2

He writes:

When the dusk holiday—or holinight [—][some versions put another em dash here]
Of fragrant-curtain’d love begins to weave
The woof of darkness thick, for hid delight,

Should I read a pause, like:

When the dusk begins to weave (the) holiday or holinight of fragrant-curtain'd love (;) The woof of darkness (implied made) thick, for hid delight

?

Otherwise I can't make sense of it:

  • Maybe:

When the dusk (adjective) holiday—or holinight (subject) begins to weave the woof of darkness (object) thick (predicative of the object) of fragrant-curtain'd love

  • Or:

When the dusk (subject?) begins to weave holiday—or holinight (object?) / the woof of darkness (object? Which one?) thick (predicative of the object) of fragrant-curtain'd love

  • Maybe there's something else I'm missing.
9
  • 1
    [the day] vanishes when the holinight begins to weave the woof of darkness for hidden delight... Jul 16, 2023 at 23:58
  • 1
    I really think you need to work out the overall meaning of this sonnet before figuring out how to parse the sentences. Jul 17, 2023 at 12:46
  • 1
    @Lambie It certainly does, as long as you take notice of the apostrophe, which leads one to the conclusion that the quoted bit is the title of the poem, not the example from it. Jul 17, 2023 at 17:30
  • 1
    @PeterShor You cannot get the "overall" meaning until you parse the text.
    – TimR
    Jul 18, 2023 at 16:34
  • 1
    I mean, you can understand the octet of a sonnet, say, and have a very clear idea of the meaning, but then come to some gnarly syntax later in the poem, so that the meaning of a particular sentence remains somewhat opaque or ambiguous. That's especially true of poems written at a time when subject-object-verb inversion is not uncommon.
    – TimR
    Jul 18, 2023 at 16:52

2 Answers 2

0

I understand the clause beginning when the dusk... to be a modifier of shut of eve:

    ...  at shut of eve
When the dusk holiday or holinight
Of fragrant-curtain’d love begins to weave
The woof of darkness thick for hid delight

Compare:

at break of day when cock begins to crow

or

at midday when your shadow disappears

On first reading I understand dusk to be a noun acting as modifier of "holiday", which is the subject of the verb phrase "begins to weave" whose object is "the woof" and thick being an object complement like "tie it tight", i.e. weave the woof so that the fabric is thick, no longer see-through. It is a "woof of darkness" being woven into the "curtain" fabric of the evening.

The preposition for might be paraphrased as "for the purposes of" (hidden delight).

If dusk is to be the subject of "begins to weave" with holiday the object, the clause beginning "the woof" would have to be an absolute construction (the woof [being] thick):

...  at shut of eve
When the dusk holiday or holinight
Of fragrant-curtain’d love begins to weave,
The woof of darkness thick for hid delight

And one might wish for this reading that these lines read "when dusk the holiday" instead of "when the dusk holiday":

...  at shut of eve
When dusk the holiday or holinight
Of fragrant-curtain’d love begins to weave,
The woof of darkness thick for hid delight

The locution weave the woof is well attested. But of course weave can be intransitive. So I suppose the choice comes down to deciding whether "the dusk holiday" makes any sense as a noun phrase or "holiday--or holinight-- of fragrant-curtain'd love" without any article makes sense as a noun-phrase so that it can stand as the object of weave. The locution make holiday of (something) [i.e. to treat it as an occasion for fun or as a break from serious business or to treat it with less seriousness than it deserves] is attested in the late 18th and early 19th century; weave holiday of fragrant-curtain'd love would be possible by analogy, though without the negative connotations perhaps.

Do you have an image of the manuscript?

9
  • 2
    I think that's a bit awry there. Dusk here is the (slightly antiquated) adjective, not the noun. It's modifying the head noun holiday in the noun phrase the dusk holiday. (I think, anyway) Jul 17, 2023 at 17:40
  • 2
    @Araucaria-Nothereanymore. — [The day and all that]: Vanished at shut of eve[ning], [which is] when the dusk[y] holiday[/holinight] of love begins to weave [thick] the woof of darkness... I think of dusk as an attributive noun but it could be the antiquated adjective all the same. And weave is a transitive verb. Dusk is the last thing between day and night (the shut of evening). And dusk is love’s holy time (read as “holy” because missal). Jul 18, 2023 at 2:51
  • 1
    @TinfoilHat I agree completely with your interpretation. But if 'dusk' were a noun, a whole single-noun NP in fact, then Tim might be theoretically be right and the clause might have an unusual SOV order. But that would give you holiday without a determiner, which would be a bit odd, and the sentence would be extremely ambiguous, so I'm pretty sure that dusk is attributive here. Personally, I think if dusk were an attributive noun dusk evening would be a bit of a weird combination, but if dusk is the adjective meaning dark or shadowy, that fits much better. Not absolutely sure. Jul 18, 2023 at 9:04
  • 1
    @TinfoilHat As for weave, yes it's usually transitive, but it can easily be used intransitively. A: "What have you been doing all afternoon?" B: "Weaving". But again, it would just be a bit of a weird thing to say about the evening. "The evening has been weaving" is an odd and difficult to interpret thing to say, but "The evening has been weaving a shadowy veil across the land" and the like makes more sense, so I'm with you that weave must be transitive here. Jul 18, 2023 at 9:11
  • 1
    The actual object of weave, if it is taken to be transitive here, is woof, the crosswise yarn. weave the woof is well-attested. But the grammatical subject of a transitive weave (the weaver) is not at all clear to me: the dusk holiday--or holinight of fragrant-curtain'd love. Is "holinight" doing the weaving?
    – TimR
    Jul 18, 2023 at 10:29
0

"The day is gone, and all its sweets are gone!" BY JOHN KEATS

The day is gone, - It’s dark

and all its sweets are gone! – and the girl’s gone

[glowing description of the girl]

Vanish’d unseasonably at shut of eve, - Disappointingly, she went just as it got dark

When the dusk holiday – or holinight - * - *

Of fragrant-curtain’d love begins to weave

The woof of darkness thick, for hid delight, - and just as the night was about to make things interesting

But, as I’ve read love’s missal through to-day, - Meh! I’ve got Love’s message

He’ll let me sleep, seeing I fast and pray. – Yeah, well It's not going to stop my getting a night’s sleep seeing as I’m being celebate and praying that things will be different tomorrow.

When the dusk holiday – or holinight - Of fragrant-curtain’d love begins to weave The woof of darkness thick, for hid delight, ->

Just when dusk was starting to weave the woof of thick darkness from fragrant curtained love, so that there would be some intimacy.

curtained love – romance inside a room made private by curtains. Curtains drawn because it’s dark.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.