Pied Beauty

SPARKNOTES: Summary The poem opens with an offering: “Glory be to God for dappled things.” In the next five lines, Hopkins elaborates with examples of what things he means to include under this rubric of “dappled.” He includes the mottled white and blue colors of the sky, the “brinded” (brindled or streaked) hide of a cow, and the patches of contrasting color on a trout. The chestnuts offer a slightly more complex image: When they fall they open to reveal the meaty interior normally concealed by the hard shell; they are compared to the coals in a fire, black on the outside and glowing within. The wings of finches are multicolored, as is a patchwork of farmland in which sections look different according to whether they are planted and green, fallow, or freshly plowed. The final example is of the “trades” and activities of man, with their rich diversity of materials and equipment. In the final five lines, Hopkins goes on to consider more closely the characteristics of these examples he has given, attaching moral qualities now to the concept of variety and diversity that he has elaborated thus far mostly in terms of physical characteristics. The poem becomes an apology for these unconventional or “strange” things, things that might not normally be valued or thought beautiful. They are all, he avers, creations of God, which, in their multiplicity, point always to the unity and permanence of His power and inspire us to “Praise Him.” Form This is one of Hopkins’s “curtal” (or curtailed) sonnets, in which he miniaturizes the traditional sonnet form by reducing the eight lines of the octave to six (here two tercets rhyming ABC ABC) and shortening the six lines of the sestet to four and a half. This alteration of the sonnet form is quite fitting for a poem advocating originality and contrariness. The strikingly musical repetition of sounds throughout the poem (“dappled,” “stipple,” “tackle,” “fickle,” “freckled,” “adazzle,” for example) enacts the creative act the poem glorifies: the weaving together of diverse things into a pleasing and coherent whole. Commentary This poem is a miniature or set-piece, and a kind of ritual observance. It begins and ends with variations on the mottoes of the Jesuit order (“to the greater glory of God” and “praise to God always”), which give it a traditional flavor, tempering the unorthodoxy of its appreciations. The parallelism of the beginning and end correspond to a larger symmetry within the poem: the first part (the shortened octave) begins with God and then moves to praise his creations. The last four-and-a-half lines reverse this movement, beginning with the characteristics of things in the world and then tracing them back to a final affirmation of God. The delay of the verb in this extended sentence makes this return all the more satisfying when it comes; the long and list-like predicate, which captures the multiplicity of the created world, at last yields in the penultimate line to a striking verb of creation (fathers-forth) and then leads us to acknowledge an absolute subject, God the Creator. The poem is thus a hymn of creation, praising God by praising the created world. It expresses the theological position that the great variety in the natural world is a testimony to the perfect unity of God and the infinitude of His creative power. In the context of a Victorian age that valued uniformity, efficiency, and standardization, this theological notion takes on a tone of protest. Why does Hopkins choose to commend “dappled things” in particular? The first stanza would lead the reader to believe that their significance is an aesthetic one: In showing how contrasts and juxtapositions increase the richness of our surroundings, Hopkins describes variations in color and texture—of the sensory. The mention of the “fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls” in the fourth line, however, introduces a moral tenor to the list. Though the description is still physical, the idea of a nugget of goodness imprisoned within a hard exterior invites a consideration of essential value in a way that the speckles on a cow, for example, do not. The image transcends the physical, implying how the physical links to the spiritual and meditating on the relationship between body and soul. Lines five and six then serve to connect these musings to human life and activity. Hopkins first introduces a landscape whose characteristics derive from man’s alteration (the fields), and then includes “trades,” “gear,” “tackle,” and “trim” as diverse items that are man-made. But he then goes on to include these things, along with the preceding list, as part of God’s work. Hopkins does not refer explicitly to human beings themselves, or to the variations that exist among them, in his catalogue of the dappled and diverse. But the next section opens with a list of qualities (“counter, original, spare, strange”) which, though they doggedly refer to “things” rather than people, cannot but be considered in moral terms as well; Hopkins’s own life, and particularly his poetry, had at the time been described in those very terms. With “fickle” and “freckled” in the eighth line, Hopkins

introduces a moral and an aesthetic quality, each of which would conventionally convey a negative judgment, in order to fold even the base and the ugly back into his worshipful inventory of God’s gloriously “pied” creation. Q: What does Hopkins believe about the presence of God in the natural world? Illustrate your answer with reference to two or more poems. Q: Hopkins is famous as a poet of both nature and religion. How does he combine these two traditional poetic subjects, and to what effect? IGCSE blog Line 1: gives thanks to God for creating ‘dappled things’. Lines 2 – 5 provides a list of specific things which are ‘dappled’ and which cumulatively express delight at such variety in the natural world. In order, they are: skies presumably of blue sky and white cloud a ‘brinded’ cow – i.e. a cow streaked with different colours the trout with its specks of different colour (‘stipple’ is a speck) chestnuts glowing like coal – an image approaching the surreal, the black of the coal and the glow of the flame finches’ wings landscape of fields ‘plotted and pieced’ like a patchwork, some planted, some fallow and some recently ploughed (‘fold, fallow and plough’). Line 6 shifts attention from natural phenomena to the jobs that men (!) have and the different types of equipment they have. ‘Gear’ and ‘tackle’ are more recognisably comprehensible to the twenty-first century reader than the word ‘trim’ as used here. Line 7 marks a turning-point. The language becomes more abstract in character, after the concrete detail of the previous lines. It might be helpful to look at the final two lines of the poem first: God is the creator of all things mentioned in the poem, and should be praised. Then go back to the adjectives in line 7: God is creator of ‘all things counter, original, spare, strange’. These ‘fickle’ things are themselves ‘freckled’ with opposite qualities: swift / slow; sweet / sour; adazzle / dim. Pied Beauty Summary The speaker says we should glorify God because he has given us dappled, spotted, freckled, checkered, speckled, things. (This poem says "dappled" in a lot of different ways.) The speaker goes on to give examples. We should praise God because of the skies with two colors, like a two-colored cow. And the little reddish dots on the side of trout. And the way fallen chestnuts look like red coals in a fire. And the blended colors of the wings of a finch (a kind of bird). And landscapes divided up by humans into plots for farming. And for all the different jobs that humans do. In short, the speaker thinks we should praise God for everything that looks a bit odd or unique, everything that looks like it doesn't quite fit in with the rest. All these beautiful, mixed-up, ever-changing things were created or "fathered" by a God who never changes. The speaker sums up what he believes should be our attitude in a brief, final line: "Praise Him." Line 1 Glory be to God for dappled things – • The speaker says that we should give glory to God for having created "dappled," or spotted things. • If you're worried about not knowing exactly what "dappled" looks like, fear not: Hopkins is going to give you lots of examples. • "Glory be to God" is a way of giving praise. If you've been to a service at a Christian Church, you might have heard this phrase before. Often it is sung in church hymns. • In fact, the "hymn to creation" is a popular genre of hymn, which gives praise to God for all the things He has created. The speaker points to "dappled" things in particular. • The "hymn to creation" is inspired by the Psalms in the Old Testament. These short songs are traditionally thought to have been written by King David of Israel (yes, the one with the sling shot who took on Goliath). • Psalm 148 is one of the original hymns to creation: Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies.

Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created. • As an ordained priest, Hopkins would have known these hymns well. Line 2 For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow; • The speaker gives examples of "dappled things." In this poem, at least, "dappled" refers to things with multiplied colors. • Hopkins's first example is really two examples in one. "Skies of couple-color" are skies that have two colors. The most obvious possibilities are blue and white in a clear sky that is "dappled" or streaked with clouds. This image in turn reminds the speaker of a "brinded cow." • This line surely has to be the most famous usage of "brinded" in all of literature. The word means to have hair with brownish spots or streaks. It means the same thing as the more common word "brindle," often used to describe the color of dogs like boxers or pit bulls. • "Brindle" is also a kind of cow, but maybe not the one you'd expect. If you're anything like us, you were probably thinking of the famous black-and-white Holstein cows. But brindled cows have a much more uneven coloring, usually in shades of brown. • So there you go: a little lesson in livestock. Line 3 For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim; • The small light-reddish dots or "rose-moles" on the side of trout are another example of "dappled things." They look like they have been drawn "in stipple" on the trout's body. • "Stipple" is a technique in arts like drawing, painting, and sewing, to create texture through the use of small dots. (Here's an example.) • Many trout, such as this Brown Trout, do have red dots on their bodies. • You may have noticed by now that Hopkins likes to use hyphens to create new words. "Couplecolor" was one example, and "rose-moles" is another. Line 4 Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings; • And here come two more hyphenated words, along with two more examples of "dappled things." The first example is "Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls." • This is probably the trickiest image in the poem, partly because we're not nearly as familiar with chestnuts as 19th-century English people would have been. • "Chestnut-falls" is not too hard to imagine. It refers to chestnuts that have fallen off the chestnut tree. This hyphenated word points to the specific chestnuts that have fallen from the tree. • But "Fresh-firecoal" requires some background on nuts, a field we at Shmoop like to call nut-ology. • When they are on a tree, chestnuts are covered by a spiky, light-green covering, but the nuts themselves are reddish-brown. (Here's a picture.) • When the nuts fall, they are "fresh" from the tree. Because of the contrast of red nuts with their outer covering, they look like the burning of coals inside a fire. • To add another layer to this chestnut conundrum, people also like to cook these delectable nuts over fire. When the nuts get hot, they open up to reveal their "meat," inside. These opened chestnuts also look like embers. • We're almost certain you now know more than you ever wanted to about chestnuts. Fortunately, the second example of a "dappled thing" in this line is much easier. • Finches are small birds with streaks and spots. (Here's a photo.) • The speaker focuses only on the finches' wings – a sign of his great attention to detail. Line 5 Landscape plotted and pieced--fold, fallow, and plough; • Another dappled thing: the English landscape, divided up into different "plots" and "pieces" for farming and raising livestock. • A "fold" is a fenced-in area for sheep, "fallow" describes a field that has been left empty, and the "plough" is a tool used to turn over the topsoil before planting crops. • So far, the poem has not distinguished between big and small things. The cloud-speckled skies are comparable to the dots on a fish, despite the fact that these things are very different in size.

• Here the speaker transitions from a very small example – the "finches' wings" – to whole fields. • He's also using a lot of alliteration, and "plotted/pierced" and "fold/fallow" are examples from this line. • Finally, the speaker makes no distinction between untouched parts of nature and the parts that have been adapted by humans. According to the speaker, farming is a part of God's creation, just like the finches and the fish. Line 6 And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim. • The speaker widens his focus from a single trade, or skilled job – farming – to all trades. • He chooses three to represent the tools or accessories of all different kinds of jobs. • Without delving too deep into their many possible uses, the words "gear and tackle and trim" point to fishing, sailing, and clothes-making, among other trades. • "Trade" sounds old-fashioned now, but it suggests a natural connection between a person and his or her life's work. • In this line, the dappled or spotted appearance of things becomes a metaphor for variety and mixture. In other words, the poem sets up a transition where "dappled" has a wider meaning in the second stanza. • This meaning stands in direct contrast to the scope of the first stanza, in which the speaker focuses mainly on the visual. Line 7 All things counter, original, spare, strange; • The speaker expands and elaborates upon his list of things for which to praise God. • Rather than list specific objects, he uses adjectives to describe their qualities. • The items in the list are characterized by their uniqueness. They are "counter" to what is normal; they are original, they are "spare" and don't appear in great numbers; and they are "strange" or unusual. • Remember, in this poem, Hopkins is primarily concerned with the quirky and unusual things in nature. Line 8 Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?) • This line gives two more adjectives to add to our main adjective, "dapple." • Surprise, surprise, they begin with the same letter: "fickle" means something that changes a lot, and "freckled" returns to the topic of spots or dots. • In other contexts, "fickle" can be a negative quality in a person who changes his or her mind too often, but in nature, fickleness brings about new things at which we can marvel. • In parentheses, the speaker voices his private wonder at how all these things acquired their "pied beauty." Line 9 With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim; • Check out the semi-colons in this line. They mark the division between three pairs of opposites: fast and slow, sweet and sour, and bright ("adazzle") and dim. • The speaker doesn't know how it's possible for one thing to be "freckled" with two opposite qualities. • Think of a slice of sugary lemon cake, which is both sweet and sour. Hopkins would be in ecstasies over that slice of cake. How'd they do that? Line 10 He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: • The speaker says that God is the "father" of all these beautiful things, but his own beauty never changes. • According to Christian thought, God remains the same even as the world he created constantly shifts and flows. • We think that Hopkins must have read his Shakespeare. The phrase "fathers-forth," which means "to bring into existence," resembles a line from Shakespeare's Hamlet. The character Hamlet sarcastically notes that his mother's marriage to his uncle after his father's death was so fast that

"The funeral bak'd meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables" (Act 1, Scene 2). Line 12 Praise Him. • The end of the poem circles back to the beginning of the poem and the idea of praise and glory. • The phrase "Praise Him" occurs over and over again the Psalms, and Psalm 148 in particular. • This simple declaration of humility contrasts with the high-flying language and rhetoric that comes before. • This statement could be a two-word summary for the entire poem. Symbols, Imagery, Wordplay Dappled Things The first line tells us that "dappled things" are the most amazing things in the world. The rest of the poem is devoted mostly to explaining what the speaker means by "dappled things." The beauty of the poem's descriptions is supposed to convey their awesomeness, even if we can't look at a "couple-coloured" sky at the moment we are reading. The examples begin with objects that consist of two colors, but at the end of the first stanza, "dappled" becomes a metaphor for the mixture of different kinds of things. • Line 2: The two-colored skies are compared using simile to a "brinded cow." • Line 3: The speaker paints a vivid image of the reddish dots on the sides of swimming trout. • Line 4: The first half of the line includes an implicit metaphor comparing fallen chestnuts to coals in a fire. • Line 5: This line contains imagery related to farming, including the "plotted" land, the sheep-fold, a "fallow" field, and a plough. • Line 6: All the trades of humankind are "dappled" only metaphorically. "Dappled" is a word to describe a visual appearance, and jobs don't have a particular appearance. But they are varied and diverse, just like a "dappled thing." • Lines 8-9: The speaker uses another implicit metaphor, comparing three sets of contrasts, "swift, slow," "sweet, sour," and "adazzle, dim," to freckles. Praise and Glory "Pied Beauty" is a "hymn to creation." It argues that the wonders and mysteries of nature provide ample reasons to praise and glorify God. The poem reads like a prayer. It ends with the speaker urging us to get on the bandwagon and join him in praise. • Line 1: "Glory be to God" alludes to the beginning of prayers, particularly prayers that are based on the Biblical Psalms. • Line 8: A rhetorical question in parentheses makes the point that no one knows how or why the world is "freckled" with so many diverse and mixed things. • Line 10: We don't know enough theology to say whether this is actually a metaphor, but we'll point it out anyway. God's relationship to creation is compared to a father and his children. • Line 11: The speaker talks to someone who can't respond, which is called apostrophe. In this case, that "someone" is us, the reader. He wants us to "praise" God. Alliteration There's a lot of alliteration in this poem. The use of different words that begin with the same sound contributes to the idea of unity-in-diversity. It also contributes to the unique, strongly accented sound of the poem. The most common sounds in "Pied Beauty" are f, p, s, and t. Alliteration doesn't really need explanation – it's just fun to use – so we'll just point out all the examples we can find. • Line 1: "Glory" and "God" • Line 2: "Couple-colour" and "cow" • Line 4: "Fresh-firecoal" "falls" and "finches'" • Line 5: "Plotted," "pieced," and "plough"; "fold" and "fallow" • Line 6: "Trades," "tackle," and "trim" • Line 7: "Spare" and "strange" • Line 8: "Fickle" and freckled" • Line 9: "Swift," "slow," "sweet," and "sour." "Adazzle" and "dim." • Line 10: "Fathers-forth"

dense trees." In this case. Hopkins literally fuses words together in order to have the maximum amount of meaning and accents using the minimum number of words. "Sprung rhythm" is the big takeaway from Hopkins's poetry. too. A perfect example occurs in line 4: Fresh fire-coal chest-nut-falls. Instead of tigers. the name says it all. Sound Check Read this poem aloud. He is very pious. Often. and. and dapples of all kinds. Speaker Point of View Who is the speaker. The landscape of this poem is decidedly domesticated. He alternates between putting the gas pedal to the floor and slamming on the breaks. spots. "Pied Beauty" does not have a regular form. The rhythm of the poem is stop-and-go: gas! brake." the landscape is characterized by dots. chestnuts. Instead. is a hymn. Still. and this poem takes its cues from the Book of Psalms in the Bible. Hymns are religious songs of praise and prayer. Indeed. and birds. we have cows. the first with six lines and the second with five (assuming you count the final two words "Praise Him. can she or he read minds. he takes his inspiration from the Book of Psalms. on the other hand. Look at all the adjectives in the second stanza. He thinks that merely describing the world as it is should be enough to give people a sense for the mysteries of spiritual life. humans don't dominate the scene or stick out in any particular way. "Sprung rhythm" is like a spring. Form & Meter We’ll show you the poem’s blueprints. Hopkins invented "sprung rhythm. It almost looks like the concluding "amen" of a religious prayer. and would lead naturally to praising God. many small springs scattered throughout the poem. more importantly. gas! brake. The rhythm is characterized by stops and starts. and the variety of their jobs is compared to the variety of colors on a trout or a bird's wings. or more accurately. trout. that Hopkins is as inexperienced as a learning permit driver. the grouping of accented syllables results in the cramming together of meaning as well. However. and other varieties of wilderness. He isn't simply content to quote or recite scripture." (It's the painting featured in the museum scene of Ferris Beuhler's Day Off). The accents and downbeats are concentrated together. You might see him sitting underneath a tree with a notebook and making sketches of the "dappled things" he has seen. gas! brake. but turns his attention to the specific qualities of nature. dabs.Pied Beauty: Rhyme. There is alliteration in (almost) every single line." as their own line). The scheme goes: ABCABC DBEDE. Pied Beauty Setting Where It All Goes Down "Pied Beauty" is a hymn that is sung in nature instead of church. and rushing waterfalls. and he wants you to be pious. The rhythm consists of small explosions of energy. each followed by the pause of a comma or semi- . Its genre. though. The setting is the English countryside. It reminds us of a painting by the famous French pointillist Georges Seurat. But they do not dominate nature. Hopkins has one of the most unique styles in English poetry. You could imagine the speaker as the kind of person who collects samples to add to his personal collection. There are not a standard number of syllables per line. such as jungles. Another way that Hopkins creates strong accents is by using alliteration everywhere. Humans don't control nature – they are an important part of nature. What do you hear? Reading a poem in "sprung rhythm" is like driving with someone who has just gotten his or her learning permit. "A Sunday Afternoon in the Park. the word "stipple" (line 3) is a term from drawing. look at the way that each group of three lines is indented like three stairs going down. such as a bird's feather or a particularly colorful stone. Hymn in Sprung Rhythm "Pied Beauty" has no regular meter. He talks like a priest or preacher. We don't mean to suggest. There is no uniformity anywhere in this vision of nature – everything is a kaleidoscope of color and other qualities like "sweet" and "sour" (line 9). He looks at nature almost like a biologist. and we’ll listen for the music behind the words. mountains. and lines with the same indentation tend to rhyme at the end. Most important for "Pied Beauty. The land is divided into "plots and pieces" for farming (line 5). can we trust her or him? The speaker is a religious man who has read and absorbed the Christian scriptures. The poem has a rather complicated rhyme scheme. This person hasn't learned to give a steady amount of gas to keep the car moving at an even speed. The poem has two stanzas. He always notices the unusual or eccentric features of the landscape. In fact. Some nature poems describe the exotic. Then the last line "Praise Him" is set apart with its own indentation far to the right.

His language is loaded like a spring. He belonged to no established school.colon. Plus." Notice how the first version sounds much quicker." or that "pied beauty" is just one kind of beauty? Gerard Manley Hopkins’s Calling Card . and trim." there is not much to trouble even a new reader of poetry. Have you ever heard a hymn before? Where? What other kinds of hymns do you know? Does "Pied Beauty" sound like any hymns you know? 4. Aside from a few lesser-known words like "brinded" and "stipple. and so did later Romantics like John Keats. or does he assume that his audience shares his views? 3. Try on an opinion or two. which is nice. he describes "trout that swim. Shakespeare used such words frequently. the sound is like a thread that guides you through each line. The same principle holds for line 6. The last two words are redundant in meaning. he adds extra words to keep the poem hurtling forward." think Snoopy. But this technique came to be associated with the innovative sonic experimentation of 20th-century modernism. What’s Up With the Title? "Pied beauty" is a kind of beauty characterized by mixture. the famous English writer and theologian John Henry Newman.What is the poet’s signature style? Hyphenated Words The technique of cramming two words into one hyphenated word like "couple-colour" and "chestnut-falls" is not a recent development. Reading "Pied Beauty" provides all the excitement of being a first-time driver. The famous "Pied Piper" was so named because his clothes were made from parts of many different-colored clothes. which is a branch of Catholicism)? Could a non-Christian or a non-religious person appreciate the sentiments in the poem? 2. Because of his innovative technique and use of language. In "Pied Beauty. The poem was written in 1877. The word "piebald" comes from the same root. "gear and tackle and trim" instead of "gear." the sounds of words are supposed to convince the reader of the beauty of the things they represent. you know that when he says "Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls. Even if you have never seen a chestnut. "Pied Beauty" comes near the height of Hopkins's religious fervor. Hopkins puts a mini-brake after each of those words. William Faulkner. the same year that Hopkins was ordained as a Jesuit priest by one of his heroes. and hyphenated words were just one of the tools of his own brand of "sprung rhythm. But it doesn't really make sense to call Hopkins a modernist because he wrote his poems well before the turn of the century. or if the speaker is addressing an imagined audience. where Hopkins writes. or play the devil’s advocate. Here's an interesting question: is the title saying that all beauty is mixed or "pied. but his ideas are not complicated. In other places. There are no incredible walking trout. 2. Does this poem strike you as particularly Christian (Hopkins was a Jesuit priest." he is talking about a "dappled thing" that is part of nature. . except that Hopkins is really an experienced veteran with the poetic equivalent of a perfect driving record. Questions About Religion 1. and others. To be "pied" is to have two or more colors in dots or splotches." Tough-O-Meter In poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins. Does the speaker make any kind of religious arguments. and contrast. as expressed in the work of authors like James Joyce. We have trouble deciding whether the poem is meant to be a private and personal prayer (it was never published in Hopkins's lifetime). blending. Why does the speaker "praise" or give glory to God? What does this action demonstrate about the person giving praise? Chew on This 1. start a debate. tackle. In line 3. Themes Pied Beauty Theme of Religion "Pied Beauty" is a celebration of natural creation bookended by traditional religious expressions of praise and glorification. Hopkins is sometimes considered a "modernist" or "proto-modernist" poet. but necessary for the rhythm. and it has a similar meaning: both are good SAT words! When you hear "piebald. That's it. As the driver of the poem." which makes us wonder: "Are there trout that don't swim?" Of course not. that lovable cartoon beagle with the black-and-white splotches. you don't have to fear for your life.

Maybe there's not a huge distinction between the two views. even if not in an exploitative way? Chew on This 1. The poem is pastoral. According to the speaker of this poem. Why is God "past change"? And when. God is the only being that does not change. exactly. nature does not exist without man." the beauty of the earth is dependent on change. He doesn't take the view that man exploits nature. or play the devil’s advocate. 2. Hopkins seems to have an appreciation of natural diversity for its own sake.3. God brings change into the world. Does the speaker talk more like a priest or a scientist." He can offer no explanation but can only describe and admire. Questions About Awe and Amazement 1. he is talking to himself. is limited to the things you might see in the English countryside. Pied Beauty Theme of Man and the Natural World In Hopkins's poetry. except one of attitude. or in different ways? How. or play the devil’s advocate. Some religious thinkers would say that nature must be beautiful because it was created by God. In a famous poem called "Sunday Morning. start a debate. Are there any images of nature that are not associated with agriculture or farming in some way? 2. Pied Beauty Theme of Transience According to "Pied Beauty. Pied Beauty Theme of Awe and Amazement The speaker admits that he has no idea how the world came to be filled with "dappled things. and the diverse blend of colors and forms in the natural world serves as a metaphor for the diversity of man's trades and crafts. The poem uses "dappled" as an umbrella for a lot of different things. Do you think Hopkins would agree. disagree. in all things great and small. How does the speaker's awe manifest itself in Hopkins's "sprung rhythm"? 2. both the macro and microscopic appear "dappled. Although Hopkins clearly sees humans as a part of nature. On the other hand. How would you define the word "fickle" in its context in line 8? In what contexts have you heard the word used before? Chew on This ." Wallace Stevens argues that "Death is the mother of beauty" because death brings change. or would he want to tweak Stevens's idea? 3. then. or maybe both? Chew on This 1. his view of nature. What kind of role does humanity play in nature? Does the poem suggest that humans are destined to use nature. what do all these things have in common? 3. What is the opposite of "Pied Beauty"? Is there an opposite? 4. Hopkins says that God is praise-worthy because He created such a mysterious and beautiful world. Try on an opinion or two. we now know that when you look close enough. In "Pied Beauty. are they "transient"? 4. With the help of our microscopes and telescopes. 3. he also believes they have the responsibility to guide and order nature. which places them in a superior position. Questions About Transience 1. like a person who slowly turns a kaleidoscope." Hopkins sees the same patterns of transient beauty in the greatness of a clouded sky or the smallness of finches' wings. When the speaker says. Questions About Man and the Natural World 1. meaning it shows natural beauty in an agricultural setting. In one sentence. Try on an opinion or two. at least in this poem. "Praise Him" in the final line. What kind of landscape does the poem make you imagine? What kinds of images pop into your head when you hear phrases like "Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls"? 3. Do all of the various "dappled things" in the poem change in the same way. Can you think of any "dappled things" that maybe aren't so great or beautiful? Does Hopkins purposefully ignore these not-so-great things? 4. and regardless of their relation to human ends." Hopkins doesn't really praise specific things so much as he praises the general structure of nature. start a debate. 2. but rather Hopkins's landscapes are filled with the tools and marks of humanity just as it is filled with trees in birds. Humans model their own activities after nature. is change a good thing? 2. Hopkins adopts the Catholic view that God is the only unity in the world – everything else exists in diversity. The poem is an expression of naïve and childish innocence that could not possibly be sustained.

start a debate. (line 2) The natural landscape in "Pied Beauty" is oriented around agriculture. as with this comparison of the sky to a cow. 2. because in the poem God is praised according to the beauty of creation. Hopkins has farming on the brain. freckled (who knows how?) With swift. freckled (who knows how?) (line 8) he speaker does not try to explain the way the world is. Quote #3 Whatever is fickle. finches' wings. The first line lets us know that the poem will be a "hymn to creation. That's a little like saying. The poem argues that worldly beauty is created through the cycles of life and death. (lines 3-4) Hopkins subtly mixes references to human activity with his descriptions of nature." the poem has no means of evaluating the beauty of God. dim." The speaker is clearly most amazed by odd or unusual things." Humans have divided up the countryside into "plots" and "pieces" for farming different crops. "That waterfall looks like bales of hay falling off a cliff. Quote #3 Whatever is fickle. there is no absolute concept of beauty that does not change. and plough. (line 11) The poem ends abruptly when the speaker urges us to praise God. he just admires it. The coexistence of pairs "swift" and "slow" . Although "Pied Beauty" speaks of God's "beauty. The chestnuts are compared to the coals in a fireplace. 3. but clearly did not have this theme in mind when writing this poem. Pied Beauty Religion Quotes Quote #1 Glory be to God (line 1) The poem begins with an expression of Christian humility in the face of "God's Grandeur" (to quote the title of another of Hopkins's poem). Quote #2 For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow (line 2) After the first line. "Pied Beauty" turns into a nature poem – a major departure from the Psalms in the Bible. their gear and tackle and trim. spare. Although much of Christian scripture does praise nature. Quote #4 He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: (line 10) God is the "father" in the Christian Trinity. or painting. sweet. which is changeable. or play the devil’s advocate. fallow. Try on an opinion or two. slow. drawing. The parenthetical "who knows how?" discourages us from questioning God's designs. original. strange. Quote #2 All things counter. He could have written about the ways in which humans have harmed nature. (line 7) The poem becomes more general about what "dappled things" are as it goes along. Quote #4 And all trades." inspired by the Biblical Psalms. (line 5) The landscape was always so "pied. it does not do so in such a specific and sensuous way. Does it seem strange to consider different "trades" or jobs to be God's creations? Pied Beauty Awe and Amazement Quotes Quote #1 Glory be to God for dappled things – (line 1) "Dappled things" has to be one of the more unusual endings to a clause that begins "Glory be to God. Hopkins considers this process to be natural." Our first mental associations for "dappled" might have to do with color." but also about things that seem commonplace. Did you notice how Hopkins just slipped that in casually? Quote #5 Praise Him./Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls.1. sour. Here the category widens to include anything that is "one-of-a-kind. Quote #3 Landscape plotted and pieced--fold. Quote #2 For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim. In other words." Notice how Hopkins looks at the positive ways in which humans interact with nature. Check out "God's Grandeur" to read Hopkins's version of the darker side of human interaction in nature. (lines 8-9) Part of the poem's effect is to fill the reader with wonder not only about things that are unique and "one-of-a-kind. adazzle. (line 6) Humans are further integrated into the list of natural marvels. Or do you think that the speaker is talking to himself? Pied Beauty Man and the Natural World Quotes Quote #1 For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow.

6." and it is true of everything in nature. and “landscape plotted and pieced”. 2. (line 11) At the end of the poem. 4. and God is "past change. According to "Pied Beauty. That's the point – they have been around since the creation. "Fickle" just means "changeable" or "transient. irreducible things over general categories Quote #4 Whatever is fickle. How does the poem's rhythm express the virtues of being "dappled" or spotted? Pied Beauty by Gerald Manley Hopkins Poem Analysis 1." God is the only thing that remains unchanged. The direct spiritual emotion of the final line contrasts with the linguistic fireworks that have built up to it. The poet offers glory and praises God because of all the things he listed in the poem that he finds beautiful. 5. but not in praise of anyone in particular. and unchangeable. The speaker is thankful for everything with dots. unless he wanted to bring special attention to their restless motion. and we all know that clouds don't like to stay in one place. who inspired a lot of Catholic thought. The speaker’s emotional state is in praise of God. The poet combines antithesis and alliteration by using countering words with opposite meanings. Pied Beauty Transience Quotes Quote #1 For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow. Quote #2 For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim. The contrast is where the poet says his beauty is past change. Pied Beauty Questions Bring on the tough stuff . 1. This poem on a personal level does make me feel grateful for the things on the Earth. the only thing you can count on is eternal variation. (line 8) "Fickle" is not used in a negative sense. are presented by God according to the speaker. especially by using hyphens between two shorter words. which is why the natural world has so many unique individuals. (line 2) The sky is "couple-colour" when filled with clouds. as you might use it to describe someone who is your friend one day and not the next. are as he claims. put on the Earth by God. God is the "unmoved mover" who brings change to the world while remaining always and forever the same.and "sweet" and "sour" is nothing new. but using the same starting letters of each word to create alliteration. circles. “fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls”. the speaker gives up trying to express his amazement in language. It is a praise song because it talks of something ‘God’ has given the Earth and praises ‘God’ for it. 8. 3. When the poet says that all things counter. the trout themselves do not. He seems to be fond of nature and "the great outdoors. All the amazing and beautiful things present. etc.there’s not just one right answer. Why else would Hopkins include the redundant information that trout are swimmers. 3. If God is the ultimate good. perfect." then why does Hopkins praise things that change and might therefore seem "impure"? 4. (Not finished) The poem "Pied Beauty" begins by praising God for all the colorful and diverse things in nature. different colors." Many of the images in the poem made me think of camping out. When it comes to the sky. spare. The question of the nature or character of God is a complicated one in Christian thought. Try coming up with your own new words. strange. The speaker mentions “skies of couple-color”. to the complex and shifting beauty of the world. which he considers simple. he is saying that things different and strange can still be beautiful. 7. What political connections do you think this poem could have? Does it seem relevant to the contemporary topic of diversity? 5. making the phrase all the more beautiful. Quote #5 He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: (line 10) Hopkins compares the beauty of God. Quote #4 Praise Him. (line 7) Nature constantly produces new forms. original. According to Aristotle. or a . Quote #3 All things counter. The words flow together nicely. For example ‘God’’s beauty is never changed because in the Christian faith ‘God’ is perfect while the physical world is always changing. Hopkins loved to invent new words. but the creation was so incredible that we should still be awed by it. These are all references to the pied beauty found in the poem. The speaker values singular. What other "dappled things" in the world would you want to praise? 2. appreciating the beauty of everything that was put on the Earth. (line 3) Though the "rose-moles" stay in one place on the trout's body.

M. does this irregularity have? The short final line has been mentioned already. At the end of the poem. edited by Robert Bridges (1918). and its completion of the praise with which the whole poem began is very striking and very powerful. fish. but in this relatively short life he wrote some of the most startling and original poetry of the whole 19th Century. What effect. For example. birds. Everything that is different. God is seen as being beyond change but as generating all the variety and opposites that manifest in the ever-changing world. and asking around. While the beauty of the earth lies in its change. in which he could see the work and power of God. etc. Thematically. The most powerful thing of all. Hopkins. is that all these changing things are created by God.” Milward points out that it is . Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins. In ‘Pied Beauty’ he expresses his delight and astonishment at the sheer diversity of nature. of which Hopkins was a member. lines 1–2. His aim was to approximate the rhythms and style of normal speech. He was a deeply intellectual and religious man. in common with most of his other poetry. Opinion: Hopkins was born in 1844. line 11 “Pied Beauty” opens and closes with variants of the two mottoes of St. however. For example. albeit speech infused with a religious ecstasy and enthusiasm that are characteristics of his poetry. is unchanging himself. But the poem does not only speak of natures' diversity. however. Given the date when Hopkins was writing. As cited by Peter Milward in A Commentary on the Sonnets of G. and he finds himself full of wonder at the constant changes and contrasts in everything that he sees. the speaker says. The poem subsequently appeared in the second complete edition of Hopkins’s poetry. and it's diver . the rhyme scheme is fairly complex (ABCABCDBCDC). for example. another of Hopkins’s stylistic inventions. it was first published twenty-nine years after his death.. It appeared in the first collected edition of his poems. it does. man's trades. It is written in the form of a curtal or shortened sonnet. while he wrote “Pied Beauty” in 1877. But after researching.picnic. too. for instance. and died just 45 years later. Some points for classroom discussion There are some very unusual and initially difficult words in the poem. some of which Hopkins has apparently invented – ‘couple-colour’. leaves. In lines 3 to 5. Ignatius of Loyola. ensure that despite the altering rhythms the poem never loses its tightness and focus. cattle. and “Pied Beauty” perfectly exemplifies both these aspects of his work. for instance). ‘Pied Beauty’ is a short poem. this is quite a daring style. Stanza 1. Even man-made things are equally attractive. everything that has dots. the landscape itself – all have different and multiple colours and shapes. This is perhaps why. As of 2006. the two mottoes are: “Ad majorem Dei gloriam (To the greater glory of God) and Laus Deo semper (Praise be to God always). “Pied Beauty” is one of the first poems that Hopkins wrote in the so-called sprung rhythm that he evolved. stanza 2. Hopkins is best known as a nature poet and a religious poet. chestnut falls. but a complex one in both its meaning and its form. for Hopkins the one unchanging being. etc. everything that is changing. and became a Jesuit priest in 1877. and trim are also varied. What do you notice about each of these words? What makes them so effective? Opinion: The British poet Gerard Manley Hopkins is often described as an early modern poet ahead of his Victorian time. The poem goes on to thank God for more things. It also makes reference to manmade things. finches. utterly simple and almost breathless short line. published in 1930. though while some are regular (lines 2 and 3." I had trouble with this line. far removed from much of the conventional formality of his Victorian contemporaries. ‘fresh-firecoal’. though the iambic beat can still be felt (lines 4 or 8. The lines are generally iambic in basis. fresh fire-coal. or effects. tackle. The landscape plotted and pieced. cows. edited by Catherine Phillips (1986). "He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change. he is struck by the way in which so many things – skies. The poem also embodies Hopkins’s innovative use of condensed syntax and alliteration. though this is something that is unlikely to be noticed when actually reading the poem aloud. and all he can do in the final line of the poem is to express his amazement in a short. the founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). Throughout his life Hopkins was deeply fond of the countryside and its beauty. in 1889.. because I did not know what the speaker meant by this. who creates change. skies of two colors. the same year in which he wrote ‘Pied Beauty’. the poem is a simple hymn of praise to God for the “dappled things” of creation. and line 10) others are certainly not. I came to the conclusion that it means that God. “Pied Beauty” was available in Gerard Manley Hopkins: The Major Works. based on the rhythms of Anglo-Saxon and ancient Welsh poetry. Given the brevity of the poem. fathers-forth’.

“Fickle” was most often applied to inconstant lovers (more frequently women) and unstable and capricious people. frecklèd. In conclusion. frecklèd”: they embody pairs of opposite or contrasting abstract qualities. to his reflections on the abstract qualities he admires in “dappled things. The trades are spoken of in terms of their neatness and orderliness: “gear and tackle and trim. since both are of two contrasting colors. D. Stanza 2. virgin landscape. consists of a number of such things. The interjection of “who knows how?” adds an element of wonder and mystery. the poet draws more direct attention to man. a technique known as stippling.” as well as meaning contrary to expectation and therefore unusual.” with “trim” perhaps suggesting the sailboats of fishermen. This suggestion is picked up by the ambiguous adjectives “fickle. The significance of these things lies in the union of contrasting or opposite qualities in one being or aspect of creation.” He ends with a simple half-line consisting only of the exhortation. which the poet likens in a metaphor to coals that break open in a fire and glow red. the “rose-moles” on the trout stand out against the background color of the skin. such as inconstant lovers and less-thanflawless complexions. L. He notes the wings of finches. All these references include.” meaning divided into sections or plots.. These are things of mottled or variegated hue that display variety and pairs of opposites (such as light and dark). The idea of the broken-open chestnuts revealing a shining hidden glory within symbolically suggests that a humble. Thus Hopkins appears to be treating his poem as an exercise in the Jesuit tradition. Many ladies with freckled complexions employed poisons and potions to try to remove the marks and attain the uniformly pale color that was fashionable. D. this time in the form of his trades and the clothes and tools associated with them. but a landscape worked and shaped by man: it is “plotted and pieced. suggests an opposition to the mainstream of opinion. Thus bi-colored skies and streaked cows display contrasting hues. divinely inspired soul. which is contrasted with the unity and non-changing nature of God. all of which contribute to their preciousness. “Praise him. Those mentioned are swiftness and slowness. these . and the worked landscape consists of divisions that separate one part from another. lines 9–11 The poet describes the way in which the dappled things are “fickle. sweet and sour. This is not an untouched. “whose beauty is past change.” Themes Nature’s Variety and God’s Unity “Pied Beauty” is a hymn of praise to the variety of God’s creation. Stanza 2. man’s intervention in the natural landscape. His use of the words “fickle” and “frecklèd” to describe these things is noteworthy. Then the poet draws attention to the windfalls from chestnut trees. A. The poet’s description of these things as “counter.customary for pupils in Jesuit schools to write an abbreviated form of the former motto. and “plough” refers to a field tilled in preparation for crop planting. Stanza 1.” meaning spots such as an artist might create by using small touches of the brush. The “Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls” seems to open up a moral and personal aspect to the theme of variety. broken-open chestnuts show a bright color inside against their dull-colored outside. “fallow” refers to a field left for a period of rest between crops. In a simile. change. by implication. the poet likens “skies of couple-colour” to a “brinded” or striped cow. Line 1 begins a hymn of praise to God for creating “dappled things” that embody the “Pied Beauty” of the title. at the beginning of each written exercise. finches’ wings have bars of contrasting colors. The whole of stanza 1. In line 6. and brightness and dimness. lines 7–8 In the quatrain of the curtal sonnet. uniqueness. unremarkable. From the point of view of the visual arts (Hopkins was a keen painter). the poet leaves behind the concrete examples of dappled things of stanza 1. as these are both qualities that were neither admired nor appreciated in the Victorian age. This variety is embodied in the “dappled things” of nature. or flawed exterior can conceal a beautiful. which are of varied colors. lines 5–6 The poet broadens his vision to take in the landscape. their dull brown shells break open to reveal reddish-brown nuts within. their skins showing rose-colored markings “all in stipple. and contrast is God. He turns his attention inward. and the latter motto. A “fold” is an enclosure for sheep. as detailed in the sestet of the curtal sonnet.” which are commonly used to describe things of which the Victorian mainstream did not approve. When chestnuts hit the ground. at the end. the poet returns to the theme he introduced in the first line: the creator of all this variety.. M.” He appreciates their oddness. Line 2 gives two examples of dappled things. lines 3–4 The poet turns his attention to the river. the sestet of the curtal sonnet. where trout swim. S. and rarity. G. Stanza 1.

a dappled object or being displays asymmetry. or broken symmetry. the theme is broadened to include abstract qualities that are opposite or contrasting in the same way in which. He is convinced that God's creation is imperfect and he goes about organising and streamlining and make everything smooth and even. to Robert Bridges (reproduced in Gerard Manley Hopkins: The Major Works). “God’s Grandeur. In the visual arts. the colors on the cow and the trout are opposite or contrasting. this might be expressed in terms of regular rhythm (symmetry) and broken rhythm (asymmetry). Man in his foolishness constantly attempts to reshape Nature according to his rules of symmetry and uniformity. writing in a letter of February 15. and the consequent destruction of the countryside by the manufacturing activities of man. This establishes the tone of the poem as one of thanksgiving or celebration of the beautiful creations that the poet is surrounded by. however. Everything in the Natural Universe . are ultimately one. original.published 1918) is an unabashed celebration of the wide variety of contrasts found in God's creation the Natural Universe. There is unity in diversity too in the poet’s juxtaposition of contrasting beings or elements. strange. just as the various. Thus. the one and the many. “their gear and tackled and trim. infinite skies or heavens. The landscape is not one of untouched nature. enfolded into the landscape. and constancy of God.” oddness and contrariness are brought into the fold of God’s diverse creation. The Eternal God the Father is the creator and the cause of all contrasting differences in the natural universe. the power of a painting. spare. To unify such abstract opposites as swift and slow. Hopkins was aware of this. Q: What is the central idea of the poem "Pied Beauty"? Hopkins' curtal sonnet "Pied Beauty" (written 1877. to such an extent that it is defined by the activities of man within it: the sheepfold. and (figuratively speaking) swimming against the mainstream. and blearing trades of that other poem of 1877. infinity. “No doubt my poetry errs on the side of oddness. and even incomprehensible. smearing. but one that is formed and shaped by man. In terms of poetry.” In “Pied Beauty. The poet uses poetic devices such as similes to point out the varied hues and shadows connecting "skies of couple color" to a striped bovine in order to point out the beauty there.” but trades that bring man into a cooperative and order-creating relationship with creation. it is a single being and thereby represents a unity of contrasting elements. Q: How does hopkins explore the breathtaking variety of nature in its many forms? The opening of the poem is designed to give credit for the great beauty that the poet is going to discuss to god or to its creator. the land that man has ploughed. Whereas an even-colored object or being displays symmetry. The one and the many. Hopkins portrays man as just another organic part of God’s creation.' This results in drabness and monotony. this poem is a celebration of the oneness between rural man and his land. The poet moves on to include the farmers and the farms and the way that the earth has also been affected by men and changed but also in ways that are fertile and productive and beautiful. familiar form of the cow is set against the unbounded. embodied in the neatness of the image. In giving thanks to God for “All things counter.” Piedness or variety is unified and embodied by each being named in the poem. is a greater imaginative stretch than envisaging contrasting colors on an object. but such is the momentum of the poem that nothing could seem more natural. or sculpture comes from the interplay between symmetry and broken symmetry. though the cow is bi-colored. The poet goes on to describe fish in the river and the various beautiful trees surrounding the river continuing to connect images of flora with images of fauna to point out their similar beauty. At a time when the Industrial Revolution was prompting many writers and thinkers to lament the growing gap between man and the countryside.elements represent asymmetry. It can be no accident that such words were repeatedly applied to Hopkins’s poetry. unusual. In the second stanza. The “trades” that he mentions are not the searing. and everchanging forms of creation are set against the oneness. which was stylistically and thematically so far ahead of its time that readers found it odd. Man's thoughtlessness distorts and perverts God's perfect plan for the Natural Universe. In his descriptions of people and his look inward at himself. bright and dark. Man and his environment are also unified.” Hopkins includes in his hymn of praise people and other beings who are different. he continues to use the contrasting images to point out and describe the "fickle" nature of things and man. difficult. and the land that he has left to rest between crops. disyllabic final line before the poem drops into the silence of contemplation. in the concrete examples of the first stanza. not a force that is destroying that creation. finite. 1879. The poem counters this negative tendency of man by revealing to us the wide variety of contrasts which add colour and beauty to God's creation the Natural Universe. the God that is praised in the extremely simple. The poem concludes with the ultimate expression of piedness: God and his creation. Thus the solid. drawing. He swears by the mantra of 'sameness.

And the use of similar sounds is what the ear registers much more quickly than what the eye sees. Q: What is Gerard Manley Hopkins praising? An Englishman who converted to Catholicism and became a Jesuit priest. "Landscape plotted and pieced—fold.. It is called "sprung rhythm.." In addition. which is.. worthy of this exaltation.a pattern of sound that includes the repetition of consonant sounds. God created these qualities and. then... though at first one might at first believe it depends upon what is seen as the poem is read." repeats the "f... tastes will later change: He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: Praise him... freckled (who knows how?) point to those variegated properties which are derogated in Manley's Victorian Age as freckles were considered physical flaws.. while current tastes have them in disfavor. the musical element comes from the poem's sounds. with inward fervor Hopkins praises "fickle" and "freckled". with leaves that are the color of glowing coals. air or water. Alliteration is completely based in sound. However." There are short hymns sung in a variety of churches: one begins with "Glory be to the Father. followed then by the repeated "f" sound." we can hear the similarities where we cannot always see them. It is this pattern the ear hears." is alliterative with the repetition of the "hard" "g.." and another ends "Praise Father. This image brings to mind the chestnut trees in the fall.. However. In fact. Gerard Manley Hopkins begins and ends his poem with lines similar to the opening and closing lines of the Jesuit order: "To the greater glory of God. and plough. fallow. God "whose beauty is past change" and superior to all other standards. The central idea of "Pied Beauty" is that variety and contrast are the defining characteristics of Eternal God our Father and Creator. Hopkins praises all that is different in nature and life because the creator of all that is pied or dappled or variegated or fickle or freckled is. finches’ wings. strange.. the poem begins and ends like a hymn.. original. • "Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls. when a duplicate sound is made by an "f" and a "ph." repeats the "hard" "c" (that sounds like a "k").. and the primarily literary device that creates these sounds so resoundingly when the poem is read aloud (as poetry has always historically been treated) is alliteration. thus including man in these myriad forms of beauty." • and. Another beautiful images is found in: Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls. Q: Explain how Gerard Manely Hopkins uses language structure in "Pied Beauty" to convey his message." The end of the poem sounds like the closing of a hymn: "Praise him. Its appeal lies both in its imagery and its musical nature. In the first stanza. in the final analysis. The first line starts off the poem drawing attention to God: "Glory be to God. is one of my favorite poems. and the phrases .-whether on land. qualities that make them all the more worthy... . Hopkins mentions the "pied beauty" and "dappled things" of nature as well as the fields altered by the farmer along the various trades of man." and "Praise to God always. and fickleness certainly a character flaw." With this prayerful arrangement of his unique sonnet.. Whatever is fickle. spare." • "couple-colour as a brinded cow. Son. The imagery is stunning in that Hopkins creates pictures in the mind of the listener with lines like: . he appreciates their uniqueness and rarity. Alliteration is the repetition of the same consonant sound at the beginning of a group of words clustered together. The lines All things counter..." and is based on "Anglo-Saxon and traditional Welsh poetry. therefore. Man instead of complaining and wasting all his time and energy and resources in making everything same and uniform must learn to appreciate this important characteristic of God and praise him always. the musical and the repetitive alliterative sounds. Examples in the poem include: • "Glory be to God. "Pied Beauty" by Gerard Manley Hopkins. This describes the rosy dots scattered across the side of a trout that shine in the sun. For. the poet praises oddity and uniqueness because all that is created has been made by God and is.." uses alliteration first with the repetition of the "p" sound.rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim. after all.. it is the pattern of sound that catches the ear— hence the need to read the poem out loud. This captivating imagery is employed throughout the poem's stanzas.has been created by God to be different and dissimilar. However." In essence. The lilting (swaying) nature of the poem also creates a musical quality in the poem.

.. Hopkins gets to his main point in the last couple of lines when he says.. to praise of God for their creation." Ironically. sweet and sour.having patches of two or more colors However.. tone.glittering in the smokeless air. strange. rock. These lines infer that one would have a cold heart or "soul" not to be touched by the scene the poet describes. What is different between these poems is that Wordsworth concentrates on elements in nature that are similar in their beauty: he lists them (e./A sight so touching in its majesty... spare. landscapes.. Hopkins is literally praising God for "dappled things" and for anything exhibiting beauty in two colors. "valley.. it is the contrasting nature of the beauty in nature that he sees that "enchants" him. and to the sky." defined as. The beauty of the morning The city—made by man—the author states—on this morning—is opened up to nature—which is untouched by mankind: .Dull would he be of soul who could pass by.For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow The images here described more things of several colors. In Hopkins' poem..." He also mentions "landscape plotted and pieced. As Hopkins enters his second stanza. although the beauty and wonder of nature were created by God and are glorious in themselves. Gerald Manley Hopkins' lovely poem "Pied Beauty" reflects the same theme of the beauty in nature as is found in "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge. finches' wings. then. bright and dim. All this for the glory and praise of this beautiful God.. Q: List and develop the ideas of beauty in the poem "Pied Beauty." The two stanzas of "Pied Beauty" focus on beauty in two different forms: the concrete and the abstract. God himself has a beauty that is greater than change (that is "past change"). All things counter.valley.." "Brinded" means "brindled. Romantic poetry generally included one or several of approximately seven characteristics—a respect for nature is one of these characteristics.. such as "couple-colour.. including. Hopkins puts specific emphasis in beauty of the natural world with his mention of cows.. "Pied Beauty" and Wordsworth's lines. One can see the connection with the first stanza." For both poems.gray or tawny with darker streaks or spots The poet continues presenting "pictures" of things in nature that have several colors../. The children (as the story goes) were drawn to follow the piper—the inference is that they were entranced—drawn by some kind of magic.g. unique. make the work sound like a hymn./. weird. the images presented in "Pied Beauty. or hill")... rock. trout. the items of beauty become more abstract in nature.. and indecisive.. and with regard to nature.. the sense of being drawn or pulled in by images of nature are found in Hopkins' title. or hill. original. including "trout." "chestnut-falls" and "finches' wings. creates something much like a church song or anthem—with the repetition of sounds and a rhythm.. or color from the background." /Glory be to God for dappled things— "Dappled" means: having spots of a different shade. Q: Compare and contrast the theme of beauty of man and nature in "Pied Beauty" by Gerard Manley Hopkins and sonnet "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge" by William Wordsworth.that begin and end the poem. however. Of course." The first example of Wordsworth's praise of nature is found in lines such as:A sight so touching in its majesty. So whereas "pied" can mean multi-colored... In the poet's sight are elements of nature. in that these traits and opposites are also two-toned in their own way (although we may not have thought of them as elements of "beauty")../.. the association can also be tied to the Pied Piper of Hamelin. the content of the poem is used to lift up specific images in nature that the poet feels are worthy of adoration.dressed in pied (multicolored) clothing.Never did sun more beautifully steep.The river glideth at his own sweet will.. focusing on traits such as being different. and even the trades of men. Of course./.Open unto the fields. this beauty is irresistible. In the first stanza.. Use of the word "pied" is defined as.. then. mottled The next line continues.. William Wordsworth was a first-generation Romantic poet.. In this story./ Compare. leading the children away from the town. Hopkins even enters the world of opposite abstractions with the mention of fast and slow. freckléd (who knows how?) . "He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: / Praise him. he focuses on things that are beautiful in their dissimilarity..... the Pied Piper was a piper........ In other words. roasted chestnuts... it also alludes to a sense of enchantment. The poem's structure.Whatever is fickle...

but now. the poet composed his Petrarchan sonnet in a tone peaceful and serene. He goes on to describe the way that the river (which he personifies) glides along at the slow pace it chooses." This statement is surprising because Wordsworth is not speaking of nature. The next personifications are of the sun and the river. Dorothy Wordsworth." By using personification in his poem. we would not have this lyric to enjoy. or successive accented syllables. the speaker describes what he sees as he stands on Westminster Bridge looking out at the city. This CITy NOW doth. theaters. or hill"). He then lists what he sees in the city and mentions that the city seems to have no pollution and lies "Open unto the fields. and to the sky. Analysis "Composed upon Westminster Bridge. but of the city. where Wordsworth's mistress Annette Vallon was living with the ten-year-old Caroline. which has a symbolic heart. The poem was actually written about an experience that took place on July 31. unconcerned with the getting and spending that he decries elsewhere. commencing with two metrically irregular lines of 5 accents. been a dismal day of rain. rock. and temples. even on natural things. saying that "the houses seem asleep" and the heart of the city is still. or protect but emphasizes bare beauty. 1802 falls into the category of Momentary Poems. in the early morning hours. domes. WEAR The BEAUty OF the MORning: SIlent. I will convey my scansion by placing the stressed syllables in capitals. in fields of daffodils. domes." The catalog of manmade structures includes "Ships. This becomes even more clear in the next line. The spondaic substitution. He goes on to list the beautiful man-made entities therein. the speaker tells the reader that the sun has never shone more beautifully. exulting in an urban morning cityscape. Wordsworth continues to surprise his reader by saying that the sun has never shone more beautifully. Wordsworth's sonnet Composed upon Westminster Bridge. Looking back in the brilliant morning sunlight at the sleeping city of London. The verb "steep" in the opening of the sestet . lends emphasis to the emotional feeling that strikes the poet." In lines 9 through 14. 1802" is an Italian sonnet. He begins by saying that there is nothing "more fair" on Earth than the sight he sees. giving life to the sun. which is usually seen as a simple construction of rock and metal. BARE. The reader imagines that the city's heart beats rapidly during the day. The poem ends with an exclamation. the houses. the river. and finally to the whole city. He presents a panorama of London. thinks and feels on a specific day at a specific moment. Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy had traveled to London to take a ship to France. clothe. The poem takes place in the "beauty of the morning. The coach taking him and his sister to the seaside dock paused on the Westminster Bridge that crosses the Thames. when the reader learns that the air is "smokeless" (free from pollution). Wordsworth brings a kind of spirit to the city. The rhyme scheme of the poem is abbaabbacdcdcd. Fair weather is often an inspirational awakening to the muse of poetry. theatres and temples. nature's influence isn't described until the 7th line. and that he has never seen or felt such deep calm. He then personifies the scene." Paradox intrudes as the garment worn by the city is bright and glittering sunshine that does not conceal. towers. while everything and everyone in it is bustling about." In fact." While the city itself may not be a part of nature. Here is a romantic who spends most of his time in the Lake Country. September 3. especially for a Romantic poet: "Earth has not anything to show more fair.Sonnet Composed Upon Westminster Bridge In lines 1 through 8. which together compose a single sentence. fog or overcast skies. 1802 during a trip to France with Wordsworth's sister. the city's heart is "lying still. 1802. it is certainly not in conflict with nature. The second quatrain generalizes about the skyline shapes without detailing them. such as "Ships. The poet has personified London through his use of the simile "like a garment" and the verb "wear. even on nature ("valley . Had September 3. when the speaker relates that the city is "open to the fields. EARTH HAS not ANYthing to SHOW more FAIR: DULL would he BE of SOUL who could PASS BY (And then lines of regular iambic pentameter:) A SIGHT so TOUCHing IN its MASterY. and to the sky. The poet is describing what he sees. whom Wordsworth had sired but had never seen. written in iambic pentameter with ten syllables per line. The poem begins with a rather shocking statement. LIKE a GARment. and that anyone who could pass the spot without stopping to look has a "dull" soul. towers. September 3." which lies like a blanket over the silent city.

Paul's... called an inner borough... smelly fish. Westminster.. 5 simile: This City now doth like a garment wear / The beauty of the morning: silent bare (comparison of beauty to a garment) Line 13: metaphor: Dear God! the very houses seem asleep.|.. such as cde.. cdc..of SOUL | who COULD.... cdc.......|....... cde. The houses were not overhung with their cloud of smoke and they were spread out endlessly.. silent streets. when London was still asleep and the fires of factories had yet to be stoked. The message here is that even an ugly. does a person change in relation to his or her environment or in relation to the time of day or another factor? • Write an essay that compares and contrasts the tone and theme of "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge" with the tone and theme of Wordsworth's "The World Is Too Much With Us... St..3... Rhyme Scheme and Meter The rhyme scheme of "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge" and other Petrarchan sonnets is as follows: (1) first stanza (octave): abba. . rock.. softening.|. with ten syllables (five iambic feet) per line.|.he BE. The City.... abba.. makes the sun "in his first splendour" a benefactor. .1.." • What is the meaning of in his first splendour (line 10)? ..|. The meter of the poem is iambic pentameter.... when most of the residents were still in bed and the factories had not yet stoked their fires and polluted the air with smoke. The personified morning sun performs these actions on "valley.3.4. made a most beautiful sight....to SHOW.1.... barking dogs.... cd. (comparison of houses to a creature that sleeps) Study Questions and Writing Topics • Write a poem describing a view of your community at dawn or at sunset.. or hill.. and bestows on the river a will of its own. . 1802.|. or cde..4. alliteration: Dull would he be of soul who could pass by Line 3......|. Setting The setting is London as seen from Westminster Bridge...5 Dull WOULD. • Can the theme of the poem apply to a person? In other words.. is now part of London.. Theme: Seeing the City in a New Light London during the workday was rude and dirty. imbuing. bleaching." The magic performed by the sun on the City....... He and his sister. Examples of other figures of speech in the poem are as follows: Line 2...... grimy urchins. dce. dust. unpeopled boats on the River Thames--bobbing and swaying--and the glory of empty. were crossing the bridge in a coach taking them to a boat for a trip across the English Channel to France. ringing hammers.......... Inspiration Wordsworth's inspiration for the poem was the view he beheld from Westminster Bridge on the morning of July 31. and the mighty... Dorothy wrote: We mounted the Dover Coach at Charing Cross.. "Dull would [they] be of soul" who do not feel the power and excitement of this lyric. In her diary.... the city joined with nature to present the early riser a tableau of glistening waters... Dorothy.... It was a beautiful morning..can support a variety of definitions including cleansing..... yet the sun shone so brightly with such pure light that there was even something like a purity of Nature's own grand spectacles.. soundless swan.. .... bathing.more FAIR: . It dresses the city in a garment and gives it a heart.. A walk across a bridge or through streets and alleyways confronted the pedestrian with smoke.. which connects the south bank of the Thames River with Westminster on the north bank. clacking carts. But at dawn on a cloudless morning.. .) The first two lines of the poem demonstrate the metric pattern: ... cd (or another combination....5 Earth HAS.2. while the Thames "glideth at his own sweet will. majestic towers... .. (2) second stanza (sestet): cd... rotting fruit.y THING. jostling shoppers. with the River and a Multitude of little boats.pass BY Imagery The most striking figure of speech in the poem is personification.. alliteration: A sight so touching in its majesty Lines 4. (An iambic foot consists of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable..2..........not AN.." induces in the poet a feeling of calm... as though the personified houses were peacefully asleep. throbbing heart of the metropolis is wrapped in stillness.. quacking duckling can become a lovely.

to pass over the Westminster Bridge that morning without stopping to marvel at the sights. 1802. Contrast this sonnet with a poem written about a decade before by William Blake. 1802 In A Nutshell In the summer of 1802. We imagine him all groggy at 6 in the morning. The city. not the beginning of September. Dorothy. Everything becomes simple and bright. the Lake District in England. no taste for beauty. Summary The speaker declares that he has found the most beautiful scene on earth. London. The various landmarks visible from the bridge. as in William Wordsworth's case. Even if you lived in the most scenic place on earth. They left London early on the morning of July 31st. This is it. [Note from Shmoop: a coach is a small carriage drawn by horses. made a beautiful sight as we crossed Westminster Bridge. we assume. This is actually pretty cool. "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge" captures the feeling of those lucky moments when it seems that the tired. Wordsworth did live in one of the most scenic places on earth. there. yet the sun shone so brightly. stares out at the scene. that there was something like the purity of one of Nature's own grand spectacles. if he had lived in London. . France. "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge" was not published until 1807. he was like." At this point in Wordsworth's career. Yes. Wordsworth apparently wrote the sonnet while sitting on top of his coach. old world is made completely new again. In fact. he was writing at the peak of his powers. stand before him in all their grandeur in the morning light. September 3. they ran into "various troubles and disasters. written in plain language that any Englishman could understand. not to mention the injustices it contained. while traveling." Dorothy frequently traveled with her brother – the two were like best friends – and her journals provide an interesting counterpoint to Wordsworth's poetry. so he had grown painfully aware of the grunginess of the city. "Yup. On the other hand. whether on the first day of spring or after falling in love or. but as a beautiful depiction of London in the morning. Fortunately. and then he looks out the window is like. having already published the hugely influential Lyrical Ballads with his friend and fellow genius Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Instead. now this sounds familiar. Blake lived in London for much of his life. and jots down the notes that will become this poem. They stopped in London where. because if you were to go hunting for beautiful sights. Although he had been to London before." And it's true./Near where the chartered Thames does flow. It just goes to show how a change of scenery can make a great difference in whether the world looks fresh or faded. in 1802. as Dorothy charmingly wrote in her journal. in Poems in Two Volumes. "Whoa. marks of woe. even that activity would probably get old after a while. has these feelings at one time or another. No matter. you'd probably grow accustomed to it after a while. and Dorothy wrote about crossing over the famous Westminster Bridge to get out of town: Left London between five and six o'clock of the morning outside the Dover coach. You think to yourself. called "London": I wander through each chartered street. Hmm. "Whoa. Paul's Cathedral and the Tower of London. I couldn't possibly find a more beautiful vision than this./And mark in every face I meet. the houses not overhung by their clouds of smoke. it might be time to take a trip to see new sights and new people. The poem is remembered not as a biographical record. The time is so early that all is quiet. he might not have been so impressed. For Wordsworth. London is wearing the morning's beauty like a fine shirt or cape. right? Well. Pretty bleak. William Wordsworth traveled with his sister. there happens to be no "London fog" to obscure the view. that "freshly-minted penny" feeling tends to come when we least expect it. the feeling of newness usually comes when you're actually looking at something new or unusual. climbs atop the coach. to Calais. you're lookin' good./Marks of weakness. As you probably know. including St. Everyone. it happened as he rode across the Westminster Bridge in his coach. Whenever you start to fall into a rut.Composed Upon Westminster Bridge. When he finally made his way into the city. with the river – a multitude of little boats. it still felt like a different world to him. with such a pure light. St Paul's. September 3. stop the coach!" And he hops out. You'd have to be someone with no spiritual sense.] A beautiful morning. and were spread out endlessly. Maybe he was so awed by the city because he didn't live there: he was a country mouse who spent much of his time up in the scenic Lake District of England." Only poor Wordsworth got the date wrong when he published the poem under this title in 1807 – it was the end of July. like a freshly-minted penny. it's the same scene described by her brother in "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge.

Been there. • These lines hint that maybe the morning.The speaker compares the sunlight on the buildings to the light that shines on the countryside.. he's exaggerating./Ships." It contrasts with the image of the city wearing clothing from line 4. as we might expect by now (hurry up. I can't imagine anywhere being more beautiful than the place I'm standing. but since that's all anyone can do we'll let him run with this one. "At this particular moment. the speaker makes a bold statement: he has found the most beautiful scene on the planet. letting us know that he's going to tell us what earth is "showing" after the line break. Lines 1-8 Summary Line 1 Earth has not anything to show more fair: • While crossing over the Westminster Bridge. In general terms. and to the sky. • The line ends with a colon. • He uses another colon: maybe now he'll stop keeping us in suspense and describe this amazing view. "That's one heck of a garment. the speaker tries to express how beautiful it is from another angle as well.of soul. "Oh. who just passed by with a glance. the ships and buildings are nude. the word "now" shows that the beauty depends on the time of day. Anyone could be wearing it. • He justifies his decision to stop his coach along the way to look at the view from the bridge. domes. The words "silent" and "bare" are positioned in the poem such that they could describe either the morning or the sights. you could have seen a lot of the highlights of London." an intriguing phrase that suggests both intimacy and grandeur. wear/The beauty of the morning. and temples lie/Open unto the fields. The River Thames moves slowly beneath him. • We learn what time it is: London "wears" the morning like a nice coat or some other piece of clothing ("garment"). • He says that anyone who didn't stop. Here. • The person who could just pass by has been jaded and worn down by experience to the point of dullness. "Touching" scenes are often small and intimate. theatres. is responsible for the stunning quality of the view. transient beauty. In a burst of emotion. and the iconic Tower of London. the speaker would think. He really means something like. It's a fleeting. which is another meaning of the word "dull. there. From Westminster Bridge in 1802. seen that. and he seems surprised to feel more at peace in the bustling city than he has anywhere else. the sights are the more obvious choice. He's also boring. 7. . not London itself. the speaker describes some of the sights that are visible from Westminster Bridge. including the "ships" of the River Thames. 6. • The speaker feels both awed by and close to the landscape. Now it's just London again.) Lines 5-7 silent. though. The setting is "silent" because of the early hour which. Line 2-3 Dull would he be of soul who could pass by/A sight so touching in its majesty: • Instead of trying to describe the scene." The opposite of dull is sharp. so we're imagining that the speaker's soul must be like one of those knives they advertise on TV that can cut through coins. As in. Maybe when the morning is over." It's almost more a reflection of his mood than of the outside world. as it were. bare. and you'd be like. a sonnet is only 14 lines long!). 5. Lines 4-5 This City now doth. The view from Westminster Bridge combines both this elements. towers. but the ambiguity is important. we know was around 5 or 6am. like a garment. and London is forced to change clothes. 8. from Dorothy Wordsworth's journal. He can't compare the scene from the bridge with anything except his own memories. he pictures the city as blissfully asleep before another busy day. designed by the architect Christopher Wren. like a snow-covered mountain or a king entering a throne room. Paul's Cathedral." • Of course." • Similarly. 9. the "dome" of the famous St. All you other artists can call off the search! Wordsworth has located the very heart of beauty.. the garment could be so beautiful that it doesn't matter what the person wearing it looks like. would be "dull. or "fairness." • The sight from the bridge is "touching in its majesty. "Majestic" scenes are often large and public." (There we go with our skepticism again. Because of the semi-colon before them. like a kid giving flowers to his sick grandmother. "Bare" is an interesting word that means "naked" or "unadorned.

called an "octet. who spent most of his life in rural parts of England. In London. 11. 6. Basically. 8. rock. a calm so deep!/The river glideth at his own sweet will: 5. • The city looks like one big. a boulder or mountainous cliff ("rock").. • The last two lines mark a shift in tone with their two exclamation marks. such as a valley. He focuses on the early morning summer sunlight.10.. bustling city. 5." 6. That's a little like saying you go to Manhattan to get away from it all. as in San Francisco. These sights would have been more familiar to Wordsworth than the scenery of London. The speaker seems to again compare London to places that you would normally think of as calming. He means that neither the characteristic London Fog nor smoke from chimneys obscures the bright light. one that puts us "in the moment" of his passing experience. But it's an innocent exaggeration. sleeping body. 7. 6. or a hillside. The tone goes from amazed to Really Amazed! Symbolism. but rather the city's energy or vitality." The word "glittering" in particular suggests that the scene is not static but rather constantly changing with the shifting light. Despite being all crowded together within one city. • The "heart" of this body is "lying still" for the moment before the city awakens for a new day. 5. The word "steep" means to submerge or cover – think of how you let a tea bag "steep" in water. He describes how the vision of London makes him feel calm. 10./And all that mighty heart is lying still! • You would think the speaker couldn't possibly get more excited about this view after declaring it the most beautiful thing on earth. Line 8 All bright and glittering in the smokeless air. The speaker continues on the topic of the Greatest Scene Ever. when it's actually the people inside the houses who are sleeping at this early hour. is the Big Ben clock – it wasn't built yet. 7." 8. valley. Lines 11-12 Ne'er saw I. One source points out that London had fields that were close to the city in 1802 but that no longer exist (source). peaceful. This section of the poem engages in the personification of various elements of the picture." What a word. Here the river is described as a patient person who takes his time and doesn't allow himself to be rushed. The speaker sums up the whole scene at the end of the poem's first chunk of eight lines. or hill. he's ragging on his hometown. which is perhaps surprising because London is a huge. One thing you could not have seen in 1802. Imagery The Most Beautiful Thing Ever Wordsworth's claim that his vision of London is the best on earth is clearly an exaggeration. Shh. he compares the morning sunlight falling on the city to the sunlight that might cover more remote parts of the countryside. which makes the buildings "bright and glittering. not to mention impossible to verify. • He cries out to God as if he has just recognized something astonishing he had not noticed before. like the hills and valleys from line 10. the speaker gives an impression of spaciousness by noting that the ships and buildings are "open" to the fields of London and to the sky. The speaker returns to his bold claim from the beginning of the poem: that earth has never presented a scene quite so beautiful as this one. such as the picturesque Lake District in the northwest part of the country. Specifically. Our favorite word in the poem is "smokeless. • He personifies the houses as asleep. 12. but no: he gets more excited. it is common for fog to cover the city throughout the morning. The speaker is lucky to catch the city on a morning that is completely free of fog. 9. The river Thames is not a fast-moving river. 7. Lines 13-14 Dear God! the very houses seem asleep.don't wake it. "First splendour" just means morning. He moves according to "his own sweet will. It's really not much different from an expression that many people use all the time nowadays: . The heart probably doesn't refer to anything specific. never felt. 8. Lines 9-10 Never did sun more beautifully steep/In his first splendour. saying even it can't compare with this view of London. but that you could see today.

• Line 13: The houses are personified as sleeping people because the city is quiet and still. . the people inside the houses are the ones who are asleep. As in the first line. or exaggeration. Wordsworth talks a little like a contemporary teenager. while a majestic one is grand and public. a "garment. A touching sight is intimate and personal. Clothing and Nudity In "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge. a large part of the city's charm early in the morning is the fact that this huge metropolis – a hub of energy and activity – lies completely still. He's like the person in front of you at the supermarket who's going to spend 10 minutes at the cash register and there's nothing you can do about it. or whether that person is beautiful as well. so London must be personified. In the implicit metaphor. Wordsworth comes close to capturing the indescribable feeling of familiarity and distance all at once. • Line 4: The morning light is compared to clothes worn by London. or the most awkward party ever. but those are strangely disconcerting). like its houses. This raises the question of whether it's only the clothes that make the person beneath them beautiful. so the city seems metaphorically asleep." perhaps because the city." Sleep For the speaker. In other words." • Line 14: Is the city. • Line 2: The word "dull" suggests a contrast with a knife or some other sharp object. in reference to the city." like a person in bed. It would have been a metaphor if Wordsworth had written. with its energetic "heart. too. A "garment" is just an article of clothing. all things relating to ancient Greece and Rome). He creates the impression that nature is a living being with a soul." in a simile. Most people are still literally asleep. Things as People Wordsworth uses personification in several places in the poem. as opposed to a Shakespearian sonnet or a Spenserian sonnet.saying that such-and-such is the most fun ever. Rhyme. • Line 10: "His first splendour" is a roundabout way of talking about the sunrise. and houses. • Lines 9-11: Lines 9 and 11 have a parallel structure. • Line 3: To say that something is "touching in its majesty" is almost a paradox." also being compared to a sleeping person? We think so. The sun is personified as a male.e. Romantic poets appreciated Petrarchan sonnets in part because Italy was thought to be the hub of classical European civilization. With this phrase. in which he claims that the effect of the morning light on London creates a beauty that has "never" been experienced before. and they loved the classics (i. Petrarch was a famous Italian Renaissance poet whose sonnets eventually became well known across Europe. • Line 5: The word "bare" could be a pun that means both "open to view" or "unadorned" but also "naked. • Line 12: The river is personified as a person who likes to take things at his own pace. a contradiction in terms. dogs can wear sweaters. The heart is "lying still. Only people can wear clothing (OK. you really outdid yourself on this one. sun. these claims are hyperboles. • Line 4: The morning beauty is compared to clothing. • Line 14: The city is personified as a person with a heart. • Line 13: This line contains a simile that compares the inactivity of the houses to the sleeping people within them. In reality. It's as if all these forces have decided to come together to treat the speaker to a "One Morning Only!" show of Nature's Greatest Marvels. the dull person's soul has been worn down by time and experience. is asleep. river.." clothes are a metaphor for the way the city and nature in general seem to put on different appearances depending on the way the light "dresses" them. • Line 1: Earth. "the very houses are asleep. because the heart is "lying still. The claim that no sight is more beautiful than the view from Westminster Bridge is a case of hyperbole. or the best movie ever. Form & Meter Petrarchan Sonnet in Iambic Pentameter "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge" is a Petrarchan sonnet.

" and "Ne-ver. This usually vibrant city is calm. Suddenly the city turns into a big sleeping body. because he is able to compare the London scene with the sunlight that falls on "valley. the time is around 5 or 6am. he gets really excited. Though these details aren't captured in the poem itself. with its many green hills and valleys. stopped on the Westminster Bridge and standing on top of the coach. all will be bustle and hubbub once again. as do the innumerable ships docked along the crowded river. he scans the city from one end to the other. arduous day. "glit-tering. both begin on stressed beats: "Earth" and "Dull. which is one of the reasons he is considered one of the first "modern" English poets. consisting of five ("penta") pairs of unstressed and stressed beats ("iambs"): Dear God! | the ver|-y hous|-es seem | a-sleep. when this guy gets excited about something. rock. Except his hands are words." He's like that friend who gets carried away every time he has a new favorite song: "You have to hear this. Everyone else is safe in his or her bed. begins with an accent. one way he accomplishes this gesturing is with accents at the beginning of lines. The light makes London appear to be a completely different city. for once. can we trust her or him? Though we'd love to be able to say that the speaker is a guy from the Lake District passing through London on the way to France with his sister (see "In a Nutshell"). or hill. the buildings begin to glitter. The streets are mostly empty. and he calls them "dull [.. both because the speaker is clearly in a relaxed mood and. The poem is written in a loose iambic pentameter. But not all of the lines follow this pattern. Only one pair of rhyming lines is slant (not quite a real rhyme. "What about that song you heard last week that was the 'greatest ever'?" But he says. the poem makes a "turn" (or volta in Italian) and begins to elaborate in a different way on the subject or. The poem should be read slowly and calmly. The sun has begun to rise. In the second half of the poem. of course. making sweeping motions with his hands toward the city at large." "Ships." And you're like. Clearly. Sound Check The language in this poem seems to mimic the gesturing of a person pointing out sights: "Look over there! Now look here!" Imagine Wordsworth. for example. more importantly. breaking up the iambic pentameter pattern. so that we can imagine everything he wants us to see. He has no patience for people who cannot appreciate beauty.. but he decides that even these cannot compare with the vision before him. beginning their long. sometimes. Each word. In the last six lines he returns to the idea of unparalleled beauty. and." "O-pen. and there's no traffic to hold them up. Formally. this time comparing London to the countryside." "Dull. the speaker could be a Londoner. We can guess that the only others awake were the working-class laborers." He also accents important visual cues like "bright. born and raised. this song is the greatest!" His moment-by-moment approach to life makes him fun to be around because he carries an infectious enthusiasm. this is how we imagine the scene. they can't resist getting out of their coach to marvel at the scene." This loose rhythm comes closer to capturing momentary experience and a conversational tone than a stricter meter would. He thinks of his explorations around the English countryside. Speaker Point of View Who is the speaker. As Dorothy wrote in her journal. The impression is made even more touching by speaker's knowledge that. in a few hours. "Earth. Wordsworth's sonnet has a more subtle turn. but almost): "by" and "majesty" in lines 2 and 3. introduce a new topic altogether." and "smoke-less. pointing out all he sees along the way. casting a bright yellow light over those famous London landmarks. where they will cross over to Calais. At the ninth line. For all we know. In the first eight lines he introduces the idea that he has never seen such beauty before and then describes the scene.A Petrarchan sonnet has fourteen lines that are divided into two sections: one with eight lines and one with six." Setting Where It All Goes Down Wordsworth and his sister. As the sun moves from the horizon. "Huh? No. there is no fog. Some parts are slower than . wake up early to catch a coach to the port of Dover. It's the greatest song I've ever heard. Finally. the speaker has obviously spent at least some time in the countryside. Dorothy. and the sky seems airy and spacious. The rhyme scheme is fairly simple: ABBAABBA CDCDCD.] of soul. the poem tells us none of these things. But when Wordsworth and his sister cross the famous Westminster Bridge over the Thames River. seriously. The first two lines. more importantly. The speaker can almost see the expansion and contraction of the houses. Wordsworth tried to write how regular people speak. France. the speaker reflects on other times when he has felt a similar sense of peace and wellbeing." In line 6. though. Unlike many a damp London morning. as if they were taking deep breaths. can she or he read minds.

July 13." "London." Sometimes his urge to give us information leads to titles that seem much longer than they need to be. on my way to France. Wordsworth was attracted to the scene by the juxtaposition (or contradiction) of a chaotic metropolis that seemed to be resting or "asleep. characteristically tried to capture the visions and emotions of momentary experiences. 1798. trying not to wake the baby. by the morning light. the final lines slow down to a near-crawl. Questions About Awe and Amazement • Does the amount of formal skill and concentration that must have been required to write this poem undermine Wordsworth's attempt to convey a spontaneous. Also. Because the speaker knows that such a combination does not happen very often. wide-eyed and open-mouthed. 1802." 3. September 3. including the unusual absence of any fog and the way the light strikes the ships and buildings. like someone who is tiptoeing toward an infant's crib. 1989. Theme of Transience The poem makes clear that London is not entirely responsible for its beauty in the morning. bare" in line 5 that don't seem completely attached to what comes before or after them. August 1802." and "Composed by the Sea-side. during our honeymoon. which stands near the lake of Esthwaite. because the poem is a spontaneous record of passing experience. A number of factors. "Taken in Hawaii. The speaker believes you have to take advantage of such opportunities when you have them. Also." which sounds even more spontaneous. the neatness and precision of the sonnet form might seem at odds with the speaker's spontaneous bursts of joy. on a desolate part of the shore." Talk about Too Much Information! Theme of Awe and Amazement This poem is a classic example of someone being taken by surprise by beauty and just staring at it. start a debate. and even that date is inaccurate. 1802. near Calais. childlike joy? • Does the speaker seem more amazed by the city itself. or play the devil’s advocate.. All the more important to be careful and quiet when that "infant" is one of the biggest cities in the world. combine to make a perfect scene. on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. which is appropriate. Wordsworth "peoples" the city with inanimate things like the light. That Wordsworth mistook the date when he published the poem some five years later tells us that it most likely did not have a title to begin with." William Wordsworth’s Calling Card What is the poet’s signature style? Caption-Like Titles The Romantics. assuming there will always be other chances to see such beauty. Questions About Transience • What is it about the early morning that makes the city appear different than at other times? . is that these poets' titles often instead sound like the dry captions that people write on the back of photographs to remember where and when they were taken: ex. The second half of the poem contains more description than the first. and the houses. or that its original title was just meant to be temporary. A quick look at his works reveals titles like "Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey. Most scholars agree that the poem was written on July 31. 1802. not on September 3. An interesting flip-side. Try on an opinion or two. On the other hand. the speaker spends a significant portion of the poem talking about how great the scenery is rather than describing it." Many poets throughout history have used such caption-like titles. the river. 2. like his poem titled "Left upon a Seat in a Yew-tree. The published title makes the poem almost sound like a journal entry. "Written on the roof of a coach. Despite the absence of most people at such an early hour. a group of poets that includes Wordsworth. but Wordsworth and his crew used them more than most. We've also seen it called. like the two words "silent. That London can be a real screamer if it doesn't get its rest! What’s Up With the Title? The title tells us nothing about the poem except where and when it was written. he thinks that a person would be foolish just to pass by. commanding a beautiful prospect. or only by the combination of the two? • How does the use of personification contribute to the speaker's sense of awe? • How does the speaker's tone change in the last two lines? What do you think brings about this subtle change? Chew on This 1. But usually you'll see it presented as either "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge" or "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge.others. though. We don't know too many people who speak in Petrarchan sonnets when they're happy.

Questions About Man and the Natural World • What is the effect of the personification of the sun and river? • In what ways does the city resemble a natural space in this poem? • How might the speaker's appreciation of the city change if it were crowded with people? • Why would the sunlight be more beautiful on buildings than on natural landmarks like valleys and hills? Chew on This 1. He seems surprised himself. 6. start a debate. or play the devil’s advocate. The poem expresses the speaker's desire to stop time. breaking down the barrier between the two. 2. He abstracts the buildings and landmarks of London from their inhabitants. Wordsworth's use of personification attempts to paint the beauty of nature as an achievement of human culture. Try on an opinion or two. so if you took the whole of Wordsworth's poetic works. Maybe the answer to this riddle is that Wordsworth integrated the city into his general vision of the countryside. Few writers. Theme of Contrasting Regions: City and Countryside City. in which the city teems with unnatural political and social problems. and the speaker goes so far as to compare it favorably with the solitude of nature. Countryside. In this poem. The element of surprise accounts for the speaker's enthusiasm. 3. The city wins! OK. Contrast Wordsworth's attitude with the attitude of William Blake in his poem "London. start a debate. to prevent the city from ever "waking up. The poem tells us very little about how Wordsworth feels about everyday city life. The city's freshness is more beautiful than the freshness of the countryside because it runs counter to expectation. London seems like a part of nature rather than a separate sphere of existence. "so touching in its majesty" (line 3)? Why is this phrase almost like a paradox? • What is the purpose of the speaker's claim that only a dull person would be able to pass by a scene like this one? • What does the image of the light as a garment suggest about the permanence or impermanence of the vision? Chew on This 1. the score would probably run more like: City. 250. Awe and Amazement Quotes Quote #1 Earth has not anything to show more fair: (line 1) . or play the devil’s advocate. Questions About Contrasting Regions: City and Countryside • Would you guess that the speaker is native or foreign to the city? Why? • Do you think that the speaker is aware that he is using exaggeration in calling the vision the most beautiful that earth has to offer? • Do you think that the Wordsworth's sense of calm had anything to do with the fact that he was in the process of leaving the city? Why or why not? • How do the poem's images juxtapose the city with the countryside? Where can you tell these two regions apart? Chew on This 1. Countryside. But we still think he would have been very unhappy if he had been forced to move to London permanently. Theme of Man and the Natural World Wordsworth is the quintessential nature poet. 0. have expressed their love for rural life quite so much as Wordsworth. 1. Try on an opinion or two.• How do you explain the phrase." from the Songs of Experience. Try on an opinion or two. The image of a beautiful garment implies that the city is like a blank canvas that nature adorns. "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge" takes the view that the city can be surprisingly restful. rather than something possessing beauty on its own. or play the devil’s advocate." 3. Maybe that's why it's somewhat surprising to hear him say that he never felt so calm as he did when standing on London's Westminster Bridge. 2. past or present. start a debate. 2.

and you'll get an idea of how the phrase "touching in its majesty" works. because they won't last for long. (line 13) Transience Quotes Quote #1 Dull would he be of soul who could pass by (line 2) The speaker's message is that you have to take the good things as they come. (Lost? See "In a Nutshell. such as "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey" (also on Shmoop).") . wear/The beauty of the morning. Paul's Cathedral in London). Even the sun is remade every morning. (line 10) Wordsworth is famous for his poems that praise natural wilderness and pastoral life. so the speaker gives "earth" all the credit for the beauty of the scene. to say the least. "smokeless air" was something to get excited about for a Londoner in Wordsworth's time. Quote #3 the smokeless air. In other words. valley. never felt. (line 7-8) These images give London an almost heavenly appearance. It's a poem about a person's emotions "in the moment. rock. The speaker catches London at a time after the sun has risen but before most people have awoken for work or play. Not to mention the frequent fogs that appear on a chilly London morning. Quote #2 This City now doth. a product of human culture. bare. At this moment. Quote #5 The river glideth at his own sweet will: (line 12) Even the images of nature play against the expectation of feeling rushed and harried by the city. of the world made fresh and new again. What about all the people who designed and built those towers and domes? Poor Christopher Wren. silent. The dull person can't appreciate the transient nature of beauty. (lines 4-5) Garments are things you can put on and take off. Quote #5 And all that mighty heart is lying still! (line 14) This moment will not last long. The river does not allow itself to be rushed. the effects of the light are compared to clothing. Quote #4 In his first splendour (line 10) The poem is about making the old seem new again. Nature is the vast frame that surrounds the scene on all sides. It flows at a slow and even pace. Quote #3 All bright and glittering in the smokeless air. This is not a philosophical poem. though. and even throw away when they get old and ratty. Interestingly. the city happens to be wearing a particularly stunning garment. To hear him speak about his beloved valleys and hills in anything less than glowing terms is odd. or if you accidentally throw your whites in with your colors (doh!). It is hard to tell nature and culture apart. Quote #5 Dear God! the very houses seem asleep. or hill. Quote #4 Ne'er saw I." Quote #2A sight so touching in its majesty: (line 3) The speaker can only describe the beauty of the city using paradoxes like this one. Contrasting Regions: City and Countryside Quotes Quote #1 Earth has not anything to show more fair: (line 1) Hear that. and to the sky.The use of exaggeration (hyperbole) give the impression of childlike wonder. (lines 4-5) Nature brings out the beauty in the landmarks of London. Imagine telling a king that he's adorable. (Jeopardy points: Christopher Wren designed St. (line 8) The light on the buildings "glitters" like a precious metal. Lake District? Wordsworth totally dissed you behind your back. Quote #4 In his first splendour. They are transient by definition. The speaker might be describing the play of the sun on some of the windows. and certainly make the city seem less cramped and crowded. and then bowing before him. so the speaker's statement is unexpected. a calm so deep! (line 11) It's rare to feel completely at ease in a large city. like a garment. the elements of nature are like people that populate the empty-feeling city. wear/ The beauty of the morning. Quote #2 like a garment. (line 8) There's a reason chimney sweepers appear so often in 19th century depictions of London: it was a smoky city. Quote #3 Open unto the fields. The unusual silence of the city in the morning contributes to this feeling. pinching his cheeks. Man and the Natural World Quotes Quote #1 Earth has not anything to show more fair: (line 1) Ah./All bright and glittering in the smokeless air. Also. Each day is a new and transient world.

The reader sees that Wordsworth has a deep appreciation of London. there’s a distinct absence of detail by Wordsworth. a city. such as: “valley. wear (line 4) Rather than contrasting two regions. or whether he wants to use the beauty of the countryside. valley. And yet Wordsworth finds that he prefers this “mighty heart” when it’s lying still. and to the sky. (line 8) The beauty of the city is praised for things that people usually associate with the countryside instead: pure fresh air. Surprisingly he uses words that you might expect more from a poem about his home region. Considering he grew up in the Lake District it’s not surprising he likes his peace and quiet.there’s not just one right answer. Questions Bring on the tough stuff .Quote #2 This City now doth. silence. The speaker seems taken by surprise. making us feel the warmness from the rays. Our sense of touch is brought into use. or hill. Quote #5 Ne'er saw I. something that usually alludes to death. It's hard to tell if Wordsworth actually means to say that the London sunlight is more beautiful.” •The word “steep”is used to describe the sunrise for the reason to appeal to our senses. the theme of nature co-existing with man is introduced as these manmade buildings. but rather a nice peaceful sunrise.) • What was the most stunning landscape you have ever seen? Did you have a chance to stop and stare at it for a while? • Do you find that the world looks better in the early morning? If so. but as the fifth line reveal. or at least this particular London setting? Blasphemy! • Do you agree that the poem is written in simple. . • The final line of the poem gives the sense that London is the heart of England and taking into the account of the date. Quote #3 the smokeless air. rock or hill. rock. • Would Wordsworth have appreciated the city so much if he had lived there? • Why does this famous nature poet compare nature unfavorably with London. We are told that Earth has nothing fairer and that it’s a sight so touching that only a dull person would be unable to pass it by and yet he does not name what this sight is. you could see the poem as integrating two regions – the natural and the man-made. a far cleaner London that really exists. only in the early hours of the morning. the heart of the world. a calm so deep! (line 11) The words "not" and "never" express the singular beauty of the city throughout the poem. The reader can now see a very vivid setting of London from above. This gives the imagery of the city being looked at from above. Wordsworth uses rather simple language to get the point across of London’s unsophisticated beauty. “Open unto the fields. never felt. Wordsworth set the scenes while creating an air of suspense. •The single word “splendour”is used to explain the grandeur of the scene before Wordsworth.” •The sestet begins on line nine and here we have a slight subject change. the Lake District. (line 9-10) These lines are the most explicit contrast between the city and the countryside. •In the seventh line. This is also emphasised by the lack of sounds and olfactory however this does not neglect imagery but rather enhances it. Quote #4 Never did sun more beautifully steep/In his first splendour. • The next two line leaves the reader surprise as we found out that this amazing sight is. as a way to express the unique qualities of the morning. why? If not. The city "wears" the pure sunlight like a shirt or jacket. However Wordsworth prefers London this way. Wordsworth stops merely describing London and begins to talk more about nature. •Words such as “bright”. • In line six. what's your favorite time of day and why? Analysingthe Poem • In the first three lines. which he takes for granted. common language? (Keep in mind that simple language was a little different back in the early 19th century. and bright skies. If it was being looked at from ground level then the buildings listed would be in more detail than from above. Language Techniques Firstly. “glittering”and especially “smokeless air”are used to describe the manmade features of London in a way that makes them feel more in tuned with nature. as if he never would have thought that London could produce a sense of calm. without the hustle and bustle of everyday life. like a garment.

• Wordsworth believe that London’s beauty is unsophisticated but still amazing. with actions described by diction such as "steep". does not clash with nature but becomes a part of it. and long vowel sounds such as "glideth" and "silent" emphasize the calm feeling of the occasion. • There’s only an appreciation for London’s beauty in the morning not in the day. the air is clean and only the light of the sun illuminates the city. And yet these sleepy houses are far more pleasant when they’re asleep. Wordsworth uses commas to break up the rhythm of the line. at this particular point of day. Meanwhile the city is able to wear a garment. half of them being long and heavy syllables followed by 5 short syllables. This is where each line consists of 10 syllables. in Wordsworth's poem. On the other hand. it is the sight that emerges. that’s the meaning of the poem however there’s a few other lesser meanings as well. Wordsworth exclaims “Dear God!”for the houses are usually alive with activities. This boring scheme matches the simple language of the poem to get across the message. but it is inserted in natural scenery. And in the end. Generally when someone is asleep there’s a sense of calmness around them. • The rhythm scheme is that of a typically petrarchan sonnet. The poem depicts a vivid scene that is yet another fond memory shared between Wordsworth and his sister. In this poem. Structure and Rhythm • Composed Upon Westminster Bridge is a petrarchan sonnet. The spondaic substitution or successive accented syllables lends emphasis to the emotional feeling that strikes the poet. The passionate picture that the poem paints is a memory that calms and placates. and the houses are personified by their description of being asleep. by describing it as wearing the morning beauty "like a garment". the beauty of London. In Wordsworth's view. in fields of . Lastly. “like a garment wear…”. These images combine to create a breathtaking image of the morning. Wordsworth brings the scenery around him to life (an example of the Pathetic fallacy). Wordsworth uses Earth as an entity capable of action. the cathedrals. especially imagery. On the one hand in Blake's composition. and describing it as having the ability to "show". That London won’t be wearing this beautiful garment for long.However he does use the odd language device to get his point across. which is comprised of an octet and then an sestet. as it is referred to as "he". The compact description of London in lines six and seven emphasize the compactness of the city. ABBAABBA in the octet and a scheme of DEDEDE in the sestet. Despite this excitement created by the vivid descriptions. The image of the sun is powerful. London shows clean air and the sun illuminates the whole city. the theatres and the temples. hearing is the prevailing sense. Wordsworth personifies the Earth by giving it a capital letter. The octet is used to describe London and its manmade features while the sestet is more focused with the nature of the region. London is not introduced in its negative aspect. The poet transmits to the readers the calm and the tranquillity described in his poem. • To show his thought process. language and imagery The dominating theme in the poem is Nature. In Wordsworth's one. The description "bright and glittering in the smokeless air" creates a distinct image of the clarity of the morning. He uses beautiful language and clever literary devices. • Composed Upon Westminster Bridgehas an iambic pentameter. • The simile in line 4. the city itself is personified with the line "and all that mighty heart is lying still". Interpretation The meaning of Composed Upon Westminster Bridge is at first straight forward. tells the reader in a subtle way that London’s beauty is only passing. prevalent in this poem is a sense of calmness. The river is personified when it is described as having its "own sweet will". There are neither sounds or noises. In Blake's poem. He also personifies the city. This diction creates the image of sunlight slowly submerging into the Earth's splits. • Finally in line 13. the town is presented through the smoke that pervades the walls of the Churches. that London’s beauty is simple and should not be overlooked. This reiterates his conviction that the city. Themes. there is only silence. while the hearing is absent. These personifications again help us to draw the conclusion that Wordsworth is considering a sleeping city as part of nature. The author describes the beauty of the city as the towers. Wordsworth personifies the city along with the earth and the sun. to make the city come alive before the reader's eyes. • The scenery of London is brought to life by personification. the houses are personified to be asleep. The poem describes "a calm so deep" that "even the houses seem asleep". Here is a romantic who spends most of his time in the Lake District. • That London is the heart of Britain and perhaps the rest of the western world.

"Ne'er saw I. the word itself declaring an image." The poem expresses Wordsworth's impression upon viewing London. domes. buying and lending that he decries elsewhere. a calm so deep!" Your essay should examine the positive impression that London makes upon Wordsworth as he views it. As opposed to the city. while the second uses 'seem'. it is not itself. they both have the same effect as personification in that they give life and character to an inanimate scene. Cleanth Brooks' analysis of this poem in his essay "The Language of Paradox"). He notes various items making it obvious that he is in an urban setting. which states the impossible unity of two contradictory things: the industrial city and the organic beauty of nature (cf. the overflowing emotion of the poet. This is further emphasized by the fact that although the lines of the Petrarchan sonnet in English should be iambic pentameters. written in the Petrarchan sonnet form. 5./And all that mighty heart is lying still. they dominate over the sleeping city. it is dead. Wordsworth compares the city views from Westminster Bridge with natural scenery he has seen in the past. is thus alive because it is dead. The city is now more beautiful and more alive than nature itself./All bright and glittering in the smokeless air. and 12)." what two passages present London as a living being? 'This city now doth like a gament wear/The beauty of the morning. 'like a garment'. but open areas are visible. Thus the paradox that is developed all through the poem reaches its final statement in this line. In the second stanza. 4. at something that cannot be but is still there. exulting in an urban morning cityscape. Q: In "Composed upon Westminster Bridge September 3. The connection with the dress metaphor is established through the image of the city being steeped in the light of the sun and then the paradox is extended to the strange union of being dead (or asleep) and being alive. never felt. and the overall impression is not polluted or spoiled by the surrounding civilization.'/'Dear God! The very houses seem asleep. I'm not sure I would describe them as personification though. represented in the last line by the metaphor of the heart.' In both these cases apparently inanimate objects are given human qualities or abilities. the clear iambic rhythm also functions here on another level. The poem. The enjambments (and the eye rhyme) in the octave express the boundless admiration for this beautiful sight. The paradox is carried over and developed further in the sestet. specifically a simile. or hill" as well as the river are now active. towers. in the early morning. It is perfectly appropriate here because although there are no people in the scene we know . The city now is "lying still". Q: "Write an essay in which you explore the way the sonnet represents the city to the reader. The thematic development of the poem is seconded by the rhythms. The city. but wearing the beauty of the morning in fact means that the city is bare (naked): what it wears is just "the smokeless air". the sentence structure or a caesura disrupts the smooth iambic rhythm. rock.daffodils. The rhyming words steep – deep – asleep highlight these connections. However. because the first makes clear that it is an image. theatres and temples lie/Open unto the fields. 1802. This is true of all the lines except the very last one where the rhythms smoothes out and a perfect iambic pentameter ends the poem: "And all that mighty heart is lying still!" One function of this metrical development is clearly to mark the end of the poem. the impact on his view of life is identical. Ships. This paradox is introduced through the image of dress. describes the beauty of London in the early morning just when the sun rises. which the rhymes of the octave highlight: the city is fair (beautiful) because it wears "like a garment" the natural beauty of the morning. but this is only so because it is steeped in the light of the sun and is thus deep asleep. Even where the rhythm gets very close to this (lines 3. particularly the part of London visible from Westminster Bridge. the "valley. none of these lines are exactly iambic. unconcerned with the getting and spending. Apart from this. as is emphasized by the rhyming words hill – at their will – lying still. and to the sky. the sunlight. This sense of admiration is communicated through the development of a strange paradox. however. the iambic rhythm gives us a strong sense of the beating of a heart. It is as if he is looking at a wonder. because it is inactive and is dominated by its natural environment. and finds the comparison quite pleasing. and it is precisely because of this that it can come to life: the mighty heart begins to beat only when it is lying still. By the sound effect it creates it contradicts the explicit verbal meaning of the line in which it appears. The sunshine on the buildings is apparently just as pleasant as sunshine on mountains and valleys. We perceive the beauty of the city not so much through the description of what can be seen as through a sense of the admiration of the speaker. the natural parts of the landscape. it is dominated by its natural environment. which is "lying still". While the line says that the "mighty heart" of the city "is lying still".

Line 7 is typically Romantic in its stress on the beauty of nature. There is usually a TURN between the problem and the solution. so" to let you know that there is a change of mood. and the afterlife. 1802. so it's not as obvious to the reader. 6. say. the landscape of the city? In his poem titled “Composed upon Westminster Bridge. Line 8 is Romantic in its emphasis on air that is “smokeless” and thus untainted by the kind of ugliness often produced by humans living in large cities. • In line 2. She resists me. yet. It occurs in the sestet between lines 10 and 11. 6. This sonnet is an Italian sonnet. discusses the problem/situation and then solves the problem or makes a final comment. 3. . . particularly the kind of nature associated with the countryside. in other words. for the Italian. ." There are two basic types of sonnets: English (two divisions here include Shakespearian and Spenserian) and Italian (Petrarchan). Sept. to London as A sight so touching in its majesty . Of particular interest. tone. which I like to call "the big BUT". but it also implicitly celebrates one of the most important of all Romantic values: freedom. All sonnets have 14 lines. True to his style. Petrarch. "All of time and energy is spent on loving this woman. not just because there are sleeping people in the houses but because a city can feel as if it has a character and personality of its own. The reference in line 14 to London’s “mighty heart” can be seen as typically Romantic in its generous assessment of the citizens of London. as the Romantics often did. Wordsworth uses simple language to make the poem flow like every day conversation even within the confines of rigid sonnet format. including the following: • In line 1. He does so in a number of ways. BUT I will continue to love her. If we think of them as the “mighty heart” of the city who are “lying still” before they awake and begin their busy days. The brief reference to God at the very end of this poem might almost seem perfunctory. the speaker immediately mentions “Earth” – a fact that already helps suggest that this may be a “Romantic” poem. 4. as a poet of a hundred years earlier might have done. treating it as if it were a living . A typical Romantic focus of sublimity is in fact explicitly stated when the speaker refers. the speaker shows enthusiasm for beauty – another common feature of Romantic poetry.” William Wordsworth writes in a Romantic mode about the “mighty heart” of the City of London. then Wordsworth is writing with the kind of cheerful optimism we often associate with the Romantics. London. Focus on the images and line breaks for your analysis. feeling. Line 5 is typically Romantic in is double emphasis on beauty and on the calm quiet of the morning. he is celebrating London as the heart of England – looking for the positive and finding it. breathing place. "Composed upon Westminster Bridge. . Whereas poets of earlier centuries often emphasized God. [emphasis added] 3. is line 12: The river glideth at his own sweet will . in the sixteenth or seventeenth century. but the line groupings for the English are 3 groups of 4 lines (quatrains) and a couplet. 1 group of 8 lines (octave) and 1 group of 6 lines (sestet). This line not only emphasizes the beauty of nature untrammeled by human interferences (such as locks and dams). Just as the river flows freely. from a Romantic perspective. The types are named for the most famous authors. certainly Christian themes are not stressed in this work as they might have been in a poem written. in line 3. the turn is not after the octave like usual Italian sonnets. is at this time of day not only beautiful but also peaceful – a trait greatly admired by the Romantics. the speaker posits the existence of persons whose souls are “Dull” – persons precisely the opposite of the Romantic. Instead. William Shakespeare and Edmund Spenser for the English and the Italian poet. Wordsworth here also personifies London. Q: Discuss how the sonnet form has been used to effect the sonnet. from a Romantic perspective. or idea. • In the rest of line 1. For instance. Subsequent lines also emphasize the sheer visual beauty of nature." In Wordsworth's poem. the Romantics tended to be concerned with the visible world before them. Q: In William Wordsworth's poem "Composed upon Westminster Bridge. heaven. He is not mocking or satirizing London or its citizens here." how does the speaker sense the "mighty heart" of London by viewing. The Turn is usually made obvious by a transition word like "but. with their heightened sensitivity to anything sublime or lofty. 5. The rhyme schemes differ from each author.that a city is a living. Every sonnet introduces a problem or situation. so Wordsworth and other Romantics wished that human beings could live freely.

7. indicating a change in tone. Consider it in context:Ne'er saw I. A heart can't be both alive and still at the same time./And all that mighty heart is lying still! These are the final lines in the poem. Q: In "Composed upon Westminster Bridge. From the beginning of the poem until these concluding lines. just as his nature poetry views nature as a whole as an organism. as it is "Open unto the fields. although the focus of this poem is very different. Finally. Likewise. from the speaker's vantage point appears to be "still." what is the significance of the exclamation at the end of the poem? Certainly the ending of the poem is remarkable for the exclamation that seems to escape the mouth of the speaker involuntarily: Dear God! the very houses seem asleep. so that we might feel inspired and awe-struck as he is -. and yet the "mighty heart" of London. misery and poverty that other Romantic poets such as Blake captured in their writings." how does Wordsworth’s view of the sleeping city fit with his view of nature? Excellent question. He describes it as an extension of nature itself. Every part of the "mighty heart" of London exists in a state of peace. conveniently ignoring the squalor. In all these ways. spiritual experiences are most usually inspired by nature. The city of London clearly produces a similar sense of calm and tranquillity as nature does for the poet. now feels serene. In these lines. he feels the need to compare it to natural beauty to help explain how profoundly amazing he truly finds what he is viewing. This view fits with his view of nature through of the affect on him and the descriptive strategies he uses. valley. the exclamation point has been employed. The peaceful calm of the city has infused his spirit. Let us not ignore either that the poem ends on a paradox.. nature is used to show the beauty of the sight Wordsworth is contemplating: Never did sun more beautifully steep/In his first splendour. too. affect him. In this poem. .. is not actually based on the countryside or the Lake District of England." The tone is one of quiet reverence. It is a city asleep." emphasising the tranquil and peaceful mood that dominates the poem. and to the sky. Thus "Dear God!" expresses his joy and wonder in the experience. he has been drawn into the moment. Wordsworth extols London in fashions that seem typical of a Romantic writer. if you read the poem carefully you will note that it is London as viewed from a distance. the./And all that mighty heart is lying still! Note how these final lines are significant because they emphasise what seems to impress the speaker most about this view of London: the city's calmness and tranquillity. September 3. note how even in this urban Romantic poem. Thus. rock. never felt. Wordsworth seems to use similar strategies to explain the similar impact that the sight has on him as in his nature poetry. London is presented in these circumstances as being more beautiful and awe-inspiring than nature itself." equally views the city of London as one organism. but on a big. however. and for the first time in the poem. where he had been inspired to write so often. but the shift occurs earlier than in the line you cite here. An interesting feature of Wordsworth's poem its subject. Q: How does this quotation from "Composed upon Westminster Bridge. the tone changes. he. never felt a calm so deep!/The river glideth at his own sweet will:/Dear God! the very houses seem asleep. the last line of the poem. one of Wordsworth's most famous poems. It is very interesting that this. (unclear) The poem does change in tone. emphasising the lack of movement and peacefulness of the view. even the houses themselves. the air is clean and the city is quiet. a calm so deep! Although it is London that the poet is describing.a typical Romantic purpose for writing a poem. polluted city! This sonnet clearly demonstrates that Wordsworth could also be moved by the solemnity and magnificence of a sleeping city and not just waterfalls and mountains. However. The speaker is no longer merely an observer.thing – thus reflecting the common tendency among the Romantics to use the so-called “pathetic fallacy” of treating inanimate things as if they were human beings. In the final four lines. reflective of his own. Q: In "Composed upon Westminster Bridge. Wordsworth uses personification to compare the houses to sleeping creatures. "And all that mighty heart is lying still. However. the speaker feels inspired by the beauty he sees before him and re-creates that beauty for us./Ne'er saw I. His feelings are so all encompassing and profound that every part of the city. the speaker has described the beauty and serenity of London as it appears to him in the early morning hours. that throbs with such action and movement at the best of times. or hill. In Romantic literature.

So. the city is described as interacting with nature. never felt. If we say the people of the city." show why the speaker feels so awestruck and amazed at his first sight of London so early in the morning. Note that we are told that London "like a garment" wears "the beauty of the morning./Ne'er saw I. including that of a police officer in the floods. This city now doth. And this is the only time when a city dweller (or the city itself) can be nature-like." why is the city so in tune with nature in this poem? I hate to disagree with the main point of your question. His theory of poetry was centered on the individual imagination and that poetry was the spontaneous overflow of emotion reflected in tranquility. Let us examine the relevant parts of the poem carefully:Never did sun more beautifully steep/In his first splendour. Wordsworth in this poem re-envisions the city. He even describes the buildings as asleep. but I don't actually agree that this poem presents the city as being in tune with nature. He does indicate that this beauty is fleeting. for in Romantic literature they were normally depicted as ugly and enchaining men rather than liberating them. it is breathing and alive. man. However. Wordsworth is saying that the sun was never so beautiful shining over various aspects of nature such as valleys and hills as it is shining on London./Ne'er saw I.Explain the metaphor in the last two lines? In the poem 'Composed Upon Westminster Bridge' William Wordsworth uses personification to depict the city. It is fleeting. thus completing the personification that the Romantic poets often attributed to natural phenomena. like a garment. Being asleep. not control it nor divert it. It does seem odd to say that the city is in tune with nature. The line 'the river glideth at his own sweet will' refers to the autonomy that Nature has . in this poem. Yes London is big. he says that he has never felt a calm so deep as looking at the sight of London he is contemplating now. or hill. Q: In "Composed upon Westminster Bridge. This is a very novel perception of the city." the river has "its own sweet will" and the houses are said to "sleep. but still more powerful than. as these three lines make clear:Never did sun more beautifully steep/In his first splendour. valley. (4-5). the poem does not actually say that the city is in tune with nature. it is because they are asleep. rock. nature is used as part of the way Wordsworth presents the beauty of the view. bear.Q: Refering to "Composed upon Westminster Bridge. Q: 1. If the city is sleeping. Rather. Answer 2: You might say that the city is like nature in this poem. Also. never felt. Wordsworth certainly describes the city as he would describe nature in his other poems.always used by. valley. a calm so deep! It is the sight of this "mighty heart lying still" in the beautiful morning sunshine that produces this sense of calm and peace in the speaker. You might want to focus on the way that the poem personifies the city of London. nor make it flow faster or slower. thinking back and reminiscing about his own Lakeland mountainous river 'The Derwent' which hurried and babbled its way past his childhood home. which makes him feel more calm than he has ever felt in his life. the entire sight is personified in the last line as being a "mighty heart": Dear God! the very houses seem asleep. silent. he is clearly in awe of the beauty of the city. they are dreaming and breathing." Lastly. It will be gone when the city gets going. The city is its polar opposite. are in tune with nature.) . The city throughout the poem is presented as being peaceful and beautiful./The beauty of the morning. The sun is shining on it. rock. This river could be a life-threatening dangerous torrent (as has been the case this mionth in th UK where it has taken lives. There is no mention of the hustle and bustle of city life. he is viewing the city at its most nature-like time: in the early morning. I think you could say the city is in tune with nature in one respect and it is a stretch. He may have been comparing. Industry has not yet begun. What could be a more appropriate way to describe an individual in the process of dreaming.Explain the personification in line 12-14?/2. a calm so deep! Note here that although nature is obviously mentioned./And all that mighty heart is lying still! If we examine all of these characteristics. powerful and man-made but it can only use the river. showing that it to can be a sight of natural beauty and exploring how it can bring peace to the soul. wear. As soon as the people get up and the factories fill the air with noise and smoke. or hill. so there is no smoke. In its sleeping state. I think that maybe you are confusing the comparisons that Wordsworth makes with nature with saying that the city is in tune with nature. The people are still asleep. who are asleep. that congestion will obscure any connection or comparison with nature. But maybe it is. They are not being social or industrial and the image of the city in the early morning reflects this. or “in tune” with nature as you put it. These are somewhat like the elements of poetry and imagination that Wordsworth celebrated. making it seem human. what seems to amaze the speaker so much is the city's beauty and tranquility on this morning. its quiet and solitude. the river and the business heart of the city. Wordsworth’s poetry often celebrates nature. However.

Millay's poem "humanizes" nature by giving it qualities such as primeval mystery that are about our own thoughts and perceptions. never felt. and sees it as beautiful and in harmony with its natural surroundings. All bright and glittering in the smokeless air. or the quiet Canadian countryside where Elizabeth herself was born – “Where I come from. and to the sky. The bulk of her poems centre around trees. we have the multi-million pound Thames Barrier in case of flooding nowadays. Elizabeth Brewster wrote in an almost desperate attempt to order the chaos of her own psyche. he depicts it as being in harmony with nature when it really isn't at all. as has been pointed out before. In the case of "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge. In fact. the speaker sees the city's beauty only because it is asleep. In a sense. I do fear/Thou'st made the world too beautiful this year." by William Wordsworth This sonnet is arguably not a true nature poem so much as a poem in which a city appears as part of a natural landscape. later. The poem also describes the city as if it is a person since we are told that it is wearing the beauty of the morning and. But then Wordsworth tended to idealize and romanticize his subjects. Millay's poem suggests her passion is inspired by the dynamism and beauty of nature -by "Thy winds. Catching it in this state. New Brunswick. an easy flow of meter. Wordsworth was always aware of the terrible force of danger that lay behind the beauty of Nature . and temples lie/Open unto the fields. as if he is talking about a heavenly rather than an earthly city. whether it is a city. people carry woods in ." which offers another idealized depiction of the world. that roll and rise!" The speaker also says:Long have I known a glory in it all. "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge. lulling th Summary The key idea of the poem seems to be that a person’s character is always formed at least in part by the place where he or she is born – “People are made of places”. Where I Come From Biographical Information • Elizabeth Brewster was born in 1922 in the small lumber town of Chipman. "God's World. and satisfying rhymes to convey a sense of the exalted feeling that has been evoked in the poet/speaker. he has to rob it of its identity -. But the calm and dynamism that the two claim to observe really has more to do with them than nature. • As a young poet in the 1940s. It is interesting to compare "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge" to Edna St. theatres.how right he was. Wherever you go in life you will carry with you memories and echoes of your birthplace. Wordsworth (or his speaker) gazes at the industrial city of early 1800s London before it wakes up for the day. • Most of Brewster’s early poetry was based on rural and small-town rather than urban experience and that it was mainly traditional in form.to appreciate it. just as Millay tended to speak with great power. The City as Landscape: "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge. and produce beautiful word combinations. the speaker also describes a state of mind that matches what he or she is experiencing in nature. they have come to nature ready to have these states of mind evoked. Vincent Millay's poem. Like this poem. In it. a calm so deep!/The river glideth at his own sweet will: Similarly." the speaker suggests that his calm state of body and mind is inspired by the same state in nature: Ne'er saw I. "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge" can also be compared to another Wordsworth poem. Canada." Of course. "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.The River Thames glides by because it chooses to." which expresses a similar state of mind involving a deep enthusiasm for the beauty of the world./But never knew I this. In both poems.idealizing it and catching it when it isn't manifesting the activity and work we most associate with it -. It uses beautiful and descriptive language. towers. oceans. the poem is based on something the poet himself experienced since it was. These lines convey that sense of exaltation:This City now doth like a garment wear /The beauty of the morning. cabins and childhood recollections. bare/Ships." As the title suggests. not because it is under London's control. as in the first stanza. because their personalities predisposed them to both respond to the world and express themselves in certain ways. domes. silent. At most. thy wide grey skies! / Thy mists. that "the very houses seem asleep." but "dancing" flowers. Yes. but one that expresses delight rather than awe at the sight not of a city that is "sleeping.—Lord. his description of the city has a deeply idealized quality. but the jury is out on whether that will be any match for a global warming tsunami coming up the Thames estuary or the Thames in a climate change spate./Here such a passion is/As stretcheth me apart.

the chickens would not be kept . This idea shows us that who we are is shaped by where we were born and where we grew up. the things that you experience in other places. that nature still exists within the city environment but is scarce and nature cannot go about its business how intended to because of the interruptions of city life and pollution. ‘the almostnot-smell of tulips in the spring’ this tells us how the flowers of spring are starting to blossom. also with great complexes comes great amounts of pollution. which Elizabeth is relating to with ‘the smell of work. To the people in the community this is relatively significant as it is the growing of something new where before there was nothing. or literally speaking the chickens themselves. • Line 14: People here care about things that people in the city would laugh at. the things that you see. smog telling us about a typical winters day with density of the air being greater and the water vapor blinding our site. In the city everything is precise and controlled. nature still exists in public parks. this shows the congestion that is caused by overpopulation of the city.’ • Line 3-4: ‘Atmosphere of cities how different drops from them’ The author is trying to show that the atmosphere of the place you live in can affect the way that you live. chromium-plated offices’. It also shows how rushed life in the city is. art also tidily plotted with a guidebook’. not fully produced and grown the smell of the tulips can not yet be appreciated fully and with the combined smells of the city one could think that they are smelling the tulips when actually the city life prevents the scent of the tulip to a high degree. people carry woods in their minds. old. Coming from New Brunswick. glue factories maybe. we try to control everything. is 80% forested and so the forest or ‘woods’ will always be in the peoples minds as it is the centre of the little community.’ As the theme suggests people will never be able to forget their past. Stanza 1 • This stanza deals with the organized and fast paced life of the city. Stanza 2 Stanza 2 The second stanza introduces an idea change in the poem. The guide book can be a metaphor for life. strongly contrasting with the city images in the first stanza. shows us that in the country there is the room to spare to be able to keep these chickens and hens. • Line 6-7: The idea of the city being organized and tidily planned out is introduced in these lines. • Line 9-10: ‘the smell of work. • Line 10-11: In the end of the stanza ‘smell of subways crowded at rush hours’. The old farmhouses are there solely to serve a purpose and until they stop serving that purpose they will be kept. like ‘blueberry patches in the burned-out bush’. Stanza 1 • Line 7-8: ‘museum smell. generally used to provide a source of food in the form of eggs. the city is full of skyscraping office buildings built of steel and other sharp precise materials to give a uniform look and feel to the atmosphere. to guide ourselves through life instead of taking one step at a time. everything runs like clockwork. ‘nature tidily plotted in little squares with a fountain in the center’. atmospherically city life changes greatly. in need of paint’. Stanza 2 • Life 15: ‘wooden farmhouses. whereas in conjunction with the first stanza. glue factories maybe’. • Line 1-3: The first two lines of the poem summarise the main theme of the poem perfectly. or where they came from. similar to that in which Brewster herself grew up in. which have been plotted around the city in small areas to provide the reassurance of sanity within the community. ‘People are made of places. This compares the tidily plotted countryside to tidily plotted art in an art museum. The focus of the poem now shifts more to country and rural life. People will always be able to tell where you come from ‘They carry with them hints of jungles or mountains.their minds” – and certainly the picture she draws in the second stanza does seem at first to be idyllic and wonderful. Also the chickens and hens being kept in yards. no matter where you come from. if you work in chromium plated offices or glue factories. but this is not the end of the shaping process. with a guidebook. Stanza 1 • Line 4-5: ‘Like the smell of smog or the almost-not-smell of tulips in the spring’. you are shaped as much by where you were born and grew up as the places that you go to after your childhood. Canada. throughout the year as nature progresses through its seasons. acres of pine woods’. • Line 16-17: Brewster portrays a farming life with the ideas of chickens and hens kept in yards. a tropic grace or the cool eyes of seagazers. ‘Where I come from. as the first line suggests ‘People are made of places’. telling us that within the city life. regardless of looks. • Line 12-13: These lines provide us with key details in which we can relate to Brewster’s childhood. everyone has the same goal and that is to get home. Also it shows that at the end of the day. This is in direct contrast to the first stanza where everything is new and attractive.

e reader into a state of rustic complacency. but are “burned out”. The second half these lines ‘and there blows a frosty wind from fields of snow. The reason Elizabeth has done this is because she would like to start the second stanza at the same place that she finished the first stanza. a “frosty wind” in the mind? Structure • The Poem is set out into three stanzas. and there blows a frosty wind from fields of snow. so it is more contemporary and free versed poetry. This is to show a distinct change between the two stanza with the first being city life and the second being country life.’ Spring and winter are two opposing seasons and winter could therefore represent the cold city life and spring the colorful country life. The “door” could be the memory opening in a blast of nostalgia. like a realisation that the past. The frosty wind from the fields of snow is relevant because in Canada the winter is very frosty with a lot of snow and wind. and not meant to be quickly read and feeling bewildered afterwards when you are confused about the poem to which you have just rushed. Q: Write a detailed (5 paragraphs) essay plan discussing the theme of identity with reference to language used in the poem 'Where I come from'. ‘Ice and breaking of ice’ refers to something in the mind that is broken when one makes the transition from the city to the country.’ is there to give a feel to the picture that she has been describing and it gives the reader a cold feeling. She finishes the first stanza with ‘subways crowded at rush hours’ and starts the second stanza with ‘Where I come from’. colon or semi-colon splitting the lines into two sections. in need of paint”. out of anything. Stanza 2 • Line 18-19: ‘Spring and winter are the mind’s chief seasons: ice and the breaking of ice. but it is like she has jumped locations. Does this represent a rejection of an urban literary tradition? What does this stanza claim about the nature of Canadian poetry as well as the poet? Paragraph 2: Examine this fairly cliched image of the small prarie town in the second styanza as a locus of Canadian and personal poetic identity. done to provide uniqueness with the poem and also this allows Elizabeth to get her ideas and points across as there is next to no boundaries which allows her to use any form of poetry language that she wants to. taking in what is being said and thinking about it more. Structure • If you look at the lines in the poem every single line with the exception of 5 out of the 21 lines has some sort of a comma. ‘behind which violets grow’ just backs up the earlier line of ‘blueberry’s growing in the burnt out bush’. is not so good after all. Paragraph 1: Examine the treatment of urbanism in the opening stanza. but their legacy can be negative. • Line 17-18: ‘The battered schoolhouse’ again places emphasis on it being an old building remaining only for practical purposes and not being replaced by a more attractive building. Are the praries more "open-minded" than the more `multi-cultural`cities of Vancouver or Toronto? More authentically Canadian? . An "essay plan" is basically an outline of the essay you intend to write with notes concerning areas to which you will pay greatest attention or important themes. Another idea to ponder on the last two lines of the poem. • If you look at the poem at the end of the first stanza. where the chickins cluck “aimlessly” and buildings are “battered”. Paragraph 3: Discuss how the final couplet refigures the identity questions in the poem. So the suggestion is that it is easy to remember formative places all to positively. it shows how nature can create a picture of beauty anywhere. This is supported by the content of the second stanza. • Apart from the previously mentioned no other apparent structure can be found. • Line 20-21: ‘A door in the mind blows open. getting the reader thinking more about the poem and its content rather than what words rhyme with what and so on. The first line of the second stanza then starts halfway down the line. The door blowing open is just another gateway opening in the mind to the memories that she holds of her childhood. but the association of winter and the “frosty wind” suggest something less pleasant.’ The last two lines are puzzling. This technique used is a great way to show the reader that the poem is meant to be read slow and appreciatively. Introduction: Contextualize the poet in terms of Canadian identity and particularly the tradition of prarie poetry.as there is no room nor is there any need to keeping the chickens and hens. with the words ‘blow’ and ‘snows’. the last being a rhyming couplet. where things may seem superficially attractive in a rustic way. so she has the same line of thought. her place. full stop. the last line finishes as a half line. “old.

rhyme. each one has two pairs of rhyme. by Elizabeth Brewster. north or south. introspective perception.” Thus. the author makes a dominant connection between the natural world and mankind by addressing the importance of digging down to your roots. the reader is told that doors blow open. and for this reason create surprising final twist. Q: In the poem "Where I come From" what does the poet suggest about people who grow up in and around cities and those who grow up in the country Q: How does the beginning of the poem establish the purpose in Brewster''s "Where I Come From"? This poem purports to be a contrast between city and country. the poem after line 11 shifts to details about country life. Alternatively. in ‘Summer Farm by Norman MacCaig’. their very outlook on life is conditioned by the areas from which they spend their childhood and adulthood. the author had used many techniques such as sibilance. more uplifting than the confines of city life. In the light of this shift of reference. Smell is most primarily the sense most associated . near the sea. All these scenes and descriptions are clearly designed as a contrast with the more constricting urban life as detailed in the first eleven lines. At first reading. alliteration and metaphors. (Unfinished) In both poems ‘Where I Come From by Elizabeth Brewster’ and ‘Summer Farm by Norman MacCaig’. which are concepts that are abstract and intangible beyond in physical world. People who work in “chromium-plated offices” assume that it is natural for human existence to take place exclusively in such an environment. where people might see many farmyard animals. The author splits the poem up into two stanzas to show the difference the speakers past and present. Clearly the speaker admires the more spontaneous aspects of Nature that are to be found where she comes from. On the first stanza. The first stanza essentially is a list of the possible places people have lived. ‘Where I Come From by Elizabeth Brewster’ states the importance of having an identity and that your identity comes from your link to the natural world. the poem’s speaker seems to be elevating country living above city living. Rather. across. ‘Where I Come From’. but the way the authors convey. In ‘Where I Come From by Elizabeth Brewster’. a metaphor. the author also explores metaphysics. and where violets voluntarily exhibit their colors for country folk to appreciate. In the poem. no one escapes human difficulties and problems. ‘Summer Farm’ states that the natural world is fitted and altered to what emotional state one is in. assonance and alliteration. However. jungles. specifically. burned-out bush. such as mountains. the poet does include details about tulips and fountains—but these objects of Nature are regulated and organized. while most of the details about city life are negative. A marvelous or not-so-marvelous location of residence does not guarantee anyone immunity from the problems that beset human beings. a view that nature is more rewarding to an individual. Q: In "Where I Come From". The poem is divided into four stanzas. that ‘People are made of places” – that memories of a person of where they live make up a portion of who they are. recursion. but such an attitude is not there. or east or west. what does Elizabeth Brewster say about rural life? From details of city life. where pine woods. supports your claims about the treatment of identity themes. This helps the audience to be imaginative of what is beyond the natural world and beyond what is in sight. By trying to convey this message and create the effect of a nostalgic poem. a reader might conclude that no matter where people come from—city or country. blueberry patches. The poem’s first eleven lines establish details that support the opening statement that people are “made of places. similes. the author focuses on getting the message “people are made of places”. Q: Explain the last two lines of Brewster's "Where I Come From"? The final two lines of the poem. Even their very thoughts and ways of looking at life are inextricable from their locations. finding your own identity through it and also focusing on how nature alters to fit with your emotional state. cities.Conclusion: Show how the use of adverbs. the concluding two lines come as a contradiction of this idealization. and are not growing without human intervention and control. and that a frosty wind blows from fields of snow. is a poem that has it’s theme readily stated in the first sentence of the poem. Interestingly. and wooden farmhouses are features of the landscape. The author tries to put across his thoughts through using techniques such as juxtaposition. it concentrates on idea that wherever you come from. the author’s central idea is to get across the message that the natural world is created according to the emotions of man. A reader might expect a continuation of the pride of country places of lines 11-19. just as people riding subways at rush hour accept the premise that life might usually take place where there are always crowds. On the other hand.. Both poems explores the powerful connection between the natural world and mankind in different ways. appear to be problematic. you carry a sense of that place in your mind.. leading the audience to catch the central meaning of the poem.

While this might be considered too sweeping a generalization. such ‘blueberry patches in burned out bush’. the link between nature and the mind. There is nothing distinct about the city she is describing. Does Brewster truly dislike the city (in my opinion. has only visited as a tourist. it is a small. multicultural Canada of the present? How exactly does the landscape affect the Canadian psyche (Brewster describes the place brilliantly. offices and subways at rush hour. The second stanza is the poem’s heart. and there blows a frosty wind from fields of snow’ a possible new memory is opened in her mind. Like Frost’s work. Here her images are less cliched and her language far more evocative: witness such artfully constructed phrases as “blueberry patches in the burned-out bush” and the warm. ‘chromium plated offices. possible emphasizing the simple. her poem has renewed interest. ‘smell of work’. The poem begins with a declaration: “People are made of places”. there is no doubt from the poem that whether or not all people share this trait of Brewster’s. It is a truly important thought. and it is central moment of the piece. she writes. Her words express those thoughts very effectively. The language and punctuation of the second stanza also slows down the pace of the poem – emphasizing the slow. glue factories. where ‘people carry woods in their minds. as she is inviting us to consider the places that made us. and it would not be too far to go to say that it is Canadian. in need of paint’. This is what Brewster is made of. ‘almost-not-smell of tulips’. museums. and that link is used here extensively in the description of the city. This is a trait of much Canadian poetry (although with notable exceptions. ‘museum smell’. It also gives a sense that the poet is not familiar. the second stanza has less enjambments. and in her view made Canadians of her generation.with memory. distinct. She is unfamiliar with the city. The last stanza appears to be a kind of true ending to the poem. as a comparison of two Canadas. such as Margaret Atwood). The rest of the stanza consists of a description of the sights and sounds of city life that influence city-dwellers: here the poem is at its weakest. The descriptions here are also more exact. but its importance much more briefly)? How have Canadians changed with Canada? Brewster’s omissions are. although hardly one to complain about. The environment is vastly different to the city. ‘the smell of smog’.’ ‘subways’. unlike the first stanza when her feeling towards the city is positive. and this is emphasized by the numerous pauses and enjambments within the stanza. the sea and the city. subtle and understated. and while it is rather a modest pleasure. this poem is simple but not inelegant. and undoubtedly effective. and her memories seem to flow in an unstoppable rush. she frequently has to pause to think about what to say next. ‘A door in the mind blows open. It is with the last of these that the stanza is most concerned. It is a poem that is enjoyable even if one does not look beyond its most obvious level. The description of the city is slightly plain and generic however. libraries. romantic imagery of “battered schoolhouses/ behind which violets grow”. it is a poem that truly involves the reader. She doesn’t seek to explain everything but rather to invite the reader to think about what she has thought. The first stanza goes on to give examples of the kinds of places that “make” people: jungles. The second stanza however is a description of her hometown. the Canada of the past and the urban. as Brewster’s images are rather generic: museums. She closes the stanza by returning to her main theme. “Where I Come From” is a wonderfully well-expressed work that on repeated readings reminded me of Robert Frost’s depictions of New England. glue factories. friendly countryside town. old. etc. comfortable way of life here. to my mind. as it describes things that all cities generally have. Only simple adjectives are used here. but mild. Indeed. or it is a continuation of her long-ago memories. memories that only one who is familiar with it would remember. Here Brewster introduces us to the place that made her. uncomplicated way people live their lives here. ‘battered schoolhouse behind which violets grow’ – memories that only one who has lived here for a long time would remember. ‘wooden farmhouses. unlike the faltering way the city is described. it is a decidedly unambitious work and this is almost . fountains in the centre of the square. mountains. “Where I Come From” is just as much about things unsaid as the writing itself. she doesn’t)? Are her memories of her hometown unreservedly affectionate? Is the poem an exercise in comparing two Canadas. Her city is unmistakably Western. A faint tone of unreserved affection when she is describing her hometown can be sensed. “Spring and winter/ are the mind’s chief seasons: ice and the breaking of ice”. acres of pine woods…’ The way in which her hometown is described is also different. she is certainly very much a result of the places she has lived in and that she most identifies with. A contrast between city-life and countrylife is made between the two stanzas. not connected with a city. she is writing as if she has not lived here. If so. Elizabeth Brewster’s “Where I Come From” is a poem that is rooted in Brewster’s childhood and early experiences in the rural Canada of the 1920s and 1930s. and so the description could fit any city in the world. and to consider how exactly they did so. quite deliberate.

which the shortness of sound reinforces the statement by establishing it as a truth. Focusing on smells. in need of paint” and “with yards where hens and chickens circle about”. rather than on sight and sound. Although the opening line “People are made of places” can be loosely described as form of alliteration. The second part of the poem is about the place where she grows up and she provides us with some stereotypical imagery of farm-life such as ____________________ and __________________. Focusing on smells. rather than on sight and sound. people carry woods in their minds. I think the line _______________________________ has a strong impact on the reader because__________________. old. Brewster goes on to describe the ‘Atmosphere of cities’ which is created be various distinctive smells such as ‘the almost-not-smell of tulips in the spring’ . Brewster makes it sound much better than it really is. we can assume that Elizabeth Brewster’s “Where I Come From” is about the place or places where the writer was born in or where she spent her whole childhood. and the environment where she grew up. and there blows a frosty wind from the snow” suggests that a change occurs. rather than on sight and sound. establishing it as a truth. Brewster goes on to describe the “Atmosphere of cities” which is created by various distinctive smells such as “smell of smog”. people carry woods in their minds. I think the line “Where I come from. The line “Spring and winter are the mind’s chief seasons” reinforces the contrast established in the poem between town and rural life. “museum smell”. and the environment where she grew up. ‘museum smell’ . affection for the past. The second part of the poem is about the place where she grows up and she provides us with some stereotypical imagery of farm-life such as ‘Wooden farmhouses. though there is a change experience in the final two lines. It reinforces the statement . suggests that the speaker’s memory of city-life and this sharply contrasted in the next half of the poem which is about nature. in need of paint’ and ‘with yards where hens and chickens circle about’. I think the line ‘Where I come from. suggests that it is the speaker’s memory of city-life and this is sharply contrasted in the next half of the poem which is about nature. The speaker is now in the present. tell memories and her opinion about the completely different places. The second part of the poem is about the place where she grows up and she provides us with some stereotypical imagery of farm-life such as “wooden farmhouses.‘ ‘ and ‘ ‘. The cold wind stops her thoughts. acres of pine woods” has a strong impact on the reader because the speaker of the poem is starting to describe where she is from. the repetition of the ‘p’ sound is particularly effective because it creates the impression that the speaker wants to insist on this short line and it creates a strong effect on the beginning of the poem. The line ‘Spring and winter are the mind’s chief seasons’ reinforces the contrast established in the poem between town and rural life. Brewster will have been remarkably successful. old. If every reader of the poem uses it as a springboard for cleareyed self-reflection of this kind. the repetition of the “p” sound is particularly effective because it creates an effect. in particularly where the speaker of the poem comes from. “smell of work. acres of pine woods’ has a strong impact on the reader because the speaker starts speaking about herself and she idealises the life and the nature of the farm. deep reflection and the quietest kind of beauty. Answer 2: From the title of the poem. we can assume that Elizabeth Brewster’s ‘Where I Come From’ is about the different places where people come from. Although the opening line ‘People are made of places’ can be loosely described as form of alliteration. The line ‘Spring and winter are the mind’s . ‘ ‘. ’smell of work. how different and how better it is compared to the city-life. Task: From the title of poem. It also grabs the attention of the reader and makes the reader curious to read the rest of the poem. We also assume that she is going to describe. In the end of the poem the reader realizes that Brewster is mostly talking about nostalgia. glue factories maybe’ . Focusing on smells. the repetition of the ‘p’ sound is particularly effective because it creates the impression that ______________________ . and the environment where she grew up. “almost-not-smell of tulips in the spring”. though there is a change experienced in the final two lines. glue factories maybe” and “smell of subways crowded at rush hours”. Brewster goes on to describe the ‘Atmosphere of cities’ which is created be various distinctive smells such as ‘ ‘. “A door in the mind blows open. we can assume that Elizabeth Brewster’s ‘Where I Come From’ is about _________________________ Although the opening line ‘People are made of places’ can be loosely described as form of alliteration. suggests that it is the speaker’s memory of city-life and this is sharply contrasted in the next half of the poem which is about nature.refreshing. The writer also begins to idealizes farm-life. ‘smell of subways crowded at rush hours’. ‘ ‘ . I have little doubt that this will be so. ‘A door in the mind blows open’ suggest that _____________________ Possible answers: From the title of the poem. To read “Where I Come From” is to undertake an exercise in the appreciation of subtlety.

from other world. It signifies that Brewster is stating her views after she has visited these places. running around freely on the farm territory. ‘A door in the mind blows open’ suggest that a change occurs. She also talks about smell. Brewster goes on to describe the “Atmosphere of cities” which is created be various distinctive smells such as “smell of smog” “museum smell” “smell of work” “smell of glue factories” and “chromium-plated offices”. We are made up out of all the things we have done and where we have done it. Focusing on smells. the way she remembers her home place. I think the line ‘Where I come from’ has a strong impact on the reader because it shows a change. and the environment where she grow up. Answer 5: From the title of the poem. the world of mind. establishing it as a truth. Answer 6: The first two lines from the first stanza states that people carry some memory of the place they were born in. ‘chromium-plated office’ and ‘subways’. Brewster goes on to describe the ‘Atmosphere of cities’ which is created by various distinctive smells such as ‘smog’. She is comparing it with the smell of things in the area. jungles. rather than on sight it is the speaker’s memory of city-life and this is sharply contrasted. Although the opening line ‘People are made of places’ can be loosely describe as form of alliteration.”atmosphere of cities”. rather than on sight and sound. Later in the poem she tells us where she came from. Focusing on smells. “A door in the mind blows open” suggest that she was in deep thinking. I think the line carry woods in their minds has a strong impact on the reader because. Although the opening line “People are made of places” can be loosely described as form of alliteration. you can feel the poem. ’museum’. it is sarcastic not realistic so you have to think about it. kimchee. “smell of smog”. Answer 4: From the title of the poem. we can amuse that Elizabeth Brewster’s where I come from is about. I think the line “carry woods in their minds” has a strong impact on a reader because this line is about Elizabeth’s memory. and the rest of the poem contrasts to the manmade imagery. we can assume that Elizabeth Brewster’s “Where I Come From” is about a place where your heart belongs to. suggest that it is the speaker’s memory of city-life and this is sharply contrasted in the next half of the poem which is about nature. Although he opening line ‘people are made of places’ can be loosely described as from of alliteration. though there is a change experienced in the final two lines. ‘glue factory’. other world. we can assume that Elizabeth Brewster’s “Where I Come From” is about comparing the situation between urban area and rural area where she comes from. ‘A door in the mind blows open’ suggests that there is a change occurs the speaker is now in the present and the cold wind stops her thoughts. Anyone could be born in the mountains. suggest that it is the speaker’s memory of city-life and this sharply contrasted in the next half of the poem which is about nature. The line “spring and winter are the mind’s chief season” reinforces the contrast established in the poem between town and rural life. though there is a change experienced in the final two lines ‘A door in the minds blow open’ suggest that you think everything is so good if you lose/leave it but when you come back it is different. the repetition of the ‘’p’’ sound is particularly effective because it creates an impression that the sound really matches the rhythm of the poem it actually makes the rhythm. “almost-not-smell of tulips in spring” which also signifies that the smell of tulips . the cold wind stops her thoughts. indeed. and the environment where she grew up. The second part of the poem is about the place where she is grows up and she provides us with some stereotypical imagery of farm-life such as wooden farmhouse and yards with hens and chickens. rather than on sight and sound. and pizza hut. The second part of the poem is about the place where she grow up and she provides us whit some stereotypical imagery of farm-life such as chickens and wood. In the next half of the poem which is about nature. the place where you came from. Focusing on smells. and when someone opened the door she came back to herself. the repetition of the ‘p’ sound is particularly effective because it creates the impression that the shortness of sound reinforces this statement. and it’s sarcastic. though there is a change experienced in the final two lines. cities or seas. the repetition of “p” sound is particularly effective because it creates the impression that it really sounds and matches the rhythm for words people and places. The speaker is now in the present. though there is a change experienced in the final two lines.chief seasons’ reinforces the contrast established in the poem between town and rural life. and the environment where she grew up. Brewster goes on to describe the ‘atmosphere of cities’ which is created be various distinctive smells such as cow shit. The line ‘Spring and winter are the mind’s chief seasons’ reinforces the contrast established in the poem between town and rural life. The second part of the poem is about the place where she grows up and she provides us with some stereotypical imagery of farm-life such as “woods in their minds” means forest is near or around a place and “with yards where hens and chickens circle about” means that they had chickens and hens. The title is where I come from because se want’s to tell us we are made up out of places. Answer 3: From the title of poem. The line ‘spring and winter are the mind’s chief seasons’ reinforces the contrast established between town and rural life.

allowing a picture to form in the readers mind. this highlights the difference between man and nature as nature does not think about things. She gives a vivid imagery of chickens who are circling about clucking aimlessly. The \second stanza talks about where she was born or where her childhood passed and gives views of how rural life is better than urban life. Within the poem ‘Where I Come From’ a variety of different aspects adds to the appreciation of life. In the first two stanzas of the poem. . ‘the water in the horse-trough’ and ‘green as glass’ suggesting that man seeks for the familiar. In ‘Summer Farm’. Then she talks about how nature is cared about people ” nature tidily plotted in little squares. more ordered and rigid than the people who live with nature. Essay In both the poems ‘Summer Farm’ by Norman MacCaig and ‘Where I Come From’ by Elizabeth Brewster. The way the sentence is structured suggests that the people in the cities are also like the place where they live. this underlines how even though something might be there. he lies ‘not thinking’ in the grass just like the straw which is described in the first stanza. This use of alliteration highlights that while nature flows smoothly. It shows how humans try and establish links with nature. The poets demonstrate how although the human world interacts with the natural world. He shows how narrow the majority of humans views are. The juxtaposing ideas. The alliteration of ‘burnt-out bush’ reinforces how even though this part of nature is dead. In the first stanza the repetition of ‘tidily plotted’ and ‘smell’ helps to create the idea that the city does not have diversity. the listing underlines how nature is unbound and free unlike the man made structures which have to be ordered the people who live with nature are also unbound and free ‘they carry woods in their minds’. It highlights how just like a circle. an insight to the natural world is given through the poet’s reflective and quiet tone. Several times within ‘Summer Farm’. The man’s ‘lack of thought’ implies how humanity would rather believe that everything does resolve around it than look at the evidence and conclude otherwise. nature is compared to the man made. These techniques are therefore reinforcing the main idea by showing the reader that different perspectives can only be reached by having contrast. in comparison to the rest of the stanza which expresses the poet’s opinion about cities. the poet describes his natural surroundings with such detail and clarity whilst in a meditative state of thoughtless observation. that it is all roughly the same whereas in the second stanza the description of nature is made to seem as though it goes on forever.The last line brings Brewster to her present and lets the reader know she was thinking and telling about her past Q: With Reference To Two Or Three Poems Explore The Varying Ways Poets Present The Natural World. The way the poet tell the reader ‘they carry with them’ emphasizes the flow of nature whereas the first sentence which describes the city is structured around the alliteration ‘different drops’. In the first two sentences the lines flow smoothly and carry imagery of the pleasantness of nature. Norman MacCaig describes the natural world which surrounds him on his farm. this in turn leads to the conclusion that man is unfamiliar with nature. the city is like rapids. nature will always do its own thing. ‘tame lightenings’ bring the idea that nature is uncontrollable and no matter how much humans try to control it. She also gives and imagery of houses which need paint and are old and blueberry patches. the poet highlights how nature and humans are similar but different.are lost in the smell of smog and other smells. The fact that the hen only looks with one eye also mirrors how humans in general are bias and will only look at the part of the whole picture. it is also completely separate. Although he believes himself ‘in the centre’. he concludes that he is ‘in the centre’. In the second stanza of the ‘Where I Come From’. Nature as seen by the poet is beautiful. Nature and man are both similar as he stands ‘self under self’. There is just a hint of it too. our minds are so closed off that we see nothing. it still contributes to the sense of beauty. As the ‘hens and chickens circle’ the idea of the cycle of life is pushed to the forefront of the readers mind. This means that their minds are crowded but always coming up with new thoughts and idea just like a wood is always brimming with new life. nature has no beginning and no end which in turn underlines another contrast between man-made and nature. The unusual syntax used ‘atmosphere of … different drops’ emphasizes how unnatural the city is. ‘stares at nothing with one eye’. In the last two stanzas of ‘Summer Farm’. As man continues to speculate about his surroundings. The alliteration ‘green as glass’ highlights the comparison of the natural world and the man made equivalent. She again switches back to smell ” museum smell” “glue factories maybe” and the “smell of subways at rush hours” which also tells us that she has visited these place very curiously. This could show that man can only truly be like nature when all thought is let go of. however the reader is brought to question this as it has been shown that he has been wrong before. just as the farm is ‘farm under farm’ showing how both have complex layers and are both constantly changing.

a move that many at the time criticised.e. confusing . • His first collection.Consciousness of your own being . Metaphysics • Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy investigating principles of reality transcending those of any particular science. but why it exists is a metaphysical question. . • This random preciseness “hang zigzag” “nine ducks go wobbling by in two straight lines”leads the narrator into metaphysical thought and the next stanza. The grasshopper. representing MacCaig’s conscious. was published in 1943. suddenly a thought comes to him “out of an empty sky”and he gains a flicker of understanding or emotion as the thought is “flickering through the barn” before it “dives up again into the dizzy blue”and he loses his train of thought. between his native city and Assynt in the Scottish Highlands from where his mother’s family came from. • The third stanza is the beginning of a change of focus in the poem. The main messages of both poems are developed through observations and through these the reader is allowed to draw his or her own conclusions about nature Summer Farm Biographical Information • MacCaig was born in Edinburgh in 1910 and divided his time. and in the centre. He became a reader in poetry in 1970. me”. The ignorance of man’s surroundings and how both poets comment on man’s ability to see only what it wants to see shows how man’s view of the world is shrewd. Until now MacCaig has focused his attention on those things outside of him and he now redirects his thought toward himself. science may tell us how the universe works. or try and view himself objectively. lifting “the farm like a lid”. so as to better see himself. “unfolds his legs”. jumps free of himself. The prospect of metaphysical thought: trying to make sense of an idea that cannot be solved in a logical way is daunting.which can be burdensome.Putting things in perspective – from being self-centred to being a tiny part of something vast/expansive/complex Analysis • In the first stanza MacCaig examines the world around him. at the University of Stirling. One meaning is a continuation of the description of setting • The second meaning looks at how MacCaig’s observation leads him into deep thought. Far Cry. the “pile of selves… threaded on time”. • The “metaphysic hand”is his mind reaching out and looking beyond the farm. “farm within farm. there are more farms in the past and future and that he is in the centre. for the rest of his life. He considers the vast scale of the world but also its detail and preciseness. frightening. . free to roam through the “sky”. • It relates to questions that cannot be answered in factual terms. “Finding himself in space”refers to his conscious being above himself as he looks down upon the world and himself within the farm. • In 1967 he was appointed Fellow in Creative Writing at Edinburgh. so does the narrator gaze at his surroundings absent-mindedly. • For the early part of his working life. “A swallow falls”. a pile of selves I stand threaded on time”is a portrayal of the idea that he (his perception of things) is just the now. While this examination can be viewed as a mere description of a setting for the poem. This shows that like himself. he was employed as a school teacher in primary schools. • What he sees when he lifts the farm is described in the last line. it also speaks for the thought process of the narrator (MacCaig). i. The swallow is used as a metaphor of his thought. in a figurative sense. • He was schooled at the Royal High School and studied classics at the University of Edinburgh. as he questions. • During World War II MacCaig registered as a conscientious objector.The use of a quiet reflective tone throughout both poems whilst containing different complex ideas echoes how similar and different man and nature are. It is concerned with explaining the ultimate nature of being and the world. The word dizzy conveys a sense of confusion afterwards. there is also versions (different perceptions) of himself in the past and the future. and seeing the past and future of the farm as well as his own as they are intertwined in the present. • “Self under self. • MacCaig’s conscious now leaves him. As the “hen stares at nothing with one eye”. why? • The second stanza contains dual meaning. He continued to publish throughout his lifetime and was extremely prolific in the amount that he produced. This change is immediately denoted by the use of “I” • MacCaig shows fear at the idea of contemplating something that we cannot understand and not knowing what thoughts it will lead him to.

” He is afraid because such thoughts can be heavy/daunting/unproductive. into an agonising and lonely consciousness of itself” • This sense of multiple selves changing over time means that “the self as such no longer appears as the enduring core substance of the personality. the barn.• Overall. he gropes around for inspiration out of the nothingness.grasshopper with plated face.  his thoughts which move abruptly and not smoothly like zigzags.Water is typically seen as shiny and glassy but here it is also countered by the murky green. nostalgic. This signifies a one-sided view of things.” This alludes to his ancestors who had managed the farm. contemplating Style and form: Rhyme scheme AABB for 4 stanzas. his mind wobbles like the ducks in indecision. and in the centre. But it looks with “one eye” instead of none or two. it depicts the series of contrasts that plague McCaig’s mind. no expression. “For the subject cannot (or must not) be objectified nor be studied in an objective way” • The “I”in the poem rhyming with the “eye”in the second stanza indicating that it is the conscious viewing “me”the object that MacCaig is trying to “see”which is also a rhyme. The setting.” (Russian-doll-structure. he belongs there and makes him him I persona is contemplating his identity: farm serves as analogy but also as a grounded root for his identity Tone: philosophical. This reflects the conflicting sides of a situation when it can be seen in two opposing ways  Despite his ability to see both sides of the question. wants to keep things straight/simple. but at the same time are as dangerous as lightning. he explains that “with metaphysic hand/Lift the farm like a lid and see/ Farm within farm.2: oxymoron: not only is the farm described. Still. nature and comfort. unfolding his legs = face is rigid. connected to it and its past. signifying disharmony. Line 6-8: Metaphor “an empty sky” =symbol of nothingness. but: farm = his identity.”The use of the subjective pronoun “I”in the latter part of the poem changes to the objective “me”. uncertain of the consequences of selling his farm or maintaining it. They are tame because he decision he must make is not dangerous but at the same time can affect his life forever (they sear through his heart like lightning. The position of hanging is uncertain and not stable. me. MacCaig ends up “naming and pinpointing himself at the cost of losing his own truth”in an attempt to gain an illusive image of himself. The colour blue exudes calmness. What he fears is that like the grasshopper that jumps. He picks up a thought without analyzing deeply. but an extremely problematic concept which can never be fully comprehended but only glimpsed” • This sense of loss of identity is the consequence of his metaphysical thought which he was so afraid of in stanza 3. returns to the “dizzy” uncertainty. he is afraid of the burden of philosophical indulgence – contemplating existing can be depressing Line 11-12: Analogy . reflecting the uncertainty of his future. the subject is now caught up in the contemplation of himself. Line 5-6: This is literally impossible. ducks wobble in “two straight lines. Paradox: “A swallow falls … dives up again” It comes down in search for food (symbol for inspiration and substance) but finding nothing. Line 4: Symbolism: Nine = odd number. he tries to detach himself and see the farm from a distant perspective.” . he will tread into the unknown. mundane/everyday life) states his conclusion/epiphany: Line 13: repetition “a pile of selves. The language used is . Nothing makes sense. Line 14-16: Metaphor: “threaded on time. There is none of the stability of the ground (which symbolises the known. • “Having bypassed the objective reality of the world around him. reflecting his thoughts. is an enclosed room. uncertain.” = an impossible task. symbolized by empty space. representing a mind closed to inspiration Line 10: ‘I’ persona . Straws exude an aura of domesticity. he’s trapped in the layers)  Metaphorically and philosophically. It is regular. Line 2-3: oxymoron . there is also the infinite nature of the past and present which we can imagine or consider but not understand. • Further interpretations that can be taken from the last stanza are that in removing his conscious from himself and conceiving the idea of his perspective changing over time he “brings discontinuity and instability to the self”and has “wrenched it both from its original contemplative and fusional unity with the world and from its eternal self-sufficient wholeness.” “self under self.He tries not to think because he is “afraid of where a thought might take me. this illustrates the metaphysical idea that we are just the now. unfolding his mind might propel him into nothingness. Line 1.he is the descendent of a line of farm-owners.

though there is a sense of order portrayed by …………………………… In the second stanza. The metaphysic hand is his mind looking beyond the farm now and seeing what was and what will be. The tone of the poem shifts completely to the speaker of the poem as he describes himself as ‘a pile of selves’. comparing the ________ to _______. it is clear that the speaker of the poem has compared himself to the grasshopper. In this final image the writer is describing ……………………………………………… In the opening line of the poem. In the final lines of the poem the poet describes an invisible hand – a metaphysic hand –which lifts the farm ‘like a lid’ and we see eventually ‘ in the centre. As mentioned earlier. this creates a calm feeling by slowing down the reader • The first line of the second stanza ends unfinished. • The dash then serves as a link to the rest of the stanza to compare the way the grasshopper is jumping to the way the narrator is “afraid of where a thought might take”them. • There appears to be no specific meter which ties to the idea that the poem is a stream of consciousness. the rest of the sentence is the beginning of the second line. This emphasises the idea of picking it up. • Summer Farm has an obvious rhyme scheme of AABB CCDD AEFF GGHH. MacCraig provides the reader with a simile. MacCraig provides the reader with a simile. that is to say. “green as glass”. “tame”. Poetic Devices/Techniques • MacCaig uses two similes in the first stanza to create a detailed image in our minds as to what he is seeing. The grasshopper is similar to him because ……………. • The calm state of mind is further emphasised in the third stanza. that of thought. In the final line of the first stanza MacCraig gives the reader another contrasting image the ‘ducks wobbling’ in ‘two straight lines’. “Straws like tame lightnings”creates the image of the sharp crooked nature of lightning reflected in a less extreme. • MacCaig also uses the alliteration of like. • The second simile. • MacCaig uses the simile lifting “the farm like a lid”with a “metaphysic hand”. • This is most obvious in the last line of the stanza and poem which is split up into three parts. This suggests that ……… . This description is also oxymoronic as lightning is described as ‘tame’. The use of ‘I’ reinforces ______________________ . “then picks it up”. me’. ‘Wobbling’ denotes the way ……………. It is highly symbolic. comparing the straws to the tame lightning. In this way MacCaig suggests that humans are but animals in the face of the mysteries of the universe. Here the poet is describing ………………………. However MacCaig’s use of this phrase vivifies the idea that the water is still and calm without having to say so. way by the straw. movement is conveyed by the swallow. MacCaig uses commas to slow down the reader and the long vowel sound in cool to create this effect • The second line of the stanza leaves us hanging on the dash (-) as we consider where the poem is leading us just as MacCaig ponders where his thoughts might take him. MacCraig gives the impression ……………………Another descriptive device is given in the run-on line in relation to the straws which ‘ hang …………’ which suggests that ……………………… . each of which builds up the main idea. the speaker of the poem becomes more evident through the use of the ———— ‘I’. Though a subtle comparison. “in space”. is a strange one as one would not normally consider glass to be green. especially chickens and insects. The AE lines may have been intended to rhyme. This description is also oxymoronic as lightning is described as ‘tame’.metaphysical. but the break in the rhyme scheme leads to a noticed change that places emphasis on this line. In the second line of the first line a simile is used again ‘green as glass’. whereas is . By comparing ‘straws’ to ‘tame lightnings’. of having a thought. In the opening line of the poem. a pause between each. In the third stanza. philosophical and associating the poet’s thoughts with nature. • In the fourth stanza MacCaig uses commas to slow down the reader and make them think about what they are reading. The actions of the swallow are described as __________________. • MacCaig’s use of animals in metaphors to describe human thought is ironic considering that animals are considered incapable of deep thought. lightnings and lie in the first stanza. whereas is nature lightning is often wild. • The hen in this stanza also acts as a metaphor for people and the way they think • The rest of the second stanza is written with commas so as to separate out the swallow’s journey into three pieces. explosive and threatening. By splitting up the journey it further reflects the idea it represents. ‘Dizzy blue’ is also an effective image because —————————— . as mentioned earlier. McCaig was known as a metaphysical poet.

and contrary to what happens in “Instrument and agent” there is no attempt at blurring the clear-cut division between self and not-self. 13). The persona then ‘with metaphysic hand / Lift the farm like a lid and see/ Farm within farm. whereas the poet’s self (“I”.” In it. if it does appear in the second part of the poem. And. for instance. the speaker of the poem becomes more evident through the use of the sentence which starts with ‘I’. me’. therefore eliminating confusion. the stanza appear confusing. explosive and threatening. for the farm is like himself (‘Farm within farm’) having other versions of itself in the past and future’). This suggests that he is describing himself as a Kalinka doll. ‘Wobbling’ denotes the way they move. there are other versions (different perceptions of himself) in the past. and the second.] as the centre-point of his own poetry” (Hendry. Though a subtle comparison. The farm is metonymically foregrounded in the first two stanzas (“Straws” and “hen” at the incipit of each). which is by now the true focus of the poem. and ‘nine ducks (that) go wobbling by in two straight lines’. ‘Summer Farm’ by Norman MacCaig. each of these taking up one half of the poem. Here the poet is describing the water in the house-through. too. and that will be created in the future. and also the thought process of the persona/narrator. the water in a horse-trough that is green as glass. “The hen stares at nothing with one eye’ – the persona gazes at his surroundings absentmindedly. soon enough again. 16.. and he is in the centre of it.. The random precision of the stanza (ie.nature lightning is often wild.” says McCabe — 113) to self-engrossment. The use of ‘I’ reinforces that the reader of the poem started talking about himself. there will be a clear shift from not-self to self. a pile of selves I stand / Threaded on time’ – the idea that he (his perception of things) is just the present. emphasizes the confusion that the persona feels afterwards. and showing fear at the idea of contemplating something we cannot possibly understand (metaphysical thought) and where it might take him. The grasshopper is similar to him because they are both on the grass and under the sun. Then. 67) As a matter of fact this early poem (1955) already sets the pattern for a long list of structurally similar pieces. clearer view. it is clear that the speaker of the poem has compared himself to the grasshopper. ‘Dizzy blue’ is also an effective image because it describes the color of the sky using literature words. The metaphysic hand represents figuratively his mind reaching out and looking beyond the farm. The fourth and last stanza starts of with the line ‘Self under self. me’. The tone of the poem shifts completely to the speaker of the poem as he describes himself as ‘a pile of selves’. The first stanza is a collection of observations by the persona of the environment around him (presumably a summer farm) – of straws like tame lightning (an oxymoron.. including “I and my thoughts of you. The actions of the swallow are described as a bird that appeared from nowhere and disappeared the same as appeared. To be sure. ‘two straight lines’.a thought suddenly comes to him ‘out of an empty sky’ and he gains understanding or emotion only for a moment (‘flickering through the barn’ ) until it ‘dives up again into the dizzy blue’ – he loses his train of thought.” l. in which it is a metaphorical description of his train of thought. “A swallow falls’ . The second stanza has dual meaning. movement is conveyed by the swallow. In this final image the writer is describing like he is dreaming. The word dizzy. In the final line of the first stanza MacCraig gives the reader another contrasting image the ‘ducks wobbling’ in ‘two straight lines’. they feel free like in space. though there is a sense of order portrayed by “two straight lines” In the second stanza. Another descriptive device is given in the run-on line in relation to the straws which ‘hang zigzag’ which suggests that really looks like lightning. the farm is then just a simile for the poet’s self (“Farm within farm. By comparing ‘straws’ to ‘tame lightings’. In the final lines of the poem the poet describes an invisible hand – a metaphysic hand –which lifts the farm ‘like a lid’ and we see eventually ‘in the center. MacCraig gives the impression of that everything can be different and even if we don’t expect it. for how can lightning be tame?). in “Summer Farm” (CP 7). because lightning is also described as a zigzag. being an analogy for “Self under self. and in the centre. one in which it is simply a continuation of the collection of observations by the persona. his conscious figuratively leaves him in the form of a grasshopper and ‘finds himself in space’ – his conscious being above himself as he looks down upon the world with a better. seeing beyond the present at the past and future of the farm. and the readers into the second stanza. In the second line of the first line a simile is used again ‘green as glass”. the speaker veers from contemplation of nature (“the poet is marvelling at the world around him. ‘nine ducks’. ‘hang zigzag’) the leads the persona into metaphysical thought. where “we see him [. “MacCaig is never simply a ‘nature’ poet and his preference for linking precise . However. “Self”) becomes the focus of the last two. The third stanza shows the persona now changing his focus towards himself.” l. In the third stanza. is a poem about a persona observing the world around him. as is the case. as well as the fact that if read literally.

otherwise there is no consciousness of nature but merely nature. The latter is. Consciousness. both in terms of space (“Afraid of where a thought might take me. The intrusion of the “I” as of the third stanza marks the beginning of consciousness (still dormant — “not thinking” — at that stage) and the attendant distance that will then open up between the observer and the object at which he gazes. Instead. or of being and the symbolic order (speech or thought).bbc.(two of them could also be classed as similes). From External observation to Internal struggle. / Then picks it up. of perception.. therefore I am where I do not think”7 (Écrits 277). or is it an act of poetic individuation and self-definition?” (81). rephrasing Hegel’s thought. Besides. 12) and time (which crops up in the last stanza). When one starts to distinguish subject and object.” etc. What could that be? Write down 2 things that the persona is contemplating. for instance.). The epiphany/realisation a) Write down your interpretation of the last stanza: what is the poet realising that might help him make a decision? Which line represents the idea that the past – present – future is ultimately linked? Which technique is used? How do you interpret the “pile of selves”? \we know the author is not plagued by a form of multiple personality disorder. the first half of the poem is definitely concerned with the object. b) Write down 2 animals featured in the poem that have symbolic value. Whereas “there is no distinction between the subject and the object in the real experienc. that of the privileging of inside or outside. implies division and the splitting of unity: the knowledge of the object is not equal to the object of knowledge. / Then picks it up’” (Watson. a) At which point in the novel do we see the transition from observations of farm live/nature to MacCaig’s inner thoughts? Which technique is used to indicate this? b) Despite the persona’s claim of “not thinking” we know that there is a lot that occupies his mind.. the experience disappears” (Hanh 83).”6 What the poem acknowledges is the basic incompatibility of being and consciousness. revealing the object as it is hic et nunc — “la chose comme elle est. dans l'instant de sa révélation soudaine et là” (Munier iv). (hint: link to the theme of identity and to background information about the author) . Explain this metaphor. BBC: http://www. Explain why they are oxymorons. As Garaudy points out.co.uk/programmes/p00mr8yj/profiles/norman-maccaig Questions 1.” “Nine ducks go wobbling by in two straight lines.” l.” metaphors do not strike us as far-fetched and intricate expressions of subjectivity. 10. Williams describes as “the familiar modern dichotomy in British poetry. In that sense. transparent and at one with the scene he describes. In addressing this philosophical issue MacCaig enters into what Linda R. unlike. to that extent. his “wit. even in its most basic form.” l. What are those animals doing? Explain in detail what they symbolise. c) What is a ‘metaphysical thought’? Why is he “afraid of where a thought might take [him]”? (or: What is he afraid of?) 3. and not with the subject. Is poetic writing an attempt to clarify as succinctly as possible the autonomous and the objective. The Literature of Scotland 430).” highly idiosyncratic as it may be. It is certainly somewhere between these two extremes that MacCaig will attempt to find the right positioning. However. Farm life and the poet’s observations a) Write down 3 examples of oxymorons used in the first 2 stanzas.]: ‘A hen stares at nothing with one eye. God’s hand giving the author insight and clarity b) His mind detaching itself from the restrictions of the present and his confused emotions to see more clearly the relationship between farm and himself c) His desire to become a farmer d) His thoughts that reach deep into his heart to search for his identity . much as Zen koans or haikus do. they highlight the peculiarities of the world around us. most statements are plainly descriptive (“The water in the horsetrough shines.. is always geared to poetic insight into reality: “straws” look indeed “like tame lightnings” and the hen does “stare [.” “A swallow falls. “in space. a) What is the “metaphysic hand” in stanza 4? Tick the 3 answers you think fit best. the Metaphysicals’ conceits.] at nothing with one eye. Consciousness becomes possible only at the cost of the original indifferentiation. which constitutes a mediation but also a division between the subject and reality — what Lacan epitomizes in the formula: “I think where I'm not. “consciousness demands opposition.. (hint: linking it to the poet himself) 2.observation with creative wit can be seen in [this] poem [.

Noku te whenua. h) His mind looking beyond the present farm in order to see the past and the future of the farm and how his identity links to it 4. inherited from my ancestors. Write a short personal response on how a reader like yourself could relate to the poem. there is also the infinite nature of the past and the unknown future which we can imagine or consider but not understand. 5.” What kind of struggle is this statement talking about? Why has MacCaig problems seeing himself in an objective way? Respond in a short paragraph. God’s hand giving the author insight and clarity j) His mind detaching itself from the restrictions of the present and his confused emotions to see more clearly the relationship between farm and himself k) His desire to become a farmer l) His thoughts that reach deep into his heart to search for his identity m) His own hand that will take the farm house and replace it with new buildings to renovate the farm. o oku tupuna. p) His mind looking beyond the present farm in order to see the past and the future of the farm and how his identity links to it 9. Ben Ingram writes: “The last line “farm within farm. What could that be? Write down 2 things that the persona is contemplating. f) What is a ‘metaphysical thought’? Why is he “afraid of where a thought might take [him]”? (or: What is he afraid of?) 8. The epiphany/realisation b) Write down your interpretation of the last stanza: what is the poet realising that might help him make a decision? Which line represents the idea that the past – present – future is ultimately linked? Which technique is used? How do you interpret the “pile of selves”? \we know the author is not plagued by a form of multiple personality disorder. there is also the infinite nature of the past and the unknown future which we can imagine or consider but not understand. Explain why they are oxymorons.” What kind of struggle is this statement talking about? Why has MacCaig problems seeing himself in an objective way? Respond in a short paragraph. . the metaphysic hand is the first doll that opens up to reveal another similar but smaller doll which can be opened again to reveal another doll identical to the first two and so on.(two of them could also be classed as similes). (hint: link to the theme of identity and to background information about the author) . and in the centre. In his interpretation of the poem. 10.The land is mine.e) His own hand that will take the farm house and replace it with new buildings to renovate the farm. n) The hands of his ancestors who build the farm o) Links to the Russian doll concept. its subject matter and ideas. What are those animals doing? Explain in detail what they symbolise. d) Write down 2 animals featured in the poem that have symbolic value. and in the centre. d) At which point in the novel do we see the transition from observations of farm live/nature to MacCaig’s inner thoughts? Which technique is used to indicate this? e) Despite the persona’s claim of “not thinking” we know that there is a lot that occupies his mind. Explain this metaphor. . me” illustrates the metaphysical idea that we are just the ‘now’. Write a short personal response on how a reader like yourself could relate to the poem. the metaphysic hand is the first doll that opens up to reveal another similar but smaller doll which can be opened again to reveal another doll identical to the first two and so on. Ben Ingram writes: “The last line “farm within farm. f) The hands of his ancestors who build the farm g) Links to the Russian doll concept. In his interpretation of the poem. i) What is the “metaphysic hand” in stanza 4? Tick the 3 answers you think fit best. its subject matter and ideas. (hint: linking it to the poet himself) 7. Farm life and the poet’s observations c) Write down 3 examples of oxymorons used in the first 2 stanzas. me” illustrates the metaphysical idea that we are just the ‘now’. 6. From External observation to Internal struggle.

or someone else is not revealed. Periodicals often contained serialised fiction. The language used to describe his return is similar to that used in the Old Testament book.searching for one’s identity can be a long process . articles and reviews. the birds are singing and shoots are springing into life. Of what is the creation of music shown to be an expression? Commentary Publication Rossetti composed A Birthday in 1857. joy is expressed about a powerful love relationship. More on periodicals: A periodical is a magazine which is issued at regular intervals throughout the year. poetry. are composed with a song-like structure and rhythm. The celebration of Jesus rising from the dead can therefore be associated with the appearance of new life in nature in the season of spring.decision making can be difficult especially if we try to look at a problem/dilemma objectively -could relate to people forgetting their past and not thinking of the value of family ties for the future generations A Birthday Synopsis The object of the speaker’s celebratory statement. This Kingdom will have Jesus at its head and be a place of peace and security. With winter coming to an end. she attempts to capture in language her joy at the return of the ‘birthday of her life’ (line 15). How does this affect the mood the poem creates? Write down references to the act of singing. in 1861 and was included in Goblin Market and Other Poems the following year. such as A Birthday. It is not clear where he has been away but this is not the important factor here.. The ultimate birthday Throughout her writings Rossetti repeatedly speaks of the ultimate ‘birthday’ of the Second Coming. The New Testament book of Revelation describes this place as somewhere . Easter and the arrival of spring Throughout A Birthday. The trees are in blossom. the speaker declares that her happiness and comfort come from the presence of a certain lover. Here. More on the Second Coming: Central to the Christian faith is the idea that ultimately a new Kingdom will arrive which will replace earth. a spouse. the speaker’s own state of waiting is finally over. ‘my love is come to me’. Macmillan’s Magazine was founded in 1859 and was one of the most significant literary and intellectual periodicals of the Victorian era. the Song of Songs. One long-held view is that the Song is an allegory of the love relationship between any of: • God and Israel • Christ and the Church • Christ and the individual soul. Whether this lover is Jesus. In Western Christianity. Macmillan’s Magazine. Investigating A Birthday What are your associations with the idea of a ‘birthday’? Do you see these associations shared by the speaker in that poem? Rossetti refers to the act of singing and musical expression. the celebration of Easter always falls on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25. the speaker is celebrating her love coming ‘back’ to her. is ambiguous. Language and music Rossetti’s interest in combining language with music becomes apparent given that: • Several begin with the mention of singing • Many. the arrival of spring is celebrated. Here. Throughout the poem. More significant are the feelings that his return arouses. By having samples of her work printed in periodicals such as Macmillan’s Magazine. It was first published in the literary periodical. Rossetti wrote poetry for several literary and intellectual periodicals during her career. The Victorian period saw a rise in the publication and readership of periodicals. Rossetti widened her readership significantly. . The return of a lover In A Birthday.location is a vital part to our identity.

as I said earlier. she had these three suitors. I get the feeling that it is not an outside factor that has brought all of this joy to her. While at the same time.' On this birthday. Two of the three suitors were painters. The second verse does seem to deal more with rich and material things. so it's difficult to place the cause of her happiness on one thing.where there will be no more hunger. Investigating A Birthday • What comes to mind when you think about spring? • Do you see these associations shared by the speaker of the poem? • List the phrases which indicate that the speaker depends on another for happiness • To what extent do you think people are defined by the relationships they are in (somebody’s child. somebody’s pupil/employee etc)? • Do you think an individual can understand him/herself in isolation from such relationships? • What evidence of this can you find in the poem? In A Birthday by Christina Rossetti. love is first experienced. The dais too would remind her of the church and her going forward to give her heart to God. She never makes any mention of a man (or woman). Rossetti had three lovers any of which could describe the one in A Birthday. symbols Christina would know and envision for her poem. The verbs "hang. Rossetti lived between 1830 and 1894. She always refused to marry because of religious reasons. She never married however. so it's difficult to place the cause of her happiness on one thing. Rossetti wrote mostly devotional and children's poems in her later years after she experimented with forms such as sonnets. The flower represents female virtue and spirituality. The peacock symbolizes Christianity. The dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit. I think it's fair to say that there are loads of similies in this poem. Answer: She never makes any mention of a man (or woman). The poem appeared in Macmillan's Magazine in April of 1861. a tree and a shell. Rossetti uses lots of description from nature to convey her feelings toward a birthday. She feels special and royal on her birthday because she has found love. A raised platform made of down and silk speaks of warmth and comfort. The spots on the tail symbolize her desire that the whole world to see that she has a lover. I think the poem is really Rosetti talking about how she doesn't need anyone else to make her happy but herself. somebody’s sibling. just like love. and hymns finally settling on devotional and children's poetry. it were a child? This . She wants it lined with fur and purple as in royalty. See Aspects of literature > Big ideas from the Bible > Apocalypse. comparing her heart to a bird. The literal and most obvious interpretation i believe is to assume it is a lover. The peacocks show royalty with blue and green feathers. vivid descriptions of happiness fill the verse. All in all. I also think it is about her loving herself. Ms. First of all. The doves represent purity and innocence. Doves. She expresses happiness as fullness and as a well-watered tree that sustains life by harboring a nest in its branches and a tree ready for harvest. Ms. Please bear with me now because I'm going to deviate a little bit and talk about symbols. If one is to look at this poem from a religious viewpoint.' 'an apple-tree' filled with fruit. I'm also just going to ignore the first stanza because I can't find any symbols in this. so maybe a lot of her vivid descriptions come from watching them work. What if. every other sentence uses the words 'like a'." "carve. but some inner peace. She. The first thing to catch my attention was when she talked about fleurs-de-lys. At least. To be fair. though. Pomegranates bring out the red and show multiplicity. or tears (Revelation 7:16-17). it's fair to say that she means the flower itself. That could be one of two things: the fleurs-de-lys is the symbol of French royalty as well as a flower itself. the Second Coming. ballads. then A Birthday would not refer to a physical birthday but to a spiritual one. thirst. the End Times. In the first stanza alone. as much of her work did. It uses lots of medieval terms to convey the message of her feelings about that special birthday. Ms. I also think that the speaker of the poem is a female. Some such descriptions are 'a singing bird. But. I can't say it is the poet. I am going to propose something that may be making her happy. The pomegranates symbolize the resurrection. I'm really really bad at analyzing poetry. that would work for the first verse since it deals a lot with nature." are commands that an official might daily use. but it seems like it is about a woman who has finally found someone to make her happy. Ms. they are common. Revelation. I'm really bad at analyzing poetry on my own. however." "work. and 'a rainbow shell in a halcyon sea. her mother and sister devoted themselves to the Anglo-Catholic movement from the time she was fourteen until her death. pomegranates and peacocks add to this royal theme. I think with the way the poem is structured and the diction (words used) works.

" This brief lyric. In the first the speaker compares her heart. "A Birthday" is one of Rossetti's most exuberant poems and at the same time. and a big double-bed (with silk sheets and downy pillows!). Christina Rossetti uses extensive and positive imagery. an "apple tree / Whose boughs are bent with thickset fruit". In fact." Thus. The metaphor of the birthday of her life could be celebrating a 'born again' kind of experience. The need to retreat from mutability is confirmed in stanza two. and the effect this has (imagine the poem without the second stanza . Another example is. a bed." The second stanza moves indoors as the speaker orders preparations for the elaborate ceremonial celebration of "the birthday of my life.think about what effect this has. The other things that stand out in this poem are the transition from simple similes in the first stanza to an extended metaphor in the second. The rich artistic details of the "dais" overshadow the impulse of love that generates its gothic artifice (note. as a delicate object. at peace. From these examples it can be confirmed that the speaker gives a lot of picturesque examples meant for explaining how the speaker passionately feels ecstatic. This poem is surely the most exquisite recognition and celebration of the ecstasy of falling in love for the first time (a kind of love typically as much spiritual as sensual). imply that the only true and permanent fulfillment of love is to be found in the art it gives birth to. a "rainbow shell" paddling in "a halcyon sea. the ambiguity of the initial words of command in the stanza — "Raise me" — suggest resurrection and favor the last reading. However. A merely mechanical analysis (naming the meter. for instance. The "singing bird" inhabits a "watered shoot." surrounded by dangerous turbulence. or something along those lines. “A Birthday”. The first line starts off with “My heart is like a singing bird” which gives the impression that her heart feels as elated as a bird does when singing. and the speaker's choice of them as analogues to her heart insists upon the transience of fulfilling love.” This illustrates the fact that just like the apple tree with its limbs full of apples. and in love.” It’s clearly known that the speaker is in love when they say “Carve it in doves and pomegranates.it would be pretty trite really). Obviously the first part of the poem explains the emotions that the speaker is feeling. animals. which means that the speaker associates nature with feelings of happiness and romance. a throne. the whole poem is composed of imagery.” since both doves and pomegranates symbolize love and romance.” a colorful image possibly meaning that her “colorful” heart means the speaker feels vibrant and bright. The world of art into which the rejoicing speaker withdraws in stanza two serves as a bulwark against mutability while producing a celebratory monument. etc. The speaker also says “My heart is like a rainbow shell. the poem moves in interior directions away from descriptions of the natural world. The apple tree with its "thickset fruit" bears weighty resonances of the Fall. fulfilled. in which the speaker moves away from nature and orders the erection of what can alternately be perceived as a ceremonial platform. in my opinion): Because the birthday of my life/Is come. I think you will need to look at the connotations of some of the words in the second stanza: pomegranates. the speaker’s heart is also “full” which could mean they are content. is dense with beautiful. one of her most "aesthetic. celebrating the speaker’s anticipation for the “birthday of their life. mostly pertaining to natural descriptions. the use of the archaic "vair").notice how many of the lines in the second stanza are stressed on the first syllable ." because "my love is come to me. perhaps because the idealized images of nature that appear in the first stanza carry with them the inevitability of their own disruption. and those details. It is symmetrically structured in two eight-line stanzas. Hence the birthday metaphor. The "rainbow shell" paddling in "a halcyon sea" is vulnerable. It's pretty straightforward but it does introduce some puzzles: like whether the 'love' she celebrates is religious or sensual (or both). pointing out the rhymes. Most of the imagery mentions natural things like plants. and this poem describes the speaker’s joy and bliss. to the changing moods of the potentially destructive ocean. for example. The second part of the poem is more focused on celebratory imagery. my love is come to me. burgeoning with love. that are all solely for the purpose of relaying the sense of pure joy the speaker is feeling. in contrast with the natural images of the poem's first stanza.. and the metaphor of the 'dais' in the second stanza has been taken to be (among other things) an altar. These images of natural perfection are momentary and precarious. significantly. written in 1857.may seem far fetched but the Birthday part confuses me unless i take it as maybe the birthday of a child? In the poem. etc) risks missing the .. and an ornate memorial work of art. are symbols of fertility because of the many seeds they contain. happy. The lover feels reborn into a life charged with new and richer meaning. also the rhythm . “My heart is like an apple tree whose boughs are bent with thick-set fruit. and how it builds up to the last two lines where you get that powerful enjambment (the best thing in the poem. to images of perfect fulfillment from nature: a "singing bird" at home in a "watered shoot". richly ambiguous images.

apple and shell are all heart-shaped and for the poet as equally full of delight. This momentum.. for me. The “apple tree” groaning under the weight of its fruit at harvest time is a symbol of love’s fertility. In the first stanza. I don't know whether she was bipolar and wrote these two poems at the opposite ends of a mood swing. Rossetti’s poem starts with the plainest sights and ends in an exotic scene of mystical rapture. This is quite literally a birthday—a rebirth. tree or shell that reflects its sudden joy—and returns to store these images deep within our heart as proof that we have. we close our eyes and picture the “rainbow shell” glimmering beneath the surface of a “halcyon” or utterly becalmed sea. Stylistically. and that she never got over it. We are transported from the humble to the majestic. In the second stanza there is a tremendous shift in tone and imagery. they are an abiding symbol of plenty. 7). the silver and the gold. 5. from the natural to the art-fully fashioned. which at first induces a wise receptivity. combined with the repetition of “come” and the al-literation of “life” and “love. but the mood is dark. the inner and outer domains become one. As for the pomegranates. The doors of perception are thrown open and before they slam shut. she withholds the main verb and the sentence runs over to the next. and reminds us of the naïve charm we find in the perfectly ordinary when we are smitten. “Raise me a dais” she commands. Rossetti conducts a measured music. glimpsed something real. in bitter contrast to 'A Birthday'. In that. When some marvellous butterfly emerges from its chrysalis and takes wing. and. It longs to see. Language and tone Repetition There is a marked amount of repetition in A Birthday • Each alternate line in the first verse begins ‘My heart is like’ (lines 1. for instance. Split one with a knife and watch the scarlet seeds spill out among the juice and luscious pith. This is true to what we know of love.. or whether her first love really did end in some shattering let-down.' similes. while rhyme comes and goes at ease to suggest the casual associations of a daydream. but what is this “dais. This emphasises the speaker’s struggle to find the language to describe her emotions and serves as a link between her own subjectivity and the external nature she observes • The poem ends. a “singing bird” conveys sheer happi-ness. But in the penultimate line. or at least diminishing its impact. The phrase “thickset fruit” has a tantalizingly robust thickness of sound that seems to materialize a crisp. you don't best appreciate its beauty by catching and dissecting it. The generally melancholic tone of the rest of her work suggests that the latter was the case. above all. she echoes the first poem by the word 'resurrection' (analogous to a birthday) in the title. Love. Its purple hue.point. Another poem of CGR's.” “carve” and “work. love elevates us from mere serfs to noble savants. it suggests her love is powerful. If.000 years ago in the ancient city of Tyre. As an altar it suggests her love is sacred. By drawing attention to the word ‘come’. my love is come to me’ (line 16). Nest. Each image is a mood to explore. The repetition of “my heart” is like a hyp-notic chant that draws us into her state of mind. that she is crafting? As a throne. and then drives us to invest our vision in tangible ob-jects—from presents to an attractive home.” this platform. scented pippin in our mouth. before deliver-ing a set of imperatives: “hang. the speaker expresses her joy at the return of her lover and highlights the arrival of the . is an aesthetic experience. Love is consummated. It is in the nature of love to connect.” ends the poem on a heartfelt cry of bliss.” There is a real sense of labor. in this intoxicated moment. Rossetti’s language is subtly evocative of what it describes. our breath will slow and our mind will clear in response to such intense beauty. it suggests her love is of the flesh as well as the soul. Our love flies out into the world to link itself with any common bird. 3. the “hundred eyes” in the peacock’s tail represent Rossetti’s desire to visualize her passion. The only comfort she can envisage is to turn to religion. Likewise. see the purple. in which each line forms a unit of sense. the feathers and the fur (“vair” refers to a squirrel pelt). is 'A Better Resurrection' (see in the Classical Poet List at the top of this thread). in which earthly and spiritual power are conjoined. and by using several 'My heart is like . has adorned kings and bish-ops ever since it was first produced at great expense 2. We can almost stroke the silk. ‘Is come. for example. and hear the doves fluttering within this en-chanted castle. And as a bed she decorates with the utmost finery. The white doves and iridescent blue-green pea-cocks brilliantly contrast purity and splendor. We have stepped into a pre-Raphaelite painting. The apple is tasted.

the speaker suggests that the sustenance upon which she can live and rest has been provided: • The word shoot alludes to the first stages of growth of a plant as it emerges from the ground. A singing bird . • What evidence is there to suggest that either speaker is actually a woman? • Would a difference in gender mean that you read the poems any differently? • Do you consider that the speaker displays traits traditionally ascribed to a male or female voice? Structure and versification Metre The first verse of A Birthday is written in strict iambic tetrameter. vocal expression is as natural as breathing. • Can you identify any further similarities in form? • Can you identify any differences? • How does the metre in each differ? • What does the structure contribute to the poem? • Does it affect the tone in which the poems are read? Imagery and symbolism The imagery used in the first stanza draws on familiar natural objects but can also be read at another level in the light of Rossetti’s knowledge of the Bible. Alliteration The frequency of alliterated words in A Birthday emphasise its flowing pace and the rhythms of the natural world. This creates a song-like rhythm and means that a stress consistently falls on the word ‘heart’. the speaker indicates that her song forms a natural part of herself and is an overflow of her identity. the singing bird remains in a place of fragility. (See Literary context > Romantic poetry). the believers in Jerusalem are encouraged by God’s promise that he will guide them and provide for their needs: The LORD will guide you always. 10. a feminine pronoun has been used to discuss the speakers of this poem. the stress falls on the verbs ‘Raise’. Investigating language and tone • Think about the voice that emerges • Does this voice bring out any particular emotions? • How far are you able to identify with the poetic speaker? • For ease of reading. these trochees highlight the urgency of the speaker to create something new to celebrate the return of her love. like a spring whose waters never fail. The image of the singing bird is one which is often used in Romantic poetry. the focus is on artificial objects hung. by making it in a shoot.To a ‘singing bird’ (line 1). William Wordsworth emphasised the importance of expressing natural feelings when he argued that it was his intention to create a poetry which was a ‘spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings’. my dearest). ‘Hang’. Investigating structure and versification • Read the first verse again closely. A watered shoot . since it is easy to uproot or destroy a shoot • The idea of being watered has biblical connotations. Various images in this verse demonstrate an awareness of traditional Christian art. 13). thinking about its rhythm • Which other words does the poem emphasise through the rhythm that the metre creates? • Which words are linked to one another through the metre? • Like Song (when I am dead. By speaking of her ‘heart’ in these terms. the poem is written in a 16 line form. In the second verse. 4 out of the 7 lines begin with a trochee.The image of the ‘apple tree / Whose boughs are bent with thickset fruit’ (lines 3-4) would be a familiar sight in an age more in touch with its agricultural roots than today . In the Old Testament book of Isaiah. he will satisfy your needs … You will be like a well-watered garden.By having a ‘nest’ in a ‘watered shoot’ (line 2). 11. rather than making a nest in a full grown tree. ‘Carve’ and ‘Work’ (lines 9. Here.fulfilment of the time of waiting that she has undergone. By breaking out of the regular metrical scheme of the first verse. the poem conveys ideas of lushness and fertility. as well as reflecting and celebrating human creativity. Isaiah 58:11 TNIV An apple tree . However. In the second verse. carved and worked by human hands. divided up into 2 stanzas. By describing a shoot as ‘well watered’.

More on the Temple: In the teachings of the early church. ‘silver’ and ‘fleur-de-lys’ (line 10) is imagery traditionally associated with royalty and nobility • ‘vair’ is an expensive fur obtained from a variety of squirrel with a grey back and white belly.The word ‘dais’ (line 9) indicates a raised platform.By speaking of her heart as a ‘rainbow shell / That paddles in a halcyon sea’ (lines 5-6). The term ‘halcyon’ comes from the Greek myth of a bird (possibly a kingfisher) which was said to breed about the time of the winter solstice in a nest floating on the sea. . where God communicates with the human soul. The writer of the Old Testament book Proverbs.13.The speaker of A Birthday uses the technique of pathetic fallacy when she gives emotions to the ‘apple tree’ full of fruit and the ‘rainbow shell’. 1 Kings 6:18. as if they had human feelings. sensations and emotions’. the speaker provides an image of exuberant colour drifting at ease in tranquil waters. 11. Mention of apples might also lead Rossetti’s readers to think of the accounts of the first humans in the Garden of Eden before the Fall where they lived in perfect peace with nature and one another. the speaker indicates that descriptions of the natural world are incapable of fully expressing her exuberant emotional state. as well as conveying lightness. which adds to the sense of uplifting that the poem conveys 9. ‘purple’.Rossetti draws on the imagery used in the Old Testament to discuss the Temple which symbolised God’s presence with his people. carved fruit and statues of animals. The ‘silk and down’ from which it is made are materials of softness and luxury. According to ancient writers. Rossetti attended a high Anglican church (see Religious / philosophical context > Tractarianism) which emphasised the significance and symbolism of the structure of the church building and would have undoubtedly made use of a dais. ‘Dais’ is also a word commonly associated with the raised part of a church upon which the altar and communion table are placed. Christians generally understand this Temple to be a model of an individual’s heart. Rainbow … halcyon . For the Jews in the Old Testament. the phrase ‘halcyon days’ was associated with ideas of joy. when God helped Noah to escape the flood which wiped out the known world. 9. 1 Kings 6:29 and 2 Chronicles 3:14 and 2 Chronicles 3:16. It is also likely that Rossetti is alluding to the biblical concept of the Tree of Life. The poem’s speaker uses the image of the halcyon sea to indicate the deep comfort and rest she has found. A Dais .The imagery of ‘vair’. /To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees. The Temple . Pathetic fallacy . According to the Bible. This understanding comes from the New Testament teaching that every Christian believer is understood as a temple in which the Holy Spirit can dwell. ‘gold’. the idea of God’s Temple shifts in meaning. the Temple was the place where they met with God. /And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core. This begins by describing fruit ripe and ready on apple trees: Season of mist and mellow fruitfulness /Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun /Conspiring with him how to load and bless /With fruit the vines that round he thatch-eves run. The term was invented by critic John Ruskin in 1856 when he wrote that the aim of the pathetic fallacy was ‘to signify any description of inanimate natural objects that ascribes to them human capabilities. which all figure in the descriptions of Solomon’s Temple given in 1 Kings 6:14. declares that those who ‘lay hold’ of this tree ‘will be blessed’ (Proverbs 3:18). He then set a rainbow in the sky as a promise that never again would such an event occur (Genesis 19:3) 1. prosperity and tranquillity 2. It was often used in the 13th and 14th centuries as a trimming or lining for garments and is associated with heraldry • The dye used to create purple tones was so expensive it was only available to the rich and therefore. thought or sensations. such as trees and houses. It recalls the imagery in Keats’ Ode to Autumn. This is the treatment of inanimate objects. By ending the first verse with the declaration that her ‘heart is gladder than all these’ (line 7). The speaker seems to envisage a structure built in celebration of the return of her love. the image of the rainbow refers to the fulfilment of God’s promises. For English readers. It is possible that the speaker perceives that God’s promises are being fulfilled in her life and wants to celebrate this 12. A Birthday mentions purple hangings. 1. it charmed the wind and waves so that the sea was especially calm during the period. recounted in the New Testament. Royalty and nobility .

however the actual meaning behi nd it is shefeels reborn and happy after finding the love of her life. It was often engraved on the armour of royalty. Memory and forgetfulness Memory is a sustaining force in this poem. Birds . Investigating themes • List all the allusions to the natural world that the poem makes • How do these allusions correspond to the speaker’s emotional state? • What do they reveal about the purpose of the poem? • What do they reveal about the identity of the speaker? ‘A birthday’ by Christina Rossetti was written to express her emotions ofhappiness and new life after f inding her true love. The title ‘A birthday’ is ambiguous. By hiding its messageRossetti was abl e to create suspense for the reader and only by reading the poemwith in dept was readers able to understan d the real meaning of the title. This arises from the story of Noah. beginning with the image of the ‘singing bird’ (l. .1). when a dove sent out from the Ark returns with an olive leaf in its beak. she did this intentionally because she wantedreaders to visualise what it felt like for her to wait and wanted to remind themthat she also had wait a very long tim e for her love to come. This hints at the notion that identity is founded upon memory and that self-awareness is constructed by the remembrance of a former self. she is implying that she feels as if . In A Birthday. At firstsighting of the title must readers woul d assume that the poem is based on someone celebrating their birthday.During the Victorian era many writers like Rossetti were forbidden to includeany a dultery in their writing so therefore Rossetti used euphemism to implicateher feelings. the second alludes to representation of doves and peacocks on the dais. Poetry provides a natural outlet for the speaker’s emotions. The poem splits aftereight lines because she wanted readers to wait for along time before she talksabout her love coming to her. signifying that the storm / flood was over (Genesis 8:11) • The Holy Spirit. the first stanza talks about how there lationship effects her and her emotions and the second stanza she talks aboutwhat is going to happen now t hat her love has come to her. she does this deliberately to mislead thereader a nd introduce a new idea to the mean of having a birthday. as at the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:16) • The description of ‘peacocks with a hundred eyes’ (line 12) corresponds to a traditional and mythical understanding of the bird as a symbol of all-seeing God.Following the description of the singing bird in the first verse.The poem is split into two stanzas.” which is also known as a sprout from a plant. Earthly life and ‘life after life’ The images of new life in the natural world in A Birthday can be seen to allude to new life after death. Rossetti opens ‘A Birthday’ in lines one and two with the comparison of herheart with a ‘singing bird. Investigating imagery and symbolism • List the imagery the speaker uses throughout the poem • Why do you think that she moves from describing the natural world to objects that have been man-made? • What ambiguous aspects are there in the imagery described? • Do you think that the symbolism that is drawn upon adequately reflects the speaker’s joy? • What images would you use to reflect a state of joy you were feeling? • Do these images correspond to any in the poem? Themes Self-expression and the natural world A Birthday is concerned with natural and spontaneous expression through song or poetry.became a colour associated with royalty • Precious metals are associated with crowns and other regalia • The fleur–de-lys is a heraldic symbol derived from the lily. When she compares herself t o a “watered shoot. • Doves are used in the Bible to represent: • Reconciliation and peace. Rossetti expresses happiness by comparingher loveto a number of bright and colourful things in nature th at are full oflife.’ This first analogy suggests pure happiness andenergy because the voice of a bird that uses energy to sing is usually a joyfulsound with which one can feel a sense of happiness.In the first stanza. the speaker’s joy in the arrival in her love is bound up in the memory of what he means or has meant to her.

The poem’s first stanza presents a countryside that is geographically unspecified—an area of trees and hills —and begins to suggest the narrator’s state of mind. In his depressed state. The rainbow shell can represent a miracle. it is because the personshe love has come to her.’ The referenceto the apple tree sugg ests a happy condition because the branches are so bentwith lifebearing fruit. In this quotation she also mentions theword ‘thick’. Forms and Devices The short. or represent anendles s love or happiness because the rainbow is colourful.” The narrator attributes his depressed state to “perfect grief” in the final stanza. From his seated position. His depression is so severe that he cannot even groan aloud or speak a work of grief (“My lips…said not Alas!”). meaning hard and str ong. was a popular genre for Victorian poets. The other interpretationto this quotation is her relationship was a destiny. The fact that his walking and stopping are guided merely by the wind indicates aimlessness. the gold pot that she is referring to could be her lover. consequently. For Rossetti. theyare d estining to be with each other.’ The rainbowshell in the halcyon. The narrator is not walking toward a specific destination. Like Adam and Eve. In lines five and six she compares her heart to a ‘rainbow shell. her l over is thegold in her life. as is his soul—so much so that his hair is touching the grass. because my love is come to me. One other way toanalyse this quotation is that at th e end on a rainbow there is always a goldpot. In theses two lines she is implying that herrelationship is fruitful and sweet. “One thing then learnt remains”: He had been visually overwhelmed by the shape of the woodspurge. God planned for them to betogether. but clear and intense. and. The narrator’s posture in the second stanza indicates that he feels exceedingly depressed. or peaceful. its image and the fact that “The woodspurge has a cup of three” have been vividly burned into his memory forever. Thefinal line of the first stanza allows the reader to infer that this feeling thatshe is experienci ng is not because it is her birthday. In line three and four she compares her heart to an ‘apple tree. indicating that her relationship isstrong and is unbreakable. In the last two lines of the first stanza Rossetti compares all of the naturalitems listed to her heart a ll at once. diction. sea indicates that all is well with herworld. However. that grief may not function to bring wisdom or insight and may not even be remembered. in an even more happycondition than all three natural things it has been compared with so far. His physical state reflects his psychic paralysis as he remains motionless in this position for an unspecified length of time. she is able to imply thatshe will have lots of children but because she could not write it so strai ghtforward. but there is still no elaboration as to its cause. He then comments.” and this important fact becomes the inadvertent cause for his ensuing visual experience. but long enough so that he “hear[s] the day pass. His head is cast down.” Although he is not trying to look around and seems oblivious to the country setting as a whole. Rossetti’s choice of imagery. and. and it also refers to a biblical reference:Adam and Eve. he says there are “ten weeds” that his eyes can “fix upon. who experiences a vivid heightening of sense perception during a time of intense psychic stress. visual experience of the woodspurge. second.she were just born.” Out of that group. implies that he himself learned nothing from his grief that day and can no longer remember its cause. he moves in the direction the wind is blowing. he stops and sits in the grass. Sitting on the grass he is hunched over with his head between his knees. first. rhythm.’These two lines tells us that her heart is. or her love is like a smooth sailing boat. in fact. a flowering woodspurge captures his complete attention. and rhyme demonstrates a simplicity that mirrors— . the narrator undergoes an unforeseen and unbidden. as it had been earlier for the Romantic poets at the beginning of the nineteenth century. the narrator remarks in the third stanza that his eyes are “wide open. she had to use the fruitful imagery as a softer and more appropriatelanguage to get her idea a cross without being direct. he created her and her partner to be a pair. The Woodspurge Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s “The Woodspurge” is a sixteen-line poem divided into four-line stanzas of iambic tetrameter that describe an unidentified grief-stricken narrator in an outdoor setting. nothin g to cause disruptionfor her relationship. it was a genre that suited his ideal of simplicity in poetry. and. once the wind ceases. bysaying that her relationship is fruitful an d sweet. passivity. ‘My heart is gladder than all these. and apathy. There are two different interpretations to this quotation. and he is dramatically impressed by the detail that it flowers as “three cups in one. a species of weed that has a three-part blossom. focusing on sadness of some kind. although there is no explanation given for his emotional state. simple lyric.

Mood throughout the poem • Theme is grief • The mood set in the first stanza is a slightly dark one. establishing a negative tone that suggests that the narrator’s internal state is negative. forcing it into the background. even then. Rossetti’s use of nature tends to the particular. (before/after) • Poem might reflect his life after wife’s death • Poem could be about what he is doing after his wife’s death • A woodspurge holds its petals close together. The ideals of this group were applied to poetry as well as to painting: simplicity of syntax. The word “wind” is repeated four times in the first stanza. 1848. which produced a direct emotional effect in pre-Renaissance paintings. causing the movement to be slowed to a plodding pace to initially signal a rhythmic parallel for the narrator’s inner state. There is one common end rhyme in each stanza (aaaa. or even .and therefore underscores—the narrator’s state of mind. not the universal. imagery. Another poetic device that maintains simplicity in the poem—and yet functions to express sadness or sorrow—includes Rossetti’s use of monosyllabic words. is that he walked when the wind was blowing and that he sat when that external impetus ceased. or other figures of speech.DDDD) • Generally 8 syllables in each line (with the exception of a few lines) • Structured Ideas • After Dante’s wife died. He might be focusing on the Woodspurge because he wants to be like it (dear ones close to him) (His sister and wife died) Themes and Meanings In September. and the end rhyme for the first and fourth lines of this stanza repeats the same word. All but one word in the first stanza are monosyllables. cccc). occurs through an interplay with a very narrow. nature is presented in broad brushstrokes without ornamentation. • 6 caesuras • ‘shaken out dead’ • In the 2nd stanza.CCCC. This consistently slowed rhythm throughout the poem creates a dirge-like effect that mirrors the narrator’s mood. to a direct presentation of nature. bbbb. The only record of his awareness of his environment. he was very depressed. the poem does not have nature. weeds. His reference in the first stanza to the wind having been “Shaken out dead from tree and hill” introduces the thought of death. who was a symbol for them of a departure from the simplicity of presentation and the use of bright colors. The images are simple. grass. suggesting a dullness. With each of the next three stanzas consisting primarily of monosyllabic words. the poem’s tempo continues to be retarded. with themes that concentrated on the experience of sense perception and created emotional resonance. “still. whose goal was a return to simplicity. a lack of variety. The bare minimum of description functions to signal to the reader that the narrator himself is oblivious to the details of his surroundings because his mind is focused elsewhere. There are no metaphors. Although “The Woodspurge” has a plant’s name as its title. It is only when the narrator accidentally fixes his gaze upon the woodspurge that any specific details come forth. The name was derived from the Italian Renaissance painter Raphael. it is only the shape of the flower that is of any concern. and specific part of nature. Rossetti’s unadorned presentation of nature mutes the setting. founded the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood. similes. This poem may have been written around the time of his wife’s death. the experience of his narrator.BBBB. mood is changes to grief stricken • Mood changes in stanza 3 Structure of the poem • 4 line stanzas • Unusual rhyme scheme (AAAA. Rossetti. before his dramatic visual experience of the woodspurge. and sun have no descriptors of any kind. the tree. and. Compare this to Rossetti. or a paralysis in the rhyme that reflects the paralysis in the narrator resulting from his psychic state. along with other fellow painters such as John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt. and causes the narrator’s mental and emotional state to emerge as the central focus. and to faithfulness and accuracy in detail. and diction. thus. hill.” This deliberate repetition of words and of simple rhymes also functions to maintain the simplicity of the poem and is consistent with its simple imagery and vocabulary. concentrated.

He realises that the “weeds” (his problem) are in his way and the hardiness of the “weeds” tells that the problem that he faced are hard to be rid of. the poem was written in the spring of 1856 when Rossetti was in an anguished state. “My eyes. “The Woodspurge” concentrates on sense perception.) Rossetti was also tormented at that time about relationships with other women and with what he perceived as lost artistic opportunities. he stops and sits in the grass. the chief model he had used for many of his paintings since 1850. a species of weed that has a three-part blossom. He implies that he himself learned nothing from his grief that day and can no longer remember its cause. The poem’s first stanza presents a countryside and begins to suggest the narrators’s state of mind. In the third stanza. He was experiencing intense strife with Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) Siddal. (He eventually married her in 1860. Analysis “The Woodspurge” is a sixteen-line poem divided into four-line stanzas that describe a griefstricken narrator in an outdoor setting. Its simplicity in theme and poetic devices makes it a superb demonstration of the tenets of Pre-Raphaelite poetry. Although Rossetti’s later poetry is more ornate. nothing in the poem points to these specific issues. although precise and accurate. In his depressed state. he says there are “ten weeds” that his eyes can “fix upon”. He finally accepts what had happened and knows that he has to move on. This reflect that he sees his problem and becomes aware of it. the paradox of intense sense perception during times of emotional numbness. the function of nature is to act as a background for the presentation of human action and emotion. It functions as an example of a detail or image that can remain vivid after emotional stress has been left behind and forgotten. accuracy of detail (including botanical accuracy). However. Rossetti gives universal expression to the psychological phenomenon of acute mental awareness and heightened sensation simultaneous with mental and emotional distress. of interest particularly to a painter’s eye. The narrator is not walking toward a specific destination. is not meant to draw attention to nature itself but to mirror a psychic state or inner experience. the narrator emotionally observes the details of the woodspurge. but it is not the focus here or in other works by Rossetti. The woodspurge’s shape is a botanical fact. complex. This shows that he is insecure. Both in his painting and in his poetry. had the run” let the readers know about the sudden changes in his attitude. -Stanza1: The poems first stanza introduces the reader to a green setting and focuses on the wind . wide open. as is his soul – so much that his hair is touching the grass. Sitting on the grass he is hunched over with his head between his knees. The narrator attributes his depressed state to “perfect grief” in the final stanza. The possibility that the three-in-one nature of the woodspurge—which could recall the Christian concept of the Trinity or the concept of unity in diversity—might symbolize a higher truth and thus be a consolation for the speaker’s grief is not given any space in the poem. His depression is so severe that he cannot even groan aloud or speak a word of grief. His head is cast down. over the issue of her desire for marriage. It is removed from any cultural or historical context and—more concerned with emotion than ideology—aims to express a universal human experience. Nature does play an indirect role in the poem. Although the cause of the narrator’s sorrow is never specified. He then comments that grief may not function to bring wisdom and may not even be remembered. The fact that his walking and stopping are guided merely by the wind indicates aimlessness and passivity The narrator’s posture in the second stanza indicates that he feels exceedingly depressed.the woodspurge itself. From his seated position. “One thing then learnt remains to me”: He had been visually overwhelmed by the shape of the woodspurge and consequently. He remains in this position for an unknown length of time but long enough that he “heard the day pass”. However. but it points to no significance beyond its sheer existence in the material realm. it does not deal with contemporary issues or events. By leaving the cause of the narrator’s depression unspecified. he moves in the direction the wind is blowing and once the wind ceases. its image and the fact that “The woodspurge has a cup of three” have been vividly burned into his memory forever. and the use of nature as a framework for the expression of the mental and emotional state of the narrator. as its subject. “The Woodspurge” does not tell a story or embody an ethical or moral lesson. Rossetti’s tendency to focus on intense sensual experience rather than to illustrate truth or meaning is evident here. and difficult both in style and in content. a flowering woodspurge captures his complete attention and he is dramatically impressed by the detail that it flowers as “three cups in one”. Out of that group. The depiction of details from nature.

had the run” lets the readers know about the sudden changes in the narrators attitude. for helping him to portray the state and situations of people. By leaving the cause of the narrator’s depression unspecified. He says that grief wont bring wisdom and maybe wont even be very remembered. -Stanza3: In the third stanza. mental and emotional distress. fixes its eyes on a woodspurge. coming more to his senses. we can say that this poem shows the psychology of a person experiencing great sadness. The narrator talks about his or her ears as being 'naked'.and what had visually overwhelmed him would stay in its memory. Both in his painting and poetry. in his other poems and also in his paintings. “From perfect grief there need not be/ Wisdom or even memory/ One thing then learnt remains to me/ — The woodspurge has a cup of three. and in these lines an importance and significance is given to the woodspurge. Even when the emotions started to fade. The way the person sits on the grass. -Stanza2: In stanza 2. Maybe this can be reflecting that what had been disturbing and was on his way(the weeds) have a woodspurge together with them. and. Nature does play an indirect role in the poem. observes the details of a . finally having a connection with its sorrounding. the poem does not have nature. the narrator may be relating its situation to the flowers and the weeds. also continuing to stanza four. Unintentionally. 4 lines each start with the word ‘my’. In "The Woodspurge" Dante Gabriel Rossetti uses plain and forceful language to recreate a moment of contemplation and grief. cannot even groan aloud or speak a word of grief' or how the person cannot find words to express his feelings. nothing in the poem points to these specific issues. the narrator. explains the mental state its in. ‘Said not Alas\ means that suffering from such mental pain. Themes and Meanings Although the cause of the narrator’s sorrow is never specified. and he may now be realizing his problems and seeing how hard they are to overcome. It concentrates on creating emotional effect. in an emotional state.‘‘walked on at the wind's will'’ suggests a sense of aimlessness and passivity. hunched over with its head between its kness close to the ground shows how depressed and insecure it feels.hair and ears. Rossetti gives universal expression to the psychological phenomenon of acute mental awareness and heightened sensation simultaneously with mental and emotional distress. The narrotors mood can be started to be interperated. “The Woodspurge” is about the narrator’s grief and that an insignificant detail or image can remain vivid after emotional pain is forgotten.’(Caroline Healey) -Closing Sentence: In conclusion. accuracy of detail and the use of nature as a framework for the expression of the mental and emotional state of the narrator. We can also say that nature plays an indirect role. and there shouldnt be anything learnt from it. These sensory details help to place the reader into the scene. or even the woodspurge itself. Rosetti had used nature for the same purpose. wide open. sits down. The depiction of details from nature is not meant to draw attention to nature itself but to mirror an inner experience. alliteration is used ‘naked ears heard ’ the ‘e’ sound is repeated. acute mental awareness. He was experiencing intense strife with Elizabeth Siddal over the issue of her desire for marriage. the narrators posture is described. but alone. The line “My eyes. the poem was written in the spring of 1856 when Rossetti was in an anguished state. Repetition is also used in this stanza. This may show how in a moment of grief and depression the attention of a person can be captured on the smallest thing and its details. the function of nature is to act as a background for the presentation of human action and emotion. An unsignificant detail. Rossetti was also tormented at that time about relationships with other women and what he perceived as lost of artistic opportunities. as its subject. the memory of the single detail remained.By referring to its lips. I think this sentence summarizes this stanza and the poem greatly:‘Rossetti emphasizes the mundane details that people remember in times of acute emotional pain.” the reader recognizes the narrator’s true sadness. like a background. Although “The Woodspurge” has a plant’s name as its title. The narrator remains in this position for an unknown length of time but long enough that he or she “heard the day pass”.and the narrator’s movement. He narrates a basic scene from the perspective of an unknown person in which the individual wanders in a natural setting. 'wind was still' he sat. In conclusion. but it is not the focus here or in other works by Rossetti. showing that he was not very aware of his actions and too absorbed in his thoughts . and remarks that it flowers as “three cups in one”. Also in stanza 2. Repetition is also used. However. wind and I are repeated. giving a sense that has feels detached from the world. for the presentation of the persons responses and feelings in certain conditions. Stanza4: In the final stanza when Rossetti writes. The narrator notices the woodspurge amongst the other weeds.

The poem's refusal to locate significance anywhere movingly expresses the hopelessness of deep grief. drawn in. In fact. said not Alas! /My hair was over in the grass." Lending such great importance to the woodspurge in the poem's final line. Landow. had the run/Of some ten weeds to fix upon. ears. Did Rossetti set "The Woodspurge" outside for a particular reason? What statement might he be making about the relation between humans and the environment? What lines in "My Sister's Sleep. Rossetti highlights his subject's physical characteristics. Why might Rossetti have rejected the notion of symbolism — prevalent in many other poems and paintings of the period — in this poem? 2. however. but at the same time it implies a very limited role for poetry. Not until the final stanza. In fact. "From perfect grief there need not be/ Wisdom or even memory/ One thing then learnt remains to me/ — The woodspurge has a cup of three. Why did Rossetti make "The Woodspurge" so short? Does its abbreviated length make the narrator's emotions any more acute? 4. highly self-conscious work of art. Aside from its role as the narrator's primary visual focus.]/My eyes. In both poems. means nothing. since the poem not only implies that the natural symbol has no special significance. I think. Questions 1./My naked ears heard the day pass[. when Rossetti writes. for the wind was still. In the second and third stanzas. What effect do you think the simple wording of "The Woodspurge" has on interpretations of this poem? Does it intensify the poem's ultimate message? 3. however. As Rossetti writes. was not to be satisfied with the terrribly limited poetic position that the facts could speak for themselves it they had anything to say. focusing on the narrator's stationary features and inner emotions. How can you reconcile "The Woodspurge" to the ornate language and metaphor found in his sonnets? . hair. "The Woodspurge" represents a kind of minimalist poetry that not only abandons the role of the poet as seer. Rossetti's poem. does the reader recognize the narrator's true inner sadness." describing the death of the narrator's sister on Christmas Eve. "I had walked on at the wind's will/ — I sat now. of course." "The Blessed Damozel. decriptive language. It is a poetry of nonstatement. and eyes: My lips. "My Sister's Sleep" is much longer.particular woodspurge — a European herb with greenish yellow flowers. The first stanza focuses on the wind and the narrator's movement." The remainder of the poem echoes this stillness. Riede describes in "The Woodspurge"? According to George P. Some of Rossetti's other sonnets possess elaborate. which mimics the wind patterns. Rossetti's ambition. Rossetti emphasizes the mundane details that people remember in times of acute emotional pain. "My Sister's Sleep. wide open. is a kind of objet trouvé. . "The Woodspurge " is a highly wrought. the remainder of the poem appears to lack symbolic representations. but even that the insignificant symbol is discovered by chance." and other poems take the same approach to a non-symbolic reality that David H. entertained similar notions of grief as in "The Woodspurge". His inclusion of such sensory detail helps place the reader in the scene. A fact is presented. this poem embodies in a peculiarly pure form one kind of poetry that may result from a loss of faith in the visionary. the woodspurge does not possess an overt symbolic meaning. but it is nevertheless a work of art that implies an extremely limited scope for the poet to work in. the narrators seem to be experiencing some sense of loss or sadness. but even brings into question his role as maker. including his or her lips. as well. but the fact suggests nothing.

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