Acerbic Charm; Ludic Charm
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Charm, Beckman speculates, depends on doubleness of some kind, the ambiguity that often gives poetry its force. Doubleness is alluring, hypnotic, fun, a release from the unimaginative “single vision” (in Blake’s phrase) of “Newton’s sleep,” or (in Proust) overcoming the deadening effect of habit. Doubleness in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 129: “Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream. / All this the world well knows; yet none knows well / To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.” Charming Byron could be sharp-tongued: “But oh ye lords of ladies intellectual, / Inform us truly—have they not henpecked you all.” Verbal charm is acerbic when it counterposes what we would like to think and what we have reluctantly to admit.