chapter  18
8 Pages

Saturday: The Small-Pox

Title Saturday Though not strictly the first English pastoral poet, Edmund Spenser introduced the formal pastoral into English poetry in 1579. He also introduced, in his cycle 'The Shepherd's Calendar', the device of fitting each poem to a month or a season of the year. Gay adapted the convention in his poem of 1714, 'The Shepherd's Week', by matching six poems to six of the days of the week. Montagu follows Gay, and follows him also in using the device simply as a way of giving some structure to a group of poems; there is no real Saturday quality in the poem at hand. In this respect, both Gay and Montagu depart from their Spen­ serian model, even though Gay claims him (wrongly) as a precedent; Small­ pox a feared disease in the eighteenth century, and until it was declared eradicated in 1977. It was sometimes fatal, and left many of those who sur­ vived it badly scarred. Montagu emerged with pitted skin and no eye­ lashes; Flavia The name appears to have no special significance beyond

being common among the Romans and suitable for a pastoral (compare Epistle to a Lady, line 87). Since the poem is partly autobiographical, Flavia represents (to some extent) Montagu herself. [1] reclined in eighteenth-century poetry, a stock posture for a suffering, possibly selfindulgent, women. Compare Rape of the Lock, iv, 23 & 35. Many of ways in which women are represented here echo that poem. [2] Thus breathed i.e. in this way spoke. The phrase introduces Flavia's monologue which, from line 5 onwards, makes up the poem. The structure of a short introduction followed by a monologue or dialogue is common in pastoral poetry. [3] glass mirror. The woman holding a mirror is an old image of pride. Spenser's Lucifera 'held a mirror bright,/ Wherein her face she often viewed fain,/ And in her self-loved semblance took delight;/ For she was wondrous fair as any living wight', Faerie Queene,

1.4. Flavia's mirror is reversed, turned away from her, so that she avoids seeing her own scarred reflection. [4] sought before The notion of a woman as obsessed with her own reflection is reminiscent of Belinda in The Rape of the Lock, i, 125-6. [6] myself unknown The phrase both conveys the situation of the survivor of smallpox, hardly able to discern her old self under the scars, and harks back to the ghost metaphor ('spectre') earlier in the line. Ghosts were thought to be difficult to recognise. When Aeneas enters the underworld, he meets his recently dead helmsman Palinurus: 'The Trojan fixed his view,/ And scarcely through the gloom the sullen shadow knew' (Aeneid, vi - Dryden's trans­ lation). Aeneas encounters the same problem later on when he meets the shade of his former lover, Dido. [7] bloom the reddish tint of the cheek, a mark of beauty; also, figuratively, beauty in general. [8] years to come deliberately ironic. The word 'bloom' in the previous lines introduces the idea of flowers, a stock image for tran­ sient beauty. [10] visits By the eighteenth century, wealthy women had lost their traditional role as 'housewives', a word which had once comprehended the host of duties, responsibilities and skills involved in managing a large house­ hold. Instead, they were reduced to the round of pointless social activities represented in The Rape of the Lock, and implied here in the word 'visits'. [11] fresher red i.e. she used to flush with pleasure at her own beauty. This is slightly differ­ ent from Belinda raising 'a purer blush' with rouge - Rape of the Lock, i, 143. [12] a new life. . . eyes The brightness of the eyes was an­ other conventional attribute of beauty.