Eyes, Tears, Eyes, and the Penitential <i>chiasmus</i>

Ceri Sullivan

in The Rhetoric of the Conscience in Donne, Herbert, and Vaughan

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9780199547845
Published online September 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780191720901 | DOI:
Eyes, Tears, Eyes, and the Penitential chiasmus

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The conscience has a logical (albeit reluctant) nature in Donne, Herbert, and Vaughan. They see it as a legal activity, which can break down. There were, however, other models of the conscience which could have been chosen by the three. This chapter looks at Catholic and Protestant meditations by Robert Southwell, Thomas Lodge, Henry Constable, William Alabaster, Nicholas Breton, and Gervase Markham. Their narrators, often in feminine form, exchange glances with God or melt into tears in front of him. They weep tears of penitence which appear to be as joyful as if no sin were involved. In them, the looked at and the looker change places in a ceaseless chiasmus of glances. By contrast, Donne, Herbert, and Vaughan rehearse their failure to weep and see, and so keep a space for themselves in any judgement in their actions. The conscience of these three poets remains verbal, judgemental, and dryly masculine.

Keywords: Robert Southwell; Thomas Lodge; Henry Constable; William Alabaster; Nicholas Breton; Gervase Markham; penitence; weep; glances

Chapter.  10935 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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