Wednesday, March 3, 2010

"Hart-Leap Well" - A Gothic critique

After reading the "Hart-Leap Well," I think it clearly fits into the Gothic category, rather than anti-Gothic. Immediately, we are introduced to a knight - this coincides with our previous comparison of Gothic literature to "fairy-tales." The descriptions are full of nature images, so I couldn't immediately place this ballad into either category. However, the line "This race it looks not like an early race" (27) almost blatantly tells the reader that this is a Gothic poem. We are set up to expect the supernatural effects from nature, but perhaps most importantly, Wordsworth uses these elements as a social critique...

Obviously, this poem is about a hunt, a popular English past-time for the aristocrats of the time. Part one of the poem portrays Sir Walter in a stereotypical gallant way in his hunt. However, in Part two, Wordsworth begins "The moving accident is not my trade. To curl the blood I have no ready arts..." (97-98). I take this to be a critique against this inhumane treatment of animals. His describes a once gloriously beautiful land, which is now "curs'd" and bloody because of the hunting. I think the Gothic elements further this critique of hunting...

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you, Mary Beth, this poem shows how Wordsworth's writing is continuing to subscribe to the Gothic tradition. However, I believe this is purposely done by Wordsworth to show how hunting, a pass-time that was enjoyed by English aristocrats at the time he wrote that has deep associations with a medieval tradition that also praised hunting. Because this is a poem that narrates a story about hunting, Wordsworth is evoking the epic tradition like he did in "Old Man traveling." It is also a poem that is heavily charged with political and socio-economic commentary about the cruelty in hunting and cruelty against animals. This poem mirrors the feelings of many middle class people and poets, who were writing about the poor treatment of animals.