Is None’, here’s a reminder of the poem.
No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,
More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.
Comforter, where, where is your comforting?
Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?
My cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main, a chief
Woe, wórld-sorrow; on an áge-old anvil wince and sing —
Then lull, then leave off. Fury had shrieked ‘No ling-
ering! Let me be fell: force I must be brief.’ Read the rest of this entry
A commentary on a classic Shakespeare sonnet
‘I grant thou wert not married to my Muse’ is the 82nd sonnet in Shakespeare’s sequence of 154 sonnets charting the romantic drama that’s played out between the poet, the Fair Youth, the Dark Lady, and the rival poet. In this poem, Shakespeare genteelly criticises his contemporaries who excessively praise beauty in their poems, arguing that when a poet is writing about the beauty of the Fair Youth, Shakespeare’s way – telling the truth and speaking plainly – is much more effective. Before we offer some words of analysis of Sonnet 82, here is the poem.
I grant thou wert not married to my Muse,
And therefore mayst without attaint o’erlook
The dedicated words which writers use
Of their fair subject, blessing every book.
Thou art as fair in knowledge as in hue,
Finding thy worth a limit past my praise;
And therefore art enforced to seek anew
Some fresher stamp of the time-bettering days. Read the rest of this entry