1. 3. 77-78. "His slumbers are but varied agonies, / They prey like scorpions at the springs of life." To what do these lines actually allude?
2. 3. 199-204. Why do "citizens" make themselves over into "subjects" (3.171)? What motivates such self-destructive behavior?
3. The poem begins by hypothesizing a dichotomy between death and sleep, then goes on to extend this to body and soul. At 4.139-150 these binaries are shifted into a pure spirituality, a kind of scientific pantheism, that comprehends "Evil and good" (4.147). Are all these oppositions of equal weight and operative across equal terminiological shifts? And how does this putative pantheism relate to what appears to be the operations of Necessity, in which we may see an early formulation of what Marx called "dialectical materialism"--or is that definitional leap itself appropriate here?
4. The central cantos have as their subjects tyranny and subjection (3), the abuse of power (4), commerce (5), and religion (6): can we trace common threads that underlie each category and that thus together represent a unified object of attack?
5. If "Necessity . . . [the] mother of the world" (6.198) makes it so that everything "acts but as it must and ought to act (6.173), why is the world so mucked up? that is, why do kings and warriors and priests have all the power, and we virtuous sufferers have none? Why doesn't "Nature" step in now and right the wholesale perversion of its values?
6. If "There is no God" (7.13), what makes Ahasuerus suffer throughout eternity? Where does he come from? and how does he get to be immortal when one can't be sure whether Ianthe is dead or just sleeping?
7. Can you supply the requisite annotation to explain Ahasuerus' account of the crucifixion of Christ: "I stood beside him; on the torturing cross / No pain assailed his unterrestrial sense; / And yet he groaned. Indignantly I summed . . ." (7.174-76)? What precisely makes him indignant?
8. How do we get from "the wild of dreary waves" (8.57) to an "earth [that] is full of bliss" (8.58), from here to there? I mean, just how can those of us reading this poem manage the same transition?
Nos. 2 and 7 of the above list have actual answers, and a gold star will be earned by anyone who can figure them out. A free trip to Washington, D.C., might be the reward for answering #8.