Beauty In Vulgarity
During his life, Jonathan Swift wrote about a number of different topics and often utilized the concept of imagery. Two of his poems, “Description of a City Shower” and “The Lady’s Dressing Room” are just some examples from his extensive body of work. Although they both differ in their subject matter, both are alike in their vivid descriptions and ability to connect with the reader’s senses. Many poets in Swift’s time used their writing skills to paint an aesthetically pleasing picture in the reader’s minds. In “Description of a City Shower” and “The Lady’s Dressing Room”, however, Swift uses revolting and graphic imagery that can leave a reader feeling disgusted. In “Description of a City Shower”, this imagery seems to reveal Swift’s negative view of both the city and the people living there. “The Lady’s Dressing Room” describes many gross items a young man finds, but it ultimately serves to satirize society’s views of women at the time. Swift’s imagery is extremely important in conveying an overall message and aiding the audience in interpreting what he was trying to say, as well as the reaction he was trying to provoke. In “Description of a City Shower”, Swift uses imagery by providing the reader with clear details on an approaching storm, and the way it affects both the rich and poor citizens of London. Despite the fact that a rainstorm does not seem that serious, Swift’s use of the word “dread” (line 2) evokes an ominous tone and indicates a more severe event. He begins the poem by describing the city before it starts to rain: a cat sensing the danger stops the enjoyable activity of playing with her tail; sewers emit a rancid smell; aches start to throb; and a dull man walks into a coffeehouse complaining about the weather and his depression (lines 3-12). The descriptions of pain, disgusting smells, and the general melancholic mood of the townspeople appeal to the reader’s different senses and produce a gloomy atmosphere. This atmosphere carries into the description of the storm itself:
Meanwhile the South, rising with dabbled wings,
A sable cloud athwart the welkin flings,
That swilled more liquor than it could contain,
And, like a drunkard, gives it up again (lines 13-16).
In this vulgar metaphor, Swift depicts the clouds as a person who has had too much to drink, subsequently turning the rain to vomit. Despite the fact this would most likely disgust a reader, it does create a clear image in their mind. Although Swift could have described the storm as a beautiful scene, he chose to make it repulsive. Much of the second stanza discusses a wench shaking out her mop, showering a passerby with dust, and staining a needy poet’s coat (lines 19-30). Again, Swift uses a dirty image for the rain falling on London, portraying it as a filthy and disgusting place to live. More importantly, the rain falling on the people of London would make them filthy and disgusting as well.
Swift continues to utilize imagery by examining people’s reactions once it starts to rain: women covered in mud run into the store for shelter and bargain, but do not buy anything; a law student calls for a coach; and a seamstress attempts to walk quickly as she can while water streams down her umbrella (lines 33-38). Perhaps one of the most interesting scenes in the poem is the joining together of Tories and Whigs:
Here various kinds, by various fortunes led,
Commence acquaintance underneath a shed
Triumphant Tories and desponding Whigs
Forget their feuds, and join to save their wigs (lines 39-42).
Because the Whigs and Tories had different political views, one might initially see them coming together as a positive aspect. However, it is important to note why they are coming together in the first place. They do not put aside their differences in order to make political advancements or discuss their views; instead, they join together strictly because they are worried about their appearance. Following this...
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