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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"
The poem has a rather complicated rhyme scheme. and. He alternates between putting the gas pedal to the floor and slamming on the breaks. dabs. 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). Hopkins literally fuses words together in order to have the maximum amount of meaning and accents using the minimum number of words. Then the last line "Praise Him" is set apart with its own indentation far to the right. chestnuts. the name says it all. Indeed. the word "stipple" (line 3) is a term from drawing. and lines with the same indentation tend to rhyme at the end. He thinks that merely describing the world as it is should be enough to give people a sense for the mysteries of spiritual life. gas! brake. he takes his inspiration from the Book of Psalms. "Pied Beauty" does not have a regular form. Hopkins has one of the most unique styles in English poetry. and we’ll listen for the music behind the words. Sound Check Read this poem aloud. or more accurately. A perfect example occurs in line 4: Fresh fire-coal chest-nut-falls. The landscape of this poem is decidedly domesticated. Most important for "Pied Beauty. The poem has two stanzas. each followed by the pause of a comma or semi- . The rhythm consists of small explosions of energy. the grouping of accented syllables results in the cramming together of meaning as well. gas! brake. can we trust her or him? The speaker is a religious man who has read and absorbed the Christian scriptures. Pied Beauty Setting Where It All Goes Down "Pied Beauty" is a hymn that is sung in nature instead of church. "Sprung rhythm" is the big takeaway from Hopkins's poetry. In fact. trout." In this case. spots. Hymn in Sprung Rhythm "Pied Beauty" has no regular meter. such as jungles. and he wants you to be pious. However. dense trees. You could imagine the speaker as the kind of person who collects samples to add to his personal collection. on the other hand. There are not a standard number of syllables per line. and dapples of all kinds. Look at all the adjectives in the second stanza. Still. Another way that Hopkins creates strong accents is by using alliteration everywhere. Humans don't control nature – they are an important part of nature. Hopkins invented "sprung rhythm." as their own line). Instead of tigers. and this poem takes its cues from the Book of Psalms in the Bible. He talks like a priest or preacher. It reminds us of a painting by the famous French pointillist Georges Seurat. and the variety of their jobs is compared to the variety of colors on a trout or a bird's wings. He isn't simply content to quote or recite scripture. mountains. Some nature poems describe the exotic. Form & Meter We’ll show you the poem’s blueprints. many small springs scattered throughout the poem." (It's the painting featured in the museum scene of Ferris Beuhler's Day Off). The land is divided into "plots and pieces" for farming (line 5). "Sprung rhythm" is like a spring. humans don't dominate the scene or stick out in any particular way. Speaker Point of View Who is the speaker. But they do not dominate nature. The setting is the English countryside." the landscape is characterized by dots. You might see him sitting underneath a tree with a notebook and making sketches of the "dappled things" he has seen. that Hopkins is as inexperienced as a learning permit driver. but turns his attention to the specific qualities of nature. He always notices the unusual or eccentric features of the landscape. look at the way that each group of three lines is indented like three stairs going down. and rushing waterfalls. There is alliteration in (almost) every single line. He is very pious. The scheme goes: ABCABC DBEDE. more importantly. and other varieties of wilderness. The rhythm is characterized by stops and starts. Hymns are religious songs of praise and prayer. We don't mean to suggest. though. "A Sunday Afternoon in the Park. and birds. Its genre. and would lead naturally to praising God. too. What do you hear? Reading a poem in "sprung rhythm" is like driving with someone who has just gotten his or her learning permit. It almost looks like the concluding "amen" of a religious prayer. The rhythm of the poem is stop-and-go: gas! brake. The accents and downbeats are concentrated together. Often. such as a bird's feather or a particularly colorful stone. This person hasn't learned to give a steady amount of gas to keep the car moving at an even speed. can she or he read minds. He looks at nature almost like a biologist. the first with six lines and the second with five (assuming you count the final two words "Praise Him. we have cows. Instead.Pied Beauty: Rhyme. is a hymn.
The famous "Pied Piper" was so named because his clothes were made from parts of many different-colored clothes. and trim. ." Notice how the first version sounds much quicker. you don't have to fear for your life. or play the devil’s advocate. and contrast. or does he assume that his audience shares his views? 3." think Snoopy. which is a branch of Catholicism)? Could a non-Christian or a non-religious person appreciate the sentiments in the poem? 2. His language is loaded like a spring. 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. That's it." or that "pied beauty" is just one kind of beauty? Gerard Manley Hopkins’s Calling Card . 2. Try on an opinion or two. and it has a similar meaning: both are good SAT words! When you hear "piebald. In other places. Hopkins puts a mini-brake after each of those words. Aside from a few lesser-known words like "brinded" and "stipple. Reading "Pied Beauty" provides all the excitement of being a first-time driver. William Faulkner. but his ideas are not complicated. Hopkins is sometimes considered a "modernist" or "proto-modernist" poet.colon. the same year that Hopkins was ordained as a Jesuit priest by one of his heroes. What’s Up With the Title? "Pied beauty" is a kind of beauty characterized by mixture. start a debate. the sound is like a thread that guides you through each line. "Pied Beauty" comes near the height of Hopkins's religious fervor. We have trouble deciding whether the poem is meant to be a private and personal prayer (it was never published in Hopkins's lifetime). and others. 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. Themes Pied Beauty Theme of Religion "Pied Beauty" is a celebration of natural creation bookended by traditional religious expressions of praise and glorification. Plus. 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. that lovable cartoon beagle with the black-and-white splotches. which is nice." the sounds of words are supposed to convince the reader of the beauty of the things they represent." there is not much to trouble even a new reader of poetry.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. Does the speaker make any kind of religious arguments." which makes us wonder: "Are there trout that don't swim?" Of course not. you know that when he says "Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls. blending. the famous English writer and theologian John Henry Newman. and so did later Romantics like John Keats. but necessary for the rhythm. where Hopkins writes. In line 3. tackle. To be "pied" is to have two or more colors in dots or splotches. There are no incredible walking trout. As the driver of the poem. Why does the speaker "praise" or give glory to God? What does this action demonstrate about the person giving praise? Chew on This 1. The poem was written in 1877. In "Pied Beauty." Tough-O-Meter In poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins. But this technique came to be associated with the innovative sonic experimentation of 20th-century modernism. Shakespeare used such words frequently. The same principle holds for line 6. "gear and tackle and trim" instead of "gear. except that Hopkins is really an experienced veteran with the poetic equivalent of a perfect driving record. Even if you have never seen a chestnut. Because of his innovative technique and use of language. Here's an interesting question: is the title saying that all beauty is mixed or "pied. as expressed in the work of authors like James Joyce. he adds extra words to keep the poem hurtling forward. The word "piebald" comes from the same root. The last two words are redundant in meaning. He belonged to no established school. and hyphenated words were just one of the tools of his own brand of "sprung rhythm. he describes "trout that swim. Questions About Religion 1.
According to the speaker of this poem. or would he want to tweak Stevens's idea? 3. Questions About Man and the Natural World 1. Why is God "past change"? And when. Questions About Awe and Amazement 1. He doesn't take the view that man exploits nature. God is the only being that does not change. Hopkins says that God is praise-worthy because He created such a mysterious and beautiful world. Maybe there's not a huge distinction between the two views. meaning it shows natural beauty in an agricultural setting. Are there any images of nature that are not associated with agriculture or farming in some way? 2. both the macro and microscopic appear "dappled. What is the opposite of "Pied Beauty"? Is there an opposite? 4. or play the devil’s advocate. Hopkins seems to have an appreciation of natural diversity for its own sake. or play the devil’s advocate. Do you think Hopkins would agree. "Praise Him" in the final line. are they "transient"? 4. How does the speaker's awe manifest itself in Hopkins's "sprung rhythm"? 2. 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. What kind of role does humanity play in nature? Does the poem suggest that humans are destined to use nature. With the help of our microscopes and telescopes. is change a good thing? 2. When the speaker says. In a famous poem called "Sunday Morning. God brings change into the world. Humans model their own activities after nature. is limited to the things you might see in the English countryside. or maybe both? Chew on This 1." Hopkins sees the same patterns of transient beauty in the greatness of a clouded sky or the smallness of finches' wings." the beauty of the earth is dependent on change. 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 . then." He can offer no explanation but can only describe and admire. 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." Wallace Stevens argues that "Death is the mother of beauty" because death brings change. Try on an opinion or two. he also believes they have the responsibility to guide and order nature. his view of nature. or in different ways? How. at least in this poem. In "Pied Beauty. even if not in an exploitative way? Chew on This 1. start a debate. like a person who slowly turns a kaleidoscope. which places them in a superior position. and regardless of their relation to human ends. Questions About Transience 1. On the other hand. but rather Hopkins's landscapes are filled with the tools and marks of humanity just as it is filled with trees in birds. Does the speaker talk more like a priest or a scientist. 3. Some religious thinkers would say that nature must be beautiful because it was created by God. disagree. 2." Hopkins doesn't really praise specific things so much as he praises the general structure of nature. Pied Beauty Theme of Man and the Natural World In Hopkins's poetry. what do all these things have in common? 3. Hopkins adopts the Catholic view that God is the only unity in the world – everything else exists in diversity. nature does not exist without man. 2.3. we now know that when you look close enough. The poem is an expression of naïve and childish innocence that could not possibly be sustained. in all things great and small. The poem is pastoral. In one sentence. The poem uses "dappled" as an umbrella for a lot of different things. except one of attitude. exactly. start a debate. 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. Pied Beauty Theme of Transience According to "Pied Beauty. Although Hopkins clearly sees humans as a part of nature. 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. he is talking to himself. Try on an opinion or two.
their gear and tackle and trim. He could have written about the ways in which humans have harmed nature. Quote #3 Whatever is fickle. 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). or painting. The first line lets us know that the poem will be a "hymn to creation. sweet. dim. Hopkins has farming on the brain. there is no absolute concept of beauty that does not change. drawing." Our first mental associations for "dappled" might have to do with color." Humans have divided up the countryside into "plots" and "pieces" for farming different crops. Try on an opinion or two. "Pied Beauty" turns into a nature poem – a major departure from the Psalms in the Bible. finches' wings. (line 2) The natural landscape in "Pied Beauty" is oriented around agriculture. 3. fallow. strange. Although "Pied Beauty" speaks of God's "beauty. 2." inspired by the Biblical Psalms." Notice how Hopkins looks at the positive ways in which humans interact with nature. The coexistence of pairs "swift" and "slow" . Check out "God's Grandeur" to read Hopkins's version of the darker side of human interaction in nature. sour. Quote #2 For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow (line 2) After the first line. In other words. Although much of Christian scripture does praise nature. Quote #4 And all trades. "That waterfall looks like bales of hay falling off a cliff." The speaker is clearly most amazed by odd or unusual things. The poem argues that worldly beauty is created through the cycles of life and death. freckled (who knows how?) (line 8) he speaker does not try to explain the way the world is. (line 6) Humans are further integrated into the list of natural marvels. because in the poem God is praised according to the beauty of creation. Here the category widens to include anything that is "one-of-a-kind. Quote #3 Whatever is fickle. Quote #2 For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim." but also about things that seem commonplace. (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. 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./Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls." the poem has no means of evaluating the beauty of God. slow. 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. which is changeable. (line 11) The poem ends abruptly when the speaker urges us to praise God. and plough. or play the devil’s advocate.1. Quote #2 All things counter. as with this comparison of the sky to a cow. (line 7) The poem becomes more general about what "dappled things" are as it goes along. but clearly did not have this theme in mind when writing this poem. freckled (who knows how?) With swift. Did you notice how Hopkins just slipped that in casually? Quote #5 Praise Him. Hopkins considers this process to be natural. The parenthetical "who knows how?" discourages us from questioning God's designs. Quote #4 He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: (line 10) God is the "father" in the Christian Trinity. start a debate. spare. it does not do so in such a specific and sensuous way. (lines 3-4) Hopkins subtly mixes references to human activity with his descriptions of nature. The chestnuts are compared to the coals in a fireplace. Quote #3 Landscape plotted and pieced--fold. That's a little like saying. original. adazzle. (line 5) The landscape was always so "pied. he just admires it.
making the phrase all the more beautiful. which he considers simple. What political connections do you think this poem could have? Does it seem relevant to the contemporary topic of diversity? 5. the only thing you can count on is eternal variation. The poet offers glory and praises God because of all the things he listed in the poem that he finds beautiful. What other "dappled things" in the world would you want to praise? 2. are as he claims. Quote #5 He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: (line 10) Hopkins compares the beauty of God. different colors. This poem on a personal level does make me feel grateful for the things on the Earth. (line 2) The sky is "couple-colour" when filled with clouds. the speaker gives up trying to express his amazement in language. unless he wanted to bring special attention to their restless motion. but not in praise of anyone in particular. (line 8) "Fickle" is not used in a negative sense. Quote #2 For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim. and we all know that clouds don't like to stay in one place. Pied Beauty Transience Quotes Quote #1 For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow. appreciating the beauty of everything that was put on the Earth. Pied Beauty Questions Bring on the tough stuff . circles. etc. 5.there’s not just one right answer. God is the "unmoved mover" who brings change to the world while remaining always and forever the same. which is why the natural world has so many unique individuals. strange. but the creation was so incredible that we should still be awed by it.and "sweet" and "sour" is nothing new. as you might use it to describe someone who is your friend one day and not the next. 7. 8. Quote #4 Praise Him. spare. That's the point – they have been around since the creation. The direct spiritual emotion of the final line contrasts with the linguistic fireworks that have built up to it. It is a praise song because it talks of something ‘God’ has given the Earth and praises ‘God’ for it. are presented by God according to the speaker. and “landscape plotted and pieced”." then why does Hopkins praise things that change and might therefore seem "impure"? 4. 6. "Fickle" just means "changeable" or "transient. he is saying that things different and strange can still be beautiful. The poet combines antithesis and alliteration by using countering words with opposite meanings. who inspired a lot of Catholic thought. How does the poem's rhythm express the virtues of being "dappled" or spotted? Pied Beauty by Gerald Manley Hopkins Poem Analysis 1. irreducible things over general categories Quote #4 Whatever is fickle. put on the Earth by God. especially by using hyphens between two shorter words." God is the only thing that remains unchanged. Why else would Hopkins include the redundant information that trout are swimmers. to the complex and shifting beauty of the world. The words flow together nicely. Hopkins loved to invent new words. but using the same starting letters of each word to create alliteration. Try coming up with your own new words. He seems to be fond of nature and "the great outdoors." and it is true of everything in nature. 3. When the poet says that all things counter. perfect. (line 7) Nature constantly produces new forms. When it comes to the sky. or a . the trout themselves do not. The speaker mentions “skies of couple-color”. The speaker’s emotional state is in praise of God. According to Aristotle. For example ‘God’’s beauty is never changed because in the Christian faith ‘God’ is perfect while the physical world is always changing. 1. 2. These are all references to the pied beauty found in the poem. The speaker is thankful for everything with dots. All the amazing and beautiful things present. 3. Quote #3 All things counter. The speaker values singular. (Not finished) The poem "Pied Beauty" begins by praising God for all the colorful and diverse things in nature. (line 3) Though the "rose-moles" stay in one place on the trout's body. The question of the nature or character of God is a complicated one in Christian thought. The contrast is where the poet says his beauty is past change. original. (line 11) At the end of the poem." Many of the images in the poem made me think of camping out. If God is the ultimate good. 4. “fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls”. According to "Pied Beauty. and God is "past change. and unchangeable.
everything that has dots." I had trouble with this line. What effect. Thematically. and its completion of the praise with which the whole poem began is very striking and very powerful. though the iambic beat can still be felt (lines 4 or 8. The most powerful thing of all. chestnut falls. It appeared in the first collected edition of his poems.picnic. It also makes reference to manmade things. for example. though while some are regular (lines 2 and 3. stanza 2. Everything that is different. edited by Robert Bridges (1918). it does. The lines are generally iambic in basis. man's trades. but in this relatively short life he wrote some of the most startling and original poetry of the whole 19th Century. edited by Catherine Phillips (1986). But after researching. The landscape plotted and pieced. finches. and trim are also varied. in common with most of his other poetry. in 1889. though this is something that is unlikely to be noticed when actually reading the poem aloud. fish. this is quite a daring style. while he wrote “Pied Beauty” in 1877. and line 10) others are certainly not. While the beauty of the earth lies in its change. ensure that despite the altering rhythms the poem never loses its tightness and focus. but a complex one in both its meaning and its form. and it's diver . etc. based on the rhythms of Anglo-Saxon and ancient Welsh poetry. the founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). published in 1930. skies of two colors. line 11 “Pied Beauty” opens and closes with variants of the two mottoes of St. For example. the two mottoes are: “Ad majorem Dei gloriam (To the greater glory of God) and Laus Deo semper (Praise be to God always). This is perhaps why. Stanza 1. He was a deeply intellectual and religious man. The poem goes on to thank God for more things. and became a Jesuit priest in 1877. for Hopkins the one unchanging being. etc. everything that is changing. the same year in which he wrote ‘Pied Beauty’. who creates change. “Pied Beauty” is one of the first poems that Hopkins wrote in the so-called sprung rhythm that he evolved. is unchanging himself. 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. The poem subsequently appeared in the second complete edition of Hopkins’s poetry. Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins. ‘Pied Beauty’ is a short poem. utterly simple and almost breathless short line. some of which Hopkins has apparently invented – ‘couple-colour’. and he finds himself full of wonder at the constant changes and contrasts in everything that he sees. birds.. Given the date when Hopkins was writing. His aim was to approximate the rhythms and style of normal speech. I came to the conclusion that it means that God. and “Pied Beauty” perfectly exemplifies both these aspects of his work. “Pied Beauty” was available in Gerard Manley Hopkins: The Major Works. however. fresh fire-coal. for instance). the landscape itself – all have different and multiple colours and shapes. As of 2006. lines 1–2. God is seen as being beyond change but as generating all the variety and opposites that manifest in the ever-changing world. Given the brevity of the poem. or effects. tackle.” Milward points out that it is . For example.. the speaker says. in which he could see the work and power of God. fathers-forth’. Opinion: Hopkins was born in 1844. and all he can do in the final line of the poem is to express his amazement in a short. Even man-made things are equally attractive. leaves. As cited by Peter Milward in A Commentary on the Sonnets of G. however. But the poem does not only speak of natures' diversity. is that all these changing things are created by God. 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 rhyme scheme is fairly complex (ABCABCDBCDC). of which Hopkins was a member. and died just 45 years later. Some points for classroom discussion There are some very unusual and initially difficult words in the poem. it was first published twenty-nine years after his death. does this irregularity have? The short final line has been mentioned already. cattle. In lines 3 to 5. albeit speech infused with a religious ecstasy and enthusiasm that are characteristics of his poetry. "He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change. It is written in the form of a curtal or shortened sonnet. far removed from much of the conventional formality of his Victorian contemporaries. and asking around. cows. In ‘Pied Beauty’ he expresses his delight and astonishment at the sheer diversity of nature. Hopkins is best known as a nature poet and a religious poet. At the end of the poem. Hopkins. the poem is a simple hymn of praise to God for the “dappled things” of creation. ‘fresh-firecoal’. Ignatius of Loyola. for instance. because I did not know what the speaker meant by this. Throughout his life Hopkins was deeply fond of the countryside and its beauty. M. another of Hopkins’s stylistic inventions. too.
The poet’s description of these things as “counter. unremarkable. frecklèd”: they embody pairs of opposite or contrasting abstract qualities. The whole of stanza 1. The trades are spoken of in terms of their neatness and orderliness: “gear and tackle and trim. Stanza 2. From the point of view of the visual arts (Hopkins was a keen painter). the sestet of the curtal sonnet. to his reflections on the abstract qualities he admires in “dappled things. a technique known as stippling. this time in the form of his trades and the clothes and tools associated with them. lines 3–4 The poet turns his attention to the river. the “rose-moles” on the trout stand out against the background color of the skin. Stanza 2. and brightness and dimness. This is not an untouched. Thus bi-colored skies and streaked cows display contrasting hues. which is contrasted with the unity and non-changing nature of God. The “Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls” seems to open up a moral and personal aspect to the theme of variety. and the latter motto. A. by implication. “whose beauty is past change. This variety is embodied in the “dappled things” of nature.” which are commonly used to describe things of which the Victorian mainstream did not approve. “Praise him. He notes the wings of finches. which the poet likens in a metaphor to coals that break open in a fire and glow red.. The idea of the broken-open chestnuts revealing a shining hidden glory within symbolically suggests that a humble.” with “trim” perhaps suggesting the sailboats of fishermen. lines 7–8 In the quatrain of the curtal sonnet. finches’ wings have bars of contrasting colors. Line 2 gives two examples of dappled things. This suggestion is picked up by the ambiguous adjectives “fickle. Those mentioned are swiftness and slowness. virgin landscape. lines 5–6 The poet broadens his vision to take in the landscape. the poet returns to the theme he introduced in the first line: the creator of all this variety. the poet draws more direct attention to man. divinely inspired soul. the poet leaves behind the concrete examples of dappled things of stanza 1. or flawed exterior can conceal a beautiful. All these references include. the poet likens “skies of couple-colour” to a “brinded” or striped cow. at the end. Stanza 1. suggests an opposition to the mainstream of opinion. Thus Hopkins appears to be treating his poem as an exercise in the Jesuit tradition. their skins showing rose-colored markings “all in stipple. consists of a number of such things. Then the poet draws attention to the windfalls from chestnut trees. their dull brown shells break open to reveal reddish-brown nuts within. D.. Stanza 1. “fallow” refers to a field left for a period of rest between crops. at the beginning of each written exercise.” meaning divided into sections or plots. which are of varied colors. In a simile. A “fold” is an enclosure for sheep.” as well as meaning contrary to expectation and therefore unusual.” meaning spots such as an artist might create by using small touches of the brush. The significance of these things lies in the union of contrasting or opposite qualities in one being or aspect of creation. and contrast is God. When chestnuts hit the ground. but a landscape worked and shaped by man: it is “plotted and pieced. as these are both qualities that were neither admired nor appreciated in the Victorian age. The interjection of “who knows how?” adds an element of wonder and mystery. D. sweet and sour.customary for pupils in Jesuit schools to write an abbreviated form of the former motto. His use of the words “fickle” and “frecklèd” to describe these things is noteworthy. since both are of two contrasting colors. S. change. and the worked landscape consists of divisions that separate one part from another. Many ladies with freckled complexions employed poisons and potions to try to remove the marks and attain the uniformly pale color that was fashionable. frecklèd. He turns his attention inward. These are things of mottled or variegated hue that display variety and pairs of opposites (such as light and dark). “Fickle” was most often applied to inconstant lovers (more frequently women) and unstable and capricious people.” He appreciates their oddness. man’s intervention in the natural landscape. lines 9–11 The poet describes the way in which the dappled things are “fickle. In conclusion. L. and “plough” refers to a field tilled in preparation for crop planting.” He ends with a simple half-line consisting only of the exhortation. In line 6. where trout swim. broken-open chestnuts show a bright color inside against their dull-colored outside. such as inconstant lovers and less-thanflawless complexions. G. as detailed in the sestet of the curtal sonnet. and rarity.” Themes Nature’s Variety and God’s Unity “Pied Beauty” is a hymn of praise to the variety of God’s creation. all of which contribute to their preciousness. M. these . uniqueness. Line 1 begins a hymn of praise to God for creating “dappled things” that embody the “Pied Beauty” of the title.
it is a single being and thereby represents a unity of contrasting elements. the land that man has ploughed. Thus. 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. This establishes the tone of the poem as one of thanksgiving or celebration of the beautiful creations that the poet is surrounded by. In terms of poetry. or broken symmetry. a dappled object or being displays asymmetry. He is convinced that God's creation is imperfect and he goes about organising and streamlining and make everything smooth and even. spare. In the visual arts. Man's thoughtlessness distorts and perverts God's perfect plan for the Natural Universe.' This results in drabness and monotony. “their gear and tackled and trim. Everything in the Natural Universe . original. “God’s Grandeur. Man in his foolishness constantly attempts to reshape Nature according to his rules of symmetry and uniformity. this might be expressed in terms of regular rhythm (symmetry) and broken rhythm (asymmetry). He swears by the mantra of 'sameness. infinite skies or heavens. infinity. disyllabic final line before the poem drops into the silence of contemplation. 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. drawing. or sculpture comes from the interplay between symmetry and broken symmetry. the theme is broadened to include abstract qualities that are opposite or contrasting in the same way in which. to such an extent that it is defined by the activities of man within it: the sheepfold. difficult. is a greater imaginative stretch than envisaging contrasting colors on an object. In his descriptions of people and his look inward at himself. 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. and even incomprehensible. the one and the many. writing in a letter of February 15. the power of a painting. though the cow is bi-colored.” oddness and contrariness are brought into the fold of God’s diverse creation. Man and his environment are also unified. the colors on the cow and the trout are opposite or contrasting. Whereas an even-colored object or being displays symmetry. and everchanging forms of creation are set against the oneness. and the land that he has left to rest between crops. embodied in the neatness of the image. however. in the concrete examples of the first stanza.” In “Pied Beauty. 1879. and blearing trades of that other poem of 1877. The landscape is not one of untouched nature. Thus the solid. bright and dark. smearing.” Piedness or variety is unified and embodied by each being named in the poem. but one that is formed and shaped by man. unusual. Hopkins portrays man as just another organic part of God’s creation. Hopkins was aware of this. are ultimately one. The “trades” that he mentions are not the searing. finite. this poem is a celebration of the oneness between rural man and his land. In the second stanza. Q: What is the central idea of the poem "Pied Beauty"? Hopkins' curtal sonnet "Pied Beauty" (written 1877. There is unity in diversity too in the poet’s juxtaposition of contrasting beings or elements. to Robert Bridges (reproduced in Gerard Manley Hopkins: The Major Works). 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. but such is the momentum of the poem that nothing could seem more natural.” but trades that bring man into a cooperative and order-creating relationship with creation. 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. The one and the many. At a time when the Industrial Revolution was prompting many writers and thinkers to lament the growing gap between man and the countryside. he continues to use the contrasting images to point out and describe the "fickle" nature of things and man. the God that is praised in the extremely simple. and constancy of God. and the consequent destruction of the countryside by the manufacturing activities of man. not a force that is destroying that creation. enfolded into the landscape. familiar form of the cow is set against the unbounded.elements represent asymmetry.published 1918) is an unabashed celebration of the wide variety of contrasts found in God's creation the Natural Universe.” Hopkins includes in his hymn of praise people and other beings who are different. which was stylistically and thematically so far ahead of its time that readers found it odd. just as the various. and (figuratively speaking) swimming against the mainstream. strange. In giving thanks to God for “All things counter. The Eternal God the Father is the creator and the cause of all contrasting differences in the natural universe. It can be no accident that such words were repeatedly applied to Hopkins’s poetry. To unify such abstract opposites as swift and slow. “No doubt my poetry errs on the side of oddness. The poem concludes with the ultimate expression of piedness: God and his creation.
" and another ends "Praise Father.. The lines All things counter.. Examples in the poem include: • "Glory be to God. In the first stanza. Its appeal lies both in its imagery and its musical nature.. This image brings to mind the chestnut trees in the fall. spare.a pattern of sound that includes the repetition of consonant sounds. The first line starts off the poem drawing attention to God: "Glory be to God.. God "whose beauty is past change" and superior to all other standards. the musical element comes from the poem's sounds. Q: What is Gerard Manley Hopkins praising? An Englishman who converted to Catholicism and became a Jesuit priest.." There are short hymns sung in a variety of churches: one begins with "Glory be to the Father...." repeats the "hard" "c" (that sounds like a "k"). Another beautiful images is found in: Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls... the poet praises oddity and uniqueness because all that is created has been made by God and is... The lilting (swaying) nature of the poem also creates a musical quality in the poem.. when a duplicate sound is made by an "f" and a "ph. "Landscape plotted and pieced—fold. original. with leaves that are the color of glowing coals. However. God created these qualities and." • and. and plough." and "Praise to God always.." repeats the "f.. thus including man in these myriad forms of beauty. finches’ wings. 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. The central idea of "Pied Beauty" is that variety and contrast are the defining characteristics of Eternal God our Father and Creator. followed then by the repeated "f" sound." and is based on "Anglo-Saxon and traditional Welsh poetry.. air or water. 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. This captivating imagery is employed throughout the poem's stanzas. worthy of this exaltation. after all. is one of my favorite poems." is alliterative with the repetition of the "hard" "g. However. For. the musical and the repetitive alliterative sounds. and fickleness certainly a character flaw. which is. It is called "sprung rhythm.. Alliteration is the repetition of the same consonant sound at the beginning of a group of words clustered together." uses alliteration first with the repetition of the "p" sound. Son. then.." With this prayerful arrangement of his unique sonnet.. And the use of similar sounds is what the ear registers much more quickly than what the eye sees." In addition. Q: Explain how Gerard Manely Hopkins uses language structure in "Pied Beauty" to convey his message. • "Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls." The end of the poem sounds like the closing of a hymn: "Praise him.rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim. qualities that make them all the more worthy. strange. 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. freckled (who knows how?) point to those variegated properties which are derogated in Manley's Victorian Age as freckles were considered physical flaws. 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. therefore. he appreciates their uniqueness and rarity. with inward fervor Hopkins praises "fickle" and "freckled". However. though at first one might at first believe it depends upon what is seen as the poem is read. In fact. while current tastes have them in disfavor.. Alliteration is completely based in sound. This describes the rosy dots scattered across the side of a trout that shine in the sun. it is the pattern of sound that catches the ear— hence the need to read the poem out loud. the poem begins and ends like a hymn.." • "couple-colour as a brinded cow. It is this pattern the ear hears..-whether on land. and the phrases . in the final analysis. "Pied Beauty" by Gerard Manley Hopkins. . Whatever is fickle. The imagery is stunning in that Hopkins creates pictures in the mind of the listener with lines like: . 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." we can hear the similarities where we cannot always see them.has been created by God to be different and dissimilar. tastes will later change: He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: Praise him." In essence. fallow.
. it is the contrasting nature of the beauty in nature that he sees that "enchants" him../. All things counter./. make the work sound like a hymn. focusing on traits such as being different. Hopkins is literally praising God for "dappled things" and for anything exhibiting beauty in two colors.. rock...gray or tawny with darker streaks or spots The poet continues presenting "pictures" of things in nature that have several colors..... or hill")... In Hopkins' poem.having patches of two or more colors However. 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: . leading the children away from the town. bright and dim. and even the trades of men." The two stanzas of "Pied Beauty" focus on beauty in two different forms: the concrete and the abstract.that begin and end the poem.The river glideth at his own sweet will.." "chestnut-falls" and "finches' wings.dressed in pied (multicolored) clothing. the content of the poem is used to lift up specific images in nature that the poet feels are worthy of adoration.. the association can also be tied to the Pied Piper of Hamelin. freckléd (who knows how?) ... or color from the background.. unique.. Use of the word "pied" is defined as. trout.g. then." Ironically. Hopkins gets to his main point in the last couple of lines when he says." "Brinded" means "brindled." /Glory be to God for dappled things— "Dappled" means: having spots of a different shade." For both poems. the sense of being drawn or pulled in by images of nature are found in Hopkins' title. Romantic poetry generally included one or several of approximately seven characteristics—a respect for nature is one of these characteristics. however." He also mentions "landscape plotted and pieced. and with regard to nature. 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. it also alludes to a sense of enchantment. spare. this beauty is irresistible...Whatever is fickle.. including "trout. In other words../. As Hopkins enters his second stanza. "He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: / Praise him. rock. God himself has a beauty that is greater than change (that is "past change")." defined as... including... All this for the glory and praise of this beautiful God../A sight so touching in its majesty. What is different between these poems is that Wordsworth concentrates on elements in nature that are similar in their beauty: he lists them (e. "valley. creates something much like a church song or anthem—with the repetition of sounds and a rhythm. In the first stanza.Dull would he be of soul who could pass by." The first example of Wordsworth's praise of nature is found in lines such as:A sight so touching in its majesty.. or hill. finches' wings... Of course.. tone./.. the items of beauty become more abstract in nature.. mottled The next line continues. In this story. then.. although the beauty and wonder of nature were created by God and are glorious in themselves. roasted chestnuts.Never did sun more beautifully steep./ Compare. the images presented in "Pied Beauty.... the Pied Piper was a piper.For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow The images here described more things of several colors. landscapes.. 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")... One can see the connection with the first stanza. strange. such as "couple-colour.. original. The poem's structure. to praise of God for their creation.valley.. sweet and sour.. These lines infer that one would have a cold heart or "soul" not to be touched by the scene the poet describes. Of course. and to the sky. William Wordsworth was a first-generation Romantic poet. So whereas "pied" can mean multi-colored. weird.Open unto the fields. and indecisive. Q: List and develop the ideas of beauty in the poem "Pied Beauty.. "Pied Beauty" and Wordsworth's lines. Gerald Manley Hopkins' lovely poem "Pied Beauty" reflects the same theme of the beauty in nature as is found in "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge. Hopkins puts specific emphasis in beauty of the natural world with his mention of cows. 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....glittering in the smokeless air. Hopkins even enters the world of opposite abstractions with the mention of fast and slow. he focuses on things that are beautiful in their dissimilarity.
and to the sky. towers. the poet composed his Petrarchan sonnet in a tone peaceful and serene." In fact. 1802" is an Italian sonnet. This CITy NOW doth. 1802 during a trip to France with Wordsworth's sister. The poem ends with an exclamation. September 3. He begins by saying that there is nothing "more fair" on Earth than the sight he sees. lends emphasis to the emotional feeling that strikes the poet. which together compose a single sentence. the houses. theatres and temples. domes. Wordsworth's sonnet Composed upon Westminster Bridge. Had September 3. LIKE a GARment. Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy had traveled to London to take a ship to France." The catalog of manmade structures includes "Ships. Wordsworth continues to surprise his reader by saying that the sun has never shone more beautifully. BARE. or protect but emphasizes bare beauty. The next personifications are of the sun and the river. when the speaker relates that the city is "open to the fields. The poem was actually written about an experience that took place on July 31. even on natural things. the city's heart is "lying still. I will convey my scansion by placing the stressed syllables in capitals. but of the city. in fields of daffodils. domes. and to the sky. especially for a Romantic poet: "Earth has not anything to show more fair. exulting in an urban morning cityscape. which is usually seen as a simple construction of rock and metal. and that anyone who could pass the spot without stopping to look has a "dull" soul. The spondaic substitution. theaters. The verb "steep" in the opening of the sestet . The coach taking him and his sister to the seaside dock paused on the Westminster Bridge that crosses the Thames. Fair weather is often an inspirational awakening to the muse of poetry. even on nature ("valley . September 3. and that he has never seen or felt such deep calm. we would not have this lyric to enjoy. Analysis "Composed upon Westminster Bridge. written in iambic pentameter with ten syllables per line. the speaker tells the reader that the sun has never shone more beautifully. where Wordsworth's mistress Annette Vallon was living with the ten-year-old Caroline. the river. unconcerned with the getting and spending that he decries elsewhere. The poem takes place in the "beauty of the morning." This statement is surprising because Wordsworth is not speaking of nature." which lies like a blanket over the silent city. in the early morning hours. saying that "the houses seem asleep" and the heart of the city is still. whom Wordsworth had sired but had never seen. 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. fog or overcast skies. rock. giving life to the sun. The rhyme scheme of the poem is abbaabbacdcdcd.Sonnet Composed Upon Westminster Bridge In lines 1 through 8. which has a symbolic heart." In lines 9 through 14. The reader imagines that the city's heart beats rapidly during the day. nature's influence isn't described until the 7th line. while everything and everyone in it is bustling about." Paradox intrudes as the garment worn by the city is bright and glittering sunshine that does not conceal. Wordsworth brings a kind of spirit to the city. The second quatrain generalizes about the skyline shapes without detailing them. Here is a romantic who spends most of his time in the Lake Country. such as "Ships. or hill"). towers. He goes on to list the beautiful man-made entities therein. or successive accented syllables. when the reader learns that the air is "smokeless" (free from pollution). Looking back in the brilliant morning sunlight at the sleeping city of London. but now. Dorothy Wordsworth. This becomes even more clear in the next line. He then personifies the scene. and finally to the whole city. The poet is describing what he sees. it is certainly not in conflict with nature." By using personification in his poem. 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. The poem begins with a rather shocking statement. thinks and feels on a specific day at a specific moment." While the city itself may not be a part of nature. commencing with two metrically irregular lines of 5 accents. clothe. He goes on to describe the way that the river (which he personifies) glides along at the slow pace it chooses. been a dismal day of rain. The poet has personified London through his use of the simile "like a garment" and the verb "wear. the speaker describes what he sees as he stands on Westminster Bridge looking out at the city. He presents a panorama of London. WEAR The BEAUty OF the MORning: SIlent. 1802 falls into the category of Momentary Poems. 1802. and temples.
.. cde. 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..... But at dawn on a cloudless morning... makes the sun "in his first splendour" a benefactor. .more FAIR: . or hill.. 1802. is now part of London.3... clacking carts...) The first two lines of the poem demonstrate the metric pattern: ......... Dorothy.of SOUL | who COULD.." • What is the meaning of in his first splendour (line 10)? .|...he BE........3.. rock. which connects the south bank of the Thames River with Westminster on the north bank. when London was still asleep and the fires of factories had yet to be stoked... .. Paul's. Theme: Seeing the City in a New Light London during the workday was rude and dirty.... .. alliteration: A sight so touching in its majesty Lines 4.4.can support a variety of definitions including cleansing.2. Westminster..... Dorothy wrote: We mounted the Dover Coach at Charing Cross... Inspiration Wordsworth's inspiration for the poem was the view he beheld from Westminster Bridge on the morning of July 31..not AN...... . jostling shoppers. The houses were not overhung with their cloud of smoke and they were spread out endlessly. the city joined with nature to present the early riser a tableau of glistening waters.. or cde.... ringing hammers.. dce.... (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. alliteration: Dull would he be of soul who could pass by Line 3... made a most beautiful sight. imbuing...1. silent streets.. bleaching. The message here is that even an ugly.|.. soundless swan.5 Earth HAS.. abba.. majestic towers. In her diary.. unpeopled boats on the River Thames--bobbing and swaying--and the glory of empty... (2) second stanza (sestet): cd... dust. It was a beautiful morning.." induces in the poet a feeling of calm... as though the personified houses were peacefully asleep. Setting The setting is London as seen from Westminster Bridge...... yet the sun shone so brightly with such pure light that there was even something like a purity of Nature's own grand spectacles..4.. cdc. were crossing the bridge in a coach taking them to a boat for a trip across the English Channel to France.. • Can the theme of the poem apply to a person? In other words..... 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... The meter of the poem is iambic pentameter." The magic performed by the sun on the City.. with the River and a Multitude of little boats.. A walk across a bridge or through streets and alleyways confronted the pedestrian with smoke. softening. cd...|. cd (or another combination.|.|. The City.. He and his sister. "Dull would [they] be of soul" who do not feel the power and excitement of this lyric.... smelly fish..|. grimy urchins.. Examples of other figures of speech in the poem are as follows: Line 2.y THING. cdc..to SHOW. throbbing heart of the metropolis is wrapped in stillness.. with ten syllables (five iambic feet) per line..2... 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. rotting fruit...pass BY Imagery The most striking figure of speech in the poem is personification. (An iambic foot consists of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable... It dresses the city in a garment and gives it a heart. while the Thames "glideth at his own sweet will...... and the mighty. barking dogs..5 Dull WOULD.. .. called an inner borough.... St.... . quacking duckling can become a lovely.. Rhyme Scheme and Meter The rhyme scheme of "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge" and other Petrarchan sonnets is as follows: (1) first stanza (octave): abba..1.... bathing.. and bestows on the river a will of its own.
I couldn't possibly find a more beautiful vision than this. no taste for beauty. In fact. Blake lived in London for much of his life. having already published the hugely influential Lyrical Ballads with his friend and fellow genius Samuel Taylor Coleridge. When he finally made his way into the city. 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. he was like. Wordsworth apparently wrote the sonnet while sitting on top of his coach. the feeling of newness usually comes when you're actually looking at something new or unusual. Paul's Cathedral and the Tower of London. and were spread out endlessly. you're lookin' good. and jots down the notes that will become this poem. because if you were to go hunting for beautiful sights. No matter. he was writing at the peak of his powers.] A beautiful morning. as in William Wordsworth's case. "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge" captures the feeling of those lucky moments when it seems that the tired. even that activity would probably get old after a while. We imagine him all groggy at 6 in the morning. 1802 In A Nutshell In the summer of 1802. Although he had been to London before. Contrast this sonnet with a poem written about a decade before by William Blake. 1802. it might be time to take a trip to see new sights and new people.Composed Upon Westminster Bridge. Pretty bleak. he might not have been so impressed. including St. The various landmarks visible from the bridge. now this sounds familiar. The time is so early that all is quiet. As you probably know. right? Well. with such a pure light. They left London early on the morning of July 31st. This is it. You think to yourself. whether on the first day of spring or after falling in love or. William Wordsworth traveled with his sister. as Dorothy charmingly wrote in her journal. The poem is remembered not as a biographical record. Dorothy./Near where the chartered Thames does flow. Even if you lived in the most scenic place on earth. stares out at the scene. it happened as he rode across the Westminster Bridge in his coach. The city. London is wearing the morning's beauty like a fine shirt or cape. France. but as a beautiful depiction of London in the morning. Everything becomes simple and bright. if he had lived in London. we assume. They stopped in London where. written in plain language that any Englishman could understand. You'd have to be someone with no spiritual sense. you'd probably grow accustomed to it after a while. Yes. "Yup. On the other hand. they ran into "various troubles and disasters. in Poems in Two Volumes. the Lake District in England." Only poor Wordsworth got the date wrong when he published the poem under this title in 1807 – it was the end of July. marks of woe. "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge" was not published until 1807. stop the coach!" And he hops out. Everyone. not to mention the injustices it contained. it still felt like a different world to him. made a beautiful sight as we crossed Westminster Bridge. the houses not overhung by their clouds of smoke." At this point in Wordsworth's career. September 3. to pass over the Westminster Bridge that morning without stopping to marvel at the sights. it's the same scene described by her brother in "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge. so he had grown painfully aware of the grunginess of the city. has these feelings at one time or another. while traveling. "Whoa. stand before him in all their grandeur in the morning light. This is actually pretty cool. Hmm. St Paul's." And it's true. Instead. It just goes to show how a change of scenery can make a great difference in whether the world looks fresh or faded." Dorothy frequently traveled with her brother – the two were like best friends – and her journals provide an interesting counterpoint to Wordsworth's poetry. yet the sun shone so brightly. there. London. not the beginning of September. Fortunately. that "freshly-minted penny" feeling tends to come when we least expect it. . Wordsworth did live in one of the most scenic places on earth. there happens to be no "London fog" to obscure the view. like a freshly-minted penny. Whenever you start to fall into a rut. to Calais. "Whoa. For Wordsworth. [Note from Shmoop: a coach is a small carriage drawn by horses./Marks of weakness. old world is made completely new again. September 3. 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. climbs atop the coach. that there was something like the purity of one of Nature's own grand spectacles./And mark in every face I meet. and then he looks out the window is like. in 1802. called "London": I wander through each chartered street. with the river – a multitude of little boats. Summary The speaker declares that he has found the most beautiful scene on earth.
the word "now" shows that the beauty depends on the time of day. 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. He can't compare the scene from the bridge with anything except his own memories." • Of course. From Westminster Bridge in 1802. seen that. In a burst of emotion. and to the sky. • These lines hint that maybe the morning. It's a fleeting. and the iconic Tower of London. the speaker describes some of the sights that are visible from Westminster Bridge." It's almost more a reflection of his mood than of the outside world. he pictures the city as blissfully asleep before another busy day." (There we go with our skepticism again. like a kid giving flowers to his sick grandmother. Anyone could be wearing it. 9. you could have seen a lot of the highlights of London. In general terms.The speaker compares the sunlight on the buildings to the light that shines on the countryside." It contrasts with the image of the city wearing clothing from line 4. Maybe when the morning is over. like a snow-covered mountain or a king entering a throne room. wear/The beauty of the morning. Because of the semi-colon before them. as it were. "Touching" scenes are often small and intimate. Lines 4-5 This City now doth. Paul's Cathedral. • He uses another colon: maybe now he'll stop keeping us in suspense and describe this amazing view. who just passed by with a glance.. Now it's just London again. "Majestic" scenes are often large and public. like a garment. • We learn what time it is: London "wears" the morning like a nice coat or some other piece of clothing ("garment"). "Oh./Ships. and he seems surprised to feel more at peace in the bustling city than he has anywhere else. he's exaggerating. from Dorothy Wordsworth's journal.) Lines 5-7 silent. not London itself. ." an intriguing phrase that suggests both intimacy and grandeur. and temples lie/Open unto the fields. theatres. but since that's all anyone can do we'll let him run with this one. bare." The opposite of dull is sharp. • The line ends with a colon. though. would be "dull. All you other artists can call off the search! Wordsworth has located the very heart of beauty. including the "ships" of the River Thames. The River Thames moves slowly beneath him. "Bare" is an interesting word that means "naked" or "unadorned. Been there. there. or "fairness. the "dome" of the famous St. The words "silent" and "bare" are positioned in the poem such that they could describe either the morning or the sights. designed by the architect Christopher Wren. the garment could be so beautiful that it doesn't matter what the person wearing it looks like. letting us know that he's going to tell us what earth is "showing" after the line break. the speaker would think. domes. 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. 8. I can't imagine anywhere being more beautiful than the place I'm standing. the speaker tries to express how beautiful it is from another angle as well. but the ambiguity is important. "At this particular moment. Here. • He justifies his decision to stop his coach along the way to look at the view from the bridge. He really means something like. 6.. As in. The setting is "silent" because of the early hour which. and London is forced to change clothes. "That's one heck of a garment. the ships and buildings are nude. 7. towers." • The sight from the bridge is "touching in its majesty. The view from Westminster Bridge combines both this elements. the speaker makes a bold statement: he has found the most beautiful scene on the planet. He's also boring. and you'd be like." • Similarly. • He says that anyone who didn't stop. 5. the sights are the more obvious choice. we know was around 5 or 6am. as we might expect by now (hurry up. which is another meaning of the word "dull. is responsible for the stunning quality of the view. transient beauty. a sonnet is only 14 lines long!).of soul. Lines 1-8 Summary Line 1 Earth has not anything to show more fair: • While crossing over the Westminster Bridge. • The person who could just pass by has been jaded and worn down by experience to the point of dullness. • The speaker feels both awed by and close to the landscape.
a boulder or mountainous cliff ("rock"). 12.. 5. Here the river is described as a patient person who takes his time and doesn't allow himself to be rushed. called an "octet.. These sights would have been more familiar to Wordsworth than the scenery of London. Shh. one that puts us "in the moment" of his passing experience." 8. 5. Specifically. rock. but that you could see today. 8. The speaker seems to again compare London to places that you would normally think of as calming. • The "heart" of this body is "lying still" for the moment before the city awakens for a new day. The heart probably doesn't refer to anything specific. such as the picturesque Lake District in the northwest part of the country. One thing you could not have seen in 1802. Lines 13-14 Dear God! the very houses seem asleep. saying even it can't compare with this view of London." The word "glittering" in particular suggests that the scene is not static but rather constantly changing with the shifting light.10. bustling city. which is perhaps surprising because London is a huge. who spent most of his life in rural parts of England. One source points out that London had fields that were close to the city in 1802 but that no longer exist (source). as in San Francisco. The speaker sums up the whole scene at the end of the poem's first chunk of eight lines. The speaker is lucky to catch the city on a morning that is completely free of fog. The speaker continues on the topic of the Greatest Scene Ever.don't wake it. when it's actually the people inside the houses who are sleeping at this early hour. "First splendour" just means morning. Line 8 All bright and glittering in the smokeless air. Lines 11-12 Ne'er saw I. Despite being all crowded together within one city. 10. He focuses on the early morning summer sunlight. It's really not much different from an expression that many people use all the time nowadays: . is the Big Ben clock – it wasn't built yet. but no: he gets more excited. or hill. The tone goes from amazed to Really Amazed! Symbolism. or a hillside. The river Thames is not a fast-moving river. 9. In London." What a word. but rather the city's energy or vitality. The word "steep" means to submerge or cover – think of how you let a tea bag "steep" in water. not to mention impossible to verify. it is common for fog to cover the city throughout the morning. He moves according to "his own sweet will. never felt. This section of the poem engages in the personification of various elements of the picture. 11. he compares the morning sunlight falling on the city to the sunlight that might cover more remote parts of the countryside. 7. valley. Lines 9-10 Never did sun more beautifully steep/In his first splendour. Our favorite word in the poem is "smokeless. Imagery The Most Beautiful Thing Ever Wordsworth's claim that his vision of London is the best on earth is clearly an exaggeration. peaceful. That's a little like saying you go to Manhattan to get away from it all. a calm so deep!/The river glideth at his own sweet will: 5. 8. Basically. 6. he's ragging on his hometown. which makes the buildings "bright and glittering. 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 a valley. He means that neither the characteristic London Fog nor smoke from chimneys obscures the bright light./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. like the hills and valleys from line 10. 6. • The city looks like one big. But it's an innocent exaggeration. 7. • The last two lines mark a shift in tone with their two exclamation marks. 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. • He cries out to God as if he has just recognized something astonishing he had not noticed before. sleeping body." 6. 7. • He personifies the houses as asleep. He describes how the vision of London makes him feel calm.
or exaggeration. • Line 2: The word "dull" suggests a contrast with a knife or some other sharp object. or the most awkward party ever. 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. In other words.saying that such-and-such is the most fun ever." perhaps because the city. • Line 5: The word "bare" could be a pun that means both "open to view" or "unadorned" but also "naked. Romantic poets appreciated Petrarchan sonnets in part because Italy was thought to be the hub of classical European civilization. Most people are still literally asleep. 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. sun. • Line 4: The morning light is compared to clothes worn by London." • Line 14: Is the city. you really outdid yourself on this one. as opposed to a Shakespearian sonnet or a Spenserian sonnet. • Line 13: The houses are personified as sleeping people because the city is quiet and still. This raises the question of whether it's only the clothes that make the person beneath them beautiful. so London must be personified. He creates the impression that nature is a living being with a soul. • Line 14: The city is personified as a person with a heart. Wordsworth comes close to capturing the indescribable feeling of familiarity and distance all at once. • Lines 9-11: Lines 9 and 11 have a parallel structure. and they loved the classics (i. Wordsworth talks a little like a contemporary teenager. or the best movie ever. • Line 12: The river is personified as a person who likes to take things at his own pace. but those are strangely disconcerting). the dull person's soul has been worn down by time and experience. is asleep. or whether that person is beautiful as well. and houses. 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. like its houses. A "garment" is just an article of clothing. In the implicit metaphor. As in the first line. • Line 13: This line contains a simile that compares the inactivity of the houses to the sleeping people within them. because the heart is "lying still." also being compared to a sleeping person? We think so." 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 people inside the houses are the ones who are asleep.. Petrarch was a famous Italian Renaissance poet whose sonnets eventually became well known across Europe. It would have been a metaphor if Wordsworth had written. . Things as People Wordsworth uses personification in several places in the poem. Form & Meter Petrarchan Sonnet in Iambic Pentameter "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge" is a Petrarchan sonnet. so the city seems metaphorically asleep. The sun is personified as a male. a contradiction in terms. Only people can wear clothing (OK. • Line 3: To say that something is "touching in its majesty" is almost a paradox. with its energetic "heart. With this phrase. • Line 10: "His first splendour" is a roundabout way of talking about the sunrise." like a person in bed. Rhyme. while a majestic one is grand and public. in reference to the city. in which he claims that the effect of the morning light on London creates a beauty that has "never" been experienced before. "the very houses are asleep." in a simile. The claim that no sight is more beautiful than the view from Westminster Bridge is a case of hyperbole. too.e. these claims are hyperboles. all things relating to ancient Greece and Rome). • Line 4: The morning beauty is compared to clothing. dogs can wear sweaters. a "garment. In reality." Sleep For the speaker. The heart is "lying still. A touching sight is intimate and personal. river.
as if they were taking deep breaths." "Ships. they can't resist getting out of their coach to marvel at the scene. Speaker Point of View Who is the speaker. The streets are mostly empty. pointing out all he sees along the way." and "smoke-less. casting a bright yellow light over those famous London landmarks. begins with an accent. rock. he gets really excited. and the sky seems airy and spacious. though. Except his hands are words. and. In the first eight lines he introduces the idea that he has never seen such beauty before and then describes the scene. the speaker could be a Londoner. But not all of the lines follow this pattern. which is one of the reasons he is considered one of the first "modern" English poets. The poem should be read slowly and calmly. The light makes London appear to be a completely different city. The sun has begun to rise. one way he accomplishes this gesturing is with accents at the beginning of lines. 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. where they will cross over to Calais. the buildings begin to glitter. and he calls them "dull [.] of soul. The speaker can almost see the expansion and contraction of the houses. there is no fog. the speaker has obviously spent at least some time in the countryside. In the last six lines he returns to the idea of unparalleled beauty. Wordsworth's sonnet has a more subtle turn. The first two lines. so that we can imagine everything he wants us to see. the speaker reflects on other times when he has felt a similar sense of peace and wellbeing. this song is the greatest!" His moment-by-moment approach to life makes him fun to be around because he carries an infectious enthusiasm. both begin on stressed beats: "Earth" and "Dull. for once. He thinks of his explorations around the English countryside. "Huh? No. France. Though these details aren't captured in the poem itself. The poem is written in a loose iambic pentameter. We can guess that the only others awake were the working-class laborers. Only one pair of rhyming lines is slant (not quite a real rhyme. beginning their long. this is how we imagine the scene. but he decides that even these cannot compare with the vision before him. all will be bustle and hubbub once again. This usually vibrant city is calm.." He also accents important visual cues like "bright." "O-pen." and "Ne-ver. consisting of five ("penta") pairs of unstressed and stressed beats ("iambs"): Dear God! | the ver|-y hous|-es seem | a-sleep. but almost): "by" and "majesty" in lines 2 and 3. in a few hours. making sweeping motions with his hands toward the city at large. born and raised. he scans the city from one end to the other. Clearly. Suddenly the city turns into a big sleeping body. Finally. The rhyme scheme is fairly simple: ABBAABBA CDCDCD. this time comparing London to the countryside. more importantly. or hill. for example. Wordsworth tried to write how regular people speak." "Dull. But when Wordsworth and his sister cross the famous Westminster Bridge over the Thames River. Some parts are slower than . As the sun moves from the horizon. Dorothy. breaking up the iambic pentameter pattern. the poem makes a "turn" (or volta in Italian) and begins to elaborate in a different way on the subject or. The impression is made even more touching by speaker's knowledge that. as do the innumerable ships docked along the crowded river. Everyone else is safe in his or her bed." This loose rhythm comes closer to capturing momentary experience and a conversational tone than a stricter meter would." In line 6. with its many green hills and valleys. For all we know.A Petrarchan sonnet has fourteen lines that are divided into two sections: one with eight lines and one with six. He has no patience for people who cannot appreciate beauty. can she or he read minds. "What about that song you heard last week that was the 'greatest ever'?" But he says. 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"). As Dorothy wrote in her journal. stopped on the Westminster Bridge and standing on top of the coach." He's like that friend who gets carried away every time he has a new favorite song: "You have to hear this." Setting Where It All Goes Down Wordsworth and his sister. the time is around 5 or 6am. because he is able to compare the London scene with the sunlight that falls on "valley. the poem tells us none of these things. and there's no traffic to hold them up. arduous day. It's the greatest song I've ever heard. At the ninth line. Formally. "Earth. In the second half of the poem. when this guy gets excited about something. wake up early to catch a coach to the port of Dover. more importantly. seriously. both because the speaker is clearly in a relaxed mood and. introduce a new topic altogether. Unlike many a damp London morning. "glit-tering. of course." And you're like.. Each word. sometimes.
1798. by the morning light. the speaker spends a significant portion of the poem talking about how great the scenery is rather than describing it. he thinks that a person would be foolish just to pass by. the neatness and precision of the sonnet form might seem at odds with the speaker's spontaneous bursts of joy. We don't know too many people who speak in Petrarchan sonnets when they're happy. like his poem titled "Left upon a Seat in a Yew-tree. 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." "London. A quick look at his works reveals titles like "Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey." Many poets throughout history have used such caption-like titles. Also. wide-eyed and open-mouthed." Sometimes his urge to give us information leads to titles that seem much longer than they need to be. and the houses." 3." and "Composed by the Sea-side. and even that date is inaccurate." William Wordsworth’s Calling Card What is the poet’s signature style? Caption-Like Titles The Romantics. 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. combine to make a perfect scene. or play the devil’s advocate. trying not to wake the baby. September 3. Also. 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. the river. An interesting flip-side. "Taken in Hawaii. bare" in line 5 that don't seem completely attached to what comes before or after them. on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. including the unusual absence of any fog and the way the light strikes the ships and buildings. On the other hand. Because the speaker knows that such a combination does not happen very often. Despite the absence of most people at such an early hour. 1802. 2. the final lines slow down to a near-crawl. "Written on the roof of a coach. 1802. like the two words "silent. Wordsworth was attracted to the scene by the juxtaposition (or contradiction) of a chaotic metropolis that seemed to be resting or "asleep. 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.others. The second half of the poem contains more description than the first. but Wordsworth and his crew used them more than most. not on September 3. 1802. childlike joy? • Does the speaker seem more amazed by the city itself. The speaker believes you have to take advantage of such opportunities when you have them. A number of factors. on a desolate part of the shore. start a debate. 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. Try on an opinion or two. Theme of Transience The poem makes clear that London is not entirely responsible for its beauty in the morning. during our honeymoon. a group of poets that includes Wordsworth. Most scholars agree that the poem was written on July 31. We've also seen it called. on my way to France. near Calais. Wordsworth "peoples" the city with inanimate things like the light. or that its original title was just meant to be temporary. commanding a beautiful prospect." 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. which is appropriate. Questions About Transience • What is it about the early morning that makes the city appear different than at other times? ." which sounds even more spontaneous. August 1802. characteristically tried to capture the visions and emotions of momentary experiences. All the more important to be careful and quiet when that "infant" is one of the biggest cities in the world. July 13. The published title makes the poem almost sound like a journal entry. which stands near the lake of Esthwaite. though. assuming there will always be other chances to see such beauty. like someone who is tiptoeing toward an infant's crib. because the poem is a spontaneous record of passing experience. But usually you'll see it presented as either "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge" or "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge. 1989..
start a debate. start a debate. in which the city teems with unnatural political and social problems. The element of surprise accounts for the speaker's enthusiasm. The poem expresses the speaker's desire to stop time. 0. Try on an opinion or two. or play the devil’s advocate. or play the devil’s advocate. past or present. The image of a beautiful garment implies that the city is like a blank canvas that nature adorns. 2. Countryside. start a debate.• How do you explain the phrase. so if you took the whole of Wordsworth's poetic works. Contrast Wordsworth's attitude with the attitude of William Blake in his poem "London. breaking down the barrier between the two. to prevent the city from ever "waking up." from the Songs of Experience. Try on an opinion or two. or play the devil’s advocate. The poem tells us very little about how Wordsworth feels about everyday city life. the score would probably run more like: City. Few writers. Maybe the answer to this riddle is that Wordsworth integrated the city into his general vision of the countryside. In this poem. The city's freshness is more beautiful than the freshness of the countryside because it runs counter to expectation. 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. Try on an opinion or two." 3. Awe and Amazement Quotes Quote #1 Earth has not anything to show more fair: (line 1) . Wordsworth's use of personification attempts to paint the beauty of nature as an achievement of human culture. 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. London seems like a part of nature rather than a separate sphere of existence. Theme of Man and the Natural World Wordsworth is the quintessential nature poet. 250. The city wins! OK. 3. 1. rather than something possessing beauty on its own. He abstracts the buildings and landmarks of London from their inhabitants. "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge" takes the view that the city can be surprisingly restful. "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. Theme of Contrasting Regions: City and Countryside City. have expressed their love for rural life quite so much as Wordsworth. 2. Countryside. 6. 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. He seems surprised himself. But we still think he would have been very unhappy if he had been forced to move to London permanently. 2. and the speaker goes so far as to compare it favorably with the solitude of nature.
(lines 4-5) Garments are things you can put on and take off. The speaker catches London at a time after the sun has risen but before most people have awoken for work or play. wear/The beauty of the morning. (line 8) There's a reason chimney sweepers appear so often in 19th century depictions of London: it was a smoky city." 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. "smokeless air" was something to get excited about for a Londoner in Wordsworth's time. Interestingly. Quote #2 like a garment. Also. a product of human culture. Quote #5 Dear God! the very houses seem asleep. (line 8) The light on the buildings "glitters" like a precious metal. the city happens to be wearing a particularly stunning garment. a calm so deep! (line 11) It's rare to feel completely at ease in a large city. pinching his cheeks. to say the least. Quote #3 the smokeless air. and certainly make the city seem less cramped and crowded. (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. It flows at a slow and even pace. In other words. or if you accidentally throw your whites in with your colors (doh!). so the speaker gives "earth" all the credit for the beauty of the scene. This is not a philosophical poem. Quote #2 This City now doth. Quote #5 And all that mighty heart is lying still! (line 14) This moment will not last long./All bright and glittering in the smokeless air. Contrasting Regions: City and Countryside Quotes Quote #1 Earth has not anything to show more fair: (line 1) Hear that. bare.The use of exaggeration (hyperbole) give the impression of childlike wonder. of the world made fresh and new again. (lines 4-5) Nature brings out the beauty in the landmarks of London. Man and the Natural World Quotes Quote #1 Earth has not anything to show more fair: (line 1) Ah. such as "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey" (also on Shmoop). rock. and even throw away when they get old and ratty. Quote #3 All bright and glittering in the smokeless air. The unusual silence of the city in the morning contributes to this feeling. and then bowing before him. silent. wear/ The beauty of the morning. the elements of nature are like people that populate the empty-feeling city. (line 10) Wordsworth is famous for his poems that praise natural wilderness and pastoral life. never felt. The dull person can't appreciate the transient nature of beauty. and you'll get an idea of how the phrase "touching in its majesty" works. What about all the people who designed and built those towers and domes? Poor Christopher Wren. At this moment. and to the sky. (Jeopardy points: Christopher Wren designed St. Quote #3 Open unto the fields. Not to mention the frequent fogs that appear on a chilly London morning. Quote #4 Ne'er saw I. The speaker might be describing the play of the sun on some of the windows. valley. the effects of the light are compared to clothing. Quote #4 In his first splendour. like a garment.") . Even the sun is remade every morning. (Lost? See "In a Nutshell. Paul's Cathedral in London). The river does not allow itself to be rushed. because they won't last for long. They are transient by definition. Quote #4 In his first splendour (line 10) The poem is about making the old seem new again. To hear him speak about his beloved valleys and hills in anything less than glowing terms is odd. Each day is a new and transient world. It is hard to tell nature and culture apart. It's a poem about a person's emotions "in the 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. so the speaker's statement is unexpected. Lake District? Wordsworth totally dissed you behind your back. Imagine telling a king that he's adorable. Nature is the vast frame that surrounds the scene on all sides. (line 7-8) These images give London an almost heavenly appearance. though. or hill.
•In the seventh line. a calm so deep! (line 11) The words "not" and "never" express the singular beauty of the city throughout the poem. The city "wears" the pure sunlight like a shirt or jacket. The speaker seems taken by surprise. Language Techniques Firstly. (line 8) The beauty of the city is praised for things that people usually associate with the countryside instead: pure fresh air. This gives the imagery of the city being looked at from above. without the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Quote #4 Never did sun more beautifully steep/In his first splendour. Wordsworth stops merely describing London and begins to talk more about nature. the Lake District. which he takes for granted. rock. the theme of nature co-existing with man is introduced as these manmade buildings. •Words such as “bright”. Our sense of touch is brought into use. Considering he grew up in the Lake District it’s not surprising he likes his peace and quiet. why? If not. Wordsworth uses rather simple language to get the point across of London’s unsophisticated beauty. valley. •The single word “splendour”is used to explain the grandeur of the scene before Wordsworth. the heart of the world. there’s a distinct absence of detail by Wordsworth. And yet Wordsworth finds that he prefers this “mighty heart” when it’s lying still. and bright skies. as a way to express the unique qualities of the morning. or hill. rock or hill. never felt. or at least this particular London setting? Blasphemy! • Do you agree that the poem is written in simple. Wordsworth set the scenes while creating an air of suspense. If it was being looked at from ground level then the buildings listed would be in more detail than from above. • In line six. • Would Wordsworth have appreciated the city so much if he had lived there? • Why does this famous nature poet compare nature unfavorably with London. a city. Questions Bring on the tough stuff . • The final line of the poem gives the sense that London is the heart of England and taking into the account of the date. . only in the early hours of the morning. Surprisingly he uses words that you might expect more from a poem about his home region. This is also emphasised by the lack of sounds and olfactory however this does not neglect imagery but rather enhances it. (line 9-10) These lines are the most explicit contrast between the city and the countryside. “Open unto the fields.) • 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.there’s not just one right answer. wear (line 4) Rather than contrasting two regions. common language? (Keep in mind that simple language was a little different back in the early 19th century.” •The sestet begins on line nine and here we have a slight subject change. but rather a nice peaceful sunrise. • The next two line leaves the reader surprise as we found out that this amazing sight is. as if he never would have thought that London could produce a sense of calm. Quote #3 the smokeless air. but as the fifth line reveal. Quote #5 Ne'er saw I.” •The word “steep”is used to describe the sunrise for the reason to appeal to our senses. making us feel the warmness from the rays. you could see the poem as integrating two regions – the natural and the man-made. such as: “valley. and to the sky. The reader sees that Wordsworth has a deep appreciation of London. “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. It's hard to tell if Wordsworth actually means to say that the London sunlight is more beautiful. a far cleaner London that really exists.Quote #2 This City now doth. The reader can now see a very vivid setting of London from above. something that usually alludes to death. or whether he wants to use the beauty of the countryside. 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. However Wordsworth prefers London this way. silence. like a garment. what's your favorite time of day and why? Analysingthe Poem • In the first three lines.
London is not introduced in its negative aspect. These personifications again help us to draw the conclusion that Wordsworth is considering a sleeping city as part of nature. 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. The poem describes "a calm so deep" that "even the houses seem asleep". Wordsworth uses Earth as an entity capable of action. This is where each line consists of 10 syllables. On the other hand. “like a garment wear…”. ABBAABBA in the octet and a scheme of DEDEDE in the sestet. as it is referred to as "he". • There’s only an appreciation for London’s beauty in the morning not in the day. This reiterates his conviction that the city. the cathedrals. This boring scheme matches the simple language of the poem to get across the message. Generally when someone is asleep there’s a sense of calmness around them. The river is personified when it is described as having its "own sweet will". the beauty of London. Interpretation The meaning of Composed Upon Westminster Bridge is at first straight forward. which is comprised of an octet and then an sestet. and describing it as having the ability to "show". The compact description of London in lines six and seven emphasize the compactness of the city. And in the end. Themes. hearing is the prevailing sense. Wordsworth personifies the Earth by giving it a capital letter. in Wordsworth's poem.However he does use the odd language device to get his point across. Structure and Rhythm • Composed Upon Westminster Bridge is a petrarchan sonnet. the city itself is personified with the line "and all that mighty heart is lying still". but it is inserted in natural scenery. The author describes the beauty of the city as the towers. That London won’t be wearing this beautiful garment for long. • The simile in line 4. there is only silence. The poet transmits to the readers the calm and the tranquillity described in his poem. The octet is used to describe London and its manmade features while the sestet is more focused with the nature of the region. In Blake's poem. the theatres and the temples. • Finally in line 13. And yet these sleepy houses are far more pleasant when they’re asleep. He uses beautiful language and clever literary devices. In this poem. and the houses are personified by their description of being asleep. This diction creates the image of sunlight slowly submerging into the Earth's splits. • Composed Upon Westminster Bridgehas an iambic pentameter. does not clash with nature but becomes a part of it. There are neither sounds or noises. • Wordsworth believe that London’s beauty is unsophisticated but still amazing. it is the sight that emerges. at this particular point of day. The poem depicts a vivid scene that is yet another fond memory shared between Wordsworth and his sister. London shows clean air and the sun illuminates the whole city. The description "bright and glittering in the smokeless air" creates a distinct image of the clarity of the morning. Lastly. On the one hand in Blake's composition. • The rhythm scheme is that of a typically petrarchan sonnet. In Wordsworth's view. with actions described by diction such as "steep". In Wordsworth's one. Wordsworth uses commas to break up the rhythm of the line. to make the city come alive before the reader's eyes. by describing it as wearing the morning beauty "like a garment". He also personifies the city. The spondaic substitution or successive accented syllables lends emphasis to the emotional feeling that strikes the poet. the houses are personified to be asleep. half of them being long and heavy syllables followed by 5 short syllables. that London’s beauty is simple and should not be overlooked. These images combine to create a breathtaking image of the morning. that’s the meaning of the poem however there’s a few other lesser meanings as well. the town is presented through the smoke that pervades the walls of the Churches. • To show his thought process. especially imagery. prevalent in this poem is a sense of calmness. Wordsworth brings the scenery around him to life (an example of the Pathetic fallacy). Wordsworth exclaims “Dear God!”for the houses are usually alive with activities. language and imagery The dominating theme in the poem is Nature. in fields of . The passionate picture that the poem paints is a memory that calms and placates. Wordsworth personifies the city along with the earth and the sun. tells the reader in a subtle way that London’s beauty is only passing. and long vowel sounds such as "glideth" and "silent" emphasize the calm feeling of the occasion. while the hearing is absent. The image of the sun is powerful. Meanwhile the city is able to wear a garment. • The scenery of London is brought to life by personification. Despite this excitement created by the vivid descriptions. the air is clean and only the light of the sun illuminates the city.
none of these lines are exactly iambic. 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. specifically a simile. I'm not sure I would describe them as personification though. The poem. because it is inactive and is dominated by its natural environment. buying and lending that he decries elsewhere." The poem expresses Wordsworth's impression upon viewing London. 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. is thus alive because it is dead. the "valley. which is "lying still". This paradox is introduced through the image of dress. which states the impossible unity of two contradictory things: the industrial city and the organic beauty of nature (cf. Thus the paradox that is developed all through the poem reaches its final statement in this line. represented in the last line by the metaphor of the heart." what two passages present London as a living being? 'This city now doth like a gament wear/The beauty of the morning. The paradox is carried over and developed further in the sestet. Q: In "Composed upon Westminster Bridge September 3. Ships. the impact on his view of life is identical. The sunshine on the buildings is apparently just as pleasant as sunshine on mountains and valleys./And all that mighty heart is lying still. This is further emphasized by the fact that although the lines of the Petrarchan sonnet in English should be iambic pentameters. the iambic rhythm gives us a strong sense of the beating of a heart. and finds the comparison quite pleasing. rock. Even where the rhythm gets very close to this (lines 3. This sense of admiration is communicated through the development of a strange paradox. 5. a calm so deep!" Your essay should examine the positive impression that London makes upon Wordsworth as he views it. The rhyming words steep – deep – asleep highlight these connections. the overflowing emotion of the poet. as is emphasized by the rhyming words hill – at their will – lying still. but wearing the beauty of the morning in fact means that the city is bare (naked): what it wears is just "the smokeless air". describes the beauty of London in the early morning just when the sun rises. or hill" as well as the river are now active. 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.daffodils. While the line says that the "mighty heart" of the city "is lying still". Apart from this. but open areas are visible. domes. Q: "Write an essay in which you explore the way the sonnet represents the city to the reader. but this is only so because it is steeped in the light of the sun and is thus deep asleep. The enjambments (and the eye rhyme) in the octave express the boundless admiration for this beautiful sight. In the second stanza. never felt. It is as if he is looking at a wonder. and the overall impression is not polluted or spoiled by the surrounding civilization. while the second uses 'seem'. It is perfectly appropriate here because although there are no people in the scene we know . because the first makes clear that it is an image. exulting in an urban morning cityscape. 4. As opposed to the city. The thematic development of the poem is seconded by the rhythms. The city is now more beautiful and more alive than nature itself. towers. particularly the part of London visible from Westminster Bridge. 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. Cleanth Brooks' analysis of this poem in his essay "The Language of Paradox"). it is not itself. He notes various items making it obvious that he is in an urban setting. The city. it is dead. By the sound effect it creates it contradicts the explicit verbal meaning of the line in which it appears. they dominate over the sleeping city. and to the sky. they both have the same effect as personification in that they give life and character to an inanimate scene.'/'Dear God! The very houses seem asleep. Wordsworth compares the city views from Westminster Bridge with natural scenery he has seen in the past. which the rhymes of the octave highlight: the city is fair (beautiful) because it wears "like a garment" the natural beauty of the morning. 'like a garment'. written in the Petrarchan sonnet form. The city now is "lying still". in the early morning. at something that cannot be but is still there. unconcerned with the getting and spending. the sentence structure or a caesura disrupts the smooth iambic rhythm. However. the sunlight. however. 1802. "Ne'er saw I. the word itself declaring an image. the natural parts of the landscape. the clear iambic rhythm also functions here on another level. it is dominated by its natural environment./All bright and glittering in the smokeless air. theatres and temples lie/Open unto the fields. and 12).' In both these cases apparently inanimate objects are given human qualities or abilities.
the landscape of the city? In his poem titled “Composed upon Westminster Bridge. and the afterlife. The Turn is usually made obvious by a transition word like "but. 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. Q: In William Wordsworth's poem "Composed upon Westminster Bridge. Every sonnet introduces a problem or situation. to London as A sight so touching in its majesty . 5. 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. 3. is at this time of day not only beautiful but also peaceful – a trait greatly admired by the Romantics. The brief reference to God at the very end of this poem might almost seem perfunctory. For instance. Sept. breathing place.that a city is a living. BUT I will continue to love her. . but it also implicitly celebrates one of the most important of all Romantic values: freedom. as a poet of a hundred years earlier might have done. . from a Romantic perspective. Subsequent lines also emphasize the sheer visual beauty of nature. tone. in the sixteenth or seventeenth century. This line not only emphasizes the beauty of nature untrammeled by human interferences (such as locks and dams). Wordsworth here also personifies London." There are two basic types of sonnets: English (two divisions here include Shakespearian and Spenserian) and Italian (Petrarchan). the speaker shows enthusiasm for beauty – another common feature of Romantic poetry. The rhyme schemes differ from each author. .” William Wordsworth writes in a Romantic mode about the “mighty heart” of the City of London. the speaker immediately mentions “Earth” – a fact that already helps suggest that this may be a “Romantic” poem. the turn is not after the octave like usual Italian sonnets. Line 5 is typically Romantic in is double emphasis on beauty and on the calm quiet of the morning. 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. including the following: • In line 1. 4. or idea. All sonnets have 14 lines. yet. so Wordsworth and other Romantics wished that human beings could live freely. Whereas poets of earlier centuries often emphasized God. Just as the river flows freely. for the Italian. Line 7 is typically Romantic in its stress on the beauty of nature. Focus on the images and line breaks for your analysis. "Composed upon Westminster Bridge." In Wordsworth's poem. with their heightened sensitivity to anything sublime or lofty. the Romantics tended to be concerned with the visible world before them. 1 group of 8 lines (octave) and 1 group of 6 lines (sestet). William Shakespeare and Edmund Spenser for the English and the Italian poet." how does the speaker sense the "mighty heart" of London by viewing. say. She resists me. It occurs in the sestet between lines 10 and 11. then Wordsworth is writing with the kind of cheerful optimism we often associate with the Romantics. certainly Christian themes are not stressed in this work as they might have been in a poem written. Q: Discuss how the sonnet form has been used to effect the sonnet. particularly the kind of nature associated with the countryside. feeling. 1802. • In line 2. A typical Romantic focus of sublimity is in fact explicitly stated when the speaker refers. . which I like to call "the big BUT". Wordsworth uses simple language to make the poem flow like every day conversation even within the confines of rigid sonnet format. If we think of them as the “mighty heart” of the city who are “lying still” before they awake and begin their busy days. "All of time and energy is spent on loving this woman. so it's not as obvious to the reader. • In the rest of line 1. He does so in a number of ways. in other words. [emphasis added] 3. Petrarch. but the line groupings for the English are 3 groups of 4 lines (quatrains) and a couplet. 6. so" to let you know that there is a change of mood. discusses the problem/situation and then solves the problem or makes a final comment. London. He is not mocking or satirizing London or its citizens here. The types are named for the most famous authors. treating it as if it were a living . is line 12: The river glideth at his own sweet will . as the Romantics often did. in line 3. heaven. from a Romantic perspective. he is celebrating London as the heart of England – looking for the positive and finding it. This sonnet is an Italian sonnet. Instead. There is usually a TURN between the problem and the solution. Of particular interest. the speaker posits the existence of persons whose souls are “Dull” – persons precisely the opposite of the Romantic. True to his style. 6.
he." emphasising the tranquil and peaceful mood that dominates the poem.. Every part of the "mighty heart" of London exists in a state of peace. From the beginning of the poem until these concluding lines. Wordsworth extols London in fashions that seem typical of a Romantic writer. valley. Consider it in context:Ne'er saw I. The city of London clearly produces a similar sense of calm and tranquillity as nature does for the poet. In these lines. In all these ways. London is presented in these circumstances as being more beautiful and awe-inspiring than nature itself. he feels the need to compare it to natural beauty to help explain how profoundly amazing he truly finds what he is viewing. "And all that mighty heart is lying still. He describes it as an extension of nature itself. a calm so deep! Although it is London that the poet is describing. the speaker feels inspired by the beauty he sees before him and re-creates that beauty for us. the speaker has described the beauty and serenity of London as it appears to him in the early morning hours. is not actually based on the countryside or the Lake District of England. Thus "Dear God!" expresses his joy and wonder in the experience." 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. where he had been inspired to write so often. Thus." equally views the city of London as one organism. never felt a calm so deep!/The river glideth at his own sweet will:/Dear God! the very houses seem asleep. His feelings are so all encompassing and profound that every part of the city. just as his nature poetry views nature as a whole as an organism.. The peaceful calm of the city has infused his spirit. . Q: How does this quotation from "Composed upon Westminster Bridge. rock. the last line of the poem. and to the sky. the exclamation point has been employed. or hill. Finally. Q: In "Composed upon Westminster Bridge. In Romantic literature. although the focus of this poem is very different. he has been drawn into the moment. that throbs with such action and movement at the best of times./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.a typical Romantic purpose for writing a poem./And all that mighty heart is lying still! These are the final lines in the poem." how does Wordsworth’s view of the sleeping city fit with his view of nature? Excellent question. It is a city asleep." The tone is one of quiet reverence. reflective of his own. too. however. Likewise. so that we might feel inspired and awe-struck as he is -. September 3./Ne'er saw I. It is very interesting that this. Q: In "Composed upon Westminster Bridge. A heart can't be both alive and still at the same time. misery and poverty that other Romantic poets such as Blake captured in their writings. nature is used to show the beauty of the sight Wordsworth is contemplating: Never did sun more beautifully steep/In his first splendour. However. but the shift occurs earlier than in the line you cite here. one of Wordsworth's most famous poems. never felt. 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. as it is "Open unto the fields. note how even in this urban Romantic poem. now feels serene. affect him. (unclear) The poem does change in tone. conveniently ignoring the squalor. An interesting feature of Wordsworth's poem its subject. the air is clean and the city is quiet. and yet the "mighty heart" of London. Wordsworth uses personification to compare the houses to sleeping creatures. the. 7. from the speaker's vantage point appears to be "still.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. the tone changes. Let us not ignore either that the poem ends on a paradox. In the final four lines. spiritual experiences are most usually inspired by nature. even the houses themselves. In this poem. However. if you read the poem carefully you will note that it is London as viewed from a distance. The speaker is no longer merely an observer. and for the first time in the poem. This view fits with his view of nature through of the affect on him and the descriptive strategies he uses. emphasising the lack of movement and peacefulness of the view. indicating a change in tone. but on a big. Wordsworth seems to use similar strategies to explain the similar impact that the sight has on him as in his nature poetry.
rock.Explain the metaphor in the last two lines? In the poem 'Composed Upon Westminster Bridge' William Wordsworth uses personification to depict the city. valley. showing that it to can be a sight of natural beauty and exploring how it can bring peace to the soul. His theory of poetry was centered on the individual imagination and that poetry was the spontaneous overflow of emotion reflected in tranquility. He may have been comparing. And this is the only time when a city dweller (or the city itself) can be nature-like. Rather. Also. Answer 2: You might say that the city is like nature in this poem. never felt. I think that maybe you are confusing the comparisons that Wordsworth makes with nature with saying that the city is in tune with nature. This city now doth. However. nature is used as part of the way Wordsworth presents the beauty of the view. silent. He even describes the buildings as asleep. the entire sight is personified in the last line as being a "mighty heart": Dear God! the very houses seem asleep. Let us examine the relevant parts of the poem carefully:Never did sun more beautifully steep/In his first splendour. not control it nor divert it. in this poem. (4-5)./The beauty of the morning. or hill. nor make it flow faster or slower. it is breathing and alive. he says that he has never felt a calm so deep as looking at the sight of London he is contemplating now. what seems to amaze the speaker so much is the city's beauty and tranquility on this morning. Wordsworth’s poetry often celebrates nature. Q: 1." Lastly. never felt./Ne'er saw I. including that of a police officer in the floods. The people are still asleep. like a garment. You might want to focus on the way that the poem personifies the city of London. If the city is sleeping. but still more powerful than. or hill.Explain the personification in line 12-14?/2. The line 'the river glideth at his own sweet will' refers to the autonomy that Nature has . This river could be a life-threatening dangerous torrent (as has been the case this mionth in th UK where it has taken lives. so there is no smoke. it is because they are asleep." the river has "its own sweet will" and the houses are said to "sleep. Industry has not yet begun. It does seem odd to say that the city is in tune with nature. Yes London is big. 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. powerful and man-made but it can only use the river. rock. In its sleeping state. If we say the people of the city. It is fleeting. thus completing the personification that the Romantic poets often attributed to natural phenomena.) . It will be gone when the city gets going.always used by. So. Wordsworth certainly describes the city as he would describe nature in his other poems. who are asleep. I think you could say the city is in tune with nature in one respect and it is a stretch. The city throughout the poem is presented as being peaceful and beautiful. They are not being social or industrial and the image of the city in the early morning reflects this. are in tune with nature. Wordsworth in this poem re-envisions the city." why is the city so in tune with nature in this poem? I hate to disagree with the main point of your question. which makes him feel more calm than he has ever felt in his life. that congestion will obscure any connection or comparison with nature." show why the speaker feels so awestruck and amazed at his first sight of London so early in the morning. the river and the business heart of the city. This is a very novel perception of the city. for in Romantic literature they were normally depicted as ugly and enchaining men rather than liberating them. As soon as the people get up and the factories fill the air with noise and smoke. However. thinking back and reminiscing about his own Lakeland mountainous river 'The Derwent' which hurried and babbled its way past his childhood home. the poem does not actually say that the city is in tune with nature. What could be a more appropriate way to describe an individual in the process of dreaming. There is no mention of the hustle and bustle of city life. Being asleep. he is clearly in awe of the beauty of the city. or “in tune” with nature as you put it. The city is its polar opposite. valley. he is viewing the city at its most nature-like time: in the early morning. Q: In "Composed upon Westminster Bridge. These are somewhat like the elements of poetry and imagination that Wordsworth celebrated. a calm so deep! Note here that although nature is obviously mentioned./Ne'er saw I./And all that mighty heart is lying still! If we examine all of these characteristics. 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. Note that we are told that London "like a garment" wears "the beauty of the morning. The sun is shining on it. they are dreaming and breathing. bear. man. its quiet and solitude. He does indicate that this beauty is fleeting. wear. as these three lines make clear:Never did sun more beautifully steep/In his first splendour. making it seem human.Q: Refering to "Composed upon Westminster Bridge. the city is described as interacting with nature. But maybe it is. but I don't actually agree that this poem presents the city as being in tune with nature.
" which offers another idealized depiction of the world. • 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. Catching it in this state.The River Thames glides by because it chooses to. 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”. At most./Here such a passion is/As stretcheth me apart. Wherever you go in life you will carry with you memories and echoes of your birthplace.—Lord." 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. the speaker sees the city's beauty only because it is asleep. "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge. Vincent Millay's poem. an easy flow of meter. as in the first stanza. that roll and rise!" The speaker also says:Long have I known a glory in it all. theatres. they have come to nature ready to have these states of mind evoked. whether it is a city. Like this poem. In fact. Wordsworth (or his speaker) gazes at the industrial city of early 1800s London before it wakes up for the day. cabins and childhood recollections. "God's World. the speaker also describes a state of mind that matches what he or she is experiencing in nature. domes. that "the very houses seem asleep. as has been pointed out before. Millay's poem suggests her passion is inspired by the dynamism and beauty of nature -by "Thy winds. but one that expresses delight rather than awe at the sight not of a city that is "sleeping. and satisfying rhymes to convey a sense of the exalted feeling that has been evoked in the poet/speaker. These lines convey that sense of exaltation:This City now doth like a garment wear /The beauty of the morning. silent. a calm so deep!/The river glideth at his own sweet will: Similarly. In both poems. we have the multi-million pound Thames Barrier in case of flooding nowadays.idealizing it and catching it when it isn't manifesting the activity and work we most associate with it -. Millay's poem "humanizes" nature by giving it qualities such as primeval mystery that are about our own thoughts and perceptions. because their personalities predisposed them to both respond to the world and express themselves in certain ways. But then Wordsworth tended to idealize and romanticize his subjects." but "dancing" flowers. Canada. bare/Ships. later. not because it is under London's control. In it. just as Millay tended to speak with great power. I do fear/Thou'st made the world too beautiful this year. and temples lie/Open unto the fields. his description of the city has a deeply idealized quality. Elizabeth Brewster wrote in an almost desperate attempt to order the chaos of her own psyche." which expresses a similar state of mind involving a deep enthusiasm for the beauty of the world. 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. All bright and glittering in the smokeless air. In the case of "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge. or the quiet Canadian countryside where Elizabeth herself was born – “Where I come from. never felt. Yes. thy wide grey skies! / Thy mists.to appreciate it. Wordsworth was always aware of the terrible force of danger that lay behind the beauty of Nature . In a sense./But never knew I this." As the title suggests. towers. the poem is based on something the poet himself experienced since it was. oceans." Of course. he depicts it as being in harmony with nature when it really isn't at all. • As a young poet in the 1940s. he has to rob it of its identity -. New Brunswick. The bulk of her poems centre around trees. It is interesting to compare "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge" to Edna St. "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud. It uses beautiful and descriptive language. people carry woods in . But the calm and dynamism that the two claim to observe really has more to do with them than nature. and to the sky. and sees it as beautiful and in harmony with its natural surroundings. The City as Landscape: "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge." the speaker suggests that his calm state of body and mind is inspired by the same state in nature: Ne'er saw I.how right he was. 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. as if he is talking about a heavenly rather than an earthly city. "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge" can also be compared to another Wordsworth poem. and produce beautiful word combinations. Where I Come From Biographical Information • Elizabeth Brewster was born in 1922 in the small lumber town of Chipman.
‘the almostnot-smell of tulips in the spring’ this tells us how the flowers of spring are starting to blossom. Also the chickens and hens being kept in yards. • Line 6-7: The idea of the city being organized and tidily planned out is introduced in these lines. This compares the tidily plotted countryside to tidily plotted art in an art museum. The old farmhouses are there solely to serve a purpose and until they stop serving that purpose they will be kept. Canada. Coming from New Brunswick. • Line 10-11: In the end of the stanza ‘smell of subways crowded at rush hours’. Stanza 1 • Line 7-8: ‘museum smell. or where they came from. regardless of looks. the chickens would not be kept . to guide ourselves through life instead of taking one step at a time. Also it shows that at the end of the day. The focus of the poem now shifts more to country and rural life. also with great complexes comes great amounts of pollution. 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. ‘People are made of places. everyone has the same goal and that is to get home. which have been plotted around the city in small areas to provide the reassurance of sanity within the community. like ‘blueberry patches in the burned-out bush’. smog telling us about a typical winters day with density of the air being greater and the water vapor blinding our site. old. or literally speaking the chickens themselves. people carry woods in their minds. chromium-plated offices’. everything runs like clockwork. People will always be able to tell where you come from ‘They carry with them hints of jungles or mountains. • Line 14: People here care about things that people in the city would laugh at. 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. • Line 12-13: These lines provide us with key details in which we can relate to Brewster’s childhood. shows us that in the country there is the room to spare to be able to keep these chickens and hens. 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. It also shows how rushed life in the city is. In the city everything is precise and controlled. similar to that in which Brewster herself grew up in. we try to control everything. Stanza 2 • Life 15: ‘wooden farmhouses. Stanza 1 • This stanza deals with the organized and fast paced life of the city.their minds” – and certainly the picture she draws in the second stanza does seem at first to be idyllic and wonderful. throughout the year as nature progresses through its seasons. but this is not the end of the shaping process. generally used to provide a source of food in the form of eggs. • Line 9-10: ‘the smell of work. art also tidily plotted with a guidebook’.’ • 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. 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. The guide book can be a metaphor for life. To the people in the community this is relatively significant as it is the growing of something new where before there was nothing. strongly contrasting with the city images in the first stanza. you are shaped as much by where you were born and grew up as the places that you go to after your childhood. atmospherically city life changes greatly. the things that you see. Stanza 2 Stanza 2 The second stanza introduces an idea change in the poem. no matter where you come from. glue factories maybe. Stanza 1 • Line 4-5: ‘Like the smell of smog or the almost-not-smell of tulips in the spring’. This is in direct contrast to the first stanza where everything is new and attractive. telling us that within the city life. acres of pine woods’. ‘nature tidily plotted in little squares with a fountain in the center’. • Line 1-3: The first two lines of the poem summarise the main theme of the poem perfectly. the things that you experience in other places. • Line 16-17: Brewster portrays a farming life with the ideas of chickens and hens kept in yards. glue factories maybe’.’ As the theme suggests people will never be able to forget their past. ‘Where I come from. if you work in chromium plated offices or glue factories. this shows the congestion that is caused by overpopulation of the city. with a guidebook. a tropic grace or the cool eyes of seagazers. nature still exists in public parks. which Elizabeth is relating to with ‘the smell of work. This idea shows us that who we are is shaped by where we were born and where we grew up. in need of paint’. whereas in conjunction with the first stanza. as the first line suggests ‘People are made of places’.
The “door” could be the memory opening in a blast of nostalgia. the last line finishes as a half line. The first line of the second stanza then starts halfway down the line. She finishes the first stanza with ‘subways crowded at rush hours’ and starts the second stanza with ‘Where I come from’. a “frosty wind” in the mind? Structure • The Poem is set out into three stanzas. “old. in need of paint”. 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. 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. This is supported by the content of the second stanza. ‘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. Are the praries more "open-minded" than the more `multi-cultural`cities of Vancouver or Toronto? More authentically Canadian? . 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. Paragraph 3: Discuss how the final couplet refigures the identity questions in the poem. Introduction: Contextualize the poet in terms of Canadian identity and particularly the tradition of prarie poetry. so it is more contemporary and free versed poetry. 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'. and there blows a frosty wind from fields of snow. her place. full stop. Paragraph 1: Examine the treatment of urbanism in the opening stanza. The second half these lines ‘and there blows a frosty wind from fields of snow. • Apart from the previously mentioned no other apparent structure can be found. This technique used is a great way to show the reader that the poem is meant to be read slow and appreciatively.as there is no room nor is there any need to keeping the chickens and hens. so she has the same line of thought. is not so good after all. 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. where things may seem superficially attractive in a rustic way. • Line 20-21: ‘A door in the mind blows open. Stanza 2 • Line 18-19: ‘Spring and winter are the mind’s chief seasons: ice and the breaking of ice. This is to show a distinct change between the two stanza with the first being city life and the second being country life. • If you look at the poem at the end of the first stanza. where the chickins cluck “aimlessly” and buildings are “battered”. colon or semi-colon splitting the lines into two sections. out of anything. So the suggestion is that it is easy to remember formative places all to positively. with the words ‘blow’ and ‘snows’. but their legacy can be negative.’ Spring and winter are two opposing seasons and winter could therefore represent the cold city life and spring the colorful country life. and not meant to be quickly read and feeling bewildered afterwards when you are confused about the poem to which you have just rushed. the last being a rhyming couplet. taking in what is being said and thinking about it more. but are “burned out”. but the association of winter and the “frosty wind” suggest something less pleasant. it shows how nature can create a picture of beauty anywhere. but it is like she has jumped locations. 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. getting the reader thinking more about the poem and its content rather than what words rhyme with what and so on. 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.’ is there to give a feel to the picture that she has been describing and it gives the reader a cold feeling. ‘behind which violets grow’ just backs up the earlier line of ‘blueberry’s growing in the burnt out bush’.’ The last two lines are puzzling. Another idea to ponder on the last two lines of the poem. • 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.e reader into a state of rustic complacency. The door blowing open is just another gateway opening in the mind to the memories that she holds of her childhood. like a realisation that the past.
. On the other hand. alliteration and metaphors. the concluding two lines come as a contradiction of this idealization. supports your claims about the treatment of identity themes. Both poems explores the powerful connection between the natural world and mankind in different ways. The poem is divided into four stanzas. The author tries to put across his thoughts through using techniques such as juxtaposition. ‘Summer Farm’ states that the natural world is fitted and altered to what emotional state one is in.Conclusion: Show how the use of adverbs. it concentrates on idea that wherever you come from. in ‘Summer Farm by Norman MacCaig’. ‘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. what does Elizabeth Brewster say about rural life? From details of city life. near the sea. and for this reason create surprising final twist. finding your own identity through it and also focusing on how nature alters to fit with your emotional state. This helps the audience to be imaginative of what is beyond the natural world and beyond what is in sight. a reader might conclude that no matter where people come from—city or country. just as people riding subways at rush hour accept the premise that life might usually take place where there are always crowds. Smell is most primarily the sense most associated . a metaphor. which are concepts that are abstract and intangible beyond in physical world. burned-out bush. However. the poet does include details about tulips and fountains—but these objects of Nature are regulated and organized. such as mountains. jungles. rhyme. Interestingly. On the first stanza. Even their very thoughts and ways of looking at life are inextricable from their locations. and are not growing without human intervention and control. is a poem that has it’s theme readily stated in the first sentence of the poem. north or south. but the way the authors convey. In ‘Where I Come From by Elizabeth Brewster’. more uplifting than the confines of city life. Rather. Alternatively. At first reading. By trying to convey this message and create the effect of a nostalgic poem. the poem’s speaker seems to be elevating country living above city living. 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. the author’s central idea is to get across the message that the natural world is created according to the emotions of man. All these scenes and descriptions are clearly designed as a contrast with the more constricting urban life as detailed in the first eleven lines. and where violets voluntarily exhibit their colors for country folk to appreciate. In the poem. while most of the details about city life are negative. leading the audience to catch the central meaning of the poem. where people might see many farmyard animals. People who work in “chromium-plated offices” assume that it is natural for human existence to take place exclusively in such an environment. and wooden farmhouses are features of the landscape. The first stanza essentially is a list of the possible places people have lived. where pine woods. ‘Where I Come From’. the author makes a dominant connection between the natural world and mankind by addressing the importance of digging down to your roots. that ‘People are made of places” – that memories of a person of where they live make up a portion of who they are. The poem’s first eleven lines establish details that support the opening statement that people are “made of places. across. no one escapes human difficulties and problems. the author also explores metaphysics. In the light of this shift of reference. specifically. cities. and that a frosty wind blows from fields of snow. but such an attitude is not there. blueberry patches. A marvelous or not-so-marvelous location of residence does not guarantee anyone immunity from the problems that beset human beings. Q: Explain the last two lines of Brewster's "Where I Come From"? The final two lines of the poem. 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 reader is told that doors blow open.” Thus. recursion. introspective perception. Clearly the speaker admires the more spontaneous aspects of Nature that are to be found where she comes from. The author splits the poem up into two stanzas to show the difference the speakers past and present. assonance and alliteration. similes. appear to be problematic. Q: In "Where I Come From". by Elizabeth Brewster. a view that nature is more rewarding to an individual. (Unfinished) In both poems ‘Where I Come From by Elizabeth Brewster’ and ‘Summer Farm by Norman MacCaig’. you carry a sense of that place in your mind. the poem after line 11 shifts to details about country life. each one has two pairs of rhyme.. or east or west. A reader might expect a continuation of the pride of country places of lines 11-19. the author focuses on getting the message “people are made of places”.
she is writing as if she has not lived here. there is no doubt from the poem that whether or not all people share this trait of Brewster’s. the sea and the city. There is nothing distinct about the city she is describing. and there blows a frosty wind from fields of snow’ a possible new memory is opened in her mind. This is what Brewster is made of. Like Frost’s work. has only visited as a tourist. her poem has renewed interest. A contrast between city-life and countrylife is made between the two stanzas. and so the description could fit any city in the world. quite deliberate.’ ‘subways’. but mild. and her memories seem to flow in an unstoppable rush. The environment is vastly different to the city. The description of the city is slightly plain and generic however. and it would not be too far to go to say that it is Canadian. comfortable way of life here. ‘A door in the mind blows open. such as Margaret Atwood). While this might be considered too sweeping a generalization. as Brewster’s images are rather generic: museums. 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. ‘smell of work’. Only simple adjectives are used here. 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. and while it is rather a modest pleasure. in need of paint’. If so. The poem begins with a declaration: “People are made of places”. ‘almost-not-smell of tulips’. She doesn’t seek to explain everything but rather to invite the reader to think about what she has thought. museums. The second stanza however is a description of her hometown. she writes. unlike the first stanza when her feeling towards the city is positive. It is a truly important thought. ‘museum smell’. Here Brewster introduces us to the place that made her. The second stanza is the poem’s heart. to my mind. old. she doesn’t)? Are her memories of her hometown unreservedly affectionate? Is the poem an exercise in comparing two Canadas. ‘wooden farmhouses. offices and subways at rush hour. as she is inviting us to consider the places that made us. subtle and understated. where ‘people carry woods in their minds. and in her view made Canadians of her generation. Does Brewster truly dislike the city (in my opinion. She is unfamiliar with the city. it is a small. “Spring and winter/ are the mind’s chief seasons: ice and the breaking of ice”. 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. such ‘blueberry patches in burned out bush’. Indeed. and it is central moment of the piece. It is with the last of these that the stanza is most concerned. The language and punctuation of the second stanza also slows down the pace of the poem – emphasizing the slow. Her words express those thoughts very effectively. the second stanza has less enjambments. the Canada of the past and the urban. but its importance much more briefly)? How have Canadians changed with Canada? Brewster’s omissions are. she is certainly very much a result of the places she has lived in and that she most identifies with. This is a trait of much Canadian poetry (although with notable exceptions. Her city is unmistakably Western. mountains. The last stanza appears to be a kind of true ending to the poem. It is a poem that is enjoyable even if one does not look beyond its most obvious level. and that link is used here extensively in the description of the city. The first stanza goes on to give examples of the kinds of places that “make” people: jungles. and this is emphasized by the numerous pauses and enjambments within the stanza. acres of pine woods…’ The way in which her hometown is described is also different. as a comparison of two Canadas. ‘the smell of smog’.with memory. it is a decidedly unambitious work and this is almost . distinct. romantic imagery of “battered schoolhouses/ behind which violets grow”. it is a poem that truly involves the reader. although hardly one to complain about. The descriptions here are also more exact. and to consider how exactly they did so. ‘battered schoolhouse behind which violets grow’ – memories that only one who has lived here for a long time would remember. unlike the faltering way the city is described. ‘chromium plated offices. or it is a continuation of her long-ago memories. It also gives a sense that the poet is not familiar. friendly countryside town. uncomplicated way people live their lives here. glue factories. etc. she frequently has to pause to think about what to say next. and undoubtedly effective. “Where I Come From” is a wonderfully well-expressed work that on repeated readings reminded me of Robert Frost’s depictions of New England. A faint tone of unreserved affection when she is describing her hometown can be sensed. this poem is simple but not inelegant. “Where I Come From” is just as much about things unsaid as the writing itself. glue factories. libraries. the link between nature and the mind. She closes the stanza by returning to her main theme. possible emphasizing the simple. memories that only one who is familiar with it would remember. as it describes things that all cities generally have. multicultural Canada of the present? How exactly does the landscape affect the Canadian psyche (Brewster describes the place brilliantly. fountains in the centre of the square. not connected with a city.
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. “smell of work. 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. suggests that the speaker’s memory of city-life and this sharply contrasted in the next half of the poem which is about nature. 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 writer also begins to idealizes farm-life. “A door in the mind blows open. Focusing on smells. It reinforces the statement . ‘A door in the mind blows open’ suggest that _____________________ Possible answers: From the title of the poem. 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’ . we can assume that Elizabeth Brewster’s ‘Where I Come From’ is about the different places where people come from. in particularly where the speaker of the poem comes from. 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. Brewster makes it sound much better than it really is. In the end of the poem the reader realizes that Brewster is mostly talking about nostalgia. Focusing on smells. The line ‘Spring and winter are the mind’s . rather than on sight and sound. I think the line _______________________________ has a strong impact on the reader because__________________. Task: From the title of poem.refreshing. tell memories and her opinion about the completely different places. in need of paint’ and ‘with yards where hens and chickens circle about’. how different and how better it is compared to the city-life. We also assume that she is going to describe. ‘museum smell’ . The cold wind stops her thoughts. 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. in need of paint” and “with yards where hens and chickens circle about”. affection for the past. though there is a change experienced in the final two lines. establishing it as a truth. Brewster goes on to describe the ‘Atmosphere of cities’ which is created be various distinctive smells such as ‘ ‘. The speaker is now in the present. 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 __________________. people carry woods in their minds. To read “Where I Come From” is to undertake an exercise in the appreciation of subtlety. and the environment where she grew up. Although the opening line “People are made of places” can be loosely described as form of alliteration. I think the line “Where I come from. the repetition of the “p” sound is particularly effective because it creates an effect. Answer 2: From the title of the poem. the repetition of the ‘p’ sound is particularly effective because it creates the impression that ______________________ . ‘ ‘ . though there is a change experience in the final two lines. ’smell of work. Brewster goes on to describe the “Atmosphere of cities” which is created by various distinctive smells such as “smell of smog”. which the shortness of sound reinforces the statement by establishing it as a truth. I have little doubt that this will be so. The line “Spring and winter are the mind’s chief seasons” reinforces the contrast established in the poem between town and rural life. If every reader of the poem uses it as a springboard for cleareyed self-reflection of this kind. 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. I think the line ‘Where I come from.‘ ‘ and ‘ ‘. and the environment where she grew up. old. and the environment where she grew up. “museum smell”. “almost-not-smell of tulips in the spring”. ‘smell of subways crowded at rush hours’. Although the opening line ‘People are made of places’ can be loosely described as form of alliteration. rather than on sight and sound. people carry woods in their minds. 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. ‘ ‘. deep reflection and the quietest kind of beauty. and there blows a frosty wind from the snow” suggests that a change occurs. The line ‘Spring and winter are the mind’s chief seasons’ reinforces the contrast established in the poem between town and rural life. glue factories maybe” and “smell of subways crowded at rush hours”. 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. glue factories maybe’ . Brewster will have been remarkably successful. It also grabs the attention of the reader and makes the reader curious to read the rest of the poem. rather than on sight and sound. Focusing on smells. old. 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.
and the environment where she grow up. we can amuse that Elizabeth Brewster’s where I come from is about. and pizza hut. Focusing on smells. we can assume that Elizabeth Brewster’s “Where I Come From” is about a place where your heart belongs to. rather than on sight and sound. 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.chief seasons’ reinforces the contrast established in the poem between town and rural life. though there is a change experienced in the final two lines. and it’s sarcastic. 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. ‘A door in the mind blows open’ suggest that a change occurs. the repetition of the ‘p’ sound is particularly effective because it creates the impression that the shortness of sound reinforces this statement. 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”. the way she remembers her home place. We are made up out of all the things we have done and where we have done it. the place where you came from.”atmosphere of cities”. Answer 6: The first two lines from the first stanza states that people carry some memory of the place they were born in. Answer 3: From the title of poem. Answer 4: From the title of the poem. In the next half of the poem which is about nature. and the environment where she grew up. and the environment where she grew up. and the rest of the poem contrasts to the manmade imagery. other world. you can feel the poem. 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 line ‘Spring and winter are the mind’s chief seasons’ reinforces the contrast established in the poem between town and rural life. kimchee. ’museum’. the cold wind stops her thoughts. Anyone could be born in the mountains. I think the line carry woods in their minds has a strong impact on the reader because. 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. the world of mind. The line ‘spring and winter are the mind’s chief seasons’ reinforces the contrast established between town and rural life. 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. indeed. “almost-not-smell of tulips in spring” which also signifies that the smell of tulips . Although he opening line ‘people are made of places’ can be loosely described as from of alliteration. Answer 5: From the title of the poem. rather than on sight it is the speaker’s memory of city-life and this is sharply contrasted. establishing it as a truth. and when someone opened the door she came back to herself. though there is a change experienced in the final two lines. 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. “smell of smog”. jungles. though there is a change experienced in the final two lines. Focusing on smells. She is comparing it with the smell of things in the area. Brewster goes on to describe the ‘Atmosphere of cities’ which is created by various distinctive smells such as ‘smog’. it is sarcastic not realistic so you have to think about it. Although the opening line ‘People are made of places’ can be loosely describe as form of alliteration. ‘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. She also talks about smell. Although the opening line “People are made of places” can be loosely described as form of alliteration. running around freely on the farm territory. 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. 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 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. ‘chromium-plated office’ and ‘subways’. I think the line “carry woods in their minds” has a strong impact on a reader because this line is about Elizabeth’s memory. “A door in the mind blows open” suggest that she was in deep thinking. Later in the poem she tells us where she came from. I think the line ‘Where I come from’ has a strong impact on the reader because it shows a change. Focusing on smells. The speaker is now in the present. The title is where I come from because se want’s to tell us we are made up out of places. It signifies that Brewster is stating her views after she has visited these places. cities or seas. ‘glue factory’. from other world. Brewster goes on to describe the ‘atmosphere of cities’ which is created be various distinctive smells such as cow shit. rather than on sight and sound.
however the reader is brought to question this as it has been shown that he has been wrong before. ‘tame lightenings’ bring the idea that nature is uncontrollable and no matter how much humans try to control it. 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. Essay In both the poems ‘Summer Farm’ by Norman MacCaig and ‘Where I Come From’ by Elizabeth Brewster. The alliteration of ‘burnt-out bush’ reinforces how even though this part of nature is dead. He shows how narrow the majority of humans views are. 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. he lies ‘not thinking’ in the grass just like the straw which is described in the first stanza. just as the farm is ‘farm under farm’ showing how both have complex layers and are both constantly changing. ‘the water in the horse-trough’ and ‘green as glass’ suggesting that man seeks for the familiar. he concludes that he is ‘in the centre’. in comparison to the rest of the stanza which expresses the poet’s opinion about cities. As man continues to speculate about his surroundings. 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. This could show that man can only truly be like nature when all thought is let go of. the city is like rapids. 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. It shows how humans try and establish links with nature. In the first stanza the repetition of ‘tidily plotted’ and ‘smell’ helps to create the idea that the city does not have diversity. nature has no beginning and no end which in turn underlines another contrast between man-made and nature. it still contributes to the sense of beauty. our minds are so closed off that we see nothing.are lost in the smell of smog and other smells. Although he believes himself ‘in the centre’. In the second stanza of the ‘Where I Come From’. In the first two sentences the lines flow smoothly and carry imagery of the pleasantness of nature. In the last two stanzas of ‘Summer Farm’. 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’. Nature and man are both similar as he stands ‘self under self’. Then she talks about how nature is cared about people ” nature tidily plotted in little squares. The way the sentence is structured suggests that the people in the cities are also like the place where they live. the poet highlights how nature and humans are similar but different. nature will always do its own thing. As the ‘hens and chickens circle’ the idea of the cycle of life is pushed to the forefront of the readers mind. an insight to the natural world is given through the poet’s reflective and quiet tone. . The juxtaposing ideas. There is just a hint of it too. Within the poem ‘Where I Come From’ a variety of different aspects adds to the appreciation of life. it is also completely separate. this in turn leads to the conclusion that man is unfamiliar with nature. It highlights how just like a circle. Nature as seen by the poet is beautiful. The unusual syntax used ‘atmosphere of … different drops’ emphasizes how unnatural the city is. 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. more ordered and rigid than the people who live with nature. The alliteration ‘green as glass’ highlights the comparison of the natural world and the man made equivalent. In ‘Summer Farm’. nature is compared to the man made. She gives a vivid imagery of chickens who are circling about clucking aimlessly. Several times within ‘Summer Farm’.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 poet describes his natural surroundings with such detail and clarity whilst in a meditative state of thoughtless observation. 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’. The poets demonstrate how although the human world interacts with the natural world. These techniques are therefore reinforcing the main idea by showing the reader that different perspectives can only be reached by having contrast. ‘stares at nothing with one eye’. Norman MacCaig describes the natural world which surrounds him on his farm. This use of alliteration highlights that while nature flows smoothly. 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. In the first two stanzas of the poem. this underlines how even though something might be there. She also gives and imagery of houses which need paint and are old and blueberry patches. this highlights the difference between man and nature as nature does not think about things. allowing a picture to form in the readers mind.
He considers the vast scale of the world but also its detail and preciseness. The swallow is used as a metaphor of his thought. While this examination can be viewed as a mere description of a setting for the poem. 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. • The “metaphysic hand”is his mind reaching out and looking beyond the farm. • This random preciseness “hang zigzag” “nine ducks go wobbling by in two straight lines”leads the narrator into metaphysical thought and the next stanza. but why it exists is a metaphysical question.e. so as to better see himself. . and in the centre. One meaning is a continuation of the description of setting • The second meaning looks at how MacCaig’s observation leads him into deep thought. “farm within farm. • In 1967 he was appointed Fellow in Creative Writing at Edinburgh.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. as he questions. He continued to publish throughout his lifetime and was extremely prolific in the amount that he produced. • For the early part of his working life. in a figurative sense. representing MacCaig’s conscious. • It relates to questions that cannot be answered in factual terms. Metaphysics • Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy investigating principles of reality transcending those of any particular science. the “pile of selves… threaded on time”. He became a reader in poetry in 1970. me”. 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. i. It is concerned with explaining the ultimate nature of being and the world. The word dizzy conveys a sense of confusion afterwards.which can be burdensome. . • His first collection. 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. it also speaks for the thought process of the narrator (MacCaig). • What he sees when he lifts the farm is described in the last line. • He was schooled at the Royal High School and studied classics at the University of Edinburgh. • “Self under self.Consciousness of your own being . 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. “Finding himself in space”refers to his conscious being above himself as he looks down upon the world and himself within the farm. “unfolds his legs”. between his native city and Assynt in the Scottish Highlands from where his mother’s family came from. a move that many at the time criticised. there are more farms in the past and future and that he is in the centre. The prospect of metaphysical thought: trying to make sense of an idea that cannot be solved in a logical way is daunting. This shows that like himself. • During World War II MacCaig registered as a conscientious objector. lifting “the farm like a lid”. at the University of Stirling. why? • The second stanza contains dual meaning. he was employed as a school teacher in primary schools. • MacCaig’s conscious now leaves him. Far Cry. and seeing the past and future of the farm as well as his own as they are intertwined in the present.The use of a quiet reflective tone throughout both poems whilst containing different complex ideas echoes how similar and different man and nature are. or try and view himself objectively. 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. so does the narrator gaze at his surroundings absent-mindedly. The grasshopper. there is also versions (different perceptions) of himself in the past and the future. frightening. was published in 1943. jumps free of himself. “A swallow falls”. 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. • The third stanza is the beginning of a change of focus in the poem. confusing . for the rest of his life. free to roam through the “sky”. As the “hen stares at nothing with one eye”.
no expression. returns to the “dizzy” uncertainty. he explains that “with metaphysic hand/Lift the farm like a lid and see/ Farm within farm. he gropes around for inspiration out of the nothingness. Line 1. the subject is now caught up in the contemplation of himself. 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. Line 2-3: oxymoron .• Overall. ducks wobble in “two straight lines. it depicts the series of contrasts that plague McCaig’s mind. uncertain of the consequences of selling his farm or maintaining it. He picks up a thought without analyzing deeply.grasshopper with plated face. Line 4: Symbolism: Nine = odd number.2: oxymoron: not only is the farm described.Water is typically seen as shiny and glassy but here it is also countered by the murky green. The language used is .” “self under self. Still. he tries to detach himself and see the farm from a distant perspective. representing a mind closed to inspiration Line 10: ‘I’ persona . wants to keep things straight/simple. me. 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. he will tread into the unknown. Line 5-6: This is literally impossible. this illustrates the metaphysical idea that we are just the now. he is afraid of the burden of philosophical indulgence – contemplating existing can be depressing Line 11-12: Analogy . signifying disharmony. nature and comfort. and in the centre. There is none of the stability of the ground (which symbolises the known. mundane/everyday life) states his conclusion/epiphany: Line 13: repetition “a pile of selves.” . uncertain. connected to it and its past. Line 6-8: Metaphor “an empty sky” =symbol of nothingness.he is the descendent of a line of farm-owners. The colour blue exudes calmness. unfolding his mind might propel him into nothingness. but at the same time are as dangerous as lightning. This signifies a one-sided view of things. It is regular. reflecting his thoughts. is an enclosed room. 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. nostalgic. reflecting the uncertainty of his future. contemplating Style and form: Rhyme scheme AABB for 4 stanzas. • 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. Nothing makes sense. 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. he’s trapped in the layers) Metaphorically and philosophically.” This alludes to his ancestors who had managed the farm. 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 position of hanging is uncertain and not stable.”The use of the subjective pronoun “I”in the latter part of the poem changes to the objective “me”. “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. symbolized by empty space. unfolding his legs = face is rigid. his mind wobbles like the ducks in indecision.” = an impossible task. but: farm = his identity. his thoughts which move abruptly and not smoothly like zigzags. 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 barn. What he fears is that like the grasshopper that jumps.He tries not to think because he is “afraid of where a thought might take me. But it looks with “one eye” instead of none or two. Paradox: “A swallow falls … dives up again” It comes down in search for food (symbol for inspiration and substance) but finding nothing.” (Russian-doll-structure. • “Having bypassed the objective reality of the world around him.” He is afraid because such thoughts can be heavy/daunting/unproductive. The setting. Straws exude an aura of domesticity. Line 14-16: Metaphor: “threaded on time. there is also the infinite nature of the past and present which we can imagine or consider but not understand.
comparing the straws to the tame lightning. This emphasises the idea of picking it up. is a strange one as one would not normally consider glass to be green. way by the straw. though there is a sense of order portrayed by …………………………… In the second stanza. • The calm state of mind is further emphasised in the third stanza. of having a thought. MacCraig gives the impression ……………………Another descriptive device is given in the run-on line in relation to the straws which ‘ hang …………’ which suggests that ……………………… . “in space”. 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. whereas is nature lightning is often wild. “green as glass”. The AE lines may have been intended to rhyme. The tone of the poem shifts completely to the speaker of the poem as he describes himself as ‘a pile of selves’. The use of ‘I’ reinforces ______________________ . • This is most obvious in the last line of the stanza and poem which is split up into three parts. me’. This description is also oxymoronic as lightning is described as ‘tame’. This suggests that ……… . • MacCaig also uses the alliteration of like. MacCraig provides the reader with a simile. However MacCaig’s use of this phrase vivifies the idea that the water is still and calm without having to say so. The grasshopper is similar to him because ……………. comparing the ________ to _______. lightnings and lie in the first stanza. movement is conveyed by the swallow. that is to say. philosophical and associating the poet’s thoughts with nature. The metaphysic hand is his mind looking beyond the farm now and seeing what was and what will be. “then picks it up”. it is clear that the speaker of the poem has compared himself to the grasshopper. explosive and threatening. It is highly symbolic. In the third stanza. McCaig was known as a metaphysical poet. In this way MacCaig suggests that humans are but animals in the face of the mysteries of the universe. “tame”. In the final line of the first stanza MacCraig gives the reader another contrasting image the ‘ducks wobbling’ in ‘two straight lines’. 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’. The actions of the swallow are described as __________________. whereas is . a pause between each. this creates a calm feeling by slowing down the reader • The first line of the second stanza ends unfinished. Here the poet is describing ………………………. This description is also oxymoronic as lightning is described as ‘tame’. • Summer Farm has an obvious rhyme scheme of AABB CCDD AEFF GGHH. 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. • 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. MacCraig provides the reader with a simile. • In the fourth stanza MacCaig uses commas to slow down the reader and make them think about what they are reading. • The second simile. ‘Dizzy blue’ is also an effective image because —————————— . that of thought.metaphysical. By splitting up the journey it further reflects the idea it represents. ‘Wobbling’ denotes the way ……………. “Straws like tame lightnings”creates the image of the sharp crooked nature of lightning reflected in a less extreme. especially chickens and insects. • MacCaig’s use of animals in metaphors to describe human thought is ironic considering that animals are considered incapable of deep thought. • MacCaig uses the simile lifting “the farm like a lid”with a “metaphysic hand”. the speaker of the poem becomes more evident through the use of the ———— ‘I’. as mentioned earlier. In the opening line of the poem. each of which builds up the main idea. Though a subtle comparison. By comparing ‘straws’ to ‘tame lightnings’. • There appears to be no specific meter which ties to the idea that the poem is a stream of consciousness. 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. In this final image the writer is describing ……………………………………………… In the opening line of the poem. • 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. As mentioned earlier. the rest of the sentence is the beginning of the second line.
‘nine ducks’. the speaker veers from contemplation of nature (“the poet is marvelling at the world around him. if it does appear in the second part of the poem. In this final image the writer is describing like he is dreaming. soon enough again. explosive and threatening.. and in the centre. me’. seeing beyond the present at the past and future of the farm.] as the centre-point of his own poetry” (Hendry. 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. though there is a sense of order portrayed by “two straight lines” In the second stanza. The farm is metonymically foregrounded in the first two stanzas (“Straws” and “hen” at the incipit of each). they feel free like in space. “MacCaig is never simply a ‘nature’ poet and his preference for linking precise . 13). 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. as is the case. This suggests that he is describing himself as a Kalinka doll. 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.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. and contrary to what happens in “Instrument and agent” there is no attempt at blurring the clear-cut division between self and not-self. The random precision of the stanza (ie. However. and also the thought process of the persona/narrator. The tone of the poem shifts completely to the speaker of the poem as he describes himself as ‘a pile of selves’. in which it is a metaphorical description of his train of thought.” l. Then. 16. the water in a horse-trough that is green as glass. as well as the fact that if read literally. there are other versions (different perceptions of himself) in the past. To be sure. and the readers into the second stanza. And. The word dizzy. 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. The second stanza has dual meaning. the farm is then just a simile for the poet’s self (“Farm within farm. too. The third stanza shows the persona now changing his focus towards himself. for the farm is like himself (‘Farm within farm’) having other versions of itself in the past and future’). the speaker of the poem becomes more evident through the use of the sentence which starts with ‘I’. and he is in the centre of it.” says McCabe — 113) to self-engrossment. emphasizes the confusion that the persona feels afterwards. In the third stanza. ‘two straight lines’. and that will be created in the future. being an analogy for “Self under self. whereas the poet’s self (“I”.” l. the stanza appear confusing. ‘hang zigzag’) the leads the persona into metaphysical thought. a pile of selves I stand / Threaded on time’ – the idea that he (his perception of things) is just the present. for instance. clearer view. The fourth and last stanza starts of with the line ‘Self under self. MacCraig gives the impression of that everything can be different and even if we don’t expect it. including “I and my thoughts of you.. where “we see him [. one in which it is simply a continuation of the collection of observations by the persona. each of these taking up one half of the poem. it is clear that the speaker of the poem has compared himself to the grasshopper. for how can lightning be tame?). and ‘nine ducks (that) go wobbling by in two straight lines’. “The hen stares at nothing with one eye’ – the persona gazes at his surroundings absentmindedly. ‘Summer Farm’ by Norman MacCaig. ‘Wobbling’ denotes the way they move. In the second line of the first line a simile is used again ‘green as glass”. and showing fear at the idea of contemplating something we cannot possibly understand (metaphysical thought) and where it might take him. Here the poet is describing the water in the house-through. because lightning is also described as a zigzag. The actions of the swallow are described as a bird that appeared from nowhere and disappeared the same as appeared. and the second. in “Summer Farm” (CP 7).nature lightning is often wild. “A swallow falls’ . ‘Dizzy blue’ is also an effective image because it describes the color of the sky using literature words. In the final line of the first stanza MacCraig gives the reader another contrasting image the ‘ducks wobbling’ in ‘two straight lines’. The grasshopper is similar to him because they are both on the grass and under the sun. me’. 67) As a matter of fact this early poem (1955) already sets the pattern for a long list of structurally similar pieces. which is by now the true focus of the poem. The metaphysic hand represents figuratively his mind reaching out and looking beyond the farm. “Self”) becomes the focus of the last two.” In it. The persona then ‘with metaphysic hand / Lift the farm like a lid and see/ Farm within farm. By comparing ‘straws’ to ‘tame lightings’. Though a subtle comparison.. there will be a clear shift from not-self to self. is a poem about a persona observing the world around him. movement is conveyed by the swallow. The use of ‘I’ reinforces that the reader of the poem started talking about himself. therefore eliminating confusion.
much as Zen koans or haikus do. Instead. and not with the subject. BBC: http://www. In addressing this philosophical issue MacCaig enters into what Linda R. Consciousness becomes possible only at the cost of the original indifferentiation.co.observation with creative wit can be seen in [this] poem [. b) Write down 2 animals featured in the poem that have symbolic value. 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.). Whereas “there is no distinction between the subject and the object in the real experienc. Explain why they are oxymorons. 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. / Then picks it up.. The Literature of Scotland 430). Farm life and the poet’s observations a) Write down 3 examples of oxymorons used in the first 2 stanzas.] at nothing with one eye. Williams describes as “the familiar modern dichotomy in British poetry. rephrasing Hegel’s thought. for instance.bbc. What are those animals doing? Explain in detail what they symbolise. they highlight the peculiarities of the world around us. his “wit.” l. “consciousness demands opposition. Is poetic writing an attempt to clarify as succinctly as possible the autonomous and the objective. is always geared to poetic insight into reality: “straws” look indeed “like tame lightnings” and the hen does “stare [. most statements are plainly descriptive (“The water in the horsetrough shines. (hint: linking it to the poet himself) 2. transparent and at one with the scene he describes.”6 What the poem acknowledges is the basic incompatibility of being and consciousness.” etc. Besides. to that extent.” l. 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. Explain this metaphor. Consciousness. or is it an act of poetic individuation and self-definition?” (81). c) What is a ‘metaphysical thought’? Why is he “afraid of where a thought might take [him]”? (or: What is he afraid of?) 3.(two of them could also be classed as similes). the Metaphysicals’ conceits. / Then picks it up’” (Watson. the experience disappears” (Hanh 83). What could that be? Write down 2 things that the persona is contemplating. that of the privileging of inside or outside. of perception.” metaphors do not strike us as far-fetched and intricate expressions of subjectivity. dans l'instant de sa révélation soudaine et là” (Munier iv). 10. or of being and the symbolic order (speech or thought).uk/programmes/p00mr8yj/profiles/norman-maccaig Questions 1.” “A swallow falls.” highly idiosyncratic as it may be. 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 . revealing the object as it is hic et nunc — “la chose comme elle est. From External observation to Internal struggle. therefore I am where I do not think”7 (Écrits 277). However.” “Nine ducks go wobbling by in two straight lines. unlike. a) What is the “metaphysic hand” in stanza 4? Tick the 3 answers you think fit best. “in space.. The latter is. When one starts to distinguish subject and object. the first half of the poem is definitely concerned with the object. even in its most basic form.]: ‘A hen stares at nothing with one eye. implies division and the splitting of unity: the knowledge of the object is not equal to the object of knowledge.. both in terms of space (“Afraid of where a thought might take me. 12) and time (which crops up in the last stanza). In that sense. As Garaudy points out.. otherwise there is no consciousness of nature but merely nature. (hint: link to the theme of identity and to background information about the author) . 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. It is certainly somewhere between these two extremes that MacCaig will attempt to find the right positioning.
From External observation to Internal struggle. Noku te whenua. there is also the infinite nature of the past and the unknown future which we can imagine or consider but not understand. me” illustrates the metaphysical idea that we are just the ‘now’. (hint: link to the theme of identity and to background information about the author) . me” illustrates the metaphysical idea that we are just the ‘now’.” 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. 5. What could that be? Write down 2 things that the persona is contemplating. 10. d) Write down 2 animals featured in the poem that have symbolic value.(two of them could also be classed as similes). 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. 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. 6. Explain why they are oxymorons. Write a short personal response on how a reader like yourself could relate to the poem. In his interpretation of the poem. 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. 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. Farm life and the poet’s observations c) Write down 3 examples of oxymorons used in the first 2 stanzas. its subject matter and ideas. .The land is mine. Ben Ingram writes: “The last line “farm within farm. and in the centre. Write a short personal response on how a reader like yourself could relate to the poem. inherited from my ancestors. there is also the infinite nature of the past and the unknown future which we can imagine or consider but not understand.” What kind of struggle is this statement talking about? Why has MacCaig problems seeing himself in an objective way? Respond in a short paragraph.e) His own hand that will take the farm house and replace it with new buildings to renovate the farm. its subject matter and ideas. 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. 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. and in the centre. . i) What is the “metaphysic hand” in stanza 4? Tick the 3 answers you think fit best. n) The hands of his ancestors who build the farm o) Links to the Russian doll concept. In his interpretation of the poem. What are those animals doing? Explain in detail what they symbolise. (hint: linking it to the poet himself) 7. Explain this metaphor. 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. f) What is a ‘metaphysical thought’? Why is he “afraid of where a thought might take [him]”? (or: What is he afraid of?) 8. o oku tupuna.
‘my love is come to me’. Periodicals often contained serialised fiction. The return of a lover In A Birthday. More significant are the feelings that his return arouses. More on periodicals: A periodical is a magazine which is issued at regular intervals throughout the year. . With winter coming to an end. Of what is the creation of music shown to be an expression? Commentary Publication Rossetti composed A Birthday in 1857. the birds are singing and shoots are springing into life. In Western Christianity. Language and music Rossetti’s interest in combining language with music becomes apparent given that: • Several begin with the mention of singing • Many. such as A Birthday. The Victorian period saw a rise in the publication and readership of periodicals. the speaker declares that her happiness and comfort come from the presence of a certain lover. she attempts to capture in language her joy at the return of the ‘birthday of her life’ (line 15).location is a vital part to our identity. 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. This Kingdom will have Jesus at its head and be a place of peace and security.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. How does this affect the mood the poem creates? Write down references to the act of singing. Macmillan’s Magazine was founded in 1859 and was one of the most significant literary and intellectual periodicals of the Victorian era. The language used to describe his return is similar to that used in the Old Testament book. The trees are in blossom. joy is expressed about a powerful love relationship. Here. a spouse. Rossetti widened her readership significantly. Here. 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.searching for one’s identity can be a long process . Throughout the poem. articles and reviews. the Song of Songs. It was first published in the literary periodical. It is not clear where he has been away but this is not the important factor here. the speaker is celebrating her love coming ‘back’ to her. Whether this lover is Jesus. More on the Second Coming: Central to the Christian faith is the idea that ultimately a new Kingdom will arrive which will replace earth. is ambiguous. are composed with a song-like structure and rhythm.. or someone else is not revealed. the celebration of Easter always falls on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25. poetry. Macmillan’s Magazine. the arrival of spring is celebrated. By having samples of her work printed in periodicals such as Macmillan’s Magazine. in 1861 and was included in Goblin Market and Other Poems the following year. Rossetti wrote poetry for several literary and intellectual periodicals during her career. the speaker’s own state of waiting is finally over. The New Testament book of Revelation describes this place as somewhere . The ultimate birthday Throughout her writings Rossetti repeatedly speaks of the ultimate ‘birthday’ of the Second Coming. Easter and the arrival of spring Throughout A Birthday. 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.
I think with the way the poem is structured and the diction (words used) works. 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. but some inner peace. Answer: She never makes any mention of a man (or woman). The second verse does seem to deal more with rich and material things. Ms. ballads. then A Birthday would not refer to a physical birthday but to a spiritual one. I'm really really bad at analyzing poetry. To be fair. First of all. and 'a rainbow shell in a halcyon sea. She feels special and royal on her birthday because she has found love. or tears (Revelation 7:16-17).where there will be no more hunger. but it seems like it is about a woman who has finally found someone to make her happy. I also think it is about her loving herself. a tree and a shell. All in all. they are common. The dais too would remind her of the church and her going forward to give her heart to God. I am going to propose something that may be making her happy. The peacock symbolizes Christianity. she had these three suitors. Rossetti wrote mostly devotional and children's poems in her later years after she experimented with forms such as sonnets.' On this birthday. as much of her work did." "work. 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. If one is to look at this poem from a religious viewpoint. But. Rossetti uses lots of description from nature to convey her feelings toward a birthday. vivid descriptions of happiness fill the verse. The poem appeared in Macmillan's Magazine in April of 1861. so it's difficult to place the cause of her happiness on one thing. 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. What if. thirst. somebody’s sibling. as I said earlier. I'm also just going to ignore the first stanza because I can't find any symbols in this. Two of the three suitors were painters. It uses lots of medieval terms to convey the message of her feelings about that special birthday. so maybe a lot of her vivid descriptions come from watching them work. her mother and sister devoted themselves to the Anglo-Catholic movement from the time she was fourteen until her death. that would work for the first verse since it deals a lot with nature. however. She wants it lined with fur and purple as in royalty. The doves represent purity and innocence. The dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit. Ms. I think it's fair to say that there are loads of similies in this poem." "carve. symbols Christina would know and envision for her poem. The flower represents female virtue and spirituality. pomegranates and peacocks add to this royal theme. The literal and most obvious interpretation i believe is to assume it is a lover. Doves. the End Times. Please bear with me now because I'm going to deviate a little bit and talk about symbols. it were a child? This . Pomegranates bring out the red and show multiplicity. I can't say it is the poet. I get the feeling that it is not an outside factor that has brought all of this joy to her. That could be one of two things: the fleurs-de-lys is the symbol of French royalty as well as a flower itself. and hymns finally settling on devotional and children's poetry. Ms. She never makes any mention of a man (or woman). Rossetti had three lovers any of which could describe the one in A Birthday." are commands that an official might daily use. See Aspects of literature > Big ideas from the Bible > Apocalypse. She. comparing her heart to a bird. I'm really bad at analyzing poetry on my own. though. it's fair to say that she means the flower itself. love is first experienced. I also think that the speaker of the poem is a female. Rossetti lived between 1830 and 1894. In the first stanza alone. the Second Coming. The spots on the tail symbolize her desire that the whole world to see that she has a lover. so it's difficult to place the cause of her happiness on one thing. Revelation. The peacocks show royalty with blue and green feathers. While at the same time. every other sentence uses the words 'like a'.' 'an apple-tree' filled with fruit. Ms. Some such descriptions are 'a singing bird. At least. just like love. She never married however. I think the poem is really Rosetti talking about how she doesn't need anyone else to make her happy but herself. The verbs "hang. The pomegranates symbolize the resurrection. A raised platform made of down and silk speaks of warmth and comfort. She always refused to marry because of religious reasons. The first thing to catch my attention was when she talked about fleurs-de-lys.
The second part of the poem is more focused on celebratory imagery.it would be pretty trite really). and those details. a throne. celebrating the speaker’s anticipation for the “birthday of their life. at peace. also the rhythm .” since both doves and pomegranates symbolize love and romance. It is symmetrically structured in two eight-line stanzas. The "singing bird" inhabits a "watered shoot. in contrast with the natural images of the poem's first stanza. and the effect this has (imagine the poem without the second stanza . the ambiguity of the initial words of command in the stanza — "Raise me" — suggest resurrection and favor the last reading. “A Birthday”. “My heart is like an apple tree whose boughs are bent with thick-set fruit. richly ambiguous images." because "my love is come to me. and the metaphor of the 'dais' in the second stanza has been taken to be (among other things) an altar." This brief lyric. the use of the archaic "vair"). In fact.” This illustrates the fact that just like the apple tree with its limbs full of apples. 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. I think you will need to look at the connotations of some of the words in the second stanza: pomegranates. animals. and how it builds up to the last two lines where you get that powerful enjambment (the best thing in the poem. in which the speaker moves away from nature and orders the erection of what can alternately be perceived as a ceremonial platform. and this poem describes the speaker’s joy and bliss. It's pretty straightforward but it does introduce some puzzles: like whether the 'love' she celebrates is religious or sensual (or both). Another example is. a bed.” It’s clearly known that the speaker is in love when they say “Carve it in doves and pomegranates. The rich artistic details of the "dais" overshadow the impulse of love that generates its gothic artifice (note. for example. In the first the speaker compares her heart." surrounded by dangerous turbulence." The second stanza moves indoors as the speaker orders preparations for the elaborate ceremonial celebration of "the birthday of my life. and an ornate memorial work of art. However. perhaps because the idealized images of nature that appear in the first stanza carry with them the inevitability of their own disruption. Hence the birthday metaphor. The lover feels reborn into a life charged with new and richer meaning. one of her most "aesthetic.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. Most of the imagery mentions natural things like plants.notice how many of the lines in the second stanza are stressed on the first syllable . The world of art into which the rejoicing speaker withdraws in stanza two serves as a bulwark against mutability while producing a celebratory monument. 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. 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. mostly pertaining to natural descriptions." Thus. is dense with beautiful. written in 1857.” a colorful image possibly meaning that her “colorful” heart means the speaker feels vibrant and bright. The "rainbow shell" paddling in "a halcyon sea" is vulnerable.think about what effect this has. fulfilled. The metaphor of the birthday of her life could be celebrating a 'born again' kind of experience. Christina Rossetti uses extensive and positive imagery. or something along those lines.. my love is come to me.. a "rainbow shell" paddling in "a halcyon sea. The speaker also says “My heart is like a rainbow shell. The apple tree with its "thickset fruit" bears weighty resonances of the Fall. burgeoning with love. 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. and a big double-bed (with silk sheets and downy pillows!). the poem moves in interior directions away from descriptions of the natural world. and the speaker's choice of them as analogues to her heart insists upon the transience of fulfilling love. to images of perfect fulfillment from nature: a "singing bird" at home in a "watered shoot". an "apple tree / Whose boughs are bent with thickset fruit". in my opinion): Because the birthday of my life/Is come. Obviously the first part of the poem explains the emotions that the speaker is feeling. and in love. etc) risks missing the . are symbols of fertility because of the many seeds they contain. the whole poem is composed of imagery. significantly. happy. which means that the speaker associates nature with feelings of happiness and romance. that are all solely for the purpose of relaying the sense of pure joy the speaker is feeling. pointing out the rhymes. "A Birthday" is one of Rossetti's most exuberant poems and at the same time. for instance. These images of natural perfection are momentary and precarious. the speaker’s heart is also “full” which could mean they are content. to the changing moods of the potentially destructive ocean. A merely mechanical analysis (naming the meter. as a delicate object. The need to retreat from mutability is confirmed in stanza two.
In the second stanza there is a tremendous shift in tone and imagery. Stylistically. in which earthly and spiritual power are conjoined. it suggests her love is of the flesh as well as the soul.' similes. The “apple tree” groaning under the weight of its fruit at harvest time is a symbol of love’s fertility. Our love flies out into the world to link itself with any common bird. it suggests her love is powerful. The doors of perception are thrown open and before they slam shut. and that she never got over it. see the purple.” this platform. they are an abiding symbol of plenty. the inner and outer domains become one. which at first induces a wise receptivity. Love. from the natural to the art-fully fashioned. This is quite literally a birthday—a rebirth. The phrase “thickset fruit” has a tantalizingly robust thickness of sound that seems to materialize a crisp. scented pippin in our mouth. but what is this “dais. The generally melancholic tone of the rest of her work suggests that the latter was the case. The only comfort she can envisage is to turn to religion. has adorned kings and bish-ops ever since it was first produced at great expense 2. my love is come to me’ (line 16). Rossetti conducts a measured music. she withholds the main verb and the sentence runs over to the next. apple and shell are all heart-shaped and for the poet as equally full of delight. As an altar it suggests her love is sacred. the speaker expresses her joy at the return of her lover and highlights the arrival of the .” There is a real sense of labor. while rhyme comes and goes at ease to suggest the casual associations of a daydream. Each image is a mood to explore. Another poem of CGR's. We are transported from the humble to the majestic. for example. but the mood is dark. and hear the doves fluttering within this en-chanted castle. As for the pomegranates. before deliver-ing a set of imperatives: “hang. It is in the nature of love to connect. and by using several 'My heart is like . In that. 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. that she is crafting? As a throne. Likewise.point. a “singing bird” conveys sheer happi-ness. for me. In the first stanza.. By drawing attention to the word ‘come’. our breath will slow and our mind will clear in response to such intense beauty. Nest.. Split one with a knife and watch the scarlet seeds spill out among the juice and luscious pith. tree or shell that reflects its sudden joy—and returns to store these images deep within our heart as proof that we have. “Raise me a dais” she commands. 5. glimpsed something real. the “hundred eyes” in the peacock’s tail represent Rossetti’s desire to visualize her passion. in which each line forms a unit of sense. for instance. I don't know whether she was bipolar and wrote these two poems at the opposite ends of a mood swing. the silver and the gold. ‘Is come. 7). This is true to what we know of love.000 years ago in the ancient city of Tyre. and reminds us of the naïve charm we find in the perfectly ordinary when we are smitten. Rossetti’s poem starts with the plainest sights and ends in an exotic scene of mystical rapture. she echoes the first poem by the word 'resurrection' (analogous to a birthday) in the title. But in the penultimate line. The repetition of “my heart” is like a hyp-notic chant that draws us into her state of mind. is an aesthetic experience. This momentum. 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. combined with the repetition of “come” and the al-literation of “life” and “love. And as a bed she decorates with the utmost finery. or at least diminishing its impact. Its purple hue. We have stepped into a pre-Raphaelite painting.” ends the poem on a heartfelt cry of bliss. we close our eyes and picture the “rainbow shell” glimmering beneath the surface of a “halcyon” or utterly becalmed sea. above all. The apple is tasted. The white doves and iridescent blue-green pea-cocks brilliantly contrast purity and splendor. the feathers and the fur (“vair” refers to a squirrel pelt). and. you don't best appreciate its beauty by catching and dissecting it. love elevates us from mere serfs to noble savants. When some marvellous butterfly emerges from its chrysalis and takes wing. in bitter contrast to 'A Birthday'. and then drives us to invest our vision in tangible ob-jects—from presents to an attractive home. is 'A Better Resurrection' (see in the Classical Poet List at the top of this thread). in this intoxicated moment. We can almost stroke the silk. 3. Love is consummated. Rossetti’s language is subtly evocative of what it describes.” “carve” and “work. If. or whether her first love really did end in some shattering let-down. It longs to see.
4 out of the 7 lines begin with a trochee. By describing a shoot as ‘well watered’. these trochees highlight the urgency of the speaker to create something new to celebrate the return of her love. a feminine pronoun has been used to discuss the speakers of this poem. By speaking of her ‘heart’ in these terms. ‘Carve’ and ‘Work’ (lines 9. In the second verse. 11. as well as reflecting and celebrating human creativity. Investigating structure and versification • Read the first verse again closely. 13).To a ‘singing bird’ (line 1). since it is easy to uproot or destroy a shoot • The idea of being watered has biblical connotations. the poem conveys ideas of lushness and fertility. In the Old Testament book of Isaiah. 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. my dearest). This creates a song-like rhythm and means that a stress consistently falls on the word ‘heart’. 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.fulfilment of the time of waiting that she has undergone. By breaking out of the regular metrical scheme of the first verse. However. like a spring whose waters never fail. A watered shoot . Alliteration The frequency of alliterated words in A Birthday emphasise its flowing pace and the rhythms of the natural world. In the second verse. Here. the focus is on artificial objects hung. vocal expression is as natural as breathing. he will satisfy your needs … You will be like a well-watered garden. 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. Various images in this verse demonstrate an awareness of traditional Christian art. 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 making it in a shoot. A singing bird .By having a ‘nest’ in a ‘watered shoot’ (line 2). 10. rather than making a nest in a full grown tree. the singing bird remains in a place of fragility. • 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. (See Literary context > Romantic poetry). the speaker indicates that her song forms a natural part of herself and is an overflow of her identity. carved and worked by human hands. divided up into 2 stanzas. The image of the singing bird is one which is often used in Romantic poetry. the poem is written in a 16 line form. Isaiah 58:11 TNIV An apple tree . ‘Hang’. 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’.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 . • 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. the stress falls on the verbs ‘Raise’.
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’. the speaker indicates that descriptions of the natural world are incapable of fully expressing her exuberant emotional state. 11. ‘Dais’ is also a word commonly associated with the raised part of a church upon which the altar and communion table are placed. 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. For the Jews in the Old Testament. By ending the first verse with the declaration that her ‘heart is gladder than all these’ (line 7). when God helped Noah to escape the flood which wiped out the known world. Rainbow … halcyon . where God communicates with the human soul. 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. Christians generally understand this Temple to be a model of an individual’s heart. the Temple was the place where they met with God. . prosperity and tranquillity 2. This is the treatment of inanimate objects. which all figure in the descriptions of Solomon’s Temple given in 1 Kings 6:14. the image of the rainbow refers to the fulfilment of God’s promises. A Dais . 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. 1 Kings 6:18. The speaker seems to envisage a structure built in celebration of the return of her love. The poem’s speaker uses the image of the halcyon sea to indicate the deep comfort and rest she has found. The writer of the Old Testament book Proverbs. it charmed the wind and waves so that the sea was especially calm during the period. The ‘silk and down’ from which it is made are materials of softness and luxury. Royalty and nobility . More on the Temple: In the teachings of the early church. According to ancient writers. A Birthday mentions purple hangings. This understanding comes from the New Testament teaching that every Christian believer is understood as a temple in which the Holy Spirit can dwell. the speaker provides an image of exuberant colour drifting at ease in tranquil waters. the idea of God’s Temple shifts in meaning. ‘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. 1. declares that those who ‘lay hold’ of this tree ‘will be blessed’ (Proverbs 3:18). According to the Bible. which adds to the sense of uplifting that the poem conveys 9. as if they had human feelings. the phrase ‘halcyon days’ was associated with ideas of joy. sensations and emotions’. /To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees. It recalls the imagery in Keats’ Ode to Autumn. It is possible that the speaker perceives that God’s promises are being fulfilled in her life and wants to celebrate this 12. The Temple .By speaking of her heart as a ‘rainbow shell / That paddles in a halcyon sea’ (lines 5-6). such as trees and houses. 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.Rossetti draws on the imagery used in the Old Testament to discuss the Temple which symbolised God’s presence with his people. /And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core.13. ‘purple’. recounted in the New Testament. It is also likely that Rossetti is alluding to the biblical concept of the Tree of Life.The imagery of ‘vair’. ‘gold’. Pathetic fallacy .The word ‘dais’ (line 9) indicates a raised platform. 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. For English readers. 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. carved fruit and statues of animals. 1 Kings 6:29 and 2 Chronicles 3:14 and 2 Chronicles 3:16. 9. thought or sensations. He then set a rainbow in the sky as a promise that never again would such an event occur (Genesis 19:3) 1. as well as conveying lightness.
Following the description of the singing bird in the first verse. 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. she does this deliberately to mislead thereader a nd introduce a new idea to the mean of having a birthday. 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.In the first stanza.” which is also known as a sprout from a plant. This hints at the notion that identity is founded upon memory and that self-awareness is constructed by the remembrance of a former self. • Doves are used in the Bible to represent: • Reconciliation and peace. 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. When she compares herself t o a “watered shoot. Rossetti expresses happiness by comparingher loveto a number of bright and colourful things in nature th at are full oflife. Rossetti opens ‘A Birthday’ in lines one and two with the comparison of herheart with a ‘singing bird. 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. however the actual meaning behi nd it is shefeels reborn and happy after finding the love of her life. . Poetry provides a natural outlet for the speaker’s emotions. Memory and forgetfulness Memory is a sustaining force in this poem. The title ‘A birthday’ is ambiguous.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. Birds .The poem is split into two stanzas. she is implying that she feels as if . 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.’ 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. At firstsighting of the title must readers woul d assume that the poem is based on someone celebrating their birthday. the second alludes to representation of doves and peacocks on the dais. 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. 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. It was often engraved on the armour of royalty.1). The poem splits aftereight lines because she wanted readers to wait for along time before she talksabout her love coming to her. beginning with the image of the ‘singing bird’ (l. when a dove sent out from the Ark returns with an olive leaf in its beak.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. In A Birthday. This arises from the story of Noah. 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. signifying that the storm / flood was over (Genesis 8:11) • The Holy Spirit.
that grief may not function to bring wisdom or insight and may not even be remembered. the gold pot that she is referring to could be her lover. or peaceful. and. her l over is thegold in her life. but there is still no elaboration as to its cause. meaning hard and str ong. but clear and intense. a species of weed that has a three-part blossom.’ The rainbowshell in the halcyon. and apathy. The rainbow shell can represent a miracle. In this quotation she also mentions theword ‘thick’. its image and the fact that “The woodspurge has a cup of three” have been vividly burned into his memory forever. The other interpretationto this quotation is her relationship was a destiny. His physical state reflects his psychic paralysis as he remains motionless in this position for an unspecified length of time. sea indicates that all is well with herworld. he created her and her partner to be a pair.she were just born. There are two different interpretations to this quotation. The narrator is not walking toward a specific destination. consequently. she is able to imply thatshe will have lots of children but because she could not write it so strai ghtforward. the narrator undergoes an unforeseen and unbidden. In his depressed state. bysaying that her relationship is fruitful an d sweet. and. ‘My heart is gladder than all these. The fact that his walking and stopping are guided merely by the wind indicates aimlessness. she had to use the fruitful imagery as a softer and more appropriatelanguage to get her idea a cross without being direct. His head is cast down. second. 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 fact. and. and he is dramatically impressed by the detail that it flowers as “three cups in one. it is because the personshe love has come to her. Like Adam and Eve. In the last two lines of the first stanza Rossetti compares all of the naturalitems listed to her heart a ll at once.” Although he is not trying to look around and seems oblivious to the country setting as a whole. 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. in an even more happycondition than all three natural things it has been compared with so far. was a popular genre for Victorian poets. nothin g to cause disruptionfor her relationship. he stops and sits in the grass. God planned for them to betogether. focusing on sadness of some kind.” Out of that group. the narrator remarks in the third stanza that his eyes are “wide open. and it also refers to a biblical reference:Adam and Eve. simple lyric. His depression is so severe that he cannot even groan aloud or speak a work of grief (“My lips…said not Alas!”). but long enough so that he “hear[s] the day pass. implies that he himself learned nothing from his grief that day and can no longer remember its cause. he says there are “ten weeds” that his eyes can “fix upon. Sitting on the grass he is hunched over with his head between his knees. passivity. indicating that her relationship isstrong and is unbreakable. or represent anendles s love or happiness because the rainbow is colourful. first. he moves in the direction the wind is blowing. He then comments. as it had been earlier for the Romantic poets at the beginning of the nineteenth century. From his seated position. The narrator’s posture in the second stanza indicates that he feels exceedingly depressed.” The narrator attributes his depressed state to “perfect grief” in the final stanza. 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 line three and four she compares her heart to an ‘apple tree. who experiences a vivid heightening of sense perception during a time of intense psychic stress. diction. because my love is come to me.’ The referenceto the apple tree sugg ests a happy condition because the branches are so bentwith lifebearing fruit. Rossetti’s choice of imagery. 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. rhythm. although there is no explanation given for his emotional state. In lines five and six she compares her heart to a ‘rainbow shell. or her love is like a smooth sailing boat.’These two lines tells us that her heart is. Forms and Devices The short. a flowering woodspurge captures his complete attention. and rhyme demonstrates a simplicity that mirrors— . theyare d estining to be with each other. once the wind ceases.” and this important fact becomes the inadvertent cause for his ensuing visual experience. as is his soul—so much so that his hair is touching the grass. However. For Rossetti. “One thing then learnt remains”: He had been visually overwhelmed by the shape of the woodspurge. visual experience of the woodspurge. it was a genre that suited his ideal of simplicity in poetry.
occurs through an interplay with a very narrow. and to faithfulness and accuracy in detail. to a direct presentation of nature. which produced a direct emotional effect in pre-Renaissance paintings. (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. This consistently slowed rhythm throughout the poem creates a dirge-like effect that mirrors the narrator’s mood. suggesting a dullness. bbbb.and therefore underscores—the narrator’s state of mind. The only record of his awareness of his environment. Another poetic device that maintains simplicity in the poem—and yet functions to express sadness or sorrow—includes Rossetti’s use of monosyllabic words. • 6 caesuras • ‘shaken out dead’ • In the 2nd stanza. Rossetti. With each of the next three stanzas consisting primarily of monosyllabic words. before his dramatic visual experience of the woodspurge. forcing it into the background. similes. The name was derived from the Italian Renaissance painter Raphael. and sun have no descriptors of any kind. and diction. and the end rhyme for the first and fourth lines of this stanza repeats the same word. The word “wind” is repeated four times in the first stanza. Although “The Woodspurge” has a plant’s name as its title. 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. causing the movement to be slowed to a plodding pace to initially signal a rhythmic parallel for the narrator’s inner state. the poem does not have nature. 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 is one common end rhyme in each stanza (aaaa. establishing a negative tone that suggests that the narrator’s internal state is negative. the poem’s tempo continues to be retarded. mood is changes to grief stricken • Mood changes in stanza 3 Structure of the poem • 4 line stanzas • Unusual rhyme scheme (AAAA. not the universal. founded the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood. The ideals of this group were applied to poetry as well as to painting: simplicity of syntax. 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. Mood throughout the poem • Theme is grief • The mood set in the first stanza is a slightly dark one. All but one word in the first stanza are monosyllables. with themes that concentrated on the experience of sense perception and created emotional resonance. even then. is that he walked when the wind was blowing and that he sat when that external impetus ceased. and. grass. who was a symbol for them of a departure from the simplicity of presentation and the use of bright colors. cccc). The images are simple. This poem may have been written around the time of his wife’s death. the experience of his narrator. hill. Rossetti’s use of nature tends to the particular. he was very depressed. concentrated. or even .CCCC. There are no metaphors. whose goal was a return to simplicity. 1848. Compare this to Rossetti. weeds. a lack of variety. Rossetti’s unadorned presentation of nature mutes the setting. nature is presented in broad brushstrokes without ornamentation. “still.” 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. and specific part of nature. thus. or a paralysis in the rhyme that reflects the paralysis in the narrator resulting from his psychic state. It is only when the narrator accidentally fixes his gaze upon the woodspurge that any specific details come forth.BBBB. it is only the shape of the flower that is of any concern. or other figures of speech. the tree. His reference in the first stanza to the wind having been “Shaken out dead from tree and hill” introduces the thought of death. imagery.DDDD) • Generally 8 syllables in each line (with the exception of a few lines) • Structured Ideas • After Dante’s wife died.
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. Rossetti’s tendency to focus on intense sensual experience rather than to illustrate truth or meaning is evident here. Both in his painting and in his poetry. The narrator attributes his depressed state to “perfect grief” in the final stanza. Analysis “The Woodspurge” is a sixteen-line poem divided into four-line stanzas that describe a griefstricken narrator in an outdoor setting. In his depressed state. -Stanza1: The poems first stanza introduces the reader to a green setting and focuses on the wind . “My eyes. nothing in the poem points to these specific issues. over the issue of her desire for marriage. is not meant to draw attention to nature itself but to mirror a psychic state or inner experience. Although Rossetti’s later poetry is more ornate. but it is not the focus here or in other works by Rossetti. its image and the fact that “The woodspurge has a cup of three” have been vividly burned into his memory forever. the poem was written in the spring of 1856 when Rossetti was in an anguished state. However. This shows that he is insecure. and the use of nature as a framework for the expression of the mental and emotional state of the narrator. 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. “The Woodspurge” does not tell a story or embody an ethical or moral lesson. Rossetti gives universal expression to the psychological phenomenon of acute mental awareness and heightened sensation simultaneous with mental and emotional distress. It functions as an example of a detail or image that can remain vivid after emotional stress has been left behind and forgotten. a species of weed that has a three-part blossom. but it points to no significance beyond its sheer existence in the material realm. He finally accepts what had happened and knows that he has to move on. The narrator is not walking toward a specific destination. His head is cast down. He implies that he himself learned nothing from his grief that day and can no longer remember its cause. the function of nature is to act as a background for the presentation of human action and emotion. 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. (He eventually married her in 1860. The woodspurge’s shape is a botanical fact. Although the cause of the narrator’s sorrow is never specified. complex. He was experiencing intense strife with Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) Siddal. In the third stanza. although precise and accurate. He remains in this position for an unknown length of time but long enough that he “heard the day pass”.the woodspurge itself. Nature does play an indirect role in the poem. it does not deal with contemporary issues or events. 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. However. as its subject. and difficult both in style and in content. This reflect that he sees his problem and becomes aware of it. The poem’s first stanza presents a countryside and begins to suggest the narrators’s state of mind. Its simplicity in theme and poetic devices makes it a superb demonstration of the tenets of Pre-Raphaelite poetry. accuracy of detail (including botanical accuracy). he moves in the direction the wind is blowing and once the wind ceases. a flowering woodspurge captures his complete attention and he is dramatically impressed by the detail that it flowers as “three cups in one”. the narrator emotionally observes the details of the woodspurge. had the run” let the readers know about the sudden changes in his attitude. wide open. His depression is so severe that he cannot even groan aloud or speak a word of grief. the chief model he had used for many of his paintings since 1850. “One thing then learnt remains to me”: He had been visually overwhelmed by the shape of the woodspurge and consequently. It is removed from any cultural or historical context and—more concerned with emotion than ideology—aims to express a universal human experience. Out of that group.) 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. he says there are “ten weeds” that his eyes can “fix upon”. By leaving the cause of the narrator’s depression unspecified. He then comments that grief may not function to bring wisdom and may not even be remembered. of interest particularly to a painter’s eye. the paradox of intense sense perception during times of emotional numbness. From his seated position. The depiction of details from nature. “The Woodspurge” concentrates on sense perception.
-Stanza2: In stanza 2. ‘Said not Alas\ means that suffering from such mental pain. 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. Unintentionally. wide open. explains the mental state its in. The narrotors mood can be started to be interperated. and he may now be realizing his problems and seeing how hard they are to overcome. the narrators posture is described. “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. for the presentation of the persons responses and feelings in certain conditions. Repetition is also used in this stanza.” the reader recognizes the narrator’s true sadness. hunched over with its head between its kness close to the ground shows how depressed and insecure it feels. we can say that this poem shows the psychology of a person experiencing great sadness. showing that he was not very aware of his actions and too absorbed in his thoughts . nothing in the poem points to these specific issues. the memory of the single detail remained. Both in his painting and poetry. By leaving the cause of the narrator’s depression unspecified. the narrator may be relating its situation to the flowers and the weeds. acute mental awareness. “The Woodspurge” is about the narrator’s grief and that an insignificant detail or image can remain vivid after emotional pain is forgotten. in an emotional state. alliteration is used ‘naked ears heard ’ the ‘e’ sound is repeated. Also in stanza 2. Stanza4: In the final stanza when Rossetti writes. He was experiencing intense strife with Elizabeth Siddal over the issue of her desire for marriage. The narrator remains in this position for an unknown length of time but long enough that he or she “heard the day pass”. He narrates a basic scene from the perspective of an unknown person in which the individual wanders in a natural setting. but it is not the focus here or in other works by Rossetti. as its subject. The line “My eyes. The narrator talks about his or her ears as being 'naked'. fixes its eyes on a woodspurge. and there shouldnt be anything learnt from it. 'wind was still' he sat. He says that grief wont bring wisdom and maybe wont even be very remembered. observes the details of a .By referring to its lips. accuracy of detail and the use of nature as a framework for the expression of the mental and emotional state of the narrator.and the narrator’s movement. in his other poems and also in his paintings. Rossetti gives universal expression to the psychological phenomenon of acute mental awareness and heightened sensation simultaneously with mental and emotional distress. but alone. 4 lines each start with the word ‘my’. -Stanza3: In the third stanza. wind and I are repeated. Rossetti was also tormented at that time about relationships with other women and what he perceived as lost of artistic opportunities. These sensory details help to place the reader into the scene. Although “The Woodspurge” has a plant’s name as its title. the narrator. The way the person sits on the grass. or even the woodspurge itself. However. The narrator notices the woodspurge amongst the other weeds. It concentrates on creating emotional effect. the poem does not have nature. Even when the emotions started to fade. like a background. the poem was written in the spring of 1856 when Rossetti was in an anguished state.hair and ears. An unsignificant detail. In "The Woodspurge" Dante Gabriel Rossetti uses plain and forceful language to recreate a moment of contemplation and grief. had the run” lets the readers know about the sudden changes in the narrators attitude. 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. In conclusion. finally having a connection with its sorrounding.‘‘walked on at the wind's will'’ suggests a sense of aimlessness and passivity. The depiction of details from nature is not meant to draw attention to nature itself but to mirror an inner experience. sits down. and remarks that it flowers as “three cups in one”. cannot even groan aloud or speak a word of grief' or how the person cannot find words to express his feelings. mental and emotional distress. coming more to his senses. and in these lines an importance and significance is given to the woodspurge. and. Rosetti had used nature for the same purpose.’(Caroline Healey) -Closing Sentence: In conclusion. Maybe this can be reflecting that what had been disturbing and was on his way(the weeds) have a woodspurge together with them. Repetition is also used. also continuing to stanza four. Nature does play an indirect role in the poem.and what had visually overwhelmed him would stay in its memory. the function of nature is to act as a background for the presentation of human action and emotion. Themes and Meanings Although the cause of the narrator’s sorrow is never specified. giving a sense that has feels detached from the world. We can also say that nature plays an indirect role. for helping him to portray the state and situations of people.
the narrators seem to be experiencing some sense of loss or sadness. however. The poem's refusal to locate significance anywhere movingly expresses the hopelessness of deep grief. "I had walked on at the wind's will/ — I sat now./My naked ears heard the day pass[. focusing on the narrator's stationary features and inner emotions. As Rossetti writes. means nothing. as well. when Rossetti writes. Why did Rossetti make "The Woodspurge" so short? Does its abbreviated length make the narrator's emotions any more acute? 4. The first stanza focuses on the wind and the narrator's movement.particular woodspurge — a European herb with greenish yellow flowers. had the run/Of some ten weeds to fix upon. In fact. but at the same time it implies a very limited role for poetry. In the second and third stanzas." The remainder of the poem echoes this stillness." "The Blessed Damozel. In both poems. Some of Rossetti's other sonnets possess elaborate. In fact. for the wind was still. "The Woodspurge" represents a kind of minimalist poetry that not only abandons the role of the poet as seer. It is a poetry of nonstatement. ears. however." describing the death of the narrator's sister on Christmas Eve. this poem embodies in a peculiarly pure form one kind of poetry that may result from a loss of faith in the visionary." Lending such great importance to the woodspurge in the poem's final line. Questions 1. Why might Rossetti have rejected the notion of symbolism — prevalent in many other poems and paintings of the period — in this poem? 2. but even brings into question his role as maker. His inclusion of such sensory detail helps place the reader in the scene. wide open. the remainder of the poem appears to lack symbolic representations. entertained similar notions of grief as in "The Woodspurge". Landow. Not until the final stanza. I think. but the fact suggests nothing. "My Sister's Sleep. decriptive language. How can you reconcile "The Woodspurge" to the ornate language and metaphor found in his sonnets? . said not Alas! /My hair was over in the grass. and eyes: My lips. "My Sister's Sleep" is much longer. the woodspurge does not possess an overt symbolic meaning." and other poems take the same approach to a non-symbolic reality that David H. is a kind of objet trouvé. Aside from its role as the narrator's primary visual focus. 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. was not to be satisfied with the terrribly limited poetic position that the facts could speak for themselves it they had anything to say. . of course. including his or her lips. "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. Riede describes in "The Woodspurge"? According to George P.]/My eyes. "The Woodspurge " is a highly wrought. Rossetti highlights his subject's physical characteristics. which mimics the wind patterns. Rossetti emphasizes the mundane details that people remember in times of acute emotional pain. but even that the insignificant symbol is discovered by chance. highly self-conscious work of art. A fact is presented. since the poem not only implies that the natural symbol has no special significance. 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. hair. Rossetti's ambition. but it is nevertheless a work of art that implies an extremely limited scope for the poet to work in. drawn in. Rossetti's poem. does the reader recognize the narrator's true inner sadness.
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