ABSTRACT

A disembodied voice calls to us through the silent medium of words that do not seem to have any need of quotation marks. It tells us that it hears, from the 'concave womb' of a nearby 'sistering vale' the 'reworded [...] plaintful story' of another disembodied voice, of an echoing 'double voice' that lamentingly cries out a 'sad-tuned tale' (Shakespeare 1-4). And these signs, ambivalent though they may be, tell us that we have now entered the poetic mode of the complaint, that mode that forever presences a traumatic and seductive past. As soon, then, as we have been induced by our narrating guide to 'lie down' with him and 'list' the echoing 'sad-tuned tale' (which will certainly tell us about love and abandonment), the work of presenting begins, and we no longer have to worry about the duplicity of echo (4). For we can suddenly see its source; 'ere long' we 'espy' a 'fickle maid full pale' (5). Our eyes, once focused on the single form of the bereft maiden, will enable us to know what guarantees all this heretofore 'floating,' distant, disembodied discourse. They'll enable us to believe in the real of what we've been hearing, of what we're about to hear.