You are on page 1of 93

Lucy Gray

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

This article is about the William Wordsworth poem. For the studio album by Envy on the
Coast, see Lucy Gray (album).

Lucy Gray is a poem written by William Wordsworth in 1798 and published in his
Lyrical Ballads. It describes the death of a young girl named Lucy Gray, who went out
one evening into a storm and she was never found again. 94–95, 97
The poem was inspired by Wordsworth being surrounded by snow and Dorothy's, his
sister, memory of a real incident that happened at Halifax.[1] Wordsworth explained the
origins when he wrote, "Written at Goslar in Germany in 1799. It was founded on a
circumstance told me by my Sister, of a little girl who, not far from Halifax in Yorkshire,
was bewildered in a snow-storm. Her footsteps were traced by her parents to the middle
of the lock of a canal, and no other vestige of her, backward or forward, could be traced.
The body however was found in the canal."[2] Lucy Gray was first published in Volume 2
of the 1800 edition of Lyrical Ballads.[3]
Lucy Gray is not one of Wordsworth's "Lucy" poems,[4] even though it is a poem that
mentions a character named Lucy.[3] The poem is excluded from the series because the
traditional "Lucy" poems are uncertain about the age of Lucy and her actual relationship
with the narrator, and Lucy Gray provides exact details on both.[5] Furthermore, the poem
is different than the "Lucy" poems in that it relies on narrative storytelling[6] and is a
direct imitation of the traditional 18th century ballad form.[7]
The narrator begins the poem by stating:
Oft I had heard of Lucy Gray:

And, when I crossed the wild,

I chanced to see at break of day

The solitary child. (lines 1–4)

She may be, as the narrator claims, the "sweetest thing that ever grew" (line 6), but she is
dead, as the narrator explains:[8]
But the sweet face of Lucy Gray

Will never more be seen. (lines 11–12)

The narrator transitions to say that she was told to "take a lantern, Child, to light/Your
mother through the snow" (lines 15–16), to which she agrees. She left, and
The storm came on before its time:

She wandered up and down;

And many a hill did Lucy climb:

But never reached the town. (lines 29–32)

Her parents attempted to search for her, and

At day-break on a hill they stood

That overlooked the moor;

And thence they saw the bridge of wood,

A furlong from their door.

They wept—and, turning homeward, cried,

"In heaven we all shall meet;"

—When in the snow the mother spied

The print of Lucy's feet. (lines 37–44)

They followed the footprints throughout the area,

And to the bridge they came.

They followed from the snowy bank

Those footmarks, one by one,

Into the middle of the plank;

And further there were none! (lines 52–56)

Although she is probably dead, the narrator explains that her spirit, according to
superstition, can still be seen:[9]
—Yet some maintain that to this day

She is a living child;

That you may see sweet Lucy Gray

Upon the lonesome wild.

O'er rough and smooth she trips along,

And never looks behind;

And sings a solitary song

That whistles in the wind. (lines 57–64)

[edit] Themes
Bennett Weaver points out that "The dominant theme of the poems of 1799 is death:
death for the children of the village school, for Matthew's daughter, and for Lucy Gray",
and Mary Moorman believes that Lucy Gray is the "most haunting of all his ballads of
childhood".[10] Lucy Gray, like the Lucy of the Lucy poems and Ruth of Wordsworth's
"Ruth" are, according to H. W. Garrod, part of "an order of beings who have lapsed out
of nature - the nature of woods and hills - into human connections hardly strong enough
to hold them. Perpetually they threaten to fall back into a kind of things or a kind of
Wordsworth is trying to describe how Lucy, a girl connected to nature, dies.[9] She is part
of nature, according to Robert Langbaum, because Wordsworth "makes the human figure
seem to evolve out of and pass back into the landscape".[12] Henry Crabb Robinson
explains that Wordsworth's point "was to exhibit poetically entire solitude, and he
represents the child as observing the day-moon, which no town or village girl would ever
notice".[13] However, her connection with nature makes it is possible that Lucy's spirit is
able to survive. The feeling in Lucy Gray, as John Beer writes, is counter to the feeling in
"She dwelt among the untrodden ways" that "No amount of dwelling on her significance
as an embodiment of life-forces can reduce by one iota the dull fact of her death and the
necessary loss to all who love her."[14]
Wordsworth wrote, in reference to Lucy Gray, "the way in which the incident was treated
and the spiritualizing of the character might furnish hints for contrasting the imaginative
influences which I have endeavoured to throw over common life with Crabbe's matter of
fact style of treating subjects of the same kind".[15] By this, Raymond Havens points out,
Wordsworth is trying to pull away from realism into a state dominated by the
imagination.[16] To Wordsworth, the imagination was connected to both ethics and
aesthetics, and he sought to exalt the imagination in Lucy Gray.[17] Paul De Man believes
that there is a "loss of name in the Lucy Gray poems where death makes her into an
anonymous entity".[18] However, some critics, like Mark Jones, believe that, in arguing
for "a more general symbolic or literary value for Lucy Gray" or deemphasizing Lucy
Gray's identity as an individual, a critic "obliterates her status as human pure and simple,
or, what is the same, underrates the importance of this status."[19]
[edit] Critical review
William Blake marked the poems Lucy Gray, "Strange fits", and "Louisa" with an "X",
which provoked Jones to write, "The award for minimalist commentary must go to
William Blake".[20] Matthew Arnold believed that Lucy Gray was "a beautiful success"
when contrasting how it is able to emphasize an incorporeal side of nature, and he
believed that the poem "The Sailor's Mother" was "a failure" for its lack of the
incorporeal.[21] However, Swinburne believed that "The Sailor's Mother" was "the deeper
in its pathos, the more enduring in its effect, the happier if also the more venturous in its
A. C. Bradley believes that "there is too much reason to fear that for half his readers his
'solitary child' is generalised into a mere 'little girl,' and that they never receive the main
impression he wished this is very wrong where is the actual theme written to produce.
Yet his intention is announced in the opening lines, and as clearly shown in the lovely
final stanzas, which gives even to this ballad the visionary touch".[23]
Summary and Analysis of "We Are Seven"
The speaker begins this poem by asking what a simple child who is full of life could
know about death. He then meets "a little cottage Girl" who is eight years old and has
thick curly hair. She is rustic and woodsy, but very beautiful, and she makes the speaker
happy. He asks her how many siblings she has, to which she replies that there are seven
including her:
--A simple child,

That lightly draws its breath,

And feels its life in every limb,
What should it know of death?
I met a little cottage girl:

She was eight years old, she said;

Her hair was thick with many a curl
That clustered round her head.

She had a rustic, woodland air,

And she was wildly clad:
Her eyes were fair, and very fair;
--Her beauty made me glad.

"Sisters and brothers, little maid,

How many may you be?"
"How many? Seven in all," she said,
And wondering looked at me.
The speaker then asks the child where her brothers and sisters are. She replies "Seven are
we," and tells him that two are in a town called Conway, two are at sea, and two lie in the
church-yard. She and her mother live near the graves:
"And where are they? I pray you tell."
She answered, "Seven are we;
And two of us at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea.

"Two of us in the churchyard lie,

My sister and my brother;
And, in the churchyard cottage, I
Dwell near them with my mother."
The speaker is confused and asks her how they can be seven, if two are in Conway and
two gone to sea. To this, the little girl simply replies, "Seven boys and girls are we; / Two
of us in the churchyard lie, / Beneath the churchyard tree." The speaker says that if two
are dead, then there are only five left, but the little girl tells him that their green graves
are nearby, and that she often goes to sew or eat supper there while singing to her
deceased siblings:
"You say that two at Conway dwell,

And two are gone to sea,

Yet ye are seven! I pray you tell,
Sweet maid, how this may be."

Then did the little maid reply,

"Seven boys and girls are we;
Two of us in the churchyard lie,
Beneath the churchyard tree."

"You run about, my little maid,

Your limbs they are alive;
If two are in the churchyard laid,
Then ye are only five."

"Their graves are green, they may be seen,"

The little maid replied,
"Twelve steps or more from my mother's door,
And they are side by side.

"My stockings there I often knit,

My kerchief there I hem;
And there upon the ground I sit,
And sing a song to them.

"And often after sunset, sir,

When it is light and fair,
I take my little porringer,
And eat my supper there.
The little girl then explains that first her sister Jane died from sickness. She and her
brother John would play around her grave until he also died. Now he lies next to Jane:
"The first that died was sister Jane;

In bed she moaning lay,

Till God released her of her pain;
And then she went away.

"So in the churchyard she was laid;

And, when the grass was dry,
Together round her grave we played,
My brother John and I.

"And when the ground was white with snow

And I could run and slide,
My brother John was forced to go,
And he lies by her side."
The man again asks how many siblings she has now that two are dead. She replies
quickly, "O Master! we are seven." The man tries to convince her saying, "But they are
dead," but he realizes that his words are wasted. The poem ends with the little girl saying,
"Nay, we are seven!"
"How many are you, then," said I,

"If they two are in heaven?"

Quick was the little maid's reply,
"O master! we are seven."

"But they are dead; those two are dead!

Their spirits are in heaven!"
'Twas throwing words away; for still
The little maid would have her will,
And said, "Nay, we are seven!"
"We Are Seven" was written in 1798, when Wordsworth was
only 18 years old. The poem is composed of sixteen four-line
stanzas, and ends with one five-line stanza. Each stanza has an
abab rhyming pattern. Wordsworth has noted that he wrote the
last line of this poem first, and that his good friend Samuel
Coleridge wrote the first few stanzas.
The poem is an interesting conversation between a man and a
young girl. It is especially intriguing because the conversation
could have been less than five lines, and yet it is 69 lines long.
The reason for this is that the man cannot accept that the young
girl still feels she is one of seven siblings even after two of her
siblings have died, and even though she now lives at home alone
with her mother.
The speaker begins the poem with the question of what a child
should know of death. Near the beginning it seems as if the little
girl understands very little. She seems almost to be in denial
about the deaths of her siblings, especially because she continues
to spend time with them and sing to them. By the end of the
poem, however, the reader is left with the feeling that perhaps the
little girl understands more about life and death than the man to
whom she is speaking. She refuses to become incapacitated by
grief, or to cast the deceased out of her life. Instead she accepts
that things change, and continues living as happily as she
Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s place in the canon of English poetry rests on a comparatively
small body of achievement: a few poems from the late 1790s and early 1800s and his
participation in the revolutionary publication of Lyrical Ballads in 1797. Unlike
Wordsworth, his work cannot be understood through the lens of the 1802 preface to the
second edition of that book; though it does resemble Wordsworth’s in its idealization of
nature and its emphasis on human joy, Coleridge’s poems often favor musical effects
over the plainness of common speech. The intentional archaisms of “The Rime of the
Ancient Mariner” and the hypnotic drone of “Kubla Khan” do not imitate common
speech, creating instead a more strikingly stylized effect.
Further, Coleridge’s poems complicate the phenomena Wordsworth takes for granted: the
simple unity between the child and nature and the adult’s reconnection with nature
through memories of childhood; in poems such as “Frost at Midnight,” Coleridge
indicates the fragility of the child’s innocence by relating his own urban childhood. In
poems such as “Dejection: An Ode” and “Nightingale,” he stresses the division between
his own mind and the beauty of the natural world. Finally, Coleridge often privileges
weird tales and bizarre imagery over the commonplace, rustic simplicities Wordsworth
advocates; the “thousand thousand slimy things” that crawl upon the rotting sea in the
“Rime” would be out of place in a Wordsworth poem.
If Wordsworth represents the central pillar of early Romanticism, Coleridge is
nevertheless an important structural support. His emphasis on the imagination, its
independence from the outside world and its creation of fantastic pictures such as those
found in the “Rime,” exerted a profound influence on later writers such as Shelley; his
depiction of feelings of alienation and numbness helped to define more sharply the
Romantics’ idealized contrast between the emptiness of the city—where such feelings are
experienced—and the joys of nature. The heightened understanding of these feelings also
helped to shape the stereotype of the suffering Romantic genius, often further
characterized by drug addiction: this figure of the idealist, brilliant yet tragically unable
to attain his own ideals, is a major pose for Coleridge in his poetry.
His portrayal of the mind as it moves, whether in silence (“Frost at Midnight”) or in
frenzy (“Kubla Khan”) also helped to define the intimate emotionalism of Romanticism;
while much of poetry is constituted of emotion recollected in tranquility, the origin of
Coleridge’s poems often seems to be emotion recollected in emotion. But (unlike
Wordsworth, it could be argued) Coleridge maintains not only an emotional intensity but
also a legitimate intellectual presence throughout his oeuvre and applies constant
philosophical pressure to his ideas. In his later years, Coleridge worked a great deal on
metaphysics and politics, and a philosophical consciousness infuses much of his verse—
particularly poems such as “The Nightingale” and “Dejection: An Ode,” in which the
relationship between mind and nature is defined via the specific rejection of fallacious
versions of it. The mind, to Coleridge, cannot take its feeling from nature and cannot
falsely imbue nature with its own feeling; rather, the mind must be so suffused with its
own joy that it opens up to the real, independent, “immortal” joy of nature.
“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” Parts I-IV

Three young men are walking together to a wedding, when one of them is detained by a
grizzled old sailor. The young Wedding-Guest angrily demands that the Mariner let go of
him, and the Mariner obeys. But the young man is transfixed by the ancient Mariner’s
“glittering eye” and can do nothing but sit on a stone and listen to his strange tale. The
Mariner says that he sailed on a ship out of his native harbor—”below the kirk, below the
hill, / Below the lighthouse top”—and into a sunny and cheerful sea. Hearing bassoon
music drifting from the direction of the wedding, the Wedding-Guest imagines that the
bride has entered the hall, but he is still helpless to tear himself from the Mariner’s story.
The Mariner recalls that the voyage quickly darkened, as a giant storm rose up in the sea
and chased the ship southward. Quickly, the ship came to a frigid land “of mist and
snow,” where “ice, mast-high, came floating by”; the ship was hemmed inside this maze
of ice. But then the sailors encountered an Albatross, a great sea bird. As it flew around
the ship, the ice cracked and split, and a wind from the south propelled the ship out of the
frigid regions, into a foggy stretch of water. The Albatross followed behind it, a symbol
of good luck to the sailors. A pained look crosses the Mariner’s face, and the Wedding-
Guest asks him, “Why look’st thou so?” The Mariner confesses that he shot and killed the
Albatross with his crossbow.

At first, the other sailors were furious with the Mariner for having killed the bird that
made the breezes blow. But when the fog lifted soon afterward, the sailors decided that
the bird had actually brought not the breezes but the fog; they now congratulated the
Mariner on his deed. The wind pushed the ship into a silent sea where the sailors were
quickly stranded; the winds died down, and the ship was “As idle as a painted ship /
Upon a painted ocean.” The ocean thickened, and the men had no water to drink; as if the
sea were rotting, slimy creatures crawled out of it and walked across the surface. At
night, the water burned green, blue, and white with death fire. Some of the sailors
dreamed that a spirit, nine fathoms deep, followed them beneath the ship from the land of
mist and snow. The sailors blamed the Mariner for their plight and hung the corpse of the
Albatross around his neck like a cross.
A weary time passed; the sailors became so parched, their mouths so dry, that they were
unable to speak. But one day, gazing westward, the Mariner saw a tiny speck on the
horizon. It resolved into a ship, moving toward them. Too dry-mouthed to speak out and
inform the other sailors, the Mariner bit down on his arm; sucking the blood, he was able
to moisten his tongue enough to cry out, “A sail! a sail!” The sailors smiled, believing
they were saved. But as the ship neared, they saw that it was a ghostly, skeletal hull of a
ship and that its crew included two figures: Death and the Night-mare Life-in-Death, who
takes the form of a pale woman with golden locks and red lips, and “thicks man’s blood
with cold.” Death and Life-in-Death began to throw dice, and the woman won,
whereupon she whistled three times, causing the sun to sink to the horizon, the stars to
instantly emerge. As the moon rose, chased by a single star, the sailors dropped dead one
by one—all except the Mariner, whom each sailor cursed “with his eye” before dying.
The souls of the dead men leapt from their bodies and rushed by the Mariner.
The Wedding-Guest declares that he fears the Mariner, with his glittering eye and his
skinny hand. The Mariner reassures the Wedding-Guest that there is no need for dread;
he was not among the men who died, and he is a living man, not a ghost. Alone on the
ship, surrounded by two hundred corpses, the Mariner was surrounded by the slimy sea
and the slimy creatures that crawled across its surface. He tried to pray but was deterred
by a “wicked whisper” that made his heart “as dry as dust.” He closed his eyes, unable to
bear the sight of the dead men, each of who glared at him with the malice of their final
curse. For seven days and seven nights the Mariner endured the sight, and yet he was
unable to die. At last the moon rose, casting the great shadow of the ship across the
waters; where the ship’s shadow touched the waters, they burned red. The great water
snakes moved through the silvery moonlight, glittering; blue, green, and black, the snakes
coiled and swam and became beautiful in the Mariner’s eyes. He blessed the beautiful
creatures in his heart; at that moment, he found himself able to pray, and the corpse of the
Albatross fell from his neck, sinking “like lead into the sea.”

“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is written in loose, short ballad stanzas usually either
four or six lines long but, occasionally, as many as nine lines long. The meter is also
somewhat loose, but odd lines are generally tetrameter, while even lines are generally
trimeter. (There are exceptions: In a five-line stanza, for instance, lines one, three, and
four are likely to have four accented syllables—tetrameter—while lines two and five
have three accented syllables.) The rhymes generally alternate in an ABAB or ABABAB
scheme, though again there are many exceptions; the nine-line stanza in Part III, for
instance, rhymes AABCCBDDB. Many stanzas include couplets in this way—five-line
stanzas, for example, are rhymed ABCCB, often with an internal rhyme in the first line,
or ABAAB, without the internal rhyme.
“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is unique among Coleridge’s important works—
unique in its intentionally archaic language (“Eftsoons his hand drops he”), its length, its
bizarre moral narrative, its strange scholarly notes printed in small type in the margins, its
thematic ambiguity, and the long Latin epigraph that begins it, concerning the multitude
of unclassifiable “invisible creatures” that inhabit the world. Its peculiarities make it quite
atypical of its era; it has little in common with other Romantic works. Rather, the
scholarly notes, the epigraph, and the archaic language combine to produce the
impression (intended by Coleridge, no doubt) that the “Rime” is a ballad of ancient times
(like “Sir Patrick Spence,” which appears in “Dejection: An Ode”), reprinted with
explanatory notes for a new audience.

But the explanatory notes complicate, rather than clarify, the poem as a whole; while
there are times that they explain some unarticulated action, there are also times that they
interpret the material of the poem in a way that seems at odds with, or irrelevant to, the
poem itself. For instance, in Part II, we find a note regarding the spirit that followed the
ship nine fathoms deep: “one of the invisible inhabitants of this planet, neither departed
souls nor angels; concerning whom the learned Jew, Josephus, and the Platonic
Constantinopolitan, Michael Psellus, may be consulted.” What might Coleridge mean by
introducing such figures as “the Platonic Constantinopolitan, Michael Psellus,” into the
poem, as marginalia, and by implying that the verse itself should be interpreted through
This is a question that has puzzled scholars since the first publication of the poem in this
form. (Interestingly, the original version of the “Rime,” in the 1797 edition of Lyrical
Ballads, did not include the side notes.) There is certainly an element of humor in
Coleridge’s scholarly glosses—a bit of parody aimed at the writers of serious glosses of
this type; such phrases as “Platonic Constantinopolitan” seem consciously silly. It can be
argued that the glosses are simply an amusing irrelevancy designed to make the poem
seem archaic and that the truly important text is the poem itself—in its complicated, often
Christian symbolism, in its moral lesson (that “all creatures great and small” were created
by God and should be loved, from the Albatross to the slimy snakes in the rotting ocean)
and in its characters.
If one accepts this argument, one is faced with the task of discovering the key to
Coleridge’s symbolism: what does the Albatross represent, what do the spirits represent,
and so forth. Critics have made many ingenious attempts to do just that and have found in
the “Rime” a number of interesting readings, ranging from Christian parable to political
allegory. But these interpretations are dampened by the fact that none of them (with the
possible exception of the Christian reading, much of which is certainly intended by the
poem) seems essential to the story itself. One can accept these interpretations of the poem
only if one disregards the glosses almost completely.
A more interesting, though still questionable, reading of the poem maintains that
Coleridge intended it as a commentary on the ways in which people interpret the lessons
of the past and the ways in which the past is, to a large extent, simply unknowable. By
filling his archaic ballad with elaborate symbolism that cannot be deciphered in any
single, definitive way and then framing that symbolism with side notes that pick at it and
offer a highly theoretical spiritual-scientific interpretation of its classifications, Coleridge
creates tension between the ambiguous poem and the unambiguous-but-ridiculous notes,
exposing a gulf between the “old” poem and the “new” attempt to understand it. The
message would be that, though certain moral lessons from the past are still
comprehensible—”he liveth best who loveth best” is not hard to understand— other
aspects of its narratives are less easily grasped.
In any event, this first segment of the poem takes the Mariner through the worst of his
trials and shows, in action, the lesson that will be explicitly articulated in the second
segment. The Mariner kills the Albatross in bad faith, subjecting himself to the hostility
of the forces that govern the universe (the very un-Christian-seeming spirit beneath the
sea and the horrible Life-in-Death). It is unclear how these forces are meant to relate to
one another—whether the Life-in-Death is in league with the submerged spirit or whether
their simultaneous appearance is simply a coincidence.
After earning his curse, the Mariner is able to gain access to the favor of God—able to
regain his ability to pray—only by realizing that the monsters around him are beautiful in
God’s eyes and that he should love them as he should have loved the Albatross. In the
final three books of the poem, the Mariner’s encounter with a Hermit will spell out this
message explicitly, and the reader will learn why the Mariner has stopped the Wedding-
Guest to tell him this story. Type of Work and Setting
......."Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" is—as the title indicates—an elegy. Such a poem
centers on the death of a person or persons and is, therefore, somber in tone. An elegy is lyrical
rather than narrative—that is, its primary purpose is to express feelings and insights about its
subject rather than to tell a story. Typically, an elegy expresses feelings of loss and sorrow while
also praising the deceased and reflecting on the meaning of the deceased's time on earth.
.......Gray's poem reflects on the lives of humble and unheralded people buried in the cemetery of
a church. It is generally believed that the cemetery is that of St. Giles Church in the small town of
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, in southern England. Gray himself is buried in that cemetery.
Years of Composition and Publication
.......Gray began writing the elegy in 1742, put it aside for a while, and finished it in 1750. Robert
Dodsley published the poem in London in 1751. Revised or altered versions of the poem
appeared in 1753, 1758, 1768, and 1775. Copies of the various versions are on file in the
Thomas Gray Archive at Oxford University.

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

By Thomas Gray (1716-1771)
.Interpretation and Explanatory Notes by Michael J. Cummings © 2003, 2009

1. The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,

2. The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea,
3. The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
4. And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
Notes, Stanza 1
(1) Curfew: ringing bell in the evening that reminded people in English towns of Gray’s time to put
out fires and go to bed. (2) Knell: mournful sound. (3) Parting day: day's end; dying day; twilight;
dusk. (4) Lowing: mooing. (5) O'er: contraction for over. (6) Lea: meadow.
5. Now fades the glimm'ring landscape on the sight,
6. And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
7. Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
8. And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds.
Notes, Stanza 2
(1) Line 5: The landscape becomes less and less visible. (2) Sight . . . solemn stillness . . . save:
alliteration. (3) Save: except. (4) Beetle: winged insect that occurs in more than 350,000 varieties.
One type is the firefly, or lightning bug. (5) Wheels: verb meaning flies in circles. (6) Droning:
humming; buzzing; monotonous sound. (7) Drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds: This clause
apparently refers to the gentle sounds made by a bell around the neck of a castrated male sheep
that leads other sheep. A castrated male sheep is called a wether. Such a sheep with a bell
around its neck is called a bellwether. Folds is a noun referring to flocks of sheep. (8) Tinklings:
9. Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tow'r
10. The moping owl does to the moon complain
11. Of such, as wand'ring near her secret bow'r,
12. Molest her ancient solitary reign.
Notes, Stanza 3
(1) Save: except. (2) Yonder: distant; remote. (3) Ivy-mantled: cloaked, dressed, or adorned with
ivy. (4) Moping: gloomy; grumbling. (5) Of such: of anything or anybody. (6) Bow'r: bower, an
enclosure surrounded by plant growth—in this case, ivy. (7) Molest her ancient solitary reign:
bother the owl while it keeps watch over the churchyard and countryside. (8) Her ancient solitary
rein: metaphor comparing the owl to a queen.
13. Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
14. Where heaves the turf in many a mould'ring heap,
15. Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
16. The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.
Notes, Stanza 4
(1) Where heaves the turf: anastrophe, a figure of speech that inverts the normal word order (the
turf heaves). (2) Mould'ring: mouldering (British), moldering (American), an adjective meaning
decaying, crumbling. (3) Cell: metaphor comparing a grave to a prison cell. (4) Rude: robust;
sturdy; hearty; stalwart. (4) Hamlet: village.
17. The breezy call of incense-breathing Morn,
18. The swallow twitt'ring from the straw-built shed,
19. The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
20. No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.
Notes, Stanza 5
(1) Breezy call of incense-breathing Morn: wind carrying the pleasant smells of morning, including
dewy grass and flowers. Notice that Morn is a metaphor comparing it to a living creature. (It calls
and breathes.) (2) Swallow: Insect-eating songbird that likes to perch. (3) Clarion: cock-a-doodle-
doo. (4) Echoing horn: The words may refer to the sound made by a fox huntsman who blows a
copper horn to which pack hounds respond.
21. For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
22. Or busy housewife ply her evening care:
23. No children run to lisp their sire's return,
24. Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.
Notes, Stanza 6
(1) hearth . . . housewife . . . her: alliteration. (2) Climb his knees the envied kiss to share:
anastrophe, a figure of speech that inverts the normal word order (to share the envied kiss).
25. Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,
26. Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;
27. How jocund did they drive their team afield!
28. How bow'd the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!
Notes, Stanza 7
(1) Sickle: Harvesting tool with a handle and a crescent-shaped blade. Field hands swing it from
right to left to cut down plant growth. (2) Furrow: channel or groove made by a plow for planting
seeds. (3) Glebe: earth. (4) Jocund: To maintain the meter, Gray uses an adjective when the
syntax call for an adverb, jocundly. Jocund (pronounced JAHK und) means cheerful.
29. Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
30. Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
31. Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
32. The short and simple annals of the poor.
Notes, Stanza 8
(1) Ambition: Personification referring to the desire to succeed or to ambitious people seeking
lofty goals. (2) Destiny obscure: the humble fate of the common people; their unheralded deeds.
(3) Lines 29-30: anastrophe, a figure of speech that inverts the normal word order (let not
Ambition obscure their destiny and homely joys).
(4) Grandeur: personification referring to people with wealth, social standing, and power. (5)
Annals: historical records; story.
33. The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow'r,
34. And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
35. Awaits alike th' inevitable hour.
36. The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
Notes, Stanza 9
(1) Boast of heraldry: Proud talk about the aristocratic or noble roots of one's family; snobbery.
Heraldry was a science that traced family lines of royal and noble personages and designed
coats of arms for them. (2) Pomp: ceremonies, rituals, and splendid surroundings of nobles and
royals. (3) Pomp of pow'r: alliteration. (4) E'er: ever. General meaning of stanza: Every person—
no matter how important, powerful, or wealthy—ends up the same, dead.
37. Nor you, ye proud, impute to these the fault,
38. If Mem'ry o'er their tomb no trophies raise,
39. Where thro' the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault
40. The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.
Notes, Stanza 10
(1) Impute: Assign, ascribe. (2) Mem'ry: Memory, a personification referring to memorials,
commemorations, and tributes—including statues, headstones, and epitaphs—used to preserve
the memory of important or privileged people. (3) Where thro' . . . the note of praise: Reference to
the interior of a church housing the tombs of important people. Fretted vault refers to a carved or
ornamented arched roof or ceiling. (4) Pealing anthem may refer to lofty organ music.
41. Can storied urn or animated bust
42. Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
43. Can Honour's voice provoke the silent dust,
44. Or Flatt'ry soothe the dull cold ear of Death?
Notes, Stanza 11
(1) Storied urn: Vase adorned with pictures telling a story. Urns have sometimes been used to
hold the ashes of a cremated body. (2) Bust: sculpture of the head, shoulders, and chest of a
human. (3) Storied urn . . . breath? Can the soul (fleeting breath) be called back to the body
(mansion) by the urn or bust back? Notice that urn and bust are personifications that call. (4) Can
Honour's . . . Death? Can honor (Honour's voice) attributed to the dead person cause that person
(silent dust) to come back to life? Can flattering words (Flatt'ry) about the dead person make
death more "bearable"? (5) General meaning of stanza: Lines 41-45 continue the idea begun in
Lines 37-40. In other words, can any memorials—such as the trophies mentioned in Line 38, the
urn and bust mentioned in Line 41, and personifications (honor and flattery) mentioned in Lines
43 and 44—bring a person back to life or make death less final or fearsome?
45. Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
46. Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
47. Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway'd,
48. Or wak'd to ecstasy the living lyre.
Notes, Stanza 12
(1) Pregnant with celestial fire: Full of great ideas, abilities, or goals (celestial fire). (2) Rod of
empire: scepter held by a king or an emperor during ceremonies. One of the humble country folk
in the cemetery might have become a king or an emperor if he had been given the opportunity.
(3) Wak'd . . .lyre: Played beautiful music on a lyre, a stringed instrument. In other words, one of
the people in the cemetery could have become a great musician if given the opportunity, "waking
up" the notes of the lyre.
49. But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page
50. Rich with the spoils of time did ne'er unroll;
51. Chill Penury repress'd their noble rage,
52. And froze the genial current of the soul.
Notes, Stanza 13
(1) Knowledge . . . unroll: Knowledge did not reveal itself to them (their eyes) in books (ample
page) rich with treasures of information (spoils of time). (2) Knowledge . . . unroll: Personification
and anastrophe a figure of speech that inverts the normal word order (knowledge did ne'er
enroll). (3) Chill . . . soul: Poverty (penury) repressed their enthusiasm (rage) and froze the flow
(current) of ideas (soul).
53. Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
54. The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear:
55. Full many a flow'r is born to blush unseen,
56. And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
Note, Stanza 14
Full . . . air: These may be the most famous lines in the poem. Gray is comparing the humble
village people to undiscovered gems in caves at the bottom of the ocean and to undiscovered
flowers in the desert.
57. Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast
58. The little tyrant of his fields withstood;
59. Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
60. Some Cromwell, guiltless of his country's blood.
Notes, Stanza 15
(1) John Hampden (1594-1643). Hampden, a Puritan member of Parliament, frequently criticized
and opposed the policies of King Charles I. In particular, he opposed a tax imposed by the king to
outfit the British navy. Because he believed that only Parliament could impose taxes, he refused
to pay 20 shillings in ship money in 1635. Many joined him in his opposition. War broke out
between those who supported Parliament and those who supported the king. Hampden was killed
in battle in 1643. Gray here is presenting Hampden as a courageous (dauntless) hero who stood
against the king (little tyrant). (2) Milton: John Milton (1608-1674), the great English poet and
61. Th' applause of list'ning senates to command,
62. The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
63. To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land,
64. And read their hist'ry in a nation's eyes,
Note, Stanza 16
The subject and verb of Lines 61-64 are in the first three words of Line 65, their lot forbade.
Thus, this stanza says the villagers' way of life (lot) prohibited or prevented them from receiving
applause from politicians for good deeds such as alleviating pain and suffering and providing
plenty (perhaps food) across the land. These deeds would have been recorded by the
appreciating nation.
65. Their lot forbade: nor circumscrib'd alone
66. Their growing virtues, but their crimes confin'd;
67. Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,
68. And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,
Note, Stanza 17
General meaning: Their lot in life not only prevented (circumbscrib'd) them from doing good
deeds (like those mentioned in Stanza 16) but also prevented (confin'd) bad deeds such as killing
enemies to gain the throne and refusing to show mercy to people.
69. The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
70. To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,
71. Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride
72. With incense kindled at the Muse's flame.
Notes, Stanza 18
(1) General meaning: This stanza continues the idea begun in the previous stanza, saying that
the villagers' lot in life also prevented them from hiding truth and shame and from bragging or
using pretty or flattering words (incense kindled at the Muse's flame) to gain luxuries and feed
their pride. (2) Muse's flame: an allusion to sister goddesses in Greek and Roman mythology who
inspired writers, musicians, historians, dancers, and astronomers. These goddesses were called
73. Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
74. Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray;
75. Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
76. They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.
Notes, Stanza 19
(1) General meaning: The villagers plodded on faithfully, never straying from their lot in life as
common people. (2) Madding: maddening; furious; frenzied. (3) Noiseless tenor of their way:
quiet way of life.
77. Yet ev'n these bones from insult to protect,
78. Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
79. With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck'd,
80. Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.
Note, Stanza 20
General meaning: But even these people have gravestones (frail memorial), although they are
engraved with simple and uneducated words or decked with humble sculpture. These
gravestones elicit a sigh from people who see them.
81. Their name, their years, spelt by th' unletter'd muse,
82. The place of fame and elegy supply:
83. And many a holy text around she strews,
84. That teach the rustic moralist to die.
Notes, Stanza 21
(1) Their . . . supply: Their name and age appear but there are no lofty tributes. (2) Unletter'd
muse: Uneducated writer or engraver. (2) Holy text: probably Bible quotations. (3) She: muse.
See the second note for Stanza 18. (4) Rustic moralist: pious villager.
85. For who to dumb Forgetfulness a prey,
86. This pleasing anxious being e'er resign'd,
87. Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
88. Nor cast one longing, ling'ring look behind?
Note, Stanza 22
General meaning: These humble people, though they were doomed to be forgotten (to dumb
Forgetfulness a prey), did not die (did not leave the warm precincts of cheerful day) without
looking back with regret and perhaps a desire to linger a little longer .
89. On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
90. Some pious drops the closing eye requires;
91. Ev'n from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,
92. Ev'n in our ashes live their wonted fires.
Note, Stanza 23
General meaning: The dying person (parting soul) relies on a friend (fond breast) to supply the
engraved words (pious drops) on a tombstone. Even from the tomb the spirit of a person cries out
for remembrance.
93. For thee [32], who mindful of th' unhonour'd Dead
94. Dost in these lines their artless tale relate;
95. If chance, by lonely contemplation led,
96. Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate [33],
Notes, Stanza 24
(1) For thee . . . relate: Gray appears to be referring to himself. Mindful that the villagers deserve
some sort of memorial, he is telling their story (their artless tale) in this elegy (these lines). (2)
Lines 95-96: But what about Gray himself? What if someone asks about his fate? Gray provides
the answer in the next stanza.
97. Haply some hoary-headed swain may say,
98. "Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn
99. Brushing with hasty steps the dews away
100. To meet the sun upon the upland lawn.
Notes, Stanza 25
(1) Haply: Perhaps; by chance; by accident. (2) Hoary-headed swain: Gray-haired country fellow;
old man who lives in the region.
101. "There at the foot of yonder nodding beech
102. That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high,
103. His listless length at noontide would he stretch,
104. And pore upon the brook that babbles by.
Notes, Stanza 26
(1) Nodding: bending; bowing. (2) Listless length: his tired body. (3) Pore upon: Look at; watch.
105. "Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
106. Mutt'ring his wayward fancies he would rove,
107. Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn,
108. Or craz'd with care, or cross'd in hopeless love.
Notes, Stanza 27
(1) Wood, now smiling as in scorn: personification comparing the forest to a person. (2) Wayward
fancies: unpredictable, unexpected, or unwanted thoughts; capricious or flighty thoughts. (3)
Rove: wander. (4) Craz'd . . . cross'd: alliteration.
109. "One morn I miss'd him on the custom'd hill,
110. Along the heath and near his fav'rite tree;
111. Another came; nor yet beside the rill,
112. Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he;
Notes, Stanza 28
(1) Another came: another morning came. (2) Nor yet: But he still was not. (3) Rill: small stream
or brook.
113. "The next with dirges due in sad array
114. Slow thro' the church-way path we saw him borne.
115. Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay,
116. Grav'd on the stone beneath yon aged thorn."
Notes, Stanza 29
(1) The next: the next morning. (2) Dirges: funeral songs. (3) Lay: short poem—in this case, the
epitaph below.
117. Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth
118. A youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown.
119. Fair Science frown'd not on his humble birth,
120. And Melancholy mark'd him for her own.
121. Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,
122. Heav'n did a recompense as largely send:
123. He gave to Mis'ry all he had, a tear,
124. He gain'd from Heav'n ('twas all he wish'd) a friend.
125. No farther seek his merits to disclose,
126. Or draw his frailties from their dread abode,
127. (There they alike in trembling hope repose)
128. The bosom of his Father and his God.
Note, Epitaph: General meaning: Here lies a man of humble birth who did not know fortune or
fame but who did become a scholar. Although he was depressed at times, he had a good life,
was sensitive to the needs of others, and followed God's laws. Don't try to find out more about his
good points or bad points, which are now with him in heaven.

Meter, Rhyme Scheme, and Stanza Form

.......Gray wrote the poem in four-line stanzas (quatrains). Each line is in iambic pentameter,
meaning the following:
1..Each line has five pairs of syllables for a total of ten syllables.
2..In each pair, the first syllable is unstressed (or unaccented), and the second is stressed (or
accented), as in the two lines that open the poem:

.......The CUR few TOLLS the KNELL of PART ing DAY

.......The LOW ing HERD wind SLOW ly O'ER the LEA
.......In each stanza, the first line rhymes with the third and the second line rhymes with the fourth
(abab), as follows:

a.....The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,

b.....The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea,
a.....The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
b.....And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

.......A stanza with the above characteristics—four lines, iambic pentameter, and an abab rhyme
scheme—is often referred to as a heroic quatrain. (Quatrain is derived from the Latin word
quattuor, meaning four.) William Shakespeare and John Dryden had earlier used this stanza
form. After Gray's poem became famous, writers and critics also began referring to the heroic
quatrain as an elegiac stanza.


Death: the Great Equalizer

.......Even the proud and the mighty must one day lie beneath the earth, like the humble men and
women now buried in the churchyard, as line 36 notes: The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
Lines 41-44 further point out that no grandiose memorials and no flattering words about the
deceased can bring him or her back from death.
Can storied urn or animated bust
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can Honour's voice provoke the silent dust,
Or Flatt'ry soothe the dull cold ear of Death?

Missed Opportunities

.......Because of poverty or other handicaps, many talented people never receive the opportunities
they deserve. The following lines elucidate this theme through metaphors:
Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flow'r is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Here, the gem at the bottom of the ocean may represent an undiscovered musician, poet,
scientist or philosopher. The flower may likewise stand for a person of great and noble qualities
that are "wasted on the desert air." Of course, on another level, the gem and the flower can stand
for anything in life that goes unappreciated.

In their rural setting, far from the temptations of the cities and the courts of kings, the villagers led
virtuous lives, as lines 73-76 point out:
Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray;
Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

Assessment of the Poem

.......Scholars regard "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" as one of the greatest poems in the
English language. It weaves structure, rhyme scheme, imagery and message into a brilliant
tapestry that confers on Gray everlasting fame. The quality of its poetry and insights reach
Shakespearean and Miltonian heights.
Biographical Information
.......Thomas Gray was born in London on December 26, 1716. He was the only one of 12
children who survived into adulthood. His father, Philip, a scrivener (a person who copies
text) was a cruel, violent man, but his mother, Dorothy, believed in her son and operated a
millinery business to educate him at Eton school in his childhood and Peterhouse College,
Cambridge, as a young man.
.......He left the college in 1738 without a degree to tour Europe with his friend, Horace
Walpole, the son of the first prime minister of England, Robert Walpole (1676-1745).
However, Gray did earn a degree in law although he never practiced in that profession. After
achieving recognition as a poet, he refused to give public lectures because he was
extremely shy. Nevertheless, he gained such widespread acclaim and respect that England
offered him the post of poet laureate, which would make him official poet of the realm.
However, he rejected the honor. Gray was that rare kind of person who cared little for fame
and adulation. Click here for a more detailed biography. The Vicar of Wakefield
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Vicar of Wakefield is a novel by Irish author Oliver
Goldsmith. It was written in 1761 and 1762, and
published in 1766, and was one of the most popular and
widely read 18th century novels among 19th century
Victorians. The novel is mentioned in George Eliot's
Middlemarch, Jane Austen's Emma, Charles Dickens' A
Tale of Two Cities and David Copperfield, Mary
Shelley's Frankenstein, Charlotte Brontë's The Professor
and Villette, Louisa May Alcott's Little Women and in
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's The Sorrows of Young
Werther, as well as his Dichtung und Wahrheit.
Dr Samuel Johnson, who was one of Goldsmith's closest friends, told how The Vicar of
Wakefield came to be sold for publication:[1]
I received one morning a message from poor Goldsmith that he was in great distress, and, as
“ it was not in his power to come to me, begging that I would come to him as soon as possible.
I sent him a guinea, and promised to come to him directly. I accordingly went as soon as I
was dressed, and found that his landlady had arrested him for his rent, at which he was in a
violent passion: I perceived that he had already changed my guinea, and had a bottle of
Madeira and a glass before him. I put the cork into the bottle, desired he would be calm, and
began to talk to him of the means by which he might be extricated. He then told me he had a
novel ready for the press, which he produced to me. I looked into it and saw its merit; told the
landlady I should soon return; and, having gone to a bookseller, sold it for sixty pounds. I
brought Goldsmith the money, and he discharged his rent, not without rating his landlady in a
high tone for having used him so ill. ”
The novel was The Vicar of Wakefield, and Johnson had sold it to Francis Newbery, a
nephew of John. Newbery "kept it by him for nearly two years unpublished".[1]
[edit] Content
Dr Primrose, his wife Deborah and their six children live an idyllic life in a country
parish. The vicar is well-off due to investing an inheritance he received from a deceased
relative, and the vicar donates the 34 pounds that his job pays annually to local orphans
and war veterans. On the evening of his son George's wedding to wealthy Arabella
Wilmot, the vicar loses all his money through the bankruptcy of his merchant investor
who left town with his money.
The wedding is called off by Arabella's father, who is known for his prudence with
money. George, who was educated at Oxford and is old enough to be considered an adult,
is sent away to town. The rest of the family move to a new and more humble parish on
the land of Squire Thornhill, who is known to be a womanizer. On the way, they hear
about the dubious reputation of their new landlord. Also, references are made to the
squire's uncle Sir William Thornhill, who is known throughout the country for his
worthiness and generosity.
A poor and eccentric friend, Mr. Burchell, whom they meet at an inn, rescues Sophia
from drowning. She is instantly attracted to him, but her ambitious mother does not
encourage her feelings.
Then follows a period of happy family life, only interrupted by regular visits of the
dashing Squire Thornhill and Mr. Burchell. Olivia is captivated by Thornhill's hollow
charm, but he also encourages the social ambitions of Mrs Primrose and her daughters to
a ludicrous degree.
Finally, Olivia is reported to have fled. First Burchell is suspected, but after a long pursuit
Dr. Primrose finds his daughter, who was in reality deceived by Squire Thornhill. He
planned to marry her in a mock ceremony and leave her then shortly after, as he had done
with several women before.
When Olivia and her father return home, they find their house in flames. Although the
family has lost almost all their belongings, the evil Squire Thornhill insists on the
payment of the rent. As the vicar cannot pay, he is brought to gaol.
What follows now is a chain of dreadful occurrences. The vicar's daughter Olivia is
reported dead, Sophia abducted and George is also brought to gaol in chains and covered
with blood, as he had challenged Thornhill to a duel, when he had heard about his
But then Mr. Burchell arrives and solves all problems. He rescues Sophia, Olivia is not
dead and it emerges that Burchell is in reality the worthy Sir William Thornhill, who
travels through the country in disguise. In the end there is a double wedding: George
marries Arabella, as he originally intended, and Sir William Thornhill marries Sophia.
Squire Thornhill's servant turns out to have tricked him, and thus the sham marriage of
the Squire and Olivia is real. Finally even the wealth of the vicar is restored, as the
bankrupt merchant is reported to be found.
[edit] Structure and narrative technique
The book consists of 32 chapters which fall into three parts:
• chapter 1 - 3: beginning
• chapter 4 - 29: main part
• chapter 30 - 32: ending
Chapter 17, when Olivia is reported to be fled, can be regarded as the climax as well as
an essential turning point of the novel. From chapter 17 onwards it changes from a
comical account of 18th century country life into a pathetic melodrama with didactic
There are quite a few interpolations of different literary genres, such as poems, histories
or sermons, which widen the restricted view of the first person narrator and serve as
didactic fables.
The novel can be regarded as a fictitious memoir, as it is told by the vicar himself by
[edit] Main Characters
[edit] Revd Dr Charles Primrose
He is the vicar in the title, and the narrator of the story. He presents one of the most
harmlessly simple and unsophisticated yet also ironically complex figures ever to appear
in English fiction. He has a mild, forgiving temper, as seen when he forgives his daughter
Olivia with open arms. He is a loving husband and a father of six healthy, blooming
children. However, though he usually has a sweet, benevolent temper, he can sometimes
be a bit silly, stubborn, or vain. For instance, he is obsessed with a particularly obscurse,
and not very important, matter of church doctrine. One of his "favorite topics", he
declares, is matrimony, and explains that he is proud of being "a strict monogamist." He
tactlessly adheres to his "principles" in the face of a violent disagreement with the
neighbor who was soon to become his son's father-in-law:he "...was called out by one of
my relations, who, with a face of concern, advised me to give up the dispute, at least till
my son's wedding was over." However, he angrily cries that he will not "relinquish the
cause of truth," and hotly says, "You might as well advise me to give up my fortune as
my argument." This is rather ironical, as he immediately finds out that his fortune is
actually almost nothing. This makes Mr. Wilmot break off the intended marriage with
Mr. Primrose's son George and Miss Arabella Wilmot, and thus his son's happiness is
almost shattered. He is sometimes proud of what he fancies is his ability at arguing, and
often misjudges his family's supposed friends and neighbors. However, despite all his
faults, he is affectionate, faithful, loving, patient, and essentially good-natured.
[edit] Deborah Primrose
Dr Charles Primrose's wife. She is faithful, if still rather independent-minded. She has
some vanity of her own, however: she has a "passion" for clothes, and is seen making a
"wash" (a sort of lotion) for her girls. She is also eager to see her daughters splendidly
married, and this ambition sometimes blinds her. Dr Charles Primrose refers to her wife
as "a good-natured notable woman; and as for breeding, there were few country ladies
who could shew (show) more. She could read any English book without much spelling,
but for pickling, preserving, and cookery, none could excel her." She is even prouder of
her children than her husband, especially her handsome girls.
[edit] Olivia and Sophia Primrose
Both originally wished to be named after their aunt Grissel by their father, they are
affectionate daughters. Her father says, "Olivia...had that luxuriancy of beauty with
which painters generally draw Hebe; open, sprightly, and commanding. Sophia's features
were not so striking at first; but often did more certain execution; for they were soft,
modest, and alluring. The one vanquished by a single blow, the other by efforts
successfully repeated...Olivia wished for many lovers, Sophia to secure one. Olivia was
often affected from too great a desire to please. Sophia even represt (repressed)
excellence from her fears to offend. The one entertained me with her vivacity when I was
gay, the other with her sense when I was serious".
They are both alike in that they are, like their father, fundamentally good, though faulty;
Olivia runs away with Mr. Thornhill in the passions of impetuous love, and even the
more sensible Sophia joins in with making "a wash" for herself and dressing up in fancy
[edit] Reception
In literary history books the Vicar of Wakefield is often described as a sentimental novel,
which displays the belief in the innate goodness of human beings. But it can also be read
as a satire on the sentimental novel and its values, as the vicar's values are apparently not
compatible with the real "sinful" world. It is only with Sir William Thornhill's help that
he can get out of his calamities.
Moreover, an analogy can be drawn between Mr. Primrose's suffering and the Book of
Job. This is particularly relevant to the question of why evil exists. At first considered
slow in learning, Chatterton had a tearful childhood, choosing the solitude of an attic and
making no progress with his alphabet. One day, seeing his mother tear up as wastepaper
one of his father’s old French musical folios, the boy was entranced by its illuminated
capital letters, and his intellect began to be engaged. He learned to read far in advance of
his age but only from old materials, music folios, a black-letter Bible, and muniments
taken by his father from a chest in the Church of St. Mary Redcliffe. At age seven
Chatterton entered Colston’s Hospital, but his learning was acquired independently.
Chatterton’s first known poem was a scholarly Miltonic piece, On the Last Epiphany,
written when he was 10. About a year later an old parchment he had inscribed with a
pastoral eclogue, Elinoure and Juga, supposedly of the 15th century, deceived its readers,
and thereafter what had begun merely as a childish deception became a poetic activity
quite separate from Chatterton’s acknowledged writings. These poems were supposedly
written by a 15th-century monk of Bristol, Thomas Rowley, a fictitious character created
by Chatterton. The name was taken from a civilian’s monument brass at St. John’s
Church in Bristol. The poems had many shortcomings both as medieval writings and as
poetry. Yet Chatterton threw all his powers into the poems, supposedly written by
Rowley, in such a manner as to mark him a poet of genius and an early Romantic
pioneer, both in metrics and in feeling.
In 1767 Chatterton was apprenticed to a Bristol attorney but spent most of his time on his
own writing, which for a while he turned to slight profit in Felix Farley’s Bristol Journal
and Town and Country Magazine. The life was irksome to him, however, and pressures began
to build up, compounded of a fight for a free press, contempt for Bristol and his dowdy
family, a philandering attitude to local girls, and the “death” of Rowley.
Chatterton sent James Dodsley, the publisher, letters offering some of Rowley’s
manuscripts, but Dodsley ignored him. Horace Walpole received similar offers and at
first was enchanted with the “old” poems; but, when advised by friends that the
manuscripts were modern, he treated Chatterton with chilly contempt, advising him in a
letter to stick to his calling. Chatterton rewarded him with bitter but noble lines. By a
mock suicide threat (“The Last Will and Testament of me, Thomas Chatterton of Bristol”), he
forced his employer, John Lambert, to release him from his contract and set out for
London to storm the city with satires and pamphlets. A lively burletta (comic opera), The
Revenge, brought some money, but the death of a prospective patron quenched Chatterton’s
hopes. At this time he wrote the most pathetic of his Rowley poems, An Excelente
Balade of Charitie. Though literally starving, Chatterton refused the food of friends and,
on the night of August 24, 1770, took arsenic in his Holborn garret and died.
The aftermath was fame. The just tributes of many poets came after controversy between
the “Rowleians” and those who rightly saw Chatterton as the sole author. Samuel Taylor
Coleridge wrote a monody to him; William Wordsworth saw him as “the marvelous
boy”; Percy Bysshe Shelley gave him a stanza in Adonais; John Keats dedicated
Endymion: A Poetic Romance to him and was heavily influenced by him; and George
Crabbe, Lord Byron, Sir Walter Scott, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti added their praise. In
France the Romantics hailed his example, and Alfred de Vigny’s historically inaccurate play
Chatterton was the model for an opera by Ruggero Leoncavallo.

479. Song from Ælla

O SING unto my roundelay,

O drop the briny tear with me;

Dance no more at holyday,

Like a running river be:

My love is dead, 5

Gone to his death-bed

All under the willow-tree.

Black his cryne as the winter night,

White his rode as the summer snow,

Red his face as the morning light, 10

Cold he lies in the grave below:

My love is dead,

Gone to his death-bed

All under the willow-tree.

Sweet his tongue as the throstle's note, 15

Quick in dance as thought can be,

Deft his tabor, cudgel stout;

O he lies by the willow-tree!

My love is dead,

Gone to his death-bed 20

All under the willow-tree.

Hark! the raven flaps his wing

In the brier'd dell below;

Hark! the death-owl loud doth sing

To the nightmares, as they go: 25

My love is dead,

Gone to his death-bed

All under the willow-tree.

See! the white moon shines on high;

Whiter is my true-love's shroud: 30

Whiter than the morning sky,

Whiter than the evening cloud:

My love is dead,

Gone to his death-bed

All under the willow-tree. 35

Here upon my true-love's grave

Shall the barren flowers be laid;

Not one holy saint to save

All the coldness of a maid:

My love is dead, 40

Gone to his death-bed

All under the willow-tree.

With my hands I'll dent the briers

Round his holy corse to gre:

Ouph and fairy, light your fires, 45

Here my body still shall be:

My love is dead,

Gone to his death-bed

All under the willow-tree.

Come, with acorn-cup and thorn, 50

Drain my heartès blood away;

Life and all its good I scorn,

Dance by night, or feast by day:

My love is dead,

Gone to his death-bed 55

All under the willow-tree.

317. The Solitude of Alexander Selkirk

William Cowper (1731–1800)

I AM monarch of all I survey;

My right there is none to dispute;

From the centre all round to the sea

I am lord of the fowl and the brute.

O Solitude! where are the charms 5

That sages have seen in thy face?

Better dwell in the midst of alarms,

Than reign in this horrible place.

I am out of humanity’s reach,

I must finish my journey alone, 0

Never hear the sweet music of speech;

I start at the sound of my own.

The beasts that roam over the plain

My form with indifference see;

They are so unacquainted with man, 5

Their tameness is shocking to me.

Society, Friendship, and Love

Divinely bestow’d upon man,

O, had I the wings of a dove

How soon would I taste you again! 0

My sorrows I then might assuage

In the ways of religion and truth;

Might learn from the wisdom of age,

And be cheer’d by the sallies of youth.

Ye winds that have made me your sport, 5

Convey to this desolate shore

Some cordial endearing report

Of a land I shall visit no more:

My friends, do they now and then send

A wish or a thought after me? 0

O tell me I yet have a friend,

Though a friend I am never to see.

How fleet is a glance of the mind!

Compared with the speed of its flight,

The tempest itself lags behind, 5

And the swift-wingèd arrows of light.

When I think of my own native land

In a moment I seem to be there;

But alas! recollection at hand

Soon hurries me back to despair. 0

But the sea-fowl is gone to her nest,

The beast is laid down in his lair;

Even here is a season of rest,

And I to my cabin repair.

There’s mercy in every place, 5

And mercy, encouraging thought!

Gives even affliction a grace

And reconciles man to his lot.

This poem is dedicated to Alexander Selkrik.

Born in Scotland in 1676, Alexander Selkirk ran away to sea when he was nineteen. In 1704, during a
privateering expedition to plunder Spanish shipping off the Pacific coast of South America, he
became concerned over the seaworthiness of their ship. After a quarrel with the captain, he asked to
be put ashore on the Juan Fernandez islands, about 400 miles off the coast of Chile. Selkirk remained
alone on the island for four years and four months, until finally rescued by an English vessel in 1709.

His adventures provided the inspiration for Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe.
The Chilean government has renamed two of the Juan Fernandez islands, one as Isla Robinson
Crusoe and another as Isla Alejandro Selkirk.

Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage is a lengthy narrative poem written by the poet George
Gordon, Lord Byron. It was published between 1812 and 1818 and is dedicated to
"Ianthe", the term of endearment he used for Charlotte Harley (the artist Francis Bacon's
great-great-grandmother).[1] The poem describes the travels and reflections of a world-
weary young man who, disillusioned with a life of pleasure and revelry, looks for
distraction in foreign lands; in a wider sense, it is an expression of the melancholy and
disillusionment felt by a generation weary of the wars of the post-Revolutionary and
Napoleonic eras. The title comes from the term childe, a medieval title for a young man
who was a candidate for knighthood.

The poem contains elements thought to be autobiographical, as Byron generated some of
the storyline from experience gained during his travels through Portugal, the
Mediterranean and Aegean Sea between 1809 and 1811[2]. Despite Byron's personal
distastes for the poem [3], which he felt revealed too much of himself, it was published
by John Murray and brought him a large amount of public attention. Byron stated that he
woke up one day and "found myself famous."[4].
Byronic hero
The work provided the first example of the Byronic hero. The idea of the Byronic hero is
one that consists of many different characteristics. The hero must have a rather high level
of intelligence and perception as well as be able to easily adapt to new situations and use
cunning to his own gain. It is clear from this description that this hero is well educated
and by extension is rather sophisticated in his style. Aside from the obvious charm and
attractiveness that this automatically creates, he struggles with his integrity, being prone
to mood swings or bi-polar tendencies. Generally, the hero has a disrespect for any figure
of authority, thus creating the image of the Byronic Hero as an exile or an outcast. The
Hero also has a tendency to be arrogant and cynical, indulging in self-destructive
behaviour which leads to the need to seduce women. Although his sexual attraction
through being mysterious is rather helpful, this sexual attraction often gets the hero into
trouble. The character of the Byronic Hero has appeared in novels, films and plays ever

The poem has four cantos written in Spenserian stanzas, which consist of eight iambic
pentameter lines followed by one alexandrine (a twelve syllable iambic line), and has
rhyme pattern ABABBCBCC.
Childe Harold became a vehicle for Byron's own beliefs and ideas; indeed in the preface
to book three Byron acknowledges the fact that his hero is just an extension of himself.
According to Jerome McGann, by masking himself behind a literary artifice, Byron was
able to express his view that "man's greatest tragedy is that he can conceive of a
perfection which he cannot attain".[5]

For Albanians this work is really important because it mentions them. Byron,
overenthusiastic about Albanians wrote:

“O who is more brave thaqn a dark Suliot,

With his white komese and the shaggy capote?”

Byron discovered Albanians, who were totally unknown to the English. He considered
Greeks as good for nothing, cowards who could not liberate themselves.

“When we two parted” is a poem of George Gordon Byron written in 1808 and published
in 1813 in “The poetical works of Lord Byron”.

Byron was a romantic poet, his writings develops a Romantic style as distinctive and as
influential as Wordsworth’s works, one of the most representative romantic writers.
Byron’s romantic subjectivity defines itself in spectacular terms, this subjectivity has
been criticized as too theatrical by John Keats. But for other poets like Baudelaire, that
theatrical style defined Byron’s greatness as a lyric poet. (1)
Lord Byron has a wonderful collection of poetic works, he started writing in 1806 to his
death in 1824. Through this years he made a lot of famous works such as “Child Harold’s
Pilgrimage”, “Don Juan” or “Manfred”. The main characteristic of Byron’s poems is its
strenght and masculinity, combined in a lot of cases with irony. In the case of the poem I
have choosen, “When we two parted” is a poem of heart broken, expressing strong
feelings in a simple but full of meaning vocabulary, such as in other poems like “So we’ll
no go more a roving”.(2)

The poem is divided in four stanzas and each one in eight verses. The rhyme used by
Byron follows this structure: abab cdcd efef ghgh ijij klkl mnmn kbkb. Separating each
stanza in four verses, we have the rhyme more clear, each even verse and each odd verse
rhyme with its equivalent even or odd verse. This structure gives to the poem a lot of
rythm, giving the sensation of musicality.

In this poem it is too difficult to find rhetorical figures, due to the most important of all
the poem is the strength of the words. Despite of this, it can be seen, for example, in the
third line a metaphor: “half broken-hearted”; the poet is expressing us how he and his
lover feel when they are two parted.
Another striking thing found in the poem is the second part of the fourth stanza. It is the
only stanza which repeats the rhyme of other verses and not just the rhyme, but the word
itself. E.g. “(4) To sever for years/ (30)After long years”. If we pay attention, there is also
a correspondence of meaning, in the first stanza Byron is telling they are going to sever
for years and in the last stanza he is thinking of what he will do when they remeet. With
the other two verses is the same, at the first part: “(2)In silence and tears” is how they
react when they are two parted, and in the last part of the poem: “(32)With silence and
tears” is how he is going to have to greet her since they did not meet.

The poem, as I said before, is divided in four stanzas, and each stanza talks about
different visions of this love separation.
On the whole, the poem is all the time giving the feeling of the pain that the poet has due
to the separation of the two lovers; what we cannot know is if the separation is because of
death or maybe because “she” split up with him.
In the first stanza the poet begins with the main topic, remembering the separation of the
two lovers, how they felt: “half broken-hearted” , showing his pain. Also he expresses the
idea of what we think that this separation is due to the death of his lover with the
metaphor of : “Pale grew thy cheek and cold,/colder thy kiss”. All that sorrounds her is
cold, and this cold is a perfect form to express the death in contrast with the warm
involving the life.
Following with the poem, in the second stanza it can be found the relation of colder
morning with the pain that the poet is feeling. Also another time we can see that his lover
is dead: “thy vows are all broken”. Then, it follow with the shame that feels the poet
when he hears her name; maybe shame because their relation was a sin. This idea will be
developed later with some comments of people that “she” was a married woman.
The third stanza contains strong vocabulary showing again that “she” is dead: “A knell to
mine ear; A shudder comes o’er me”.These two verses remain to the sounds of the bells
of a funeral, using the appropriated word “Knell”. Also he asked himself why he loved
her so, and people who knew her well do not know any relation between them. Maybe
that people who knew her well could be her family and husband.
At the last stanza the poet is remembering when they met and transmits us a feeling of
hope: “If I should meet thee”. Maybe life exists before death and they can reopen their
love, and the poet also tell us how they greet: “With silence and tears”.
Some researches say that the person who was addressed this poem is Lady Frances
Webster (married woman) and a last stanza was left out to keep the identity of the woman
a secret. It was discover when Byron wrote a letter to his cousin Lady Hardy giving her
of the last stanza:
Then --- fare thee well --- Fanny ---
Now doubly undone ---
To prove false unto many ---
As faithless to One ---
Thou art past all recalling
Even would I recall ---
For the woman once falling
Forever must fall. –


“When we two parted” is included in the historical movement of Romanticism which is
“an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated around the middle of the
18th century in Western Europe, and gained strength during the Industrial
During the 19th century Britain was transformed by the Industrial Revelution. Maybe this
poem has nothing of realtion with these transformations, but if we consider that in these
times people had to work a lot and maybe the husband of Lady Webster spent a lot of
time doing business, she probably had more freedom and she felt alone and the solution
was to find a lover.
Moreover, unfaithfulness is a topic of all the times and the separation of two lovers due to
death or for something else happens then, now and after. For that reason we can consider
that this poem of pain is a poem for all the times.


As I said before, this poem perfectly can be described for people of nowadays, due to
Byron expresses wonderfully what people feel when the person they love splits up with
them or dies. This is a feeling of all the epochs and centuries, the loneliness and pain
provoked by the missing of the person who loves.
The poet has also a relation with today, Byron has returned as a figure of great
consequence, this is an historical fate to be welcomed. Now he is more appreciated than
in his times, because unless in his time he was famous, he was perjudicated by his type of
life, having problems with alcohol and women. But now he was recognised as one of the
most representative writers of the Romanticism.
Ode on a Grecian Urn

In the first stanza, the speaker stands before an ancient Grecian urn and addresses it. He is
preoccupied with its depiction of pictures frozen in time. It is the “still unravish’d bride
of quietness,” the “foster-child of silence and slow time.” He also describes the urn as a
“historian” that can tell a story. He wonders about the figures on the side of the urn and
asks what legend they depict and from where they come. He looks at a picture that seems
to depict a group of men pursuing a group of women and wonders what their story could
be: “What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape? / What pipes and timbrels? What wild

In the second stanza, the speaker looks at another picture on the urn, this time of a young
man playing a pipe, lying with his lover beneath a glade of trees. The speaker says that
the piper’s “unheard” melodies are sweeter than mortal melodies because they are
unaffected by time. He tells the youth that, though he can never kiss his lover because he
is frozen in time, he should not grieve, because her beauty will never fade. In the third
stanza, he looks at the trees surrounding the lovers and feels happy that they will never
shed their leaves. He is happy for the piper because his songs will be “for ever new,” and
happy that the love of the boy and the girl will last forever, unlike mortal love, which
lapses into “breathing human passion” and eventually vanishes, leaving behind only a
“burning forehead, and a parching tongue.”
In the fourth stanza, the speaker examines another picture on the urn, this one of a group
of villagers leading a heifer to be sacrificed. He wonders where they are going (“To what
green altar, O mysterious priest...”) and from where they have come. He imagines their
little town, empty of all its citizens, and tells it that its streets will “for evermore” be
silent, for those who have left it, frozen on the urn, will never return. In the final stanza,
the speaker again addresses the urn itself, saying that it, like Eternity, “doth tease us out
of thought.” He thinks that when his generation is long dead, the urn will remain, telling
future generations its enigmatic lesson: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty.” The speaker says
that that is the only thing the urn knows and the only thing it needs to know.

“Ode on a Grecian Urn” follows the same ode-stanza structure as the “Ode on
Melancholy,” though it varies more the rhyme scheme of the last three lines of each
stanza. Each of the five stanzas in “Grecian Urn” is ten lines long, metered in a relatively
precise iambic pentameter, and divided into a two part rhyme scheme, the last three lines
of which are variable. The first seven lines of each stanza follow an ABABCDE rhyme
scheme, but the second occurrences of the CDE sounds do not follow the same order. In
stanza one, lines seven through ten are rhymed DCE; in stanza two, CED; in stanzas three
and four, CDE; and in stanza five, DCE, just as in stanza one. As in other odes
(especially “Autumn” and “Melancholy”), the two-part rhyme scheme (the first part made
of AB rhymes, the second of CDE rhymes) creates the sense of a two-part thematic
structure as well. The first four lines of each stanza roughly define the subject of the
stanza, and the last six roughly explicate or develop it. (As in other odes, this is only a
general rule, true of some stanzas more than others; stanzas such as the fifth do not
connect rhyme scheme and thematic structure closely at all.)

If the “Ode to a Nightingale” portrays Keats’s speaker’s engagement with the fluid
expressiveness of music, the “Ode on a Grecian Urn” portrays his attempt to engage with
the static immobility of sculpture. The Grecian urn, passed down through countless
centuries to the time of the speaker’s viewing, exists outside of time in the human sense
—it does not age, it does not die, and indeed it is alien to all such concepts. In the
speaker’s meditation, this creates an intriguing paradox for the human figures carved into
the side of the urn: They are free from time, but they are simultaneously frozen in time.
They do not have to confront aging and death (their love is “for ever young”), but neither
can they have experience (the youth can never kiss the maiden; the figures in the
procession can never return to their homes).
The speaker attempts three times to engage with scenes carved into the urn; each time he
asks different questions of it. In the first stanza, he examines the picture of the “mad
pursuit” and wonders what actual story lies behind the picture: “What men or gods are
these? What maidens loth?” Of course, the urn can never tell him the whos, whats,
whens, and wheres of the stories it depicts, and the speaker is forced to abandon this line
of questioning.

In the second and third stanzas, he examines the picture of the piper playing to his lover
beneath the trees. Here, the speaker tries to imagine what the experience of the figures on
the urn must be like; he tries to identify with them. He is tempted by their escape from
temporality and attracted to the eternal newness of the piper’s unheard song and the
eternally unchanging beauty of his lover. He thinks that their love is “far above” all
transient human passion, which, in its sexual expression, inevitably leads to an abatement
of intensity—when passion is satisfied, all that remains is a wearied physicality: a
sorrowful heart, a “burning forehead,” and a “parching tongue.” His recollection of these
conditions seems to remind the speaker that he is inescapably subject to them, and he
abandons his attempt to identify with the figures on the urn.
In the fourth stanza, the speaker attempts to think about the figures on the urn as though
they were experiencing human time, imagining that their procession has an origin (the
“little town”) and a destination (the “green altar”). But all he can think is that the town
will forever be deserted: If these people have left their origin, they will never return to it.
In this sense he confronts head-on the limits of static art; if it is impossible to learn from
the urn the whos and wheres of the “real story” in the first stanza, it is impossible ever to
know the origin and the destination of the figures on the urn in the fourth.
It is true that the speaker shows a certain kind of progress in his successive attempts to
engage with the urn. His idle curiosity in the first attempt gives way to a more deeply felt
identification in the second, and in the third, the speaker leaves his own concerns behind
and thinks of the processional purely on its own terms, thinking of the “little town” with a
real and generous feeling. But each attempt ultimately ends in failure. The third attempt
fails simply because there is nothing more to say—once the speaker confronts the silence
and eternal emptiness of the little town, he has reached the limit of static art; on this
subject, at least, there is nothing more the urn can tell him.
In the final stanza, the speaker presents the conclusions drawn from his three attempts to
engage with the urn. He is overwhelmed by its existence outside of temporal change, with
its ability to “tease” him “out of thought / As doth eternity.” If human life is a succession
of “hungry generations,” as the speaker suggests in “Nightingale,” the urn is a separate
and self-contained world. It can be a “friend to man,” as the speaker says, but it cannot be
mortal; the kind of aesthetic connection the speaker experiences with the urn is ultimately
insufficient to human life.
The final two lines, in which the speaker imagines the urn speaking its message to
mankind—”Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” have proved among the most difficult to
interpret in the Keats canon. After the urn utters the enigmatic phrase “Beauty is truth,
truth beauty,” no one can say for sure who “speaks” the conclusion, “that is all / Ye know
on earth, and all ye need to know.” It could be the speaker addressing the urn, and it
could be the urn addressing mankind. If it is the speaker addressing the urn, then it would
seem to indicate his awareness of its limitations: The urn may not need to know anything
beyond the equation of beauty and truth, but the complications of human life make it
impossible for such a simple and self-contained phrase to express sufficiently anything
about necessary human knowledge. If it is the urn addressing mankind, then the phrase
has rather the weight of an important lesson, as though beyond all the complications of
human life, all human beings need to know on earth is that beauty and truth are one and
the same. It is largely a matter of personal interpretation which reading to accept.
Ode to a Nightingale

The speaker opens with a declaration of his own heartache. He feels numb, as though he
had taken a drug only a moment ago. He is addressing a nightingale he hears singing
somewhere in the forest and says that his “drowsy numbness” is not from envy of the
nightingale’s happiness, but rather from sharing it too completely; he is “too happy” that
the nightingale sings the music of summer from amid some unseen plot of green trees and

In the second stanza, the speaker longs for the oblivion of alcohol, expressing his wish
for wine, “a draught of vintage,” that would taste like the country and like peasant
dances, and let him “leave the world unseen” and disappear into the dim forest with the
nightingale. In the third stanza, he explains his desire to fade away, saying he would like
to forget the troubles the nightingale has never known: “the weariness, the fever, and the
fret” of human life, with its consciousness that everything is mortal and nothing lasts.
Youth “grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies,” and “beauty cannot keep her lustrous
In the fourth stanza, the speaker tells the nightingale to fly away, and he will follow, not
through alcohol (“Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards”), but through poetry, which
will give him “viewless wings.” He says he is already with the nightingale and describes
the forest glade, where even the moonlight is hidden by the trees, except the light that
breaks through when the breezes blow the branches. In the fifth stanza, the speaker says
that he cannot see the flowers in the glade, but can guess them “in embalmed darkness”:
white hawthorne, eglantine, violets, and the musk-rose, “the murmurous haunt of flies on
summer eves.” In the sixth stanza, the speaker listens in the dark to the nightingale,
saying that he has often been “half in love” with the idea of dying and called Death soft
names in many rhymes. Surrounded by the nightingale’s song, the speaker thinks that the
idea of death seems richer than ever, and he longs to “cease upon the midnight with no
pain” while the nightingale pours its soul ecstatically forth. If he were to die, the
nightingale would continue to sing, he says, but he would “have ears in vain” and be no
longer able to hear.
In the seventh stanza, the speaker tells the nightingale that it is immortal, that it was not
“born for death.” He says that the voice he hears singing has always been heard, by
ancient emperors and clowns, by homesick Ruth; he even says the song has often
charmed open magic windows looking out over “the foam / Of perilous seas, in faery
lands forlorn.” In the eighth stanza, the word forlorn tolls like a bell to restore the speaker
from his preoccupation with the nightingale and back into himself. As the nightingale
flies farther away from him, he laments that his imagination has failed him and says that
he can no longer recall whether the nightingale’s music was “a vision, or a waking
dream.” Now that the music is gone, the speaker cannot recall whether he himself is
awake or asleep.

Like most of the other odes, “Ode to a Nightingale” is written in ten-line stanzas.
However, unlike most of the other poems, it is metrically variable—though not so much
as “Ode to Psyche.” The first seven and last two lines of each stanza are written in iambic
pentameter; the eighth line of each stanza is written in trimeter, with only three accented
syllables instead of five. “Nightingale” also differs from the other odes in that its rhyme
scheme is the same in every stanza (every other ode varies the order of rhyme in the final
three or four lines except “To Psyche,” which has the loosest structure of all the odes).
Each stanza in “Nightingale” is rhymed ABABCDECDE, Keats’s most basic scheme
throughout the odes.

With “Ode to a Nightingale,” Keats’s speaker begins his fullest and deepest exploration
of the themes of creative expression and the mortality of human life. In this ode, the
transience of life and the tragedy of old age (“where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray
hairs, / Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies”) is set against the eternal
renewal of the nightingale’s fluid music (“Thou wast not born for death, immortal
bird!”). The speaker reprises the “drowsy numbness” he experienced in “Ode on
Indolence,” but where in “Indolence” that numbness was a sign of disconnection from
experience, in “Nightingale” it is a sign of too full a connection: “being too happy in
thine happiness,” as the speaker tells the nightingale. Hearing the song of the nightingale,
the speaker longs to flee the human world and join the bird. His first thought is to reach
the bird’s state through alcohol—in the second stanza, he longs for a “draught of vintage”
to transport him out of himself. But after his meditation in the third stanza on the
transience of life, he rejects the idea of being “charioted by Bacchus and his pards”
(Bacchus was the Roman god of wine and was supposed to have been carried by a chariot
pulled by leopards) and chooses instead to embrace, for the first time since he refused to
follow the figures in “Indolence,” “the viewless wings of Poesy.”

The rapture of poetic inspiration matches the endless creative rapture of the nightingale’s
music and lets the speaker, in stanzas five through seven, imagine himself with the bird in
the darkened forest. The ecstatic music even encourages the speaker to embrace the idea
of dying, of painlessly succumbing to death while enraptured by the nightingale’s music
and never experiencing any further pain or disappointment. But when his meditation
causes him to utter the word “forlorn,” he comes back to himself, recognizing his fancy
for what it is—an imagined escape from the inescapable (“Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat
so well / As she is fam’d to do, deceiving elf”). As the nightingale flies away, the
intensity of the speaker’s experience has left him shaken, unable to remember whether he
is awake or asleep.
In “Indolence,” the speaker rejected all artistic effort. In “Psyche,” he was willing to
embrace the creative imagination, but only for its own internal pleasures. But in the
nightingale’s song, he finds a form of outward expression that translates the work of the
imagination into the outside world, and this is the discovery that compels him to embrace
Poesy’s “viewless wings” at last. The “art” of the nightingale is endlessly changeable and
renewable; it is music without record, existing only in a perpetual present. As befits his
celebration of music, the speaker’s language, sensually rich though it is, serves to
suppress the sense of sight in favor of the other senses. He can imagine the light of the
moon, “But here there is no light”; he knows he is surrounded by flowers, but he “cannot
see what flowers” are at his feet. This suppression will find its match in “Ode on a
Grecian Urn,” which is in many ways a companion poem to “Ode to a Nightingale.” In
the later poem, the speaker will finally confront a created art-object not subject to any of
the limitations of time; in “Nightingale,” he has achieved creative expression and has
placed his faith in it, but that expression—the nightingale’s song—is spontaneous and
without physical manifestation.

Analysis of Shelley's Ode To the West Wind

In "Ode to the West Wind," Percy Bysshe Shelley tries to gain

transcendence, for he shows that his thoughts, like the "winged seeds" (7) are

trapped. The West Wind acts as a driving force for change and rejuvenation in

the human and natural world. Shelley views winter not just as last phase of

vegetation but as the last phase of life in the individual, the imagination,

civilization and religion. Being set in Autumn, Shelley observes the changing
of the weather and its effects on the internal and external environment. By

examining this poem, the reader will see that Shelley can only reach his

sublime by having the wind carry his "dead thoughts" (63) which through an

apocalyptic destruction, will lead to a rejuvenation of the imagination, the

individual and the natural world.

Shelley begins his poem by addressing the "Wild West Wind" (1). He

quickly introduces the theme of death and compares the dead leaves to "ghosts"

(3). The imagery of "Pestilence-stricken multitudes" makes the reader aware

that Shelley is addressing more than a pile of leaves. His claustrophobic mood

becomes evident when he talks of the "wintry bed" (6) and "The winged seeds,

where they lie cold and low/ Each like a corpse within its grave, until/ Thine

azure sister of the Spring shall blow" (7-9). In the first line, Shelley use

the phrase "winged seeds" which presents images of flying and freedom. The

only problem is that they lay "cold and low" or unnourished or not elevated.

He likens this with a feeling of being trapped. The important word is "seeds"

for it shows that even in death, new life will grow out of the "grave." The

phrase "winged seeds" also brings images of religions, angels, and/or souls

that continue to create new life. Heavenly images are confirmed by his use of

the word "azure" which besides meaning sky blue, also is defined, in Webster's

Dictionary, as an "unclouded vault of heaven." The word "azure," coupled with

the word "Spring," helps show Shelley's view of rejuvenation. The word

"Spring" besides being a literary metaphor for rebirth also means to rise up. In
line 9, Shelley uses soft sounding phrases to communicate the blowing of the

wind. This tercet acts as an introduction and a foreshadow of what is to come


Shelley goes on to talk of the wind as a "Destroyer and Preserver" which

brings to mind religious overtones of different cultures such as Hinduism and

Native Indian beliefs. The poem now sees a shift of the clouds which warns of

an upcoming storm. This helps Shelley begin to work towards a final climax.

He then writes of the mourning song "Of the dying year, to which this closing

night/ Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre/ Vaulted with all they congregated

might" (23-25). Again, the reader feels somewhat claustrophobic. The "closing

night" feels as if it is surrounding the author as he writes and the reader as

he or she reads. The "closing night" is used also to mean the final night.

Shelley shows how he cannot have a transcendence even in an open sky for even

the sky is a "dome." The "sepulchre" is a tomb made out of rock and his

imagination and the natural world will be locked and "Vaulted" tight. But in

following lines Shelley writes how this "sepulchre" will "burst" (28). In that

sense, "Vaulted" takes on the meaning of a great leap and even a spring.

Shelley uses the phrase "congregated might" not just to mean a collaborative

effort, but to represent all types of religion. Shelley seems to use obtuse

phrasing to frighten the reader and to show the long breath of the wind.

Shelley wants the reader to visualize the "dome" as having a presence like a

volcano. And when the "dome" does "burst," it will act as a "Destroyer and
Preserver" and creator. The use of the words "Black rain and fire and hail..."

(28) also helps the reader prepare for the apocalyptic climax which Shelley


As the rising action continues, Shelley talks of the "Mediterranean"

(31) and its "summer dreams" (30). In the dream, the reader finds the sea

laying "Beside a pumice isle in Baiae's bay/ And saw in sleep old palaces and

towers/ Quivering within the wave's intenser day" (32-34). Shelley implants

the idea of a volcano with the word "pumice." The "old palaces and towers" stir

vivid images of ancient Rome and Greece in the readers mind. Shelley also uses

these images in the sea's dream to show that the natural world and the human

social and political world are parallel. Again, he uses soft sounding words,

but this time it is used to lull the reader into the same dream-like state of

the Mediterranean. The "pumice" shows destruction and creation for when the

volcano erupts it destroys. But it also creates more new land. The "pumice" is

probably Shelley's best example of rebirth and rejuvenation. The word

"Quivering" is not just used to describe the reflection of images in the water.

It is also used to show a sense of fear which seems to be the most common mood

and emotion in this poem. Is Shelley perhaps making a comment that at the root

of people's faith is fear of vengeful god? Maybe, but the main focus of this

poem is not just religion, but what religion stands for which is death and

rebirth. Could line 34, also be a comment on Shelley himself?

In the final stanzas, Shelley has the wind transforming from the natural

world toward human suffering. Shelley pleads with the wind: "Oh! lift me as a

wave, a leaf, a cloud!" (54). He seeks transcendence from the wind and says:

"I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed" (55). Shelley shows Christ not as a

religion, but as a hero of sacrifice and suffering, like the poet himself. He

again pleads for the wind: "Drive my dead thought over the

quicken a new birth!" (63-64). He asks the wind to "Scatter, as from an

unextinguished hearth/ Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!/ Be through

my lips to unawakened Earth" (66-68). The words "unextinguished hearth"

represent the poets undying passion. The "hearth" is also at the centre of the

earth which helps make the connection between humanity and nature. Both are

constantly trying to reinvent themselves. When one scatters "ashes" it's at

one's death and that person becomes one with the earth. When one scatters

"sparks" it is these sparks that create new fires of creation and destruction.

These new "sparks" arise when the "dome" explodes and abandons old ways. Can

one ever escape the roots of creation? Shelley has many Blakean overtones of

creation and destruction in the final tercet of this poem. Shelley's says that

his lips are the "trumpet of prophecy" (69). And many say that Wordsworth is

egotistical? Again, he uses biblical sounding words to add drama and importance

to his prophetic vision. And it definitely helps achieve Shelley's intended

climax when he asks with hope: "If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

(70).This sentence could be rewritten substituting the word death, for the word

"Winter," and the word rebirth, could take the place of "spring."
Shelley, like all of the Romantic poets, constantly tries to achieve a

transcendence to sublime. In "Ode to the West Wind," Shelley uses the wind as

a power of change that flow through history, civilization, religions and human

life itself. Does the wind help Shelley achieve his transcendence? It seems

it has in some sense, but Shelley never achieves his full sublime. In poems

such as "Stanzas written in Dejection Near Naples" Shelley uses images of

"lightning" (15) and "flashing" (16) which help demonstrate that he can only

attain a partial sublime unlike a poet like William Wordsworth. Perhaps that's

why he tries to give rebirth to his individual imagination. One can never

restart totally new. Even the trees that will grow from "the winged seeds" are

not totally new, but that is the point Shelley is trying to make. He feels

himself to be part of a continuing cycle. Since Shelley is an atheist the only

way his soul can live on is through the "incantation" of his words. So, if his

transcendence is to live on in eternity and create inspiration and change in

others like the West Wind, then he has achieved something greater than he could

have imagined. But whether he grasped a complete transcendence for himself

while he was alive remains to be answered. It seems that it is only in his

death that the "Wild Spirit" (13) could be lifted "as a wave, a leaf, a cloud"

to blow free in the "Wild West Wind" (1).

ometheus Unbound (Shelley)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

For other works of this title, see Prometheus Unbound.

Joseph Severn, Posthumous Portrait of Shelley Writing Prometheus Unbound (1845)

Prometheus Unbound is a four-act play by Percy Bysshe Shelley first published in 1820,
concerned with the torments of the Greek mythological figure Prometheus and his
suffering at the hands of Zeus. It is inspired by Aeschylus's Prometheus Bound and
concerns Prometheus' release from captivity. Unlike Aeschylus' version, however, there
is no reconciliation between Prometheus and Zeus. Instead, Jupiter (Zeus) is overthrown,
which allows Prometheus to be released.
Shelley's play is closet drama, meaning it was not intended to be produced on the stage.
In the tradition of Romantic Poetry, Shelley wrote for the imagination, intending his
play's stage to reside in the imaginations of his readers.

• 1 Background
• 1.1 Æschylus
• 2 Play
• 2.1 Act I
• 2.2 Act II
• 2.3 Act III
• 2.4 Act IV
• 2.5 Characters
• 3 Themes
• 3.1 Satanic hero
• 3.2 Apocalyptic
• 3.3 Political
• 4 Technical aspects
• 4.1 Later editing
• 4.2 Allegory or myth
• 4.3 Critical response
• 5 Notes
• 6 References
• 7 External links

[edit] Background
Mary Shelley, in a letter on 5 September 1818, was the first to describe her husband
Percy Shelley's writing of Prometheus Unbound.[1] On 22 September 1818, Shelley, while
in Padua, wrote to Mary, who was at Este, requesting "The sheets of 'Prometheus
Unbound,' which you will find numbered from one to twenty-six on the table of the
pavilion."[2] There is little other evidence as to when Shelley began Prometheus Unbound
while he was living in Italy,[3] but Shelley first mentions his progress in a letter to Thomas
Peacock on 8 October 1818: "I have been writing - and indeed have just finished the first
act of a lyrical and classical drama, to be called 'Prometheus Unbound'."[4]
Shelley stopped working on the poem following the death of his daughter Clara Everina
Shelley on 24 September 1818. After her death, Shelley began to travel across Italy, and
would not progress with the drama until after 24 January 1819.[3] By April, the majority
of the play was completed, and Shelley wrote to Peacock on 6 April 1819: "My
Prometheus Unbound is just finished, and in a month or two I shall send it".[5] Shelley
also wrote to Leigh Hunt to tell him that the play was finished. However, the play was
not yet published; Shelley would be delayed in editing and finishing the work by another
death, that of his son William Shelley, who died on 7 June 1819.[3]
On 6 September 1819, Shelley wrote to Charles and James Ollier to say, "My
'Prometheus,' which has been long finished, is now being transcribed, and will soon be
forwarded to you for publication."[6] The play was delayed in publication, because John
Gisborne, who Shelley trusted to go to England with the text, delayed his journey. It was
not until December 1819 that the manuscript with the first three acts of Prometheus
Unbound was sent to England.[7] The fourth act was incomplete by this time, and on 23
December 1819, Shelley wrote to Gisborne, "I have just finished an additional act to
'Prometheus' which Mary is now transcribing, and which will be enclosed for your
inspection before it is transmitted to the Bookseller."[8]
While in Italy, Shelley became concerned about the progress of publishing Prometheus
Unbound. He wrote many letters to Charles Ollier from March until April asking about
the drama's progress and wanted to know if the text was accurate because he was unable
to check the proofs himself. Both Percy and Mary Shelley were eager to hear when the
book was published, and inquired Gisborne's wife, Thomas Medwin, and John Keats
about its release throughout July 1820. It was not until late August that they received
word that the book was published. They were eager to read the published version and
found one by November 1820.[9]
After they procured a copy, Shelley wrote to the Olliers on 10 November 1820: "Mr.
Gisborne has sent me a copy of the 'Prometheus,' which is certainly most beautifully
printed. It is to be regretted that the errors of the press are so numerous, and in many
respects so destructive of the sense of a species of poetry which, I fear, even with this
disadvantage, very few will understand or like."[10] A corrected edition was sent on 20
January 1821 along with a letter from Shelley that explains "the Errata of 'Prometheus,'
which I ought to have sent long since - a formidable list, as you will see".[11] Shelley did
not forget the printing errors, and even criticised Charles Ollier later when Shelley sent
Adonais to be published.[12]
[edit] Æschylus
Shelley's own introduction to the play explains his intentions behind the work. He
defends his choice to adapt Aeschylus' myth - his choice to have Jupiter overthrown
rather than Prometheus reconciled - with:
I have presumed to employ a similar license. The "Prometheus Unbound" of Æschylus
supposed the reconciliation of Jupiter with his victim as the price of the disclosure of the
danger threatened to his empire by the consummation of his marriage with Thetis. Thetis,
according to this view of the subject, was given in marriage to Peleus, and Prometheus,
by the permission of Jupiter, delivered from his captivity by Hercules. Had I framed my
story on this model, I should have done no more than have attempted to restore the lost
drama of Æschylus; an ambition which, if my preference to this mode of treating the
subject had incited me to cherish, the recollection of the high comparison such an attempt
would challenge might well abate. But, in truth, I was averse from a catastrophe so feeble
as that of reconciling the Champion with the Oppressor of mankind. The moral interest of
the fable, which is so powerfully sustained by the sufferings and endurance of
Prometheus, would be annihilated if we could conceive of him as unsaying his high
language and quailing before his successful and perfidious adversary.[13]
[edit] Play
[edit] Act I
Act I begins in the Indian Caucasus where the titan Prometheus is bound to a rock face
and he is surrounded by the nymphs Panthea and Ione. As morning breaks, Prometheus
cries out against the "Monarch of Gods and Daemons", Jupiter, and his tyrannous
kingship.[14] From his bound position, Prometheus claims to be greater than Jupiter before
relating his suffering to the conditions of nature, including the Earth, Heaven, Sun, Sea,
and Shadow. He turns to how nature has aided in his torture along with the constant
tearing at his flesh by "Heaven's winged hound", the hawks of Jupiter.[15] As he accounts
his sufferings more and more, he reaches a peak of declaring that he would "The curse/
Once breathed on thee I would recall."[16] Four voices, from the mountains, springs, air,
and whirlwinds, respond to Prometheus through describing how they see the world and
how "we shrank back: for dreams of ruin/ To frozen caves our flight pursuing/ Made us
keep silence".[17] The Earth then joins in to describe how all parts of the world cried out
Prometheus reflects on the voices before returning to his own suffering at Jupiter's hands
and recalling his love for the Oceanid Asia. Shortly after, he demands to hear his curse
against Jupiter, and the Earth tells Prometheus "I dare not speak like life, lest Heaven's
fell King/ Should hear, and link me to some wheel of pain/ More torturing than the one
whereon I roll" and also that he is "more than God/ Being wise and kind".[18] Prometheus
asks who he is talking to, and the Earth admits to being the mother of all who suffers
under Jupiter's tyranny. Prometheus praises her, but demands that she recalls the curse he
laid upon Jupiter. The Earth responds by describing Zoroaster and that there are two
realities: the current and the shadow reality that exists "Till death unite them and they
part no more".[19] She then mentions Demogorgon, "the supreme Tyrant" of the shadow
realm, and asks Prometheus to call upon "Thine own ghost, or the ghost of Jupiter,/
Hades, or Typhon or what mightier Gods/ From all-prolific Evil" if he wishes to hear his
curse spoken again.[19]
Taking her advice, Prometheus calls upon the Phantasm of Jupiter, and Ione and Panthea
describe the phantasm's appearance soon after. The phantasm first asks, "Why have the
secret/ powers of this strange world/ Driven me, a frail and empty phantom, hither/ On
direst storms?"[20] Prometheus commands the phantasm to recall the curse against Jupiter,
and the phantasm obeys:
Fiend, I defy thee! with a calm, fixed mind,

All that thou canst inflict I bid thee do;

Foul Tyrant both of Gods and Human-kind,

One only being shalt thou not subdue....

Thou art omnipotent.

O'er all things but thyself I gave thee power,

And my own will....

I curse thee! let a sufferer's curse

Clasp thee, his torturer, like remorse;

'Till thine Infinity shall be

A robe of envenomed agony;

And thine Omnipotence a crown of pain,

To cling like burning gold round thy dissolving brain.[21]

After hearing these words, Prometheus repents and claims, "I wish no living thing to
suffer pain".[22] The Earth laments that Prometheus is vanquished and Ione responds by
claiming that he has not been, but both are interrupted by the appearance of Mercury.
With him appear a group of furies who hope to torture Prometheus, but Mercury
threatens and keeps them from interfering as he brings his message from Jupiter: "I come,
by the great Father's will driven down,/ To execute a doom of new revenge."[23]
Although Mercury admits to pitying Prometheus, he is bound to oppose Prometheus who
stands against Jupiter. He asks Prometheus to reveal a secret of Jupiter's fate only
Prometheus knows, and Prometheus refuses to submit to Jupiter's will. Mercury tries to
barter with Prometheus, offering him the pleasure of being free from bondage and being
welcomed among the gods, but Prometheus refuses. At the refusal, Jupiter makes his
anger known by causing thunder to ring out across the mountains. Mercury departs at the
omen, and the furies begin to taunt Prometheus by saying that they attack people from
within before they attack Prometheus without. After the all of the furies but one leave,
Panthea and Ione despair over Prometheus's tortured body. Prometheus describes his
torture as part of his martyrdom and tells the lone fury, "Thy words are like a cloud of
winged snakes;/ And yet I pity those they torture not.", to which to fury departs.[24]
Soon after, Prometheus declares that peace comes with death, but that he would never
want to be mortal. The Earth responds to Prometheus, "I felt thy torture, son, with such
mixed joy/ As pain and virtue give."[25] At that moment, a Chorus of Spirits appears and
celebrate Prometheus's secret knowledge, which then break into accounts of dying
individuals and the ultimate triumph of good people over evil. The spirits together tell
Prometheus, "Thou shalt quell this horseman grim,/ Woundless though in heart or limb",
an act which shall happen because of Prometheus's secret.[26] The spirits depart, leaving
Ione and Panthea to discuss the spirits' message with Prometheus, and Prometheus recalls
the Oceanid Asia, and the Act ends with Panthea telling Prometheus that Asia awaits him.
[edit] Act II
Act II Scene I begins in an Indian Caucasus valley where the Oceanid Asia proclaims that
"This is the season, this the day, the hour;/ At sunrise thou shouldst come, sweet sister
mine" and so Panthea enters.[27] Panthea describes to Asia how life for her and Ione has
changed since Prometheus's fall and how she came to know of Prometheus's love in a
dream. Asia asks Panthea to "lift/ Thine eyes, that I may read his written soul!" to which
Panthea agreed, and the dream of Prometheus was revealed to Asia.[28] Asia witnesses
another dream in Panthea's eyes, and the two discuss the many new images of nature that
both of their minds are filled with and the words "Follow! Follow!" are repeated in their
minds. Their words are soon repeated by Echoes, which join in telling the two to follow.
Asia questions the Echoes, but the Echoes only beckon them further, "In the world
unknown/ sleeps a voice unspoken;/ By they step alone/ Can its rest be broken", and the
two begin to follow the voices.[29]
Scene II takes place in a forest with a group of spirits and fauns. Although the scene
transitions to the next quickly, the spirits describe Asia's and Panthea's journey and how
"There those enchanted eddies play/ Of echoes, music-tongued, which draw,/ By
Demogorgon's mighty law,/ With melting rapture, or sweet awe,/ All spirits on that secret
way".[30] Scene III takes place in mountains, to which Panthea declares, "Hither the sound
has borne us - to the realm/ Of Demogorgon".[31] After Asia and Panthea are
overwhelmed by their surroundings and witness the acts of nature around the mountains,
a Song of Spirits begins, calling them "To the deep, to the deep,/ Down, down!"[32] Asia
and Panthea descend, and Scene IV begins in the cave of the Demogorgon. Panthea
describes Demogorgon upon his ebon throne: "I see a mighty darkness/ Filling the seat of
power, and rays of gloom/ Dart round, as light from the meridian sun,/ Ungazed upon and
shapeless; neither limb,/ Nor form, nor outline; yet we feel it is/ A living Spirit."[33]
Asia questions Demogorgon about the creator of the world, and Demogorgon declares
that God created all, including all of the good and all of the bad. Asia becomes upset that
Demogorgon will not reveal the name of God, first demanding, "Utter his name: a world
pining in pain/ Asks but his name: curses shall drag him down."[34] Asia continues to
question Demogorgon, and accounts the history of Saturn and Jupiter as rulers of the
universe. She declares that "Then Prometheus/ Gave wisdom, which is strength, to
Jupiter,/ And with this law alone, 'Let man be free,'/ Clothed him with the dominion of
wide Heaven. To know nor faith, nor love, nor law; to be/ Omnipotent but friendless is to
reign".[35] She criticizes Jupiter for all of the problems of the world: famine, disease, strife
and death. Prometheus, she continues, gave man fire, the knowledge of mining, speech,
science, and medicine. Demogorgon simply responses, "All spirits are enslaved which
serve things evil:/ Thou knowest if Jupiter be such or no", and, when Asia continues to
press Demogorgon for answers, and Demogorgon claims that "All things are subject to
eternal Love".[36]
Asia declares that Demogorgon's answer is the same as that her own heart had given her,
and then asks when Prometheus will be freed. Demogorgon cries out "Behold!" and Asia
watches as the mountain opens and chariots moves out across the night sky, which
Demogorgon explains as being driven by the Hours. One Hour stays to talk to Asia, and
Asia questions him as to who he is. The Hour responds, "I am the shadow of a destiny/
More dread than is my aspect: ere yon planet/ Has set, the darkness which ascends with
me/ Shall wrap in lasting night heaven's kingless throne."[37] Asia questions as to what the
Hour means, and Panthea describes how Demogorgon has risen from his throne to join
the Hour to travel across the sky. Panthea witnesses another Hour come, and that Hour
asks Asia and Panthea to ride with him. The chariot takes off, and Scene V takes place
upon a mountaintop as the chariot stops. The Hour claims that his horses are tired, but
Asia encourages him onwards. However, Panthea asks the hour to stay and "tell whence
is the light/ Which fills the cloud? the sun is yet unrisen", and the Hour tells her "Apollo/
Is held in heaven by wonder; and the light... Flows from thy mighty sister."[38]
Panthea realizes that Asia is changed, and described how her sister radiates with beauty.
A song fills the air singing the "Life of Life", a song about the power of love. Asia tells
of her current state and describes, "Realms where the air we breathe is love,/ Which in
the wnds on the waves doth move,/ Harmonizing this earth with what we feel above."[39]
It is through her love that she witnesses how people move through time, and ends with
the idea of a coming paradise.
[edit] Act III
Act III Scene I takes place in heaven, with Jupiter upon his throne before other gods.
Jupiter speaks to the gods and calls them to rejoice over his omnipotence. He claims to
have conquered all but the soul of mankind, "which might make/ Our antique empire
insecure, though built/ On eldest faith, and hell's coeval, fear".[40] Jupiter admits that
"Even now have I begotten a strange wonder,/ That fatal child, the terror of the earth,/
Who waits but till the distant hour arrive,/ Bearing from Demogorgon's vacant throne/
The dreadful might of ever-living limbs/ Which clothed that awful spirit unbeheld,/ To
redescend, and trample out the spark."[41] He commands the gods to drink before saying,
"even then/ Two mighty spirits, mingling, made a third/ Mightier than either, which,
unbodied now,/ Between us floats, felt, although unbeheld,/ Waiting the incarnation,
which ascends... from Demogorgon's throne/ Victory! victory! Feel'st thou not, O world,/
The earthquake of his chariot thundering up/ Olympus? Awful shape, what art though?
Speak!"[42] Demogorgon appears and answers - Eternity. He proclaims to be Jupiter's
child and more powerful than Jupiter. Jupiter pleads for mercy, and claims that not even
Prometheus would have him suffer. When Demogorgon does not respond, Jupiter
declares that he shall fight Demogorgon, but as Jupiter moves to attack, the elements
refuse to help him and so Jupiter falls.
Scene II takes place at a river on Atlantis, and Ocean discusses Jupiter's fall with Apollo.
Apollo declares that he will not dwell on the fall, and the two part. Scene III takes place
on the Caucasus after Hercules has unbound Prometheus. Hercules tells Prometheus:
Most glorious among spirits, thus doth strength/ To wisdom, courage, and long-suffering
love,/ and thee, who art the form they animate,/ Minister like a slave."[43] Prometheus
thanks Hercules, and then turns to Asia and describes to hers a cave in which they could
call home and be with each other forever. Prometheus requests the Hour to take Ione,
with the conch shell of Proteus, over the earth so she can "breathe into the many-folded
shell, Loosing its mighty music; it shall be/ As thunder mingled with clear echoes: then/
Return; and thou shalt dwell besides our cave."[44] He calls upon the Earth, and she
responds that she feels life and joy. She then proclaims, "And death shall be the last
embrace of her/ Who takes the life she gave, even as a mother/ Folding her child, says,
'Leave me not again.'"[45]
Asia questions Earth as to why she mentions death, and the Earth responds that Asia
could not understand because she is immortal. She then describes the nature of death, of
war, and faithless faith. She then calls forth a spirit, her torch bearer, who would guide
Prometheus, Asia, and the others to a temple that was once dedicated to Prometheus and
will become their cave to dwell in. Scene IV takes place in a forest near the cave, the
place the spirit guided them. Prometheus describes how the spirit was once close to Asia,
and Asia and the spirit begin to talk to each other about nature and love. The Hour comes
and tells of a change: "Soon as the sound had ceased whose thunder filled/ The abysses of
the sky and the wide earth,/ There was a change: the impalpable thing air/ And the all-
circling sunlight were transformed,/ As if the sense of love dissolved in them/ Had folded
itself round the sphered world."[46] He then describes a revolution within mankind:
thrones were abandoned and men treated each other as equals and with love. Mankind no
longer feared Jupiter the tyrant, men no longer acted as tyrants themselves, and "The
painted veil, by those who were, called life,/ Which mimicked, as with colours idly
spread,/ All men believed and hoped, is torn aside;/ The loathsome mask has fallen, the
man remains/ Sceptreless, free, uncircumscribed, but man/ Equal, unclassed, tribeless,
and nationless,/ Exempt from awe, worship, degree, the king/ Over himself; just, gentle,
wise: but man/ Passionless; no, yet free from guilt or pain".[47]
[edit] Act IV
Act IV opens as a voice fills the forest near Prometheus's cave as Ione and Panthea sleep.
The voice describes the dawn before a group of dark forms and shadows, who claim to be
the dead Hours, begin to sing of the King of the Hours' death. Ione awakes and asks
Panthea who they were, and Panthea explains. The voice breaks in to ask "where are ye"
before the Hours describe their history. Panthea describes spirits of the human mind
approaching, and these spirits soon join in with the others singing and rejoice in love.
Eventually, they decide to break their song and go across the world to proclaim love. Ione
and Panthea notice a new music, which Panthea describes as "the deep music of the
rolling world/ Kindling within the strings of the waved air,/ Æolian modulations."[48]
Panthea then describes how the two melodies are parted, and Ione interrupts by
describing a beautiful chariot with a winged infant whose "two eyes are heavens/ Of
liquid darkness, which the Deity/ Within seems pouring, as a storm is poured/ From
jagged clouds" and "in its hand/ It sways a quivering moon-beam".[49] Panthea resumes
describing a sphere of music and light containing a sleeping child who is the Spirit of the
The Earth interrupts and describes "The joy, the triumph, the delight, the madness!/ The
boundless, overflowing, bursting gladness,/ The vapourous exultation not to be
confined!"[50] The Moon responds by describing a light which has come from the Earth
and penetrates the Moon. The Earth explains how all of the world "Laugh with a vast and
inextinguishable laughter".[50] The Moon then describes how all of the moon is awakening
and singing. The Earth sings of how man is restored and united: "Man, oh, not men! a
chain of linked thought,/ Of love and might to be divided not,/ Compelling the elements
with adamantine stress".[51] The Earth continues by declaring that man now controls even
lightning, and that the Earth has no secrets left from man.
Panthea and Ione interrupt the Earth and the Moon by describing the passing of the music
as a nymph rising from water. Panthea then claims, "A mighty Power, which is as
darkness,/ Is rising out of Earth, and from the sky/ Is showered like night, and from
within the air/ Bursts, like eclipse which has been gathered up/ Into the pores of
sunlight".[52] Demogorgon appears and speaks to the Earth, the Moon, and "Ye kings of
suns and stars, Dæmons and Gods,/ Ætherial Dominations, who possess/ Elysian,
windless, fortunate abodes/ Beyond Heaven's constellated wilderness".[53] The
Demogorgon speaks to all of the voices the final lines of the play:
This is the day, which down the void abysm

At the Earth-born's spell yawns for Heaven's despotism,

And Conquest is dragged captive through the deep:

Love, from its awful throne of patient power

In the wise heart, from the last giddy hour

Of dead endurance, from the slippery, steep,

And narrow verge of crag-like agony, springs

And folds over the world its healing wings.

Gentleness, Virtue, Wisdom, and Endurance,

These are the seals of that most firm assurance

Which bars the pit over Destruction's strength;

And if, with infirm hand, Eternity,

Mother of many acts and hours, should free

The serpent that would clasp her with his length;

These are the spells by which to re-assume

An empire o'er the disentangled doom.

To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite;

To forgive wrongs darker than death or night;

To defy Power, which seems omnipotent;

To love, and bear; to hope till Hope creates

From its own wreck the thing it contemplates;

Neither to change, nor falter, nor repent;

This, like thy glory, Titan, is to be

Good, great and joyous, beautiful and free;

This is alone Life, Joy, Empire, and Victory.[54]

[edit] Characters
• Prometheus.
• Demogorgon.
• Jupiter.
• The Earth.
• Ocean.
• Apollo.
• Mercury.
• Hercules.
• Asia. (Oceanides)
• Panthea. (Oceanides)
• Ione (Oceanides)
• The Phantasm of Jupiter.
• The Spirit of the Earth.
• Spirits of the Hours.
• Spirits.
• Echoes.
• Fawns.
• Furies.
[edit] Themes
[edit] Satanic hero
Shelley compares his Romantic hero Prometheus to Milton's Satan from Paradise Lost.
The only imaginary being, resembling in any degree Prometheus, is Satan; and
Prometheus is, in my judgment, a more poetical character than Satan, because, in addition
to courage, and majesty, and firm and patient opposition to omnipotent force, he is
susceptible of being described as exempt from the taints of ambition, envy, revenge, and
a desire for personal aggrandizement, which, in the hero of Paradise Lost, interfere with
the interest. The character of Satan engenders in the mind a pernicious casuistry which
leads us to weigh his faults with his wrongs, and to excuse the former because the latter
exceed all measure. In the minds of those who consider that magnificent fiction with a
religious feeling it engenders something worse. But Prometheus is, as it were, the type of
the highest perfection of moral and intellectual nature, impelled by the purest and the
truest motives to the best and noblest ends.[55]
In other words, while Milton's Satan embodies a spirit of rebellion, and, as Maud Bodkin
claims, "The theme of his heroic struggle and endurance against hopeless odds wakens in
poet and reader a sense of his own state as against the odds of his destiny".[56] However,
Satan's character is flawed because his aims are not humanistic. Satan is like Prometheus
in his struggle against the universe, but Satan loses his heroic aspect after being turned
into a serpent who desires only revenge and becomes an enemy to mankind.[56] But
Bodkin, unlike Shelley, believes that humans would view Prometheus and Satan together
in a negative way:
We must similarly recognize that within our actual experience the factors we distinguish
are more massively intangible, more mutually incompatible and more insistent than they
can appear as translated into reflective speech. Take, for example, the sense of sin
imaginatively revived as we respond to Milton's presentation of Satan, or to the
condemnation, suggested by Aeschylus' drama, of the rebellion of Prometheus in
effecting the 'progress' of man. What in our analysis we might express as the thought that
progress is evil or sinful, would, in the mind of Aeschylus, Abercromer comments, 'more
likely be a shadowy relic of loyalty to the tribe' - a vague fear of anything that might
weaken social solidarity. Not in the mind of Aeschylus only but in the mind of the reader
of to-day.[56]
If we do sympathize with Prometheus or Satan, we view Jupiter and God as omnipotent
and unchallengeable beings that rely on their might to stay in power. Furthermore,
Æschylus's Jupiter is a representation of Destiny, and it is a force that is constantly at
odds with the individual's free will.[57] In Milton, God is able to easily overthrow Satan.
Although both divine beings represent something that is opposed to the human will, both
represent something inside of the human mind that seeks to limit uncontrolled free will:
reason and conscience. However, Shelley's version of Jupiter is unable to overwhelm the
will of Prometheus, and Shelley gives the power of reason and conscience to his God: the
Unseen Power of Hymn to Intellectual Beauty.[58]
The character Demogorgon represents, according to Bodkin, the Unconscious. It is "the
unknown force within the soul that, after extreme conflict and utter surrender of the
conscious will, by virtue of the imaginative, creative element drawn down into the
depths, can arise and shake the whole accustomed attitude of a man, changing its
established tensions and oppressions."[59] The Demogorgon is the opposite of Jupiter who,
"within the myth, is felt as such a tension, a tyranny established in the far past by the
spirit of a man upon himself and his world, a tyranny that, till it can be overthrown, holds
him straightened and tormented, disunited from his own creative energies."[59]
[edit] Apocalyptic
In his Prometheus, Shelley seeks to create a perfect revolutionary in an ideal, abstract
sense (thus the difficulty of the poem). Shelley's Prometheus could be loosely based upon
the Jesus of both the Bible, Christian orthodox tradition, as well as Milton's character of
the Son in Paradise Lost. While Jesus or the Son sacrifices himself to save mankind, this
act of sacrifice does nothing to overthrow the type of tyranny embodied, for Shelley, in
the figure of God the Father. Prometheus resembles Jesus in that both uncompromisingly
speak truth to power, and in how Prometheus overcomes his tyrant, Jupiter; Prometheus
conquers Jupiter by "recalling" a curse Prometheus had made against Jupiter in a period
before the play begins. The word "recall" in this sense means both to remember and to
retract, and Prometheus, by forgiving Jupiter, removes Jupiter's power, which all along
seems to have stemmed from his opponents' anger and will to violence.[60]
However, In Act I, Shelley relies on the Furies as the image of the crucifixion of Christ.
When Prometheus is tortured by the furies, Panthea describes Prometheus as "a youth/
With patient looks nailed to a crucifix."[62] Soon after, Prometheus asks a fury "Remit the
anguish of that lighted stare;/ Close those wan lips; let that thorn-wounded brow/ Stream
not with blood" and "So thy sick throes shake not that crucifix".[62]
In the regeneration of mankind and the world are symbolized by the union of Prometheus
and Asia.[63] In order to achieve this, Shelley relies on classical myth in order to draw
upon the idea of Saturn's Golden Age, and then he combines it with the Biblical ideas of
the fall and the millennium.[64]
[edit] Political
Prometheus, then, is also Shelley's answer to the mistakes of the French Revolution and
its cycle of replacing one tyrant with another. Shelley wished to show how a revolution
could be conceived which would avoid doing just that, and in the end of this play, there is
no power in charge at all; it is an anarchist's paradise.
Shelley finishes his "Preface" to the play with an evocation of his intentions as a poet:
My purpose has hitherto been simply to familiarize the highly refined imagination of the
more select classes of poetical readers with beautiful idealisms of moral excellence;
aware that, until the mind can love, and admire, and trust, and hope, and endure, reasoned
principles of moral conduct are seeds cast upon the highway of life which the
unconscious passenger tramples into dust, although they would bear the harvest of his
Essentially, Prometheus Unbound, as re-wrought in Shelley's hands, is a fiercely
revolutionary text championing free will, goodness, hope and idealism in the face of
oppression. The Epilogue, spoken by Demogorgon, expresses Shelley's tenets as a poet
and as a revolutionary:
To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite;
To forgive wrongs darker than death or night;
To defy Power, which seems omnipotent;
To love, and bear; to hope till Hope creates
From its own wreck the thing it contemplates;
Neither to change, nor falter, nor repent;
This, like thy glory, Titan, is to be
Good, great and joyous, beautiful and free;
This is alone Life, Joy, Empire, and Victory.
Shelley's Prometheus Unbound responds to the revolutions and economic changes
affecting his society, and the old views of good and evil needed to change in order to
accommodate the current civilization.[65]
[edit] Technical aspects
[edit] Later editing
Shelley continued working on the play until his death on 8 July 1822. After his death,
Timothy Shelley, his father, refused to allow Mary Shelley to publish any of Shelley's
poems, which kept any immediate corrected editions of the play from being printed.
Although reluctant to help the Parisian publishers A. and W. Galignani with an edition of
Shelley's works, she eventually sent an "Errata" in January 1829. The Galignanis relied
on most of her punctuation changes, but only a few of her spelling changes. The next
critical edition was not released until 1839, when Mary Shelley produced her own edition
of Shelley's work for Edward Moxon. Included with the edition was Mary Shelley's notes
on the production and history of Prometheus Unbound.[66]
Before his death, Shelley completed many corrections to a manuscript edition of his
work, but many of these changes were not carried over into Mary Shelley's edition.[67]
William Rossetti, in his 1870 edition, questioned Mary Shelley's efforts: "Mrs. Shelley
brought deep affection and unmeasured enthusiasm to the task of editing her husband's
works. But ill health and the pain of reminiscence curtailed her editorial labours: besides
which, to judge from the result, you would say that Mrs. shelley was not one of the
persons to whome the gift of consistent accuracy has been imparted".[68] Later, Charles
Locock, in his 1911 edition of Shelley's works, speculated: "May we suppose that Mrs.
Shelley never made use of that particular list at all? that what she did use was a
preliminary list, - the list which Shelley "hoped to despatch in a day or two" (November
10, 1820) - not the "formidable list"... which may in the course of nine years have been
mislaid? Failing this hypothesis, we can only assume that Shelley's 'formidable list' was
not nearly so formidable as it might have been".[69]
Although Mary Shelley's editing of Prometheus Unbound has its detractors, her version
of the text was relied on for many of the later editions. G. G. Foster, in 1845, published
the first American edition of Shelley's poems, which relied on both Mary Shelley's edits
and her notes. Foster was so attached to Mary Shelley's edition that, when Edgar Allan
Poe suggested changing some of the text, Foster responded "But I have not felt at liberty
to change the text sanctioned by Mrs. Shelley - whom I regard as the evangelist of her
transifigured lord".[70] However, he, like Rossetti, tended to differ from Mary Shelley
when it came to punctuation and capitalization. Rossetti went beyond Foster, and,
prefaced his edition with: "I have considered it my clear duty and prerogative to set
absolutely wrong grammar right... and to set absolutely wrong rhyming right... and to set
absolutely wrong metre right..." but made sure to point out that his purpose was to respect
Shelley's original poetic intent.[71]
[edit] Allegory or myth
Earl Wasserman believed that Prometheus personified "One Mind" among humanity, and
this "the drama is the history of the One Mind's evolution into perfection."[72]
[edit] Critical response
Melvin Solve believed that "Prometheus Unbound is so highly idealized and so remote
from the conditions of life that the moral lesson is not essential to the enjoyment of the
piece, and is, in fact, so well disguised that the critics have differed widely as to its

Songs of Innocence and of Experience
Songs of Innocence and of Experience: Shewing the Two Contrary States of the
Human Soul are two books of poetry by the English poet and painter, William
Blake. Although Songs of Innocence was first published by itself in 1789, it is
believed that Songs of Experience has always been published in conjunction with
Innocence since its completion in 1794.
Songs of Innocence mainly consists of poems describing the innocence and joy of the
natural world, advocating free love and a closer relationship with God, and most
famously including Blake's poem The Lamb. Its poems have a generally light, upbeat and
pastoral feel and are typically written from the perspective of children or written about
Directly contrasting this, Songs of Experience instead deals with the loss of innocence
after exposure to the material world and all of its mortal sin during adult life, including
works such as The Tyger. Poems here are darker, concentrating on more political and
serious themes. Throughout both books, many poems fall into pairs, so that a similar
situation or theme can be seen in both Innocence and Experience.
Many of the poems appearing in Songs of Innocence have a counterpart in Songs of
Experience with opposing perspectives of the world. This has been understood to be a
result of Blake losing faith in the goodness of mankind at the chaotic end of the French
Revolution. This analysis seeks to explain much of the volume's sense of despair. Blake
gave signs through his work that demonstrate his belief that children lose their innocence
through exploitation, education, and religion, all of which put dogma before mercy. He
did not, however, seem to believe that children should be kept from gaining experience.
His poems reflect his belief that every child should be free to gain experience through
their own discoveries, unfettered by the dictums of previous generations. In this work as
in later works, Blake demonstrates his belief that innocence and experience were "the two
contrary states of the human soul", and that innocence is complemented, not lessened, by

Tess of the d’Urbervilles

Thomas Hardy

Get this SparkNote to go!

< Previous Section
Next Section >
Character List
Plot Overview
T he poor peddler John Durbeyfield is stunned to learn that he is the descendent of
an ancient noble family, the d’Urbervilles. Meanwhile, Tess, his eldest daughter, joins
the other village girls in the May Day dance, where Tess briefly exchanges glances
with a young man. Mr. Durbeyfield and his wife decide to send Tess to the
d’Urberville mansion, where they hope Mrs. d’Urberville will make Tess’s fortune. In
reality, Mrs. d’Urberville is no relation to Tess at all: her husband, the merchant
Simon Stokes, simply changed his name to d’Urberville after he retired. But Tess
does not know this fact, and when the lascivious Alec d’Urberville, Mrs. d’Urberville’s
son, procures Tess a job tending fowls on the d’Urberville estate, Tess has no choice
but to accept, since she blames herself for an accident involving the family’s horse,
its only means of income.
Tess spends several months at this job, resisting Alec’s attempts to seduce her.
Finally, Alec takes advantage of her in the woods one night after a fair. Tess knows
she does not love Alec. She returns home to her family to give birth to Alec’s child,
whom she christens Sorrow. Sorrow dies soon after he is born, and Tess spends a
miserable year at home before deciding to seek work elsewhere. She finally accepts
a job as a milkmaid at the Talbothays Dairy.
At Talbothays, Tess enjoys a period of contentment and happiness. She befriends
three of her fellow milkmaids—Izz, Retty, and Marian—and meets a man named
Angel Clare, who turns out to be the man from the May Day dance at the beginning
of the novel. Tess and Angel slowly fall in love. They grow closer throughout Tess’s
time at Talbothays, and she eventually accepts his proposal of marriage. Still, she is
troubled by pangs of conscience and feels she should tell Angel about her past. She
writes him a confessional note and slips it under his door, but it slides under the
carpet and Angel never sees it.
After their wedding, Angel and Tess both confess indiscretions: Angel tells Tess about
an affair he had with an older woman in London, and Tess tells Angel about her
history with Alec. Tess forgives Angel, but Angel cannot forgive Tess. He gives her
some money and boards a ship bound for Brazil, where he thinks he might establish a
farm. He tells Tess he will try to accept her past but warns her not to try to join him
until he comes for her.
Tess struggles. She has a difficult time finding work and is forced to take a job at an
unpleasant and unprosperous farm. She tries to visit Angel’s family but overhears his
brothers discussing Angel’s poor marriage, so she leaves. She hears a wandering
preacher speak and is stunned to discover that he is Alec d’Urberville, who has been
converted to Christianity by Angel’s father, the Reverend Clare. Alec and Tess are
each shaken by their encounter, and Alec appallingly begs Tess never to tempt him
again. Soon after, however, he again begs Tess to marry him, having turned his back
on his -religious ways.
Tess learns from her sister Liza-Lu that her mother is near death, and Tess is forced
to return home to take care of her. Her mother recovers, but her father unexpectedly
dies soon after. When the family is evicted from their home, Alec offers help. But
Tess refuses to accept, knowing he only wants to obligate her to him again.
At last, Angel decides to forgive his wife. He leaves Brazil, desperate to find her.
Instead, he finds her mother, who tells him Tess has gone to a village called
Sandbourne. There, he finds Tess in an expensive boardinghouse called The Herons,
where he tells her he has forgiven her and begs her to take him back. Tess tells him
he has come too late. She was unable to resist and went back to Alec d’Urberville.
Angel leaves in a daze, and, heartbroken to the point of madness, Tess goes upstairs
and stabs her lover to death. When the landlady finds Alec’s body, she raises an
alarm, but Tess has already fled to find Angel.
Angel agrees to help Tess, though he cannot quite believe that she has actually
murdered Alec. They hide out in an empty mansion for a few days, then travel
farther. When they come to Stonehenge, Tess goes to sleep, but when morning
breaks shortly thereafter, a search party discovers them. Tess is arrested and sent to
jail. Angel and Liza-Lu watch as a black flag is raised over the prison, signaling Tess’s
Wuthering Heights
Emily Brontë

Get this SparkNote to go!

< Previous Section

Next Section >
Character List
Plot Overview
I n the late winter months of 1801, a man named Lockwood rents a manor house
called Thrushcross Grange in the isolated moor country of England. Here, he meets
his dour landlord, Heathcliff, a wealthy man who lives in the ancient manor of
Wuthering Heights, four miles away from the Grange. In this wild, stormy
countryside, Lockwood asks his housekeeper, Nelly Dean, to tell him the story of
Heathcliff and the strange denizens of Wuthering Heights. Nelly consents, and
Lockwood writes down his recollections of her tale in his diary; these written
recollections form the main part of Wuthering Heights.
Nelly remembers her childhood. As a young girl, she works as a servant at Wuthering
Heights for the owner of the manor, Mr. Earnshaw, and his family. One day, Mr.
Earnshaw goes to Liverpool and returns home with an orphan boy whom he will raise
with his own children. At first, the Earnshaw children—a boy named Hindley and his
younger sister Catherine—detest the dark-skinned Heathcliff. But Catherine quickly
comes to love him, and the two soon grow inseparable, spending their days playing
on the moors. After his wife’s death, Mr. Earnshaw grows to prefer Heathcliff to his
own son, and when Hindley continues his cruelty to Heathcliff, Mr. Earnshaw sends
Hindley away to college, keeping Heathcliff nearby.
Three years later, Mr. Earnshaw dies, and Hindley inherits Wuthering Heights. He
returns with a wife, Frances, and immediately seeks revenge on Heathcliff. Once an
orphan, later a pampered and favored son, Heathcliff now finds himself treated as a
common laborer, forced to work in the fields. Heathcliff continues his close
relationship with Catherine, however. One night they wander to Thrushcross Grange,
hoping to tease Edgar and Isabella Linton, the cowardly, snobbish children who live
there. Catherine is bitten by a dog and is forced to stay at the Grange to recuperate
for five weeks, during which time Mrs. Linton works to make her a proper young lady.
By the time Catherine returns, she has become infatuated with Edgar, and her
relationship with Heathcliff grows more complicated.
When Frances dies after giving birth to a baby boy named Hareton, Hindley descends
into the depths of alcoholism, and behaves even more cruelly and abusively toward
Heathcliff. Eventually, Catherine’s desire for social advancement prompts her to
become engaged to Edgar Linton, despite her overpowering love for Heathcliff.
Heathcliff runs away from Wuthering Heights, staying away for three years, and
returning shortly after Catherine and Edgar’s marriage.
When Heathcliff returns, he immediately sets about seeking revenge on all who have
wronged him. Having come into a vast and mysterious wealth, he deviously lends
money to the drunken Hindley, knowing that Hindley will increase his debts and fall
into deeper despondency. When Hindley dies, Heathcliff inherits the manor. He also
places himself in line to inherit Thrushcross Grange by marrying Isabella Linton,
whom he treats very cruelly. Catherine becomes ill, gives birth to a daughter, and
dies. Heathcliff begs her spirit to remain on Earth—she may take whatever form she
will, she may haunt him, drive him mad—just as long as she does not leave him
alone. Shortly thereafter, Isabella flees to London and gives birth to Heathcliff’s son,
named Linton after her family. She keeps the boy with her there.
Thirteen years pass, during which Nelly Dean serves as Catherine’s daughter’s
nursemaid at Thrushcross Grange. Young Catherine is beautiful and headstrong like
her mother, but her temperament is modified by her father’s gentler influence. Young
Catherine grows up at the Grange with no knowledge of Wuthering Heights; one day,
however, wandering through the moors, she discovers the manor, meets Hareton,
and plays together with him. Soon afterwards, Isabella dies, and Linton comes to live
with Heathcliff. Heathcliff treats his sickly, whining son even more cruelly than he
treated the boy’s mother.
Three years later, Catherine meets Heathcliff on the moors, and makes a visit to
Wuthering Heights to meet Linton. She and Linton begin a secret romance conducted
entirely through letters. When Nelly destroys Catherine’s collection of letters, the girl
begins sneaking out at night to spend time with her frail young lover, who asks her to
come back and nurse him back to health. However, it quickly becomes apparent that
Linton is pursuing Catherine only because Heathcliff is forcing him to; Heathcliff
hopes that if Catherine marries Linton, his legal claim upon Thrushcross Grange—and
his revenge upon Edgar Linton—will be complete. One day, as Edgar Linton grows ill
and nears death, Heathcliff lures Nelly and Catherine back to Wuthering Heights, and
holds them prisoner until Catherine marries Linton. Soon after the marriage, Edgar
dies, and his death is quickly followed by the death of the sickly Linton. Heathcliff
now controls both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. He forces Catherine to
live at Wuthering Heights and act as a common servant, while he rents Thrushcross
Grange to Lockwood.
Nelly’s story ends as she reaches the present. Lockwood, appalled, ends his tenancy
at Thrushcross Grange and returns to London. However, six months later, he pays a
visit to Nelly, and learns of further developments in the story. Although Catherine
originally mocked Hareton’s ignorance and illiteracy (in an act of retribution,
Heathcliff ended Hareton’s education after Hindley died), Catherine grows to love
Hareton as they live together at Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff becomes more and
more obsessed with the memory of the elder Catherine, to the extent that he begins
speaking to her ghost. Everything he sees reminds him of her. Shortly after a night
spent walking on the moors, Heathcliff dies. Hareton and young Catherine inherit
Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, and they plan to be married on the next
New Year’s Day. After hearing the end of the story, Lockwood goes to visit the graves
of Catherine and Heathcliff.

The story of Wuthering Heights is told through flashbacks recorded in diary entries,
and events are often presented out of chronological order—Lockwood’s narrative
takes place after Nelly’s narrative, for instance, but is interspersed with Nelly’s story
in his journal. Nevertheless, the novel contains enough clues to enable an
approximate reconstruction of its chronology, which was elaborately designed by
Emily Brontë. For instance, Lockwood’s diary entries are recorded in the late months
of 1801 and in September 1802; in 1801, Nelly tells Lockwood that she has lived at
Thrushcross Grange for eighteen years, since Catherine’s marriage to Edgar, which
must then have occurred in 1783. We know that Catherine was engaged to Edgar for
three years, and that Nelly was twenty-two when they were engaged, so the
engagement must have taken place in 1780, and Nelly must have been born in 1758.
Since Nelly is a few years older than Catherine, and since Lockwood comments that
Heathcliff is about forty years old in 1801, it stands to reason that Heathcliff and
Catherine were born around 1761, three years after Nelly. There are several other
clues like this in the novel (such as Hareton’s birth, which occurs in June, 1778). The
following chronology is based on those clues, and should closely approximate the
timing of the novel’s important events. A “~” before a date indicates that it cannot
be precisely determined from the evidence in the novel, but only closely estimated.

1500 - The stone above the front door of Wuthering Heights, bearing the name of
Hareton Earnshaw, is inscribed, possibly to mark the completion of the house.
1758 - Nelly is born.
~1761 - Heathcliff and Catherine are born.
~1767 - Mr. Earnshaw brings Heathcliff to live at Wuthering Heights.
1774 - Mr. Earnshaw sends Hindley away to college.
1777 - Mr. Earnshaw dies; Hindley and Frances take possession of Wuthering
Heights; Catherine first visits Thrushcross Grange around Christmastime.
1778 - Hareton is born in June; Frances dies; Hindley begins his slide into
1780 - Catherine becomes engaged to Edgar Linton; Heathcliff leaves Wuthering
1783 - Catherine and Edgar are married; Heathcliff arrives at Thrushcross Grange in
1784 - Heathcliff and Isabella elope in the early part of the year; Catherine
becomes ill with brain fever; young Catherine is born late in the year; Catherine dies.
1785 - Early in the year, Isabella flees Wuthering Heights and settles in London;
Linton is born.
~1785 - Hindley dies; Heathcliff inherits Wuthering Heights.
~1797 - Young Catherine meets Hareton and visits Wuthering Heights for the first
time; Linton comes from London after Isabella dies (in late 1797 or early 1798).
1800 - Young Catherine stages her romance with Linton in the winter.
1801 - Early in the year, young Catherine is imprisoned by Heathcliff and forced to
marry Linton; Edgar Linton dies; Linton dies; Heathcliff assumes control of
Thrushcross Grange. Late in the year, Lockwood rents the Grange from Heathcliff and
begins his tenancy. In a winter storm, Lockwood takes ill and begins conversing with
Nelly Dean.
1801–1802 - During the winter, Nelly narrates her story for Lockwood.
1802 - In spring, Lockwood returns to London; Catherine and Hareton fall in love;
Heathcliff dies; Lockwood returns in September and hears the end of the story from
1803 - On New Year’s Day, young Catherine and Hareton plan to be married.
Adam Bede
George Eliot

Get this SparkNote to go!

< Previous Section

Next Section >
Character List
Plot Overview
Dinah Morris, a Methodist preacher, arrives in Hayslope, a small village in England, in
1799. She stays with her aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Poyser, although she plans to
return soon to Snowfield, where she normally lives. Seth Bede, a local carpenter,
loves her and is learning to live with her rejection of his marriage proposal. Seth’s
brother, Adam Bede, also lives in Hayslope and works as the foreman at the
carpentry shop where he and his brother work. Adam loves a seventeen-year-old
village beauty named Hetty Sorrel. Hetty, who is Mr. Poyser’s niece, lives with the
Poysers and helps with the chores.
Thias Bede, the father of Seth and Adam, drowns in the river near their house after a
drinking binge. Their mother, Lisbeth, is distraught. Dinah goes to comfort Lisbeth,
and she is able to soothe her where no one else can. Lisbeth wishes that Dinah could
be her daughter-in-law.
The local landlord, Squire Donnithorne, rules the parish with an iron fist. His grandson
and heir, Captain Donnithorne, who is a member of the regimental army, has broken
his arm and is living with the Squire. The villagers all respect and adore Captain
Donnithorne, who considers himself a gallant man. Captain Donnithorne flirts
secretively with Hetty after first meeting her at the Poysers. He asks her when she
will next be visiting the Squire’s residence and arranges to meet her alone in the
woods when she passes through.
When Captain Donnithorne meets up with Hetty in the woods, they are alone for the
first time and both are bashful. Captain Donnithorne teases Hetty about her many
suitors, and she cries. He puts his arms around her, but he then immediately panics
at the inappropriateness of his advances and runs off. Later Captain Donnithorne
meditates on what he has done and decides he needs to see Hetty to clear up what
happened. He meets her on her way back through the woods, and they kiss. This
encounter begins a summer-long affair, which only ends when Captain Donnithorne
leaves to rejoin his regiment. Hetty believes that Captain Donnithorne will marry her
and make her into the great socialite she dreams of being. Although she does not
exactly love him, she loves the wealth and privilege he represents.
Captain Donnithorne throws a coming-of-age party for himself to which he invites all
the members in the parish. Everyone comes and has a wonderful time with a feast,
dancing, and games. Adam discovers that Hetty is wearing a locket that Captain
Donnithorne gave her. He becomes suspicious that she might have a secret lover but
concludes that it would not be possible for her to conceal such a thing from the
On the last night Captain Donnithorne is in town, Adam catches him kissing Hetty in
the woods. Adam and he have a fight, which Adam wins. Captain Donnithorne lies to
Adam that the affair was no more than a little flirtation. At his response, Adam tells
him he must write a letter to Hetty letting her know that the affair is over. Captain
Donnithorne does so, and Adam delivers the letter. Hetty is crushed, but after some
time she resolves to marry Adam as a way out of her current life. Adam proposes,
and Hetty accepts. By the time Captain Donnithorne leaves, Hetty is pregnant,
although neither of them knows it. She resolves to go out to find Captain Donnithorne
because she cannot bear to have those who know her find out about her shame. She
believes that Captain Donnithorne will help her, even though she feels he can never
erase her shame.
Hetty sets out to locate Captain Donnithorne. At the end of an arduous journey, she
learns that he has gone to Ireland. She heads in the direction of home, more or less
intending to visit Dinah, who she believes will help her without judging her. Along the
way, she gives birth to her child. Distraught, she takes the child into the woods and
buries it under a tree. Hetty goes away, but she cannot escape the sound of the
child’s cry. She returns to where she left the baby. A farm laborer and the Stoniton
constable discover her, and the constable takes her into custody for the murder of
her child.
Adam is distraught when he cannot find Hetty and concludes that Captain
Donnithorne must have lured her away from their upcoming marriage. Before
traveling to Ireland to find him, he first goes to Mr. Irwine to inform him of his plan.
Mr. Irwine tells Adam that Hetty is in jail for murder. Adam goes to her trial, even
though the situation troubles him. Dinah arrives and is able to reach Hetty through
her depression and convince her that she must repent to save her soul. Hetty is
convicted and sentenced to die.
At the last possible moment, Captain Donnithorne arrives with a stay of execution.
Hetty is transported, meaning that she is sent away from England for her crimes. She
dies just before she is set to return to Hayslope. Captain Donnithorne goes away for a
few years because of the shame he has brought on the Poysers and Adam. Adam
realizes that he is in love with Dinah. He proposes, but she rejects him until she
comes to realize that it is God’s will that she marry Adam. They are married, and they
have two children. Seth lives with them and does not marry. Captain Donnithorne
ultimately returns to Hayslope, and he and Adam meet one last time at the
conclusion of the novel. They are able to stay friends despite all that has come
between them.
Theme Analysis

Oliver Twist is the story of a young orphan boy who reflects the life of poverty
in England in the 1830's. The story illustrates the evils of the Poor
House's of the time and the corruption of the people who work there. It
also shows the depths of London's crime with an emphasis on petty
robbery and pick pocketing.

The main evil character of the novel, Fagin, also referred to as "The Jew", is
characterized as a money pincher with no true affections. His main goals are
to exploit the people around him so he can better his station and strengthen
his power. Fagin himself represents the evils of greed and unholiness. Oliver,
on the other hand, is the complete opposite. Innocent, and loving, Oliver
represents all that is good in society. He abhors the thought of stealing,
violence, or mistreatment of any sort, and though he is eager to please will
not go against the morals instilled in him. He genuinely cares for others
around him, and will do anything to make someone want to keep him.

Oliver Twist is a story about the battles of good versus evil, with the evil
continually trying to corrupt and exploit the good. It portrays the power of
Love, Hate, Greed, and Revenge and how each can affect the people
involved. The love between Rose and Harry in the end conquers all the
obstacles between them. The hate that Monks feels for Oliver and the greed
he feels towards his inheritance eventually destroys him. The revenge that
Sikes inflicts on Nancy drives him almost insane and eventually to accidental
suicide. Dickens' wide array of touching characters emphasizes the virtues of
sacrifice, compromise, charity, and loyalty. Most importantly, though the
system for the poor is not changed, the good in Dickens' novel outweighs the
evil, and the main characters that are part of this good live happily ever after.
Charles Dickens:

Length: 575 words (1.6 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Red (FREE)
Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens, a nineteenth century writer, tells a story about a

young boy in England and the adventures that happen to him. In reading
the book the reader becomes entwined in the plot by Dickens^Òs expert
writing and style. Using different scenes and scenarios, Dickens
displays his characters' personality in a way the few other writers
could. In the book Oliver Twist, Dickens uses different events that
happen around Oliver instead letting Oliver decide his own fate. In the
book, other characters determine Oliver^Òs path in life, and Oliver is
the subject around which the story revolves. The accidents in the story
give depth to Oliver and add depth to the story that increases elements
of mystery and suspense.

In the beginning of the book, Mrs. Thingummy is helping Oliver^Òs mother

give birth to the young child. Mrs. Thingummy takes charge of Oliver^Òs
life just as he is born by stealing Oliver^Òs only link with his father,
his mother^Òs husband. Stealing the mother^Òs ring also commits Oliver to
a life of lower social status because of his supposed illegitimacy.

Oliver moves to the dark forces in the book when he starts with
absolutely nothing from his very birth. The sides of good and evil,
light and dark respectively, are also devices used by Dickens to display
different sides of the social coin in England. Accidents tie in closely
with this device because it is by accident that Oliver transferres to
one side or another. After spending time in the dark forces, Oliver
then switches back to the light side by a run in with Mr. Brownlow, a
compassionate citizen who pities Oliver and later takes care of him. Of
all the people that Oliver could run into Mr. Brownlow happens to be one
of those people who Oliver desperately needed and who could and would
provide for Oliver. In another example of an accident, and a shift back
into the dark forces, Oliver happens to make a wrong turn and end up in
the hands of a band of crooks who earlier had taken possession of
Oliver. By chance the appropriate person was in the alley that Oliver,
by chance, walked into when he was passing through the city of London.

In the last transition of chance, Oliver is caught breaking and entering

into a house that the band of crooks intends to pillage. This house
contains another compassionate and tender character that becomes like a
mother to Oliver. Luckily, and by chance, the shot that one of the
house keepers fired when he found Oliver breaking in did not mortally
wound Oliver. Throughout all of these changeovers and accidents Oliver
never takes charge of his life and becomes a player in the book, he
always stays the subject of the happenings around him.

Because Dickens wrote in installments this method served to heighten

the sense of suspense in the novel. Knowing that Oliver could change
his circumstances would not make the story more interesting. Letting
Oliver direct himself would let his readers guess the most probable
outcome of the situation based on Oliver^Òs attitude and his previous
decisions. By letting accidents direct the course of the story, dickens
opens many avenues that the story could take that would not be
previously open. Anything could happen to Oliver and the readers were
always wondering what would happen. The winding story of Oliver Twist
is one of Dickens classics, and a masterpiece of accidents.

Oliver Twist

Charles Dickens
Get this SparkNote to go!

< Previous Section


Next Section >

Character List

Plot Overview

O liver Twist is born in a workhouse in 1830s England. His mother, whose name no one knows, is
found on the street and dies just after Oliver’s birth. Oliver spends the first nine years of his life in a
badly run home for young orphans and then is transferred to a workhouse for adults. After the other
boys bully Oliver into asking for more gruel at the end of a meal, Mr. Bumble, the parish beadle, offers
five pounds to anyone who will take the boy away from the workhouse. Oliver narrowly escapes being
apprenticed to a brutish chimney sweep and is eventually apprenticed to a local undertaker, Mr.
Sowerberry. When the undertaker’s other apprentice, Noah Claypole, makes disparaging comments
about Oliver’s mother, Oliver attacks him and incurs the Sowerberrys’ wrath. Desperate, Oliver runs
away at dawn and travels toward London.

Outside London, Oliver, starved and exhausted, meets Jack Dawkins, a boy his own age. Jack offers
him shelter in the London house of his benefactor, Fagin. It turns out that Fagin is a career criminal
who trains orphan boys to pick pockets for him. After a few days of training, Oliver is sent on a
pickpocketing mission with two other boys. When he sees them swipe a handkerchief from an elderly
gentleman, Oliver is horrified and runs off. He is caught but narrowly escapes being convicted of the
theft. Mr. Brownlow, the man whose handkerchief was stolen, takes the feverish Oliver to his home
and nurses him back to health. Mr. Brownlow is struck by Oliver’s resemblance to a portrait of a young
woman that hangs in his house. Oliver thrives in Mr. Brownlow’s home, but two young adults in Fagin’s
gang, Bill Sikes and his lover Nancy, capture Oliver and return him to Fagin.

Fagin sends Oliver to assist Sikes in a burglary. Oliver is shot by a servant of the house and, after
Sikes escapes, is taken in by the women who live there, Mrs. Maylie and her beautiful adopted niece
Rose. They grow fond of Oliver, and he spends an idyllic summer with them in the countryside. But
Fagin and a mysterious man named Monks are set on recapturing Oliver. Meanwhile, it is revealed
that Oliver’s mother left behind a gold locket when she died. Monks obtains and destroys that locket.
When the Maylies come to London, Nancy meets secretly with Rose and informs her of Fagin’s
designs, but a member of Fagin’s gang overhears the conversation. When word of Nancy’s disclosure
reaches Sikes, he brutally murders Nancy and flees London. Pursued by his guilty conscience and an
angry mob, he inadvertently hangs himself while trying to escape.

Mr. Brownlow, with whom the Maylies have reunited Oliver, confronts Monks and wrings the truth
about Oliver’s parentage from him. It is revealed that Monks is Oliver’s half brother. Their father, Mr.
Leeford, was unhappily married to a wealthy woman and had an affair with Oliver’s mother, Agnes
Fleming. Monks has been pursuing Oliver all along in the hopes of ensuring that his half-brother is
deprived of his share of the family inheritance. Mr. Brownlow forces Monks to sign over Oliver’s share
to Oliver. Moreover, it is discovered that Rose is Agnes’s younger sister, hence Oliver’s aunt. Fagin is
hung for his crimes. Finally, Mr. Brownlow adopts Oliver, and they and the Maylies retire to a blissful
existence in the countryside


Complete Text
‘Mariana in the moated grange.’
—Measure for Measure.

With blackest moss the flower-plots

Were thickly crusted, one and all:
The rusted nails fell from the knots
That held the pear to the gable-wall.
The broken sheds look’d sad and strange:
Unlifted was the clinking latch;
Weeded and worn the ancient thatch
Upon the lonely moated grange.
She only said, ‘My life is dreary,
He cometh not,’ she said;
She said, ‘I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead!’
Her tears fell with the dews at even;
Her tears fell ere the dews were dried;
She could not look on the sweet heaven,
Either at morn or eventide.
After the flitting of the bats,
When thickest dark did trance the sky,
She drew her casement-curtain by,
And glanced athwart the glooming flats.
She only said, ‘The night is dreary,
He cometh not,’ she said;
She said, ‘I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead!’
Upon the middle of the night,
Waking she heard the night-fowl crow:
The cock sung out an hour ere light:
From the dark fen the oxen’s low
Came to her: without hope of change,
In sleep she seem’d to walk forlorn,
Till cold winds woke the gray-eyed morn
About the lonely moated grange.
She only said, ‘The day is dreary,
He cometh not,’ she said;
She said, ‘I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead!’
About a stone-cast from the wall
A sluice with blacken’d waters slept,
And o’er it many, round and small,
The cluster’d marish-mosses crept.
Hard by a poplar shook alway,
All silver-green with gnarled bark:
For leagues no other tree did mark
The level waste, the rounding gray.
She only said, ‘My life is dreary,
He cometh not,’ she said;
She said, ‘I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead!’
And ever when the moon was low,
And the shrill winds were up and away,
In the white curtain, to and fro,
She saw the gusty shadow sway.
But when the moon was very low,
And wild winds bound within their cell,
The shadow of the poplar fell
Upon her bed, across her brow.
She only said, ‘The night is dreary,
He cometh not,’ she said;
She said, ‘I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead!’
All day within the dreamy house,
The doors upon their hinges creak’d;
The blue fly sung in the pane; the mouse
Behind the mouldering wainscot shriek’d,
Or from the crevice peer’d about.
Old faces glimmer’d thro’ the doors,
Old footsteps trod the upper floors,
Old voices called her from without.
She only said, ‘My life is dreary,
He cometh not,’ she said;
She said, ‘I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead!’
The sparrow’s chirrup on the roof,
The slow clock ticking, and the sound
Which to the wooing wind aloof
The poplar made, did all confound
Her sense; but most she loathed the hour
When the thick-moted sunbeam lay
Athwart the chambers, and the day
Was sloping toward his western bower.
Then, said she, ‘I am very dreary,
He will not come,’ she said;
She wept, ‘I am aweary, aweary,
Oh God, that I were dead!’
This poem begins with the description of an abandoned farmhouse, or grange, in
which the flower-pots are covered in overgrown moss and an ornamental pear tree
hangs from rusty nails on the wall. The sheds stand abandoned and broken, and the
straw (“thatch”) covering the roof of the farmhouse is worn and full of weeds. A
woman, presumably standing in the vicinity of the farmhouse, is described in a four-
line refrain that recurs—with slight modifications—as the last lines of each of the
poem’s stanzas: “She only said, ‘My life is dreary / He cometh not,’ she said; / She
said, ‘I am aweary, aweary, / I would that I were dead!’”
The woman’s tears fall with the dew in the evening and then fall again in the
morning, before the dew has dispersed. In both the morning and the evening, she is
unable to look to the “sweet heaven.” At night, when the bats have come and gone,
and the sky is dark, she opens her window curtain and looks out at the expanse of
land. She comments that “The night is dreary” and repeats her death-wish refrain.
In the middle of the night, the woman wakes up to the sound of the crow, and stays
up until the cock calls out an hour before dawn. She hears the lowing of the oxen and
seemingly walks in her sleep until the cold winds of the morning come. She repeats
the death-wish refrain exactly as in the first stanza, except that this time it is “the
day” and not “my life” that is dreary.
Within a stone’s throw from the wall lies an artificial passage for water filled with
black waters and lumps of moss. A silver-green poplar tree shakes back and forth and
serves as the only break in an otherwise flat, level, gray landscape. The woman
repeats the refrain of the first stanza.
When the moon lies low at night, the woman looks to her white window curtain,
where she sees the shadow of the poplar swaying in the wind. But when the moon is
very low and the winds exceptionally strong, the shadow of the poplar falls not on the
curtain but on her bed and across her forehead. The woman says that “the night is
dreary” and wishes once again that she were dead.
During the day, the doors creak on their hinges, the fly sings in the window pane, and
the mouse cries out or peers from behind the lining of the wall. The farmhouse is
haunted by old faces, old footsteps, and old voices, and the woman repeats the
refrain exactly as it appears in the first and fourth stanzas.
The woman is confused and disturbed by the sounds of the sparrow chirping on the
roof, the clock ticking slowly, and the wind blowing through the poplar. Most of all,
she hates the early evening hour when the sun begins to set and a sunbeam lies
across her bed chamber. The woman recites an emphatic variation on the death-wish
refrain; now it is not “the day,” or even her “life” that is dreary; rather, we read:
“Then said she, ‘I am very dreary, / He will not come,’ she said; / She wept, ‘I am
aweary, aweary,/ Oh God, that I were dead!’ ”

“Mariana” takes the form of seven twelve-line stanzas, each of which is divided into
three four-line rhyme units according to the pattern ABAB CDDC EFEF. The lines
ending in E and F remain essentially the same in every stanza and thus serve as a
bewitching, chant-like refrain throughout the poem. All of the poem’s lines fall into
iambic tetrameter, with the exception of the trimeter of the tenth and twelfth lines.

The subject of this poem is drawn from a line in Shakespeare’s play Measure for
Measure : “Mariana in the moated grange.” This line describes a young woman
waiting for her lover Angelo, who has abandoned her upon the loss of her dowry. Just
as the epigraph from Shakespeare contains no verb, the poem, too, lacks all action or
narrative movement. Instead, the entire poem serves as an extended visual depiction
of melancholy isolation.
One of the most important symbols in the poem is the poplar tree described in the
fourth and fifth stanzas. On one level, the poplar can be interpreted as a sort of
phallic symbol: it provides the only break in an otherwise flat and even landscape
(“For leagues no other tree did mark / the level waste” [lines 43-44]); and the shadow
of the poplar falls on Mariana’s bed when she is lovesick at night, suggesting her
sexual hunger for the absent lover. On another level, however, the poplar is an
important image from classical mythology: in his Metamorphoses, Ovid describes
how Oenone, deserted by Paris, addresses the poplar on which Paris has carved his
promise not to desert her. Thus the poplar has come to stand as a classic symbol of
the renegade lover and his broken promise.
The first, fourth, and sixth stanzas can be grouped together, not only because they
all share the exact same refrain, but also because they are the only stanzas that take
place in the daytime. In themselves, each of these stanzas portrays an unending
present without any sense of the passage of time or the play of light and darkness.
These stanzas alternate with the descriptions of forlorn and restless nights in which
Mariana neither sleeps nor wakes but inhabits a dreamy, in-between state: Mariana
cries in the morning and evening alike (lines 13-14) and awakens in the middle of the
night (lines 25-26); sleeping and waking meld. The effect of this alternation between
flat day and sleepless night is to create a sense of a tormented, confused time,
unordered by patterns of natural cycles of life.
Even though the poem as a whole involves no action or progression, it nonetheless
reaches a sort of climax in the final stanza. This stanza begins with a triple subject
(chirrup, ticking, sound), which creates a mounting intensity as the verb is pushed
farther back into the sentence. The predicate, “did all confound / Her sense” (lines
76-77), is enjambed over two lines, thereby enacting the very confounding of sense
that it describes: both Mariana’s mind and the logic of the sentence become
confused, for at first it seems that the object of “confound” is “all.” This predicate is
then followed by a caesura and then the sudden, active force of the climactic
superlative phrase “but most she loathed.” At this point, the setting shifts again to
the early evening as the recurrent cycle of day and night once more enacts Mariana’s
alternating hope and disappointment. The stanza ends with a dramatic yet subtle
shift in the refrain from “He cometh not” to the decisive and peremptory “He will not
The refrain of the poem functions like an incantation, which contributes to the
atmosphere of enchantment. The abandoned grange seems to be under a spell or
curse; Mariana is locked in a state of perpetual, introverted brooding. Her
consciousness paces a cell of melancholy; she can perceive the world only through
her dejection. Thus, all of the poet’s descriptions of the physical world serve as
primarily psychological categories; it is not the grange, but the person, who has been
abandoned—so, too, has this woman’s mind been abandoned by her sense. This is an
example of the “pathetic fallacy.” Coined by the nineteenth-century writer John
Ruskin, this phrase refers to our tendency to attribute our emotional and
psychological states to the natural world. Thus, because Mariana is so forlorn, her
farmhouse, too, although obviously incapable of emotion, seems dejected,
depressed; when the narrator describes her walls he is seeing not the indifferent
white of the paint, but rather focuses on the dark shadows there. While Ruskin
considered the excessive use of the fallacy to be the mark of an inferior poet, later
poets (such as T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound) would use the pathetic fallacy liberally and
to great effect. Arguably, Tennyson here also uses the method to create great
emotional force.
“The Lady of Shalott”

Complete Text

On either side the river lie

Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro’ the field the road runs by
To many-tower’d Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott.

Willows whiten, aspens quiver,

Little breezes dusk and shiver
Thro’ the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four gray walls, and four gray towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.

By the margin, willow veil’d,

Slide the heavy barges trail’d
By slow horses; and unhail’d
The shallop flitteth silken-sail’d
Skimming down to Camelot:
But who hath seen her wave her hand?
Or at the casement seen her stand?
Or is she known in all the land,
The Lady of Shalott?

Only reapers, reaping early

In among the bearded barley,
Hear a song that echoes cheerly
From the river winding clearly,
Down to tower’d Camelot:
And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
Listening, whispers “ ’Tis the fairy
Lady of Shalott.”


There she weaves by night and day

A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.

And moving thro’ a mirror clear

That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
There she sees the highway near
Winding down to Camelot:
There the river eddy whirls,
And there the surly village-churls,
And the red cloaks of market girls,
Pass onward from Shalott.

Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,

An abbot on an ambling pad,
Sometimes a curly shepherd-lad,
Or long-hair’d page in crimson clad,
Goes by to tower’d Camelot;
And sometimes thro’ the mirror blue
The knights come riding two and two:
She hath no loyal knight and true,
The Lady of Shalott.

But in her web she still delights

To weave the mirror’s magic sights,
For often thro’ the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
And music, went to Camelot:
Or when the moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed:
“I am half sick of shadows,” said
The Lady of Shalott.


A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,

He rode between the barley-sheaves,
The sun came dazzling thro’ the leaves,
And flamed upon the brazen greaves
Of bold Sir Lancelot.
A red-cross knight for ever kneel’d
To a lady in his shield,
That sparkled on the yellow field,
Beside remote Shalott.

The gemmy bridle glitter’d free,

Like to some branch of stars we see
Hung in the golden Galaxy.
The bridle bells rang merrily
As he rode down to Camelot:
And from his blazon’d baldric slung
A mighty silver bugle hung,
And as he rode his armour rung,
Beside remote Shalott.

All in the blue unclouded weather

Thick-jewell’d shone the saddle-leather,
The helmet and the helmet-feather
Burn’d like one burning flame together,
As he rode down to Camelot.
As often thro’ the purple night,
Below the starry clusters bright,
Some bearded meteor, trailing light,
Moves over still Shalott.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow’d;

On burnish’d hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow’d
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode down to Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flash’d into the crystal mirror,
“Tirra lirra,” by the river
Sang Sir Lancelot.

She left the web, she left the loom,

She made three paces thro’ the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She look’d down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack’d from side to side;
“The curse is come upon me,” cried
The Lady of Shalott.


In the stormy east-wind straining,

The pale yellow woods were waning,
The broad stream in his banks complaining,
Heavily the low sky raining
Over tower’d Camelot;
Down she came and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat,
And round about the prow she wrote
The Lady of Shalott.

And down the river’s dim expanse

Like some bold seër in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance—
With a glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott.
Lying, robed in snowy white
That loosely flew to left and right—
The leaves upon her falling light—
Thro’ the noises of the night
She floated down to Camelot:
And as the boat-head wound along
The willowy hills and fields among,
They heard her singing her last song,
The Lady of Shalott.

Heard a carol, mournful, holy,

Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darken’d wholly,
Turn’d to tower’d Camelot.
For ere she reach’d upon the tide
The first house by the water-side,
Singing in her song she died,
The Lady of Shalott.

Under tower and balcony,

By garden-wall and gallery,
A gleaming shape she floated by,
Dead-pale between the houses high,
Silent into Camelot.
Out upon the wharfs they came,
Knight and burgher, lord and dame,
And round the prow they read her name,
The Lady of Shalott.

Who is this? and what is here?

And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they cross’d themselves for fear,
All the knights at Camelot:
But Lancelot mused a little space;
He said, “She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott.”

Part I: The poem begins with a description of a river and a road that pass through
long fields of barley and rye before reaching the town of Camelot. The people of the
town travel along the road and look toward an island called Shalott, which lies further
down the river. The island of Shalott contains several plants and flowers, including
lilies, aspens, and willows. On the island, a woman known as the Lady of Shalott is
imprisoned within a building made of “four gray walls and four gray towers.”

Both “heavy barges” and light open boats sail along the edge of the river to Camelot.
But has anyone seen or heard of the lady who lives on the island in the river? Only
the reapers who harvest the barley hear the echo of her singing. At night, the tired
reaper listens to her singing and whispers that he hears her: “ ‘Tis the fairy Lady of
Part II: The Lady of Shalott weaves a magic, colorful web. She has heard a voice
whisper that a curse will befall her if she looks down to Camelot, and she does not
know what this curse would be. Thus, she concentrates solely on her weaving, never
lifting her eyes.
However, as she weaves, a mirror hangs before her. In the mirror, she sees “shadows
of the world,” including the highway road, which also passes through the fields, the
eddies in the river, and the peasants of the town. Occasionally, she also sees a group
of damsels, an abbot (church official), a young shepherd, or a page dressed in
crimson. She sometimes sights a pair of knights riding by, though she has no loyal
knight of her own to court her. Nonetheless, she enjoys her solitary weaving, though
she expresses frustration with the world of shadows when she glimpses a funeral
procession or a pair of newlyweds in the mirror.
Part III: A knight in brass armor (“brazen greaves”) comes riding through the fields of
barley beside Shalott; the sun shines on his armor and makes it sparkle. As he rides,
the gems on his horse’s bridle glitter like a constellation of stars, and the bells on the
bridle ring. The knight hangs a bugle from his sash, and his armor makes ringing
noises as he gallops alongside the remote island of Shalott.
In the “blue, unclouded weather,” the jewels on the knight’s saddle shine, making
him look like a meteor in the purple sky. His forehead glows in the sunlight, and his
black curly hair flows out from under his helmet. As he passes by the river, his image
flashes into the Lady of Shalott’s mirror and he sings out “tirra lirra.” Upon seeing
and hearing this knight, the Lady stops weaving her web and abandons her loom. The
web flies out from the loom, and the mirror cracks, and the Lady announces the
arrival of her doom: “The curse is come upon me.”
Part IV: As the sky breaks out in rain and storm, the Lady of Shalott descends from
her tower and finds a boat. She writes the words “The Lady of Shalott” around the
boat’s bow and looks downstream to Camelot like a prophet foreseeing his own
misfortunes. In the evening, she lies down in the boat, and the stream carries her to
The Lady of Shalott wears a snowy white robe and sings her last song as she sails
down to Camelot. She sings until her blood freezes, her eyes darken, and she dies.
When her boat sails silently into Camelot, all the knights, lords, and ladies of Camelot
emerge from their halls to behold the sight. They read her name on the bow and
“cross...themselves for fear.” Only the great knight Lancelot is bold enough to push
aside the crowd, look closely at the dead maiden, and remark “She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace.”

The poem is divided into four numbered parts with discrete, isometric (equally-long)
stanzas. The first two parts contain four stanzas each, while the last two parts
contain five. Each of the four parts ends at the moment when description yields to
directly quoted speech: this speech first takes the form of the reaper’s whispering
identification, then of the Lady’s half-sick lament, then of the Lady’s pronouncement
of her doom, and finally, of Lancelot’s blessing. Each stanza contains nine lines with
the rhyme scheme AAAABCCCB. The “B” always stands for “Camelot” in the fifth line
and for “Shalott” in the ninth. The “A” and “C” lines are always in tetrameter, while
the “B” lines are in trimeter. In addition, the syntax is line-bound: most phrases do
not extend past the length of a single line.

Originally written in 1832, this poem was later revised, and published in its final form
in 1842. Tennyson claimed that he had based it on an old Italian romance, though
the poem also bears much similarity to the story of the Maid of Astolat in Malory’s
Morte d’Arthur. As in Malory’s account, Tennyson’s lyric includes references to the
Arthurian legend; moreover, “Shalott” seems quite close to Malory’s “Astolat.”
Much of the poem’s charm stems from its sense of mystery and elusiveness; of
course, these aspects also complicate the task of analysis. That said, most scholars
understand “The Lady of Shalott” to be about the conflict between art and life. The
Lady, who weaves her magic web and sings her song in a remote tower, can be seen
to represent the contemplative artist isolated from the bustle and activity of daily life.
The moment she sets her art aside to gaze down on the real world, a curse befalls
her and she meets her tragic death. The poem thus captures the conflict between an
artist’s desire for social involvement and his/her doubts about whether such a
commitment is viable for someone dedicated to art. The poem may also express a
more personal dilemma for Tennyson as a specific artist: while he felt an obligation to
seek subject matter outside the world of his own mind and his own immediate
experiences—to comment on politics, history, or a more general humanity—he also
feared that this expansion into broader territories might destroy his poetry’s magic.
Part I and Part IV of this poem deal with the Lady of Shalott as she appears to the
outside world, whereas Part II and Part III describe the world from the Lady’s
perspective. In Part I, Tennyson portrays the Lady as secluded from the rest of the
world by both water and the height of her tower. We are not told how she spends her
time or what she thinks about; thus we, too, like everyone in the poem, are denied
access to the interiority of her world. Interestingly, the only people who know that
she exists are those whose occupations are most diametrically opposite her own: the
reapers who toil in physical labor rather than by sitting and crafting works of beauty.
Part II describes the Lady’s experience of imprisonment from her own perspective.
We learn that her alienation results from a mysterious curse: she is not allowed to
look out on Camelot, so all her knowledge of the world must come from the
reflections and shadows in her mirror. (It was common for weavers to use mirrors to
see the progress of their tapestries from the side that would eventually be displayed
to the viewer.) Tennyson notes that often she sees a funeral or a wedding, a
disjunction that suggests the interchangeability, and hence the conflation, of love
and death for the Lady: indeed, when she later falls in love with Lancelot, she will
simultaneously bring upon her own death.
Whereas Part II makes reference to all the different types of people that the Lady
sees through her mirror, including the knights who “come riding two and two” (line
61), Part III focuses on one particular knight who captures the Lady’s attention: Sir
Lancelot. This dazzling knight is the hero of the King Arthur stories, famous for his
illicit affair with the beautiful Queen Guinevere. He is described in an array of colors:
he is a “red-cross knight”; his shield “sparkled on the yellow field”; he wears a “silver
bugle”; he passes through “blue unclouded weather” and the “purple night,” and he
has “coal-black curls.” He is also adorned in a “gemmy bridle” and other bejeweled
garments, which sparkle in the light. Yet in spite of the rich visual details that
Tennyson provides, it is the sound and not the sight of Lancelot that causes the Lady
of Shalott to transgress her set boundaries: only when she hears him sing “Tirra lirra”
does she leave her web and seal her doom. The intensification of the Lady’s
experiences in this part of the poem is marked by the shift from the static,
descriptive present tense of Parts I and II to the dynamic, active past of Parts III and
In Part IV, all the lush color of the previous section gives way to “pale yellow” and
“darkened” eyes, and the brilliance of the sunlight is replaced by a “low sky raining.”
The moment the Lady sets her art aside to look upon Lancelot, she is seized with
death. The end of her artistic isolation thus leads to the end of creativity: “Out flew
her web and floated wide” (line 114). She also loses her mirror, which had been her
only access to the outside world: “The mirror cracked from side to side” (line 115).
Her turn to the outside world thus leaves her bereft both of her art object and of the
instrument of her craft—and of her very life. Yet perhaps the greatest curse of all is
that although she surrenders herself to the sight of Lancelot, she dies completely
unappreciated by him. The poem ends with the tragic triviality of Lancelot’s response
to her tremendous passion: all he has to say about her is that “she has a lovely face”
(line 169). Having abandoned her artistry, the Lady of Shalott becomes herself an art
object; no longer can she offer her creativity, but merely a “dead-pale” beauty (line

< Previous Section

“The Lady of Shalott”
Next Section >
“The Lotos-Eaters”

Complete Text
“Courage!” he said, and pointed toward the land,
“This mounting wave will roll us shoreward soon.”
In the afternoon they came unto a land
In which it seemed always afternoon.
All round the coast the languid air did swoon,
Breathing like one that hath a weary dream.
Full-faced above the valley stood the moon;
And like a downward smoke, the slender stream
Along the cliff to fall and pause and fall did seem.

A land of streams! some, like a downward smoke,

Slow-dropping veils of thinnest lawn, did go;
And some thro’ wavering lights and shadows broke,
Rolling a slumbrous sheet of foam below.
They saw the gleaming river seaward flow
From the inner land: far off, three mountain-tops,
Three silent pinnacles of aged snow,
Stood sunset-flush’d: and, dew’d with showery drops,
Up-clomb the shadowy pine above the woven copse.

The charmed sunset linger’d low adown

In the red West: thro’ mountain clefts the dale
Was seen far inland, and the yellow down
Border’d with palm, and many a winding vale
And meadow, set with slender galingale;
A land where all things always seem’d the same!
And round about the keel with faces pale,
Dark faces pale against that rosy flame,
The mild-eyed melancholy Lotos-eaters came.

Branches they bore of that enchanted stem,

Laden with flower and fruit, whereof they gave
To each, but whoso did receive of them,
And taste, to him the gushing of the wave
Far far away did seem to mourn and rave
On alien shores; and if his fellow spake,
His voice was thin, as voices from the grave;
And deep-asleep he seem’d, yet all awake,
And music in his ears his beating heart did make.

They sat them down upon the yellow sand,

Between the sun and moon upon the shore;
And sweet it was to dream of Fatherland,
Of child, and wife, and slave; but evermore
Most weary seem’d the sea, weary the oar,
Weary the wandering fields of barren foam.
Then some one said, “We will return no more”;
And all at once they sang, “Our island home
Is far beyond the wave; we will no longer roam.”

Odysseus tells his mariners to have courage, assuring them that they will soon reach
the shore of their home. In the afternoon, they reach a land “in which it seemed
always afternoon” because of the languid and peaceful atmosphere. The mariners
sight this “land of streams” with its gleaming river flowing to the sea, its three snow-
capped mountaintops, and its shadowy pine growing in the vale.
The mariners are greeted by the “mild-eyed melancholy Lotos-eaters,” whose dark
faces appear pale against the rosy sunset. These Lotos-eaters come bearing the
flower and fruit of the lotos, which they offer to Odysseus’s mariners. Those who eat
the lotos feel as if they have fallen into a deep sleep; they sit down upon the yellow
sand of the island and can hardly perceive their fellow mariners speaking to them,
hearing only the music of their heartbeat in their ears. Although it has been sweet to
dream of their homes in Ithaca, the lotos makes them weary of wandering, preferring
to linger here. One who has eaten of the lotos fruit proclaims that he will “return no
more,” and all of the mariners begin to sing about this resolution to remain in the
land of the Lotos-eaters.
The rest of the poem consists of the eight numbered stanzas of the mariners’ choric
song, expressing their resolution to stay forever. First, they praise the sweet and
soporific music of the land of the Lotos-eaters, comparing this music to petals, dew,
granite, and tired eyelids. In the second stanza, they question why man is the only
creature in nature who must toil. They argue that everything else in nature is able to
rest and stay still, but man is tossed from one sorrow to another. Man’s inner spirit
tells him that tranquility and calmness offer the only joy, and yet he is fated to toil
and wander his whole life.
In the third stanza, the mariners declare that everything in nature is allotted a
lifespan in which to bloom and fade. As examples of other living things that die, they
cite the “folded leaf, which eventually turns yellow and drifts to the earth, as well as
the “full-juiced apple,” which ultimately falls to the ground, and the flower, which
ripens and fades. Next, in the fourth stanza, the mariners question the purpose of a
life of labor, since nothing is cumulative and thus all our accomplishments lead
nowhere. They question “what...will last,” proclaiming that everything in life is
fleeting and therefore futile. The mariners also express their desire for “long rest or
death,” either of which will free them from a life of endless labor.
The fifth stanza echoes the first stanza’s positive appeal to luxurious self-indulgence;
the mariners declare how sweet it is to live a life of continuous dreaming. They paint
a picture of what it might be like to do nothing all day except sleep, dream, eat lotos,
and watch the waves on the beach. Such an existence would enable them peacefully
to remember all those individuals they once knew who are now either buried
(“heaped over with a mound of grass”) or cremated (“two handfuls of white dust,
shut in an urn of brass!”).
In the sixth stanza, the mariners reason that their families have probably forgotten
them anyway, and their homes fallen apart, so they might as well stay in the land of
the Lotos-eaters and “let what is broken so remain.” Although they have fond
memories of their wives and sons, surely by now, after ten years of fighting in Troy,
their sons have inherited their property; it will merely cause unnecessary confusion
and disturbances for them to return now. Their hearts are worn out from fighting
wars and navigating the seas by means of the constellations, and thus they prefer
the relaxing death-like existence of the Land of the Lotos to the confusion that a
return home would create.
In the seventh stanza, as in the first and fifth, the mariners bask in the pleasant
sights and sounds of the island. They imagine how sweet it would be to lie on beds of
flowers while watching the river flow and listening to the echoes in the caves. Finally,
the poem closes with the mariners’ vow to spend the rest of their lives relaxing and
reclining in the “hollow Lotos land.” They compare the life of abandon, which they
will enjoy in Lotos land, to the carefree existence of the Gods, who could not care less
about the famines, plagues, earthquakes, and other natural disasters that plague
human beings on earth. These Gods simply smile upon men, who till the earth and
harvest crops until they either suffer in hell or dwell in the “Elysian valleys” of
heaven. Since they have concluded that “slumber is more sweet than toil,” the
mariners resolve to stop wandering the seas and to settle instead in the land of the

This poem is divided into two parts: the first is a descriptive narrative (lines 1-45),
and the second is a song of eight numbered stanzas of varying length (lines 46-173).
The first part of the poem is written in nine-line Spenserian stanzas, so called
because they were employed by Spenser in The Faerie Queene . The rhyme scheme
of the Spenserian stanza is a closely interlinked ABABBCBCC, with the first eight lines
in iambic pentameter and the final line an Alexandrine (or line of six iambic feet). The
choric song follows a far looser structure: both the line-length and the rhyme scheme
vary widely among the eight stanzas.

This poem is based on the story of Odysseus’s mariners described in scroll IX of
Homer’s Odyssey . Homer writes about a storm that blows the great hero’s mariners
off course as they attempt to journey back from Troy to their homes in Ithaca. They
come to a land where people do nothing but eat lotos (the Greek for our English
“lotus”), a flower so delicious that some of his men, upon tasting it, lose all desire to
return to Ithaca and long only to remain in the Land of the Lotos. Odysseus must
drag his men away so that they can resume their journey home. In this poem,
Tennyson powerfully evokes the mariners’ yearning to settle into a life of
peacefulness, rest, and even death.
The poem draws not only on Homer’s Odyssey, but also on the biblical Garden of
Eden in the Book of Genesis. In the Bible, a “life of toil” is Adam’s punishment for
partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge: after succumbing to the temptation of
the fruit, Adam is condemned to labor by the sweat of his brow. Yet in this poem,
fruit (the lotos) provides a release from the life of labor, suggesting an inversion of
the biblical story.
Tennyson provides a tempting and seductive vision of a life free from toil. His
description of the Lotos Land rivals the images of pleasure in Milton’s “L’Allegro” and
Marvell’s “The Garden.” Yet his lush descriptive passages are accompanied by
persuasive rhetoric; nearly every stanza of the choric song presents a different
argument to justify the mariners’ resolution to remain in the Lotos Land. For
example, in the second stanza of the song the mariners express the irony of the fact
that man, who is the pinnacle and apex of creation, is the only creature made to toil
and labor all the days of his life. This stanza may also be read as a pointed inversion
and overturning of Coleridge’s “Work without Hope,” in which the speaker laments
that “all nature seems at work” while he alone remains unoccupied.
Although the taste of the lotos and the vision of life it offers is seductive, the poem
suggests that the mariners may be deceiving themselves in succumbing to the
hypnotic power of the flower. Partaking of the lotos involves abandoning external
reality and living instead in a world of appearances, where everything “seems” to be
but nothing actually is: the Lotos Land emerges as “a land where all things always
seemed the same” (line 24). Indeed, the word “seems” recurs throughout the poem,
and can be found in all but one of the opening five stanzas, suggesting that the Lotos
Land is not so much a “land of streams” as a “land of seems.” In addition, in the final
stanza of the choric song, the poem describes the Lotos Land as a “hollow” land with
“hollow” caves, indicating that the vision of the sailors is somehow empty and
The reader, too, is left with ambivalent feelings about the mariners’ argument for
lassitude. Although the thought of life without toil is certainly tempting, it is also
deeply unsettling. The reader’s discomfort with this notion arises in part from the
knowledge of the broader context of the poem: Odysseus will ultimately drag his men
away from the Lotos Land disapprovingly; moreover, his injunction to have “courage”
opens—and then overshadows—the whole poem with a sense of moral opprobrium.
The sailors’ case for lassitude is further undermined morally by their complaint that it
is unpleasant “to war with evil” (line 94); are they too lazy to do what is right? By
choosing the Lotos Land, the mariners are abandoning the sources of substantive
meaning in life and the potential for heroic accomplishment. Thus in this poem
Tennyson forces us to consider the ambiguous appeal of a life without toil: although
all of us share the longing for a carefree and relaxed existence, few people could
truly be happy without any challenges to overcome, without the fire of aspiration and
the struggle to make the world a better place.

“Tears, Idle Tears”

Complete Text
Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather in the eyes,
In looking on the happy autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.

Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,

That brings our friends up from the underworld,
Sad as the last which reddens over one
That sinks with all we love below the verge;
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.

Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns

The earliest pipe of half-awakened birds
To dying ears, when unto dying eyes
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square;
So sad, so strange, the days that are no more.

Dear as remembered kisses after death,

And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feigned
On lips that are for others; deep as love,
Deep as first love, and wild with all regret;
O Death in Life, the days that are no more!

The speaker sings of the baseless and inexplicable tears that rise in his heart and
pour forth from his eyes when he looks out on the fields in autumn and thinks of the
This past, (“the days that are no more”) is described as fresh and strange. It is as
fresh as the first beam of sunlight that sparkles on the sail of a boat bringing the
dead back from the underworld, and it is sad as the last red beam of sunlight that
shines on a boat that carries the dead down to this underworld.
The speaker then refers to the past as not “fresh,” but “sad” and strange. As such, it
resembles the song of the birds on early summer mornings as it sounds to a dead
person, who lies watching the “glimmering square” of sunlight as it appears through
a square window.
In the final stanza, the speaker declares the past to be dear, sweet, deep, and wild. It
is as dear as the memory of the kisses of one who is now dead, and it is as sweet as
those kisses that we imagine ourselves bestowing on lovers who actually have
loyalties to others. So, too, is the past as deep as “first love” and as wild as the
regret that usually follows this experience. The speaker concludes that the past is a
“Death in Life.”

This poem is written in blank verse, or unrhymed iambic pentameter. It consists of
four five-line stanzas, each of which closes with the words “the days that are no

“Tears, Idle Tears” is part of a larger poem called “The Princess,” published in 1847.
Tennyson wrote “The Princess” to discuss the relationship between the sexes and to
provide an argument for women’s rights in higher education. However, the work as a
whole does not present a single argument or tell a coherent story. Rather, like so
much of Tennyson’s poetry, it evokes complex emotions and moods through a
mastery of language. “Tears, Idle Tears,” a particularly evocative section, is one of
several interludes of song in the midst of the poem.
In the opening stanza, the poet describes his tears as “idle,” suggesting that they are
caused by no immediate, identifiable grief. However, his tears are simultaneously the
product of a “divine despair,” suggesting that they do indeed have a source: they
“rise in the heart” and stem from a profoundly deep and universal cause. This
paradox is complicated by the difficulty of understanding the phrase “divine despair”:
Is it God who is despairing, or is the despair itself divine? And how can despair be
divine if Christian doctrine considers it a sin?
The speaker states that he cries these tears while “looking on the happy autumn-
fields.” At first, it seems strange that looking at something happy would elicit tears,
but the fact that these are fields of autumn suggests that they bear the memories of
a spring and summer that have vanished, leaving the poet with nothing to look
forward to except the dark and cold of winter. Tennyson explained that the idea for
this poem came to him when he was at Tintern Abbey, not far from Hallam’s burial
place. “Tintern Abbey” is also the title and subject of a famous poem by William
Wordsworth. (See the “Tintern Abbey” section in the SparkNote on Wordsworth’s
Poetry.) Wordsworth’s poem, too, reflects on the passage of time and the loss of the
joys of youth. However, whereas Tennyson laments “the days that are no more” and
describes the past as a “Death in Life,” Wordsworth explicitly states that although
the past is no more, he has been compensated for its loss with “other gifts”:
That time is past,
And all its aching joys are now no more
And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this
Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur; other gifts
Have followed; for such loss, I would believe,
Abundant recompense.
Thus, although both Wordsworth and Tennyson write poems set at Tintern Abbey
about the passage of time, Wordsworth’s poem takes on a tone of contentment,
whereas Tennyson’s languishes in a tone of lament.
“Tears, Idle Tears” is structured by a pattern of unusual adjectives used to describe
the memory of the past. In the second stanza, these adjectives are a chiastic
“fresh...sad...sad...fresh”; the memory of the birth of friendship is “fresh,” whereas
the loss of these friends is “sad”; thus when the “days that are no more” are
described as both “sad” and “fresh,” these words have been preemptively loaded
with meaning and connotation: our sense of the “sad” and “fresh” past evokes these
blossomed and withered friendships. This stanza’s image of the boat sailing to and
from the underworld recalls Virgil’s image of the boatman Charon, who ferries the
dead to Hades.
In the third stanza, the memory of the past is described as
“sad...strange...sad...strange.” The “sad” adjective is introduced in the image of a
man on his deathbed who is awake for his very last morning. However, “strangeness”
enters in, too, for it is strange to the dying man that as his life is ending, a new day is
beginning. To a person hearing the birds’ song and knowing he will never hear it
again, the twittering will be imbued with an unprecedented significance—the dying
man will hear certain melancholy tones for the first time, although, strangely and
paradoxically, it is his last.
The final stanza contains a wave of adjectives that rush over us—now no longer
confined within a neat chiasmic structure—as the poem reaches its last, climactic
lament: “dear...sweet...deep...deep...wild.” The repetition of the word “deep” recalls
the “depth of some divine despair,” which is the source of the tears in the first
stanza. However, the speaker is also “wild with all regret” in thinking of the
irreclaimable days gone by. The image of a “Death in Life” recalls the dead friends of
the second stanza who are like submerged memories that rise to the surface only to
sink down once again. This “Death in Life” also recalls the experience of dying in the
midst of the rebirth of life in the morning, described in the third stanza. The poet’s
climactic exclamation in the final line thus represents a culmination of the images
developed in the previous stanzas.


Complete Text
It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink

Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour’d of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,

To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,—
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro’ soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:

There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
’Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Ulysses (Odysseus) declares that there is little point in his staying home “by this still
hearth” with his old wife, doling out rewards and punishments for the unnamed
masses who live in his kingdom.
Still speaking to himself he proclaims that he “cannot rest from travel” but feels
compelled to live to the fullest and swallow every last drop of life. He has enjoyed all
his experiences as a sailor who travels the seas, and he considers himself a symbol
for everyone who wanders and roams the earth. His travels have exposed him to
many different types of people and ways of living. They have also exposed him to the
“delight of battle” while fighting the Trojan War with his men. Ulysses declares that
his travels and encounters have shaped who he is: “I am a part of all that I have
met,” he asserts. And it is only when he is traveling that the “margin” of the globe
that he has not yet traversed shrink and fade, and cease to goad him.
Ulysses declares that it is boring to stay in one place, and that to remain stationary is
to rust rather than to shine; to stay in one place is to pretend that all there is to life is
the simple act of breathing, whereas he knows that in fact life contains much novelty,
and he longs to encounter this. His spirit yearns constantly for new experiences that
will broaden his horizons; he wishes “to follow knowledge like a sinking star” and
forever grow in wisdom and in learning.
Ulysses now speaks to an unidentified audience concerning his son Telemachus, who
will act as his successor while the great hero resumes his travels: he says, “This is
my son, mine own Telemachus, to whom I leave the scepter and the isle.” He speaks
highly but also patronizingly of his son’s capabilities as a ruler, praising his prudence,
dedication, and devotion to the gods. Telemachus will do his work of governing the
island while Ulysses will do his work of traveling the seas: “He works his work, I
In the final stanza, Ulysses addresses the mariners with whom he has worked,
traveled, and weathered life’s storms over many years. He declares that although he
and they are old, they still have the potential to do something noble and honorable
before “the long day wanes.” He encourages them to make use of their old age
because “ ’tis not too late to seek a newer world.” He declares that his goal is to sail
onward “beyond the sunset” until his death. Perhaps, he suggests, they may even
reach the “Happy Isles,” or the paradise of perpetual summer described in Greek
mythology where great heroes like the warrior Achilles were believed to have been
taken after their deaths. Although Ulysses and his mariners are not as strong as they
were in youth, they are “strong in will” and are sustained by their resolve to push
onward relentlessly: “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

This poem is written as a dramatic monologue: the entire poem is spoken by a single
character, whose identity is revealed by his own words. The lines are in blank verse,
or unrhymed iambic pentameter, which serves to impart a fluid and natural quality to
Ulysses’s speech. Many of the lines are enjambed, which means that a thought does
not end with the line-break; the sentences often end in the middle, rather than the
end, of the lines. The use of enjambment is appropriate in a poem about pushing
forward “beyond the utmost bound of human thought.” Finally, the poem is divided
into four paragraph-like sections, each of which comprises a distinct thematic unit of
the poem.

In this poem, written in 1833 and revised for publication in 1842, Tennyson reworks
the figure of Ulysses by drawing on the ancient hero of Homer’s Odyssey (“Ulysses”
is the Roman form of the Greek “Odysseus”) and the medieval hero of Dante’s
Inferno. Homer’s Ulysses, as described in Scroll XI of the Odyssey, learns from a
prophecy that he will take a final sea voyage after killing the suitors of his wife
Penelope. The details of this sea voyage are described by Dante in Canto XXVI of the
Inferno: Ulysses finds himself restless in Ithaca and driven by “the longing I had to
gain experience of the world.” Dante’s Ulysses is a tragic figure who dies while sailing
too far in an insatiable thirst for knowledge. Tennyson combines these two accounts
by having Ulysses make his speech shortly after returning to Ithaca and resuming his
administrative responsibilities, and shortly before embarking on his final voyage.
However, this poem also concerns the poet’s own personal journey, for it was
composed in the first few weeks after Tennyson learned of the death of his dear
college friend Arthur Henry Hallam in 1833. Like In Memoriam, then, this poem is also
an elegy for a deeply cherished friend. Ulysses, who symbolizes the grieving poet,
proclaims his resolution to push onward in spite of the awareness that “death closes
all” (line 51). As Tennyson himself stated, the poem expresses his own “need of
going forward and braving the struggle of life” after the loss of his beloved Hallam.
The poem’s final line, “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield,” came to serve as a
motto for the poet’s Victorian contemporaries: the poem’s hero longs to flee the
tedium of daily life “among these barren crags” (line 2) and to enter a mythical
dimension “beyond the sunset, and the baths of all the western stars” (lines 60-61);
as such, he was a model of individual self-assertion and the Romantic rebellion
against bourgeois conformity. Thus for Tennyson’s immediate audience, the figure of
Ulysses held not only mythological meaning, but stood as an important contemporary
cultural icon as well.
“Ulysses,” like many of Tennyson’s other poems, deals with the desire to reach
beyond the limits of one’s field of vision and the mundane details of everyday life.
Ulysses is the antithesis of the mariners in “The Lotos-Eaters,” who proclaim “we will
no longer roam” and desire only to relax amidst the Lotos fields. In contrast, Ulysses
“cannot rest from travel” and longs to roam the globe (line 6). Like the Lady of
Shallot, who longs for the worldly experiences she has been denied, Ulysses hungers
to explore the untraveled world.
As in all dramatic monologues, here the character of the speaker emerges almost
unintentionally from his own words. Ulysses’ incompetence as a ruler is evidenced by
his preference for potential quests rather than his present responsibilities. He
devotes a full 26 lines to his own egotistical proclamation of his zeal for the
wandering life, and another 26 lines to the exhortation of his mariners to roam the
seas with him. However, he offers only 11 lines of lukewarm praise to his son
concerning the governance of the kingdom in his absence, and a mere two words
about his “aged wife” Penelope. Thus, the speaker’s own words betray his abdication
of responsibility and his specificity of purpose.

“Crossing the Bar”

Complete Text
Sunset and evening star
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,

Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,

And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For though from out our bourne of Time and Place

The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.

The speaker heralds the setting of the sun and the rise of the evening star, and hears
that he is being called. He hopes that the ocean will not make the mournful sound of
waves beating against a sand bar when he sets out to sea. Rather, he wishes for a
tide that is so full that it cannot contain sound or foam and therefore seems asleep
when all that has been carried from the boundless depths of the ocean returns back
out to the depths.
The speaker announces the close of the day and the evening bell, which will be
followed by darkness. He hopes that no one will cry when he departs, because
although he may be carried beyond the limits of time and space as we know them,
he retains the hope that he will look upon the face of his “Pilot” when he has crossed
the sand bar.

This poem consists of four quatrain stanzas rhyming ABAB. The first and third lines of
each stanza are always a couple of beats longer than the second and fourth lines,
although the line lengths vary among the stanzas.

Tennyson wrote “Crossing the Bar” in 1889, three years before he died. The poem
describes his placid and accepting attitude toward death. Although he followed this
work with subsequent poems, he requested that “Crossing the Bar” appear as the
final poem in all collections of his work.
Tennyson uses the metaphor of a sand bar to describe the barrier between life and
death. A sandbar is a ridge of sand built up by currents along a shore. In order to
reach the shore, the waves must crash against the sandbar, creating a sound that
Tennyson describes as the “moaning of the bar.” The bar is one of several images of
liminality in Tennyson’s poetry: in “Ulysses,” the hero desires “to sail beyond the
sunset”; in “Tithonus”, the main character finds himself at the “quiet limit of the
world,” and regrets that he has asked to “pass beyond the goal of ordinance.”
The other important image in the poem is one of “crossing,” suggesting Christian
connotations: “crossing” refers both to “crossing over” into the next world, and to the
act of “crossing” oneself in the classic Catholic gesture of religious faith and
devotion. The religious significance of crossing was clearly familiar to Tennyson, for
in an earlier poem of his, the knights and lords of Camelot “crossed themselves for
fear” when they saw the Lady of Shalott lying dead in her boat. The cross was also
where Jesus died; now as Tennyson himself dies, he evokes the image again. So, too,
does he hope to complement this metaphorical link with a spiritual one: he hopes
that he will “see [his] Pilot face to face.”
The ABAB rhyme scheme of the poem echoes the stanzas’ thematic patterning: the
first and third stanzas are linked to one another as are the second and fourth. Both
the first and third stanzas begin with two symbols of the onset of night: “sunset and
evening star” and “twilight and evening bell.” The second line of each of these
stanzas begins with “and,” conjoining another item that does not fit together as
straightforwardly as the first two: “one clear call for me” and “after that the dark!”
Each of these lines is followed by an exclamation point, as the poet expresses alarm
at realizing what death will entail. These stanzas then conclude with a wish that is
stated metaphorically in the first stanza: “may there be no moaning of the bar /
When I put out to sea”; and more literally in the third stanza: “And may there be no
sadness of farewell / When I embark.” Yet the wish is the same in both stanzas: the
poet does not want his relatives and friends to cry for him after he dies. Neither of
these stanzas concludes with a period, suggesting that each is intimately linked to
the one that follows.
The second and fourth stanzas are linked because they both begin with a qualifier:
“but” in the second stanza, and “for though” in the fourth. In addition, the second
lines of both stanzas connote excess, whether it be a tide “too full for sound and
foam” or the “far” distance that the poet will be transported in death.
Theme Analysis

Oliver Twist is the story of a young orphan boy who reflects the life of poverty
in England in the 1830's. The story illustrates the evils of the Poor
House's of the time and the corruption of the people who work there. It
also shows the depths of London's crime with an emphasis on petty
robbery and pick pocketing.

The main evil character of the novel, Fagin, also referred to as "The Jew", is
characterized as a money pincher with no true affections. His main goals are
to exploit the people around him so he can better his station and strengthen
his power. Fagin himself represents the evils of greed and unholiness. Oliver,
on the other hand, is the complete opposite. Innocent, and loving, Oliver
represents all that is good in society. He abhors the thought of stealing,
violence, or mistreatment of any sort, and though he is eager to please will
not go against the morals instilled in him. He genuinely cares for others
around him, and will do anything to make someone want to keep him.

Oliver Twist is a story about the battles of good versus evil, with the evil
continually trying to corrupt and exploit the good. It portrays the power of
Love, Hate, Greed, and Revenge and how each can affect the people
involved. The love between Rose and Harry in the end conquers all the
obstacles between them. The hate that Monks feels for Oliver and the greed
he feels towards his inheritance eventually destroys him. The revenge that
Sikes inflicts on Nancy drives him almost insane and eventually to accidental
suicide. Dickens' wide array of touching characters emphasizes the virtues of
sacrifice, compromise, charity, and loyalty. Most importantly, though the
system for the poor is not changed, the good in Dickens' novel outweighs the
evil, and the main characters that are part of this good live happily ever after.

Vanity Fair (novel)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article includes a list of references or external links, but its sources remain
unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. Please help to improve this
article by introducing more precise citations where appropriate. (November 2009)
Vanity Fair
Title-page to Vanity Fair, drawn by Thackeray, who

furnished the illustrations for many of his earlier


William Makepeace

William Makepeace

Country United Kingdom

Language English

Publisher Punch magazine (serialized)

January 1847 and July 1848

Publication date
(serialized in 20 parts)

Media type Print

Vanity Fair: A Novel without a Hero is a novel by William Makepeace Thackeray,
first published in 1847–48, satirizing society in early 19th-century Britain. The book's
title comes from John Bunyan's allegorical story The Pilgrim's Progress, first published
in 1678 and still widely read at the time of Thackeray's novel. Vanity fair refers to a
stop along the pilgrim's progress: a never-ending fair held in a town called Vanity,
which is meant to represent man's sinful attachment to worldly things. The novel is
now considered a classic, and has inspired several film adaptations.
• 1 Plot summary
• 2 Characters
• 2.1 Amelia Sedley
• 2.2 Becky Sharp
• 2.3 Rawdon Crawley
• 2.4 Sir Pitt Crawley,
• 2.5 Miss Crawley
• 2.6 George Osborne
• 2.7 William Dobbin
• 2.8 Jos Sedley
• 3 Publishing history
• 4 Literary significance and
• 4.1 Contemporary critics
• 4.2 Theorists
• 5 Film and television
• 5.1 Silent film versions
• 5.2 Sound film versions
• 5.3 Television
• 6 Footnotes
• 7 References
• 8 External links

[edit] Plot summary

The story opens at Miss Pinkerton's Academy for Young Ladies, where the principal
protagonists Becky Sharp and Amelia Sedley have just completed their studies and
are preparing to depart for Amelia's house in Russell Square. Becky is portrayed as a
strong-willed and cunning young woman determined to make her way in society, and
Amelia Sedley as a good-natured, loveable, though simple-minded young girl.
At Russell Square, Miss Sharp is introduced to the dashing and self-obsessed Captain
George Osborne (to whom Amelia has been betrothed from a very young age) and to
Amelia's brother Joseph Sedley, a clumsy and vainglorious but rich civil-servant fresh
from the East India Company. Becky entices Sedley, hoping to marry him, but she
fails because of warnings from Captain Osborne, Sedley's own native shyness, and
his embarrassment over some foolish drunken behavior of his that Becky had
witnessed at Vauxhall.
With this, Becky Sharp says farewell to Sedley's family and enters the service of the
crude and profligate baronet Sir Pitt Crawley, who has engaged her as a governess to
his daughters. Her behaviour at Sir Pitt's house gains his favour, and after the
premature death of his second wife, he proposes to her. However, he finds that she is
already secretly married to his second son, Rawdon Crawley.
Sir Pitt's elder half sister, the spinster Miss Crawley, is very rich, having inherited her
mother's fortune of £70,000. How she will bequeath her great wealth is a source of
constant conflict between the branches of the Crawley family who vie shamelessly for
her affections; initially her favorite is Sir Pitt's younger son, Captain Rawdon Crawley.
For some time, Becky acts as Miss Crawley's companion, supplanting the loyal Miss
Briggs in an attempt to establish herself in favor before breaking the news of her
elopement with Miss Crawley's nephew. However, the misalliance so enrages Miss
Crawley, that she disinherits her nephew in favour of his pompous and pedantic elder
brother, who also bears the name Pitt Crawley. The married couple constantly
attempt to reconcile with Miss Crawley, and she relents a little. However, she will only
see her nephew and refuses to change her will.
While Becky Sharp is rising in the world, Amelia's father, John Sedley, is bankrupted.
The Sedleys and Osbornes were once close allies, but the relationship between the
two families disintegrates after the Sedleys are financially ruined, and the marriage
of Amelia and George is forbidden. George ultimately decides to marry Amelia
against his father's will, primarily due to the pressure of his friend Dobbin, and
George is consequently disinherited. While these personal events take place, the
Napoleonic Wars have been ramping up. George Osborne and William Dobbin are
suddenly deployed to Brussels, but not before an encounter with Becky and Captain
Crawley at Brighton. The holiday is interrupted by orders to march to Brussels.
Already, the newly wedded Osborne is growing tired of Amelia, and he becomes
increasingly attracted to Becky who encourages his advances.
At a ball in Brussels (based on the Duchess of Richmond's famous ball on the eve of
the Battle of Waterloo) George gives Becky a note inviting her to run away with him.
He regrets this shortly afterwards and reconciles with Amelia, who has been deeply
hurt by his attentions towards her former friend. The morning after, he is sent to
Waterloo with Captain Crawley and Dobbin, leaving Amelia distraught. Becky, on the
other hand, is virtually indifferent to her husband's departure. She tries to console
Amelia, but Amelia responds angrily, disgusted by Becky's flirtatious behavior with
George and her lack of concern about Captain Crawley. Becky resents this snub and
a rift develops between the two women that lasts for years. Becky is not very
concerned for the outcome of the war, either. Should Napoleon win, she plans to
become the mistress of one his marshals, and meanwhile she makes a profit selling
her carriage and horses at inflated prices to panicking Britons seeking to flee the city,
where the Belgian population is openly pro-Napoleonic.
Captain Crawley survives, but George dies in the battle. Amelia bears him a
posthumous son, who is also named George. She returns to live in genteel poverty
with her parents. Meanwhile, since the death of George, Dobbin, who is young
George's godfather, gradually begins to express his love for the widowed Amelia by
small kindnesses toward her and her son. Most notable is the recovery of her old
piano, which Dobbin picks up at an auction following the Sedleys' ruin. Amelia
mistakenly assumes this was done by her late husband. She is too much in love with
George's memory to return Dobbin's affections. Saddened, he goes to India for many
years. Dobbin's infatuation with Amelia is a theme which unifies the novel and one
which many have compared to Thackeray's unrequited love for a friend's wife.[citation

Meanwhile, Becky also has a son, also named after his father, but unlike Amelia, who
dotes on and even spoils her child, Becky is a cold, distant mother. She continues her
ascent first in post-war Paris and then in London where she is patronised by the great
Marquess of Steyne, who covertly subsidises her and introduces her to London
society. Her success is unstoppable despite her humble origins, and she is eventually
presented at court to the Prince Regent himself.
Becky and Rawdon appear to be financially successful, but their wealth and high
standard of living are mostly smoke and mirrors. Rawdon gambles heavily and earns
money as a billiards shark. The book also suggests he cheats at cards. Becky accepts
trinkets and money from her many admirers and sells some for cash. She also
borrows heavily from the people around her and seldom pays bills. The couple lives
mostly on credit, and while Rawdon seems to be too dim-witted to be aware of the
effect of his borrowing on the people around him, Becky is fully aware that her heavy
borrowing and her failure to pay bills bankrupts at least two innocent people: her
servant Briggs, whose life savings Becky borrows and fritters away, and her landlord
Raggles, who was formerly a butler to the Crawley family and who invested his life
savings in the townhouse that Becky and Rawdon rent (and fail to pay for). She also
cheats innkeepers, milliners, dress-makers, grocers, and others who do business on
credit. She and Rawdon obtain credit by tricking everyone around them into believing
they are receiving money from others. Sometimes, Becky and Rawdon buy time from
their creditors by suggesting Rawdon received money in Miss Crawley's will or are
being paid a stipend by Sir Pitt. Ultimately Becky is suspected of carrying on an
extramarital affair with the Marquess of Steyne, apparently encouraged by Rawdon
to prostitute herself in exchange for money and promotion.
At the summit of her success, Becky's pecuniary relationship with the rich and
powerful Marquess of Steyne is discovered by Rawdon after Rawdon is arrested for
debt. Rawdon's brother's wife, Lady Jane, bails him out and Rawdon surprises Becky
and Steyne in a compromising moment. Rawdon leaves his wife and through the
offices of the Marquess of Steyne is made Governor of Coventry Island to get him out
of the way, after Rawdon challenges the elderly marquess to a duel. Becky, having
lost both husband and credibility, is warned by Steyne to leave the United Kingdom
and wanders the continent. Rawdon and Becky's son is left in the care of Pitt Crawley
and Lady Jane. However wherever Becky goes, she is followed by the shadow of the
Marquess of Steyne. No sooner does she establish herself in polite society than
someone turns up who knows her disreputable history and spreads rumours; Steyne
himself hounds her out of Rome.
As Amelia's adored son George grows up, his grandfather relents and takes him from
poor Amelia, who knows the rich and bitter old man will give him a much better start
in life than she or her family could ever manage. After twelve years abroad both
Joseph Sedley and Dobbin return to the UK. Dobbin professes his unchanged love to
Amelia, but although Amelia is affectionate, she tells him she cannot forget the
memory of her dead husband. Dobbin also becomes close to young George, and his
kind, firm manner are a good influence on the spoiled child.
While in the UK, Dobbin mediates a reconciliation between Amelia and her father-in-
law. The death of Amelia's father prevents their meeting, but following Osborne's
death soon after, it is revealed that he had amended his will and bequeathed young
George half his large fortune and Amelia a generous annuity. The rest is divided
between his daughters, Miss Osborne, and Mrs. Bullock, who begrudges Amelia and
her son for the decrease in her annuity.
After the death of old Mr. Osborne, Amelia, Joseph, George, and Dobbin go on a trip
to Germany, where they encounter the destitute Becky. She meets the young George
at a card table and then enchants Jos Sedley all over again. Becky has unfortunately
deteriorated as a character. She is drinking heavily, has lost her singing voice and
much of her looks, and spends time with card sharks and con artists. The book
suggests that Becky has been involved in activities even more shady than her usual
con games, but does not go into details..
Following Jos' entreaties, Amelia agrees to a reconciliation (when she hears that
Becky's ties with her son have been severed), much to Dobbin's disapproval. Dobbin
quarrels with Amelia and finally realizes that he is wasting his love on a woman too
shallow to return it. However, Becky, in a moment of conscience, shows Amelia the
note that George (Amelia's dead husband) had given her, asking her to run away with
him. This destroys Amelia's idealized image of George, but not before Amelia has
sent a note to Dobbin professing her love.
Becky resumes her seduction of Jos and gains control over him. He eventually dies of
a suspicious ailment after signing a portion of his money to Becky as life insurance. In
the original illustrations, which were done by Thackeray, Becky is shown behind a
curtain with a vial in her hand; the picture is labelled "Becky's second appearance in
the character of Clytemnestra" (she had played Clytemnestra during charades at a
party earlier in the book). Jos' death appears to have made her fortune.
By a twist of fate Rawdon dies weeks before his older brother, whose son has already
died; the baronetcy descends to Rawdon's son. Had he outlived his brother by even a
day he would have become Sir Rawdon Crawley and Becky would have become Lady
Crawley, a title she uses anyway in later life. The reader is informed at the end of the
novel that although Dobbin married Amelia, and although he always treated her with
great kindness, he never fully regained the love that he once had for her. There is
also a final appearance for Becky, as cocky as ever, selling trinkets at a fair in aid of
various charitable causes. She is now living well again as her son, the new baronet,
has agreed to financially support her (in spite of her past neglect and indifference
towards him).
[edit] Characters
[edit] Amelia Sedley
Amelia is the heroine: pale, passive, and emotionally devoted to her husband and
son. She marries George Osborne against the wishes of George's father, and when
George dies at the battle of Waterloo she brings up little George alone while living
with her parents. She is completely dominated by her spendthrift father (who steals
and sells the annuity George's friends put together to try to support her) and her
After George Osborne's death, Amelia is obsessed with her son and with the memory
of her husband. She ignores William Dobbin, who courts her for years, and treats him
shabbily until eventually he leaves. It is only after Becky shows her George's letter to
her that Amelia realizes what a good man Dobbin is, although she has already written
to him to ask him to come back. She eventually marries Dobbin.

[edit] Becky Sharp

The anti-heroine, and Amelia's opposite, is an intelligent young woman with a gift for
satire. She is described as a petite sandy haired girl who has green eyes and a great
deal of wit. Fluent in both French and English, Becky has a beautiful singing voice,
plays the piano, and shows great talent as an actress. She is also completely amoral
and without conscience. She does not seem to have the ability to get attached to
other people, and lies easily and intelligently to get her way. She is extremely
manipulative and, after the first few chapters and her failure to attract Jos Sedley, is
not shown as being particularly sincere.
Never having known financial or social security even as a child, Becky desires it
above all things. Nearly everything she does is with the intention of securing a stable
position for herself, or herself and her husband after she and Rawdon are married.
She advances Rawdon's interests tirelessly, flirting with men such as General Tufto
and the Marquess of Steyne in order to get him promoted. She also uses her feminine
wiles to distract men at card parties while Rawdon cheats them blind.
Marrying Rawdon Crawley in secret was a mistake, as was running off instead of
begging Miss Crawley's forgiveness. She also fails to manipulate Miss Crawley
through Rawdon so as to obtain an inheritance. Although Becky manipulates men
very easily, she does not even try to cultivate the friendship of most women. Lady
Jane, the Dobbin sisters, and Lady Steyne see right through her. Amelia and (initially)
Miss Crawley are exceptions to the rule.
[edit] Rawdon Crawley
Rawdon, the younger of the two Crawley sons, is an empty-headed cavalry officer
who is his wealthy aunt's favorite until he marries Becky Sharp, who is of a far lower
class. He permanently alienates his aunt, who leaves her estate to Sir Pitt instead. Sir
Pitt has by this time inherited their father's estate, leaving Rawdon quite poor.
The well-meaning Rawdon has a few talents in life, most of which have to do with
gambling and dueling. He is very good at cards and pool, and although he does not
always win he is able to earn cash by betting against less talented gamblers. He is
heavily indebted throughout most of the book, not so much for his own expenses as
for Becky's. Not particularly talented as a military officer, he is content to let Becky
manage his career.
Although Rawdon knows Becky is attractive to men, he believes her reputation is
spotless even though she is widely suspected of romantic intrigue with General Tufto
and other powerful men. Nobody dares to suggest otherwise to Rawdon because of
his temper and his reputation for dueling. Yet other people, particularly the Marquess
of Steyne, find it impossible to believe that Crawley is unaware of Becky's tricks.
Steyne in particular believes Rawdon is fully aware Becky is prostituting herself, and
believes Rawdon is going along with the charade in the hope of financial gain.
After Rawdon finds out the truth and leaves Becky for an assignment overseas, he
leaves his son to be brought up by Sir Pitt and Lady Jane.
[edit] Sir Pitt Crawley, Baronet
Rawdon Crawley's elder brother inherits the Crawley estate from his elderly father,
and he also inherits from his wealthy aunt, Miss Crawley. Sir Pitt is very religious and
has political aspirations, although not many people appreciate his intelligence or
wisdom because there's not much there to appreciate. Somewhat pedantic and
conservative, Sir Pitt does nothing to help Rawdon or Becky even when they fall on
hard times. This is chiefly because Lady Jane cordially hates Becky.
[edit] Miss Crawley
The elderly Miss Crawley is everyone's favourite wealthy aunt. Sir Pitt and Rawdon
both dote on her, although Rawdon is her favourite nephew and sole heir until he
marries Becky. While Miss Crawley likes Becky and keeps her around to entertain her
with sarcasm and wit, and while she loves scandal and particularly stories of unwise
marriage, she does not want scandal or unwise marriage in her family.
A substantial part of the early section of the book deals with the efforts the Crawleys
make to kowtow to Miss Crawley in the hope of receiving a big inheritance.
[edit] George Osborne
George Osborne, his father, and his two sisters are close to the Sedley family until
Mr. Sedley (the father of Jos and Amelia) goes bankrupt following some ill-advised
speculation. Since George and Amelia were raised in close company and were
childhood sweethearts, George defies his father in order to marry Amelia. Before
father and son can be reconciled, George is killed at the battle of Waterloo, leaving
the pregnant Amelia to carry on as well as she can.
Raised to be a selfish, vain, profligate spender, George squanders the last of the
money he receives from his father and sets nothing aside to help support Amelia.
After marrying Amelia, he finds after a couple of weeks that he is bored. He flirts with
Becky quite seriously and is reconciled to Amelia only a short time before he is killed
in battle.
[edit] William Dobbin
The best friend of George Osborne, William Dobbin is tall, ungainly, and not
particularly handsome. He is a few years older than George but has been friends with
him since his school days even though Dobbin's father is a fig-merchant and the
Osbornes belong to the genteel class and have become independently wealthy. He
defends George and is blind to his faults in many ways although he tries to force
George to do the right thing. He pushes George to keep his promise to marry Amelia
even though Dobbin is in love with Amelia himself. After George is killed, Dobbin puts
together an annuity to help support Amelia, ostensibly with the help of George's
fellow officers.
Later, Dobbin discreetly does what he can to help support Amelia and also her son
George. He allows Amelia to continue with her obsession over George and does not
correct her erroneous beliefs about him. He hangs about for years, either pining away
over her while serving in India or waiting on her in person, allowing her to take
advantage of his good nature. After Amelia finally chooses Becky's friendship over his
in Baden-Baden, Dobbin leaves in disgust. He returns when Amelia writes to him and
admits her feelings for him, marries her, and has a daughter whom he loves deeply.
[edit] Jos Sedley
Amelia's older brother, Joseph "Jos" Sedley, is a "nabob", who made a respectable
fortune as a tax collector in India. Obese and self-important but very shy and
insecure, he is attracted to Becky Sharp but circumstances prevent him from
proposing. He never marries, but when he meets Becky again he is easily
manipulated into falling in love with her. Jos is not a courageous or intelligent man,
displaying his cowardice at the Battle of Waterloo by trying to flee and purchasing
both of Becky's overpriced horses. Becky ensnares him again near the end of the

Related Interests