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The ten thousand things and the one true only.

by Kip Manley

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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of puns.

It is partly this tact which makes Marvell’s puns charming and not detached from his poetry; partly something more impalpable, that he manages to feel Elizabethan about them, to imply that it was quite easy to produce puns and one need not worry about one’s dignity in the matter. It became harder as the language was tidied up, and one’s dignity was more seriously engaged. For the Elizabethans were quite prepared, for instance, to make a pun by a mispronunciation, would treat puns as mere casual bricks, requiring no great refinement, of which any number could easily be collected for a flirtation or indignant harangue. By the time English had become anxious to be “correct” the great thing about a pun was that it was not a Bad Pun, that it satisfied the Unities and what-not; it could stand alone and would expect admiration, and was a much more elegant affair.

William Empson

—posted 32 days ago


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