I found as I was reading this poem that there were many places where I couldn't tell if I was supposed to be reading the various images as "art" (I mean the representational, usually unanimated, two dimensional kind) or if these sort of tableaus were worlds within rooms, that the Soul claims to walk between as the mood strikes. In other words, I couldn't tell what was looked at and what was lived or livable. This seems to be an instance of one of the main binaries running through the poem — there's this whole self/other, observer/participant, art/life (etc.) thing going on. What's most interesting to me is the undermining of the binary, the places where nervousness or uncertainty break through. So, here's a piece of poem:

"Nor these alone but every landscape fair
As fit for every mood of mind
Or gay, or grave, or sweet, or stern, was there,
Not less than truth design'd. . . .

Or the maid-mother by a crucifix,
In tracts of pasture sunny-warm,
Beneath branch-work of costly sardonyx
Sat smiling, babe in arm.

How do you think breaks function in the poem, specifically in these few lines- both stanza breaks and the breaks between large sections?

What's going on here with the juxtaposition of the maid-mother and the crucifix, and why is she smiling? Why do you think the word "tract" is there, what about the pasture in relation to the crucifix? What's happening with time here?

Is the altered syntax due just to the rhyme scheme, and the older, more traditional feel of the poem, or is there something else going on?

There seems to be evidence in the poem of a need to reassure the "largeness" of things- i.e. Truth, or the universal. Why?

Another line in the poem is "Not less than life design'd" — why is "life" parallel with "truth" — is this to emphasize similarity or difference? What might this comparison imply?


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Last modified 8 September 2003