樹木を介した欲望の表出と変身願望 : ロバート・ヘリックとアフラ・ベーン <特集 : イギリス文学と感情の修辞学>
Expressions of Desires through Trees and Metamorphoses: Robert Herrick and Aphra Behn <English Literature and the Rhetoric of Emotion>
English and American literature
Two seventeenth-century poems, “The Vine” (1648) by Robert Herrick and“ On a Juniper-Tree, cut down to make Busks” (1680) by Aphra Behn, share the same motif: expressions of desires through trees and metamorphoses. Regarding this association, these poems are considered to be influenced by Roman myths such as Metamorphosis by Ovid and Satyrs by Horace. In particular, translations of Ovid’s Metamorphosis were published frequently in early modern England, including several editions of verse translation by George Sandys. Herrick translated some of Horace’s Odes and wrote poems which remind the readers of Ovid’s works including Metamorphosis. Behn also paraphrased some writings by Horace and Ovid. Thus, interested in the classical literature, both Herrick and Behn created poems with hues of metamorphoses through trees, utilizing them as a tool of showing the emotions and desires of their first-person narrators.
This paper focuses on the expressions of emotions and sexual desires of the main characters, in particular, narrators who are transformed from and/or into trees. This study should be viewed through the paradigm of gender issues and the clarification of the aims of the two writers. First, I will explicate the reception of metamorphoses through trees as well as the growing interest in trees and woods in early modern England. Transformations from and/or into trees are described not only in Ovid’s Metamorphosis but also in Horace’s Satyrs. Both volumes were popular and published in several editions in this period. Surging attention to trees and woods led to a rise in the number of publications of practical guidebooks such as herbals and gardening books. There were also strong concerns about the shortage of trees and woods due to deforestation.
Second, I will examine Robert Herrick’s “The Vine” published in The Hesperides and Noble Numbers in 1648. A male narrator has a dream that he is transformed into a vine and then winds around a naked woman. The male narrator in a figure of the vine expresses his sexual desire twining around a female body. To his great disappointment, he awakes from his dream just before he satisfies his desire. The narrator’s transformation has some similarities to some transformed trees in Ovid’s Metamorphosis as well as Priapus in Horace’s Satyrs I. VIII. It is clarified that the narrator gains sexual power by transformation into a tree but also loses it by another transformation from a tree.
In the next section, the discussion proceeds through close examination of Aphra Behn’s “On a Juniper-Tree, cut down to make Busks,” which was first published in 1680. The narrator of this poem is a juniper tree, which tells about the secret meetings of a pair of young lovers under itself. After the couple stop seeing each other, the deserted tree is transformed into a busk (corset) by the female lover who feels sympathy toward it. The study focuses on the narrator’s expressions of its desires and its changing roles in relation to the female character. As in Herrick’s “The Vine,” the roles of the tree are similar to those of some trees in Ovid’s Metamorphosis as well as that of Priapus in Horace’s Satyrs.
In the final section, the argument continues about changes in the narrators’ voices to express their sexual desires before and after the transformations in both poems. Both narrators in Herrick’s “The Vine” and Behn’s “On a Juniper-Tree” gain sexual power through transformation. However, the conclusions of both poems are different. The narrator in Herrick’s “The Vine” loses the sexual power after another transformation. On the other hand, the narrator in Behn’s “On a Juniper-Tree” exercises its sexual power not for a man’s but for a woman’s benefit. In addition, a consideration of social background in seventeenth-century England indicates the reason why these poems end differently with the same motif of metamorphoses through trees. As a male priest-poet influenced by classicism, Herrick probably utilized the Horatian technique of self-mockery, which is shown in The Satyrs. For Behn, a female professional writer in the Restoration period, a motif of metamorphoses through trees must have been a useful tool to express sexual desires through trees in order to attract readers in the period of libertinism and the growing interest in trees.
Hiroshima studies in English language and literature
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Departmental Bulletin Paper
Departmental Bulletin Papers
Graduate School of Letters
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