Nineteenth-Century American Poetry
Whitman, Dickinson, and Melville occupy the center of this anthology of nearly three hundred poems, spanning the course of the century, from Joel Barlow to Edwin Arlington Robinson, by way of Bryant, Emerson, Longfellow, Whittier, Poe, Holmes, Jones Very, Thoreau, Lowell, and Lanier.
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This poem is written in which form?
The point of view shifts here at the dashed line. The poet speaking to his fellow Americans is interrupted by Atlas, a personification of Africa, speaking to his brother, Hesper, who symbolizes the New World.
In Greek mythology, Pandora was the first human woman created by the gods. According to the myth, Pandora opened a jar (in modern accounts sometimes mistranslated as "Pandora's box"), releasing all the evils of humanity, leaving only Hope inside once she had closed it again. (This annotation contains an image)
What is the meter of this poem?
WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT (1794-1878)
What theme can be derived from "Thanatopsis?"
Apply the strategies given in this video to "Thanatopsis" to answer the next question about the theme of the poem. (This annotation contains a video)
The reason the North Star, or Polaris, is so important is because the axis of Earth is pointed almost directly at it. During the course of the night, Polaris does not rise or set, but remains in very nearly the same spot above the northern horizon year-round while the other stars circle around it. So at any hour of the night, at any time of the year you can readily find Polaris and it is always found in a due northerly direction. (This annotation contains an image)
This poem personifies which of the following?
What does this stanza tell us about coal?
Bryant's poem illustrates coal's suitability for building chimneys and other uses. That the difficulties of its burning had been fully appreciated are also indicated at the end of the poem. (This annotation contains an image)
Prairies are ecosystems considered part of the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome by ecologists, based on similar temperate climates, moderate rainfall, and a composition of grasses, herbs, and shrubs, rather than trees, as the dominant vegetation type. (This annotation contains an image)
What is the speaker imagining?
The speaker is now all alone and thinks about all of the creatures that used to walk the earth where they are standing now. The moral of the poem comes to light and shows that the cycles of nature never truly change but only repeat themselves. The theme of "The Prairies" demonstrates how English Romantics influenced Bryant's poetry.
What is the pattern of the structure of the first four stanzas of "Not Yet"?
Use this link to read Walt Whitman's poem "O Captain! My Captain!," which is also about the death of Abraham Lincoln, to answer the next question. (This annotation contains a link)
Compare Bryant and Whitman's speakers' feelings concerning Lincoln's death.
RALPH WALDO EMERSON (1803-1882)
Emerson uses a form adequate to his expression—a tight octosyllabic line and rhymed couplets—to evoke both sound and sense the meandering flight of the bumble bee. (This annotation contains an image)
As the poem unfolds, the bee gradually becomes a figure for the poet intoxicated by nature. This makes the bee a __________ in the poem.
"The Snow Storm" is one of Emerson's most famous poems because it implicitly states his philosophy of the transcendental spirit in nature. The poem describes how nature's creative force leaves an amazing architectural landscape in just one night's work, something that human endeavor can never achieve.
Which of the following is the central theme of "Blight"?
Emerson was a Transcendentalist; they believed that each person is a microcosm of the entire universe and that everything is connected and part of the whole. A central idea is that one's direct experience of God is unique to each person, and can't be defined or dictated by religious doctrine. In addition, Transcendentalists argue that science and technology tend to hide the unity of all things, rather than explain anything truly meaningful. (This annotation contains an image)
In writing or speech, the deliberate repetition of the first part of the sentence in order to achieve an artistic effect is known as Anaphora. Anaphora, possibly the oldest literary device, has its roots in Biblical Psalms used to emphasize certain words or phrases. In this excerpt, the anaphora is created by the repetition of "Thanks to the" and "To the" at the beginning of the lines. Check out this website for more examples of anaphora in use. (This annotation contains a link)
What is the tone of this stanza?
The poem "Hamatreya" was based on a passage from the Vishnu Purana. The opening of the second part of the poem, "Earth-Song," recalls the words of the original passage in the Vishnu Purana — "The words 'I and mine' constitute ignorance." Emerson's theme of all things returning unto themselves finds its appropriate metaphor in the organic (and Hindu) cycle of life. (This annotation contains an image)
In Emerson's essay titled Nature, he writes, "The charming landscape which I saw this morning, is indubitably made up of some twenty or thirty farms. Miller owns this field, Locke that, and Manning the woodland beyond. But none of them owns the landscape." How is this same idea illustrated in his poem "Hamatreya"? Use examples from the poem to support your answer.
In her song, the Earth points out that ____________ endures, whereas _____________ do not.
What is personified in this poem?
This is a photo of Concord River by Thoreau's Landing. (This annotation contains an image)
Which parts of this poem indicate it belongs to a specific world culture?
HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW (1807-1882)
The title is from the first line of Dante's Divine Comedy. "Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita" means "Midway upon the journey of life." The speaker in this poem mourns his inaction so far in life and does not feel as though he has fulfilled his potential. Use the link to read John Keats' poem "When I Have Fears" to answer the next question. (This annotation contains a link)
Keats and Longfellow reflect on similar concerns. Write a paragraph in which you compare and contrast the two poems and how each writer explores his particular situation.
Durante degli Alighieri, simply called Dante, was a major Italian poet of the late Middle Ages. His Divine Comedy is widely considered the greatest literary work composed in the Italian language and a masterpiece of world literature. Longfellow was the first American to translate Dante's Divine Comedy. (This annotation contains an image)
Which excerpt is an example of simile?
Watch this video to help you answer the next question. (This annotation contains a video)
Which theme is emerging in these two stanzas?
The imagery in this stanza makes the reader think of loud and chaotic events. Such noise and disorder is quite distracting. The phrase “mingled vaguely in our speech” allows the reader to realize that the chaos is distracting the two friends from each other. Thus, the reader can conclude that the two friends have many distractions lodging themselves between the two of them, not permitting the friends to be as close as they once were.
To help you answer the question at the end of the poem, watch this video on how to identify a poem's rhyme scheme and why poets use rhyme scheme. (This annotation contains a video)
Record the rhyme scheme of the first two stanzas. Then explain how the rhyme scheme helps to establish meaning in the poem.
This is a portion of Canto XXI of Longfellow's poem "The Song of Hiawatha," an 1855 epic poem in trochaic tetrameter featuring a Native American hero. The poem has a total of twelve cantos. Hiawatha was a pre-historical Native American leader and co-founder of the Iroquois confederacy. This painting by Thomas Eakins is titled "Hiawatha." (This annotation contains an image)
Besides the title, how are the poem and Thomas Eakins's painting related?
Go to this electronic encyclopedia and read the paragraph explaining who Sir Christopher Gardiner is in order to answer the next question. (This annotation contains a link)
What traits of Sir Christopher's does the speaker find inspirational?
Which words help to create the tone of this excerpt?
JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER (1807-1892)
Whittier was an ardent advocate of the abolition of slavery and he was active in politics. His political views and abolitionist spirit are visible in much of his poetry. "The Farewell" is quoted in Frederick Douglass's autobiography. (This annotation contains an image)
The sing-song effect created by Whittier's use of repetition, rhyming couplets, and meter is ___________ when paired with the subject of the poem.
The meaning of “Skipper Ireson’s Ride” is encapsulated in the refrain, in the central figure’s transformation from “Old Floyd Ireson” in the first stanza to “Poor Floyd Ireson” in the last. During the poem, Ireson changes, or his neighbors’ perception of him changes, from a man to be hated and cursed to one to be treated with scorn yet pity.
Bacchus, or Dionysus, is the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness, and religious ecstasy. Which character(s) in the poem is/are being compared to Bacchus?
For the characters of Whittier’s New England poems, the themes of transformation and redemption, and of error and correction, were best understood in a Christian religious context. The mob of women who have tarred and feathered Skipper Ireson act from the human emotions of grief and rage, and they seek human vengeance. Their method of punishment is to humiliate Ireson, to make him (or show him to be) less than a man. Yet they are not fully human in their own actions; with the exception of the brief mournful passage in stanza 5, they are seen only as a mob, never as individuals.
Which of the following is a main theme of this poem?
What is the tone of the dramatic opening lines to "A Word for the Hour"?
Whittier had not always been concerned with the importance of preserving the union. His first response to the secession was “A Word for the Hour,” also among the poems of In War Time. The import of this poem is to question the need to bring back the seceding slave states. (This annotation contains an image)
The hippogriff is a legendary creature which resembles a winged horse with the head and upper body of an eagle. A steed born of a mare and a griffin, it is extremely fast and is presented as being able to fly around the world and to the moon. The creatures are mentioned as far back as in Virgil's poetry in the BC era and as recent as in the Harry Potter books. (This annotation contains an image)
A metaphor is established in the first stanza with the lines "His rustic reed of song / A weapon in the war with wrong." What are these lines a metaphor for?
EDGAR ALLAN POE (1809-1849)
"The grains of golden sand" and the "surf tormented shore" and both metaphors for what?
Like many of Poe's poems, "A Dream Within a Dream" uses the sea as a setting for a discussion of death and decay. Also, Poe takes the idea of a daydream and twists it so that the narrator's perception of reality occurs at two degrees of detachment away from reality. Consequently, this reality reflects upon itself through the dream medium, and the narrator can no longer distinguish causality in his perception. This video is the trailer for the movie Inception, which centers on dreams, specifically dreams within dreams. (This annotation contains a video)
In its relatively brief five stanzas, "The Conqueror Worm" seeks to tell the allegorical history of mankind. The work acts as a frame story, where the outside frame is that of a throng of angels watching a play, and the inside frame is that of the play itself. As a narrative poem, "The Conqueror Worm" also contains a typical plot construction.
In which stanza is the climax of the poem?
Watch this video about the use of rhyme in "The Raven." (This annotation contains a video)
Poe uses both end and internal rhyme throughout the poem. What effect does this literary device have on the tone of the poem?
The first two lines of these stanzas repeat. What does the repetition suggest about the speaker's state of mind?
So why exactly did Poe chose a raven? Why not a seagull or a pigeon? Watch this video to find out. (This annotation contains a video)
Poe wrote "Ulalume" in the same year of his wife Virginia Clemm's (pictured) death, which may have influenced the somber mood of his writing. The poem fits neatly into his canon of works that emphasize the aesthetics of the death of a female, where love and beauty reach a culmination at the point of death. Ulalume does not have a physical existence in the poem but stands at the work's center, outweighing even the half-real, half-dream existence of the narrator and his soul. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following is true about this poem?
This gold sculpture showing the ceremony in Lake Guatavita started the search for El Dorado. (This annotation contains an image)
The archetypal figure of the pilgrim, someone journeying for religious reasons, recurs throughout world literature. How would you contrast the characters of the pilgrim and the knight in this poem?
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES (1809-1894)
The title of Dr. Holmes' poem takes its name from an actual vessel, one that's truly of considerable importance to American history. U.S.S. Constitution was first commissioned along with five other frigates in 1794 when Congress wished to protect merchant fleets from pirates and British and French interference. (This annotation contains an image)
A Ship of State poem is a verse work that compares the operations of a nation to those of a sailing vessel. These poetic works have been an artistic and political staple since antiquity, and the metaphor of sailing - with its connections to concepts like navigation, communal effort, and chains of command - has been used in a variety of ways throughout literary history to represent the machinations of the State. Explain how "Old Ironsides" is a Ship of State poem using references to the text.
Holmes contemplates the broken shell of a nautilus, a small sea animal. In his contemplation, he moves from a metaphorical description of its beauty and lifestyle to the ultimate lesson that it teaches. The first three stanzas trace the life cycle of the little animal, emphasizing the various stages of its growth and development and its eventual death and destruction. In the beginning, the poet likens the nautilus to a ship which sets out to sea. (This annotation contains an image)
Given the fact that Holmes uses the nautilus as a metaphor for the human soul, which theme can be derived from this poem?
In ancient Greek mythology, Tartarus is the deep abyss that is used as a dungeon of torment and suffering for the wicked and as the prison for the Titans. As far below Hades as the earth is below the heavens, Tartarus is the place where souls were judged after death and where the wicked received divine punishment. (Painting: Jan Brueghel the Elder's Aeneas and the Sybil in Tartarus, 1600s) (This annotation contains an image)
JONES VERY (1813-1880)
Which type of sonnet is "The Word"?
Watch this video for a quick lesson on the types of sonnets. (This annotation contains a video)
Matthew 17:20 says, "He replied, "Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." This poem, along with others, displays Very's intense
Very’s intense religious devotion soon led him to believe that he was Christ incarnate, or the messiah—and that his poetry was the product of divine inspiration. He was dismissed from his studies at Harvard Divinity School over this declaration, and he was eventually admitted to an insane asylum. (This annotation contains an image)
This interactive time-lapse map shows the loss of Native American land. (This annotation contains a link)
"The Indian's Retort" displays bias against which character?
HENRY DAVID THOREAU (1817-1862)
Henry David Thoreau fell in love only once, in 1839. This was long before he wrote any of his famous books or essays. He was just 22 years old, a recent Harvard graduate, and had barely begun keeping a journal himself. In fact at this time even the girl he fell in love with, Ellen Devereux Sewell, a 17-year-old minister’s daughter, was probably more of an experienced writer than he was. She spent fifteen days with the Thoreau family, but apparently that was enough. Henry Thoreau fell head over heels in love with her. Ellen is the recipient of this poem; it's title is Latin for "Such is life." (This annotation contains an image)
In "Sic Vita," Thoreau expresses his sense of the artist's (and his own) __________ in a world of infinite wonder.
This single couplet poem summarizes Thoreau’s feelings about his life. It points to his satisfaction of how he has lived his life, as well as truly understanding that no one can make their life or truly change it, they must simply live it.
Jeremiah 5:21 says, "Hear this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear." Thoreau's play on the words make these lines a(n)
The rhyme scheme of each stanza follows that pattern of AAABCCCB.
This stanza marks a change in the rhyme scheme pattern of the poem. How does this change help to illustrate the meaning of this stanza?
JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL (1819-1891)
While it appears as though the speaker has an extreme amount of admiration and respect for Emerson at first, these two lines give us a clue as to the purpose of this poem. Which of the following best describes these two lines?
A Fable for Critics is a book-length poem, first published anonymously in 1848. The poem made fun of well-known poets and critics of the time and brought notoriety to its author. The work satirized many of the most important figures in American literature at the time. Lowell included himself as well, referring to himself as having difficulty determining the difference "'twixt singing and preaching." (This annotation contains an image)
Which is the best paraphrase of this line?
Edgar Allan Poe reviewed Lowell's poem in the Southern Literary Messenger and called it "'loose'—ill-conceived and feebly executed, as well in detail as in general... we confess some surprise at his putting forth so unpolished a performance." His final judgment was that the work was not successful: "no failure was ever more complete or more pitiable."
A footnote that appears right before this poem in The Bigelow Papers reads, "This exquisite piece of satire is leveled at the swarms of noisy editors in the United States who seek political preferment in the great quadrennial scrambles. The more violent and industrious usually rise to great political influence, and sometimes obtain a seat in the legislature."
Which words create the anaphora in the poem?
Omar Khayyam was a Persian mathematician, astronomer, philosopher, and poet. He was a notable poet during the reign of the Seljuk ruler Malik-Shah I and his contributions to the developments of mathematics, astronomy and philosophy inspired later generations. He was introduced to the English-speaking world through the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, which are poetic, rather than literal, translations by Edward Fitzgerald. (This annotation contains an image)
Which object creates the extended metaphor in this poem?
WALT WHITMAN (1819-1892)
These lines exhibit which poetic technique to help create a healthy confusion for the reader?
Today we are so used to poetry written in free verse that we take it for granted. In Whitman's time, however, Americans preferred poetry that was like that being written in England. They expected a poem to show strict meter and rhyme. Thus, Whitman's sprawling lines were revolutionary, as was his use of slang, foreign words, and even some words he made up to suit his purpose.
What is Whitman's purpose for using italics in Number 6?
Listen to a powerful reading by James Earl Jones of this section of the poem. (This annotation contains a video)
What emotions do you think Whitman wants the readers to feel in this scene?
What phrases from Song of Myself, number 10, could serve as titles for Miller's painting?
Alfred Jacob Miller (1810-1847) might not have become the first important painter of the American West had he not met a Scottish adventurer who wanted to decorate his family castle with paintings of Native Americans. Miller joined William Drummond Stewart's wagon train from Missouri to the Rockies in 1837, his only duty being to sketch what he liked. Look at Miller's painting titled "Lost on the Prairie" (1837) to answer the next question. (This annotation contains an image)
As seen in this section, one of the most obvious characteristics of Whitman's poetry is his frequent use of __________, which are long lists of related things, people, or events.
By selecting and naming items in a catalog, Whitman expresses his unbounded love for everything and everyone in the world. He also, by means of the catalog, creates a kind of rhythm built on the repetition of certain sentence patterns. To hear the effect of cataloging, read it aloud.
You've already learned the term anaphora. Now, we can learn the technique called EPISTROPHE. Epistrophe is essentially the opposite of anaphora. Instead of repeating words at the beginning of successive sentences, clauses, or phrases, epistrophe repeats them at the END. Check out this site for more info on epistrophe. (This annotation contains a link)
Which word creates the epistrophe in Number 17?
The opening of Number 22 is an example of APOSTROPHE. Apostrophe is the addressing of an absent person or a personified thing rhetorically. This website offers more examples of apostrophe. (This annotation contains a link)
Write your own line, inspired by Whitman's Song of Myself, that uses apostrophe.
According to Shmoop, at about the midpoint of the poem in Number 24, he declares his manifesto, and we're finally justified in calling our speaker "Walt Whitman." He describes himself first and foremost as an American, then as a "rough," someone who isn't refined or polished. One of the poem's most famous and humorous couplets ("Unscrew the locks...") expresses Whitman's radicalism. They are humorous because Whitman initially decides the best way to get through this metaphorical door is to unlock it (sounds reasonable), but then he says, oh, what the heck, and tears the entire door from its frame!
Whitman's description of nature is intensely
This video includes a reading of this section, along with a montage of photographs illustrating the poem. Use the video to answer the next question. (This annotation contains a video)
Choose an image from the video and explain how it helps to illustrate a section of Number 26.
This section is dedicated to animals, and how animals have a healthy attitude toward life. They aren't distressed and don't feel religious guilt. Whitman begins to show his teeth regarding organized religion, particularly religions that focus on the ideas of guilt, shame, and hatred of the body. He is made "sick" by people "discussing their duty to God." (Shmoop)
The speaker compares himself to which of the following in Number 32?
This section uses an abundance of which technique?
What do these comments imply about the speaker?
This stanza was inspired by an incident that occurred in 1853. According to reports in the New York Weekly Tribune, the ship San Francisco sailed from New York City, destined for South America. A violent storm hit the ship several hundred miles out of port, washing many passengers overboard. The captain of another ship helped rescue the survivors. A copy of the newspaper story was found among Whitman's papers after his death. (This annotation contains an image)
This 1862 painting by Eastman Johnson is titled A Ride for Liberty--The Fugitive Slaves. Think about how the panting suggests the same mood that Whitman conveys in the scene of the runaway. (This annotation contains an image)
Which other character in number 33 does the general most resemble?
In Numbers 33-37, Whitman experiences a spiritual illumination, passing through suffering, despair, and the dark night of the soul to finally achieve purification. His self, purified, comprehends the Divine Reality, the "transcendental self" Transcendentalism is a word with varied meanings, but in Whitman's poetry it implies beliefs based on intuitional philosophy which transcend, or go beyond, ordinary experience.
In Number 37, the speaker identifies with whom?
"The friendly and flowing savage" mentioned in section 39 is a key image which sums up the progression of ideas and feelings in this section. This image combines the idea of the primitive ancestor of man with the figure of Christ. He is a healer, a comforter, and a lover of humanity. He raises men from their deathbeds and imbues them with strength and vision. This Christ-like savage merges with the other identities contained in the total idea of the poet's self. The primitivity of savage man is divine; modern civilized man has lost this divinity but is eager to regain it.
Why do you think Whitman includes so many allusion in Number 41? What effect does it have?
Whitman mentions numerous religions in this section. He talks with the followers of these religions like someone leaving instructions ("charges") before setting off on a journey of his own. Here is the design on a cup from around 430 B.C. that shows the Greek Goddess of Justice, Themis. Seated on the famous tripod of the oracle – priestess Pythia, she reveals her prognostication to King Aigeus who is in want of a son and heir to his throne. (This annotation contains an image)
Flukes are flat fish that flail about when they are caught by fishermen. Who or what is the speaker comparing the flukes to?
The poet realizes that every single life instantiates the endless transmutations of time. Nothing is steady or unchanging, he reminds us; all is incessant transformation, and a glance at our own shifting lives underscores the wondrous mystery of material change. (This annotation contains an image)
True or False? Number 45 shows the reader that we should not be afraid of death.
The poet is not afraid of death. In section 49, he addresses it: "And as to you Death, you bitter hug of mortality, it is idle to try to alarm me." For there is no real death. Men die and are reborn in different forms. He himself has died "ten thousand times before." (This annotation contains an image)
Choose an excerpt that uses imagery and explain how Whitman's choice of images help to convey his meaning.
The cry of a hawk is compared to a human complaint. Then the speaker compares himself to a hawk. What is the point of these metaphors? The speaker claims a poetic voice that has the power of a hawk's cry because it is not tame and because it cannot be translated or understood by conventional standards of beauty. (This annotation contains an image)
What passages from Number 52 link to lines and themes elsewhere in Song of Myself?
Go to this link to hear award-winning contemporary poet Arthur Sze read the first three sections of "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry." (This annotation contains a link)
A picture of a ferry steamship from the early 20th century. (This annotation contains an image)
Who is the speaker of the poem?
Which of the following is NOT a theme seen illustrated in "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry"?
"Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" is one of Whitman's great poems because of his use of image and symbol. The title itself is a symbol of birth. The sun and the moon, the land and the sea, and the stars and the sea waves contribute to the atmosphere and symbolic scenery in the poem. These images deepen the effect of the emotions in the poem, as in the mockingbird's song, and are part of the dramatic structure. (This annotation contains an image)
The poem is very melodious and rhythmic and may itself be compared to an aria (in opera, an aria is an elaborate melody sung by one voice). Its use of dactylic and trochaic meter is very appropriate in describing the motion of the sea waves and their meaning.
Which type of poem is this?
What images from the poem does the print capture?
Genl. McClellan and Staff accompanied by the 5th Cavalry crossing Bull Run at Blackburns Ford (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.) (This annotation contains an image)
When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd is an elegy written by Walt Whitman shortly after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865. Admired as one of Whitman's greatest poems, "Lilacs" has influenced many other works in literature and the arts. (This annotation contains an image)
Read Walt Whitman's poem "O Captain! My Captain!", also about the death of Abraham Lincoln, to answer the next question. (This annotation contains a link)
What similarities can you see between the speakers of "O Captain! My Captain!" and sections 5-8 of "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" in regards to tone and selection of detail?
Whose soul is "turning" to death?
Notice that these notes are "filling the night" which gives the impression of there being some light in the darkness. The night isn't just an empty void anymore. It's filled with feeling and meaning for both the speaker and the bird. So the night, just like death, isn't a scary and unknown place anymore, thanks to the song we just heard.
When the Suez canal opened in 1869, Walt Whitman wrote "A Passage to India" to celebrate both the engineering achievement and the opportunity to connect to other people and spiritual traditions. This video segment from Poetry Everywhere features the playwright Tony Kushner reading an excerpt from "A Passage to India" that explores Whitman's hope in bringing people together. (This annotation contains a link)
What is the tone of the second section?
The poet perceives India as an ancient land of history and legend, morals and religion, adventure and challenge. Brahma and Buddha, Alexander and Tamerlane, Marco Polo and other "traders, rulers, explorers" all shared in its history. The poet says the culmination of heroic efforts is deferred for a long time. But eventually their seeds will sprout and bloom into a plant that "fills the earth with use and beauty." (This annotation contains an image)
Who is the "chief historian"?
The last two sections of this poem are marked by an upsurge of spiritual thought and an ecstatic experience. The poet and his soul, like two lovers, are united in harmony. They seek the mystical experience of union with God. The poet reflects on the nature of God as a transcendental deity. By comprehending God, the poet is enabled to comprehend himself and also man's complex relationship with time, space, and death. (This annotation contains an image)
Which two words carry heavy symbolic meaning throughout "Passage to India"?
Compare and contrast Whitman and Dickinson's treatment of the locomotive in their poems. You can also use the image of the locomotive given above in your comparison.
Baroque revival inspired the mixed decorative approach on Baldwin locomotives of the early 1870s, including the 1871 'Shou-wa-no' of the D&RG. (This annotation contains an image)
Read Emily Dickinson's poem "I like to see it lap the Miles-" (which is also about a locomotive) in order to answer the next question. (This annotation contains a link)
HERMAN MELVILLE (1819-1891)
The Temeraire, that storied ship of the old English fleet, and the subject of this well-known painting by English artist J. M. W. Turner in 1838, commends itself to the mind seeking for some one craft to stand for the poetic ideal of those great historic wooden warships, whose gradual displacement is lamented by all nations. (This annotation contains an image)
How does Turner's painting help to capture the mood of Melville's poem? Cite from the poem in your answer.
Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson (January 21, 1824 – May 10, 1863) was a Confederate general during the American Civil War, and the best-known Confederate commander after General Robert E. Lee. (This annotation contains an image)
How is this poem best summed up?
Sherman's March to the Sea is the name commonly given to the military Savannah Campaign in the American Civil War, conducted by Maj. Gen. Sherman of the Union Army. The campaign began with Sherman's troops leaving the captured city of Atlanta, Georgia, on November 15 and ended with the capture of the port of Savannah on December 21. Sherman's bold move of operating deep within enemy territory and without supply lines is considered to be revolutionary in the annals of war. This is an engraving by Alexander Hay Ritchie depicting Sherman's March. (This annotation contains an image)
What is the rhyme scheme that each stanza follows?
"Guide and Guard" is taken from Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land (1876), an epic poem by Herman Melville, published in two volumes. Clarel is the longest poem in American literature, stretching to almost 18,000 lines. In this canto, the narrator describes the Druze guide Djalea and Belex, the guard commander, who together lead Clarel and his companions (including Nehemiah) on their tour of the Holy Land. (This annotation contains an image)
Where is the Druze guide from?
Belex’s horse, Solomon, which the narrator here and elsewhere refers to as Don John (Don Juan), a legendary, fictional libertine. This painting is a Portrait of Francisco D'Andrade as Don Juan from 1912. (This annotation contains an image)
Why is Melville's use of alliteration particularly effective in this line?
Which of these best summarizes "By the Jordan"?
Clarel is composed in irregularly rhymed iambic tetrameter (except for the Epilogue), and contains 150 Cantos divided into four books: Jerusalem, The Wilderness, Mar Saba, and Bethlehem.
Which is the best description of Clarel?
The speaker in "Dirge" directly addresses Death. Which technique is this?
Azrael is often identified with the Archangel of Death in Islam, Hebrew lore.
In the Epilogue, Melville abandons the tetrameters which have stood for "apt" art since their emergence and takes on a pentameter line. Once Clarel has conveyed its charge of depressing truth, it flees into emotional and stylistic exuberance.
Who is Melville comparing to a crocus, swimmer, and secret? Why are these effective comparisons?
In "The Berg" Melville tells of a dream he had of a ship smashing itself into an iceberg (long before Titanic). (This annotation contains an image)
What is the effect of this line given the structure of the poem?
What is Cupid saying to the virgins?
These opening italicized lines are spoken by Cupid. (This annotation contains an image)
What is the main topic of "The Pleasure Party"?
To what is Herba Santa compared in the first stanza?
Melville concludes the poem by exchanging historical reflection for reverie. The dream reiterates hope for a life of peace.
The Parthenon is located atop the Acropolis, the highest summit and sacred rock in Athens, Greece. Construction of the Parthenon as a temple to the goddess Athena began in 447-446 BC and was completed in 438 BC. (This annotation contains an image)
What does Aspasia imply when he calls the Parthenon "Art's meridian"?
Collecting maple sap is a green, environmentally sustainable process that can be enjoyed by anyone with a healthy, MATURE maple tree. This site provides you with step-by-step instructions on how to tap your maple trees and turn that sap into maple syrup. (This annotation contains a link)
What is the tone of "Time's Betrayal"?
What images do the two poems have in common?
Read "Ode to a Grecian Urn" by John Keats to compare to Melville's poem about a sylvan vase. (This annotation contains a link)
From whose point of view is "Billy of the Darbies" told?
Billy in the Darbies is a poem that serves as the end to the novella Billy Budd by Herman Melville. Melville uses the main character of his story to inquire about the inherant quality of man, and to illustrate the true disparities in human nature in contrast to the Transcendental notions of the time that stressed every person's internal goodness. The poem is a sympathetic literary recreation of Billy Budd’s last hours in the ship’s hold. With this denouement, the narrator withdraws back into the shadows of the deep, along with Billy Budd. (This annotation contains an image)
FREDERICK GODDARD TUCKERMAN (1821-1873)
How does the figurative language used in section IV help to evoke a sense of time and place?
Watch this short review on figurative language to help you answer the next question. (This annotation contains a video)
Sirius is the brightest star in the Earth's night sky. It is almost twice as bright as the next brightest star. (This annotation contains an image)
Which character trait does the speaker's friend display the most in this excerpt?
Tuckerman utilizes imagery in sonnet XXII. What selections of details does he focus on to create the imagery?
The only female judge mentioned in the Bible, Deborah led a successful counterattack against the forces of Jabin king of Canaan and his military commander Sisera. (This annotation contains an image)
Tuckerman’s “Rhotruda,” which Emerson singled out for praise, is a good example of the kind of narrative poetry that won Tuckerman the cautious approval of his contemporaries. The poem, set in the time of Charlemagne, is about two lovers. Visiting his love after curfew one night, the man is trapped by a snowstorm; he cannot return to his room across the courtyard because the snow would reveal his footsteps. The woman carries him on her shoulders so that only her footsteps mark the snow. Charlemagne, however, has seen the act. The next morning, he confronts the lovers with the truth.
What are the names of the lovers?
Charlemange, also known as Charles the Great, or Charles I, was King of the Franks who united most of Western Europe during the Middle Ages and laid the foundations for modern France and Germany. This painting is titled "Imperial Coronation of Charlemagne," by Friedrich Kaulbach, 1861. (This annotation contains an image)
Instead of sentencing Eginardus to death, Charlemagne orders the two lovers to do what?
A terebinth is a Mediterranean tree of the cashew family. (This annotation contains an image)
How does the poet's choice of rhyme scheme help to establish the tone of the poem?
Frederick Goddard Tuckerman’s posthumously published “The Cricket” is an irregular ode of 131 lines divided into five sections of unequal length. The titular insect, at first glance almost comically inconsequential, provokes in the poet a meditation on death that leads him ultimately to affirm the value of life. (This annotation contains an image)
The first section is told from a first person point of view. The point of view shifts in the second section. Who does the speaker now include in the point of view?
What type of poem is "The Cricket"?
EMILY DICKINSON (1830-1886)
Watch this video by famous author of Paper Towns and The Fault in Our Stars, John Green. He covers Dickinson's life, unique writing style, language and structure. This Crash Course is a fantastic introduction to Dickinson's poetry, (This annotation contains a link)
Which of these things does the speaker say is permanent?
Dickinson uses dashes musically, but also to create a sense of the indefinite, a different kind of pause, an interruption of thought, to set off a list, as a semi-colon, as parentheses, or to link two thoughts together—the shape of any individual dash might be seen as joining two thoughts together or pushing them apart. One of the most characteristic uses of the dash is at the end of a poem with a closed rhyme; the meter would shut, like a door, but the punctuation seems open. In these cases, it is likely meant to serve as an elongated end-stop.
"There's a certain Slant of light" is one of her most well-known poems, one that provides a nearly perfect indication of what Dickinson's work was all about. She uses the imagery of winter light to create connections with the speaker's internal conflict over meaning, despair, and understanding. Check out this video for a artsy rendition of the poem. (This annotation contains a video)
The oppressive "Cathedral Tunes" reflect the poem's theme of
Dickinson probably wrote this poem as a secret reply to the literary critic Higginson's complaints about the awkwardness of her poems. (This annotation contains an image)
What does Dickinson use ballet as a metaphor for in this poem?
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "To be great is to be misunderstood," in his essay Self-Reliance. Cite examples from Dickinson's poem that share the same idea.
This poem asserts that those judged mad are often the sane ones and those deemed sensible are truly mad. The poem warns that those who do not conform to society's expectations will be labeled mad and punished.
In “The Brain runs Smoothly in its Groove” Dickinson tells of the power of _________, and their ability to reshape the landscape of the nation and the world around them.
A common question about Dickinson's poetry is why does she capitalize random words. German, a language Dickinson knew, typically capitalizes nouns. She also capitalizes certain words to give additional emphasis.
The Prezi identifies captivity as one of the themes of the poem. Which line best exhibits this theme?
Check out this Prezi that analyzes this poem. (This annotation has embedded rich content)
Which sound effect is most prevalent in the first stanza?
By saying that our brains are "wider than the Sky" and "deeper than the Sea" the speaker is proudly declaring the power of the human intellect (1-5). The speaker seems to think that the human brain is so awesome that it even rivals the power of God himself. (This annotation contains an image)
How does the speaker feel about her isolation?
This poem is about Dickinson’s vocation as a poet, which she compares favorably to prose, largely through the metaphor of the two as houses. She sees poetry as open and limitless (“I dwell in Possibility –“), and more beautiful (“A fairer House than Prose –“) than the more contained and limited prose (“More numerous of Windows – / Superior – for Doors –“).
The extended metaphor in this poem is established in which stanza?
Watch the first two and a half minutes video about Emily Dickinson's life and style of writing to answer the next question. (This annotation contains a link)
Does this poem exhibit slant rhyme? If so, which words are examples of slant rhyme?
In this poem, the speaker observes a storm most likely from the safety of a house. What is the speaker's tone toward her subject, the storm? Cite examples from the poem that help to establish the tone.
The speaker claims that faith is not substantial in the real world; the eye cannot perceive it because of its lack of substance. Yet it is as solid as a bridge made of steel. It bears our spiritual selves to where we need to go spiritually with the utmost solidity, as in a steel cradle, supported with the sturdiest steel arms, like solid, secure railings that will not let that cradle fall off the bridge. (This annotation contains an image)
Poem 949 highlights which poetic technique?
First, we imagine a bolt of lightning to be a golden fork, which falls down to earth from a big dining table up somewhere in the sky. Then we begin to imagine the grand banquet hall it must have fallen from, hidden by the clouds, and framed up there by stars. (This annotation contains an image)
Henry David Thoreau wrote of "castles in the air" being a metaphor for a person's dreams and goals. How does this image apply to Dickinson's poem?
The connotations of the words in the first stanza (especially mystery and pervades) help to create what tone?
In the second stanza, the homely lid of glass becomes terrifying when converted into "an abyss's face," one of Dickinson's most brilliant uses of a metaphor to represent an abstraction. The third and fourth stanzas show nature at home with itself, suggested by the grass's and the sedge's familiarity with wells and with the sea. In the last two stanzas, Dickinson grows more abstract and yet she preserves considerable drama through the personification of nature, the actions of those that study it, and the frightening results.
This poem is an explicit treatment of Dickinson's fear and mixed feelings about love and sex. There do not seem to be reasonable alternatives to the view that the worm-turned-snake is the male sexual organ moving toward a state of excitement and making a claim on the sexuality and life of the speaker. Traditionally, snakes are symbols of evil invading an Eden, and snakes in Emily Dickinson's poems sometimes represent a puzzling fearfulness in nature, just as Eden often represents a pure innocence which might be spoiled by the intrusion of a lover. Such symbolism does not contradict the sexual symbolism. (This annotation contains an image)
What are the main topics of poem 1718?
SARAH MORGAN BRYAN PIATT (1836-1919)
Where does the first shift occur in this poem?
How does this poem relate to how you feel about your own mother?
After the death of her dearly loved child, Piatt refused to accept the regulation of religious faith, as if the creations are the belongings of the creator, including her child. She questions faith in the third stanza of "No Help." This is an 1888 lithograph of Piatt. (This annotation contains an image)
Who are the main characters in this poem?
Use this link to listen to and read Margaret Atwood's poem "Siren Song." Then answer the question at the end of the poem. (This annotation contains a link)
How do Atwood's poem and Piatt's poem illustrate feminist ideals? Cite examples from both works in your answer.
SIDNEY LANIER (1842-1881)
Nirvana is a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self, and the subject is released from the effects of karma and the cycle of death and rebirth. It represents the final goal of Buddhism. This caricature of Ralph Waldo Emerson's "transparent eyeball" was sketched by Christopher Pearce Cranch from Illustrations of the New Philosophy. (This annotation contains an image)
What similarities can you detect between Cranch's sketch of Emerson's transcendent state to Lanier's poem?
Wilhelm Richard Wagner 1813–1883) was a German composer, theater director, polemicist, and conductor who is primarily known for his operas. His compositions, particularly those of his later period, are notable for their complex textures, rich harmonies and orchestration, and the elaborate use of leitmotifs—musical phrases associated with individual characters, places, ideas or plot elements. (This annotation contains an image)
The future is __________ in the second stanza.
Which of these is the most unique aspect of this poem?
Which parts of the passage indicate it belongs to a specific world culture?
Bayard Taylor (1825–1878) was an American poet, literary critic, translator, and travel author. (This annotation contains an image)
EDWIN ARLINGTON ROBINSON (1869-1935)
This poem is an example of which type of poem?
The title of E.A. Robinson's first book, The Children of the Night, suggests its place in romantic tradition and its participation in the poetry of the 1890s, the poetry of starlight, dream, and death. "John Evereldown" is the first book in the book. The character of John Evereldown is also mentioned as a "skirt-chaser reprobate" in Robinson's poem "The Tavern." (This annotation contains an image)
Which poetic technique most helps to magnify the pitiful image of Aaron Stark in the first stanza?
Watch this video of the song and lyrics to Simon and Garfunkel's song titled "Richard Cory." Read Robsinson's poem, then answer the next question. (This annotation contains a video)
Do the speaker of the poem and the song have similar attitudes toward Richard Cory? Cite examples from the poem and song lyrics to support your answer.