Frank Kermode Forms of Attention led me to be acquainted with a Donne poem that I had not studied in school and if I had it might have been recuperated in workings of allegory as Kermode reports “Attempts were made to preserve it [Donne’s fame] in an epoch professing different standards, and having different notions of excellence, but even in the early seventeenth century they have a somewhat desperate air, as when a commentator argues that ‘The Good Morrow’ is not a wickedly erotic poem but an address to God; and that the lesbian epistle ‘Sappho to Philænis’ is an allegory of the relationship between Christ and his church.”
Sappho to Philænis [Literally ‘Female Friend’]
And yet I grieve the less, lest grief remove
My beauty, and make me unworthy of thy love.
My two lips, eyes, thighs, differ from thy two,
But so as thine from one another do;
And, O, no more; the likeness being such,
Why should they not alike in all parts touch?
Introduction by Ilona Bell to John Donne: Collected Poetry
If Donne’s portrayal of Sappho arouses male voyeurs — and it pays to look closely at the ending — it also gives female creativity and female pleasure a voice that vies with the much-vaunted ‘masculine persuasive force’ of ‘Elegy 11. On His Mistress’.
So much depends on the placement of “touch”. I really like how it is prepared by the twist of narcissistic loss braided to the argument that sorrow would make the speaker unattractive.
And so for day 1517