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Apr 21, 2015



Keats often associated love and pain both in his life and in his poetry. He wrote of a young woman he found attractive, "When she comes into a room she makes an impression the same as the Beauty of a Leopardess.... I should like her to ruin me..."(Letter-94) 1 Love and death are intertwined in "Isabella; or, the Pot of Basil," "Bright Star," "The Eve of St. Agnes," and "La Belle Dame sans Merci." The Fatal Woman (the woman whom it is destructive to love, like Salome, Lilith, and Cleopatra) appears in "La Belle Dame sans Merci" and "Lamia."

John Keats lived only twenty-five years and four months (1795-1821), yet his poetic achievement is extraordinary. His writing career lasted a little more than five years (1814-1820), and three of his great odes--"Ode to a Nightingale," "Ode on a Grecian Urn," and "Ode on Melancholy"--were written in one month. Most of his major poems were written between his twenty-third and twenty-fourth years, and all his poems were written by his twenty-fifth year. In this brief period, he produced poems that rank him as one of the great English poets.

His genius was not generally perceived during his lifetime or immediately after his death. Keats, dying, expected his poetry to be forgotten, as the epitaph he wrote for his tombstone indicates: "Here lies one whose name was writ in water." But nineteenth century critics and readers did come to appreciate him, though, for the most part, they had only a partial understanding of his work. They saw Keats as a sensual poet; they focused on his vivid, concrete imagery; on his portrayal of the physical and the passionate; and on his immersion in the here and now. One nineteenth century critic went so far as to assert not merely that Keats had "a mind constitutionally inapt for abstract thinking," but that he "had no mind." Keats's much-quoted outcry, "O for a life of Sensation rather than of Thoughts!" (letter, November 22, 1817) has been cited to support this view.

Keats prefers to go through the purgatorial fire and obtains a new life, a “phoenix like” re-birth. This movement towards Shakespearian tragedy can be seen in the best poem of Keats’s middle period, The Eve of St Agnes written in a burst of creativity in a fortnight in January 1819. This poem is clearly indebted to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It is set in medieval times and tells the story of the star-crossed lovers Madeline and Porphyro. Madeline has been told the legend that on St Agnes’s Eve maidens, who fast, may have visions of their future husbands. Her lover Porphyro is of a hostile family and she is surrounded by “hyena foemen, and hot-blooded lords”.(Text). Yet he steals into the house and, aided by her old nurse, the beldame Angela, he steals into her bedchamber. When she awakens from her dream she finds Porphyro by her bedside. They consummate their love and together escape from the castle. It is a celebration of an erotic fantasy with a rich embroidering of the subjects’ sexual dynamics and moral ambiguities. Once again in Keats we see the clash between the flawed ideality of the dream and the hard truth of waking reality. "The Eve of St. Agnes" is a narrative poem. It is also an example of the medieval revival . During the 19th century, many writers became interested in the Middle Ages; it seemed romantic and less complicated than the modern world. However, they often had a "fairy tale" view of medieval times, thinking only of knights in shining armor rescuing fair damsels in distress rather than recognizing the harsh, violent time period that it really was. This story is set in the Middle Ages and is a type of "Romeo and Juliet" story of two feuding families and the children who love each other in spite of their families’ enmity. We will have to decide whether Madeline and Porphyro "live happily ever after" or whether they freeze in the winter night.

St. Agnes, the patron saint of virgins, died a martyr in fourth century Rome. She was condemned to be executed after being raped all night in a brothel; however, a miraculous thunderstorm saved her from rape. St. Agnes Day is Jan. 21. Keats based his poem on the superstition that a girl could see her future husband in a dream if she performed certain rites on the eve of St. Agnes; if she went to bed without looking behind her and lay on her back with her hands under her head, he would appear in her dream, kiss her, and feast with her. In the original version of this poem, Keats emphasized the young lovers' sexuality, but his publishers, who feared public reaction, forced him to tone down the eroticism.

John Keats's narrative poem "The Eve of Saint Agnes" reflects this medievalism in Romantic Britain's visual arts. The tableau vivant Madeline stages in her chamber re-creates the aesthetic motifs of late medieval tomb architecture and of sepulchral representations of the dead. In order to maintain the integrity of her own artistic, imaginative vision, Madeline kills herself into art. She does this by enacting rituals of life and art that are themselves designed to procure divine 'visionary' intervention. Just as young women fulfill the traditions of St. Agnes's holy day so that they may see their future husband in their dreams, tomb sculpture is designed to petition God for the deceased's place in Heaven. The ritualized performance of the female body in Madeline's tableau implicitly invites Porphyro's participatory gaze in order to criticize that same scopophilic desire that would have her killed into an object of art; she anticipates his possessive, objectifying gaze with a fixed vision of her own. Madeline stages her own death and thus asserts her authority over the text of her body. She thwarts Porphyro's challenge to her self-possession by drawing him into her sepulchral vision. Porphyro succeeds in penning his own script on Madeline's body only after he succumbs to the mandate of her imagination. In contrast to the masculinocentric trend of previous critics, which posits Porphyro as the primary actor in the narrative, I offer a reading centered on the authority of Madeline, the over determined yet self-realized "object" of male desire in the "Eve of St. Agnes."

Keats begins his narrative in the chill and darkness of an abandoned chapel, void of life save for the self-flagellating Beadsman whose wasted form figures the tolling of his death knell, already rung. On the tombs of the chapel, "The sculptured dead, on each side, seem to freeze,/ Emprison'd in black, purgatorial rails."(L-14-15). The knights and ladies of these family monuments have been carved as priant figures, "praying in dumb orat'ries."(16). (In Medieval tomb sculpture, the priant represents the deceased in postures of religious devotion, kneeling, with hands folded in prayer). As Wendy Steiner points out, "the pun on 'frieze' and 'freeze' parallels the sculptures themselves, which are doubly dead, because they are statues and because they are statues of the dead - the dead figures of romance knights and ladies, in fact, depicted in the act of prayer. Their dreary chill makes the Beadsman's prayers seem even more a failure of vital spirituality, again a double death - the mere static image of the deluded act of prayer 'in the dumb orat'ries' "(Steiner-69) .When Madeline later stages her own funereal "frieze," she rehearses through her aesthetic "death in life" her own eventual priant figure and thus revitalizes the potential for creative expression in such static images of deluded prayer as the priants that decorate the family chapel.

The most notable feature of Madeline's private chamber clearly echoes the architectural structure and sculptural motifs of the medieval funeral monuments in the family chapel below. The scene of Madeline's tableau vivant is framed by "A casement high and triple-arch'd..../ All garlanded with carven imag'ries/ Of fruits, and flowers, and bunches of knot-grass/....And in the midst, 'mong thousand heraldries,/ And twilight saints, and dim emblazonings,/ A shielded scutcheon blush'd with blood of queens and kings." (L-208-16) .Kathleen Cohen notes that carvings of fruits and flowers often adorned tombs of this period as symbols of regeneration and, by extension, resurrection. Family mottoes and emblems of genealogy graced the elaborate arches and casements that contained the sculpted representations of the deceased in order to announce the heritage and status of the family.

As Madeline kneels in prayer in front of this window she constructs herself as a priant figure, encased within the architectural design of the tomb: "Full on this casement shone the wintry moon,/ As down she knelt for heaven's grace and boon;/ Rose-bloom fell on her hands, together prest,/ And on her silver cross soft amethyst...." (L-217-21). Aesthetic trappings of death distort natural phenomena as well; even the moonlight that floods the room is colored and shaped to illuminate Madeline's tableau of death in life. When Madeline lays herself in her bed, in shroud-like "blanched linen, smooth and lavender'd,"(L-263) she recreates yet another sepulchral figure, that of the transi, the representation of the deceased after death, usually depicted recumbent, wrapped in only a shroud, in varying stages of decomposition. The transi is usually placed on the lowest level of the tomb, clearly figuring the interment of the deceased. While in this position, sound asleep, Madeline most suggestively articulates death. As Keats writes in his "Sonnet to Sleep," sleep is the "soft embalmer" of the night that seals the "hushed casket" of the soul. Interestingly, her passivity and stillness encourage Porphyro to extend his possessive gaze to a grasp; he materializes his visual consumption of her body in the feast he spreads before the bed.

On this night, Madeline's bed is at once a site for sex and for death, a marital bower and a death-bed or tomb. Porphyro sets the table for a lavish feast at the same level where Madeline's death-like figure rests. The consumption of these delicacies, then, figures both a necrophilic desire to possess, and a narcissistic cannibalism that involves the total absorption of the beloved into the self. The terms of sexual consummation, however, are ultimately set by Madeline herself, by the fixity of a gaze that overpowers Porphyro, despite his own well demonstrated command of a voyeuristic stare.

Porphyro hides in the "close secrecy" of Madeline's closet, an architectural feature which contains all the darkness and anonymity of a closed coffin. In the closet, "embower'd from the light," Porphyro prepares for "gazing on that bed," a gaze which anticipates his sexual encounter with Madeline. Angela, for one, equates his gaze with a sexual act, telling Porphyro that having seen Madeline undressed, preparing for bed, he "must need[s] the lady wed."(L-179). Interestingly, it isn't Madeline's naked figure that captures Porphyro's fancy: he blazons instead the accouterments of her femininity, her clothes and her jewelry. Peter Brooks writes that because to achieve the goal of one's desire would result in the "death of desiring," and thus the silencing of the text (Brooks 20), "the object of attention and desire--most obviously, the person of the beloved--is not detailed in its nakedness but rather approached by way of its phenomenal presence in the world, which means by way of the clothing and accessories that adorn and mask the body. The approach to the body of the beloved may strive toward unveiling....but it also tends to become waylaid in the process of this unveiling, more interested in the lifting of the veils than in what is finally unveiled. An interest in the way, rather than simply the endpoint, is indeed virtually a definition of narrative"(Brooks-19). Accordingly, Keats suspends his text in silence when Madeline steps out of the foam of her "rich attire" and walks to her bed; we learn only that "soon, trembling in her soft and chilly nest,/....perplex'd she lay,"(L-235-36) and Porphyro is left gazing "upon her empty dress." Keats figures Porphyro's sexual "little death" in veiled language; he "melts" into Madeline's dream, killed into art so that she might make a place for him in her aesthetically realized vision of love and sexuality.

The tension of this scene lies in a doubled act of unveiling. Porphyro's leering, which is the ocular vehicle for Keats's narrative, undresses Madeline. The woman herself is little more than the sum of her accessories. Madeline's design, however, in staging this theatrical ritual, is to undress language, to lift the veil and expose the gap between aestheticized femininity and the identity this image conceals. Madeline's tableau vivant performs what Mary Ann Doane describes as "masquerade," which, "in flaunting femininity, holds it at a distance. Womanliness is a mask which can be worn or removed. The masquerade's resistance to patriarchal positioning....lie[s] in its denial of the production of femininity as closeness, as presence-to-itself, as, precisely, imagistic. Masquerade....involves a realignment of femininity, the recovery, or more accurately, simulation, of the missing gap or distance. To masquerade is to manufacture a lack in the form of a certain distance between oneself and one's image....By destabilizing the image, the masquerade confounds [the] masculine structure of the look. It effects a defamiliarization of female iconography" (Doane-25-6).

Madeline's performance, then, positions her as a critic, rather than a victim, of a masculine scopophilic economy. Hers is a harsh indictment: Madeline's masquerade incorporates a death mask and evokes the funerary aesthetics of a tomb. In order to maintain the integrity of her imaginative vision, Madeline stages an aesthetic allegory of speaking death. Elizabeth Bronfen writes that "staging disembodiment as a form of escaping personal and social constraints serves to criticize those cultural attitudes that reduce the feminine body to the position of dependency and passivity, to the vulnerable object of sexual incursions"(Bronfen-142) .

By killing herself into art, Madeline adheres to the visions of her dreams. When Porphyro wakes her, Madeline's wide eyes cause him to sink to his knees, "pale as a smooth-sculptured stone." Madeline draws the astonished (turned to stone) Porphyro into her tableau, into the frozen state of her de-realized world, a condition of inanimation that Keats himself longed for. In a letter to Fanny Brawne, the poet writes: "I have two luxuries to brood over in my walks, your loveliness and the hour of my death. O that I could have possession of them both in the same minute".(Bush-291)Keats's longing to "possess" both Fanny and death suggests his sexualized relationship to a feminized death. This conflation of femininity and death also reveals an almost necrophilic narcissism; the poet is "half in love" with his own "easeful death" as he engenders a "lovely" female body with the universal condition of mortality. As Bronfen asserts, "part of the equation between femininity and death resides precisely in the fact that Woman as man's object of on the side of death....because she so often serves as a non-reciprocal 'dead' figure of imaginary projection, given that, in Lacan's terms, 'the whole of [man's] realization in the sexual relation comes down to fantasy' ( Bronfen-63).

Madeline, as an object of art, becomes a figure of Porphyro's "imaginary projection." With her tableau, Madeline ultimately undermines the scopophilic projection of an unwitting Porphyro. She remains, however, at the mercy of the poet's narrative. With Madeline as a self-inscribed figure of art, "The Eve of St. Agnes" can be read as an ekphrastic poem. James Heffernan proposes a model of ekphrastic poetry that accounts for the authority that Madeline invests in her aesthetic self-representation, and the ambivalent way in which the male poet engages with a feminized object of art. Heffernan writes that ekphrasis "evokes the power of the silent image even as it subjects that power to the rival authority of language," and that "the contest it stages is often powerfully gendered: the expression of a duel between male and female gazes, the voice of male speech striving to control a female image that is both alluring and threatening, of male narrative trying to overcome the fixating impact of beauty poised in space"(Heffernan-1). In "The Eve of St. Agnes," this contest plays out on a number of levels, both within the text, between Madeline and Porphyro, and extra-textually, between Madeline and Keats, the poet/narrator.

The image Madeline creates "excites both 'ekphrastic hope'--the desire for union--and the 'ekphrastic fear' of being silenced, petrified, and thus unmanned by the Medusan 'other' "(ibid.108) .Madeline is Medusan in that her gaze represents a female power to freeze/frieze the enthralled male and "enchant, subvert, or threaten" his voice(ibid-108) .When Porphyro awakens the sleeping Madeline, or resurrects her from her death-like stillness, the "vision of her sleep," inspired by religious meditation, remains before her eyes. Madeline's gaze, fixed on Porphyro, causes him to sink to his knees, "pale as smooth sculptured stone." Her stare astonishes Porphyro, who remains kneeling, "with joined hands and piteous eye,/ Fearing to move or speak, she look'd so dreamingly." Pained that, in reality, Porphyro's eyes aren't "spiritual and clear," his looks no longer "immortal," as they were in her vision, Madeline asks him not to leave her in the "eternal woe" of her awakened consciousness. Thus Madeline allows Porphyro to melt into her dream, to worship, like a pilgrim, at the "silver shrine" of her beauty, achieving an "ekphrastic union" on her own terms that simultaneously betrays Porphyro's voyeuristic obsessions by objectifying him as a piece of stone.

The male narrator's, or Keats's, act of engendering dialogue with a female art object reveals a violent impulse. The trajectory of the poem "repeatedly threatens to rape the fixed beauty of visual art [Madeline's tableau] with the language of narrative"(ibid.114) .But where Porphyro, and by extension, Keats himself, read Madeline as a hieroglyph, the image as the woman, Madeline's frieze is an act of authorship, of self-realization; her reading of herself plays on the distance she establishes between "tableau" and "vivant," between the artistic representation and the life itself. She is not a "fixed beauty"; through her image and her voice Madeline articulates her resistance to the threat Porphyro poses within the text and the threat Keats poses extra-textually. Her speech comes at the moment of her awakening, and with her voice she further "hoodwinks" Porphyro, playing on his voyeuristic fantasies of consumption, in order to write her own ending to the story her sepulchral image embodies. Madeline's words point to her betrayal, her deception at the hands of Porphyro, whose leering eyes in life are anything but "spiritual and clear," as they were in her vision. "No dream, alas! alas! and woe is mine!"(L-328) Madeline cries, "thou forsakest a deceived thing." (L-332)

Through speech, the act of reading her own image, Madeline crosses the line between visual and verbal representation. In this transgressive act Madeline's voice "preempts the interrogating, narrating voice of the male speaker"( Heffernan-115). Madeline's last line in the poem expresses, at best, a sense of resignation about her fate with Porphyro. In her awakened state, Madeline likens herself to "a dove forlorn and lost with sick unpruned wing"(L-333). Although Porphyro succeeds in robbing Madeline's nest of her "sweet self," clearly the achievement of his iconophilic desire results in the death of his desiring. Keats's narrative loses its erotic tension, and the poem moves to a close in the atmosphere of Madeline's sepulchral allegory. The two "glide like phantoms" through the dark, silent house, while the Baron and his guests have nightmares of coffin-worms. The end of the poem is ambiguous, and clearly doesn't bode well for the couple. Keats writes "and they are gone: ay, ages long ago/ These lovers fled away into the storm."(L-370-71). The poem ends where it began, with the neglected Beadsman praying in "his ashes cold," and as a result the sense of closure is one of entombment. The resolution of the narrative hermetically seals the poem in a "hushed casket."

Porphyro's misinterpretation of Madeline's sepulchral tableau, his mis-recognition of the female visionary as merely a vision, points to Keats's misplaced trust in the "eternal present of pure being" that a feminine aesthetic suggests (Heffernan-114)."The Eve of Saint Agnes" points to the bankruptcy of an aesthetic vision that would reduce the feminine to the status of icon, and thus deny women artistic and authorial agency. Madeline's tableau vivant recalls Michelangelo's allegorical figure of Night in the Medici chapel, and the words he attributes to her: "It is sweet to sleep but even sweeter to be of stone. While evil and dishonor last, it is my blessing not to see, not to feel. Therefore, do not awaken me. Hush! speak softly"(Hagstrum-74) .

The poem also integrates imagery and narrative through its use of colour imagery. Keats, with superb artistic tact, makes use of a few basic rich colours that harmonize and unify the poetry. Blue and violet are used to describe Madeline “she slept an azure-lidded sleep,” blue traditionally being the colour of the Virgin Mary which suggest spirituality and purity. Silver, Gold, and Black colours and shades run like threads throughout the poem. Silver is used to describe the coldness of the moonlight “where the faded moon made a dim, silver twilight”. Gold is frequently used to suggest, by contrast, richness and splendour and warmth, as in “a cloth of woven crimson, gold and jet”, “golden dishes” “broad golden fringe”. Black and jet are used by way of contrast enriching the picture given. Thematically Keats uses these colours through out the poem. In stanza 36 when the sexual consummation of the love takes place, Keats images it in terms of colour:

Beyond a mortal man impassioned farAt these voluptuous accents. he arose,Ethereal, flushed, and like a throbbing starSeen mid the sapphire heaven’s deep reposeInto her dream he melted, as the roseBlendeth its odour with the violet -Solution sweet!

The consummation is described in terms of colours: the violet (blue) of Madeline and her purity with the redness of the Rose (passion and human love). Keats is still interested in the sounds of the words he uses and their exotic connotations. In Stanza 30 he chooses the words he uses to describe Porphryo’s feast to give an impression of richness, of taste, of the exotic:

Of candied apple, quince, and plum, and gourd,With jellies soother than the creamy curd,And lucent syrups, tinct with cinnamon;Manna and dates, in argosy transferredFrom Fez; and spiced dainties, every one,From silken Samarkand to cedared Lebanon.

The alliteration of the consonants “creamy curd” “silken Samarckand” of the consonants and the assonance of the vowel sounds “apple, quince and plum” “lucent syrups” and so on is marked. Instead of using the word “ship” Keats prefers the word “argosy” with its archaic and romantic associations. The use of archaisms and medievalisms is strong throughout the poem.

Keats's imagery ranges among all our physical sensations: sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell, temperature, weight, pressure, hunger, thirst, sexuality, and movement. Keats repeatedly combines different senses in one image, that is, he attributes the trait(s) of one sense to another, a practice called synaesthesia. His synaesthetic imagery performs two major functions in his poems: it is part of their sensual effect, and the combining of senses normally experienced as separate suggests an underlying unity of dissimilar happenings, the oneness of all forms of life. Richard H. Fogle calls these images are the product of his” unrivaled ability to absorb, sympathize with, and humanize natural objects.

To make a psychoanalytical study of color imagery in Keats’ Eve of St. Agnes, one can associate it with the shades of shifts in moods of the central chracters. Red with blue impinging - The red represents the realism that invades the poem in the opening stanzas in the form of the beadsman and the storm. The blue, however, represents the presence of idealism in the form of both the Virgin Mary and the "golden music" that is coming from the party. The reality of the poem is the most present force, dominating how the poem is received while alluding to the idealism that is another type of reception.Blue with red impinging - The Blue represents the ideal world of Madeline that is living in while she dances at the party. She is caught up in her ideal world and can not see the reality that surrounds her. This is a very full section of the poem because the Porphyro, the character of realistic reception is introduced even as the idealism begins to take over the poem in Madeline. Angela is manipulated into betraying her mistress, even as Madeline eagerly awaits the fruitful dreams of escape. Blue surrounded with small red circles - Madeline is surrounded by the reality of the cold night and the fact that Porphyro is hiding in her closet. He is represented by the red circle that is surrounded by the blue. The outside influences of Angela and the noise from the music are also invading Madeline's innocent room. Even Porphyro, who is full of realistic life, gets sucked into the ideal both when he sees Madeline praying and when he prepares the succulent treats for the sleeping Madeline. Red is eclipsing the blue - This is the climax of the poem, in which Porphyro merges himself into the ideal dream of Madeline. However, this merging actually destroys Madeline's dream instead of simply including Porphyro into it. The ideal image of Porphyro is destroyed by the actual man.The complete red circle with a small blue within it- The realization of mortality begins to erode Madeline's idealism until it disappears. In fact, the only idealism left is not held by Madeline, but by Porphyro who is eagerly waiting to get Madeline to the home he has waiting for her. Madeline, herself, has become beset with fears and has lost her sense of idealism. The only thing that she can do is worry about what Porphyro tells her to do and she sees all of the danger in the world of reality. A plain red circle - All of the idealism has left the poem and suddenly the stark, empty reality is visible without any hope of idealism. With reality, comes the acceptance of death, which is made clear with the horrid imagery involved in Angela's death. Porphyro and Madeline are connected though images to the old man and woman. The death and lose of hope that is demonstrated in the last stanza revolving around the old people is simply an extension of what Porphyro and Madeline have to look forward to in their realistic life. Porphyro was first seen in the poem as a realistic character that is in love with the idealistic virgin. However, his very presence destroys her idealism. The ending makes it apparent that idealism is a something that is attractive to those who live in reality, and that without a sense of the ideal, a person of the realistic world is without hope or desire.

Splendid language, sharply etched setting, and vivid mood--"The Eve of St. Agnes" has them all. What the poem lacks for some readers is significant content; it is, for them, one long sensuous utterance, and a mere fairy-tale romance, unhappily short on meaning. Clearly, the portrayal of ardent young love dealing with a hostile adult world and contrasted with aging and death has an inherent appeal. A closer reading reveals more than just a gorgeous surface; it reveals many of the same concerns that Keats explores in his odes--imagination, dreaming and vision, and life as a mixture of opposites.

The poem opens--and closes--with the cold. Stanza I moves from the cold outside to the warmth inside and from wild animals outside (owl, hare) to domesticated animals (sheep) to the humans inside (Beadsman, revelers). With the Beadsman, religious imagery is introduced (incense, censer, heaven, the Virgin Mary's picture). Ironically the Beadsman, who is alone and cold, prays for the Baron and his friends, who are absorbed in the pleasures of the flesh. The cold is so intense in the chapel that even the sculptures on the tombs seem cold.

The Beadsman's decision not the join the feast symbolizes his rejecting life's joys and his isolation, as does the statement "The joys of his life were said and sung." The line may also prefigure his death, which occurs this evening

The sounds of the celebration (music's gold tongue; silver, snarling trumpets) introduce human activity and earthly pleasures. Silver and moonlight imagery runs through the poem and contrasts with vividly colored images. With stanza V, the revelers are briefly and simultaneously introduced and dismissed ("These let us wish away"), to focus on Madeline. But the revelers are insignificant in another way; they are "shadows," a reference that begins the imagery of dreams and unreality. Stanzas V through VIII emphasize her separateness from the guests because of her total absorption in the dream (she is "thought-ful," her eyes are "regardless," and her heart "brooded," and she is "all amort") Madeline, like the unshorn lambs in stanza VIII, is innocent; it is not ironic that the next morning the lambs will be shorn just as Madeline will be shorn or "deflowered".Stanza IX introduces Porphyro hiding in the shadows, prefiguring his hiding in Madeline's bedroom. His state ("heart on fire") contrasts with the dreamy remoteness of Madeline. He, too, has a dream, and it is a romantic dream also; he hopes to see his beloved and "worship all unseen." He is associated with moonlight while hiding outside and in Angela's room (stanza XIII), which is also cold and "silent as a tomb," prefiguring Angela's death.

Love propels him into the house of dangerous enemies, "barbarian hordes/Hyena foemen." Ironically these are some of the people the Beadsman has been praying for. Porphyro's only friend is "weak in body and in soul." The meaning of weak in body is clear; she is old and physically frail and dies before morning; also she is powerless to protect him. When Angela encounters Porphyro, she urges him to leave "like a ghost." This is exactly how he flees with Madeline at the end, "like phantoms." The function of these images of unreality will be explored later. Angela is amused at Madeline's rituals and says, "good angels her deceive!" All Angela may mean by this is "let angels send her good dreams instead," but her statement does explicitly refer to deception. And it is Angela who deceives Madeline, as well as Porphyro who deceives her, this St. Agnes Eve. Initially Porphyro is touched sentimentally by the image of Madeline in her St. Agnes dream. But then he sees an opportunity for more than worshipping afar. With his sexual desire and opportunity, the imagery becomes more intense, more sensual, passionate and full of color:

Sudden a thought came like a full-blown rose,Flushing his brow,and in his pained heartMade purple riot; (stanza XVI)

Porphyro is described as "burning," contrasting him with the cold imagery of the beginning and Madeline's cold remoteness. Angela acquiesces to his plan, "betide her weal or woe" (XVIII) The imagery of unreality and of illusion--"legion'd faeries" and "pale enchantment" and the myth of Merlin and his Demon--appears at this critical point. His vision of her "pale enchantment" contrasts implicitly with Porphyro's warmth and intensity. Whatever the specific meaning of the Merlin reference, it is clearly involves destruction and betrayal.Madeline's entrance is associated with the moon and silver (dream/cold imagery) and unreality/illusion images ("charmed maid," "mission'd spirit," "spirits of the air"in stanzas XXII and XXIII. The nightingale allusion at the end of stanza XXIII refers to a story in Ovid's Metamorphosis; Tereus raped Philomel, his sister- in-law and cut out her tongue so she couldn't tell anyone. However, she told the story in a tapestry she was weaving. Understanding the tapestry, her outraged sister murdered Tereus's son and served him to Tereus for dinner. When he learned the truth, Tereus moved to kill the sisters, but he gods turned them into birds; Philomel became a nightingale. While the metaphor describes Madeline's inability to talk, a part of the St. Agnes ritual, it also carries a hint of sexual violence or outrage. Stanza XXIV is rich with images of texture and color, paralleling the richness and color of the room, ending with the multi-meaning line "A shielded scutcheon blush'd with blood of queens and kings." This refers to her royal ancestry ("blood of queens and kings"); the shield suggests violence; the red-blood and blush introduce color and contrast with the cold light of the moon. Stanza XXV contrasts the light of the cold ("wintry") moon with color and warmth ("gules," "rose'bloom," "silver cross soft amethyst," her hair a "glory"), suggesting both dream detachment and sensuality. The religious imagery combines with them ("a glory, like a saint," "a splendid angel," and "heaven"). Her purity is insisted upon as is Porphyro's being inhibited by her purity-- temporarily. He watches as she undresses in a dream-state ("pensive while she dreams away," "fancy," "the charm" or spell). If she looked behind her, she might of course see Porphyro. The next stanza continues her dream detachment. Stanzas XXVI to XXXV present a pattern that occurs with other Keatsian dreamers: the person falls in a swoon or sleep, experiences enchantment, and awakens to a different reality. In stanza XXVII she is "Blissfully haven'd both from joy and pain." However, joy and pain are inescapable in life. That her "bliss" is an undesirable or untenable condition is expressed in the metaphor, "As though a rose should shut, and be a bud again." This line also has sexual overtones, with reference to virginity and sexual intercourse.

Stanza XXVIII begins, "Stol'n to this paradise." Is this an echo of Satan's sneaking into the Garden of Eden to seduce Eve? Some readers hear an echo of Milton's description in Paradise Lost of this event . When Porphyro gazes on her dreaming, the silver/cold and the color/warm images are again combined, "dim, silver twilight" and "wove crimson, gold, and jet" (stanza XXIX). In the next stanza there is a hint of luxuriousness and sensuality in the description of her bed linens. The luxuriousness and eroticism of the foods and place references prepare for their sexual fulfillment. He uses the language of religion to express his physical desires; "seraph," "heaven," "eremite" are juxtaposed to "so my soul doth ache."

Unable to rouse her for a while, he wakes her with music. But is she awake, or does she think this is still a dream, "the vision of her sleep"? The situation does fulfill her expectation of a St. Agnes vision--future husband and luxurious feast. She is disoriented ("witless words") and looked "so dreamingly." Stanza XXXVI, with its heightened physical and emotional imagery is the physical culmination:

Into her dream he melted, as the roseBlended its odour with the violet,--Solution sweet;

The phrase "Into her dream he melted" is expanded in the next stanza, where he insists that their union is no dream. Does this suggest he was aware that she was in a dream- or trance-like state? She is extremely upset, "No dream, alas! alas! and woe is mine!" She fears being abandoned and refers to herself as "a deceived thing." Madeline's emotional upset is paralleled by the storm outside. The suggestion of her dream-state is continued by his calling her "sweet dreamer!" Does his immediately calling her "lovely bride!" suggest that he regards himself as the fulfillment of her dream and that he intends to marry her? The rest of stanza XXXVIII combines the silver/moon/dream imagery and color/warmth/passion imagery.

The next three stanzas are filled with images of unreality and delusion: "elfin-storm from fairy land," "Of haggard seeming, " "sleeping dragons all around," "like phantoms" (repeated twice), and "be-nightmar'd." The Baron and his revelers, lacking any spiritual element and being potentially violent, dream nightmares. The last word in the poem is "cold," so the poem in some ways ends as it began, with cold and physical suffering. The lovers flee into a storm. The storm can be a symbol for the real world and the reality that the lovers must face.There seems to be no irony in the selection of the names of the characters in the poem. Madeline derives from Magdalen, the prostitute accepted by Christ as a follower. The name Porphyro means purple, a color used for the clothing of nobles; purple was further associated with the aristocracy and royalty in the phrase "purple blood" (we say "blue blood" today). There are numerous references to the color purple in the poem.

The poem opens with bitter contraries. It is the depth of winter in which anal nature suffers from biting cold. Its ‘bitter chill’, the owl is cold, the hare limps ‘though the frozen grass’. The first person we se is the old beadsman, a pensioner paid to pray for the souls of the dead. The fire supposed to warm him is reduced to rough ashes among which he penitently and his fingers are numb as he tells his rosary. The figures of the dead on the tombs seem to ‘ache in icy hoods and mails’. Against this desolation of age and winter is overlaid the warmth of youthful revelry. The thousand guests of the castle assemble to the din of snarling trumpets. The chambers are ‘glowing to receive’ the guests suggesting light and warmth. Once again Keats appeals to all forms of senses. The drunken revelry of Madeline’s kin sets off the stillness of her bedroom. The flourish of trumpets is the prelude and contrast to the low throbbing of the lute. The gorgeous feast in the hall contrasts with the exotic but uneaten meal in the lovers’ bedroom. We have the strongly visual image of the moon shining through the Gothic window of stanza 24 “full on this casement shone the wintry moon”. Stanzas 24-26 describe “the fragrant stillness” of Madeline’s chamber. These sensations are strongly enhanced by the medievalism of the setting. We have the beadsman, the chapel with its ‘Sculptured dead .. .emprisoned in their black, purgatorial rails’ and the carved angels ‘ever eager eyed’ staring into futurity. We have the “A shielded scutcheon” which “blushed with blood of queens and kings”. The sensations described need to combined to bring each other out.Unlike Porphyro and Madeline, in The Eve of St. Agnes, who apparently elude a tragic encounter with social pressures by eloping (not undertaking a public ceremony of marriage) and escaping undetected from a castle's hostile society. Such a positive reading of the lovers' elopement suggests that their escape be from the dark reality of the castle's interior to an ideal existence beyond the confinement of its walls. But the castle is only a set for the narrative's dramatic action, intended to enhance The Eve of St. Agnes's fairy-tale atmosphere. The interior of the castle is not entirely dark, because its inhabitants and structure conspire with Madeline and Porphyro. Their escape is aided by a benign beldame, a drunken Porter, an ineffectual 'bloodhound', 'bolts [which] full easy slide' and 'chains that lie silent on the footworn stone' (363-9). Keats's lovers do not retreat from dark reality into an illusory dream mode, even if their story is absorbed into legend's ideal and immutable realm. Instead Porphyro and Madeline flee from a magical castle - itself a product of ideal illusion - into a troubled 'storm' of tragic reality (371). The treachery of their flight into a dawn storm can be gauged from Porphyro's optimistic description of it as an ''elfin-storm from faery land'' (343) which, recalling Endymion's perilous 'fog-born elf' (II, 276), anticipates a return to a 'habitual self' (II, 277) and reality's darkness. The youthful lovers fail to transcend the perils of human existence, because whether they remain within or without the castle their fate is predicted by the beldame and Beadsman; the first '[d]ied palsy-twitch'd' and the other 'unsought for slept among his ashes cold' (377-9). In spite of the lovers' vibrance their untold future is blighted by the prospect of death, as the passage of time will inevitably consign them to a similar deathly state. Narrative emphasis is placed on loss and unfulfilment, as central to The Eve of St. Agnes is Madeline's unrealised dream and sexual encounter with Porphyro. Even the castle's austerely gothic interior does not predict a hoped for regeneration, instead it depicts a series of fixed inarticulate 'carven imag'ries' (209) of the 'sculptur'd dead' (14). This interior marks out Keats's fairy-tale castle as 'old romance['s]' (41) last bastion and final tomb, existing without a regenerative voice to ensure either a rejuvenation of the lovers or the world of romance. Porphyro's expression of love for Madeline verbally re-enacts a courtly legend captured in 'an ancient ditty, long since mute' (291). Equally, Madeline performing her rite of 'St. Agnes' Eve' (46) seeks to voice the romance of what 'she had heard old dames full many times declare' (45) meaningfully into the present. These efforts to translate the 'dumb oratories' (16) of 'old romance' (41) into articulate active love are surrounded by the castle's suppression of sound: 'The kettle-drum, and far-heard clarinet, / Affray his ears, though but in dying tone: - / The hall door shuts again, and all the noise is gone' (259-61). Madeline also lapses into silence, as her attempt to re-enact courtly tradition leads to her being 'hoodwink'd with faery fancy' (70) and incapable of one 'uttered syllable' (203). Even after she awakes from her enchanted sleep she is only able 'to moan forth witless words with many a sigh' (303). Despite being within the castle's safe haven, Madeline's dream is not a consolatory ideal illusion, rather a disclosure of 'old romance['s]' fictional status. This dream experience discloses an awareness of absence, desertion and unfulfilment, reflecting the illusory mode's adoption of a tragic language of negative fiction. Madeline's new found speech - echoing Keats's abandoned knight - desires an idealised 'old romance' (41), preferring her own imaginatively created Porphyro over his actual presence: ''how chang'd thou art! how pallid, chill, and drear! / 'Give me that voice again, my Porphyro, / 'Those looks immortal, those complainings dear!'' (311-13). When Madeline does speak her desire is not the present voice of Porphyro, instead she longs after her own forever absent dream-representation of his voice and identity. Just as Porphyro's recitation of ''La Belle Dame Sans Merci'' reduces him to a silent form, who fears 'to move or speak' (306) and resembles the stonework figures decoratively carved on the castle's walls: 'Upon his knees he sank, pale as smooth-sculptured stone' (297). Such a resemblance intimates that Porphyro and Madeline will be absorbed into a tradition of courtly legend. Porphyro will be absorbed into a tradition of heroic lovers when his actions are consistent with being a voyeur, skulking in a 'closet' (164-7), and appearing to Madeline's eyes as ''pallid, chill and drear'' (311). Not even in this fairy-tale world is Porphyro ascribed a role of handsome prince and legitimate suitor. Instead, he is an inexperienced paramour who makes 'jellies soother than the creamy curd' (266) rather than love. Porphyro only serves Madeline with luxuriant and exotic dishes in an attempt to overwhelm her pervading sense of absence with sheer abundance. Yet Madeline's realisation that life is ''eternal woe'' (314) cannot be avoided. The lovers' sexual encounter is framed between Madeline fearing for Porphyro's death and Porphyro hearing the ''iced gusts'' of an ''elfin-storm'' (327; 343): 'At these voluptuous accents, he arose, / Ethereal, flush'd, and like a throbbing star / Seen mid the sapphire heaven's deep repose; / Into her dream he melted...' (317-20). Keats's portrayal of their love-making, as an idealistic union between Madeline's dream of Porphyro and his actual presence is an act of supplementation, which points towards a deathly absence, represented by those darker forces lurking beyond the walls of Keats's fairy-tale castle.

Keats's poetry contradicts his own theory in the respect that he often wrote in the highly personal and thoughtful manner that he criticizes in Wordsworth; however, he does achieve with grandness his principal aim to move the reader, accomplishing this through the masterful and ingenious use of literary techniques and the ability to freely "take in" the mystery of the universe.

Keats also moves the reader through the use of simile, metaphor, imagery, and magical tricks. One example is Keats's epic simile comparing his reading of Homer to the discover of the Pacific Ocean by Cortez and his men, who "look'd at each other with a mild surmise-- / Silent, upon a peak of Darien."( Line13-14). Another example is the vivid, moving imagery created in "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" with the deceivingly simple description of a knight, "Alone and palely loitering." In the same poem we can see Keats's use of magical tricks to affect the reader. The last odd-metered line of each stanza contrasts sharply with the beautiful imagery and rhyming of the rest and makes the reader feel uncomfortable, but in this discomfort there still is beauty. It is interesting to note that this obvious metrical deviation involving a deliberate attempt to manipulate the reader seems very much like the "palpable design" that Keats talks of as being so distasteful, though his meaning of the phrase is somewhat amorphous. We see this same brilliant imagery in "Ode to a Nightingale" as the speaker of the poem longs to drink "a beaker full of the warm South, / …With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,"(L-15-20). Keats engages the reader's senses with this imagery, making the reader actually see the bubbles popping. In the same poem, Keats connects our world with the lost ages, evoking the timelessness and immensity of the universe. Here Keats embodies his own theory of the poet of great achievement by surrendering to the immensity of the universe, opening up and "taking in" its awe. The Eve of St. Agnes's portrayal of an idealised romance and dream threatens at every narrative instance to unravel itself, laying bare those elements of reality banished from Keats's enchanted castle. Silence and death remain a constantly deferred threat to the lovers, even after they have 'fled away into the storm' (371). The narrative projects their escape into the past of immortal legend to preserve them against the ravages of time, represented by the beldame and Beadsman. The Eve of St. Agnes moves full circle from the lifeless existence of a beldame and Beadsman to the hopeful fulfilment of youthful love - or the recovery of idealised 'old romance' (41) - to return only to the inevitable social reality of death. A retelling of Porphyro's and Madeline's legend will once again conjure up and break the castle's charmed circle, exposing its own tentative existence - undoing the spell of its enchanted spot - to disclose what tragedy its illusory mode struggles to conceal. Keats, in his poem, "The Eve of Saint Agnes," employs contrast as a literary device. Important points and atmospheres are emphasized when they are drawn up next to something of almost the complete opposite. Keats succeeds in emphasizing the love felt through by Porphyro and Madeleine, by contrasting this love against the intense hatred felt by Madeleine's relatives towards her lover. "Dwarfish Hildebrand . . .He cursed thee and thine, both house and land,"(L-100-02) and "old Lord Maurice" despise Porphyro and would definitely object to his presence in the vicinity, much more to his winning the heart of their princess. "Follow me, child, or else these stones will be thy bier,"(L-108). Angela warns Porphyro. The amount of love that he has for Madeleine is underscored by the peril that he risks by trying to carry through with his feelings. The hatred already serves its purpose is by amplifying their love. Smaller scale contrasts are also used in the poem to draw emphasis to tiny, but important details. Porphyro's contentment at having reached Madeleine's chamber is aggrandized by being followed by the line which tells us of Angela's extreme anxiety, and "agues" over the same situation. While the guests of the party are "drown'd all in Rhenish and sleepy mead,"(L-349) Porphyro calls Madeleine to, "Awake! Arise! My love and fearless be."(L-315). Afterwards, when Madeleine and Porphyro exit the castle towards their life together, their graceful and delicate "glide, like phantoms,"(L-361) is drawn against the drunken sprawl of the Porter. At the same time, there was "no human sound" from the sleeping guests. The "flickering" of the chain-drooped lamp, and the "winds uproar" seem to be major sounds in the poem, but these simply serve to emphasize the complete silence felt from the lack of human activity. Usually, the chain lamp and the wind are sounds which would not be noticed in the presence of other noise. Finally, the age/youth contrast is present throughout the course of the poem, especially at both the beginning and end. Keats gives the reader a premonition of the old Beadsman's demise the same night of a joyous affair, which was probably celebrating a celebration of young Madeleine's coming-of-age. His self-denial and starkness is contrasted directly with the richness and splendor inside the house, and the feast prepared for Madeline. At the end of the poem, the birth of a new and consummate love occurs the same night as the death of two old, yet integral characters.

Keats writes the poem in Spenserian stanzas. Byron had made the stanza for fashionable in his popular poem Childe Harolde’s Pilgrimage and Shelley was to write Adonais in this form. Keats had used the stanza form only once before in his Imitation of Spenser. The stanza is a suitable one for the poem. Firstly, it recalls the medievalism of Spenser’s epic The Faerie Queene. Secondly, it allows for a regular narrative progression which aids in creating a sense of motion. The stanza is formed from two interwoven decasyllabic quatrains, which climax in the final 12 syllable line (alexandrine), thus allowing a developed action to take place, and framing the action visually in a separate stanza, concluded by the long 12 syllable alexandrine line. Keats employs the stanza in ways which Spenser did not, however, and whereas Spenser was able to create a strong sense of motion within his verse, Keats’s poem tends to be more ruminative, lethargic and void of the sense of motion although not of action. Like in so much of his work there is a kind of morbid stasis which surrounds the characters. Generally then, Keats’s mature style in The Eve is less concerned to express the sensations and feelings of the poet and more interested in the development of feelings though character and setting. This seems to have partly occurred through Keats’s study of Shakespeare, Milton and Dryden. In his sonnet On Sitting Down to Read “King Lear” Once More, Keats had signaled his desire to bid farewell to what he calls “golden-tongued romance” of his Endymion and his wish instead to take up “the fierce dispute/Betwixt damnation and impassioned clay”. Now he appears to have overcome his most serious poetic defect and achieved a new power over sensuous language.


1.,Life and Letters of John Keats. J.M. Dent and Sons, New York, 1927.
2. Stillinger, Jack. The Texts of Keat's Poems. Harvard Press, Cambridge, 1974.
3.Steiner, Wendy :Pictures Of Romance : Forms Against Context in Painting and Literature, Chicago. Univ. Press, 1988.
4.Kathleen Cohen. Metamorphosis Of a Death Symbol : The Transi Tomb in the Late middle Ages and the Renaissance. Berkeley: univ.of California Press, 1973.
5 .Peter Brooks. Body Work : Objects of Desire in Modern Narrative. Cambridge:Harvard Univ. Press, 1993.
6.Doane, Mary Ann. Femmes Fatales: Feminism, Film Theory, Psychoanalysis. NY: Routledge Press, 1991.
7.Bronfen, Elizabeth- Over Her Dead Body: Death, Feminity, And The Aesthetic. NY: Routledge Press 1992
8.Bush, Douglas: ed. Selected Poems And Letters By John Keats . Boston : Houghton Mifflin Company. 1959.
9.Heffernan, James. Museum Of Words: The Poetics Of Ekphrasis From Homer To Ashberry Chicago: Univ .Of Chicago Press, 1993.
10.Hagstrum, Jean. The Sister Arts : The Tradition Of Literary Pictorialism and English Poetry From Dryden To Gray:Chicago Univ. Press , 1958.

11.Fogle , Richard H. : The Imagery of Keats And Shelley : A comparative Study. Univ. of North Carolina. 1969.

Apr 12, 2015

Theory of Rasa

Theory of Rasa

“The aesthetic pleasure of Hindu theatre is determined by how successful the artist in expressing a particular emotion evoking the Rasa (Encyclopaedia Britannica).”  In production of a play, the Rasa, created by the actor in his acting, is enjoyed by the spectator, says Sumanash. “Just as the combination of several spices creates a flavour in food, so too, the combination of several emotion yields in Rasa (in a play).’ Thus, the combination of different emotions results in Rasa. The Natyashastra states this briefly as “Rasa is born of the joint action of Vibhava, Anubhava and Vyabhichari Bhava (so called Sancari bhava) then it proceeds with Nirukta.”

The Rasa theory was mostly applicable to dance-drama-s. In addition, the Rasa theory may be seen also from audience point of view. Here it is suggested that the spectator identify themselves with the characters and the situation on the stage. The protagonist of the Rasa theory clearly says that ‘the cultures (sympathetic) spectator becoming one with the characters in Rasa’. In contrast, the actor does not become one with the role; he acts deliberately to evoke the Rasa.

The Rasa-s are four: Srngara, Vira, Rudra, and Bibhatsa. Further, Hasya is derived from Srngara; Karuna form Rudra; Adbhuta from Vira; and Bhayanaka from Bibhatsa.   

Srngara is based on the Sthayi bhava of Rati (love) which results in the case of men and women, of healthy youth. “This should be acted by graceful looks and words and sweet speeches and smiles and by pleasing and attractive gesture”. Whereas, Humour is Sthayi bhava of Hasya—laughter. Laughter is stimulated by disfigurement of dress, deformed appearance, etc.

Vira Rasa or heroic concerns noble and brave individuals. “It is produced by an energetic, determined, unrelenting nature which is neither taken by surprise nor by confusion.” “Whatever remarks or act is out of the ordinary should be considered as the stimulus of Adbhuta Rasa.” ‘It should be acted by crying, words of appreciation, by praising, and also by repeating it with laughter’. Surprise is its Sthayi bhava.

Raudra Rasa is the Sthayi bhava of krodha or anger which gives us the Raudra Rasa that ‘is produced by battles, striking, wounding, killing and cutting by violence, etc. It is to be acted by using various weapons and cutting off heads, arms, etc’. “Karuna Rasa is produced by seeing dear ones die (or killed) and by hearing unpleasant things’. ‘It is to be acted by weeping, fainting, lamenting, and crying loudly and also by acting physical fatigue and hurt”.

Bibhatsa Rasa ‘is produced by things which disturb the mind like seeing something unpleasant’. ‘It is to be acted by a leering mouth, by holding the nose, by hangings the head or walking stealthily’. Fear is the Sthayi bhava of Bhayanaka Rasa. It is stimulated by going into empty house or lonely forests etc. It is acted by hands and legs trembling, eyes flitting to and fro.

Natyashastra makes another statement in describing Rasa: the four Rasa-s—Srngara, Rudra, Vira and Bibhatsa—are instrumental in evoking the other four Rasa-s—Hasya, Karuna, Adbhuta, and Bhayanaka. It is clear that ‘instrumental in evoking’ does not mean ‘source of’, because, Srngara cannot be a source of Hasya; it is also not necessary cause, so the word hetu can here means instrumental cause only.

Abhinavgupta says imitation is reflection (Anukriti Adhasa). The exhibition of images of Vibhava, Anubhava and Vyabhichari bhava creates reflections of Vyabhichari bhava. In Srngara there is Rati i.e. desire, wish—this is Vyabhichari bhava but Rati does not mean mental pleasure. Hence Srngara and Hasya have common Vyabhichari bhava. This Vyabhichari bhava in Srngara becomes a Sthayi bhava, while in Hasya it becomes a reflection of Sthayi bhava, not the Sthayi bhava itself. Because, in Hasya the Sthayi bhava is Hasya—laughter. This is explained as imitation.

But this method does not apply to the other Rasa-s. So, Karuna is not the imitation of Rudra. Karuna is result of Rudra. Abhinavgupta says “Rudra is an illustration of the Rasa which necessarily results in the second Rasa’. How? Sthayi bhava of Rudra is krodha, so its result is bound to be capture or killing, etc. When these becomes Karuna-s, the result will necessarily be Karuna Rasa. Also the Sthayi bhava of Karuna is soka, this also results form krodha.

Similarly, the action of Vira may be instrumental in evoking Adbhuta. And lastly, the creation of fear is unavoidable. Thus, Srngara, Rudra, Vira and Bibhatsa respectively produce the Hasya, Karuna, Adbhuta and Bhayanaka Vyabhichari bhava-s; they then become imitations or reflections of their respective Sthayi bhava-s. That is how the first four Rasa-s becomes instrumental in producing the last four.

Here we have to bear in mind another point: Abhinavgupta quotes the line ‘seeing Arjuna killing the son of Karna in the presence of everybody, the whole world become afraid of Arjuna’ to show that Vira can also provoke Bhayanaka. That is why the Natyashastra says, ‘the second Rasa necessarily following as a result of the first.’ One Rasa may generate other Rasa also, but it can be the immediate cause of the Rasa which necessarily follows the first.

Apr 10, 2015

Hybridism : Darwin

The Origin of SpeciesChapter 8: Hybridism 
by Charles Darwin

he view generally entertained by naturalists is that species, when intercrossed, have been specially endowed with the quality of sterility, in order to prevent the confusion of all organic forms. This view certainly seems at first probable, for species within the same country could hardly have kept distinct had they been capable of crossing freely. The importance of the fact that hybrids are very generally sterile, has, I think, been much underrated by some late writers. On the theory of natural selection the case is especially important, inasmuch as the sterility of hybrids could not possibly be of any advantage to them, and therefore could not have been acquired by the continued preservation of successive profitable degrees of sterility. I hope, however, to be able to show that sterility is not a specially acquired or endowed quality, but is incidental on other acquired differences.

In treating this subject, two classes of facts, to a large extent fundamentally different, have generally been confounded together; namely, the sterility of two species when first crossed, and the sterility of the hybrids produced from them.
Pure species have of course their organs of reproduction in a perfect condition, yet when intercrossed they produce either few or no offspring. Hybrids, on the other hand, have their reproductive organs functionally impotent, as may be clearly seen in the state of the male element in both plants and animals; though the organs themselves are perfect in structure, as far as the microscope reveals. In the first case the two sexual elements which go to form the embryo are perfect; in the second case they are either not at all developed, or are imperfectly developed. This distinction is important, when the cause of the sterility, which is common to the two cases, has to be considered. The distinction has probably been slurred over, owing to the sterility in both cases being looked on as a special endowment, beyond the province of our reasoning powers.
The fertility of varieties, that is of the forms known or believed to have descended from common parents, when intercrossed, and likewise the fertility of their mongrel offspring, is, on my theory, of equal importance with the sterility of species; for it seems to make a broad and clear distinction between varieties and species.
First, for the sterility of species when crossed and of their hybrid offspring. It is impossible to study the several memoirs and works of those two conscientious and admirable observers, Kölreuter and Gärtner, who almost devoted their lives to this subject, without being deeply impressed with the high generality of some degree of sterility. Kölreuter makes the rule universal; but then he cuts the knot, for in ten cases in which he found two forms, considered by most authors as distinct species, quite fertile together, he unhesitatingly ranks them as varieties. Gärtner, also, makes the rule equally universal; and he disputes the entire fertility of Kölreuter's ten cases. But in these and in many other cases, Gärtner is obliged carefully to count the seeds, in order to show that there is any degree of sterility. He always compares the maximum number of seeds produced by two species when crossed and by their hybrid offspring, with the average number produced by both pure parent-species in a state of nature. But a serious cause of error seems to me to be here introduced: a plant to be hybridised must be castrated, and, what is often more important, must be secluded in order to prevent pollen being brought to it by insects from other plants. Nearly all the plants experimentised on by Gärtner were potted, and apparently were kept in a chamber in his house. That these processes are often injurious to the fertility of a plant cannot be doubted; for Gärtner gives in his table about a score of cases of plants which he castrated, and artificially fertilised with their own pollen, and (excluding all cases such as the Leguminosae, in which there is an acknowledged difficulty in the manipulation) half of these twenty plants had their fertility in some degree impaired. Moreover, as Gärtner during several years repeatedly crossed the primrose and cowslip, which we have such good reason to believe to be varieties, and only once or twice succeeded in getting fertile seed; as he found the common red and blue pimpernels (Anagallis arvensis and coerulea), which the best botanists rank as varieties, absolutely sterile together; and as he came to the same conclusion in several other analogous cases; it seems to me that we may well be permitted to doubt whether many other species are really so sterile, when intercrossed, as Gärtner believes.
It is certain, on the one hand, that the sterility of various species when crossed is so different in degree and graduates away so insensibly, and, on the other hand, that the fertility of pure species is so easily affected by various circumstances, that for all practical purposes it is most difficult to say where perfect fertility ends and sterility begins. I think no better evidence of this can be required than that the two most experienced observers who have ever lived, namely, Kölreuter and Gärtner, should have arrived at diametrically opposite conclusions in regard to the very same species. It is also most instructive to compare but I have not space here to enter on details the evidence advanced by our best botanists on the question whether certain doubtful forms should be ranked as species or varieties, with the evidence from fertility adduced by different hybridisers, or by the same author, from experiments made during different years. It can thus be shown that neither sterility nor fertility affords any clear distinction between species and varieties; but that the evidence from this source graduates away, and is doubtful in the same degree as is the evidence derived from other constitutional and structural differences.
In regard to the sterility of hybrids in successive generations; though Gärtner was enabled to rear some hybrids, carefully guarding them from a cross with either pure parent, for six or seven, and in one case for ten generations, yet he asserts positively that their fertility never increased, but generally greatly decreased. I do not doubt that this is usually the case, and that the fertility often suddenly decreases in the first few generations. Nevertheless I believe that in all these experiments the fertility has been diminished by an independent cause, namely, from close interbreeding. I have collected so large a body of facts, showing that close interbreeding lessens fertility, and, on the other hand, that an occasional cross with a distinct individual or variety increases fertility, that I cannot doubt the correctness of this almost universal belief amongst breeders. Hybrids are seldom raised by experimentalists in great numbers; and as the parent-species, or other allied hybrids, generally grow in the same garden, the visits of insects must be carefully prevented during the flowering season: hence hybrids will generally be fertilised during each generation by their own individual pollen; and I am convinced that this would be injurious to their fertility, already lessened by their hybrid origin. I am strengthened in this conviction by a remarkable statement repeatedly made by Gärtner, namely, that if even the less fertile hybrids be artificially fertilised with hybrid pollen of the same kind, their fertility, notwithstanding the frequent ill effects of manipulation, sometimes decidedly increases, and goes on increasing. Now, in artificial fertilisation pollen is as often taken by chance (as I know from my own experience) from the anthers of another flower, as from the anthers of the flower itself which is to be fertilised; so that a cross between two flowers, though probably on the same plant, would be thus effected. Moreover, whenever complicated experiments are in progress, so careful an observer as Gärtner would have castrated his hybrids, and this would have insured in each generation a cross with the pollen from a distinct flower, either from the same plant or from another plant of the same hybrid nature. And thus, the strange fact of the increase of fertility in the successive generations of artificially fertilised hybrids may, I believe, be accounted for by close interbreeding having been avoided.
Now let us turn to the results arrived at by the third most experienced hybridiser, namely, the Hon. and Rev. W. Herbert. He is as emphatic in his conclusion that some hybrids are perfectly fertile as fertile as the pure parent-species as are Kölreuter and Gärtner that some degree of sterility between distinct species is a universal law of nature. He experimentised on some of the very same species as did Gärtner. The difference in their results may, I think, be in part accounted for by Herbert's great horticultural skill, and by his having hothouses at his command. Of his many important statements I will here give only a single one as an example, namely, that 'every ovule in a pod of Crinum capense fertilised by C. revolutum produced a plant, which (he says) I never saw to occur in a case of its natural fecundation.' So that we here have perfect, or even more than commonly perfect, fertility in a first cross between two distinct species.
This case of the Crinum leads me to refer to a most singular fact, namely, that there are individual plants, as with certain species of Lobelia, and with all the species of the genus Hippeastrum, which can be far more easily fertilised by the pollen of another and distinct species, than by their own pollen. For these plants have been found to yield seed to the pollen of a distinct species, though quite sterile with their own pollen, notwithstanding that their own pollen was found to be perfectly good, for it fertilised distinct species. So that certain individual plants and all the individuals of certain species can actually be hybridised much more readily than they can be self-fertilised! For instance, a bulb of Hippeastrum aulicum produced four flowers; three were fertilised by Herbert with their own pollen, and the fourth was subsequently fertilised by the pollen of a compound hybrid descended from three other and distinct species: the result was that 'the ovaries of the three first flowers soon ceased to grow, and after a few days perished entirely, whereas the pod impregnated by the pollen of the hybrid made vigorous growth and rapid progress to maturity, and bore good seed, which vegetated freely.' In a letter to me, in 1839, Mr Herbert told me that he had then tried the experiment during five years, and he continued to try it during several subsequent years, and always with the same result. This result has, also, been confirmed by other observers in the case of Hippeastrum with its sub-genera, and in the case of some other genera, as Lobelia, Passiflora and Verbascum. Although the plants in these experiments appeared perfectly healthy, and although both the ovules and pollen of the same flower were perfectly good with respect to other species, yet as they were functionally imperfect in their mutual self-action, we must infer that the plants were in an unnatural state. Nevertheless these facts show on what slight and mysterious causes the lesser or greater fertility of species when crossed, in comparison with the same species when self-fertilised, sometimes depends.
The practical experiments of horticulturists, though not made with scientific precision, deserve some notice. It is notorious in how complicated a manner the species of Pelargonium, Fuchsia, Calceolaria, Petunia, Rhododendron, &c., have been crossed, yet many of these hybrids seed freely. For instance, Herbert asserts that a hybrid from Calceolaria integrifolia and plantaginea, species most widely dissimilar in general habit, 'reproduced itself as perfectly as if it had been a natural species from the mountains of Chile.' I have taken some pains to ascertain the degree of fertility of some of the complex crosses of Rhododendrons, and I am assured that many of them are perfectly fertile. Mr C. Noble, for instance, informs me that he raises stocks for grafting from a hybrid between Rhod. Ponticum and Catawbiense, and that this hybrid 'seeds as freely as it is possible to imagine.' Had hybrids, when fairly treated, gone on decreasing in fertility in each successive generation, as Gärtner believes to be the case, the fact would have been notorious to nurserymen. Horticulturists raise large beds of the same hybrids, and such alone are fairly treated, for by insect agency the several individuals of the same hybrid variety are allowed to freely cross with each other, and the injurious influence of close interbreeding is thus prevented. Any one may readily convince himself of the efficiency of insect-agency by examining the flowers of the more sterile kinds of hybrid rhododendrons, which produce no pollen, for he will find on their stigmas plenty of pollen brought from other flowers.
In regard to animals, much fewer experiments have been carefully tried than with plants. If our systematic arrangements can be trusted, that is if the genera of animals are as distinct from each other, as are the genera of plants, then we may infer that animals more widely separated in the scale of nature can be more easily crossed than in the case of plants; but the hybrids themselves are, I think, more sterile. I doubt whether any case of a perfectly fertile hybrid animal can be considered as thoroughly well authenticated. It should, however, be borne in mind that, owing to few animals breeding freely under confinement, few experiments have been fairly tried: for instance, the canary-bird has been crossed with nine other finches, but as not one of these nine species breeds freely in confinement, we have no right to expect that the first crosses between them and the canary, or that their hybrids, should be perfectly fertile. Again, with respect to the fertility in successive generations of the more fertile hybrid animals, I hardly know of an instance in which two families of the same hybrid have been raised at the same time from different parents, so as to avoid the ill effects of close interbreeding. On the contrary, brothers and sisters have usually been crossed in each successive generation, in opposition to the constantly repeated admonition of every breeder. And in this case, it is not at all surprising that the inherent sterility in the hybrids should have gone on increasing. If we were to act thus, and pair brothers and sisters in the case of any pure animal, which from any cause had the least tendency to sterility, the breed would assuredly be lost in a very few generations.
Although I do not know of any thoroughly well-authenticated cases of perfectly fertile hybrid animals, I have some reason to believe that the hybrids from Cervulus vaginalis and Reevesii, and from Phasianus colchicus with p. torquatus and with p. versicolor are perfectly fertile. The hybrids from the common and Chinese geese (A. cygnoides), species which are so different that they are generally ranked in distinct genera, have often bred in this country with either pure parent, and in one single instance they have bred inter se. This was effected by Mr Eyton, who raised two hybrids from the same parents but from different hatches; and from these two birds he raised no less than eight hybrids (grandchildren of the pure geese) from one nest. In India, however, these cross-bred geese must be far more fertile; for I am assured by two eminently capable judges, namely Mr Blyth and Capt. Hutton, that whole flocks of these crossed geese are kept in various parts of the country; and as they are kept for profit, where neither pure parent-species exists, they must certainly be highly fertile.
A doctrine which originated with Pallas, has been largely accepted by modern naturalists; namely, that most of our domestic animals have descended from two or more aboriginal species, since commingled by intercrossing. On this view, the aboriginal species must either at first have produced quite fertile hybrids, or the hybrids must have become in subsequent generations quite fertile under domestication. This latter alternative seems to me the most probable, and I am inclined to believe in its truth, although its rests on no direct evidence. I believe, for instance, that our dogs have descended from several wild stocks; yet, with perhaps the exception of certain indigenous domestic dogs of South America, all are quite fertile together; and analogy makes me greatly doubt, whether the several aboriginal species would at first have freely bred together and have produced quite fertile hybrids. So again there is reason to believe that our European and the humped Indian cattle are quite fertile together; but from facts communicated to me by Mr Blyth, I think they must be considered as distinct species. On this view of the origin of many of our domestic animals, we must either give up the belief of the almost universal sterility of distinct species of animals when crossed; or we must look at sterility, not as an indelible characteristic, but as one capable of being removed by domestication.
Finally, looking to all the ascertained facts on the intercrossing of plants and animals, it may be concluded that some degree of sterility, both in first crosses and in hybrids, is an extremely general result; but that it cannot, under our present state of knowledge, be considered as absolutely universal.
Laws governing the Sterility of first Crosses and of Hybrids. We will now consider a little more in detail the circumstances and rules governing the sterility of first crosses and of hybrids. Our chief object will be to see whether or not the rules indicate that species have specially been endowed with this quality, in order to prevent their crossing and blending together in utter confusion. The following rules and conclusions are chiefly drawn up from Gärtner's admirable work on the hybridisation of plants. I have taken much pains to ascertain how far the rules apply to animals, and considering how scanty our knowledge is in regard to hybrid animals, I have been surprised to find how generally the same rules apply to both kingdoms.
It has been already remarked, that the degree of fertility, both of first crosses and of hybrids, graduates from zero to perfect fertility. It is surprising in how many curious ways this gradation can be shown to exist; but only the barest outline of the facts can here be given. When pollen from a plant of one family is placed on the stigma of a plant of a distinct family, it exerts no more influence than so much inorganic dust. From this absolute zero of fertility, the pollen of different species of the same genus applied to the stigma of some one species, yields a perfect gradation in the number of seeds produced, up to nearly complete or even quite complete fertility; and, as we have seen, in certain abnormal cases, even to an excess of fertility, beyond that which the plant's own pollen will produce. So in hybrids themselves, there are some which never have produced, and probably never would produce, even with the pollen of either pure parent, a single fertile seed: but in some of these cases a first trace of fertility may be detected, by the pollen of one of the pure parent-species causing the flower of the hybrid to wither earlier than it otherwise would have done; and the early withering of the flower is well known to be a sign of incipient fertilisation. From this extreme degree of sterility we have self-fertilised hybrids producing a greater and greater number of seeds up to perfect fertility.
Hybrids from two species which are very difficult to cross, and which rarely produce any offspring, are generally very sterile; but the parallelism between the difficulty of making a first cross, and the sterility of the hybrids thus produced two classes of facts which are generally confounded together is by no means strict. There are many cases, in which two pure species can be united with unusual facility, and produce numerous hybrid-offspring, yet these hybrids are remarkably sterile. On the other hand, there are species which can be crossed very rarely, or with extreme difficulty, but the hybrids, when at last produced, are very fertile. Even within the limits of the same genus, for instance in Dianthus, these two opposite cases occur.
The fertility, both of first crosses and of hybrids, is more easily affected by unfavourable conditions, than is the fertility of pure species. But the degree of fertility is likewise innately variable; for it is not always the same when the same two species are crossed under the same circumstances, but depends in part upon the constitution of the individuals which happen to have been chosen for the experiment. So it is with hybrids, for their degree of fertility is often found to differ greatly in the several individuals raised from seed out of the same capsule and exposed to exactly the same conditions.
By the term systematic affinity is meant, the resemblance between species in structure and in constitution, more especially in the structure of parts which are of high physiological importance and which differ little in the allied species. Now the fertility of first crosses between species, and of the hybrids produced from them, is largely governed by their systematic affinity. This is clearly shown by hybrids never having been raised between species ranked by systematists in distinct families; and on the other hand, by very closely allied species generally uniting with facility. But the correspondence between systematic affinity and the facility of crossing is by no means strict. A multitude of cases could be given of very closely allied species which will not unite, or only with extreme difficulty; and on the other hand of very distinct species which unite with the utmost facility. In the same family there may be a genus, as Dianthus, in which very many species can most readily be crossed; and another genus, as Silene, in which the most persevering efforts have failed to produce between extremely close species a single hybrid. Even within the limits of the same genus, we meet with this same difference; for instance, the many species of Nicotiana have been more largely crossed than the species of almost any other genus; but Gärtner found that N. acuminata, which is not a particularly distinct species, obstinately failed to fertilise, or to be fertilised by, no less than eight other species of Nicotiana. Very many analogous facts could be given.
No one has been able to point out what kind, or what amount, of difference in any recognisable character is sufficient to prevent two species crossing. It can be shown that plants most widely different in habit and general appearance, and having strongly marked differences in every part of the flower, even in the pollen, in the fruit, and in the cotyledons, can be crossed. Annual and perennial plants, deciduous and evergreen trees, plants inhabiting different stations and fitted for extremely different climates, can often be crossed with ease.
By a reciprocal cross between two species, I mean the case, for instance, of a stallion-horse being first crossed with a female-ass, and then a male-ass with a mare: these two species may then be said to have been reciprocally crossed. There is often the widest possible difference in the facility of making reciprocal crosses. Such cases are highly important, for they prove that the capacity in any two species to cross is often completely independent of their systematic affinity, or of any recognisable difference in their whole organisation. On the other hand, these cases clearly show that the capacity for crossing is connected with constitutional differences imperceptible by us, and confined to the reproductive system. This difference in the result of reciprocal crosses between the same two species was long ago observed by Kölreuter. To give an instance: Mirabilis jalappa can easily be fertilised by the pollen of M. longiflora, and the hybrids thus produced are sufficiently fertile; but Kölreuter tried more than two hundred times, during eight following years, to fertilise reciprocally M. longiflora with the pollen of M. jalappa, and utterly failed. Several other equally striking cases could be given. Thuret has observed the same fact with certain sea-weeds or Fuci. Gärtner, moreover, found that this difference of facility in making reciprocal crosses is extremely common in a lesser degree. He has observed it even between forms so closely related (as Matthiola annua and glabra) that many botanists rank them only as varieties. It is also a remarkable fact, that hybrids raised from reciprocal crosses, though of course compounded of the very same two species, the one species having first been used as the father and then as the mother, generally differ in fertility in a small, and occasionally in a high degree.
Several other singular rules could be given from Gärtner: for instance, some species have a remarkable power of crossing with other species; other species of the same genus have a remarkable power of impressing their likeness on their hybrid offspring; but these two powers do not at all necessarily go together. There are certain hybrids which instead of having, as is usual, an intermediate character between their two parents, always closely resemble one of them; and such hybrids, though externally so like one of their pure parent-species, are with rare exceptions extremely sterile. So again amongst hybrids which are usually intermediate in structure between their parents, exceptional and abnormal individuals sometimes are born, which closely resemble one of their pure parents; and these hybrids are almost always utterly sterile, even when the other hybrids raised from seed from the same capsule have a considerable degree of fertility. These facts show how completely fertility in the hybrid is independent of its external resemblance to either pure parent.
Considering the several rules now given, which govern the fertility of first crosses and of hybrids, we see that when forms, which must be considered as good and distinct species, are united, their fertility graduates from zero to perfect fertility, or even to fertility under certain conditions in excess. That their fertility, besides being eminently susceptible to favourable and unfavourable conditions, is innately variable. That it is by no means always the same in degree in the first cross and in the hybrids produced from this cross. That the fertility of hybrids is not related to the degree in which they resemble in external appearance either parent. And lastly, that the facility of making a first cross between any two species is not always governed by their systematic affinity or degree of resemblance to each other. This latter statement is clearly proved by reciprocal crosses between the same two species, for according as the one species or the other is used as the father or the mother, there is generally some difference, and occasionally the widest possible difference, in the facility of effecting an union. The hybrids, moreover, produced from reciprocal crosses often differ in fertility.
Now do these complex and singular rules indicate that species have been endowed with sterility simply to prevent their becoming confounded in nature? I think not. For why should the sterility be so extremely different in degree, when various species are crossed, all of which we must suppose it would be equally important to keep from blending together? Why should the degree of sterility be innately variable in the individuals of the same species? Why should some species cross with facility, and yet produce very sterile hybrids; and other species cross with extreme difficulty, and yet produce fairly fertile hybrids? Why should there often be so great a difference in the result of a reciprocal cross between the same two species? Why, it may even be asked, has the production of hybrids been permitted? To grant to species the special power of producing hybrids, and then to stop their further propagation by different degrees of sterility, not strictly related to the facility of the first union between their parents, seems to be a strange arrangement.
The foregoing rules and facts, on the other hand, appear to me clearly to indicate that the sterility both of first crosses and of hybrids is simply incidental or dependent on unknown differences, chiefly in the reproductive systems, of the species which are crossed. The differences being of so peculiar and limited a nature, that, in reciprocal crosses between two species the male sexual element of the one will often freely act on the female sexual element of the other, but not in a reversed direction. It will be advisable to explain a little more fully by an example what I mean by sterility being incidental on other differences, and not a specially endowed quality. As the capacity of one plant to be grafted or budded on another is so entirely unimportant for its welfare in a state of nature, I presume that no one will suppose that this capacity is a specially endowed quality, but will admit that it is incidental on differences in the laws of growth of the two plants. We can sometimes see the reason why one tree will not take on another, from differences in their rate of growth, in the hardness of their wood, in the period of the flow or nature of their sap, &c.; but in a multitude of cases we can assign no reason whatever. Great diversity in the size of two plants, one being woody and the other herbaceous, one being evergreen and the other deciduous, and adaptation to widely different climates, does not always prevent the two grafting together. As in hybridisation, so with grafting, the capacity is limited by systematic affinity, for no one has been able to graft trees together belonging to quite distinct families; and, on the other hand, closely allied species, and varieties of the same species, can usually, but not invariably, be grafted with ease. But this capacity, as in hybridisation, is by no means absolutely governed by systematic affinity. Although many distinct genera within the same family have been grafted together, in other cases species of the same genus will not take on each other. The pear can be grafted far more readily on the quince, which is ranked as a distinct genus, than on the apple, which is a member of the same genus. Even different varieties of the pear take with different degrees of facility on the quince; so do different varieties of the apricot and peach on certain varieties of the plum.
As Gärtner found that there was sometimes an innate difference in different individuals of the same two species in crossing; so Sagaret believes this to be the case with different individuals of the same two species in being grafted together. As in reciprocal crosses, the facility of effecting an union is often very far from equal, so it sometimes is in grafting; the common gooseberry, for instance, cannot be grafted on the currant, whereas the currant will take, though with difficulty, on the gooseberry.
We have seen that the sterility of hybrids, which have their reproductive organs in an imperfect condition, is a very different case from the difficulty of uniting two pure species, which have their reproductive organs perfect; yet these two distinct cases run to a certain extent parallel. Something analogous occurs in grafting; for Thouin found that three species of Robinia, which seeded freely on their own roots, and which could be grafted with no great difficulty on another species, when thus grafted were rendered barren. On the other hand, certain species of Sorbus, when grafted on other species, yielded twice as much fruit as when on their own roots. We are reminded by this latter fact of the extraordinary case of Hippeastrum, Lobelia, &c., which seeded much more freely when fertilised with the pollen of distinct species, than when self-fertilised with their own pollen.
We thus see, that although there is a clear and fundamental difference between the mere adhesion of grafted stocks, and the union of the male and female elements in the act of reproduction, yet that there is a rude degree of parallelism in the results of grafting and of crossing distinct species. And as we must look at the curious and complex laws governing the facility with which trees can be grafted on each other as incidental on unknown differences in their vegetative systems, so I believe that the still more complex laws governing the facility of first crosses, are incidental on unknown differences, chiefly in their reproductive systems. These differences, in both cases, follow to a certain extent, as might have been expected, systematic affinity, by which every kind of resemblance and dissimilarity between organic beings is attempted to be expressed. The facts by no means seem to me to indicate that the greater or lesser difficulty of either grafting or crossing together various species has been a special endowment; although in the case of crossing, the difficulty is as important for the endurance and stability of specific forms, as in the case of grafting it is unimportant for their welfare.
Causes of the Sterility of first Crosses and of Hybrids. We may now look a little closer at the probable causes of the sterility of first crosses and of hybrids. These two cases are fundamentally different, for, as just remarked, in the union of two pure species the male and female sexual elements are perfect, whereas in hybrids they are imperfect. Even in first crosses, the greater or lesser difficulty in effecting a union apparently depends on several distinct causes. There must sometimes be a physical impossibility in the male element reaching the ovule, as would be the case with a plant having a pistil too long for the pollen-tubes to reach the ovarium. It has also been observed that when pollen of one species is placed on the stigma of a distantly allied species, though the pollen-tubes protrude, they do not penetrate the stigmatic surface. Again, the male element may reach the female element, but be incapable of causing an embryo to be developed, as seems to have been the case with some of Thuret's experiments on Fuci. No explanation can be given of these facts, any more than why certain trees cannot be grafted on others. Lastly, an embryo may be developed, and then perish at an early period. This latter alternative has not been sufficiently attended to; but I believe, from observations communicated to me by Mr. Hewitt, who has had great experience in hybridising gallinaceous birds, that the early death of the embryo is a very frequent cause of sterility in first crosses. I was at first very unwilling to believe in this view; as hybrids, when once born, are generally healthy and long-lived, as we see in the case of the common mule. Hybrids, however, are differently circumstanced before and after birth: when born and living in a country where their two parents can live, they are generally placed under suitable conditions of life. But a hybrid partakes of only half of the nature and constitution of its mother, and therefore before birth, as long as it is nourished within its mother's womb or within the egg or seed produced by the mother, it may be exposed to conditions in some degree unsuitable, and consequently be liable to perish at an early period; more especially as all very young beings seem eminently sensitive to injurious or unnatural conditions of life.
In regard to the sterility of hybrids, in which the sexual elements are imperfectly developed, the case is very different. I have more than once alluded to a large body of facts, which I have collected, showing that when animals and plants are removed from their natural conditions, they are extremely liable to have their reproductive systems seriously affected. This, in fact, is the great bar to the domestication of animals. Between the sterility thus superinduced and that of hybrids, there are many points of similarity. In both cases the sterility is independent of general health, and is often accompanied by excess of size or great luxuriance. In both cases, the sterility occurs in various degrees; in both, the male element is the most liable to be affected; but sometimes the female more than the male. In both, the tendency goes to a certain extent with systematic affinity, or whole groups of animals and plants are rendered impotent by the same unnatural conditions; and whole groups of species tend to produce sterile hybrids. On the other hand, one species in a group will sometimes resist great changes of conditions with unimpaired fertility; and certain species in a group will produce unusually fertile hybrids. No one can tell, till he tries, whether any particular animal will breed under confinement or any plant seed freely under culture; nor can he tell, till he tries, whether any two species of a genus will produce more or less sterile hybrids. Lastly, when organic beings are placed during several generations under conditions not natural to them, they are extremely liable to vary, which is due, as I believe, to their reproductive systems having been specially affected, though in a lesser degree than when sterility ensues. So it is with hybrids, for hybrids in successive generations are eminently liable to vary, as every experimentalist has observed.
Thus we see that when organic beings are placed under new and unnatural conditions, and when hybrids are produced by the unnatural crossing of two species, the reproductive system, independently of the general state of health, is affected by sterility in a very similar manner. In the one case, the conditions of life have been disturbed, though often in so slight a degree as to be inappreciable by us; in the other case, or that of hybrids,the external conditions have remained the same, but the organisation has been disturbed by two different structures and constitutions having been blended into one. For it is scarcely possible that two organisations should be compounded into one, without some disturbance occurring in the development, or periodical action, or mutual relation of the different parts and organs one to another, or to the conditions of life. When hybrids are able to breed inter se, they transmit to their offspring from generation to generation the same compounded organisation, and hence we need not be surprised that their sterility, though in some degree variable, rarely diminishes.
It must, however, be confessed that we cannot understand, excepting on vague hypotheses, several facts with respect to the sterility of hybrids; for instance, the unequal fertility of hybrids produced from reciprocal crosses; or the increased sterility in those hybrids which occasionally and exceptionally resemble closely either pure parent. Nor do I pretend that the foregoing remarks go to the root of the matter: no explanation is offered why an organism, when placed under unnatural conditions, is rendered sterile. All that I have attempted to show, is that in two cases, in some respects allied, sterility is the common result, in the one case from the conditions of life having been disturbed, in the other case from the organisation having been disturbed by two organisations having been compounded into one.
It may seem fanciful, but I suspect that a similar parallelism extends to an allied yet very different class of facts. It is an old and almost universal belief, founded, I think, on a considerable body of evidence, that slight changes in the conditions of life are beneficial to all living things. We see this acted on by farmers and gardeners in their frequent exchanges of seed, tubers, &c., from one soil or climate to another, and back again. During the convalescence of animals, we plainly see that great benefit is derived from almost any change in the habits of life. Again, both with plants and animals, there is abundant evidence, that a cross between very distinct individuals of the same species, that is between members of different strains or sub-breeds, gives vigour and fertility to the offspring. I believe, indeed, from the facts alluded to in our fourth chapter, that a certain amount of crossing is indispensable even with hermaphrodites; and that close interbreeding continued during several generations between the nearest relations, especially if these be kept under the same conditions of life, always induces weakness and sterility in the progeny.
Hence it seems that, on the one hand, slight changes in the conditions of life benefit all organic beings, and on the other hand, that slight crosses, that is crosses between the males and females of the same species which have varied and become slightly different, give vigour and fertility to the offspring. But we have seen that greater changes, or changes of a particular nature, often render organic beings in some degree sterile; and that greater crosses, that is crosses between males and females which have become widely or specifically different, produce hybrids which are generally sterile in some degree. I cannot persuade myself that this parallelism is an accident or an illusion. Both series of facts seem to be connected together by some common but unknown bond, which is essentially related to the principle of life.
Fertility of Varieties when crossed, and of their Mongrel off-spring. It may be urged, as a most forcible argument, that there must be some essential distinction between species and varieties, and that there must be some error in all the foregoing remarks, inasmuch as varieties, however much they may differ from each other in external appearance, cross with perfect facility, and yield perfectly fertile offspring. I fully admit that this is almost invariably the case. But if we look to varieties produced under nature, we are immediately involved in hopeless difficulties; for if two hitherto reputed varieties be found in any degree sterile together, they are at once ranked by most naturalists as species. For instance, the blue and red pimpernel, the primrose and cowslip, which are considered by many of our best botanists as varieties, are said by Gärtner not to be quite fertile when crossed, and he consequently ranks them as undoubted species. If we thus argue in a circle, the fertility of all varieties produced under nature will assuredly have to be granted.
If we turn to varieties, produced, or supposed to have been produced, under domestication, we are still involved in doubt. For when it is stated, for instance, that the German Spitz dog unites more easily than other dogs with foxes, or that certain South American indigenous domestic dogs do not readily cross with European dogs, the explanation which will occur to everyone, and probably the true one, is that these dogs have descended from several aboriginally distinct species. Nevertheless the perfect fertility of so many domestic varieties, differing widely from each other in appearance, for instance of the pigeon or of the cabbage, is a remarkable fact; more especially when we reflect how many species there are, which, though resembling each other most closely, are utterly sterile when intercrossed. Several considerations, however, render the fertility of domestic varieties less remarkable than at first appears. It can, in the first place, be clearly shown that mere external dissimilarity between two species does not determine their greater or lesser degree of sterility when crossed; and we may apply the same rule to domestic varieties. In the second place, some eminent naturalists believe that a long course of domestication tends to eliminate sterility in the successive generations of hybrids, which were at first only slightly sterile; and if this be so, we surely ought not to expect to find sterility both appearing and disappearing under nearly the same conditions of life. Lastly, and this seems to me by far the most important consideration, new races of animals and plants are produced under domestication by man's methodical and unconscious power of selection, for his own use and pleasure: he neither wishes to select, nor could select, slight differences in the reproductive system, or other constitutional difference correlated with the reproductive system. He supplies his several varieties with the same food; treats them in nearly the same manner, and does not wish to alter their general habits of life. Nature acts uniformly and slowly during vast periods of time on the whole organization, in any way which may be for each creature's own good; and thus she may, either directly, or more probably indirectly, through correlation, modify the reproductive system in the several descendants from any one species. Seeing this difference in the process of selection, as carried on by man and nature, we need not be surprised at some difference in the result.
I have as yet spoken as if the varieties of the same species were invariably fertile when intercrossed. But it seems to me impossible to resist the evidence of the existence of a certain amount of sterility in the few following cases, which I will briefly abstract. The evidence is at least as good as that from which we believe in the sterility of a multitude of species. The evidence is, also, derived from hostile witnesses, who in all other cases consider fertility and sterility as safe criterions of specific distinction. Gärtner kept during several years a dwarf kind of maize with yellow seeds, and a tall variety with red seeds, growing near each other in his garden; and although these plants have separated sexes, they never naturally crossed. He then fertilized thirteen flowers of the one with the pollen of the other; but only a single head produced any seed, and this one head produced only five grains. Manipulation in this case could not have been injurious, as the plants have separated sexes. No one, I believe, has suspected that these varieties of maize are distinct species; and it is important to notice that the hybrid plants thus raised were themselves perfectlyfertile; so that even Gärtner did not venture to consider the two varieties as specifically distinct.
Girou de Buzareingues crossed three varieties of gourd, which like the maize has separated sexes, and he asserts that their mutual fertilization is by so much the less easy as their differences are greater. How far these experiments may be trusted, I know not; but the forms experimentised on, are ranked by Sagaret, who mainly founds his classification by the test of infertility, as varieties.
The following case is far more remarkable, and seems at first quite incredible; but it is the result of an astonishing number of experiments made during many years on nine species of Verbascum, by so good an observer and so hostile a witness, as Gärtner: namely, that yellow and white varieties of the same species of Verbascum when intercrossed produce less seed, than do either coloured varieties when fertilized with pollen from their own coloured flowers. Moreover, he asserts that when yellow and white varieties of one species are crossed with yellow and white varieties of a distinct species, more seed is produced by the crosses between the same coloured flowers, than between those which are differently coloured. Yet these varieties of Verbascum present no other difference besides the mere colour of the flower; and one variety can sometimes be raised from the seed of the other.
From observations which I have made on certain varieties of hollyhock, I am inclined to suspect that they present analogous facts.
Kölreuter, whose accuracy has been confirmed by every subsequent observer, has proved the remarkable fact, that one variety of the common tobacco is more fertile, when crossed with a widely distinct species, than are the other varieties. He experimentised on five forms, which are commonly reputed to be varieties, and which he tested by the severest trial, namely, by reciprocal crosses, and he found their mongrel offspring perfectly fertile. But one of these five varieties, when used either as father or mother, and crossed with the Nicotiana glutinosa, always yielded hybrids not so sterile as those which were produced from the four other varieties when crossed with N. glutinosa. Hence the reproductive system of this one variety must have been in some manner and in some degree modified.
From these facts; from the great difficulty of ascertaining the infertility of varieties in a state of nature, for a supposed variety if infertile in any degree would generally be ranked as species; from man selecting only external characters in the production of the most distinct domestic varieties, and from not wishing or being able to produce recondite and functional differences in the reproductive system; from these several considerations and facts, I do not think that the very general fertility of varieties can be proved to be of universal occurrence, or to form a fundamental distinction between varieties and species. The general fertility of varieties does not seem to me sufficient to overthrow the view which I have taken with respect to the very general, but not invariable, sterility of first crosses and of hybrids, namely, that it is not a special endowment, but is incidental on slowly acquired modifications, more especially in the reproductive systems of the forms which are crossed.
Hybrids and Mongrels compared, independently of their fertility. Independently of the question of fertility, the offspring of species when crossed and of varieties when crossed may be compared in several other respects. Gärtner, whose strong wish was to draw a marked line of distinction between species and varieties, could find very few and, as it seems to me, quite unimportant differences between the so-called hybrid offspring of species, and the so-called mongrel offspring of varieties. And, on the other hand, they agree most closely in very many important respects.
I shall here discuss this subject with extreme brevity. The most important distinction is, that in the first generation mongrels are more variable than hybrids; but Gärtner admits that hybrids from species which have long been cultivated are often variable in the first generation; and I have myself seen striking instances of this fact. Gärtner further admits that hybrids between very closely allied species are more variable than those from very distinct species; and this shows that the difference in the degree of variability graduates away. When mongrels and the more fertile hybrids are propagated for several generations an extreme amount of variability in their offspring is notorious; but some few cases both of hybrids and mongrels long retaining uniformity of character could be given. The variability, however, in the successive generations of mongrels is, perhaps, greater than in hybrids.
This greater variability of mongrels than of hybrids does not seem to me at all surprising. For the parents of mongrels are varieties, and mostly domestic varieties (very few experiments having been tried on natural varieties), and this implies in most cases that there has been recent variability; and therefore we might expect that such variability would often continue and be super-added to that arising from the mere act of crossing. The slight degree of variability in hybrids from the first cross or in the first generation, in contrast with their extreme variability in the succeeding generations, is a curious fact and deserves attention. For it bears on and corroborates the view which I have taken on the cause of ordinary variability; namely, that it is due to the reproductive system being eminently sensitive to any change in the conditions of life, being thus often rendered either impotent or at least incapable of its proper function of producing offspring identical with the parent-form. Now hybrids in the first generation are descended from species (excluding those long cultivated) which have not had their reproductive systems in any way affected, and they are not variable; but hybrids themselves have their reproductive systems seriously affected, and their descendants are highly variable.
But to return to our comparison of mongrels and hybrids: Gärtner states that mongrels are more liable than hybrids to revert to either parent-form; but this, if it be true, is certainly only a difference in degree. Gärtner further insists that when any two species, although most closely allied to each other, are crossed with a third species, the hybrids are widely different from each other; whereas if two very distinct varieties of one species are crossed with another species, the hybrids do not differ much. But this conclusion, as far as I can make out, is founded on a single experiment; and seems directly opposed to the results of several experiments made by Kölreuter.
These alone are the unimportant differences, which Gärtner is able to point out, between hybrid and mongrel plants. On the other hand, the resemblance in mongrels and in hybrids to their respective parents, more especially in hybrids produced from nearly related species, follows according to Gärtner the same laws. When two species are crossed, one has sometimes a prepotent power of impressing its likeness on the hybrid; and so I believe it to be with varieties of plants. With animals one variety certainly often has this prepotent power over another variety. Hybrid plants produced from a reciprocal cross, generally resemble each other closely; and so it is with mongrels from a reciprocal cross. Both hybrids and mongrels can be reduced to either pure parent-form, by repeated crosses in successive generations with either parent.
These several remarks are apparently applicable to animals; but the subject is here excessively complicated, partly owing to the existence of secondary sexual characters; but more especially owing to prepotency in transmitting likeness running more strongly in one sex than in the other, both when one species is crossed with another, and when one variety is crossed with another variety. For instance, I think those authors are right, who maintain that the ass has a prepotent power over the horse, so that both the mule and the hinny more resemble the ass than the horse; but that the prepotency runs more strongly in the male-ass than in the female, so that the mule, which is the offspring of the male-ass and mare, is more like an ass, than is the hinny, which is the offspring of the female-ass and stallion.
Much stress has been laid by some authors on the supposed fact, that mongrel animals alone are born closely like one of their parents; but it can be shown that this does sometimes occur with hybrids; yet I grant much less frequently with hybrids than with mongrels. Looking to the cases which I have collected of cross-bred animals closely resembling one parent, the resemblances seem chiefly confined to characters almost monstrous in their nature, and which have suddenly appeared such as albinism, melanism, deficiency of tail or horns, or additional fingers and toes; and do not relate to characters which have been slowly acquired by selection. Consequently, sudden reversions to the perfect character of either parent would be more likely to occur with mongrels, which are descended from varieties often suddenly produced and semi-monstrous in character, than with hybrids, which are descended from species slowly and naturally produced. On the whole I entirely agree with Dr Prosper Lucas, who, after arranging an enormous body of facts with respect to animals, comes to the conclusion, that the laws of resemblance of the child to its parents are the same, whether the two parents differ much or little from each other, namely in the union of individuals of the same variety, or of different varieties, or of distinct species.
Laying aside the question of fertility and sterility, in all other respects there seems to be a general and close similarity in the offspring of crossed species, and of crossed varieties. If we look at species as having been specially created, and at varieties as having been produced by secondary laws, this similarity would be an astonishing fact. But it harmonizes perfectly with the view that there is no essential distinction between species and varieties.
Summary of Chapter. First crosses between forms sufficiently distinct to be ranked as species, and their hybrids, are very generally, but not universally, sterile. The sterility is of all degrees, and is often so slight that the two most careful experimentalists who have ever lived, have come to diametrically opposite conclusions in ranking forms by this test. The sterility is innately variable in individuals of the same species, and is eminently susceptible of favourable and unfavourable conditions. The degree of sterility does not strictly follow systematic affinity, but is governed by several curious and complex laws. It is generally different, and sometimes widely different, in reciprocal crosses between the same two species. It is not always equal in degree in a first cross and in the hybrid produced from this cross.
In the same manner as in grafting trees, the capacity of one species or variety to take on another, is incidental on generally unknown differences in their vegetative systems, so in crossing, the greater or less facility of one species to unite with another, is incidental on unknown differences in their reproductive systems. There is no more reason to think that species have been specially endowed with various degrees of sterility to prevent them crossing and blending in nature, than to think that trees have been specially endowed with various and somewhat analogous degrees of difficulty in being grafted together in order to prevent them becoming inarched in our forests.
The sterility of first crosses between pure species, which have their reproductive systems perfect, seems to depend on several circumstances; in some cases largely on the early death of the embryo. The sterility of hybrids, which have their reproductive systems imperfect, and which have had this system and their whole organisation disturbed by being compounded of two distinct species, seems closely allied to that sterility which so frequently affects pure species, when their natural conditions of life have been disturbed. This view is supported by a parallelism of another kind; namely, that the crossing of forms only slightly different is favourable to the vigour and fertility of their offspring; and that slight changes in the conditions of life are apparently favourable to the vigour and fertility of all organic beings. It is not surprising that the degree of difficulty in uniting two species, and the degree of sterility of their hybrid-offspring should generally correspond, though due to distinct causes; for both depend on the amount of difference of some kind between the species which are crossed. Nor is it surprising that the facility of effecting a first cross, the fertility of the hybrids produced, and the capacity of being grafted together though this latter capacity evidently depends on widely different circumstances should all run, to a certain extent, parallel with the systematic affinity of the forms which are subjected to experiment; for systematic affinity attempts to express all kinds of resemblance between all species.

First crosses between forms known to be varieties, or sufficiently alike to be considered as varieties, and their mongrel offspring, are very generally, but not quite universally, fertile. Nor is this nearly general and perfect fertility surprising, when we remember how liable we are to argue in a circle with respect to varieties in a state of nature; and when we remember that the greater number of varieties have been produced under domestication by the selection of mere external differences, and not of differences in the reproductive system. In all other respects, excluding fertility, there is a close general resemblance between hybrids and mongrels. Finally, then, the facts briefly given in this chapter do not seem to me opposed to, but even rather to support the view, that there is no fundamental distinction between species and varieties.
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