Category Archives: LOVE POEMS

La Belle Dame Sans Merci | Summary, Model Explanations, Critical Analysis, Question Answers

La Belle Dame Sans Merci

Introduction: “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” was written in April 1819. Keats took the title La Velle Dame Sans Merci from ‘an early fifteenth-century French poem by Alain Chartier. The phrase belongs to the terminology of the courtly love and describes a beautiful lady without mercy, that is the sort of gracious kindness which prompts a woman to accept a lover’s plea’. (Brian Stone: The Poetry of Keats). The title must have fascinated Keats, for in the “Eve of St. Agnes” that he had just completed, it is the title of the song played on the lute, by the lover to his sleeping lady.

“La Belle” is a ballad. There are two kinds of ballads—traditional and literary. The traditional or true ballad has its roots in the Middle Ages and the literary ballad was the revival of the ballad form in the nineteenth century. Ballads were written in the stanzas of four lines i.e. quatrains (metrical patterns of 4, 3, 4, 3) with 2nd and 4th lines usually rhyming.

The ballad was a dramatic verse tale which moved rapidly. The ballad used little description, it narrated very few incidents and the details of the story were presented in a straight forward manner. The themes of the old ballads were usually love and war, an exciting adventure, a loss, a family disaster, usually they contained supernatural elements.

Ballads gradually died out. But in the later half of the eighteenth century, there was a revival of interest in the ballad form. Consequently, collections of old ballads were brought out. Some poets in the late eighteen and early nineteenth century were inspired by the form and wrote ballads.

Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and Keats’s “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” are masterful literary ballads. Keats in his ballad has changed the quatrain, making the fourth line shorter—this slows the movement of the poem.

Many legends concerning ‘women’ were current during the dim and shadowy Middle Ages. The beauty of the Fatal woman or Femme Fatale was a curse to mankind. These women were often presented as enchantresses, witches, sirens, mermaids, or serpent women (example, Coleridge’s “Christable” and Keats’s Lamia) who lured men by their strange (`wild’) beauty to their ruin or death.

The lady of Keats’s ballad “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” is a fatal woman of the medieval romance. The title itself suggests that she is a beautiful lady without any pity who ruins the life of a knight.

Summary of La Belle Dame Sans Merci

La Belle Dame Sans Merci is a wonderful romantic ballad which some have considered one of the best of Keats’ poems. It was composed probably in the spring or summer of 1819.

The title of the poem means ‘The Beautiful Lady without Pity’. The title is taken from a poem of Alain Chartier, a French poet of the 15th Century of the Court of Charles VI. Keats is indebted to Alain Chartier only for the title which had a kind of fascination for him. In the Eve of St. Agnes, the title is mentioned in the following lines:

“He played an ancient ditty, long since mute,

In Provence called, “La belle dame sans merci:”

Chartier’s poem narrates “a prolix conversation” between on obdurate lady and her lover. At the end, the lady goes away indifferent to dance and play while the lover is desperate to tear his hair and die.

Among books which Keats read with devotion and which influenced his poetry considerably should be mentioned Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy. The Knight-at-arms of Keats’ La Belle is the same one who is Burton:

“wandered in the woods sad all alone,

Forsaking men’s society, making great moan.’

These lines can be compared with the opening lines of Keat’s La Belle Dame Sans Merci.

“O what can ail thee, Knight-at-arms,

Alone and palely loitering?”

The central idea of the poem is unrequited love, and the pain and suffering of one who loves but is not loved in return. It is said that in writing this ballad, Keats was perhaps expressing his own feelings; for he also loved but his love was not returned.

The poem starts with a question: What can trouble the Knight at arms and make his look pale and sick? To describe the Knight’s condition, epithets like ‘Alone’, ‘palely loitering’ ‘haggard’ and so ‘woe-begone’ are used. His brow is compared with white lily and his pale cheeks with ‘a fading rose’.

In the following stanzas, the knight-at-arms narrates his sad story how he was enchanted by a very beautiful lady in the meadows who appeared to be as beautiful as a fairy and whose wild eyes seemed to be inviting. He expressed his love for her by making a garland for her head and a girdle of sweet-scented flowers. She gave him a loving glance, so he made her sit on his horse.

The beautiful lady reciprocated the knights’ love and sang a fairy song while riding on the horse with him. She brought sweet-tasting roots, honey, and enchanted food and in an unfamiliar language said, “I love thee true!” She took the knight to her fairy cave and sang a lullaby to make the knight go to sleep.

The knight dreamed that there would be trouble in his life. He saw pale kings and warriors who had died for the love of this beautiful lady without mercy. They told him that she had enslaved the knight as she had enslaved them. Their pitiable condition in the evening twilight woke him up from his dream. After giving this simple explanation the knight says:

‘And that is why I sojourn here

Alone and palely loitering,

Though the sedge is wither’d from the lake,

And no birds sing?

The knight-at-arms represents that chivalrous and romantic hero who has aspirations of each one of us. It is not only the soul of the poet “in thrall” in love but the soul of every lover and idealist. The knight expresses the infinite agony of frustrated love which is doomed to

“loiter padely and alone.”

The ballad is medieval in subject matter and the medieval element is highlighted by Keats’ power of recapturing the mystical as exemplified in this poem and his other poems Lamia and The Eve of St. Agnes. Herford has rightly commented that Keats’ La Belle Dame Sans Merci is “a masterpiece of horror-stricken reticence and magical suggestion”. The poet intentionally left the story slightly mysterious, that the reader may be left asking questions.

It is a ballad of forty lines arranged in twelve stanzas of four lines each. The diction is very simple, selective and dignified, old spellings of the words such as ‘thee’ ‘hath’ ‘thy’ don’t pose any difficulty in understanding. It may be concluded that the composition of this ballad is full of artistic skills and the epithets and images convey the poets’ ideas successfully.

Detailed Explanation

In this ballad (“La Belle”) with an inimitable magic Keats has depicted a cheated soul. “Flight into visionary experience and back again is expressed by means of well-known motif (which he later used in Lamia) of a mortal’s ruinous love for a supernatural lady.”

What is its story? “La Belle” is a dramatic verse narrative in which the speaker comes across a woebegone knight-at-arms in a desolate winter setting. He asks the knight why he is loitering aimlessly, all alone, in this cold landscape, why he looks so sick, pale and lifeless. The knight narrates his eerie experience. He tells that he met a beauty (“a fairy’s child”) in the “mead” and fell passionately in love with her. He rode with her to her “elfin grot” where the beautiful lady lulled him to sleep. There he had many horrifying dreams. In his latest dream be saw “death-pale kings and princes”, and “pale warriors” who warned him that “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” had enthralled him. When he woke up he found himself on this dreary landscape. He is now wasting away “On the cold hill side.”

( a ) La Belle as a poem of love

Keats’s Isabella, the Eve of St Agnes, “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” and sonnet on Paolo and Francesca tell love stories and all are “modern” recreations of a medieval source or setting and none of them offers a self-evident “meaning”. All these poems deal with couples possessed by love. They have “strong erotic elements”, and in Isabella and “La Belle” ‘sexual love leads to death’. There are two types of women—either they respond passively to the events beyond their control, or they are dominant and demonic like La Belle. All these women (of the four poems) “are expressions of prevalent attitudes to women’s sexuality” (John Barnard—John Keats). La Belle’s erotic gestures destroy men; Isabelle’s violent love leads to her death, Paolo and Francesca are condemned to hell for their carnal love while passive Medeline is united with her lover.

The Eve of St Agnes is ‘a celebratory dream of love’—it is not merely a poem describing the truth about human love but is also “a metaphor for the prefigurative power of the imagination.” “La Belle” presents a contrasting (contrasted from what is presented in The Eve of St Agnes) picture of love. The knight’s experiences take away his liberty, he finds himself in “thrall”, which separates him from “the natural and human cycles of generation”. To the knight, she is a seductress and destroyer, ‘Taut, eerie, and impersonal the ballad makes no judgments. Although “La Belle Dame Sam Merci” belongs to the Romantic cult of the ballad, evident in Burger, Scott, Wordsworth, and Coleridge, Keats’s intuitive assimilation of his sources, results in a very different kind of poem,” (John Barnard).

Keats’s La Belle is more akin to the fairy goddess (in Celtic tradition) than to the femmes fatales of the Middle Ages. In the Celtic tradition, the goddess is “paradoxically both an evil figure and a protector and nurturer of heroes… La Dame der Lac, the benevolent fay, is, in reality, Morgan La Fee, the malevolent enchantress, in another guise, the two are part of a larger duality. Starting within a tradition of literary imitation, Keats’s truth to the inner forum of his story allows ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci” to recreate its archetype.” (John Barnard).

“Keats makes no judgment on the lady or the knight. Nowhere do we get a clear hint that the lady is wilfully cruel to the knight or the knight is unable to sustain the vision and so he finds himself on the cold hillside.” Some critics consider the lady to be a Circe figure who deliberately leads men to destruction through love.

The fairy world described in the poem is both attractive and ominous. It is a question poem in the sense that we cannot comprehend the meaning of the knight’s experience nor can we accept his version as authentic. The knight’s questioner as well as the reader “is located firmly in the natural world of harvest and fulfillment and is as firmly excluded from the knight’s experience as he is from ours.” (J. Barnard).

The knight’s fairy lover (“the fairy’s child,” “wild” and “full beautiful”) looks at him “as she did love”, and “in a language strange she said—”I love thee true” …Is the knight trying to convince himself that she genuinely loved him? Or is he in a state of confusion? But the following stanzas reveal that the outcome of her love is destructive. Once he enters her `grot’, she ‘wept’ and “sighed” full sore, She lulled him to sleep and there he dreamed—had nightmarish dreams of death and destruction caused by the beautiful woman.

Keats has woven a glimmering web of mystery around the love story. We can’t be certain whether the lady loved the knight genuinely or whether the dream was true. Can’t tell whether he has himself chosen to wander aimlessly in the desolated deserted landscape or he has been punished for loving the lady without mercy. (“whether his dream experience ties him there against his wish”). “Unlike his questioner, who lives in real-time, with a past and future. the knight inhabits a wasteland more psychic than physical and exists in a timeless present progressing towards death…” (J.Barnard).

( b ) As a poem of “dream within dreams”

In “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” Keats has skilfully conjured “diverse elements into a unified impression of spell-bounding mystery”. It is a poem of “dream within dreams”. It has three “concentric dream circles”. The outer frame (Dream I) shows ‘a weird encounter’ between the poem’s first speaker and the woe-begone, haggard knight-at-arms, on whose cheek the rose is fading and whose forehead is lily-like pale and white, with drops of perspiration. The knight’s ride through the meadow with the fairy’s child and the “Kisses four” in the “elfin grot” fo7n the inner frame (Dream 2)

In the “grot” the knight is fed on supernatural delicacies (“manna dew” and “wild, honey”) and is lulled to sleep. In his sleep, he has frightening dreams and in his “latest” dream he saw pale kings, ‘pale princes and pale warriors with parched lips and awesome expressions, who gaped at him to warn him about his enthrallment. This appalling dream-forms the third frame. (Dream 3).

“The aura of a transcendental experience which pervades the meeting with the fairy lady (dream 2) is undermined by the knight’s dream of the death pale kings and warriors (dream 3) with its suggestion of mortality and betrayal. This dream [within the Knight’s dream of the starved lips and horrid warning” (dream 3)] comes true when the Knight awakens on the cold hill side pale and enthralled as the dream prophesied” (John Keats):

Keats has exploited dream-sequence in many poems. The dream-sequence of “La Belle” differs from that of Endymion. The realization of the dream of pallor and starvation (“La Belle”) “moves in the opposite direction from Endymion’s and Madeline’s dreams”. In (Endymion) the dreams of Endymion and Madeline, we observe that the fulfillment signifies “a shift from the actual to some ecstatic transcendental dream”. What do we observe in “La Belle”? Within the dream of the La

Belle the movement from the first speaker’s questioning to the knight’s reply, the transition is from the bleak dreary landscape to the beautiful supernatural world—(the world of fantasy) and within this fairy world the real, horrifying deadly dream occurs. And from this ‘death’ world we move back to the world of the withering sedge. (The movement is from Dream l to Dream 2, to Dream 3 and then back to Dream One). The transition is from the harsh real world to the imaginary world of beauty and love to the world of mutability to the harsh real world. If there is something which thrills and pleases the Knight and makes the poem a fantasy is the second dream, the entry into or journey through and sojourn in the “elfin world itself is a pure dream” (Dream 2) in the ballad.

The second dream, described in six stanzas, is central to the poem. In the beginning, the Knight meets with a fairy’s child in a meadow. The Knight was so much enamoured of her beauty and “wild, wild eyes” that he made “a garland for her head and bracelets too”, and garlands, also for

her “fragrant zone”. He forced her to sit on “his pacing steed” (indicative of the intensity of his passion) and did not see anything else “all day long”. It is apparent that at the outset the Knight is the dominant figure, who plays upon the feelings of the lady. Then there occurs a subtle transfer of the initiative (Stanzas 4 to 7) from the Knight’s / to the lady’s she (Stanzas 7 to 9.) It is noteworthy that the lady’s ‘erotic feelings’ are expressed in ambiguous terms—”as she did love me,” Is the Knight not certain about her feelings or is he attempting to convince himself that she loved him? Do the stanzas seven to nine depict the lady as a seductress?

“For side longwould, she bend and sing.

A faery’s song”


“She found me roots of relish sweet

And honey wild and manna dew.”

“….in a strange language, she said, “I love thee true”. She appears as a caressing mother when she

lulls him “asleep”.

The lady’s side-long bending, unusual food, strange language and sore sighing help to create a supernatural atmosphere, a dream-like vague atmosphere. When the Knight says that in his latest dream he saw death pale kings, warriors and princes and when he woke up, he found himself on the cold hillside, instead of the `groe, we doubt whether he really met a fairy child, the beautiful lady, and entered her `groe; or whether it was a ‘vision’ or ‘a dream’—he had never left “the cold hill side”; when he entered this imaginary world, the birds were still singing and the harvest was not yet done. When he is ‘back’ to the actual world after the horrifying dream, the weather has changed and winter has arrived. Winter is used both figuratively and literally.

In the traditional ballad style, Keats has used question and answer form in “La Belle”. In a traditional ballad, the mystery is resolved in the last stanza. Since “La Belle” is a complex poem, the mystery remains unresolved until the end. The Knight’s explanation “And that is why…” does not satisfy the reader and the speaker’s curiosity. It raises more questions than it answers. Both the reader and the speaker know that the Knight is unable to go ‘home’ in this clement weather because he is in ‘thrall’. But it is not evident whether the Knight knows exactly how, why and what things have happened to him? The dream in the grot holds the key to the riddle and enables the questioner to comprehend what the Knight has experienced.

“In “St. Agnes” Keats skillfully manipulates his reader and carries him from the world of fantasy and romance to the world of reality”. But there is no manipulation in the ballad. The poem begins with the description of the stark cold desolate winter setting where the speaker meets with the woe-begone Knight. Then the questioner is guided by the Knight to the fairy world, where the latter is supposed to have a blissful exotic (erotic) experience. From the fairy world of ‘passion’, pleasure and ‘entertainment’ the speaker enters the nightmarish ‘dream’ of the Knight, moves into the world of sickness, and death—it is a transition from the wonderful fantastic world of ‘sexual’ happiness to ‘the Hades’. The speaker is made to participate both in the blissful and the dreadful experiences of the Knight. The Knight had an encounter with ‘death’ in his dream, and when he wakes out of the frightening dream he finds himself on a lonely landscape.

In the last six lines of the poem the speaker once again returns to the realistic level and finds himself within the dream world of the outer frame. The concentric dream circles make the poem enchanting and mysterious. Here we have the presentation of something “felt on the pulses, of a beauty seized as a truth by the imagination, and expressed in a language of sensation, inaccessible to the consecutive reasoning.”

(c) The use of Negative Capability

The concept of negative capability has been given a new dimension in “La Belle”. The whole story of the Knight, his experiences and dream are presented in a masterful way. The poem can be interpreted in various ways. First, so much of ambiguity surrounds the Knight and the lady that it is not possible to say what they symbolize. Critics interpret the lady, the Knight, the journey of the Knight, and his dream in many ways. In fact “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” is the most evasive and mysterious of Keats’s poem.

It raises a variety of questions. Is the fairy’s child a Cynthia who failed to “make Men’s being mortal immortal” (Endymioh I Lines 843-44), a vampire, a Circe “a fairy mistress from hell” or “neutral to good or evil”? Does she stand for poetic imagination? Is the Knight’s lapse from the vision is due to her refusal to keep the deception (the world of beauty and fantasy) or due to his inability to sustain “the transcendental experience”? Or Is his failure, the result of ‘his awareness of his mortality’ (Wasserman) or “his fear of facing death”. (Richard Benevento).

The Lady could be any of the four intensities mentioned in Keats’s “Why Did I Laugh Tonight”. She could be verse, fame, ‘beauty and death. She may even represent ‘the fatality of beauty’ or “a fair maid and love her name” (“Ode on Idleness”).

Keats in the three poems—Isabella, “St Agnes” and “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” has depicted the perils of love. According to Murry behind the poem “lies the anguish of impossible love” of Fanny Brawne. To

some critics, the Knight’s journey symbolizes the tragedy of Faustian rejection of human limitation. The poem reminds us of Edymion’s lines 646-48 IV.

There never liv’d a mortal man, who bent

His appetite beyond the natural sphere,

But starv’d and died.

The Knight is prey of his supernatural adventure, consequently, he is unable to find his bearings in the natural world of birds, harvest and decay. Perhaps when he was journeying through the fairy land, the birds sang, the squirrel filled their granary, but, now when he is back to the natural world, the harvest is done, no birds sing, and the granary is full. He is left alone on a ‘waste land’ unprovided for.

Observe the pattern of the last two stanzas. The ‘truncated stanzaic close” echoes “the finality of tik loss.” “In his vain attempt to be a part of the supernatural world, the Knight has alienated himself from the natural world and thus he loses both the worlds, he is a double loser. We can interpret his predicament in a different way. The fairyland is merely a figment of his imagination or fancy or is a daydream. As Keats says in his ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ fancy is a deceiving elf, here imagination can not cheat him forever. The visionary world of passionate love and beauty disappears. The impact of the fanciful experience and the nightmarish dream is extremely powerful, so he is unable to reconcile to the reality. He has been cheated of both the wonders of the elfin world and of nature. His is now ‘a kind of life-in-death experience.’ In Endymion and St Agnes, the `romantic journey is a worthwhile risk, it proves disastrous in “La Belle”‘.

A critical appreciation of the poem

According to Brian Stone (The Poetry of Keats) “with its haunting medieval resonances, the poem (-La Belle”) is the last of those for which Keats drew on the literature and folk love of the

Middle Ages. Like Blake’s “The Sick Rose” the poem raises by powerful images the ideas of love, corruption, and death…The verification and the process of narration by dialogue show Keats to be deeply imbued with the spirit and techniques of the medieval ballad”.

The story moves in a circular manner. The speaker meets a Knight in a winter landscape from which the birds have departed, the sedge has withered and where no birds sing. The squirrel’s granary is full and the harvest is done. All these details point to the season—it is the end of autumn and winter has arrived. Winter is a season of ‘lifelessness’ or inactivity.’ The Knight’s physical appearance synchronizes with the winters desolation.’ The speaker is eager to know why the woe-begone pale-looking Knight-at-arms is loitering aimlessly in this bleak landscape. From this desolate setting, the speaker is transported to a ‘dream’ world of sexual bliss—to the supernatural world. The Knight describes his blissful experience in detail. The lady whom he meets in the mead is a fairy’s child with wild, wild eves. He is enamoured of her, offers her gifts, rides with her on his ‘pacing steed’ she sings fairy songs in strange language and seems to convince him about her genuine love. The lady is presented as eerie being. He rides to her elfin grot, is fed on heavenly delicacies. On ‘such choice natural products’ as “honey wild and manna dew”. ‘It is apparent then the plenty is a part of the enchantment’, it ‘lures him to acts of love and to the ensuing sleep in her arms’. ‘With a sudden chill of nightmare,’ he sees pale kings, princes and pale warriors—”death pale were they all”. With starved lips and parched tongues, they gazed at him as if they warned him that he was “in thrall” of La Belle Dame Sans Merci.

The horrifying description of the kings, princes, and warriors is significant in the poem. The Knight after the erotic bliss finds himself in the realm of death. “The starved lips” has a Shakespearean connotation implying starved to death. Incidentally, the speaker had already observed the signs of sickness and decay in the Knight’s appearance. Perhaps he can now, after listening to the Knight’s tale, easily surmise that the Knight himself is responsible for his own plight because he ‘was active and willing in his own seduction’.

The five fold repetition of pale links the ballad with “As Hermes Once” in considering the act of love in connection with death. The Knight’s nightmare can be interpreted in an other way. ‘It is as if the Knight was taken beyond life, saw in the hereafter others, who like himself had been seduced by the enchantress and was returned to this world weakened and corrupted, past cure, by his experience.’ (Brian Stone).

The poet has used assonances and alliterations. The poem’s movement is slow and deliberate since Keats intends the reader to ‘experience’ and share the experiences of the Knight and the speaker.

The bleak wintry setting suits the temperament and appearance of the Knight, whose existence is meaningless, he is completely cut off from natural and supernatural world, he is ‘unprovided’ for and is under the spell of the beautiful lady without mercy. The Knight who is supposed to be an adventurer, a protector of law and of people has lost all his powers. He is still the Knight-at-arms, but with a difference, he is aimlessly wandering, he is in ‘thrall’, a captive.

Some of the images (in the poem) including those of rose and lily are taken from Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy (Refer to the Section on Love—Melancholy). The poem ‘haunts the mind of the reader with the music of its particular tragic themes.’ “The Knight-at-arms of “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” inhabits his own memorable limbo: possessing neither the joys of the girl nor the finality of death, existing neither in the dream nor in the active life, he is “alone and palely loitering” a haggard figure in a desolate landscape.

Assessment Questions

1. Is the title of the Poem a good one? Why?
A. Yes, the title is a good one. It is appropriate because the knight-at-arms is enchanted by the beautiful lady and expresses his love for her but she instead of returning his love enslaves him and has no mercy for him.

2. Who is alone and palely loitering?
A. The Knight-at-arms is along and lingering with a pale face on the cold hillside.

3. What ails the knight?
A. The knight looks pale, sad and worried because the beautiful lady without pity has enslaved him and his fate will be like that of other pale kings and warriors.

4. Why did the lady charm the knight?
A. The enchantingly beautiful lady charmed the knight because she wanted to enslave him though she had no mercy for him.

5. What happened to the knight in the end?
A. The knight saw the pitiable condition of pale kings and warriors in the dream with their starved lips in the evening twilight. They cried that the beautiful lady “Hath thee in thrall!” He woke up as they warned him about his tragic fate. That is why the Knight is staying on the cold hill side alone looking pale and sad. Keats intentionally leaves the story at slightly mysterious note so that we may be left asking questions.

6. What is the theme of the poem?
A. The theme of the poem is unrequited love, and the pain and suffering of one who loves but is not loved in return. It is said that in writing this poem Keats was expressing his own feelings. He too loved but was not loved by Fanny Brawne.

7. What point of view is the poem written in? Who is its speaker(s)?

A. The poem is written in the first-person point of view. The poem is written as a dialogue between a knight and another man.

8. In the second stanza, what does the speaker say are reasons for the knight-at-arms to not “ail”?

A. The speaker says the “squirrel’s granary is full,” meaning it has been a slow fall, allowing much time for preparation. This concept is repeated in the second reason he gives, which is “the harvest’s done.”

9. Why does the lady weep and sigh in the poem’s eighth stanza?

A. Answers may vary. Example: The lady weeps because she knows that while she loves the knight, they cannot be together since they are too different.

10. How does the French title translate into English?

A. The title translates into “The Beautiful Woman with No Mercy.”

11. What does the speaker’s dream suggest about the woman whom he has fallen in love with?

A. The pale people of the speaker’s dreams warn him that he has fallen for a woman without pity, suggesting that she has left him for good, without consideration of his feelings.

12. Why do you believe the knight-at-arms is so sad?

A. Answers may vary. Example: One reason might be that when he awoke from his dream, the beautiful woman he had found and kissed was gone. Another reason might be his realization that the woman he had seen did not truly love him.

13. Explain the significance in the speaker’s choice of words in the final stanza, especially “sojourn” and “palely.”

A. The choice of “sojourn” suggests that the speaker is waiting for something, most likely his love. The choice of “palely” parallels the description he has given of the kings and princes in his dreams. This may infer that he has also fallen for la belle dame sans merci.

Word Meanings

Belle – a beautiful woman

Dame – woman

Sans – without

Merci – mercy

Line 1 Ail – cause problem and make sickThee – YouKnight –in-arms – a man who saves a woman from a dangerous situation.

Line 2 Palely loitering – lingering with a pale face

Line 3 Sedge – a plant-like grass that grows in wet ground or near water. Withered – dried up

Line 6 Haggard – looking very tired because of illness Woebegone – looking very sad

Line 7 The squirrel’s granary is full – The squirrel has gathered his food for the winter.

Line 8 Harvest is done – the cutting and gathering of crops on a farm is done.

Line 9 Lily – a large white or brightly coloured flower

Line 10 Anguish – pain and unhappiness

Line 11 Thy cheek a fading rose – your cheeks have become paler as if all colour has faded from them.

Line 12 Fast – moving or happening quickly Withereth – Witness

Line 13 Meads – Meadows

Line 14 Full – Very

Line 18 Fragrant Zone – a girdle of sweet-scented flowers.

Line 20 Moan – make a long deep sound

Line 21 Packing – walking up and down Steed – (literary) horse to ride on

Line 25 Relish sweet – Sweet taste

Line 26 manna dew – enchanted food

Line 29 elfin grot – fairy cave

Line 30 Sigh’d – took a long deep breath expressing sadness
Sore – painfully

Line 33 lulled – Soothed my nerved by singing

Line 34 Woe betide – there will be trouble for………

Line 37 I saw pale kings… These men with pale faces had died for love of the Beautiful Lady without pity.

Line 38 death – pale – as pale as death.

Line 40 Hath – hasin thrall – enslaved

Line 41 Starv’d lips – Lips showed that they were feeling very hungry. gloam – evening twilight

Line 42 horrid – terrible, horrible gaped wide – staring with open mouth in surprise

Line 45 Sajourn – Stay here for a time

Review Questions

1. Write a critical appreciation of Keats ‘Ode on Melancholy.’

2. Bring out the narrative acumen of Keats by citing examples from the prescribed poems

Prospice Summary, Critical Analysis, Theme, Meaning, Questions and Answers

Prospice by Browning

Summary of Prospice

The poet is not at all afraid of the physical troubles that come at the time of death. Though he may feel suffocation (fog) in his throat, a heaviness in his vision and a cold numbness creeping over his body, all showing that death is very near, yet he is not at all afraid of death. These symptoms of death cannot unnerve him. He may find it difficult to breathe and hard to see because of his blurred vision, yet it is his duty as a strong man to go forward and face with fortitude and courage the severities and pains at the time of death.

During the course of our lives, we engaged in various kinds of activities and have achieved various kinds of honours and distinctions. We choose difficult adventures and take pleasure in overcoming them. There we prove the unconquerable nature of our spirit. But all the honours and glories which we acquire in life are only an introduction to our last fight with death. Like competitors in a race who are awarded prizes at the end of the struggle, the rewards that await, come to us only after death has been overcome.

The poet says that death cannot treat him as a coward. He does not want any mercy at the hands of death. He will face death like a bold man and not like a coward.

The poet says that throughout his life he has struggled with the numerous odds and difficulties of life. He has been a fighter in his life. He will gladly fight the last battle of his life with death. This battle against death would be the final battle of his life. It will also be the best battle because soon after death he will reach the kingdom of God and meet his beloved wife.

Earthly life is completed by our going to Heaven where all the “broken arcs” are made into ‘perfect rounds’ The same idea is conveyed here in these lines in a somewhat different way. Browning says that even the heroes of antiquity had to face death and fight it bravely. We ordinary people should derive inspiration from them and be prepared to meet death bravely and cheerfully like them. If we do so, we can overcome it in one minute. It is like our first plunge into the cold of death water which is painful. Thereafter it is pleasant to be in the water.

Also, death squares up all human accounts.

Death appears to be frightening only when we are afraid of it. As a matter of fact, even the worst moment of death becomes enjoyable and appears to be the best for those who have got courage in them. After all, through death, we pass into another life and pass into Heaven if we are brave. Shortly before death, one feels as if a storm were blowing, it were raining and in the mind of the man about to die it appears as if demons were standing ready to take him to hell. But all this disturbance of the mind and heart gradually decreases. One feels a peace pervading through his entire personality. This peace then gives place to the feelings of joy. Then the dying man sees a light, the light of God and ultimately with the help of this light he is united with the one he loves.

Critical Analysis of Prospice

The poem ‘Prospice’ first appeared in Dramatist Personace in 1864. His wife had died in 1861. The poem is a tribute to her memory. It has been regarded as one of the most inspiring and original poems on the subject of death.

‘Prospice is a Latin word. It means ‘to look forward’. It is an apt title for the poem. In this poem, it is confident that he will conquer death. He ‘looks forward’ joyfully to his reunion with his wife.

The poet compares the experience of climbing up a lofty mountain. A mountain climber has to face fog, mist snowstorms, etc. during his ascent. Like the climber, a man in this world has also to face physical and spiritual sufferings when he approaches death. To face death is the final battle of a man’s life in this world. And the man who puts up a heroic fight is fully rewarded for his bravery.

Throughout his life, the poet has been a fighter. Therefore he is determined to fight Death also bravely. He does not want any mercy or leniency from Death. He does not want to die in a state of unconsciousness like some persons who die in a state of coma during their illness. These people fear Death. In a state of coma, they are sweetly unaware of what is happening to them. The poet would like to be in a state of perfect awareness when death comes to him. He wants to taste all the pain and suffering which Death brings with it. He is ready to meet in Death all the pain and suffering which he has escaped in life through some happy chance. In other words, he is ready to face any amount of suffering at the time of his death. He thinks that in this way he will be able to pay off all his arrears of life.

The poet is a brave man. He is an optimist. He knows that the worst will soon be over. All the pain, all the agony, all the torture will come to an end in no time. Within a very short time, he will find all his suffering vanished. He will be reunited with his beloved wife who is waiting for him in heaven.

Theme of Prospice

The poet looks forward to a battle with death. He expresses a heroic attitude towards death which is man’s arch-enemy, and he flings a challenge at it. This is justly regarded as one of the most original poems in English on the subject of death. The poem is perfectly characteristic of Browning’s philosophy. He is not in the least afraid of death. He would like to experience all the pain and suffering of death. He does not wish to die in a state of coma or unconsciousness because that would mean creeping past death in a cowardly manner.

On the contrary, he wants to taste all the grim horror of death. He would hear the raving of the fiend-voices and be in the very thick of fight. In all references to death in his poetry, Browning shows the same confident faith in the future. Death does not mean for him the close of life; it means the beginning of a new life. He believes in God and in heaven. He has a Christian philosophy of life which finds a brief but unambiguous expression in the lines in which he says that he will be reunited with his wife who is waiting for him in heaven. According to Robert Browning, death is only one stage in the unbroken, immoral life of the soul. Browning was a firm believer in God, in the immortality of the soul and in heaven.

Love Poetry

In this poem, we find Browning’s philosophy that love endures even after death and that we must be hoping to meet our loved ones after death in the Kingdom of God. Browning’s poems on death possess the same note of confidence and love for the person concerned and the creator of this world. It is the love and faith in the immortality of love, which enables the poet to believe in life after death and reunion with his dead wife in the Kingdom of God.

In Browning’s other poems related to God and death, even his knaves and rogues have faith in God and rely upon His perfection and mercy. They are in direct contact and are sure of the ultimate union with the Absolute. Sympathetic communion between Man and God is possible because in addition to His attributes of power and knowledge he has the highest attribute of love. It is love which kindles and exacts both knowledge and power and as love is common both to God and man. It is love which harmonizes and unites all living beings.

The language of the poem is very simple, while the sentiments contained are universal and appeal to all. He reasserts his faith in God and not only forgets his sorrows but looks forward to meeting his wife in Heaven.

Questions and Answers

Answer the following questions in your own words. (Word limit 200-250 words)

(i) Comment on imagery in Browning’s poetry.

Answer: The poem titled Prospice is organized around the image of a journey undertaken by a knight in search of a guerdon-a reward-who has met many opponents on the way and is now about to meet the last one the Arch Enemy. But this enemy may choose not to fight. The end may be painless. He may be allowed to pass without a battle. That would be a disappointment. Therefore the next line begins with ‘No, let me.’

(ii) Write a note on the pictorial quality of Browning.
Answer: Browning’s pictorial quality is clearly indicated in Prospice. He compares the experience of meeting death with the experience of climbing up a high mountain with all the dangers and hazards of the upward journey. The hardships of the ascent are vividly pictured in the following lines :

“to feel the fog in my throat,”

“The mist in my face,”

“When the snows begin and the blasts denote”

“I am nearing the place,”

“The power of the night, the press of the storm”

(iii) Write about the poet’s faith in God’s love and mercy.

Answer: Robert Browning was the poet of soul and in his poems, he has attempted to see the soul of man as created by God. He has firm faith in God, and immortality of the soul. The body may die but the soul lives on in the infinite. It has an afterlife or lives. It has experienced not only in the world and this life but also in countless lives to come. The world is beautiful for God created it out of the fullness of His Love. Life in this world is worth living. For both life and the world are the expressions of Divine Love.

(iv) Describe Browning’s optimism.

Answer: Browning is a cheerful optimist. Optimism is at the very core of his teaching and his view of human life. Contrary to the views of some critics, his optimism is not blind. He does not shut his eyes to the suffering and evil that is prevalent in life. His optimism is founded on the Mercy of God and the realities of life.

(v) Write a note on Browning’s style.
Answer: In form, the poem is a monologue in which the poet is speaking in his own person. The style of the poem is simple. It does not suffer from Browning’s usual defects of style. There is no obscurity about it and it is easily comprehensible. It also shows Browning’s genius for consideration. He says, many of the words in the first few lines have an explosive or a near-explosive sound (technically beginning with letters classified as Plosives, Fricatives, and Affricates): power, press, place, post, death, blast, fear, fog, etc. The effect is a noticeable difficulty in reading corresponding to the sense which too speaks of the difficulty of breathing experienced by a man climbing a mountain or by a man gasping for breath in the last hours It also expresses the determination to face the difficulty with courage. The last lines are similarly noticeable for the frequency of the liquid l, m, n and the soft ‘s’ sounds : ‘dwindle’, ‘blend’, ‘elements’, ‘minutes’, ‘end’, ‘breast’, ‘soul’, ‘clasp’, ‘rest’, ‘peace’, the repeated ‘shall’ etc. and as a result the lines flow smoothly to the ecstasy. ‘Thou soul of my soul I shall clasp thee again whispered with the repeated ‘s’ sound.

Let Us Sum Up

In this unit, you have acquired knowledge about the poet and his poetry. Now you practice to:

understand trends and main features of the Victorian Age, know about life and works of Robert Browning, understand the poetry of Browning, know and understand various literary techniques used by Browning, critically analyse the poems of Browning, and answer the questions based on your text.

Review Questions

1. Comment on the style and Optimism of Browning’s poetry with suitable examples.

2. What philosophy of Browning is expressed in the poem ‘Prospice’? Explain in detail.


Fear death: the poet asks this question which implies a negative answer

Feel the fog in my throat: feeling of suffocation in the throat at the time of death

mist in my face: the blurred vision at the time of death

snows begin: when the winter season begins; when the body begins to become cold as death approaches

blasts: stormy weather; to face difficulty in breathing at the time of death

denotes : informs

hearing: approaching

the place: refers to death

power of the night: increase of invisibility

press of the storm: increase of difficulty in breathing

the post: the place where death is waiting

foe: the death, the enemy of life

he : the death

Arch fear: the fear of death

visible form: death becomes visible in the shape of the dying man

strong man: a healthy man

must go: must die

journey: the life span

done : completed

summit attained: the final point of life is reached

barriers: difficulties of life

fall: come to an end

battle: the struggle of life

ere : before

guerdon: reward, place in the kingdom of God

ever a fighter: a brave person in life

one fight more: the final fight with death

hate : dislike

bandaged my eyes: closed his eyes

forbore: prevented from moving about

bade : ordered

creep past: go away

taste: to bear sufferings

heroes: great men

bear: to sustain

brunt: fury of death

in a minute pay: life ends suddenly

arrears: miseries of life

element’s rage: difficulties faced by a person

worst turns the best: a strong person dies

friend voices: voices of devils of death

rare : cry

dwindle: disappear

blend: loose intensity of life

light: the light of Heaven

breast : wife

soul of my soul: refers to his wife, E.B. Browning

clasp : embrace

thee: you, refers to his wife

Spring and Fall Summary, Explanation, Annotation, Summary and Questions

Spring and Fall Introduction

Spring and Fall is an intense love poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins. It narrates an incident, it is a tragic meditative poem, imagining a philosopher as a speaker in discussion with a girl named Margaret. We also discover in the poem character, dialogue, setting, and plot. The poem deals with the fact of human life well established by its title’ Spring and Fall.’ The speaker in the poem discusses a girl, Margaret, who weeps at the falling of tree leaves. Speaker as a philosopher asks Margaret not to grieve about unleaving the golden grove.

Spring and Fall is of the Hopkins’ modern poems about the philosophical definition of human life. His such other poems are ‘Felix Randal’, ‘The Bugler’s First Communion’, ‘The Candle Indoors’, ‘The Handsome Heart’ and ‘Brothers.’ These poems reveal Hopkins’ Wordsworthian sympathy towards Nature and all living creatures, old and young, proud and wretched alike. They recall to our minds Wordsworth’s Leech-gatherer, Old Cumberland
Beggar and Michael. Felix Randal was only a farrier, but his death is of great significance to Hopkins. ‘Harry the Ploughman’ is another mute Karmayogin whose work, being the body’s offering to God, is akin to the prayer. The Bugler also, humble for all his red-coated glory, kneels at the altar rail. ‘Brothers’, based on a real incident, deals with Harry, a reserved, sensitive boy and his impulsive younger brother John. In ‘Spring and Fall: to a young child’, Hopkins delicately unfolds a child’s growing sensibility. In ‘The Candle Indoors’, the salt of Henry’s tears is the very salt of Christ, whereby men become ‘the salt of the earth’.

In ‘Spring and Fall’, written at Lancashire, in 1880, Hopkins tells us that youth has an intuitive, almost innate knowledge of the sad transiency of all things due to the curse of Adam’s original sin. Remarkably compressed and condensed, the poem opens with a tender and gentle address by a father-confessor to an imaginary child.

In the Title ‘Spring and Fall’ – Spring suggests the Garden of Eden in the Bible.

(Margaret, the young child, also represents Spring). Fall suggests Adam’s fall, the penalty of Adam, for eating the forbidden fruit. Fall also suggests the season of Autumn, when leaves ripen, become pale and ultimately fall. This is one of the few poems of Hopkins which is free from doctrinal elements explicitly stated. ‘Spring’ in the title suggests both the season of growth and the Garden of Eden (of Adam and Eve in The Bible); ‘Fall’ similarly suggests Autumn, when the leaves fall, as well as the Fall of Adam, the penalty of Adam. Remarkably compressed and condensed, the poem opens with a tender address to a child by a kindly father-confessor. The child Margaret is imaginary only; ‘Goldengrove’ may also refer to an actual village; it means the golden trees in a grove or garden, which in the Autumn season, stand bare, leafless. Are you, Margaret, my young child, sorry for it?” Leaves like the things of man’ suggests the Biblical assertion in Isiah, ‘And we all do fade as the leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

Spring and Fall: Annotations

Line 1. Margaret – no real Margaret is intended; any child.

Line 2. Goldengrove – the golden trees in a grove. There is ‘Goldengrove Farm’ in North Wales. Unleaving – leaves falling away getting leafless.

Line 3. Leaves – refer to The Bible (Isiah): and we all do fade as the leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away’. Like the things of man – mortality is a part of all created things.

Line 4. Fresh thoughts – the poet points out a child’s growing sensibility. Young Margaret grieves because the trees in the grove are getting leafless and beauty is fading away.

Line 5 -6. The heart grows older …. Colder – one day, later, when you lose your sensibility. Line 7. Nor spare a sigh – Margaret, you will be unmoved.

Line 8. Wanwood – a very effective coinage; the bitterness of wormwood is suggested. ‘Wan’ gives the combined meaning of dark, gloomy, deficient, pale, bloodless (note it, as an example for ‘inscape’). Leafmeal piecemeal; leaf by leaf; like ‘inchmeal’, ‘limbmeal’, in Shakespeare. Wanwood leafmeal lie – one by one, the leaves fall, and then rot into mealy fragments.

Line 9. You will weep – note this as an example for the ambiguities in Hopkins. This can mean : (1) insist upon weeping, now or later, (2) shall weep in the future. And know – another ambiguity : (1) you insist upon knowing, (2) you shall know. You will weep and know – a third variation, ‘listen, and I shall tell you why you weep’. Know – a third variation ‘listen, and I shall tell you why you weep’.

Why – because of the blight of the original sin of Adam.

Line 10. The name – of Adam, his sin and fall and the curse source.

Line 11. Sorrow’s……. the same – all sorrows have virtually one source.

Line 12. Mouth… mind – of Margaret or somebody else’s.

Line 12-13. Nor mouth ….. guessed – neither your mouth nor even your mind has expressed what your heart must have known and your spirit must have guessed.

Line 13. What heart heard of – mortality. Ghost – archaic usage: spirit (of the living). It stands for both mortality and grave.

Line 14. The blight – the curse of decay and death.

Line 15. You mourn for – the inevitability of decay and death of all created things, the result of the original sin, the disobedience of Adam and the resultant punishment.

Model Explanations

(i) Margaret, are you grieving….. care for, can you?

These lines have been taken from the poem Spring and Fall written by Gerard Manley Hopkins, a Victorian poet, who remained almost unknown to the poetry reading public during his lifetime. He was first published by Robert Bridges, and since then he has been the most potent influence on modern poetry. This poem was written by Hopkins in 1880. This poem is remarkably condensed and compressed. The poem opens with a tender and gentle address by a father-confessor to an imaginary child.

This is one of the few poems of Hopkins in which the doctrinal viewpoint does not dominate. ‘Spring’ in the title of the poem suggests, both the season of spring during which nature takes on a new look and the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve lived so blissfully before their transgression. ‘Fall’ in the title similarly suggests two things: the autumn season, when the leaves fall, and the Fall of Adam, the penalty which he got for his transgression.

The child Margaret of the opening statement of the poem is an imaginary child. Likewise, ‘Goldengrove’ is no actual place, although the reference to Byzantium where there were golden trees may be made. The poet begins by giving a picture of autumn season when leaves begin to fall from trees. The poet asks Margaret if she is full of sorrow because leaves in the Goldengrove are falling. The poet asks her the reason for weeping. Then he asks her whether she is so upset because the leaves in the grove are falling or whether she is weeping for similar mortality in human world. Here leaves like the things/humans suggest the Biblical assertion in Issiah, ‘And we all do fade as the leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away”. The poet asks the child whether she, in all her simplicity, is grieving over the trees in the grove getting leafless and their beauty fading away. The father asks the child not to be so sensitive because as she matures she will know the facts of life and hence of decay and drabness of things in the autumn season.

(ii) Nor mouth had….. you mourn for

These lines have been taken from the poem ‘Spring and Fall’ written by Gerard Manley Hopkins. In this poem, the title suggests the coming and going of seasons. The poet emphasizes the sad transiency of all things due to the curse of Adam’s original sin. This poem is free from any doctrinal content. It has been a favourite with anthology collectors. This poem expresses the idea of ‘sad mortality’ of man as well as nature. The child Margaret (who weeps because she finds leaves falling in the Goldengrove) does not know that she too is mortal and subject to decay like the autumnal leaves.

In these concluding lines of the poem, the poet speaks about the little girl Margaret who has no suitable words, nor real understanding of her own grief. She does not know that like the leaves she is also liable to decay. Her heart half knows and her heart has half guessed the cause of her grief. But she has no definite words through which she could express the thoughts that come to her mind. Still, her heart has sensed the truth almost intuitively.

But it must be remembered that the poem does not end on a note of admonition to Margaret. It is on a note of sympathy, Wordsworthian sympathy, that the poem ends. In this poem, Hopkins expresses with poignant regret the fact of decay and mortality with great tenderness and pathos. In the words of Thornton, “The series of balances and comparisons in the poem give it a calm persuasive articulation, and the consciousness of all that is involved in ‘knowledge’ and ‘fall’ gives this apparently slight poem a great deal of weight”.

Critical Appreciation

Sring and Fall’ is one of Hopkins’ most popular poems. It is also one of his sad poems. This poem was written by Hopkins in the spring of 1880. It was written by Hopkins when he was struggling with great personal depression. Here we find him overworked and worried. Then he was living in Liverpool which for him was “the most museless, a most unhappy and miserable spot”. About this poem, he wrote to his friend Robert Bridges, “(it is) a little piece composed since I began this letter, not founded on any real incident. I am not well satisfied with it”. Still, it remains a poem of great lyrical intensity and passion in which technical innovations also abound. The poem expresses the idea of sad mortality of man and nature alike. The child Margaret who weeps because of the golden leaves falling in autumn really mourns, though she does not yet know it, her own mortality.

The poem concerns human mortality. It is a kind of lamentation which the poet makes because of the Fall of man. In the beginning, man lived in perfect innocence and bliss in the Garden of Paradise, but now after the disobedience of God, he has been made to decay and death. In this connection, the use of the coined word “Goldengrove” in the second line of the poem is greatly suggestive. To some it is a simple and rather gratuitous invention; they consider it to be merely a description of trees, the leaves of which have turned red and yellow, or “gold”. The unleaving of the Goldengrove, however, gains wider implication when we consider it with reference to the Garden of Paradise. The leaves that are falling, we are told are “like the things of man” (line 3). So Goldengrove may also stand for “golden days of youth”, the springtime of life. Thus the two aspects – the seasons of the year and chronological stages of man’s life, get united in this one word. Then, the capitalization of the word “Goldengrove” alerts us to other suggestions in the poem “worlds of wanwood”, “ghost guessed”, and “the blight man was born for”. The words – “world”, “ghost” and “blight” – give us an invitation to read the poem in the context of the Garden of Eden for which “Goldengrove” is a happy coinage.

From the ninth line onwards we find a change in the thought of the poem. Here he tells us about the cause of Margaret’s grieving; Nor mouth had, no nor mind expressed.

What heart heard of, ghost guessed :

It is Margaret you mourn for.

Now we are told about the cause of why death and decay have come into the world. Thus we come across a double symbolism in the poem. Fall refers to autumn as well as man’s fall from grace. And Spring stands for the fountainhead of sorrow (the Original Sin) and the spring of tears. Thus, this poem expresses Hopkins’ conviction that all sorrow springs from one cause – mortality, deriving from sin, and this is so, whether we are conscious of it or not. Margaret, now a mere child, will grow soon, and like Hopkins come to know of this great truth.

The poem is a direct address to the girl, Margaret, and there is no scene-setting worth the name. The poem is written objectively. But we can feel that this is rather away from the truth. The poem is a projection of the poet’s self in the form of Margaret. And the generalization of the human condition may also be read as the consciousness of the poet’s own position. In Margaret, he recognizes his own youth, and the distance he has traveled from it. Natural beauty, instead of being a revelation of God, is increasingly seen as a reminder of the shortness of his own life and his own mortal nature.

Hopkins has garnered the common resources of language and invented new words by extending the common process of its development and growth (shifting parts of speech, compounding new words from old elements). In the coinage of new words, Hopkins has used old elements into new entities. In this poem, he has twice coined two new words in a single line. In the second line, he has coined “Goldengrove” and “unleaving”, and inline eight “wanwood” and “leafmeal”. The happy choice of the coinage of Goldengrove has already been explained. As regards “unleaving”- it is composed of a noun “leaf” used as a verb with a negative prefix “un” to mean “leaving leaves”. The cause of misunderstanding is that many people consider it a compound of “leave” used as verb with the compound “un”.

The other line that contains two coined words is line eight. “Wanwood” is a compound of two words – “wood” and “wan”. And the woods are pale because the trees have shed their leaves and so they have become “wan”, that is pale. “Leafmeal”d seems ambiguous but this ambiguity is soon removed. Here we have to remember that there is a world in English, “piecemeal” which means “piece by piece”. Likewise, leafmeal means “leaf by leaf”. This line thus may be read: “though huge areas of dark, colourless groves have dropped their leaves on the ground, one by one to decay, becoming a mass of mealy matter”.

Terms used for Understanding Hopkins’ Poetry

The section discusses the terms Inscape, Instress and Sprung Rhythm, central to the poetry of Hopkins:-

(a) Inscape: We talk of olive trees. We generalize. But Hopkins treated each olive tree as an individual item. When you read his ‘The Windhover’, you find the flight of the Windohover expressing the whole personality of the bird. That is ‘inscape’ for Hopkins (and should be, for you). Hopkins wrote, “I have no other word for that which takes the mind or eye in a bold hand”. So he coined a new word ‘Inscape’. He used it to designate the beauty of Things. ‘Inscape’ is applied to some particular thing of beauty which is distinctive and patterned. It is the individual quality of an object as revealed in its characteristic action which reveals the inner form of it. Inscape is an effect to translate this into words. Verse is inscape of the spoken sound. Poetry is the only speech employed to carry the ‘inscape’ of speech. Hopkins adds: “It is the virtue of Inscape to be distinctive and it is the virtue of distinctiveness to be queer. ‘Inscape’ is the very soul of art”.

Verbal inscape is a pattern of design in words. When words are used to suggest the inscape by means of a sound pattern we get verbal inscape. For example, (1) ‘earliest stars, earl stars’, (2) ‘dapple – drawn dawn’.

(b) Instress : Inscape is the individuating quality. The reader’s response to the inscape may be called ‘instress’. It is the observer’s response to the object of observation. It is ‘stress’ emphasized, ‘stress’ felt inside, seen through the inner self. It is in order to produce this effect that the poet creates the inscape of the object. The poet finds adequate words to project the inscape which the object has, is such a way that the desired instress is produced. Hopkins tries to capture the flight of the Windhover in words and his apprehension of the characteristic activity of the bird, passed on to the readers, is called instress. It is the sensation of the ‘inscape’ – (W.H. Gardner). Hopkins has nowhere specifically defined ‘instress’.

(c) Sprung Rhythm: A term used by Hopkins to denote the method by which his verse is to be scanned. In his time, most English verse was written in Running Rhythm, that is, metres with regular stresses in the line. Hopkins wished to free English verse from this rhythm, so as to bring verse into closer accord with common speech, to emancipate rhythm from linear unit, and to achieve a freer range of emphasis. It is a rhythm not counted by syllables and regular feet but by stresses (stress being the emphasis of the voice upon a word or syllable). If you imagine a line divided into feet, then one syllable would be stressed in each foot, but that syllable can either stand-alone or be accompanied by a number of unstressed syllables (usually not more than four). As stresses, not syllables, make up the line, it may vary considerably in length. To put indifferently, in Sprung Rhythm, the number of stresses in each line is regular, but they do not occur at regular intervals, nor do the lines have a uniform number of syllables. The rhythm also drives through the stanza and is not basically linear. Consider these lines from ‘The Wreck’.

‘Thou hast bound bones and veins in me fastened me flesh,

And after it almost unmade, what with dread’.

Assessment Questions

(a) Answer to the following questions should not exceed 20 words each.

Q. What do the words ‘Spring’ and ‘Fall’ suggest in the title of the poem ‘Spring and Fall’?
Ans. ‘Spring’ in the title suggests both the season of growth and the Garden of Eden; Fall similarly suggests Autumn and the Fall of Adam.

Q. What does the word ‘golden grove’ mean in ‘Spring and Fall’?
Ans. ‘Goldengrove’ means the golden trees in a grove or garden. It may also refer to an actual village.

Q. Who is Margaret?

Ans. Margaret refers to an imaginary child to whom the poem ‘Spring and Fall’ is addressed.

Q. By whom were Hopkins’ poems first published?

Ans. Robert Bridges was the first to publish Hopkins’ poems.

Q. What does the poem ‘Spring and Fall’ express?

Ans. The poem expresses the sad mortality of Man as well as nature.

(b) Answer the following question in 500 words each :

Q. Critically appreciate the poem ‘Spring and Fall’.
Answer: See the Critical Appreciation of the poem.

Let Us Sum Up

In this post, we have discussed in detail Hopkins’ beautiful poem ‘Spring and Fall’. The poem expresses Hopkins’ intense love for common humanity. The post also contains a brief discussion on the terms Inscape, Instress and Sprung Rhythm, vital to the understanding of Hopkins’ poetry.

Review Questions

1. Comment on the confessional aspect of Hopkins poems.

2. Comment on the uniqueness of Hopkins poetry.

The Last Ride Together Summary,Critical Analysis, Questions and Verification

Summary of Last Ride Together

The ‘Last Ride Together’ is a poem of unrequited love. The lover is rejected. But he does not blame his mistress. He is magnanimous and accepts the position in a brave and noble way. In order to show that he can control himself and make the situation easier for her he requests her for the last ride together. After a little hesitation, the lady grants his request. The lover is happy that he is not banished from her sight. He imagines that the world may perhaps end tonight and the happy moment may turn into an eternity. This is a remarkable reaction.

The two ride together. The lady lays her head on the lover’s breast. He feels that he has gained all the wealth of the world. Once he was sad but now he is full of joy. He wants to forget the past. He is not sorry for his failures. All make attempts but very few succeed. Success and failures are not important. Our achievements never match our expectations. He has been successful as his beloved is with him. There is always a difference between planning and achievements. Man fails to do according to his planning. Great men earn name and fame but in the end, they all meet death. After they are dead they are remembered only in a few lines.

The poet describes the achievements of brave soldiers, a poet, a sculptor and a musician in the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth and stanzas show that the achievements of all these are not everlasting. In the final tenth Stanza Browning’s protagonist concludes that the life of the lover is the best. He is absorbed in the present life in love and joy with his beloved. The poem ends with optimism that this happiness of the lover with his beloved would be everlasting in his life after death in Heaven.

Critical Analysis

Last Ride Together is a dramatic monologue and it shows Browning at his best in the handling of this poetic form. It has also been called a dramatic lyric because it is not an expression of his own personal emotions, but that of an imagined character. It is spoken by a lover who loved his lady over a long period of time, and who, after making him wait for so long, finally rejected him, and turned to another lover. The lover then prayed to her to grant two requests of his. First, that she should remember his love of her, and secondly, that she should come with him for the last ride together. To his great joy, the lady consented.

Such is the love situation out of which the monologue grows. It is spoken by the lover as he rides by the side of his beloved for the last time. As they commence their ride, the beloved for a moment bends over him and places her head over his shoulders. It seems to him as if heaven itself had descended over him, so great is the bliss he experiences at the moment.

As they ride along, the lover experiences a heavenly bliss. His soul which had lost its happiness and on which grief had left its ugly marks and wrinkles, now smoothens itself out like a crumpled sheet of paper, which opens out and flutters in the wind. All his hopes of success in love, all hopes of a happy life with his beloved, were now dead and gone. His love was now a matter of the past. But the lover does not despair. He shares Browning’s optimism and says that it is no use to regret or to feel sorry for life which has been ruined. What is ended cannot be mended. It is no use speculating over his possible success if he had acted and spoken differently. It is just possible that had he acted differently, instead of loving him, she might have hated him. Now she is only indifferent to him. Now at least she rides by his side. He derives consolation from this fact, instead of brooding sadly over the dead past.

The lover then reflects over the lot of humanity in general and derives further consolation from the fact that he is not the only one who has failed in life. Such is the lot of men that all try, but none succeeds. All labor, but all fail ultimately to achieve their ends. How little of success and achievement, and how much of failure does the whole world show! He is lucky in the sense that at least he rides by the side of his beloved. Others do not get even that much of success. There is always a wide disparity between conception and execution, between ambition and achievement.

The only reward, even of the most successful statesman, is a short obituary notice and that of a heroic warrior only an epitaph over his grave in the Westminster Abbey. The poet, no doubt, achieves much. He expresses human thoughts and emotions in a sweet, melodious language, but he does not neglect any of the good things of life. He lives and dies in poverty. The great sculptor and musician, too, are failures. From even the most beautiful piece of sculpture, says a statue of the goddess, virus, one turns to an ordinary, but a living, breathing, girl; and fashions in music are quick to change. Comparatively, he is more successful, for he has, at least, been rewarded with the company of his beloved. At least, he has the pleasure of riding with her by his side.

It is difficult to say what is good and what is not good for man in this world. Achievement of perfect happiness in this world means that one would have no hopes left for life in the other world. Failure in this world is essential for success and achievement in the life to come. He has failed in this life, but this is a blessing in disguise. It means that he would be successful in the life to come. He can now hope for happiness in the other world. Because he did not get his beloved here, he is sure to enjoy the bliss of her love in life after death. Now for him, “both Heaven and she are beyond this ride.” Failure in this world is best. Further, so hopes the lover, “the instant may become eternity” and they may ride together forever and ever. Who knows what the world may end that very moment? In that case, they will be together in the other world and will be together forever.

Style and Versification

Browning’s style is a pictorial style; it is also rich in the use of imagery, similes, metaphors, etc. His images are usually starting in their originality and daring. Often they are drawn from the grotesque in nature. Nature is constantly used to illustrate the facts of human life. Often the concrete is used to clarify and bring home to the readers the spiritual and the abstract.

The beauty of form in poetry also depends on the style and diction of a poet. Browning was a highly original genius, his style is entirely individual, and so far want of a better name it is called Browning esque.

He uses the smallest number of words that his meaning allows. In the very beginning of his career, he was once charged with verbosity, and since then, “he contented himself with the use of two words where he would rather have used ten.” This dread of being diffuse resulted in compression and condensation which made him often, if not actually, obscure, at least difficult to understand.

Just as in his style, so also in his versification, Browning is often rugged and fantastic. Sometimes, this ruggedness is justified by the subject; sometimes the use of a broken, varying, irregular verse is essential to convey the particular emotion or the impression which the poet wants to convey. Browning had a peculiarly keen ear for a particular kind of staccato music, for a kind of galloping rhythm.

Often he uses double or even triple rhymes to create grotesque effects. The real fault does not lie with such artistic use of the rugged and the fantastic; the real fault arises when such use is not necessary when it is not artistically justified. And Browning’s search for novelty frequently betrays him into using such clumsy and irritating meters, and this clouds his intrinsic merits as a metrical artist.

“He is the greatest master in our language, in the use of rhyme, in the amazing variety of his versification and stanza forms, and in the vitality both of his blank verse and rhymed verse. Browning is far indeed from paying no attention, or little, to meter and versification. Except in some of his late blank verse, and in a few other cases, his very errors are just as often the result of hazardous experiments as of carelessness and inattention. In one very important matter, that of rhyme, he is perhaps the greatest master in our language; in single and double, in simple and grotesque alike, he succeeds in fitting rhyme to rhyme with a perfection which I have never found in any other poet of any age. His lyrical poems contain more structural varieties of form than those of any other preceding English poet.”


Browning’s philosophy of life is characterized by robust optimism. The universe and the beauty of Nature is an expression of the creative joy of God and so he finds the principal of Joy at the very Centre of Creation. This does not mean that he is blind to human imperfections; rather he builds hope for the future on these very imperfections. His is a philosophy of strenuous endeavor; true joy lies in the effort, and not in success or achievement. Rather failure here means success in the life to come. Faith in God, faith in the immortality of the soul, faith in the earnest endeavor are the cardinal points of Browning’s philosophy of human life.

The monologue lays bare before us the soul of the lovers he muses over his past failure in love, his bliss in the present, and his hopes for the future, we get a peep into his soul. He is a heroic soul who is not discouraged by his failure in love. He derives consolation from failure itself. He shares the poet’s cheerful optimism, his faith in the immortality of the soul, and believes, like him, that, “God creates the love to grant the love.” It is better to die, “without a glory garland around one’s neck,” for there is a life beyond and one should have some hope left for it, “dim-descried”.

Assessment Questions

Choose the correct answer from amongst the three alternatives given below each question :

The poem has :

(a) Eleven Stanzas

(b) Six Stanzas

(c) Ten Stanzas

The poem ends with :

(a) frustration

(b) love

(c) optimism

The speaker in the poem is :

(a) the lover

(b) the poet

(c) the listener

The lover rides with his beloved for :

(a) the first time

(b) the last time

(c) the eternity

The lover prays to his beloved to grant him :

(a) one request

(b) two requests

(c) nothing

The lover says that there is no need to:

(a) repent for a life that has been ruined

(b) wait for his beloved

(c) request his beloved

It is a poem of :

(a) frustration in love

(b) happy ending

(c) unrequited love

The lover in the poem is :

(a) not discouraged by failure in love

(b) encouraged by success

(c) discouraged by failure in love

The best reward according to the lover is :

(a) riding with his beloved

(b) an inscription on the tomb

(c) an award given by the King

The lover concludes that he is :

(a) unfortunate

(b) a hero

(c) fortunate

Answers to SAQs

(c) ten stanzas

(c) optimism

(a) the lover

(b) the last time

(b) two requests

(a) to repent for a life that has been ruined

(c) unrequited love

(a) not discouraged by failure in love

(a) riding with his beloved

(c) fortunate

Meaning of Words

since it is so: since you cannot love me

dearest : the lady love
at length : at last
avails : accepts
life seemed: the only desire of life
failed: to be unsuccessful
pride : privilege
thankfulness: to be thankful to his love for her company
hope : promise to love

blame : to consider improper

leave : permission

bent: looked down

that brow: the beautiful brow on her face

demurs : lingers

pity would be: the lady pitied her lover

softening through: wished to grant his request

fixed me: to be notionless in anxiety

for breathing: for a moment

balance: to be dependent on her reply

right: the lady granted his request

replenished: re-filled, got a new lease of life

not in vain: did not go waste

side by side: with one another

deified: enjoy the great happiness

may end: it may be the doomsday

hush: to be silent

western cloud: a cloud in the western sky

billowy bosomed: well-developed bosom

over bowed: enjoying in abundance

benediction : blessings

best: more than anything else

conscious grew: felt, experienced

passion drew: intensity of your love attracted

down on you: to feel heaven coming to you

lingered: remained near

soul: heart

smoothed out: expanded with joy

long cramped scroll: a sheet of paper which has been kept rolled up for a long time

freshing: to be happy

fluttering: to flutter in wind with joy

past hope: desires which could not be fulfilled

strife: to be worried, to regret

a life awy: a life that has been a failure

had I said that: had he expressed his love differently

had I done this: had he acted differently

gain: to get her love

who can tell: nobody can be sure
befell: happened

fail I alone: the lover is not the only person in the world who has been unsuccessful

strive: to struggle to achieve success

seemed: felt experienced as though

spirit flew: soul was soaring high to heaven

saw other regions, cities new: the entire landscape appeared to him entirely new and joyous

rushed by: passed by

either side: both the sides

vast : big, enormous

hand: action, achievement

brain : ideas

ever: all the time

paired: matched together

alike: in the same way

conceived: thought, formed plans

dared: had the courage to act upon his plans

will : determination

fleshy screen: limitations of the human body

leave: to swell

crown: success

heap of bones : the grave

scratch: engrave on stone

Abbey stones: raised engraved stone on the tomb

leave : permission

brains : thought

beat into a rhythm: express in rhythmical language

felt: to feel in heart

expressed: to put feelings in writing pace them rhyme: put them in poetical form

have you: did you achieve the best goals

ere : prematurely

one whit : even a little sublime : lofty ideals

turned a rhyme: composed even a line of poetry

joy: a source of pleasure

a score of years: a number of years your Venus: the statue of Venus sculptured by him

whence: from where

yonder : that

fords: wades through

Burn: a stream of water

acquiesce: accept

repine: to feel sorry grown

gray: to become old

sole : only

opera : musical drama strains : songs

gave my youth: devoted his youth in courting his beloved

in fine : in short

fit : desirable

bliss : happiness

sublimate : reach its perfection

sign the bond: enter into an agreement

bliss to die with: to die with some of his desires unfulfilled

dim descried: faintly visioned

planted: achieved

glory garland: having won success

could I decry such: had I achieved such success

try and test: views to be tested by actual experience

quest : search

Heaven: the life after death in Heaven

at life’s best: the successful life

eyes upturned: looking up towards the sky

life’s hower: the best life can offer

discerned : seen

abide: to be able to see

made eternity: to become everlasting

Dover Beach By Matthew Arnold: Summary, Critical Analysis, Questions and Theme

Summary and Analysis of “Dover Beach” (1867)

Introduction to the Poem: The poem “Dover Beach” was published in 1867. The poet has expressed pessimism in this poem. The world is full of misery. Even the Greek poet Sophocles sang it. But in olden times men had faith and love for each other, but that they have now lost and instead fight with each other. The poet is reminded of it by ebb and flow of the sea at the Dover beach.

Summary of Dover Beach

One night, the speaker of “a Beach” sits with a woman inside a house, looking out over the English Channel near the town of Dover. On the coast of France, they see the lights just twenty miles away, and the ocean is calm and peaceful.

When the light over in France suddenly extinguishes, the speaker focuses on the English side, which remains tranquil. He trades visual imagery for aural imagery, describing the “grating roar” of the pebbles being pulled out by the waves. He finishes the first stanza by calling the music of the world an “eternal note of sadness.”

The next stanza flashes back to ancient Greece, where Sophocles heard this same sound on the Aegean Sea and was inspired by it to write his plays about human misery.

Stanza three presents the primary metaphor of the poem, with “The Sea of Faith / Was once too, at the full, and round earth’s shore.” The phrase indicates that faith fads from society just as the tide is from the shore. Through melancholy diction, the speaker laments this decrease of belief.

In the final stanza, the speaker directly addresses his beloved who sits next to him, asking that they always be true to one another and to the world that is laid out before them. He warns, however, that the world’s beauty is only an illusion, since it is, in fact, a battlefield full of people fighting in absolute darkness.

Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold

Summary in Points

  • In the first stanza, the poet sees the calm sea in full tide at the Dover beach.
  • In the second stanza, the roar of the ebbing sea strikes a note of sadness in his mind.
  • In the third stanza, he says that Sophocles was reminded of human misery as he heard the roar of the sea-waves at the Greek coast.
  • In the fourth stanza, the poet talks, that once the sea of faith girdled this earth, but it is now retreating.

In the last stanza, he asks us to love each other as this world is really a joyless place.

Critical Appreciation

“Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold is a lyric poem set in the vicinity of a Dover, along the southeast bank of England, where Arnold and his new spouse spent their honeymoon in 1851. It is accepted that the poet composed the first draft of “Dover Beach” while here, experiencing the English Channel toward the coast of France, around twenty-six miles away. Arnold and his wife are frequently viewed as the models for the speaker and audience in the poem, albeit any young man and woman could represent the two figures in the story, caught in a moment of their initial lives.

“Dover Beach” is most often classified as a dramatic monologue, a poetic form that Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and especially Robert Browning, found extremely attractive. The monologue, or poem spoken by a single voice, is made dramatic by the presence of a silent audience of one or more listeners, whose responses may be indicated by the speaker, or persona. In this way, the poet may be empowered to express views using another person’s voice, as William Shakespeare is known for doing.

This strategy may have been particularly attractive to Arnold, for the views of his speaker are diametrically opposed to his own education and upbringing. Matthew was six years old when he was moved into the Rugby School after his clergyman father Thomas Arnold became its headmaster or principal. As headmaster, Thomas Arnold gained a reputation for educational reform, based on his commitment to the high seriousness of making students aware of the moral as well as the social issues that would make them responsible citizens.

“Dover Beach” has often been read as a kind of seismological record of the shock waves in traditional religion brought about by the New Science in the mid-nineteenth century. The geology of Charles Lyell and others was forcing Europeans and Americans to rethink how life began on the planet. Lyell’s discoveries of fossils dating back more than one million years were making it increasingly difficult to accept the traditional notion in the book of Genesis that the world is the work of a creator a mere six or seven thousand years ago. By 1851, when “Dover Beach” was probably written, Charles Darwin, Alfred Russell Wallace, and other scientists had already theorized the essentials of evolution, but it would take Darwin another eight years to publish his findings. Even then, Darwin published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859) only at the urging of his friends, who warned him that others would publish first if he did not set aside his concerns for the devastating moral and spiritual consequences of challenging the traditional story of how life began. It is probably no coincidence that Arnold himself postponed the publication of “Dover Beach” until 1867.
The poem begins with a naturalistic scene, clearly within the Romantic tradition established by William Wordsworth. Like Wordsworth, Arnold understands the elegance and power of simple language: “The sea is calm tonight./ The tide is full, the moon lies fair/ Upon the straits.” As often noted, the first stanza contains fourteen lines and the second and third stanzas have six and eight lines, respectively, suggesting the sonnet form, but without its more complicated meter and rhyme systems. From its initial visual images, the first stanza and the subsequent two stanzas move toward the dominance of auditory images. The shift is justified by the obviously limited opportunity to see, even with moonlight, but also by the strong impact of the waves breaking on the beach. By the first stanza’s end, the persona, or speaker, has established the poem’s central metaphor of the waves’ “tremulous cadence slow” to represent an “eternal note of sadness.” Additionally, a mere five lines into the poem, the voice has introduced a listener in the scene—telling the reader to “Come to the window”—setting up a tension: Who is the listener? What will be the effect of the melancholy poetic statement on that listener?

This “eternal note” draws the persona further from the directly visualized opening scene with its simple but strong language. The allusion to the ancient Greek tragic dramatist Sophocles offers a context for the speaker’s growing “sadness.” (Arnold was among one of the last generations for whom a classical education entailed learning ancient Greek and Latin to read the classics in their original languages.) The allusion also draws the poem into the more didactic strategy of a statement—asserting rather than implying meaning—and the deployment of something like allegory—a “Sea of Faith” once at its “flow” but now at its “ebb.” This third stanza also reveals evidence of the poet’s effort at elevating the language, producing the difficult opening lines in which that sea once “round earth’s shore/ Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled,” a choice of words guaranteed to confuse the modern reader. This “girdle” is appropriate to the classical context of Sophocles, but not to the modern world, where it denotes an article of intimate apparel. However, attempts of academics to clarify that meaning have distracted attention from the figurative logic of a sea as a “girdle,” or belt, as well as from the unfortunate combination of sounds in “girdle furled.” Another issue left unaddressed is the dominance of pessimism in the persona’s inability to attend to the logic of this “Sea of Faith”: Whatever ebbs will inevitably flow in the future.

The final stanza recalls the earlier reference to the listener—“Ah, love, let us be true/ To one another!”—to focus on the melancholy consequences of the weakening of faith. To the persona, and presumably the poet, the world truly is “a land of dreams,” pipe dreams with nothing to believe in, not just God and an afterlife but “joy,” “love,” and so on. This is Romantic love at its most radical. Without love between a man and a woman, the world is as confusing—and as lethal—as a night battle, fraught with friendly fire. In a sense, Arnold is announcing the big question for the modern world, intent on forcing love to bear the enormous weight of providing human lives with meaning: If love is all humans have, what do they do when they cannot find love, or keep it? It is a question that resonates through the novels, too, of Ernest Hemingway, such as in his A Farewell to Arms (1929), or in the contexts of wedding receptions, where some have to suppress the depressing thought, will this be one of every two marriages that end in divorce?

1. Theme :

Matthew Arnold’s ‘Dover Beach’ captures beautifully the poet’s deep dissatisfaction with his age and its loss of faith. He puts for the idea that the root cause of the miseries of men in the modern world is lack of faith. This is an idea prevalent in both the prose and verse of Arnold.

2. Expression :

The idea is expressed in the form of a beautiful metaphor. Humanity is presented as a sea-shore, faith as the sea. In the past ages, the heart of man was full of faith like a beach covered with sea-water at the time of the flow of the tide. Today the human heart is dry, like a beach at ebb-tide. Only the dry and soulless religious formulas, ceremonies and practices remain in it like pebbles on sea beach.

3. Naturalness :

This metaphor is sustained throughout the later part of the poem, except in the last three lines, where modern life is presented as a dark plain where a mad battle is on. The metaphor of the sea emerges naturally out of the poem in gradual degrees. Nothing is forced.
The poem has all the suggestiveness associated with great poetry.

4. Pictorial Power:

Apart from the idea that this poem puts forth, it is remarkable for the beautiful and effective picture of Dover Beach presented in it. With a few touches, the poet succeeds in presenting a picture of great beauty vivid and clear. The sound of the waves beating against the shore is also beautifully captured.

5. A Note of Sadness:

The poem has sad music about it sad like the slow, mournful beat of the waves described in it. It has that note of sadness and dissatisfaction that is so common in Arnold’s writings. All things considered, it is one of the most beautiful poems in the language – simple and suggestive weighed with a heavy sweetness, yet restrained in expression as well as the sentiment.

D.S. Tatke makes the following comment on this poem- then heightens the meaning in the next eight lines by using the images to express the last journey which everyone must make, so does Arnold in this poem build a beautiful picture of the calm sea and the moon-blanched shore and makes us aware of the fact that though from the distance the picture is so calm and peaceful yet those who live near enough always hear the grating roar of pebbles and the eternal note of sadness and then deepens the meaning by giving it a philosophic content.

6. Transition to Philosophic Meditation:

The transition to philosophic meditation comes in the second stanza. The third uses the image of the first stanza to express the present predicament – the loss of faith and the consequent gloom which is the most prominent note of Arnold’s poems. The fourth stanza is an appeal to a beloved woman to be true to each other for that alone can sustain them in this land of dreams whose reality is very different from its appearance.

7. Need for a Positive Faith:

The poem successfully expresses the fascination and the need Arnold felt for a positive faith and the reluctance with which he must accept the painful, unavoidable reality.

Note the perfect picture of the age with all its complexity in the last three lines of the poem –

“And we are here as on a darkling plain

Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight

Where ignorant armies clash by night.”

His poems are marked by a restraint and, a conscious control. Neither excessively musical nor deliberately rugged the expression diction, imagery, rhythm – is marked by a perfect clearness, competence, and precision. He is far too meditative a poet to be lyrical. His best poetry is reflective, always burdened by thoughts of the predicament of his generation. In a letter written in 1869, Arnold claimed that his poems ‘represent the main movement of the mind of the last quarter of a century’.

‘Dover Beach’ is one of Arnold’s most famous poems. It is one of his most characteristic poems too. It has a sad tone and it expresses Arnold’s sorrow at the loss of faith in the modern

When we analyse the epithets used in the poem, we find that Arnold does not use colour epithets anywhere in this poem. Even in the first stanza where he describes the landscape, no colour epithet is used. But this deficiency does not in any way mar the literary merit of the poem. Arnold describes the landscape in a way that the reader is easily able to visualize the landscape and its varied colour. “On the French coast, the light / Gleams, and is gone.” We can very easily visualize the colour here. Where he speaks of the “moon-blanch’d sand” he makes us see the sandy place shining white in the moon-lit night without using colour epithet.

Another way in which he makes up the deficiency of colour epithets is by making us hear the sound of the waves striking the shore and then returning. He says:

“Listen ! you hear the granting roar

Of pebbles which the waves such back, and fling

At their return, up the high strand,

Begin, and cease, and then again begin,

With tremulous cadence slow, and bring

The eternal note of sadness in.”

He again says: “But now I only hear

Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,

Retreating to the beath

Of the night-wind down the vast edges drear

And naked shingles of the world.

Assessment Questions

Short Questions

1. What do you appreciate in this poem?
Answer: We appreciate the clarity of expression gravity, dignity of thought, proportion, and harmony.

2. When was the poem published?
Answer: The poem was published in 1867.

3. What does the poet express in the poem?
Answer: The poet has expressed pessimism in the poem.

4. What classic reference does the poem display?
Answer: Even the Greek poet Sophocles (classic) sang it.

5. What great lectures did the people of old age have?
Answer: They had faith and love for each other.

6. What is the poet reminded of in the poem Dover Beach?
Answer: The poet recalls the old age of faith and leaves by the ebb and flow of the sea which the modern man does not have.

7. What kind of faith does Arnold refer to?
Answer: Arnold has Religious faith.

8. Is Arnold a poet of Nature?
Answer: No, he is not a worshipper of nature like Wordsworth.

9. What does ‘Nature’ mean to Arnold?
Answer: To Arnold nature is quite indifferent to man. It is man’s love for each other that helps

Let Us Sum Up

1. By now you must have understood the poem and the poet’s intention of his creative impulse

2. Written in 1867.

3. A classical poem with a pessimistic or tragic appeal.

4. Compares the olden times modern times etc.

More Questions of Dover Beach” by Matther Arnold

1. Who is the speaker of this poem? Who is he talking to? What is their relationship?

The speaker of the poem is a young man. He is speaking to his love. The poem suggests that they are having a difficult relationship (“And we are here as on a darkling plain swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight”).

2. What is the relationship between the setting in stanza one and the description in stanza two of what Sophocles heard beside another sea?

In the first stanza, the sea is described as playing an “eternal note of sadness.” Similarly, the Aegean Sea brings misery to Sophocles’ mind. The relationship is that the sea is not a symbol of hope and independence, but rather of misery and of constraint.

3. What is the relationship of the first and second stanzas to the “Sea of Faith” described in stanza three?

The Sea of Faith, like the beaches and seas described in the first two stanzas, once was alive and present around the world. The difference is that the Sea of Faith represents hope and faith, while the new water represents misery.

4. The final stanza offers love as the solution for the problems that the speaker and his lover see in the world around them. Explain the meaning of love and its importance in this poem. Do you agree with Arnold’s idea? What does this poem suggest about love and the modern world?

Love, like the waters, is ever present, but also ever changing (ebbing and flowing). The speaker suggests that love is the solution since it is natural and unsought for. Love, too, is present. He urges his love to focus on the present calm, the present love, in hopes that it will lead to a bright future.

5. The poem’s concluding image calls to mind the chaotic night-battle at Epipolae when Athenian warriors, unable to see, killed friend and enemy alike. What, to the speaker, do the waters warn of?

The waters warn of humanity’s sad destiny by reminding him of the past.

Review Questions

1. Write a critical appreciation of the poem Dover Beach.

2. Who was Sophocles? How could he have heard in ancient Greece the same note of sadness in the sea as Arnold observed in Victorian England?

3. How are the ignorant armies, according to Arnold, clashing by night?

4. Where is the battle being fought?

5. Arnold employs no epithet of colour in Dover Beach. How does he make up for his deficiency?

6. What are the main characteristics of the Victorian Age to Which Matthew Arnold belonged?

7. What does the concluding stanza portray in the poem Dover Beach?

8. What kind of mental frame did Matthew Arnold have? Why ?.

9. Can you identify some chief pessimistic poets of the Victorian Age?

10. Write down the summary of the poem Dover Beach.

11. What were the circumstances that forced Arnold to criticize the modern man?

Note: For answers refer to the above notes.

A Birthday By Christina Rossetti: Summary and Questions

A Birthday By Christina Rossetti

A Birthday” is one of Christina Rossetti’s most popular poems and one of the most frequently quoted and anthologised of all her works. It is an unusual poem in Rossetti’s production as it expresses pure, undarkened joy. Its happiness and its ringing melody have delighted readers and critics ever since its first publication.

Read Also: Birthday Wishes

A Birthday By Christina Rossetti

A Birthday By Christina Rossetti

A Birthday


The narrator of the poem expresses her delight about her love’s upcoming birthday. The narrator, who most likely voices Rossetti’s own views, compares her heart to various things in nature. In a series of brilliant and densely beautiful comparisons, the poet says that her heart is full. It is like a singing bird, an apple bough laden with fruit, a rainbow that bridges the sky. Nay, her heart is “gladder than all these”. It is as though she has run out of similes. In the second stanza, she demands that she be made a dais richly decorated with “silk and down”, with carvings of “doves and pomegranates” (all symbols of romance and luxury) worked with images of peacocks and silver fleur-de-lys or lilies, that symbol of purity, because this day she is reborn as her love is coming to her.

Birthday poem

The narrator expresses the fullness of her heart upon the occasion of her love’s birthday by starting every comparison in the first stanza with “My is heart is like”. Rossetti’s use of anaphora, evident in the repetition of this line, emphasizes the narrator’s inability to articulate her joy through language. She continues to search for an appropriate simile for her feelings, using symbols that invoke images of celebration and happiness. The laden apple-tree promises the nourishment of fruit. The rainbow signifies God’s promise to Noah and mankind that he will not flood the earth again.

A Birthday

Through these similes, the narrator attempts to express her joy about the arrival of her love. But there is more spiritual depth to the poem than the pretty surface suggests. This “love” could be a man, but this is unlikely. It is probable that her “love” is somehow connected to her Christian faith. The love could represent Easter and the arrival of Spring, which signals rebirth and rejuvenation. The images in this poem could certainly pertain to the arrival of spring.

Despite the poem’s lack of direct references to the Bible, Scripture resounds from its very title. For the titular birthday hardly refers to just some merry event with a cake and candles on the table. Rather, it refers to the birthday of the soul, whether by being “born again” in Christ while alive or by being resurrected, that is, lifted by Christ out of literal death into eternal life. The concept of spiritual rebirth goes back to the Bible.

It is clear that regardless of whom the “love” represents, the narrator feels extreme joy at his or her arrival. A singing bird uses melody to express itself similar to the way that humans use words. Similarly, the narrator reveals the longing of her heart with the freedom of a bird. She personifies the other objects, imbuing them with human capabilities and emotions. This connection between nature and the divine common amongst Pre-Raphaelite poets and artists.


Rossetti divides this sixteen- line poem into two eight-line stanzas, each with an irregular rhyme pattern.
In the first stanza, a series of similes are introduced, simply in
the first line of each couples with a slight modification in the second. In each couplet, the first half sets up an equivalence
between the poet’s heart and an object: “My heart is like a
singing bird”, “My heart is like an apple tree”, and “My heart is
like a rainbow shell”. The second half of each couplet alters the
radiant purity of each image, in a not so straightforward way.

The “singing bird” is in a “watered shoot”, and so our sense of
its freedom is somewhat altered. The boughs of the apple tree
are “bent with thickset fruit”, an image of potential and
fecundity, but again of a kind of restraint, or restriction that is at
its limit case. In each case, the modification of the image
produces an excess, in order to support the final claim that the
poet’s heart is “gladder than all these”.


halcyon – calm and peaceful
dais – table of honor
vair – fur
fleurs-de-lys – an iris

Questions and Answers

1. What is the relationship between the first stanza (with its similes) and the second stanza?

Answer: The first stanza contains a number of similes that compare the joy and love of the speaker’s heart to natural occurrences and places. The second stanza explains why her heart feels that way.

2. What kinds of images does Rossetti use in the last stanza? What do the images have in common? Why do you think she chose these images?

Answer: The speaker chooses images of physical worth that signify wealth and abundance. She names silk and down, purple dies, doves, pomegranates, peacocks, gold and silver grapes, and fleur-de-lys. She may have chosen these images to show the reader how valuable her love is to her, or how wealthy in spirit she feels because she found it.

3. The last few lines tell the reader that the speaker feels it is “the birthday of my life” because she has found love. What do you think is meant by such a statement?

Answers may vary. Example: The speaker may feel that when she found her love, she started her life over again, or perhaps just began living. It is a figurative birthday for a new beginning.

All For Love By Lord George Bryon: Summary, Theme, Literary Devices and Questions

All For Love By Lord George Bryon

INTRODUCTION: The poem ” All for Love ” by Lord George Bryon is a narrative poem which recounts how the days of our youth are the best and sublime but they are fleeting as well because we get older, things eventually change. The narrator of the poem just ever took delight in the lauds he got for his marvelous deeds because he craved to gain the love and consideration of a specific female, not on the grounds that he wanted to hear people commending him. At last, he feels that he is glorious in light of the fact that he picked up her love.


Lord Byron addresses this poem to beauty and love. The best days of a person’s life are the days of his youth. A young man does not wish to hear of names famous in stories. The young man feels proud and happy to be young. He feels that laurels, garlands, and crowns that are given to famous people are like dead flowers on which dew drops have fallen. He does not attach importance to these things, these crowns which can only give fame, but which fail to understand the joy and love that is there in the hearts of the youth.

The poet has personified fame and has directly addressed fame. Young men take delight in becoming famous not because of being praised in high sounding words. Young men take delight in becoming famous so that they may see the glows in their beloveds’ eyes. On becoming famous a young man gains credibility (becomes worthy) in the eyes of the beloved. That is the reason why a young man longs to gain fame(wants to become famous). The bright eyes of the beloved will discover that he is worthy to love her.

Fame is sought mainly in the eyes of the beloved. When her eyes sparkled with love, it was worth being famous. On seeing the joy and glow in her eyes, the young man realises that it was worth everything. He realizes what is it to be in love and to be surrounded in the beauty of love.

THEME: The poem All for Love is about how one can not depend on past achievements because they lose their value over time. The poem reveals that getting pure and real love is the best achievement.


Rhyme Scheme: This poem has the scheme of AABB AABB AABB AABB because at the end of the stanzas the words have the same endings. In stanza 1, story and glory have the ending of -ory, and this is why the scheme is AABB.
Symbol: In line 14 “Her glance was the best of the rays that surround thee;” rays is being used to symbolize the brightness and happiness that the woman has brought the narrator. It made the story of his life bright and meaningful, and he knew it was true love and that, to him, was glorious.
Diction: By using words and phrases that are plain-spoken and uninhibited, such as saying “What care I for the wreaths that can only give glory?” , Bryon is able to create a forthright and pessimistic tone.


1. Why does the poet not wish to hear the names of people famous in stories?
Answer: The poet does not wish to hear the names of people famous in stories because he thinks that the best part of a person’s life is his youth. He wishes to hear about the activities of young people.

2. With what does he compare garlands and crowns?
Answer: He compares garlands and crowns to dead flowers on which dew drops have settled.

3. Why does he want to become famous?
Answer: He wants to become famous because then his beloved will think that he is worthy to be loved.

4. Why is the poet happy?
Answer: The poet is happy when he sees the glow of love in the eyes of the beloved.

5. What image from the poem is most helpful in conveying the overall meaning of the poem?
Answer: “‘Tis but as a dead flower with May-dew besprinkled”, which is line 6 of this poem, is most helpful in conveying the overall meaning of the poem because a dead flower won’t be able to receive any benefits from watering; the water, though at one time was crucial to the flower, is now useless, just as a marvelous deed one fulfilled when young is good-for-nothing when years have passed.
6. What is the poet’s purpose in writing this poem?
Answer: The author’s purpose in writing this poem is to explain to the reader than one cannot always rely on past accomplishments. At one point in time, said accomplishments and achievements were something of value, but now that you are much older, they no longer have any worth.
7. What is the tone of the poem? Is the tone consistent?
Answer: The tone of this can be described as candid and forthright, for the narrator is blunt in asking “What are garlands and crowns to the brow that is wrinkled?”, meaning what do past achievements mean to someone is now old; line 6, which states “‘Tis but as a dead flower with May-dew besprinkled” further emphasizes how past accomplishments have no meaning seeing as how they happened so long ago. The tone is consistent because the words he uses help to express the tone of the poem.

Lord Randal | Summary, Analysis and Questions

“Lord Randal” by Anonymous (13th–15th centuries)

hae – have
weary – tired
fain – happily
wald – would
gat – ate
gat ye – you eat
bloodhounds –dogs


The poem is a traditional ballad, a folk narrative poem which was very popular in the late Middle Ages and was originally adapted for singing and dancing. The text, which was taken from a small manuscript volume written in or about 1710 and published in the anthology ‘The English and Scottish Popular Ballads by Frances James Child in 1882’.

The well-known ballad ‘Lord Randal’ by Anonymous recounts a traditional tale of Lord Randal who went to the forest for hunting with a hawk and dogs. There he met his sweetheart who gave him eels fried in dish. Ruler Randal ate it and give the left to hawk and dogs. Since the fish was poisoned, they all died.

This ballad tells about some significant features of the prevalent customs and habits at the time. For instance, hunting was a means for living and hawks and dogs were helping the seeker to locate the prey. The absence of a horse and the way that he goes by walking is a clue to the fact that this is a very old ballad. Then again, the forest areas portrayed as a mysterious and enchantment place carries the poem as back as to Celtic tradition.

Young Lord Randal returns at home after a long hunting day in the greenwood where he met his “true-love”. He is tired and he would lie down. Lord Randal’s mother asks what she gave him to eat and why he is not accompanied by his dogs and hawks. He answers that she gave him eels fried in a pan and his dogs died after having the leftovers. Therefore he is going to die. He will leave twenty-four cows to his mother, gold, and silver to his sister, houses, and lands to his brother, hell and fire to his lover.
All that is told through questions and answers that is in the dialogue form.

The ballad is made out of ten stanzas of 4 lines. Every one of the initial six stanzas contains a shift of data and sound: the first and third lines of every stanza contribute information to the plot while the second and forward stanzas give the sound example through repetition. The third line of every one of the initial six stanzas contains a
key-word, respectively: greenwood, true-love, eels fried, hawks and hounds, they died, poisoned.

The climax, or defining moment, of the story, lies in the 6th stanza when Lord Randal understands he has been poisoned and this influences the tone of the exchange between the primary character and his mother in the last four stanzas of the poem. What’s more, truth be told, in the last four stanzas Lord Randal, who is dying, makes his oral testament and this is the typical feature of the ballad. The testament made by the dying individual isn’t composed, but oral.

The rhyme plan is normal and in all quatrains it is ABAC. Since this is a song which was initially sung to a straightforward instrumental backup, the rhyme scheme was critical to give more musicality to the composition. Its consistency helped the audience members to learn it brisk and in this way center around the plot development.

The poem was handed over orally from generation to generation. Therefore the language is organized accordingly keeping in mind the need to be memorized. The language is direct and straightforward and makes considerable use of repetition especially in refrain. Alliteration is a recurrent device which helps memorability, produces musicality and emphasises relevant details. In other words, the language is simple and repetitive both as for word choice and word order(monosyllabic words, co-ordination preposition). It shows a clear frequency of words of Anglo-Saxon origin and stick phrases, like the use of “true-love”-lover. Characterization is reduced to the minimum and just sketched.
The text gives us a lot of information about the culture of the time. First of all the ballad describes an aristocratic lifestyle: for example, they had a good time… they hunted all day. “I’m wearing wi’ hunting and fain wad lie down”. The role of man/woman and their relationship are represented by the third lines of each stanza “mother, make my bed soon, …”. As a matter of fact, men ordered something and women were expected to carry it out immediately; the woman was kind to her son, but he was rather rude. The mother cared about heredity more than this son “what d’ye leave to your mother, Lord Randal, my son?”, “What d’ye leave to your sister, Lord Randal, my son?”, “What d’ye leave to your brother, Lord Randal, my son?”, “What d’ye leave to your true-love, Lord Randal, my son?”.

After reading the poem, the reader can understand the first son owed all the family possessions and so the mother is worried about his eventual death: during this kind of civilization, animals were generally left to mothers, gold and silver to sisters, houses and lands to eventual brothers. And last but not least, the narrator underlines the metaphorical sense of poisoning. As a matter of fact, Lord Randal was not really poisoned by his lover. Only his love for her would conceive of as a form of death.

Questions For further Understanding

1. How did we come to have ballads as part of our literary history?

As stated in this poem’s introduction, before ballads were written down, they were passed down from person to person through oral tradition. This explains how versions of ballads often slightly differ, as they often changed from speaker to speaker.

2. Who is the speaker of the poem?

The poem’s speaker is the mother of Lord Randall.

3. What key events of Lord Randal’s life are recalled in each stanza of the poem?

The first stanza recalls Lord Randal’s hunting as a young boy. The second and third stanzas recall his evening date with his love. The fourth stanza recalls the death of Lord Randall’s dogs, while the last stanza recalls his own death.

4. This ballad repeats several phrases in each stanza, including “…mother make my bed soon,/For I am weary wi’ hunting, and fain wald lie down.” By repeating these lines, as well as other phrases, what literary device is being used?

This ballad is using anaphora.

5. What is Lord Randal hunting throughout the poem?

The poem infers that Lord Randal has been hunting, or courting, his love.

Love Poems In English


Here are some love poems in English that you must read. Enjoy read and send us your poems.


Some souls have gotten free of their bodies.
Do you see them? Open your eyes for those
who escape to meet with other escapees,
whose hearts associate in a way they have
of leaving their false selves
to live in a truer self.
I don’t mind if my companions
wander away for a while.
They will come back like a smiling drunk.
The thirsty ones die of their thirst.
The nightingale sometimes flies from a garden
to sing in the forest.
Love comes sailing through and I scream.
Love sits beside me like a private supply of itself.
Love puts away the instruments
and takes off the silk robes. Our nakedness
together changes me completely.

Read Also: Attitude Status

Reason and Love

Young Daphnis, chasing Chloë, cried:

“My beauty, wait! Don’t run away!

Just say: I love you – please don’t hide; I swear by Venus, I won’t stay!”

“Keep silent!” Reason coldly said. “Now say: ‘I like you’!” Eros pled.

“I like you!” sang the maiden sweet, and love set both their hearts ablaze, and Daphnis fell before her feet, and Chloë dropped her flaming gaze. “Oh flee! Oh flee!” cold Reason cried, while crafty Eros “Stay!” replied.

She stayed. And, trembling with his love, the happy shepherd made his plea: “Oh look,” he said, “that downy dove has kissed his mate beneath the tree!” “Oh flee!” cried Reason once again; “They’ll teach you how!” said Eros then.

And then a smile so tender spilled across the blushing maiden’s lips, and as her eyes with languor filled, within her lover’s arms she slipped.

“Be happy!” Eros softly said. And Reason’s words? Oh, Reason fled.

Translated by James Falen

The Tear

Last night behind a jug of stout I sat with a hussar; and, grimly mute, I stared along the road, away off far.

My comrade asked: “Why, tell me, does the highway hold your gaze? You’ve yet to see your mates march off along it, God be praised!”

Dejectedly I hung my head and whispered in reply:

“Friend, she’s deserted me!…”, and then fell silent with a sigh.

A tear rolled glistening from my eye and dropped into the stout.

“What, cry about a girl, young lad! Oh shame!” my friend cried out.

“Leave off, hussar!… My heart – it aches!

No pain’s touched you, that’s clear.

A single tear’s enough, alas! to spoil a jug of beer!”

Translated by Roger Clarke

For the Lovely Girl Who Took Snuff

Can it be so? It once was roses, Cupid’s flowers, you loved, or a corsage of stately tulips, or fragrant freesias, jasmines, lilies – you used to love them all and wear them every day against the marble whiteness of your breast. How can it be, my dear Klimena,

that you have changed your taste so inexplicably?… Now what you like to smell is not a flower, morning-fresh, but a green toxic weed that human industry’s transformed into a powdery dust.

That greying German academic, hunched in his professorial chair, his learnèd mind immersed in Latin books – he, as he coughs and coughs, may use his shrivelled hand to poke the crushed tobacco up his nose.

That young moustachioed dragoon, while sitting by his window of a morning, still drowsy from a hangover, may puff grey smoke from out his meerschaum pipe.

That erstwhile beauty in her sixties, her charms away on leave, her love life terminated, whose glamour’s now maintained by artifice alone, upon whose body nowhere’s left unwrinkled – she, as she slanders, prays and yawns, may sniff tobacco dust, sure antidote to sorrow.

But you, my lovely one!… Yet if tobacco so takes your fancy now – oh, blaze of inspiration! – yes, I could be transmuted into dust, incarcerated in a snuffbox,

I could be caught up on your gentle fingers; then it would be my sweetest pleasure to have you sprinkle me upon your breast beneath your silken hanky – and perhaps even – No, empty dream! That cannot be. Why can’t harsh Fate relent enough to let me be a pinch of snuff?

Translated by Roger Clarke

To a Young Widow

Lida, true and loyal friend, through my shallow sleep beside you, tired and happy from our love, I can hear you sighing – why? Why, too, when I’m burning fiercely in intensity of passion, do I notice now and then that you’re shedding secret tears? And you listen, absent-minded, to my ardent declarations; cold the gaze with which you watch me, cold your hand when pressing mine. Dearest friend beyond all value, will there be an end to tears, will there be an end to calling your late husband from the grave? Trust me: for those held in death-sleep there’s no reawakening ever; sweet voice brings them no more sweetness, cry of grief grieves them no more. Not for them the rose-decked coffin, new day dawning, noisy wake, heartfelt tears of gathered friends, shattered lovers’ choked farewell. Yes, your not-to-be-forgotten friend too early breathed his last and in blissful exaltation fell asleep upon your breast:

crown now won, in joy he slumbers.

Yield to love: we’re innocent. No one with a jealous grudge will come to us from nether darkness; thunderbolts won’t fall at midnight; nor will any wrathful phantom up on two young lovers creep, startling them too soon from sleep.

Translated by Roger Clarke

To Elvina

Elvína, come, give me your hand, dear heart; cut short this heavy dream that wearies me. Speak… Will I see… Or must we stay apart, condemned by destiny?

Shall there be no more meetings face to face?

Must all my days be veiled in constant night? Shall we no more be caught in love’s embrace by a new morning’s light?

Elvína, as the night’s dark hours fly by, may I not hold you tight, my blood on fire, gaze at you, dear, with languid, longing eye and tremble with desire –

and then, in joy beyond all speech or measure, listen to your sweet lisp, your gentle cry, and drowse through pleasing night to waking pleasure, just we two, you and I?

Translated by Roger Clarke

The Moon

Out of the clouds why do you venture, oh solitary moon, and on the pillow where I lie alone squander your melancholy splendour? You with your gloomy visitation awaken dreams of love, the pain of hopeless passion, and the vain longings of lovers’ aspiration that reason hardly can allay.

Sad recollections, fly away!

Sleep, love that failed us both outright! There’ll never come again that night, when, moon, with your mysterious ray of placid radiance, you shone through heavy curtains on my bed, and gentle, gentle lustre shed upon my sweetheart’s lovely form. Why, precious moments, did you press with such a haste to fly away, and shadows pale to nothingness, extinguished by unwelcome day? How was it, moon, your lustre fell away in bright dawn’s radiance?

Why did the morning light advance?

Why did I bid my love farewell?

Translated by Jill Higgs and Roger Clarke

To Morpheus

O Morpheus, god of dreams, till day grant me relief from love’s distress. Come, blow my lamp out now, I pray, and my nocturnal visions bless! Block from my cheerless recollection the dreadful pain of those goodbyes; grant me to see her loving eyes, and hear her murmurs of affection. Then, once the dark has taken flight, your power over vision ended, oh how I wish my poor wits might forget love till fresh night’s descended!

Translated by Roger Clarke

For Friends

On you, my friends, the gods above still lavish golden nights and days: on you is fixed, with thought of love, every young girl’s attentive gaze. Play on then, comrades, for the while; drink up, and fill again your glasses; and, as the transient evening passes, through tears on your brief joys I’ll smile.

Translated by R.H. Morrison and Roger Clarke

The Lover Showeth How He Is Forsaken of Such as He Sometime Enjoyed: Summary and Questions

“The Lover Showeth How He Is Forsaken of Such as He Sometime Enjoyed” by Sir Thomas Wyatt


chamber – bedroom
array – assortment,
display guise – appearance
forsaking – abandoning
new-fangleness – newly fashioned

The Lover Showeth How He Is Forsaken of Such as He Sometime Enjoyed is a beautiful poem by Sir Thomas Wyatt. The poem begins “They flee from me, that sometime did me seek,” it means that the woman whom the speaker loves and who once also loved him has dropped him. The first stanza which seems to be about little animals that used to come into his room and even eat out of his hand but they have now grown wild and won’t come near him is perhaps a metaphor for the timid women who approaches his chamber apprehensively, knowing that they put themselves “in danger,” certainly emotionally and possibly physically, by being there. Still, he manages to tame them, so that they become “gentle” and “take bread” from his hand. He gentles them by being gentle to them, but he will not remain constant; instead, he seeks out the “continual change” of new sexual adventures. They also, apparently, learn the delights of love from him and go away to “range,” seeking their own new affairs.
Wyatt chose the words in this poem deliberately and carefully. In the first seven-line stanza, he begins by describing his amorous conquests in Henry Vlll’s court. He seeks out many mistresses who often become vulnerable and attached to him.

In the second stanza, however, the seducer becomes the seduced. A delicate woman seeks him out, and they become lovers at her initiative. However, the unthinkable happens—he is “caught” by her, as the other “wild ones” were caught by him before. She takes his power and his love. The once-virile man lies in his chamber as a beautifully dressed woman approaches, disrobes before him, and bends down to kiss him. Afterward, she asks, softly, “Dear heart, how like you this?” . She is knowledgeable about sexual matters and understands where her enjoyment lies. She has taken over his role of demonstrating pleasure to a lover.

The Lover Showeth How He Is Forsaken of Such as He Sometime Enjoyed

The third stanza emphasizes the betrayal of the speaker. He lies awake wondering if the scenario is true, and the woman provides him “leave to go” just when he chooses it is. In doing so, she grants approval to both of them to practice “newfangleness, ” which he has done himself many times in the past. No longer “caught,” the speaker should be relieved. Instead, he is bitter: “But since that, I so kindely am served,” he writes (l. 20). The speaker recognizes in these ironic phrases that he has been served as much as his previous lovers, but that does nothing to soothe his ego. He remains wondering how to handle the reversal of this position as the abandoner becomes abandoned.

The poem uses little figurative language (possibly a hyperbole in “twenty times better.”) but creates vivid images, especically in the second stanza. The word “kindely” in the next-to-last stanza may be ironic, but it’s more likely just an old-fashioned use of the word, meaning “in such kind” or “in such a way.”

The form of the poem is time royal–seven-line stanzas of iambic pentameter rhyming ababbcc. (It gets its name from having been used by King James I of Scotland in the early 1400s in a poem called “The King’s Quair,” but actually Chaucer first used it at least a generation earlier.) Both rhyme and meter may seem pretty irregular to a reader of today, but remember that Modern English was still fairly new when Wyatt wrote the poem (probably in the 1520s, although it wasn’t published until 1557), and many words may have been pronounced or accented differently from the way they are today.

The imagery Wyatt employs also recalls the animal world. In the first stanza, the women the speaker dallies with are referred to simply as “they” and “them,” grouping them together into a generic mass that is barely human. The women’s human qualities become further depleted by the other words applied to them such as tame and wild. Even their actions are those of the animal world—they “take bread at my hand,” “stalk,” and “range.” More specifically, several of the images can be connected to falconry, one of the popular aristocratic sports in early modern England. Falcons were controlled through the use of jesses, or strips of leather tied around their legs and feet, which were called stalks. A bird with a “naked leg,” such as the women in the first stanza had, was considered tame.

Other images can be connected with hunting as well. The verb seek implies looking for a game, and “caught” in the second stanza signals the result of the hunt. The lady’s phrase “dear heart” may also be read as a play on “hart,” meaning a stag, the grandest prize of the hunt. A recent critic has suggested that this particular pun suggests the overlapping of gender: As female deer and male hart, the poet is both the passive recipient of love and the active model for the lover. The sense of activity and passivity is heightened by the repetition of images of freeing and binding. In the initial stanza, the speaker is free while the women are “tame” (bound), but in the next stanza, he is “caught” by the free woman in her loose gown. He becomes more ensnared as the affair progresses, but she soon gives him “leave to go.” The poem ends with both of them having freedom, although only one party desires it.


1. The poem is written in a unique structure. Translate the first line of the poem into modern English.

Answers may vary. Example: The speaker of the poem is the seeker and not the one who flees. “They flee from me that I sometimes did seek.”

2. What is the feeling of the narrator toward the woman he speaks of in this poem?

Answers may vary. Example: The narrator is frustrated by the fact that women who were once gentle and kind to him and once kept him company now act wildly as if they don’t know him at all. He reflects on one woman in particular, and wonders if it is fair that, since she left him, he feels such loss, while she might feel no sadness at all.

3. To what animal does the speaker compare the objects of his desire?

The speaker compares the “they” of the poem to wild animals, probably horses, which now range in his possession.

4. Why has the speaker stopped chasing women?

The speaker has fallen in love with one.

5. What is the poem’s rhyme scheme? What type of poem does this scheme suggest?

The poem is written in rhyme royale, consisting of seven-line stanzas of iambic pentameter with a rhyme scheme of a/b/a/b/b/c/c.

6. The line, “And I have leave to go, of her goodness” is an example of what literary convention?

The line exemplifies irony, in that the speaker really has not let go of his love.

7. Why is the word ‘she’ italicized in the last line of the poem? Why has Wyatt given this word special emphasis?

Answers may vary. Example: The poem is written as a monologue, and so the italics may suggest that the speaker is placing significance on the word. Perhaps it is to emphasize his idea that he knows what he deserves in life and she does not.

Beauty by John Edward Masefield Questions and Summary

Summary of the poem “Beauty” by John Edward Masefield

The poem, “Beauty” is written by a nature cherishing writer John Edward Masefield. In this romantic poem, the poet compares his beloved to every one of the bounties of nature. But, he discovers her the most beautiful. The poet says that he has seen the magnificence of dawn and dusk of fields and slopes, daffodils, and the growing grasses. He has heard the song of the blossoms and serenade of the ocean. Moreover, he has seen surprising lands while remaining under the curved sails of boats. However, the poet says that the loveliest thing that God has ever shown to him are his beloved’s voice, her eyes, her magnetic hair, and the pricey red curve of her lips.

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Literary Analysis of Beauty

Beauty is a romantic poem written by John Edward Mayfield. The poem compares what is beautiful and what one loves in the world. The poet seems to be enslaved by the beauty of his beloved. He compares his beloved to all the beauties of nature but finds his beloved the most beautiful.

I have seen dawn and sunset on moors and windy hills
Coming in solemn beauty like slow old tunes of Spain

In the first two lines, the poet says that he has seen dawn and dusk on moors and windy hills which bestow the great happiness and satisfaction like the wonderful tunes of Spain. The time of dawn and dusk are as pleasing and soothing as the wonderful music of Spain.

The poem in which the entire situation is shown is dawn, afternoon and dusk. The poem opens with a depiction by the poet of his encounters with nature that demonstrates the impact of romanticism on him by discussing nature and scenes -“Have seen dawn and sunset on moors and windy hills”. The reference to Spain brings an exotic to this poem.
Their poet has used several poetic devices in this poem. In the second line, the poet employs a simile “Coming in solemn beauty like slow old tunes of Spain”. In this line, the speaker makes the readers understand the great happiness and satisfaction he feels with the arrival of his beloved by comparing such event to wonderful music.

I have seen the lady April bringing in the daffodils,
Bringing the springing grass and the soft warm April rain.

In the third and fourth lines, the poet says that he has seen the month of April ( spring season) which brings the daffodils, fresh grass and soft warm rain.

Here, the month of April (spring season) has been personified by endowing it with the ability to “bring” something. It has been also called “lady April “.

I have heard the song of the blossoms and the old chant of the sea,
And seen strange lands from under the arched white sails of ships

In these, the poet continues his praise of beautiful things. In these lines talks about musical beauty in combination with natural beauty. He says that he has heard the song of blossoms and chant of the sea. In addition to this, he has witnessed the surprising lands from under the arched sails of the ship. The song of blossoms alludes to soft rustling music of the blossoms produced when the breeze blow through them. The chant of the sea refers to the music created by ripples in the sea.

But the loveliest things of beauty God ever has shown to me
Are her voice, and her hair, and eyes, and the dear red curve of her lips.

Red curved lips

In these ending lines of the poem, the poet’s focus of praising beauty shifts from the beauty of nature to the beauty of a woman. He expresses that the beauty of his beloved surpasses all other beauties. The poet expresses that the loveliest things of beauty God has ever shown to him are his beloved’s voice and her magnetic hair and dear red curve of her lips. The slow old tunes of Spain, The song of blossoms, chant of the sea have been compared to the voice of the poet’s beloved. Her hair has been compared to the natural beauty and ‘dear curve of her lips’ I think have been compared to ‘arched white sails of the ship’ from where one can see strange lands. The poet perhaps alludes to touching the crimson lips of his beloved where from he witnesses the amazing experiences that make him forget all other beauties.

The questions of Beauty by John Edward Masefield

1. What are the various things of beauty the speaker has seen?

Answer: The speaker has seen the wonderful sights of dawn and dusk, the excellence of daffodils and the magnificence of growing grasses. He has additionally observed some surprising lands under the arched windows of his boats.

2. What are the loveliest of all these things God has shown to the poet?

Answer: The loveliest all of these things God has shown to the poet are his beloved’s voice, her hair, her eyes and the red curve of her lips.

3. To whom do the words in the last line refer to?

Answer: The words in the last line refer to the poet’s beloved.

4. Why does the poet compare dawn and dusk with slow old tunes?

Answer: He has done so because the time of dawn and dusk on moors and windy hills has a harmonious and soothing effect. It is pleasing to the senses like wonderful tunes.

5. How does God’s creation appear to the poet?

Answer: God’s creation seems extremely lovely to the poet. He is satisfied with every wonderful thing about nature. However, he considers his beloved’s features more beautiful than everything else.

6. What does the poet mean by the song of the blossoms?

Ans. The tune of blossoms implies the delicate stirring music of the blossoms created when the breeze blows through them. This stirring music of the blooms has been considered as the song of the blossoms

7. What is the difference between the last line and the rest of the poem? What does it suggest?

Ans. The entire poem with the exception of the last line praises the beauties of nature. The last line praises the excellence of the poet’s beloved. He thinks about that her melodious voice, her vast eyes, and her pricey curved lips are the loveliest things God has ever shown to him. While the rest of the poem praises nature’s beauty and clarifies its marvels but the last line focuses on the poet’s beloved.
It suggests that the writer is certain that there is no correlation between his beloved’s magnificence with the rest of wonders.

More About ‘Beauty’ by John Edward Masefield

The tone of The Poem ‘Beauty’

This sonnet utilizes figurative and rhetorical devices. The tone is romantic, exotic and speaking to the senses. The use of expressions and words, for example, “slow old tunes”, ” song of the blossoms” and “chant of the ocean” discuss musical beauty and “April rain”, springing grass” and “daffodils” touch the feeling of the smell of the readers of this poem.

Structural Analysis of Beauty

There are two stanzas in this poem. Each stanza has four lines. The rhyme scheme is used uniquely in this poem, which is ABAB CDCD, rather than typical AABB rhyme scheme.

A Typical Poetic Device- Enjambment

called enjambment is utilized all through the whole poem, for example, “I have seen the lady April bringing the daffodils,/Bringing the springing grass and the soft warm April rain”, where the entire meaning of a specific line is only comprehended after the reader associates it to the line before it or after it.

The diction of The Poem

The diction of this poem is both denotative and connotative. Denotative style includes the symbolic dialect, for example, “But the loveliest things of beauty God ever has shown to me/are her voice, and her hair, and eyes and dear red curve of her lips”.In these lines, the poet refers his beloved. While connotative language can be found in the accompanying lines, “I have seen the lady April” which is a backhanded reference to his girlfriend or beloved.

Alliteration and Assonance

The writer has additionally made sound impacts by repeatedly using expressions as “I have seen”, which is utilized in the first and the third line. There is also alliteration in “s” sound, for example, in “seen”, “sunset”, “solemn”, and “Spain”. On the other hand, assonance is utilized in the accompanying words as in “windy hills” (I sound), “slow old” (o sound), and “song of the blossoms” (o sound).

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