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Close Reading In Practice – Part 2. How to develop sophisticated analysis. But yonder comes the powerful King of Day, Rejoicing in the east. The lessening cloud, The kindling azure, and the mountain's brow Illumed with fluid gold, his near approach Betoken glad. WEAK

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close reading in practice part 2

Close Reading In Practice – Part 2

How to develop sophisticated analysis

slide2

But yonder comes the powerful King of Day, Rejoicing in the east. The lessening cloud, The kindling azure, and the mountain's brow Illumed with fluid gold, his near approachBetoken glad.

WEAK

Thomson portrays the sun—the “King of Day”—as both powerful and benevolent; it lights up the morning as it rises, making the world “glad.”

BETTER

Thomson uses regal imagery to personify the sun, the “King of Day;” the rest of the language in these lines supports this characterization, emphasizing the sun’s benevolence even as it outshines the “lessening cloud.” By ascribing political qualities to the sun, Thomson suggests that the natural world mirrors the human world.

slide3

But yonder comes the powerful King of Day, Rejoicing in the east. The lessening cloud, The kindling azure, and the mountain's brow Illumed with fluid gold, his near approachBetoken glad.

BEST

Thomson employs overtly political imagery to personify the “King of Day.” In the first place, he seems to emphasize the sun’s great power in relation to a subservient landscape—both because of its depiction as “King,” and because the sun literally outshines the “lessening cloud.” However, the imagery is also emphatically positive; rather than burn or glare, the sun “kindl[es]” the sky and “illume[s] with fluid gold” the “mountain’s brow.” Kindling suggests the creation of a small flame, and the idea of “fluid gold” light suggests both warmth and mildness; none of these words connote harshness or severity. The sun may be all-powerful, but it also seems to radiate benevolence for its “glad,” personified subjects. In these lines, Thomson, like other Augustan poets, implies that the natural world is the reflection of a divinely-ordained, hierarchical human society.

slide4

The speaker extends this apostrophe, noting human praise of the sun “while, round thy beaming car, / High-seen, the Seasons lead, in sprightly dance / Harmonious knit, the rosy-finger'dHours.”

WEAK:

Thomson’s description of the sun also involves classical imagery, which contribute to his portrayal of the sun as a positive force.

BETTER:

Thomson buttresses his political imagery with a number of classical allusions. The sun is described as having a “beaming car,” and the reference to personified Seaons corresponds to goddesses of Greek mythology. Nature thus seems very much alive—and very closely intertwined with humans.

slide5

The speaker extends this apostrophe, noting human praise of the sun “while, round thy beaming car, / High-seen, the Seasons lead, in sprightly dance / Harmonious knit, the rosy-finger'd Hours.”

BEST:

Thomson buttresses his political imagery with frequent classical allusions. The sun is described as riding in a “beaming car,” which suggests the mythical Apollo, who pulled the sun across the sky each day in a fiery chariot. The “Seasons,” who are personified as engaged in a “sprightly dance” allude to the Greek belief that the changing seasons were guided by four Greek goddesses—the Horae—who were traditionally depicted as engaged in dance. Rather than embracing the unknowable aspects of the natural world, Augustans seem more interested in making it make sense. Together, Thomson’s political and classical imagery suggest that nature mirrors humanity in some fundamental way—that it can be studied and made intelligible. Nature seems orderly, eternal, and somewhat predictable, and it suggests that humans can determine their own important place in the divine order.