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Journal Article

"Ave atque Vale": An Introduction to Swinburne

Jerome J. McGann
Victorian Poetry
Vol. 9, No. 1/2, An Issue Commemorating the Centennial of the Publication of "Songs before Sunrise" (Spring - Summer, 1971), pp. 145-163
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40001595
Page Count: 19

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Topics: Elegies, Poetry, Stanzas, Soul, Poetic themes, Death, Hell, Religious poetry, Allusion, Victorians
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"Ave atque Vale": An Introduction to Swinburne
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Abstract

Swinburne's greatest elegy, "Ave atque Vale," expresses some of his most important poetic ideas and illustrates some of his most characteristic poetic techniques. A comparison with Shelley shows how Swinburne adopts and modifies certain things in the earlier poet, in particular how he achieves a poetic resolution for "Ave atque Vale" by interchanging the significance of concepts like "death'' and "life." The interchange corresponds to the important Swinburnean theme of the reciprocal relations between the living and the dead. It also relates to Swinburne's delight in verbal and syntactic ambiguity, as well as to his repeated suggestions that past and present, real and mythological, tend to mirror each other, just as different figures and events within any one plane of reality tend to merge and reciprocate. These ideas are illustrated by showing how Swinburne manipulates his allusions to Baudelaire's poetry, the Tannhäuser legend, and the history of the House of Atreus, and how he used certain of Blake's ideas to support his own.

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