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Ode on a Grecian Urn: John Keats

 "Ode on a Grecian Ode" is based on a series of paradoxes and opposites:
  • the discrepancy between the urn with its frozen images and the dynamic life portrayed on the urn,
  • the human and changeable versus the immortal and permanent,
  • participation versus observation, 
  • life versus art.
As in "Ode to a Nightingale," the poet wants to create a world of pure joy, but in this poem the idealized or fantasy world  is the life of the people on the urn. Keats sees them, simultaneously, as carved figures on the marble vase and live people in ancient Greece. Existing in a frozen or suspended time, they cannot move or change, nor can their feelings change, yet the unknown sculptor has succeeded in creating a sense of living passion and turbulent action. As in "Ode to a Nightingale," the real world of pain contrasts with the fantasy world of joy. Initially, this poem does not connect joy and pain.
      Understanding some lines in this poem is a challenge to any reader, particularly the last two lines:
'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,'--That is all
     Ye know of earth, and all ye need to know.
Some of the difficulty arises because there is no definitive text for this poem. No manuscript in Keats's handwriting survives. Although the poem was included in a volume of poems published in 1820, Keats may have been too ill to correct typesetting errors. Also, there exist two other versions of the poem which have some claim to authority. The differences among these versions are significant and affect meaning. Click here to read the three versions.
      Aside from textual considerations, the final couplet is ambiguous and has resulted in an extensive critical controversy over its meaning. Jack Stillinger comments, "As to critical interpretation of who says what to whom, no single explanation can satisfy the demands of text, grammar, consistency and common sense." Some readers write off this couplet; T.S. Eliot calls these lines a "serious blemish on a beautiful poem; and the reason must be either that I fail to understand it, or that it is a statement which is untrue."
      So if you have trouble understanding these last two lines, you are in good company.


Stanza I.      Stanza I begins slowly, asks questions arising from thought and raises abstract concepts such as time and art. The comparison of the urn to an "unravish'd bride" functions at a number of levels. It prepares for the impossisbility of fulfillment of stanza II and for the violence of lines 8-10 of this stanza. "Still" embodies two concepts--time and motion--which appear in a number of ways in the rest of the poem. They appear immediately in line 2 with the urn as a "foster" child. The urn exists in the real world, which is mutable or subject to time and change, yet it and the life it presents are unchanging; hence, the bride is "unravish'd" and as a "foster" child, the urn is touched by "slow time," not the time of the real world. The figures carved on the urn are not subject to time, though the urn may be changed or affected over slow time.
      The urn as "sylvan historian" speaks to the viewer, even if it doesn't answer the poet's questions (stanzas I and IV). Whether the urn communicates a message depends on how you interpet the final stanza. The urn is "sylvan"--first, because a border of leaves encircles the vase and second because the scene carved on the urn is set in woods. The "flowery tale" told "sweetly" and "sylvan historian" do not prepare for the terror and wild sexuality unleashed in lines 8-10 (another opposition); the effect and the subject of the urn or art conflict. Is it paradoxical that the urn, which is silent, tells tales "more sweetly than our rime"? Twice (lines 6 and 8) the poet is unable to distinguish between mortal and immortal, men and gods, another opposition; is there a suggestion of coexistence and inseparableness in this blurring of differences between them?
      With lines 8-10, the poet is caught up in the excited, rapid activities depicted on the urn and moves from observer to participant in the life on the urn, in the sense that he is emotionally involved. Paradoxically, turbulant dynamic passion is convincingly portrayed on cold, motionless stone.
      Paradox and opposites run through the rest of the poem. As you read and reread the poem, you should become aware of them.

Stanza II.      The first four lines contrast the ideal (in art, love, and nature) and the real; which does Keats prefer at this point? What is the paradox of unheard pipes? Is this an oxymoron?
      The last six lines contrast the drawback of frozen time; note the negative phrasing: "canst not leave," "nor ever can," "never, never canst" in lines 5-8. Keats says not to grieve; whom he is addressing--the carved figures or the reader? or both? Then he lists the advantages of frozen time; however, Keats continues to use negative phrasing even in these lines: "do not grieve," "cannot fade," and ""hast not thy bliss." Keats may have made a mistake, or there may be a reason for this negative undertone, a reason which will become clear as the poem continues.

Stanza III.      This stanza recapitulates ideas from the preceding two stanzas and re-introduces some figures:  the trees which can't shed leaves, the musician, and the lover. Keats portrays the ideal life on the urn as one without disappointment and suffering. The urn-depicted passion may be human, but it is also "all breathing passion far above" because it is unchanging. Is there irony in the fact that the superior passion depicted on the urn is also unfulfillable, that satisfaction is impossible?
      How does he portray real life, actual passion in the last three lines? Which is preferable, the urn life or real life? Note the repetition of the word "happy." Is there irony in this situation?

Stanza IV.      Stanza IV shows the ability of art to stir the imagination, so that the viewer sees more than is portrayed. The poet imagines the village from which the people on the urn came. In this stanza, the poet begins to withdraw from his emotional participation in and identification with life on the urn.
      This stanza focuses on communal life (the previous stanzas described individuals). What paradox is implicit in the contrast between the event being a sacrifice and the altar being "green"? between leading the heifer to the sacrifice and her "silken flanks with garlands drest"?
      In imagining an empty town, why does he give three possible locations for the town, rather than fix on one location? Why does he use the word "folk," rather than "people"? Think about the different connotations of these words. The image of the silent, desolate town embodies both pain and joy. How is it ironic that not a soul can tell us why the town is empty and that the vase communicates so much to the poet and so to the reader? Is this also paradoxical?
      In terms of the theme of pain-joy, what is Keats saying in lines 1-4, which describe the procession? in the rest of the stanza which describes the desolate town? Is he describing a temporary or a permanent condition?
      Is the viewer, who is the poet as well as the reader, pulled into the world of the urn?

Stanza V.      The poet observes the urn as a whole and remembers his vision. Is he emotionally involved in the life of the urn at this point, or is he again the observer? What aspect of the urn is stressed in the phrases "marble men and maidens," "silent form," and "Cold Pastoral"?
      Is there a paradox in the phrase "Cold Pastoral"?
      Yet the poet did experience the life experienced on the urn and comments, ambiguously perhaps, that the urn "dost tease us out of thought / As doth eternity." Is this another reference to the "dull brain" which "perplexes and retards" ("Ode to a Nightingale")? Why does Keats use the word "tease"? By teasing him "out of thought," did the urn draw him from the real world into an ideal world, where, if there was neither imperfection nor change, there was also no real life or fulfillment? Or, possibly, was the poet so involved in the life of the urn that he couldn't think? Was the urn an escape, however temporary, from the pains and problems of life? One thing that all these suggestions mean is that this is a puzzling line.
      In the final couplet, is Keats saying that pain is beautiful? You must decide whether it is the poet (a persona), Keats (the actual poet), or the urn speaking. Are both lines spoken by the same person, or does some of the quotation express the view of one speaker and the rest of the couplet express the comment upon that view by another speaker? Who is being addressed--the poet, the urn, or the reader? Are the concluding lines a philosphical statement about life or do they make sense only in the context of the poem? Click here to read the three versions of the last two lines.
      Some critics feel that Keats is saying that Art is superior to Nature. Is Keats thinking or feeling or talking about the urn only as a work of art? Your reading on this issue will be affected by your decision about who is speaking.
      No matter how you read the last two lines, do they really mean anything? do they merely sound as if they mean something? or do they speak to some deep part of us that apprehends or feels the meaning but it is an experience/meaning that can't be put into words? Do they make a final statement on the relation of the ideal to the actual? Is the urn rejected at the end? Is art--can art ever be--a substitute for real life?
      What, if anything, has the poet learned from his imaginative vision of or daydream participation in the life of the urn?
      Does Keats, in this ode, follow the pattern of the romantic ode?

The Raven: Edgar Allen Poe

“The Raven” Edgar Allan Poe

American poem of the nineteenth century.
The following entry provides criticism of Poe's poem “The Raven” from 1845 through 2000.


“The Raven” is the best known poem of Edgar Allan Poe, a major figure in American literature. The poem features a mysterious bird who speaks but one word, in ominous tones, to a grief-stricken young man mourning the death of his young lady love. “The Raven” garnered international attention for Poe upon its publication in The Raven and Other Poems (1845) and became one of the most famous American poems ever written.

Biographical Information

Poe was born on January 19, 1809, to professional actors Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins and David Poe, Jr., members of a repertory company in Boston, Massachusetts. Orphaned by age three, Poe was placed into the care of John and Fanny Allan, who baptized him Edgar Allan Poe, but never legally adopted him. John Allan, a prosperous exporter from Richmond, Virginia, provided exemplary schooling for his foster son, including five years in England. However, during Poe's first year attending the University of Virginia, the two had a falling out over Poe's gambling habits and Allan refused to provide further financial support. Poe left home, enlisted in the army, and published his first collection, Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827). A second volume, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems, appeared in 1829. Neither collection received significant critical or popular attention. Following an honorable discharge from the army that year, Poe was admitted to the United States Military Academy at West Point. This academic experience would also be short-lived; after six months, Poe was dismissed for disobeying orders. He moved to New York City, where he published his third collection of verse Poems (1831), and subsequently to Baltimore, where he resided with his aunt, Mrs. Maria Clemm. His first short stories were published during the next few years, and he continued to live with his aunt and his young cousin Virginia, whom he later married. In 1835 Poe, his aunt and his cousin moved to Richmond, Virginia, where he had accepted an editorial position at The Southern Literary Messenger. This was the first of several literary journals Poe would oversee during the next decade; his critical and editorial essays of these years led him to prominence as a leading man of letters in America. While Poe's works of fiction and poetry gained popular and critical attention during the late 1830s and early 1840s, he continued to rely on his work as an editor and literary critic for financial security. With the publication of “The Raven” in 1845, Poe achieved his highest measure of popular attention. This was followed by what were perhaps his most fruitful years of writing. They were marked by popular and critical recognition, yet punctuated with economic hardship and illness. In 1845, Poe became the editor, and ultimately the owner, of the Broadway Journal, but by 1846 the venture lost money and Poe stopped its publication. His wife died of tuberculosis in 1847. During her illness, Poe turned to alcohol to assuage his grief, and continued to drink after her death. Nevertheless, he continued to write and lecture, and gradually seemed to recover his health. On a trip to New York, Poe stopped in Baltimore and several days later, on election day, October 3, was found half conscious and delirious outside a polling place. Poe died on October 7, 1849, at the age of forty.

Plot and Major Characters

“The Raven” features two primary entities: the narrator, a young man whose grief over the loss of his love, “Lenore,” is palpable from the poem's opening lines, and the raven, whose sudden and foreboding presence evokes a succession of emotions from the narrator, from curiosity and mild amusement at the bird's first laconic responses to anger and despair at the realization that his beloved Lenore is now lost to him forever. Each stanza of the poem ends with a rhythmic refrain of “nothing more”—a benign assessment by the narrator that there are reasonable explanations for the strange occurrences of the evening—and progresses to the repetitious and increasingly ominous response of “Nevermore!” from the otherwise silent bird. The intensity of emotion rises with each refrain, culminating in the narrator's own tortured admission that “nevermore” can he be free of the shadow of grief and sorrow brought by the night's unwelcome visitor. The physical setting of the poem—a dark, December night in a library-like room—as well as repeated references to classical statuary, velvet cushions, rustling draperies, and the rapid beating of one's heart in response to fear of the unknown, are all familiar motifs in Poe's fiction and poetry, as is the archetype of the “anonymous young man” mourning the death of a beautiful young woman.

Major Themes

In “The Raven,” Poe exploits several themes that are found throughout his creative works, including the tragic death of a beautiful woman at a young age, and the grief of the bereft young man whose affection for his lost love transcends the physical boundaries of death and life. The motif of the “devil-beast” as the harbinger of misery and sorrow, found here in the form of the raven, is another theme common to the creative works of Poe. In “The Raven,” the ebony bird stands as the embodiment of grief caused by loneliness and separation, referencing not only Poe's fascination with the imagery of young lovers wrenched from one another by death, but also the pain he experienced at a very young age with the untimely death of his mother. Yet another theme—one's helplessness upon being visited by a ghostly presence—pervades “The Raven.” Later critics, including Betsy Erkkila, have also examined motifs in the work—especially the virginal, alabaster-skinned woman idealized in death and the sinister black creature who appears in the dark of night—from the perspective of race and class issues in the United States during the generations preceding the Civil War.

Critical Reception

Although “The Raven” has become one of the best known, most read, and most frequently parodied poems of American literature, it has not enjoyed uniformly generous critical acclaim throughout its history. Upon its publication, the poem generated excitement among readers on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean for its dramatic imagery, emotional intensity, and metrical cadences. Literary critics focused attention, instead, on technical concerns of verse, such as parallelism, internal rhyme, and what were termed inconsistencies or absurdities in Poe's imagery, including his reference to angelic creatures whose “foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.” Critics of his day also speculated somewhat unkindly on the inspiration and genesis of the poem, focusing their attention on the works of others from whom Poe was accused of lifting ideas and images—most notably the Charles Dickens novel Barnaby Rudge, which featured a talking raven. Poe's subsequent attempt to explain the origin and creation of the poem, as recorded in his essay, “The Philosophy of Composition” (1846), is also a favorite subject of critical attention, both in his day and in the generations since. “The Raven” continues to be examined by scholars and literary theorists. Many seek to add nuances of interpretation to an already sizable body of analysis and critical commentary. Others study “The Raven” to discern its influence on subsequent literary movements and theories, including Surrealism and rationalism, as well as its impact on literary culture throughout the world. Regardless of the literary merits or faults ascribed to the poem or to the poet himself, “The Raven” is generally accepted as one of Poe's most characteristic works in theme, tone, and execution, and Poe is highly regarded for his inspired, original imagination and deft command of language.

The Shield of Achilles: W. H. Auden

"The Shield of Achilles" is a poem by W. H. Auden first published in 1952. The Shield of Achilles is also the title poem of a collection of poems by Auden, published in 1955.


The poem is Auden's response to the detailed description in Homer's epic poem the 
Iliad of the shield borne by the hero Achilles, illustrated with scenes from daily life.

Auden's poem is written in two different stanza forms, one form with shorter lines, the other with longer lines. The stanzas with shorter lines describe the making of the shield by the god Hephaestus, and report the scenes that Achilles'mother, the Nereid Thetis, expects to find on the shield and which Hephaestus, in Auden's version, does not make. Thetis expects to find scenes of happiness and peace like those described by Homer.
The stanzas with longer lines describe the scenes that Hephaestus creates in Auden's version, scenes of a barren and impersonal modern world. In the first, an anonymous, dispassionate army listens crowd of ordinary people watch passively. In the third scene, a "ragged urchin" throws a stone at a bird; he takes it for granted "that girls are raped, that two boys knife a third," and "has never heard of any world where promises are kept / Or one could weep because another wept."
In the closing stanza in short lines, Thetis cries out in dismay at what Hephaestus has made for her son, "who would not live long."
The poem is frequently cited as an antiwar poem, but it is also a study in language and responsibility: both Thetis and Hephaestus act on behalf of someone else, Achilles, and they take no personal responsibility for the results. And the results of their passive, impersonal stance is the passive, impersonal world portrayed on the shield.
An alternative reading: Auden reflects bitterly on the differences between the Achaean world as described by Homer—a world where, even amid warfare, imagination naturally ran to scenes of peace—and the world of totalitarian horror Auden himself imagine. At the same time, Auden criticizes Homer for attributing glory to warriors.
Auden's moral opprobrium is directed, not at Thetis or Hephaestus, but at "the strong iron-hearted man-slaying Achilles." The shield described by Auden is made by the god to please Achilles: the horrid world depicted there (and not the delightful world depicted in the shield described by Homer) is the natural result of the sort of iron-hearted manslaughter Achilles, and his comrades and rivals, practice.

Critical Appreciation
Auden was disillusioned by the totalitarian state of the modern world which completely buried the growth of the individual. He felt that people existed as the 'State' and not as the 'Individual'. He therefore reflects the contrast between the modern world and the Achillean world. Auden deliberately interprets the images drawn on the shield to speak of the ills of the modern world.

The book The Shield of Achilles is a collection of poems in three parts, published in 1955, and containing Auden's poems written from around 1951 through 1954. It begins with the sequence "Bucolics", then miscellaneous poems under the heading "In Sunshine and In Shade", then the sequence Horae Canonicae.

A Prayer for My Daughter: William Butler Yeats

This poem was written by William Butler Yeats for his infant daughter, Anne. He worries about her. Maud Gonne was a radical, opinionated intelligent woman he had loved, but who had rejected his proposals. In this poem he vents his thoughts on her. Georgie Hyde Lees was his wife. ng, 4 Utarid

A Prayer for my Daughter by W.B. Yeats: An Analysis by Claire Wo

Stanza 1: The weather is a reflection of Yeats’ feelings. The post-war period was dangerous. Anne’s vulnerability and innocence is symbolised by the “cradle-hood” and “coverlid.”

“And half hid” shows that Anne is barely protected by the frail “coverlid.”

Anne is oblivious to the violent forces around her; she is ignorant (she “sleeps on”; she is not awake to the violence around her), hence she is “under this cradle-hood” which hides her and is unaffected. (The forces may be riots, violence, starvation, or decay of moral values.) “Under this cradlehood and coverlid/My child sleeps on.” Her ignorance protects her from the uneasy knowledge hence she “sleeps on.”

Robert Gregory died. His father could not protect him from death.

“The roof-levelling wind” is strong, representing frightening, turbulent forces.

“Where by the haystack- and roof-levelling wind,/Bred on the Atlantic, can be stayed.” USA was more comfortable compared to Europe. Turbulent forces or “wind” was less significant and more controlled in the USA. Hence it ca be “stayed” or controlled.

Yeats prays because he is gloomy; “great gloom …. In my mind.”

Tone: Frightening, precarious, gloomy.

Literary devices: personification – “the storm is howling” represents threatening external forces e.g. riots, evilness.

Roof-levelling wind represents turbulent forces.

Symbols - “Storm” represents outside forces which threaten Anne’s safety.

“cradlehood” represents Anne’s innocence and infancy.
“coverlid” represents innocence and ignorance, frail protection.
“wind” represents turbulent forces.
“one bare hill” may represent Robert’s death. (Why is the hill bare? Replies are appreciated.) The hill is empty, it may represent his death – there is no one to occupy it. Or it may be a hill where his tombstone lies. As I have said, I have no idea.

Metonym - The author may be mistaken but “Atlantic” may be the United States of America.

Rhyme scheme: aabbcddc

Stanza 2: Yeats is worried about Anne. “Ihave walked and prayed for this young child an hour.” The weather reflects the threatening forces he fears.
“Flooded stream” represents intense forces caused by people as it has strong forces. It is “flooded” because the troublemakers exist in large numbers or the forces are strong. The weather or external forces caused by the war are stormy and destructive. THe “elms” are tossed due to the destructive forces. People (possibly represented by “elms”) are affected.

Tone : intense, anxious, frenetic, chaotic.

This is rather desperate and pessimistic but there is a shift of mood. “Imagining …” When Yeats starts to imagine, he helps his daughter; he decides how she should turn out. This appeases his worries and gives him new ideas and food for thought.. He imagines how her future will be excitedly.

“Imagining…the future years had come/Dancing to a frenzied drum.” Anne’s life will pass in chaos. “Dancing to a frenzied drum” also indicates the passing years in Anne’s life which are represented by drum-beats (which have rhythm and tempo) – which also symbolize violence and chaos. It is a violent and chaotic time. The drum is “frenzied” because of the danger and chaos around Anne. Furthermore, Yeats is excited (hence frenzied) for her to grow up.

Anne’s innocence is juxtaposed with the contrasting “sea” which is “murderous.” The sea represents the world and the crowds around her, and as they are evil, destructive and take advantage of her innocence, they are “murderous.” Moreover, the “sea” or the world is termed as “murderous innocence” because as part of the “sea”, Anne’s innocence is ‘murderous’ to herself because it enables others to manipulate her.

Tone: frenetic, maddening, excited.

Literary devices: symbols - “sea wind” , “flooded stream” – turbulent forces

Personification - “future years … dancing” - the passing years of life

Juxtaposition/oxymoron/paradox – “murderous innocence of the sea”

Sibilance – “sea-wind scream”
Assonance:”sea-wind scream”
Onomatopoeia – “scream”

Stanza 3: Yeats hopes that Anne will be beautiful but not excessively. “May she be granted beauty and yet not/Beauty to make a stranger’s eye distraught.” Beauty is distracting and destructive, because it causes an admirer to be “distraught” and unhappy as a result of this unfulfilled desire to possess this beauty. Besides, he may desire her negatively and steal her innocence. It inspires passion which may be hopeless. She should not be vain and conceited of her beauty. “Or hers before a looking-glass.) Yeats fears that beauty will make her think that it is sufficient, for beauty would help her. Beautiful people being more attractive can benefit more, and with this attribute, Anne may think that she needs not perform acts of goodness, for her beauty is sufficient to place her in a position of security and acceptance. This causes her to lose “natural kindness”. She does not see or appreciate the values of kindness and virtue. She would think herself superior and strive less without helping others. They do not have to be kind and despise the physically undesirable. Furthermore, their beauty allows them to be fastidious in their choice of partners, having many admirers. Hence, they do not choose the right person as they have no heart or soul. “Lose … the heart-revealing intimacy/ That chooses right.” They cannot love truly and care for veneer and shallow qualities, for they cannot truly feel or know who “the one” is. They are sought for. The right person would in the end be more drawn to a good woman as shown in stanza 5. “Hearts are not had as a gift but hearts are earned.”

Beauty obstructs friendship as being as being beautiful causes one to be condescending, malicious and take things for granted. It causes the loss of human touch for the beautiful may tend to boast and despise their inferiors. They are not true friends. In another perspective, they do not form true friendships because others befriend them for the benefits derived from their appearance and even take advantage of them. The beautiful do not pay attention to those who make true friends as they believe themselves superior in beauty, fashion, etc. etc. Furthermore, excessive beauty results in jealousy and broken friendships. Another point to make is that beauty that over-entices may decrease Anne’s virtue and increase her vulnerability as others wish to use her. This is crucial as in this poem, Yeats emphasizes the need for feminine innocence.

In contrast, a plainer person being on a lower hierarchy will appreciate the importance of kindness. In this context, beauty is equated with society’s shallowness.

Tone: imploring, beseeching, prayer-like, reflective.

Literary devices: personification - “stranger’s eye distraught” - attracts and saddens one who is attracted

Symbol - the “stranger” is an unhappy admirer.
Alliteration - “stranger’s eye distraught”.

Stanza 4 : Yeats speaks of Greek mythology. Helen of Troy, being the most beautiful woman in the world, married Paris, a stupid man. Quote: “Helen being chosen found life flat and dull / And later had much trouble from a fool.” As she was greatly admired and revered for her beauty, life was boring with little strife.

“While that great queen, that rose out of the spray, ‘being fatherless could have her wasy/ Yet chose a bandy-legged smith for man.” Venus or Aphrodite, being fatherless, could marry as she pleased with no parental authority. Yet with all her power and advantages “chose a bandy-legged smith for man” (Hephaestus) – someone inferior to her. She had no father to guide her. Yeats intends to guide his daughter in the choice of a suitable spouse. Yeats is scornful: cultured women make mad choices in spouses. “Fine women eat/ A crazy salad with their meat.” Meat is substantial; salad is not. Meat represents
a fine lady who can be said to be “substantial,” having numerous qualities; the “crazy salad” is their dreadful mate, who is devoid of many qualities. They can have more, but choose worse.

The Horn of Plenty was a horn given by Zeus to his caretaker. The possessor of this Horn would be granted his wishes.
“Whereby the Horn of Plenty is undone.” This is because Maud Gonne squandered her gifts of intellect, grace and beauty and the benefits she could command by marrying John McBride. She could obtain what she desired with these gifts – similar to the Horn of Plenty – and wasted the aforementioned gifts on McBride. As the Horn of Plenty could bring victuals, John McBride is symbolized as an unsubstantial “salad.” Maud Gonne wasted her supposed power; she could have done better for herself, instead she made the wrong choice or desire.

Tone: cynical, sad, troubled, scornful.
Literary devices: symbol - “Helen”, “Queen” – a beautiful cultured woman or Maud Gonne
“Horn of plenty” - gifts, advantages.
Metaphor - “crazy salad” – an inferior spouse.

Stanza 5: Yeats wants Anne to be courteous. Love does not come freely and
unconditionally. “Hearts are not had as a gift but hearts are earned.” Love is not inspired by mere physical beauty; it is earned by good efforts “by those who are not entirely beautiful” who are kind and helpful. Those who have in stupidity made a fool of themselves by hopelessly loving beautiful women and thought it was reciprocated. “Yet many, tat have played the fool/ For beauty’s very self.” One may not be loved by a beautiful woman. “

“Charm” from a good woman has charmed a man eventually. “has charm made wise.” He becomes “wise” by realizing the goodness of loveing a good woman.

Unsuccessful men have loved and are loved by kind women who make them happy, yet are not beautiful. “Loved and thought himself beloved/ From a glad kindness cannot take his eyes.” She “cannot take his eyes” or maptivate him by sight because she is not physically beautiful. But her kindness makes him glad. This could be a reference to Yeats’ wife,, Georgie Hyde Lees who was not beautiful, but they had a happy marriage. Georgie loved him and let him take the credit for her work. The persona praises good unbeautiful women – like Georgie – who re more loved by men compared to harsh beautiful ones – Maud Gonne.

Tome: reflective, advisory, grateful, enlightened.

Literary devices: personification - “glad kindness cannot take his eys”
“charm made wise.”

Symbol - “hearts” – love.

Frost at Midnight: Samuel Taylor Coleridge


As the frost “performs its secret ministry” in the windless night, an owlet’s cry twice pierces the silence. The “inmates” of the speaker’s cottage are all asleep, and the speaker sits alone, solitary except for the “cradled infant” sleeping by his side. The calm is so total that the silence becomes distracting, and all the world of “sea, hill, and wood, / This populous village!” seems “inaudible as dreams.” The thin blue flame of the fire burns without flickering; only the film on the grate flutters, which makes it seem “companionable” to the speaker, almost alive—stirred by “the idling Spirit.”
“But O!” the speaker declares; as a child he often watched “that fluttering stranger” on the bars of his school window and daydreamed about his birthplace and the church tower whose bells rang so sweetly on Fair-day. These things lured him to sleep in his childhood, and he brooded on them at school, only pretending to look at his books—unless, of course, the door opened, in which case he looked up eagerly, hoping to see “Townsman, or aunt, or sister more beloved, / My play-mate when we both were clothed alike!”
Addressing the “Dear Babe, that sleep[s] cradled” by his side, whose breath fills the silences in his thought, the speaker says that it thrills his heart to look at his beautiful child. He enjoys the thought that although he himself was raised in the “great city, pent ’mid cloisters dim,” his child will wander in the rural countryside, by lakes and shores and mountains, and his spirit shall be molded by God, who will “by giving make it [the child] ask.”
All seasons, the speaker proclaims, shall be sweet to his child, whether the summer makes the earth green or the robin redbreast sings between tufts of snow on the branch; whether the storm makes “the eave-drops fall” or the frost’s “secret ministry” hangs icicles silently, “quietly shining to the quiet Moon.”


Like many Romantic verse monologues of this kind (Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” is a notable example), “Frost at Midnight” is written in blank verse, a term used to describe unrhymed lines metered in iambic pentameter.


The speaker of “Frost at Midnight” is generally held to be Coleridge himself, and the poem is a quiet, very personal restatement of the abiding themes of early English Romanticism: the effect of nature on the imagination (nature is the Teacher that “by giving” to the child’s spirit also makes it “ask”); the relationship between children and the natural world (“thou, my babe! shall wander like a breeze...”); the contrast between this liberating country setting and city (“I was reared / In the great city, pent ’mid cloisters dim”); and the relationship between adulthood and childhood as they are linked in adult memory.
However, while the poem conforms to many of the guiding principles of Romanticism, it also highlights a key difference between Coleridge and his fellow Romantics, specifically Wordsworth. Wordsworth, raised in the rustic countryside, saw his own childhood as a time when his connection with the natural world was at its greatest; he revisited his memories of childhood in order to soothe his feelings and provoke his imagination. Coleridge, on the other hand, was raised in London, “pent ’mid cloisters dim,” and questions Wordsworth’s easy identification of childhood with a kind of automatic, original happiness; instead, in this poem he says that, as a child, he “saw naught lovely but the stars and sky” and seems to feel the lingering effects of that alienation. In this poem, we see how the pain of this alienation has strengthened Coleridge’s wish that his child enjoy an idyllic Wordsworthian upbringing “by lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags / Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds...” Rather than seeing the link between childhood and nature as an inevitable, Coleridge seems to perceive it as a fragile, precious, and extraordinary connection, one of which he himself was deprived.
In expressing its central themes, “Frost at Midnight” relies on a highly personal idiom whereby the reader follows the natural progression of the speaker’s mind as he sits up late one winter night thinking. His idle observation gives the reader a quick impression of the scene, from the “silent ministry” of the frost to the cry of the owl and the sleeping child. Coleridge uses language that indicates the immediacy of the scene to draw in the reader; for instance, the speaker cries “Hark!” upon hearing the owl, as though he were surprised by its call. The objects surrounding the speaker become metaphors for the work of the mind and the imagination, so that the fluttering film on the fire grate plunges him into the recollection of his childhood. His memory of feeling trapped in the schoolhouse naturally brings him back into his immediate surroundings with a surge of love and sympathy for his son. His final meditation on his son’s future becomes mingled with his Romantic interpretation of nature and its role in the child’s imagination, and his consideration of the objects of nature brings him back to the frost and the icicles, which, forming and shining in silence, mirror the silent way in which the world works upon the mind; this revisitation of winter’s frosty forms brings the poem full circle.

Tintern Abbey: William Wordsworth


The full title of this poem is “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 131798.” It opens with the speaker’s declaration that five years have passed since he last visited this location, encountered its tranquil, rustic scenery, and heard the murmuring waters of the river. He recites the objects he sees again, and describes their effect upon him: the “steep and lofty cliffs” impress upon him “thoughts of more deep seclusion”; he leans against the dark sycamore tree and looks at the cottage-grounds and the orchard trees, whose fruit is still unripe. He sees the “wreaths of smoke” rising up from cottage chimneys between the trees, and imagines that they might rise from “vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods,” or from the cave of a hermit in the deep forest.
The speaker then describes how his memory of these “beauteous forms” has worked upon him in his absence from them: when he was alone, or in crowded towns and cities, they provided him with “sensations sweet, / Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart.” The memory of the woods and cottages offered “tranquil restoration” to his mind, and even affected him when he was not aware of the memory, influencing his deeds of kindness and love. He further credits the memory of the scene with offering him access to that mental and spiritual state in which the burden of the world is lightened, in which he becomes a “living soul” with a view into “the life of things.” The speaker then says that his belief that the memory of the woods has affected him so strongly may be “vain”—but if it is, he has still turned to the memory often in times of “fretful stir.”
Even in the present moment, the memory of his past experiences in these surroundings floats over his present view of them, and he feels bittersweet joy in reviving them. He thinks happily, too, that his present experience will provide many happy memories for future years. The speaker acknowledges that he is different now from how he was in those long-ago times, when, as a boy, he “bounded o’er the mountains” and through the streams. In those days, he says, nature made up his whole world: waterfalls, mountains, and woods gave shape to his passions, his appetites, and his love. That time is now past, he says, but he does not mourn it, for though he cannot resume his old relationship with nature, he has been amply compensated by a new set of more mature gifts; for instance, he can now “look on nature, not as in the hour / Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes / The still, sad music of humanity.” And he can now sense the presence of something far more subtle, powerful, and fundamental in the light of the setting suns, the ocean, the air itself, and even in the mind of man; this energy seems to him “a motion and a spirit that impels / All thinking thoughts.... / And rolls through all things.” For that reason, he says, he still loves nature, still loves mountains and pastures and woods, for they anchor his purest thoughts and guard the heart and soul of his “moral being.”
The speaker says that even if he did not feel this way or understand these things, he would still be in good spirits on this day, for he is in the company of his “dear, dear (d) Sister,” who is also his “dear, dear Friend,” and in whose voice and manner he observes his former self, and beholds “what I was once.” He offers a prayer to nature that he might continue to do so for a little while, knowing, as he says, that “Nature never did betray / The heart that loved her,” but leads rather “from joy to joy.” Nature’s power over the mind that seeks her out is such that it renders that mind impervious to “evil tongues,” “rash judgments,” and “the sneers of selfish men,” instilling instead a “cheerful faith” that the world is full of blessings. The speaker then encourages the moon to shine upon his sister, and the wind to blow against her, and he says to her that in later years, when she is sad or fearful, the memory of this experience will help to heal her. And if he himself is dead, she can remember the love with which he worshipped nature. In that case, too, she will remember what the woods meant to the speaker, the way in which, after so many years of absence, they became more dear to him—both for themselves and for the fact that she is in them.


“Tintern Abbey” is composed in blank verse, which is a name used to describe unrhymed lines in iambic pentameter. Its style is therefore very fluid and natural; it reads as easily as if it were a prose piece. But of course the poetic structure is tightly constructed; Wordsworth’s slight variations on the stresses of iambic rhythms is remarkable. Lines such as “Here, under this dark sycamore, and view” do not quite conform to the stress-patterns of the meter, but fit into it loosely, helping Wordsworth approximate the sounds of natural speech without grossly breaking his meter. Occasionally, divided lines are used to indicate a kind of paragraph break, when the poet changes subjects or shifts the focus of his discourse.


The subject of “Tintern Abbey” is memory—specifically, childhood memories of communion with natural beauty. Both generally and specifically, this subject is hugely important in Wordsworth’s work, reappearing in poems as late as the “Intimations of Immortality” ode. “Tintern Abbey” is the young Wordsworth’s first great statement of his principle (great) theme: that the memory of pure communion with nature in childhood works upon the mind even in adulthood, when access to that pure communion has been lost, and that the maturity of mind present in adulthood offers compensation for the loss of that communion—specifically, the ability to “look on nature” and hear “human music”; that is, to see nature with an eye toward its relationship to human life. In his youth, the poet says, he was thoughtless in his unity with the woods and the river; now, five years since his last viewing of the scene, he is no longer thoughtless, but acutely aware of everything the scene has to offer him. Additionally, the presence of his sister gives him a view of himself as he imagines himself to have been as a youth. Happily, he knows that this current experience will provide both of them with future memories, just as his past experience has provided him with the memories that flicker across his present sight as he travels in the woods.
“Tintern Abbey” is a monologue, imaginatively spoken by a single speaker to himself, referencing the specific objects of its imaginary scene, and occasionally addressing others—once the spirit of nature, occasionally the speaker’s sister. The language of the poem is striking for its simplicity and forthrightness; the young poet is in no way concerned with ostentation. He is instead concerned with speaking from the heart in a plainspoken manner. The poem’s imagery is largely confined to the natural world in which he moves, though there are some castings-out for metaphors ranging from the nautical (the memory is “the anchor” of the poet’s “purest thought”) to the architectural (the mind is a “mansion” of memory).
The poem also has a subtle strain of religious sentiment; though the actual form of the Abbey does not appear in the poem, the idea of the abbey—of a place consecrated to the spirit—suffuses the scene, as though the forest and the fields were themselves the speaker’s abbey. This idea is reinforced by the speaker’s description of the power he feels in the setting sun and in the mind of man, which consciously links the ideas of God, nature, and the human mind—as they will be linked in Wordsworth’s poetry for the rest of his life, from “It is a beauteous evening, calm and free” to the great summation of the Immortality Ode.