Friday, May 15, 2009

Blog Response: Rochester's Blindness

Following the fire at Thornfield, Rochester is very much reduced to the status of invalid. Beyond merely suffering emotionally and psychologically at the loss of Jane, his home, and Bertha, Rochester’s pain is compounded by physical ailments. His newfound blindness and amputation moored Rochester to Ferndean hospital, granting him very little mobility beyond his chair. Jane’s return to Rochester’s life notes a shift in their relationship, where there appears to be greater inter-reliance between them, rather than being characterized by Rochester’s sole domination of Jane.

Although cynical to consider, Rochester’s treatment of Jane shifts dramatically following his accident, revealing greater levels of dependence whereupon. Prior to it, Rochester dictated and influenced all Jane’s decisions, subtlely prodding her to bend to his will. Even in his initial marriage proposal he noted, “Little scpetic, you shall be convinced” (253). This concession on the part of Rochester serves to exemplify his domineering nature- that Jane never seemed to find disagreeable. This overbearing even authoritarian nature was all but effaced following the accident, where Rochester in his second attempt at marriage notes, “A poor blind man, whom you will have to lead about by the hand?” (433), after Jane initially agrees. In stark contrast to his first attempt, rather than using his influence to convince Jane, Rochester appears shrunken, seemingly attempting to convince her not to marry him. At this juncture in her life, Jane has also achieved a greater level of independence and self-worth outside the realm of love and marriage, through her trials with the Riverses. During that period, Jane accrued a great deal of personal wealth and rejected another marriage proposal, which if accepted, would have solidified her position as inferior. From such, one could argue that the equality produced from the marriage to Rochester was a result of Jane’s growing independence, produced while away from Thornfield. Although I find this in some respects true, Jane’s subordination to St. John during her stay with the Riverses suggests her inability to separate a desire for personal independence from a male influence. It appears then that the scruples of Jane were not quite as effective in creating an equalizing gradient than Rochester’s accident- Rochester had to be degraded in order for the two to become equal. Jane herself even concedes in the last chapter, “Mr. Rochester continued to be blind the first two years of our union: perhaps it was that circumstance that drew us so very near…” (439).

After so long refusing to be bound to the doldrums and repetitions of a domestic life, Jane ultimately agrees to the marriage and by the last chapter, the two are wed. Although Jane speaks with rapture of the decision, her comments speak little of personal happiness outside of Rochester. She notes, “I have now been married ten years. I know what it is to live entirely for and white what I love best on earth…we are ever together” (439). Although content, it would be impossible to say that Jane was fulfilled. Hearkening back to her early time at Thornwood, Jane noted, “the restlessness was in my nature; it agitated me to pain sometimes…” and continued on to say, “it is narrow-minded…to say that they [women] ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stocking, to playing o the piano and embroidering bags” (116; 117). In ultimately marrying Rochester, rather than being fulfilled, Jane unconsciously molds herself to this domestic ideal.

In reiterating the fate of St. John in the final chapter, the readers are reminded of the entirely dominating figure he represented to Jane, in his modes of control and influence. Although her marriage to Rochester contrasts with her idealism and personal values, a marriage to St. John (reminded again in the last chapter) would have produced complete and total subordination. The continued use of St. John as the foil to Rochester merely conveys Rochester as the lesser of two evils.

Blog Response: Hamlet Soliloquy, "To be or not to be"

Hamlet’s soliloquy in act 3, scene 1 remains a testament to his dwindling state of mind, which as the play progresses, reveals his becoming more and more manic. The soliloquy epitomizes Hamlet’s despair, as he contemplates the possibility of suicide. It becomes apparent that Hamlet’s brooding, isolation, and anguish, highly developed through the course of the soliloquy, are more effectively conveyed by Alexander Fodor’s interpretation. Through unique camera effects, a simple setting, and measured delivery of the lines, Fodder creates an image of Hamlet that parallels that in the play- a man undergoing great psychological torment.

Alex Fodor’s scene opens with a shot of a very advanced looking voice recorder and then pulls away to reveal a close-up of part of Fodor’s face, particularly his eyes. Fodor’s eyes are frequently zoomed in on, to convey the sense of reflection during the soliloquy. As Fodor says, “To grunt and sweat under a weary life/But that the dread of something after death…” for example, the camera slowly begins zooming in on his right eye. Thus as Fodor contemplates which is a worse fate- continuous struggle during life or the possibility of worse after death, the shot of his eye and the increased emphasis on the eye convey the psychological aspect of the soliloquy. Hamlet’s growing despair is also developed at length through camera shots in Fodor’s interpretation. The director chose to disperse shots of Hamlet’s dead father sporadically throughout the scene, to provide a basis for his desolation. These shots, which presented a younger Hamlet and Queen Gertrude kissing the dead king, appear sinister as the characters are saturated in a sickly green color. The inclusion of these memories not only serve to justify Hamlet’s current desolate mindset, but through the greenish color especially, suggest foul-play, perhaps murder.

The setting, however, simple in Fodor’s interpretation was utilized especially to convey Hamlet’s growing sense of isolation. Through the course of the scene, Hamlet is situated in a bare white room, with only a voice recorder in front of him. The physical bareness of his surroundings, bordered by no one and nothing, parallel his mental and emotional isolation. The room appears cold and sterile and even the scenes in Hamlet’s memories are similarly vacant. Even the inclusion of the voice recorder, to justify Hamlet’s speaking aloud to himself, seems to convey an emptiness and a coldness. Rather than releasing his emotions by simply speaking the lines aloud, Hamlet had to plan prior to speak into the voice recorder. The soliloquy was premeditated, which conveys a greater sense of a manic distress as he was mulling over the thoughts rather than an explosively releasing his emotions.

Overwhelmingly however, it was Fodor’s minimalist delivery of the lines that truly reflected Hamlet’s state of mind. His voice was at once measured, soft, and his expression, eyes wide, hardly changed through the course of the soliloquy. Rather than being prone to bursts of emotion, Fodor’s tone and expression remained the same, even after dredging up memories of his father’s death. Hamlet’s disconnection from his emotions suggests deep psychological suffering especially if memories of his father’s death did not move him. As Fodor says, “and by a sleep to say we end/ The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks” (60-61), his eyes are wide and unfocused, appearing to contemplate the possibility, the temptation even of suicide. His voice remains slow and drawling throughout the soliloquy, however, gains speed as he says, “For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,/ Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,/ The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,/ The insolence of office, and the spurns/ That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes” (69-73). As Hamlet lists off the negatives in living, he appears to gain more confidence in choosing suicide. However no sooner does he concede this, that Fodor’s voice grows slow once more and his eyes look off from the camera as he says “But that the dread of something after death,” appearing to consider once more either the implication of committing suicide (which religious doctrine believes is hell) or simply the implication of no longer living. This shift from a slow cadence to a quick cadence back to a slow cadence as he contemplates the possibility of suicide also suggests Hamlet’s indecisiveness through the course of the soliloquy. He concludes much the same way he began, with deliberate and drawling speech, however, concludes with a hint of anger as he concedes that “enterprises of great pitch/ and moment/ With this regard their currents turn awry,/ And lose the name of action,” (85-87).

In light of Fodor’s performance, the interpretations of Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Branagh pale in comparison. Their use of more overt emotions and displaying the daggers that could be used in the potential suicide detracted from the psychological aspect of Hamlet’s state of mind. While he clearly was beset by emotions such as anguish and even perhaps anger at the intemperate nature of women, Fodor’s portrayal de-emphasized the obvious emotions and thus made him appear more manic, as Shakespeare hoped to convey.

Blog Response: Hamlet Soliloquy

Hamlet’s soliloquy in act 2, scene 2 presents a man undergoing great psychological and mental distress. In his solitude, Hamlet discusses his desire to die, his father’s death, and his mother’s subsequent remarriage to his uncle all of which are subjects of great pain for him. It is for this reason that Laurence Olivier’s interpretation of Hamlet resonates more with Shakespeare’s writing than Kenneth Branagh’s. Oliver’s haunting delivery in conjunction with the setting, composition, and music provide a reading of Hamlet that is at once contemplative and sorrowful, as Shakespeare intended to convey him.

The setting, a simple, darkened room within the castle, mirrors Hamlet’s growing isolation and a sense of foreboding. Olivier notes “How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable/Seem to me all the uses of this world” (134-135), and proceeds to stand up and look about him. The viewer is provided a panorama of the scene, in which, gray columns dominate the eye. Beyond such architectural structures, a table and a few chairs are placed in the room. However, there is a feeling of melancholy and gloom even within the setting of the scene. Olivier comments, “things rank and gross in nature/Possess it merely” (136-137) and as he does so, he walks by one of the aforementioned columns. The zoom on the column reveals its rough, uneven texture. Later in the scene, Hamlet walks over to a table overflowing with papers, near a few chairs. As the camera zooms out to reveal the entirety of the surroundings, Hamlet himself appears small among such elements of setting. Rather than being the focal point, he seems to blend into the background further conveying a sense of isolation and solitude. Further, Olivier begins and ends his soliloquy in what appears to be a red chair. The fact that Olivier got up from the chair, paced, and then returned to it, reflects the same cyclical nature of his thoughts, which came full circle, while also cementing the thoughtfulness of his actions. The simplicity of the setting however allows the focus to remain on Hamlet.

Unlike Branagh’s interpretation of Hamlet, Oliver’s use of music lends itself to the eeriness of the scene. Although never loud enough to drown out the measured whisper of Olivier, the music remains in the background of his thoughts, providing a musical undercurrent to the words. The music begins with low string instruments, perhaps a bass or a cello. The darkness of the notes and instruments reflects the darkness of the atmosphere. The use of music creates a juxtaposition between the darkness of the music and Olivier’s impassioned whispers.

What really offset Olivier’s performance from Branagh’s however, was the delivery of the lines themselves, which reflects a man undergoing psychological turmoil. Rather than speaking the lines, Olivier read the script off stage and later dubbed the sounds in. The soliloquy suggested Hamlet’s thoughts, rather than reading the lines aloud and speaking to himself. In simply reading the lines as Hamlet’s thoughts rather than his speech, Olivier conveys the introspective nature of the scene. Olivier’s whisper, full of desolation and despair, accurately depicts the content of the soliloquy. There is a clear hopelessness in his discussion of suicide; he croaks out the interjections, “O God, God” (132), as if he does not even possess the will to speak, let alone live. As the soliloquy shifts from a personal self-reflection of suicide to a disgust at his mother, Olivier speaks his only line aloud, “Within a month,” (153) noting that it was only within a month that his mother remarried his uncle. The use of spoken word for this line, rather than the presentation of thoughts as before, suggests that Hamlet is speaking to himself, answering his own thoughts. The shift in his thoughts towards his mother is reflects a growing disgust, rather than simply a moroseness. As the scene continues and Olivier becomes more and more enmeshed in thoughts about his mother, the speech becomes faster as if his thoughts were running wild. “O God,” Olivier spits out, “a beast that wants discourse of reason/Would have mourn’d longer” (150-151). The quick pacing of this line is juxtaposed with the slow drawn-out manner in which Olivier says, “married with my uncle,” (151) in the very same line. The statement, unlike the ones that precede it, is so full of venom and disgust at the mere suggestion of his mother and uncle being married. Olivier later says the statement, “Within a month” (153) again, and chooses to say it in the same manner as originally, the same inflection and emphasis. In doing so, Olivier conveys Hamlet’s fixation to his mother, by noting his attachment to the small time frame between his father’s death and his mother’s remarrying.
The manner in which Olivier acted as Hamlet also contributed significantly to a growing feeling of dread. His desolation is clear from the onset of the scene as the camera is pulled in quite close to his face, presenting eyes downcast, and creases of worry in the brow. As Olivier utters the line, “Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d” (131), he looks up to the heavens, almost imploring God to retract his law against suicide. “O God, God,” (132) Olivier goes on and he is presented closing his eyes and pulling his head down almost in shame. As he paces around the room, his footsteps appear heavy and slow; the walking aimless, just to fill time as Olivier attempts to sort his thoughts. At the concession, “Heaven and earth/Must I remember?” (142-143), Olivier allows himself to fall forward onto chairs, suggesting that the memories of such trying times are truly too much to bear. Similarly, as he states, “Let me not think on’t!” (146), he whips around as if trying to use the force of the movement to remove his thoughts and while he says “O God, a beast that wants discourse of reason/Would have mourn’d longer” (150-151) he falls against a column as if resigned. By the conclusion of the scene, Olivier returns to the red chair and places his head in his hand, exuding hopelessness. However, Olivier’s depiction of Hamlet, regardless of undergoing mental turmoil, reflects someone of dignity and high station, as he walks with his hands clasped behind his back throughout much of the scene.

Laurence Olivier’s depiction of Hamlet is particularly strong for its subtlety and ability to suggest Hamlet’s psychological and mental disturbances. Rather than being taken by fits of anger, Olivier presented his Hamlet as full of misery and despair. The scene further reflected the foreboding aura of the book, the eeriness and gloominess that was missing in the scene by Branagh. The quieter, more nuanced more performance of Olivier was effectively able to convey Hamlet’s growing isolation and despair.

Response: Charles Olson

Tzivia Halperin

Throughout his interview with Elizabeth Alexander, Stephen Colbert utilized his brash humor in order to disseminate ideas on her poem, “Praise Song for the Day” and on poetry in general. During the course of which it became clear that Alexander’s poetry in many ways reflected the ideals of deceased poet Charles Olson, especially in her discussion of emotional truth. However, in form the two highly juxtapose, Alexander emphasized a general structure of three-lined stanzas where Olson rejected structure to convey speech. Although Alexander’s poem may have resonated with Olson thematically, his emphasis of the abstract would have put him at odds with her.

After initial introductions, Stephen Colbert launched into the question, but “poems aren’t true?” which was greeted by an explosive round of laughter. Although humorous, his flippant question allowed Alexander to explore the difference between emotional and literal truth. As she described it, poetry does not have to be “true in the strictly factual sense” but rather “emotionally true.” Truth was therefore objective, different for every reader, depending on how he or she interpreted it and what emotions it conjured. Her response would likely be quite comparable to Olson’s, had Olson too been interviewed. Olson’s abstract poetry, that was highly reliant on imagery, emphasized an emotional rather than literal truth. In “Song 2” of “Songs of Maximus,” Olson writes, “how get out of anywhere (the bodies/ all buried/ in shallow graves?” which conjures images of corpses atop the earth, making movement difficult. His imagery emphasizes an emotional truth- being moored to an area, rather than a literal truth. This idea is further conveyed in his essay “Projective Verse,” especially in his discussion of perceptions. He noted, “ONE PERCEPTION MUST IMMEDIATELY AND DIRECTLY LEAD TO A FURTHER PERCEPTION.” In choosing to use the word “perception” rather than truth i.e., Olson (like Alexander) contends that poetry reveals understanding in a different manner for different people.

Colbert later posed the question “what’s the difference between a metaphor and a lie?” which was not answered in depth. Olson, like any poet, does employ rhetorical devices to convey his ideas. In the poem “Maximus of Gloucester, to You,” Olson writes “love is form, and cannot be without/ important substance (the weight, say, 50 carats, each of us perforce,/ our own goldsmith’s scale.” In this manner, Olson utilizes a metaphor to emphasize the importance of substance by comparing it to an important substance, gold. In spite of using these stylistic elements in his poetry, Olson would be opposed to Colbert’s consideration of metaphors as simply “flowery language” that are only used to “dress up” writing. Olson contends in his essay “Projective Verse” that descriptive language can be a central aspect of writing as long as it doesn’t detract from the ideas and is used sparingly. He writes, “The descriptive functions generally have to be watched, every second, in projective verse, because of their easiness, and thus their drain on the energy which composition by field allows into a poem…if allowed in, [they] must be so juxtaposed, apposed, set in, that it does not, for an instant, sap the going energy of the content toward its form.” Olson qualified his discussion of figurative language that it was only relevant until content suffered for the sake of form.

Olson’s discussions of content versus form would place Alexander very much at odds with him. In her own poem “Praise Song for the Day,” Alexander consistently uses stanzas of three lines with about 9-11 syllables per line. In the converse, the structure of Olson’s poetry is immeasurable. The lines and line spacings are always distinct, providing different breathing and pauses. This is evident even in his reading of the poem, “Maximus, To Himself” where extra pause was given between the lines that ended with “obedience” and “that we are all late/ in a slow time,” as the latter lines were offset. Olson noted that “FORM IS NEVER MORE THAN AN EXTENSION OF CONTENT” in his essay “Projective Verse.” It is the content itself and an expression of everyday speech that should forge line length, spacing, stanzas. “Each of these lines is a progressing of both meaning and the breathing forward, and then a backing up, without a progress or any kind of movement outside the unit of time local to the idea,” Olson wrote. Alexander’s strict adherence to stanzas and syllables for form’s sake rather than content’s remains in disagreement with Olson’s ideals.

Option Assignment: Paired Poetry





Total time- 2 hours



Question 1


(Suggested time- 40 minutes. This question counts as one-third of the total essay score.)


The following two poems present two views on the moon, from the perspective of women. The first, is a post-modern poem written by Sylvia Plath, the second, a romantic poem written by Mary Darby Robinson. Read each poem carefully. Then write an essay in which you compare and contrast the two poems, analyzing the techniques they used to forge their complex ideas on the moon and how it affects the speaker.

 THE MOON AND THE YEW TREE                                      

This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary 
The trees of the mind are black. The light is blue. 
The grasses unload their griefs on my feet as if I were God 
Prickling my ankles and murmuring of their humility 
Fumy, spiritous mists inhabit this place. 
Separated from my house by a row of headstones. 
I simply cannot see where there is to get to. 

The moon is no door. It is a face in its own right, 
White as a knuckle and terribly upset. 
It drags the sea after it like a dark crime; it is quiet 
With the O-gape of complete despair. I live here. 
Twice on Sunday, the bells startle the sky -- 
Eight great tongues affirming the Resurrection 
At the end, they soberly bong out their names. 

The yew tree points up, it has a Gothic shape. 
The eyes lift after it and find the moon. 
The moon is my mother. She is not sweet like Mary. 
Her blue garments unloose small bats and owls. 
How I would like to believe in tenderness – 

The face of the effigy, gentled by candles,

Clouds are flowering 
Blue and mystical over the face of the stars 
Inside the church, the saints will all be blue, 
Floating on their delicate feet over the cold pews, 
Their hands and faces stiff with holiness. 
The moon sees nothing of this. She is bald and wild. 
And the message of the yew tree is blackness - blackness and silence.


PALE GODDESS of the witching hour;
    Blest Contemplation's placid friend;
  Oft in my solitary bow'r,
I mark thy lucid beam
    From thy crystal car descend,
Whitening the spangled heath, and limpid sapphire stream.

  And oft, amidst the shades of night
  I court thy undulating light;
    When Fairies dance around the verdant ring,
    Or frisk beside the bubbling spring,
When the thoughtless SHEPHERD'S song
I have fallen a long way. Clouds are flowering 
Blue and mystical over the face of the stars 
Inside the church, the saints will all be blue, 
Floating on their delicate feet over the cold pews, 
Their hands and faces stiff with holiness. 
The moon sees nothing of this. She is bald and wild. 
And the message of the yew tree is blackness - blackness and silence.

    Echoes thro' the silent air,
    As he pens his fleecy care,
Or plods with saunt'ring gait, the dewy meads along.

CHASTE ORB! as thro' the vaulted sky
    Feath'ry clouds transparent sail;
  When thy languid, weeping eye,
    Sheds its soft tears upon the painted vale;

  As I ponder o'er the floods,
  Or tread with listless step, th'embow'ring woods,
  O, let thy transitory beam,
  Soothe my sad mind, with FANCY'S aëry dream.

  Wrapt in REFLECTION, let me trace 
  O'er the vast ethereal space,
  Stars, whose twinkling fires illume
  Dark-brow'd NIGHT'S obtrusive gloom;
  Where across the concave wide;
  Flaming METEORS swiftly glide;
  Or along the milky way,
  Vapours shoot a silvery ray;
And as I mark, thy faint reclining head,
  Sinking on Ocean's pearly bed;
Let REASON tell my soul, thus all things fade.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Paired Poetry Assignment: Metacognitive

Tzivia Halperin
Block 2
Mr. Gallagher
April 17, 2009


In creating the paired-poem prompt, my goal was to find a romantic era poem that although was in some way similar to Boland’s sentiments, on the whole, offered new ideas and offered a range of techniques for discussion. This proved the most difficult aspect of the assignment and I ended up devoting hours sifting through poems in order to find one that fit my own stipulations. Early through my research I came upon a poem by a French romantic “Femmes Damnées” (Damned Women) by Charles Baudelaire. This created a two-fold conflict; first, the fact that I was reading translations and interpretations of the poem made it impossible to discuss techniques, as the techniques I was reading were the techniques of the translator and not necessarily Baudelaire himself. Further, the subject matter Baudelaire discussed highlighted the indefinable quality of women- “O virgins, O demons, O monsters, O martyrs,” and while this idea could stimulate a range of essays, I didn’t think it could so easily be connected to women’s role in society itself. I also did much research on William Wordsworth as I found that he wrote numerous poems that discussed female gender roles, including “The Idiot Boy,” and “Her Eyes were Wild” but none seemed to fit my needs. It was through the research on Wordsworth however that led me to Charlotte Smith and her poetry, as an essay was written comparing their roles in the romantic feminism.
Once I found “Sonnet XLVII To Fancy,” it became clear that that was to be the poem I would use, connecting them on the idea of plateauing- of an inability to act or do as one pleased, and especially contrasting them through tone (among other techniques) that caused the two poems to diverge. However, my qualm about utilizing this Smith poem, which is a problem that arises any time I analyze a poem, is that I’m misreading it. If in fact I misread Smith’s poem, it would then be impossible to write an essay about it whereupon.

Smith’s poem contrasts highly with Boland, especially in her use of a desolate, rather than indignant tone. It was this divergence of tone that forged one poem that chafed at the position of women and the other served as a melancholy self-meditation. Smith’s poem begins, “Thee, Queen of Shadows!” (1) and already in the first line, the imagery hearkens to the subordinate position of women by noting the characteristic of shadows- suggesting that the woman figure is shrouded and covered by more powerful entities, i.e. men. She continued this metaphor, expanding it to include light throughout much of the poem, noting that “When on mine eyes the early radiance broke/Which shew'd the beauteous rather than the true!” (Lines 3-4); when women did garner attention it was for their physical beauty rather than their more substantial attributes. Similarly, when Smith wrote, “And now 'tis thine in darkest hues to dress,” she not only expanded upon this light/dark metaphor but similarly used “darkest hues” to suggest the desolation that is inherent within the poem. The student may even note the parallel that forms between the two poems, in which Boland utilizes fire and light imagery to convey masculinity. In this manner, the two authors use contrasting images of light and dark to suggest the contrasting ideas of masculinity and femininity, respectively.

Boland too emphasizes the generic, archetypical role of women, however, unlike Smith who emphasizes the idea of physical beauty, she highlights a greater irony than her romantic counterpart. Boland writes, “So when the king's head/gored its basket—/grim harvest/we were gristing bread/or getting the recipe/for a good soup/to appetize/our gossip” (28-35). Each emphasized the contrast between expected duty and personal desires. Smith later conveys this juxtaposition through personification, noting, “The spot where pale Experience hangs her head/O'er the sad grave of murder'd Happiness!” (7-8). By personifying experience and happiness, Smith simplifies the idea that experience overshadows personal happiness. Each reached a similar conclusion however that so-called women’s duty overshadowed their personal happiness.

From this statement, the students who were to write the essay could create a contrast between the ideas of Boland and Smith. Smith concedes that it was society, or an external force, that was very much dictating her actions- as she noted, it was her “wayward destiny,” destiny implying that it is not something she herself could influence. While each came to a similar conclusion about women, that they are discontented with their current social positions, Boland asserts that it is very much women who create this self-perpetuating cycle of subordination. As she herself notes, the women consciously fill their domestic niche and choose to serve as caretakers, cooks, and cleaners- it’s their “alibi,” (25). The use of the word “alibi” in line 25 suggests that women consciously choose not to adapt but to remain stagnant. A student could also discuss their diverging tones, where Smith appears woeful, Boland sounds appears much more indignant, noting that “still no page/scores the low music/of our outrage,” (40-43). In contrast, Smith utilizes words such as “darkest hues,” “sad grave,” and “fancied pain” to convey a sense of despondency and even hopelessness of women’s current plight (6; 8; 10).
Nevertheless, in spite of the clear parallels between the two poems, a student may have difficulty analyzing Charlotte Smith’s poem “Sonnet XLVII To Fancy” beyond the surface content. They could write an essay merely contrasting Boland’s discussion of women’s stagnation within society and Smith’s discussion of women’s de-emphasis in society, each case overshadowed by men. In order for the student to answer the question successfully and effectively, the student would be required to note the techniques as well as the themes of the poems. In Boland’s case, a discussion of the fire imagery, the irony, and indignant tone would be necessary while with Smith’s poem, the student should be able to discuss the dark imagery, the personification, as well as the despondent tone through the essay. The student may also feel threatened by the romantic language, which is clearly elevated. However, any vocabulary that the student does not understand i.e. “sportive” can be deduced by context clues.

Paired Poetry Assignment: It's a Woman's World


Total time- 2 hours

Question 1

(Suggested time- 40 minutes. This question counts as one-third of the total essay score.)

The following two poems present two views on a women’s role in society, from the perspective of women, the first, a contemporary poem written by Eavan Boland, the second, a romantic poem written by Charlotte Smith. Read each poem carefully. Then write an essay in which you analyze the techniques each author used to forge their complex ideas on the roles of women, especially highlighting their tones and imagery. The student should take note of the contrasts and comparisons between the two poems both thematically and through the authors’ distinct literary techniques.


Our way of life
has hardly changed
since a wheel first
whetted a knife

Well, maybe flame
burns more greedily
and wheels are steadier
but we're the same:

who milestone
our lives
with oversights—
living by the lights
of the loaf left

by the cash register,
the washing powder
paid for and wrapped,
the wash left wet;

Like most historic peoples
we are defined
by what we forget,

by what we never will be:
It’s our alibi

for all time that as far as history goes
we were never
on the scene of the crime.

So when the king's head
gored its basket—
grim harvest
we were gristing bread

or getting the recipe
for a good soup
to appetize
our gossip.
And it's still the same:

By night our windows
moth our children
to the flame
of hearth not history.
And still no page
scores the low music
of our outrage.
But appearances
still reassure: That woman there, craned to the starry mystery

And still no page
scores the low music
of our outrage.

But appearances
still reassure: That woman there,
craned to
the starry mystery

is merely getting a breath
of evening air,
while this one here—
her mouth
a burning plume—

she's no fire-eater,
just my frosty neighbor
coming home
1982 -Eavan Boland (1944-)

Thee, Queen of Shadows! -- shall I still invoke,Still love the scenes thy sportive pencil drew,When on mine eyes the early radiance brokeWhich shew'd the beauteous rather than the true!Alas! long since those glowing tints are dead,And now 'tis thine in darkest hues to dressThe spot where pale Experience hangs her headO'er the sad grave of murder'd Happiness!Thro' thy false medium, then, no longer view'd,May fancied pain and fancied pleasure fly,And I, as from me all thy dreams depart,Be to my wayward destiny subdued:Nor seek perfection with a poet's eye,Nor suffer anguish with a poet's heart! 1789 -Charlotte Smith (1749-1806)