Criticism Theory

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By Jeffrey A. Hammond

Jeffrey Hammond's learn of the funeral elegies of early New England reassesses a physique of poems whose significance of their personal time has been obscured by means of nearly overall forget in ours. Hammond reconstructs the historic, theological and cultural contexts of those poems to illustrate how they replied to Puritan perspectives on a particular means of mourning. The elegies emerge, he argues, as performative scripts that consoled readers via shaping their event. They shed new gentle at the emotional size of Puritanism and the $64000 function of formality in Puritan tradition.

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Ben Jonson, that most insistently “clas- Monuments enduring and otherwise  sical” of Renaissance poets, provided striking expression of the aestheticizing of grief when he mourned his son as his “best piece of poetrie” (). For most Puritans, this seemed a tragically wrongheaded reaction to an occasion as momentous as death. ” The funeral elegy succeeded, Puritans felt, only if it was not created as art. Indeed, its deeper message and aims, because divine, did not require a poet’s skill so much as a prophet’s vision.

To write elegy was both to acknowledge the void left by the deceased and to fill it as the rightful successor. The pastoral elegy thus came to play a special role in witnessing the poet’s coming of age, and in this, too, the ancients had shown the way: Vergil’s pastoral eclogues witnessed the first stage of what came to be seen as the archetypal career of a poet. The vocational theme reached its culmination in “Lycidas”: Milton’s momentary questioning, in the face of Edward King’s untimely death, of his own dedication to the “thankless muse” leads to a recommitment expressed by and embodied in the poem – a recommitment always seen, of course, with hindsight afforded by the later achievement of Paradise Lost.

David Dewey had lived a life so clearly stamped with holiness that God’s grace could be plainly seen by all who looked upon him. Taylor concluded with a short prayer. After a few moments of silence he nodded to Thomas Noble, Westfield’s surviving deacon, who removed a piece of paper that had been pinned to the coffin and handed it to the minister. Taylor hunched over slightly and began to read from the sheet in a trembling voice as he squinted against the fading glare of the winter sky. David by Name, David by Nature, shew Thou art Belov’d (if that thy Name say True) By God and Christ, who in thee gave a Place Unto his Image brightly laid in Grace .

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