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Showing posts from April, 2014

A Bit on Robinson: Blindness, Sensation, Empiricism

Following on from Southey, I've been dabbling a little bit in the Broadview edition of Mary Robinson. I think there's no doubt that Sappho and Phaon is her greatest achievement, as well as a work I have some experience teaching, but I had one set of potentially interesting thoughts
about her earlier work.

One of the early poems I really did like was 'Sight': a long lyric on blindness dedicated to flamboyant eye surgeon, John Taylor. What is curious - perhaps particularly curious given the long history of interlinking blindness and poetry (Homer, Milton), as well as Robinson's manipulation of negations like suicide elsewhere in her verse - is the absolute horror with which the idea of blindness is presented. Playing on the sleep/death axis, she concludes that blindness is actually worse than either:
But HE who knows ONE unenlighten'd void,
ONE dreary night, unbless'd with cheerful dreams,
Lives in the midst of Death; and, when he sleeps,
Feeds a perpetual s…