George Meredith’s First Two Sonnets

George Meredith’s First Two Sonnets

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George Meredith’s First Two Sonnets

When we first look at the sonnet there is an obvious difference to
usual sonnets, this is because a normal sonnet has a series of
quatrains and has 14 lines. Whereas these sonnets are continuous, with
the same harsh tone throughout. It is also apparent that they have 16
lines rebelling against the usual 14 lines, this is to imply that
nothing is harsh enough to explain love and that a person cannot
explain love in words. The first word of the sonnet “It” personifies
the night, and instantly implies that he has to struggle through the
night. The night also gives connotations of death, this is because
darkness is associated with people dying, and therefore it shows he
wants to die but he waits to see what:

“The morrow brought the task”

This reiterates that he is struggling through the night knowing that
when the morrow comes life will have to continue. Meredith continues
to say that she is:

“Too zealous for the task”

This is saying that all she is dedicated to is other men. Later the
word “mask” is used, this implies that feelings were building up
inside, however they are hidden beneath what is thought to be a false
face. However prior to this there is the use of assonance and

“Sucked a secret”

This is used to describe how every wrong that occurs there is a story,
the she has a sort of barrier which is mask, and nothing can be sucked
from beneath it. In my opinion the subtle use of assonance has the
effect that she is sleigh, and also he is trying to link his hatred of
one woman to all women; however this is ironic of Meredith because he
married a second time. George keeps referring back to the mask as
directly after he says:

“But, oh, the bitter taste her beauty had!”

This is referring to the mask because it is saying that what a man may
see on the outside of a women does not link directly to the picture on

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the inside (hence a mask). Later he uses the hyperbole:

“He sickened as at breath of poison-flowers”

in my opinion he is demonstrating how there is defiantly no love
between them as he compares her to poison flowers, and again flowers
although look good on the inside may well be poison inside.

However further on in the sonnet Meredith uses allegory:

“She seemed to crown the pit of infamy”

This is allegory because when first reading this phrase the noun
“infamy” stands out meaning disgrace. However if we look deeper into
this, “to crown the pit of infamy” there are connotations of hell and
Satan, because the pit of infamy is for her to be from hell, and when
hell is crowned it must signify that she is Satan. Also there are
references to ‘guilty gates’ which gives connotations to heaven, in
which the gates to heaven are closed, indicating that she should go to

Overall there is a harsh tone in controversy to women. From both poems
like there is a clear rhyme which is the same in both, this is ‘abba
cddc effe gg’. Both also have 16 lines to show his hatred for women
cannot be conventionally

The third line of the sonnet is significant when it says that:

“The strange low sobs that shook their common bed”

The alliteration of the ‘s’ sound with “sobs” and “shook” gives the
implications of her being a snake which refers her to be poison and
evil. The reference to “common bed” has many metaphorical
implications, like the women had been promiscuous towards her husband;
this shows how bad their marriage had become. ‘Common bed’ could also
mean a place where the marriage was consummated, however although it
is a common site between them both it does not mean to say that this
is a happy place, in my opinion it is said in a very sarcastic way.

Later on in the sonnet it says:

“Like gaping snakes, dreadfully venomous to him”

Again this is another reference, with a simile, to how poison she is
and to imply this she is referred to as a snake. The word dreadful, in
my opinion, is almost purposely used in the wrong context, by this I
mean that he has used it in a place where it is not needed because it
is going too far with exaggeration however he uses it to show that no
word can be too powerful to explain her evilness.

After this the sonnet turns very dull and sombre with plosives such as
‘pale’, ‘darkness’ and ‘tears’. These harsh words make the reader to
think about suicide as a person with a sane mind generally does not
exploit such words to other people without trying to show them to be
depressed. Later in the sonnet it says:

“Drink the pale drug of silence”

This again reiterates the fact of the consideration of suicide. This
is shown when it says ‘pale drug of silence’ this shows depression
because a drug of silence has distinct connotations of overdose.

Further on in the sonnet, there is a reference to time being wasted
whilst they were together. It is shown by saying:

“Dead, black years”

This shows the time being wasted because when it says ‘dead, black’
this gives the implications of something being stale, which leads on
to mean the wasting of something.

Post to saying this, Meredith tries to build up images of death in the
readers mind. He does this by saying:

“Like sculptured effigies”

This portrays the image of death because it implies that they are both
two stone sculptures ‘stale’ and motionless on their death bed; he
does this to show to the world that even when they are so close, they
are two completely separate inderviduals when the meaning of them
being married is meant to mean that they are united into one. Directly
after Meredith gives this implication, he says:

“Upon their marriage tomb”

The oxymoron that is used here, of ‘marriage’ and ‘tomb’, are never
seen in the same sentence because it is one of the most harsh ways of
explaining how there marriage is dead and buried, with no sight of the
marriage being rebuilt. The two words are also very sarcastic and
ironic because he cannot explain in a more evil way the contradiction
of his love for a particular women being dead.

The final line of the first sonnet is very decisive, as it gets
straight to the point, saying what he has really meant throughout the
whole sonnet, very bluntly. He says:

“Each wishing for the sword that severs all”

This has two connotations; the first may be that he wants to die and
the second being that he wants a divorce. However if we combine these
two connotations of ‘the sword severing all’, we can get to the true
meaning of the expression; which is, if he doesn’t get a divorce, he
wants to die.
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