Thursday, February 19, 2009

Marechera's Love Sonnets. (4).

One of the most loathed texts of Modernism was Palgrave’s Golden Treasury. Wordsworth, represented by “She was a Phantom of Delight” (CLXXIV), was one of its many objectionable texts. Wordsworth’s poem of worship to his wife, Mary, draws upon Gothic imagery: “Phantom” (1), “Apparition” (3), “Spirit” (12). She is an other-wordly being, but of this world, “with something of an angel light” (30). In Sonnet II, “A Phantom of Delight”, Marechera begins an anti-Romantic autopsy of love. It is a brutal sonnet in which he desires to “crush” “love’s false city…And bury it”.

Were these fists boulders
And these shoulders a sudden earthquake
And my disgust lakes of seething lava
I would love’s false City crush
And bury it ever underneath my cooled passion.

Meaning rolls on through the internal rhyme “boulders” “shoulders”, linking the body and seismic activity into a whole, such that anger becomes volcanic, and by implication, a mirror-image of sexual explosion. Metaphorically, volcanic emotion (miming orgasm) buries a place that falsely promised delight. If Wordsworth’s poem upholds the phantasm of love, so Marechera’s poem condemns the phantasmagoria of love: the “hellish vision” that engulfs the lover entirely.

The text, as it appears in Cemetery of Mind, isn’t that clear. It has 15 lines and an awkward line 5 that reads: “I would love’s false City Crush”. This problem illustrates a point that always has to be remembered when reading Marechera’s poetry. Much of what exists was published posthumously, is restored from drafts, and these are sometimes rough in terms of finish. As the other sonnets are allusive sonnets (they refer to the sonnet tradition by virtue of their line count), the text would appear to be faulty. (An identical problem occurs in Sonnet IV). Clearly, “Crush” is incorrect. It isn’t a capitalised noun. It does not create a Marecheran compound “City-Crush”. It has to be the verb that gives meaning to the line: “I would crush love’s false City”.But the verb is displaced for emphasis: “I would love’s false City crush/And bury” (5-6). Little is gained by placing “Earthquake” on its own line (3). It makes more sense to read this as a continuation of line 2: “And these shoulders a sudden earthquake.”


Id it is said...

Definitely not not "a woman worshipped from a distance, an untouchable Beloved" who is a "Phantom of Delight" to be found in Palgrave's Golden Treasury!

I am curious though whether these anti romantic sonnets of Marechera, powerful as they are in the very raw sexual energy they exude, will stand the test of time... Love and its associations/implication will change over the years, but whether the anti romantic 'love' sonnet will maintain its hold on the human imagination then is something I often think about. The lure of 'romantic love' stands proven since Wordsworth's love sonnets and others of the kind still capture the modern day imagination; will Marechera's 'hellish vision' that 'condemns the phantasmagoria of love' be able to do the same...?

Eshu, what an informative analysis! The last four posts has been a learning experience for me given my very limited exposure and understanding of Marechera's writings.

Eshuneutics said...

I have the same doubts as you. You have asked questions, I guess, that I am working towards: Are these sonnets really any good? Can they be read as poetry and "enjoyed" for their effects in the way that a love poem can? Are these love poems even though they are not traditional love poems? Shakespeare debunked the tradition twice, once by inverting the Petrarchan tradition to create "gay" love poems; a second time by inverting the heterosexual love poem via a less-than perfect woman as object of affection. Yet, The Sonnets still stand as triumphant expressions of love.