Some people argue that happiness is directly correlated with somebody’s money and wealt h.  They say that the more money you have, the happier you feel.They say that “by purchasing what you like,” you can acquire happiness. However, your task is to argue that money in itself cannot make you happy. When presenting your argument, you must incorporate the points of the assignment we have read in “Happiness” assignment. Also, you are allowed use your own knowledge and experience to back up your argument. But you are not allowed to use any other secondary sources. You should follow APA parenthetical citation whenever you want to cite any sentences from the “Happiness” assignment. Let’s pretend that the author of this assignment is Martin Smith. The page numbers are 146-48. Remember that you are arguing that money cannot make you happy. Your assignment needs to be 600–650 words long. (Remember that you need to concede the opposition party’s argument and do not forget about the refutation).

Composition and Literature

Composition and Literature

A Handbook and Anthology

James Sexton and Derek Soles


V I C TO R I A , B .C .

Composition and Literature by James Sexton and Derek Soles is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0

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© 2019 James Sexton and Derek Soles

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Accessibility Statement ix

Exceptions to the CC BY Licence xi

About BCcampus Open Education xiv

Preface xv

Part I. The Writing Process

1. Access and Acquire Knowledge 2

2. Find Your Thesis 5

3. Make a Plan 8

4. Write Your First Draft 10

5. Revise and Edit 14

6. Cite Your Sources 17

Part II. Common Writing Assignments

7. The Narrative Essay 24

8. The Examples Essay 30

9. The Extended Definition Essay 33

10. The Process (“How to”) Essay 37

11. The Cause/Effect Essay 40

12. The Compare/Contrast Essay 43

13. The Argument Essay 46

14. Further Reading 52

Part III. Poetry

15. “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth (Regular Verse) 56

16. “Birches” by Robert Frost (Blank Verse) 62

17. “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes (Free Verse) 66

18. “How Do I Love Thee?” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (Sonnet) 69

19. “The Cremation of Sam McGee” by Robert Service (Ballad) 74

20. “Ode to a Nightingale” by John Keats (Ode) 81

21. “My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning (Dramatic Monologue) 88

22. “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop (Villanelle) 94

23. “To an Athlete Dying Young” by A.E. Housman (Elegy) 98

24. “Eastern Guard Tower” by Etheridge Knight (Haiku) 103

25. An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 106

Part IV. Short Stories

26. Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–1864) 273

27. Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849) 283

28. Kate Chopin (1850–1904) 289

29. Charles G.D. Roberts (1860–1943) 298

30. E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake) (1861–1913) 306

31. O. Henry (1862–1910) 319

32. Edith Wharton (1862–1937) 325

33. Hector Hugh Munro (Saki) (1870–1916) 335

34. Stephen Crane (1871–1900) 340

35. Willa Cather (1873–1947) 360

36. James Joyce (1882–1941) 374

37. D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930) 397

38. Ring Lardner (1885–1933) 420

39. Katherine Mansfield (1888–1923) 441

40. William Faulkner (1897–1962) 458

41. Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961) 464

42. Eudora Alice Welty (1909–2001) 478

43. Roald Dahl (1916–1990) 482

44. Flannery O’Connor (1925–1964) 485

45. Fay Weldon (1931–) 490

46. Beryl Bainbridge (1932–2010) 494

47. William Dempsey Valgardson (1939–) 497

48. Alice Walker (1944–) 519

49. Leslie Marmon Silko (1948–) 523

50. Andrea Levy (1956–2019) 527

Part V. The Novella

51. Turn of the Screw by Henry James (1843-1916) 532

52. The Awakening by Kate Chopin (1850–1904) 606

Part VI. The Novel

53. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896–1940) 713

Part VII. Drama

54. Twelfth Night: Act 1
William Shakespeare


55. Twelfth Night: Act 2
William Shakespeare


56. Twelfth Night: Act 3
William Shakespeare


57. Twelfth Night: Act 4
William Shakespeare


58. Twelfth Night: Act 5
William Shakespeare


59. Twelfth Night: Study Guide 927

60. Hamlet: Act 1
William Shakespeare


61. Hamlet: Act 2
William Shakespeare


62. Hamlet: Act 3
William Shakespeare


63. Hamlet: Act 4
William Shakespeare


64. Hamlet: Act 5
William Shakespeare


65. Hamlet: Study Guide 1108

66. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) 1120

67. The Importance of Being Earnest: Study Guide 1122

68. Major Barbara by Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) 1125

69. Major Barbara: Study Guide 1128

Appendix A: Glossary of English Rhetoric, Grammar, and Usage 1130

Appendix B: Glossary of Literary Terms 1207

Appendix C: Writing an Analysis of a Poem, Story, or Play 1214

Appendix D: Brave New World Casebook 1218

Appendix E: The Turn of the Screw Casebook 1230

Appendix F: Exercises and Tutorials on Grammar and MLA/APA Documentation 1233

About the Authors 1234

List of Links by Chapter for Print Users 1236

Versioning History 1252

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Yellow Woman Leslie Marmon Silko (1948-) A scanned PDF

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This statement was last updated on August 19, 2019.

x James Sexton and Derek Soles

Exceptions to the CC BY Licence

Composition and Literature: A Handbook and Anthology by James Sexton and Derek Soles is under a
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence, except where otherwise noted. The following
materials have been included in this text but are under licences with additional restrictions.

All rights reserved

Permission to include All Rights Reserved pieces has been granted for non-commercial purposes in this
open textbook by the copyright holders. If you plan to adapt any content including these pieces, please
reconfirm permission with the copyright holders or remove them from your version.

• Bernard Shaw Biography © Cary Mazer. (Chapter: Major Barbara by Bernard Shaw

• Dictionary Entry photo © Military Writer’s Handbook, Royal Military College. (Chapter:
Appendix A)

• Essay Topics for Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest © Philip V. Allingham on
the Victorian Web. Adapted by James Sexton. (Chapter: The Importance of Being Earnest:
Study Guide) Used with permission for educational purposes.

• Eudoro Alice Welty painting © National Portrait Gallery. (Chapter: Eudora Alice Welty
(1909-2001)) See NPG Rights and Reproductions.

• James Joyce Biography © James Joyce Centre. Adapted by James Sexton. (Chapter: James
Joyce (1882-1941))

• Oscar Wilde Biography © Philip V. Allingham on the Victorian Web. (Chapter The
Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)). Used with permission for
educational purposes.

• Robert Browning Biography © (Chapter: “My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning
(Dramatic Monologue))

• Why Our Kids Need to Learn About Residential Schools (including images) by Bonnie
Schiedel. © Today’s Parent magazine (Chapter: The Argument Essay)

• William Dempsey Valgardson photo © University of Victoria Archives, Historical Photo
Collection, Acc#2008-007-6.5.1. (Chapter: William Dempsey Valgardson (1939- ))


• Bloodflowers © William Dempsey Valgardson, Oberon Press. (Chapter: William Dempsey
Valgardson (1939-))


• Granite Point © William Dempsey Valgardson, Oberon Press. (Chapter: William Dempsey
Valgardson (1939-))

• Henry James Biography © Anthony Domestico. (Chapter: Turn of the Screw by Henry James

• John Keats © William Hilton, after Joseph Severn. National Portrait Gallery, London.
(Chapter: “Ode to a Nightingale” by John Keats (Ode))

• Katherine Mansfield Biography © Petri Liukkonen (Authors’ Calendar). (Chapter: Katherine
Mansfield (1888–1923))


• Alice Walker photo © Virginia DeBolt. (Chapter: Alice Walker (1944- ))

• Andrea Levy Biography © Wikipedia. Adapted by James Sexton. (Chapter: Andrea Levy

• Beryl Bainbridge Biography © Wikipedia. Adapted by James Sexton. (Chapter: Beryl
Bainbridge (1932–2010))

• D. H. Lawrence Biography. © Wikipedia. Adapted by James Sexton. (Chapter D. H.
Lawrence (1885-1930))

• Ernest Hemingway Biography © University System of Georgia. Adapted by James Sexton.
(Chapter: Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961))

• Fay Weldon Biography © Wikipedia. Adapted by James Sexton. (Chapter: Fay Weldon

• Fay Weldon photo © Mogens Engelund. (Chapter: Fay Weldon (1931–))

• Flannery O’Connor © University System of Georgia. Adapted by James Sexton. (Chapter:
Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964))

• Flannery O’Connor 1947 photo © Cmacaule. (Chapter: Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964))

• Kate Chopin Biography © University System of Georgia. Adapted by James Sexton.
(Chapter: Kate Chopin (1805-1904))

• Leslie Marmon Silko at the banquet reading © Uche Ogbuji. (Chapter: Leslie Marmon Silko

• Nathaniel Hawthorne Biography © Wikipedia. Adapted by James Sexton. (Chapter:
Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864))

• O. Henry Biography © Wikipedia. Adapted by James Sexton. (Chapter: Nathaniel Hawthorne

• Ring Lardner Biography © Wikipedia. Adapted by James Sexton. (Chapter: Ring Lardner

• Roald Dahl Biography © Wikipedia. Adapted by James Sexton. (Chapter: Roald Dahl

xii James Sexton and Derek Soles

• Stephen Crane Biography © University System of Georgia. Adapted by James Sexton.
(Chapter: Stephen Crane (1871-1900))

• W.D. Valgardson Biography © Wikipedia. Adapted by James Sexton. (Chapter: William
Dempsey Valgardson (1939- ))

• William Faulkner Biography © University System of Georgia. Adapted by James Sexton.
(Chapter: William Faulkner (1897-1962))

Public domain

This text includes many pieces of literature that are in the public domain in Canada, which is 50 years
(soon to be 70 years) after the death of the author. Those using this book outside of Canada should review
public domain legislation in their country before redistributing this book.

Composition and Literature xiii

About BCcampus Open Education

Composition and Literature: A Handbook and Anthology by James Sexton and Derek Soles was funded
by BCcampus Open Education.

BCcampus Open Education began in 2012 as the B.C. Open Textbook Project with the goal of making
post-secondary education in British Columbia more accessible by reducing student costs through the
use of openly licenced textbooks and other OER. BCcampus supports the post-secondary institutions
of British Columbia as they adapt and evolve their teaching and learning practices to enable powerful
learning opportunities for the students of B.C. BCcampus Open Education is funded by the British
Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills & Training, and the Hewlett Foundation.

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released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others.


Our open textbooks are openly licensed using a Creative Commons licence, and are offered in various
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1. “Open Educational Resources,” Hewlett Foundation, (accessed September 27,




The purpose of this book is to help students achieve the learning objectives of their English 12 course.
English 12 teaches students how to

• Write intelligently, clearly, and fluently;

• Understand and employ effectively the conventions of various forms of school and college
writing assignments;

• Read actively and critically;

• Understand and appreciate diverse and inclusive works of imaginative literature; and

• Think critically, creatively, and reflectively.

By achieving these goals, English 12 helps students find success in all the academic courses they take,
whether they complete high school or earn their Adult Graduation Diploma. This course also helps
prepare students for further work at the post-secondary level if they choose to continue their formal
education and for successful employment if they choose to enter the workforce after they have earned
their Graduation Diploma.

Organization of this book

Composition and Literature: A Handbook and Anthology is divided into seven chapters. The first two
chapters are a Composition Handbook designed to help Grade 12 students write clearly and effectively:

• “Chapter One: The Writing Process” reviews, explains, and presents the components of the
process of completing writing assignments successfully at the Grade 12 level. It covers how
to generate ideas, research a topic, compose a thesis, make a plan, write a draft, revise the
draft, edit the draft, provide a source list. It includes questions for study and discussion and
suggestions for small group activities.

• “Chapter Two: Common Writing Assignments” provides instruction and models of writing
assignments commonly used in Grade 12 English: the narrative essay, examples essay,
process essay, compare/contrast essay, cause/effect essay, and argumentative essay. The
models are annotated to explain why they are successful representatives of their genre. The
chapter includes questions for study and discussion and suggestions for small group

The last five chapters are an Anthology of Literature, designed to help students read actively, analyze,
understand, enjoy, and appreciate stories, poems, and plays by a diverse and inclusive group of
exceptional writers:

• Chapter Three introduces students to the study of poetry. It contains many poems and links to
other poems that are not in the public domain. It contains brief biographies of the authors, an


authoritatively edited text of the poems, appropriate footnotes, questions for study and
discussion, suggestions for small group activities, and links that provide additional relevant

• Chapters Four, Five, and Six introduce students to the study of fiction: short stories, novellas,
and novels. It contains many works of fiction and links to other works that are not in the
public domain. It contains brief biographies of the authors, an authoritatively edited text of
the stories, appropriate footnotes, questions for study and discussion, suggestions for small
group activities, links to video productions of about half of the stories anthologized, and other
relevant links.

• Chapter Seven introduces students to the study of drama. It contains plays and links to plays
that are not in the public domain. It contains brief biographies of the authors, an
authoritatively edited text of the plays, appropriate footnotes, questions for study and
discussion, suggestions for small group activities, links to video productions of about half of
the plays in the anthology, and other relevant links.

This book also contains appendices: a glossary of literary terms, a handbook of English grammar and
usage, and an appendix on writing about literature.

xvi James Sexton and Derek Soles


The Writing Process

To achieve success, students must learn how to write effectively. Your teachers will assess your progress
in most of the courses you take partially based on writing assignments they will require you to complete.
In the future, your college instructors and even your employers will also assess the quality of your work
based, in part, upon your ability to communicate in writing clearly and intelligently.

There is a process to follow to complete most school writing assignments successfully and effectively.
You must access and acquire the knowledge you will need to give substance to your work; compose a
thesis, which will provide readers the main or controlling idea you wish to express; shape the knowledge,
the content you have accessed and acquired into an outline, to make certain your readers will follow
your train of thought, as you develop your thesis; write a first draft; revise that draft, usually more than
once; and edit the draft, carefully correcting errors in sentence grammar, sentence structure, punctuation,
and spelling. If you have used information you took from books, articles, and internet sources in
your assignment, you must check to make certain you have acknowledged those sources carefully and

The way in which the writing process is described above may make it seem straightforward and linear.
Note carefully that it is usually not. You may refine your thesis after you have written a draft. You may
acquire a new research source halfway through the process and refine the content of your essay as a
result. You will revise and edit your work as you are writing, even if you apply the finishing touches to
your work just before you hand it in. Writing is much more of a recursive than a linear process.

In this chapter, the components of the writing process are explained and illustrated in that linear
order—from knowledge to thesis to plan to draft to revision to editing—but remember that good writers
usually mix up that process.



Access and Acquire Knowledge

Research Your Topic

Many of the writing assignments you undertake will require research. You will need to read and take
notes on print and internet sources—books, articles, websites—that contain information that will help
you develop the thesis of your essay. While you do so, keep in mind these guidelines for effective

1. Make certain your sources are valid and reliable. There is so much information readily
available on any topic, and not all of it will be authentic. Some of it might even be so
inaccurate it will undermine rather than support your thesis. Online encyclopedias are
uneven: the content of some articles is excellent, but the content of others might be riddled
with errors. Articles, online or in print, from academic journals are usually good sources, as
are articles from established and respected magazines and newspapers. Internet sources with
a URL ending in .edu (for education) or .gov (for government) are usually valid and reliable.


Be wary of using information from blogs and Facebook posts. Internet sources with a URL
ending in .org (for organization) might be biased if the organization represents a certain
social or political cause or point of view.

2. Make certain your sources are directly relevant to your topic. In this information age, it is
usually possible to find good print and, especially, internet sources that will provide you with
just the information you need to complete an assignment successfully. Some topics require
current information. If, for example, you were writing an essay about treating the flu or
recombinant DNA or the progress of global warming, sources written even just a couple of
years ago may be outdated.

3. Refine your search terms, which are those keywords that you enter into database search
boxes. For example, “Global warming” as a Google search term (without quotation marks)
could yield about 444 million results; “causes of global warming” about 364 million; “the
effects of global warming on hurricane intensity” about 37,000; and “the effects of global
warming on hurricane intensity in Florida in 2017” about 12,000. This last number is still a
lot, but it would be possible now to skim through the first twenty or so results to find the best
sources. Another good way to refine your search and to have confidence in the sources it
yields is by using a digitized database, such as JSTOR, EBSCO, or ProQuest, if your school
has a subscription.

4. Write down all of the bibliographical information about your source, so you won’t have to
access it again online or, worse, find a book again that you have already returned to the
library. Record the full names of all of the authors; the full title of the book or article; the

1. Note that these domains are American.


exact date of publication: the year, and, for articles, the month and the day; the issue number
and volume number for an article in an academic journal; the edition number, if it is other
than the first edition or if it is a revised edition; the URL and, if available, the DOI (digital
object identifier).

5. Consult your school librarian. Librarians can direct you to sources you might not otherwise
have known about; help you identify the best, most reliable and valid sources; and help you
refine your search terms so they yield the best results.

Exercise One

Select a topic of interest to you. Carefully following the guidelines presented above, find three articles that will
be good sources of information for the topic you have selected.

In small groups, share and discuss the process you went through to find your sources and explain why you
believe they are good sources. Share constructive advice on the source lists group members have put together.

Your teacher might ask you to hand in your articles.

Generate Ideas

All academic writing assignments require knowledge, but some do not require research. Both a narrative
essay about a significant personal experience and an in-class or examination essay, which tests your
knowledge of course content, do not require—in fact, preclude—the use of secondary sources. Even so,
there are some techniques you can try to help you discover or access knowledge you can use to develop
the ideas in a narrative or examination essay.

1. Focus in on your topic and then, for ten minutes or so, write out quickly and without regard
to the rules of grammar and sentence structure ideas about your topic as they come randomly
into your head. This is a technique known as freewriting, and it can be an effective way of
generating ideas and content you can use.

2. Write out the keywords from your topic in the centre of a blank sheet of paper. Circle the
keywords. Then, around the keywords, write out other points as they occur to you, points that
are relevant to and could develop the main idea the keywords express. Then circle these
points and draw lines linking together related ideas. This technique, known as webbing, can
not only reveal ways of developing your thesis, but also help you begin to establish the
organizational structure of your writing assignment.

3. Write out the questions that you will need to answer as you work your way through the
process of completing your assignment successfully. Try to answer these questions, to the
best of your ability, with the knowledge you already possess. This is a technique journalists
use to file a full story. They ask who is involved; what happened; where did it happen; when
did it happen; why did it happen; how did it happen? It is sometimes referred to as the W5
method or the pentad, though the “how” question does add a sixth dimension.

Access and Acquire Knowledge 3

Exercise Two

Select one of the following broad topics: hockey, hip-hop music, vacations, designer handbags, reality
television programs, weddings, lipstick. Working quickly, use the methods for generating ideas explained
above to generate ideas about the topic you selected.

Remember this is often a good method for refining a broad topic into a workable thesis. See if any potential
thesis statements emerge from this exercise.

In small groups, share your experience using these methods for generating ideas, stressing the extent to
which you found them useful or ineffective.

4 The Writing Process


Find Your Thesis

An essay’s thesis or thesis statement is its central or controlling idea, its essence, its main idea. It is
the focal point for your topic. It is usually expressed as an opinion or an assertion, usually in a single
sentence, which the rest of the essay supports and augments. It is typically the last sentence of the
opening paragraph (when you are using paragraphs in a longer essay), though it can also be effectively
placed elsewhere.

If, for example, your topic is on the search for life on other planets, your thesis, among the many
possibilities, might be:

• Recent research into the topography of Mars increases the odds that Earth is not the only
planet in our solar system that harbours life.

• While the search for extraterrestrial intelligence is an important function of the SETI
Institute, the Institute also provides resources for students and educators in all aspects of
astronomy and keeps the public informed about current issues in the field.

• Among the scores of movies about extraterrestrial intelligence, Arrival and Close Encounters
of the Third Kind are the most thought-provoking.

• The Drake Equation provides no hard evidence of the existence of intelligent life elsewhere
in the universe, but it does suggest that the odds are in its favour.

• No official government investigation or serious scientific study has confirmed the existence
of UFOs.

A good essay will develop the thesis in a series of paragraphs that provide some combination of
examples, details, definitions, anecdotes, comparisons, contrasts, causes, and effects so that readers feel
satisfied that the writer has established the validity of the thesis.

Keep in mind that your thesis might evolve and change as you work your way through the process
of composing your essay. While revising your first or second draft, you may realize that some of the
content of your essay does not quite relate to your thesis, which you may then have to refine.

A Blueprint Thesis

A blueprint thesis provides readers with not only the essay’s controlling idea, but also the reasons and
arguments in phrase or even word form in support of the controlling idea. A simple blueprint thesis for
a short essay about the popularity of jeans might be:

Jeans are so popular because they are comfortable, durable, and stylish.

For a longer essay, the thesis would add more supporting points:


Jeans are so popular because they are an icon of our culture, cleverly marketed, comfortable, stylish, and

The advantage of the blueprint thesis is that it alerts the reader to the essay’s organizational pattern and
so enhances the overall clarity of the text. One disadvantage is that it could reduce readers’ interest in
the rest of the essay since it gives much away. Another disadvantage is that the more complex the reasons
in support of the thesis are, the more difficult the essay becomes to construct.

A General Thesis

A general thesis presents little else than the essay’s controlling idea:

• There are several reasons why jeans are so ubiquitous an article of clothing.

• It is not difficult to explain the universal appeal of jeans.

The advantage of the general thesis is that it is concise and to the point. The disadvantage is that it can
seem too much a statement of the obvious.

A Question Thesis

A question thesis poses a question to which the rest of the essay responds.

Why are denim jeans so popular?

An Implied Thesis

The implied thesis is not in a single sentence in an opening paragraph. Rather, it floats between the
sentences, an authoritative but invisible presence. Here is an example:

Wander around a shopping mall, an airport, or a college campus, observe what the people are wearing, and
you will learn, if you did not know already, that denim jeans are among the most popular items of clothing
that people choose to wear. Today, in my college English class, 14 of the 26 students—and my professor—are
wearing jeans. The average North American college student owns seven pairs of jeans (Ellison 14). Once
acceptable only in casual venues, jeans are common now in the workplace—my bank manager wears jeans on
casual Fridays!—and in restaurants that once had jacket-and-tie dress codes.

We love jeans because…

There is no single sentence that spells out the thesis, but its presence is there, confirmed by the opening
phrase of the second paragraph.

The implied thesis is common in the writing of professional journalists and academics. In a good essay
or article, readers know what the thesis is by the time they have come to the end of the introduction,
but there may not be a single sentence they can underline and write beside in the margin “thesis.” For
students, the implied thesis is a bit of a risk: many teachers want a clear thesis, as an obvious sign that
the student, whose essay they are evaluating, has learned and can apply this essential feature of academic

6 The Writing Process

An Argumentative Thesis

The thesis for an argument essay needs to be especially forthright. It must signal clearly to your readers
your position on the issue under consideration.

An oil pipeline, spanning two provinces, would threaten the environment, fail to create enough jobs to justify
the government’s investment, and delay the crucial search for renewable sources of energy.

Exercise Three

Using the topic from Exercise One or Two, compose a general thesis, a blueprint thesis, and a thesis in the
form of a question.

In small groups, share your thesis statements and share constructive advice about the scope, interest level,
and clarity of the thesis statements group members have composed.

Your teacher might also want to check your thesis statements.

Find Your Thesis 7


Make a Plan

Clarity is essential in academic writing, and a sound organizational structure enhances clarity. After you
have composed your thesis, consider how you will arrange the knowledge you have collected in support
of your thesis into a well-organized series of paragraphs.

Your plan or outline might consist of a sophisticated system of headings and subheadings. Your
teacher might expect you to turn in a formal outline of this nature. If not, the least you should do is
jot down the points you know you will need to cover as you support and develop your thesis. If, for
example, your thesis is “It is hardly surprising that McDonald’s is such a successful fast food franchise,”
the points you jot down in support might include:

• Taste

◦ food appeals to the taste buds of many consumers

◦ burgers and fries are a staple of the North American diet

◦ special sauce

◦ toppings and condiments

• Cost

◦ inexpensive

◦ a family of four can eat out for under $30

◦ examples of cost of select menu items compared to cost of same or similar items at
other restaurants

• Efficiency

◦ assembly-line food preparation

◦ wait is rarely more than ten minutes

◦ drive-through

Note that different genres or rhetorical modes presuppose certain organizational structures or templates.
These are included in the next chapter.

Exercise Four


Using one of the thesis statements you have composed while completing the exercises in this chapter, construct
an essay outline using a simple point-form structure or a numbered system of headings and subheadings.

In small groups, share your outline and offer constructive suggestions for improving the outlines of other
group members.

Your teacher might ask you to hand in your outline.

Make a Plan 9


Write Your First Draft

After you have formulated your outline, you are ready to write the first draft of your assignment.
Remember you might want to refine your outline, even after you have written parts of your first draft.

Your task now is to transform your outline into paragraphs.

Introductory Paragraph(s)

The opening of an academic writing assignment will vary in length, proportionate to the length of the
entire assignment, from one paragraph for a shorter essay, to several for a longer one. A good opening
typically serves two purposes: it provides context related to the assignment topic, and it presents the
main or controlling idea, the thesis.

The context will make clear the genre of the essay: argument, compare/contrast, cause/effect, process.
It will usually establish the topic’s broader parameters, and it might include essential background
information related to the topic. The thesis, discussed above, presents the assignment’s central focus.

In the example below, the context is presented in the first two sentences and the thesis in the third.

Shin hanga means “new prints” in Japanese, and it designates an art movement by a group of gifted Japanese
woodblock artists at work in the first two decades of the twentieth century. These exquisite works of art capture
the human eye and command its attention until it examines carefully each square inch of the woodblock. The
subjects—especially the quietly beautiful Japanese landscapes and seascapes—the clear and bold shapes and
forms, and the glorious colours, in every shade and every hue, account for the excitement and enthusiasm shin
hanga generates among discriminating art lovers.

Exercise Five

Write an introductory paragraph, based upon the outline you made for Exercise Four. Consider carefully the
model introductory paragraph and the instructions for writing an effective introduction.

In small groups, share your introductory paragraphs and share constructive advice about the paragraphs’
strengths and weaknesses.

Your teacher might ask you to hand in your introductory paragraph.

Revise and edit your introductory paragraph, in light of your group members’ and teacher’s advice.


Body Paragraphs

The body paragraphs of an academic writing assignment elucidate, augment, support, and develop
the essay’s thesis. The body consists of at least three, and up to about a dozen or more, paragraphs,
depending upon the requirements of the assignment. A minor 500-word writing assignment will
typically call for three body paragraphs; a major 5000-word assignment, approximately twelve. Good
body paragraphs in an academic writing assignment have three qualities: unity, coherence, and

Unity refers to the relationship of the content of a paragraph to its topic sentence. The topic sentence
presents the main point of the paragraph. It is to a paragraph what the thesis is to the essay as a
whole. For a paragraph to have unity, its content should develop its topic sentence. It may be stated
explicitly—often, though by no means always, as the first sentence in the paragraph—or implied.

Coherence, or cohesion, is that property of written discourse that binds sentences and paragraphs
together in the interest of clarity, logic, rhythm, and flow. The repetition of a keyword can establish
coherence within a paragraph. A transitional word or phrase, such as “for example,” “on the other hand,”
“in addition,” “however,” or “moreover,” can also establish coherence within a paragraph.

Substance, or adequate development, is a property a body paragraph possesses when that paragraph
contains enough sentences to develop its topic sentence to the readers’ satisfaction. Body paragraphs
need examples, details, definitions, comparisons, contrasts, anecdotes, causes, and effects that support
the thesis in order to be adequately developed. One or any combination of these methods or patterns of
development will typically be used to develop a topic sentence.

Here is the first body paragraph from an essay, the thesis of which is, “The chow chow is a great
choice for a pet owner who wants a distinctive-looking dog; a dog who is fiercely loyal, if a bit aloof
with strangers; and one who is intelligent and easy to train.”

1In its homeland in northern China, the chow chow is songshi quan, “puffy lion-dog.” 2The name suits the
dog’s physical appearance. 3The chow chow has deep-set eyes; a large head; a beautiful, if squashed face; a pug
nose; a bushy tail, which lies curled upon its back; and an impressive mane of hair, features which, together, do
indeed make this breed resemble a stuffed toy lion. 4Chow chows are short and stocky, usually ranging from
43 to 51 cm tall. 5They have thick fur, usually reddish-brown, though, in some, black- or fawn-coloured. 6This
is not an affectionate breed, but if one does lick your hand, you may notice that its tongue has a bluish tinge.
7Legend has it that when the god of creation was painting the sky blue, a chow chow licked the drops that
fell from the divine brush. 8The chow chow’s straight hind legs are another distinctive feature unusual among
dogs, who usually have curved hind legs. 9The straight legs give the breed a distinctive stiff gait, especially
noticeable when chow chows try to run.

This is a solid body paragraph, exemplifying the unity, coherence, and development a good body
paragraph needs. It has a topic sentence and sentences, including the first, that develop the topic. Each
sentence relates to the topic sentence, establishing paragraph unity. Sentence 7, about the chow chow
licking the blue paint, almost veers away from the topic sentence, but the writer does link the sentence
to the dog’s blue-tinged tongue, one of its distinctive features.

Coherence is established by the repetition of the keyword “chow chow,” words like “breed” and
“dog,” which echo the keyword, and pronouns, like “they” at the beginning of sentence 5 and “This” at
the beginning of sentence 6. The transitional phrase “another distinctive feature” in sentence 8 also helps
the paragraph cohere.

The paragraph is well-developed, hitting all of the right notes. It references the dog’s size, its colour,

Write Your First Draft 11

its facial features, its distinct physical characteristics. At nine sentences and about 180 words, it is the
appropriate length for a school assignment body paragraph.

Exercise Six

Write a body paragraph (or more than one, according to your teacher’s instructions) based on the outline
you made for Exercise Four. Consider carefully the model body paragraph and the instructions for writing an
effective body paragraph.

In small groups, share your body paragraphs and share constructive advice about the paragraphs’ strengths
and weaknesses.

Your teacher might ask you to hand in your body paragraph(s).

Revise and edit your body paragraph(s), in light of your group members’ and teacher’s advice.

Concluding Paragraph

The purpose of a concluding paragraph is to establish a sense of closure for your readers, to assure them
that you have provided them with the information promised in your introduction and/or presented your
argument in a forceful way that urges readers to consider your opinions carefully. This process may
include a reaffirmation of your thesis and a summary of the essay’s body.

Here is a concluding paragraph for an essay, the thesis of which questions the use of wind power as a
viable source of renewable energy.

While there is no doubt that wind can be harnessed to produce a source of renewable energy, evidence cited
here suggests that environmentalists have reason to curb their enthusiasm for wind power. Wind farms are a
blight upon the landscape, a source of noise pollution, and a danger to birds. And when the wind dies down for
a day or two, the TV turns off, the freezer thaws, and the lights go out.

Note that this concluding paragraph reaffirms the essay’s thesis in the first sentence; then it recapitulates
the points the writer made in the body; then, especially in that phrase “the lights go out,” it establishes a
sense of closure.

There is an old adage of communication theory: tell them what you are going to tell them; then tell
them; then tell them what you have told them. It’s too simplistic, of course, for the complex challenge
of writing a school essay, but useful insofar as it reminds us of the function of introductory, body, and
concluding paragraphs.

Exercise Seven

12 The Writing Process

Write a concluding paragraph, based upon the outline you made for Exercise Four. Consider carefully the
model concluding paragraph and the instructions for writing an effective conclusion.

In small groups, share your concluding paragraphs and share constructive advice about the paragraphs’
strengths and weaknesses.

Your teacher might ask you to hand in your concluding paragraph.

Revise and edit your concluding paragraph, in light of your group members’ and teacher’s advice.

Write Your First Draft 13


Revise and Edit

Revise Your Work

Revision is an essential component of the writing process. It is distinct from editing (discussed next),
which involves a reassessment of your work at the sentence level to correct any errors in sentence
grammar, sentence structure, spelling, and punctuation. Revision is a second (or third or fourth) look
at your assignment’s “big picture,” the time when you re-read your drafts to make certain your
organizational structure is sound, your content is robust, and your transitions from one paragraph to the
next bind the essay together and establish its sense of coherence.

Revise your work, keeping in mind these guidelines for revision. A well-written essay needs:

• a sound organizational structure; a beginning, a middle, and an end; an introduction, a body,
and a conclusion

• sufficient content so readers feel the writer has delivered on the promise implicit in the thesis
statement and the paragraph topic sentences

• cohesion; a repetition of keywords and use of transitional words and phrases which link
paragraphs together

Edit Your Work

Editing is the process of reviewing each sentence in your writing assignment, identifying and correcting
errors in sentence grammar, sentence structure, spelling, and punctuation. If you turn in a draft of
your assignment, your teacher might flag and identify editing errors, but leave it to you to make the
corrections. Certainly, editing errors will be identified when your teacher returns a graded assignment to
you. You want to review those errors to make you avoid them in your next assignment.

Common Editing Errors

Here is a list of common editing errors, preceded by the abbreviation your teacher might use to identify them
in the margins of your writing assignment. Please note that you will find instruction on identifying, avoiding,
and correcting these errors in Appendix A: Glossary of English Rhetoric, Grammar, and Usage.

ad: adjective used incorrectly.


agr: usually refers to an error in pronoun agreement; could refer to an error in subject-verb agreement,
though that may be abbreviated as sv. agr.

awk: awkward sentence structure.

cap: error in use of capitalization.

case: error in pronoun case.

co: error in use of coordinate conjunction.

coh: coherence weak.

com: faulty comparison.

concl: weak concluding paragraph.

cs: comma splice.

d: diction; poor word choice.

def: term used should be defined.

dm: dangling modifier.

doc: documentation; source needs to be cited or error in citation.

ex: example needed or would be useful.

for: formatting error.

frag: sentence fragment.

fs: fused sentence.

hyph: hyphen needed or not needed.

^: insert.

intro: first paragraph weak; should be revised.

it: italics needed or used incorrectly.

jarg: jargon.

lc: lowercase needed; usually indicates a capital letter (uppercase) used incorrectly.

mix: mixed construction; similar to awk (awkward).

mm: misplaced modifier.

no ,: comma not needed.

np: begin new paragraph.

//: parallelism needs improving.

pass: switch from passive voice to active voice.

ref: pronoun reference (not to be confused with pronoun case) not clear.

run-on: run-on sentence.

shift: an abrupt change (often in tone) within a sentence.

sp: spelling.

sub: subordination; usually means that sentence structure and variety would be improved with subordination.

sum: better to summarize this; usually in reference to a quote from a secondary source.

Revise and Edit 15

trans: transition; need to connect this sentence with previous one or this paragraph withthe next.

vague: sentence or passage needs to be revised in the interest of clarity.

vt: verb tense.

wrdy: wordy; revise for concision.

ww: wrong word.

## [Provide link to editing exercises with answers]

16 The Writing Process


Cite Your Sources

Many of your writing assignments, not just in your English class but in other classes as well, require
research. Your teachers will expect you to acknowledge your research sources and will provide
instruction in how to do this, using a recognized academic citation method.

It is essential that you acknowledge your sources thoroughly and accurately. If you do not, you may
face an accusation of plagiarism. Plagiarism is the failure—deliberately, unknowingly, or carelessly—to
signal to your readers that the content of any part of your written work—direct quotes, paraphrases, or
summaries—comes from a research source, including an essay purchased online. Plagiarism is a serious
form of academic misconduct, usually punished at the minimum by a failing grade.

There are a variety of reputable and widely used citation methods, the method chosen usually
dependent upon the academic discipline within which the writer is working. The Modern Language
Association of scholars in literature and language designed the MLA method for citing sources. History
and philosophy may also use the MLA method. The American Psychological Association developed the
APA method for citing sources, widely used in the social sciences, including education. The University
of Chicago publishes The Chicago Manual of Style, which provides another citation system widely used
in academia.

This chapter provides instruction in the use of the MLA method. It then provides links to instructions
in the use of the APA and CMS methods.

The MLA Method

If you are required to use the MLA citation method, you must cite all of your sources twice: first in MLA
shorthand in parentheses within the text, and second at the end of the paper in a list called works cited.
The in-text parenthetical citation is brief, typically an author’s last name and a page number only.

The works cited list contains the complete bibliographical information for each source, which is all
the information readers who want to access the source would require. It is organized alphabetically, by
author’s last name, so the parenthetical citation directs readers efficiently to the corresponding entry in
the works cited list.

Rules for In-Text Parenthetical Citation

To indicate a direct quote from a secondary source, place quotation marks around the words you are
quoting and then put the author’s last name and the page number from the secondary source in which
the information can be found. Short direct quotes are integrated into the text of the essay and placed
between quotation marks, “so a short direct quote properly acknowledged would look like this” (Author
34). Note the quotation marks around our imagined quote from a secondary source and note that there is
not a comma between the author’s last name (“Author,” in our example) and the page number.


If the author’s name is already mentioned in the text, only the page number is placed in parentheses:
As Author notes, “only the page number is required” (34).

Long quotes are indented and blocked off from the text of the essay. The distinction between short
quotes and long ones is somewhat arbitrary, but quotes of more than about three lines should be set off
from the rest of the essay in the manner illustrated here.

Note that the quotation marks have been eliminated. The indentation indicates that the material is quoted
directly from a secondary source. Quotation marks are used only if the original uses quotation marks. Note also
that after a short quote comes the parenthetical citation followed by a period, but in the long, indented quote,
like this one, the period precedes the parenthetical citation. (Author 39)

Most instructors do not appreciate too many long direct quotes in student essays, especially if the quotes
create the impression that students are turning in a “cut and paste” assignment.

In addition to direct quotes, you must cite other information taken from a secondary source. The
general rule is that if you possessed the information before you began the essay (as in, it’s general
knowledge), you do not need to cite it, but if you acquired the information in the course of writing the
essay, you do need to cite it. Again, put in parentheses the author’s last name and the page number where
the information can be found. You need to include the page number even if you have paraphrased the

If you have used two or more works by the same author, you need to provide a shorthand version of
the title of the source to distinguish it from other titles by the same author (Author, Short 34). Note the
use of the comma after the author’s name but not between the title and the page number. If the author’s
name is mentioned, his or her name is not included in the citation: As Author has shown, “citing sources
can be frustrating” (Short 34).

If your source is written by four or more people, you need only name the first author followed by the
Latin words et al. (meaning “and others”) and, of course, the page number (First et al. 145). Note the
period after “al.” Again, note that no commas are used. Et al. is also used in place of all but the first
author’s name if you mention the author’s name in the text of the essay: Smith et al. have conducted
research that suggests that “students enjoy writing academic essays” (145).

If your source is written by a corporate author, treat the corporate author as you would a single author:
According to government sources, ten-year-olds watch an average of four hours of television per day
(Royal Commission on Elementary Education 234).

If the author of your source is anonymous, name the title or a shortened version in the parenthetical
citation. Italicize a book title; put quotation marks around an article title. If you use a shortened version,
include the first word in the title since it will be alphabetized by title in the works cited list. If, for
example, the title of your source is “Rating the Quality of the Undergraduate Programs of British
Universities,” your citation could be as short as the word “Rating” (“Rating” 86).

If you quote from a novel, follow the procedure for a single author. You may also include the chapter
number to help your readers find the passage in a different edition of the novel from the one you used.
If you include the chapter number, put a semicolon between the page number and the chapter number
(Austen 79; ch. 6). Usually you do not have to include the author’s name because the context of your
discussion will make clear who the author is.

If you quote from a poem, give the line numbers you are quoting instead of the page number on
which the quote appears (Wordsworth 34–40). Provide a shortened version of the title if you quote from
more than one poem by the same author and if the context has not made clear the author and the title
(Wordsworth, “Tintern” 34–40). Note the punctuation.

If you quote from a Shakespearean play or from another play in verse, list the act, scene, and line

18 The Writing Process

numbers, separated by periods, so that a quote taken from Act IV, Scene 2, lines nine to eleven would be

If you quote from the Bible, list the chapter and the verse or verses, separated by a period. Include
an abbreviated title of the book, if the context does not make it obvious. For example, a quote from
“Leviticus,” Chapter 12, verses two to four would be (Lev. 12.2–4).

If you quote from a work from an anthology, remember it is the author’s name and not the name of
the anthology editor that appears in parentheses.

If you quote from an indirect source—a source quoted in one of your sources—include the
abbreviation for “quoted in” in your parenthetical citation: Smith notes that “indirect sources must be
cited appropriately” (qtd. in Robins 257). Note carefully the way the citation is punctuated.

If you got the same information from more than one source or if you want to underscore the authority
of a point by citing more than one source, do so by separating the sources from each other with
semicolons: Experts agree that the semicolon can be used between sources (Wilson 34; Martens 68;
Pelies 124).

If your source has no page numbers (as many electronic sources do not), you may omit the page
numbers or include the paragraph number if the paragraphs are numbered (as they sometimes are in
electronic sources): If necessary, “you should cite the paragraph number in place of the page number”
(Smith, par. 12). Note the way this citation is punctuated.

Rules for List of Works Cited

The works cited list contains the complete bibliographical information for each source used in an
academic writing assignment. Each item in a works cited list must contain enough information so that
readers could access the source themselves, online or at the library, if they chose to do so.

You should follow a model, in order to use MLA format correctly. Determine the type of source you
are using in your list of works cited; then find an example of the same type of source, properly cited;
then mimic the format of the properly cited source as you prepare your own. A variety of such models
are presented below. If the model you need is not represented in the list below, consult the most recent
edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.

The Modern Language Association recognizes the complexity of citing sources at a time when we get
our information from such a wide array of print, digital, and online media. They allow for some leeway
in the information included.

Sample Citations

For a book in print, the core elements are author, italicized title, publisher, and date of publication. The place
of publication is no longer a core element. Here is an example:

Smitherman, Geneva. Word from the Mother: Language and African Americans. Routledge, 2006.

A book, of course, might have more than one author; it might be in an edition subsequent to the first; it
might have an editor or a translator. Note the form of the MLA Works Cited for the books listed below. Note,

Cite Your Sources 19

If a book has two authors, the second author’s name follows, first name first.

Adler-Kassner, Linda and Elizabeth Wardle. Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies. Utah
State UP, 2015.

If a book is in an edition other than the first, the edition number follows the title. Note the punctuation.

Ferris, Dana. Treatment of Error in Second Language Student Writing, 2nd. Ed. U of Michigan Press, 2011.

If there are two books by the same author a line replaces the author’s name for the second (and subsequent,
if there are any) source. This rule applies to all types of sources.

Gee, James P. The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students Through Digital Learning. Palgrave Macmillan,

—. What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

Smitherman, Geneva. Word from the Mother: Language and African Americans. Routledge, 2006.

If the book does not have a named author, the title takes the place of the author and is alphabetized in the
Works Cited list, accordingly.

Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing. American Educational Research Association, 2014.

If the book is a translation, the name of the translator follows the title.

Voloshinov, V.N. Marxism and the Philosophy of Language. Translated by Ladislav Matejka and I.R. Titunik, Harvard
UP, 1986.

If a book has three or more authors, the Latin phrase et al. (meaning “and others”) follows the first author’s

White, Edward, et al. Very Like a Whale: The Assessment of Writing Programs. Utah State UP, 2015.

For an article or a story or a poem from a book, typically an anthology of readings or literary works, start
with the name of the author and the title of the shorter work, followed by the title of the book and the names of
its editor(s), in the manner illustrated below.

Larkin, Philip. “Talking in Bed.” Poems. Poets. Poetry: An Introduction and Anthology. 3rd. ed., edited by Helen
Vendler, Bedford St. Martin’s, 2010, p. 114.

For an article from a periodical (journal, magazine, newspaper) in print, the core elements are author(s), title
of article, title of periodical, number(s), date, page numbers. If the article is suspended, meaning it is to be
continued towards the end of the newspaper or magazine, a plus sign follows the page numbers. Study these

Burrough, Bryan. “Field of Nightmares.” Vanity Fair, Nov. 2016, pp. 164–169+.

Gabriel, Trip. “50 Years Into the War on Poverty, Hardship Hits Back.” New York Times, 20 April 2014, p. A1.

Greer, Jane. “Expanding Working-Class Rhetorical Traditions: The Moonlight Schools and Alternative
Solidarities among Appalachian Women, 1911-1920.” College English, vol. 17, no. 1, 2015, pp. 216-35.

For sources accessed online, state the author; the title; the name of the journal, newspaper, or magazine;
the volume and issue number, if available; the information service (ProQuest, Academic Search Premier…),
and the URL or, better, the DOI. If you use a DOI, the date of access is not necessary; it is recommended if
you use the source’s URL. The MLA allows some latitude in citing internet sources, in recognition of the vast

20 The Writing Process

array of choices and the inconsistency in information available about authors, dates, titles. Study the following
examples of online sources, cited in MLA format.

Council of Writing Program Administrators (CWPA), The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), and
The National Writing Project (NWP), “Framework for Success in Post-Secondary Writing,” January 2001,

Lovett, Richard A. and Scott Hoffman. “Ark of the Covenant: Many Legends, No Evidence.” National
Geographic. (n.d.), Accessed 3 Jan.

“Oral Presentation – Classroom Workshop.” YouTube, uploaded by tamuwritingcenter, 1 Feb. 2013,

Robertson, Liane, et al. “Notes Toward a Theory of Prior Knowledge and Its Role in Composers’ Transfer
of Knowledge and Practice.” Composition Forum, no. 26, Fall 2012,

Takayoshi, Pamela. “The Shape of Electronic Writing: Evaluating and Assessing Computer-assisted Writing
Processes and Products.” Computers and Composition, vol. 13, no. 2, December 1996, pp. 245-57. JSTOR, doi:

Additional Notes

1. The title “Works Cited” is centred and appears in roman type. Do not use italics, boldface, or
large lettering. One line is left between the title and the first entry.

2. The works cited list is arranged alphabetically by the author’s last name. If the author of the
source is anonymous, the source is placed in the list alphabetically by its title. The sources
are not numbered.

3. The list uses hanging indentation. The first line of each source is not indented but all
subsequent lines are.

4. Book, journal, newspaper, and magazine titles are italicized, but article titles are placed in
quotation marks.

5. Page numbers are included for articles in journals, newspapers, and magazines and for
articles or essays included in an edited anthology or collection of essays.

6. Academic journals are identified by the year in which they were published, a volume number,
and, if there is one, an issue number.

7. Citations for online sources include the date the source appeared online and may include the
date the user of the source accessed the source.

8. Citations for online sources include the source’s Uniform Resource Locator (URL) or,
preferred if available, the Digital Object Identifier (DOI).

9. Like the rest of the essay, the works cited list is double-spaced.

10. If one author has written two (or more) different sources cited in an academic text, a straight
line replaces the author’s name in the subsequent citations.

11. You might wish to use an online citation generator, such as Citation Machine, EasyBib, or
Cite This For Me to help you cite your sources correctly. You should still double-check the

Cite Your Sources 21

accuracy of your citation against a textbook model. And you need to make certain the citation
generator uses the most recent version of the citation system.

The APA Method

The American Psychological Association method for citing sources is also widely used, especially in
college courses. If you take a psychology or an education course, you will be required to use the APA
method to cite sources in your writing assignments. Other disciplines which may use APA include
business, sociology, international relations, political science, and criminology.

Here, courtesy of University of Alberta Libraries, is a link which explains the rules and regulations
for citing books, articles, web resources, and multimedia resources using the APA method: APA Citation
Style Guide.

22 The Writing Process


Common Writing Assignments

Once you have acquired a sound understanding of the (recursive) process you must go through to
complete a school writing assignment successfully, you need to match this knowledge with the
conventions of the writing assignments your teachers will require you to complete, as there are a wide

Your biology teacher might ask you to explain in writing the process of photosynthesis. Your history
teacher might ask you to write an essay about the causes and effects of the Vietnam War. Your English
teacher might ask you to compare and contrast the themes and style of two poems or short stories. Your
economics teacher might ask for an extended definition of deflation. Your business teacher might ask
for a paper summarizing examples of successful fast-food marketing campaigns. Most of your teachers,
and certainly college instructors, will ask for a written argument in which you support your views on an
issue relevant to course content.

In this chapter, you will learn about the nature of the content and the organizational structure of
writing assignments common in high school and college courses. They are the common types or genres
of written discourse. They are also referred to as the rhetorical modes of written expression. They are:

• The narrative essay

• The examples essay

• The extended definition essay

• The process (“how to”) essay

• The cause/effect essay

• The compare/contrast essay

• The argument essay

Note that there is often overlap among these rhetorical modes. An extended definition essay and a cause/
effect could certainly include examples; a compare/contrast essay might embed an argument; a narrative
anecdote might enrich an assignment in any rhetorical mode; a process essay might need key terms
defined. Usually one rhetorical mode will dominate a writing assignment, but other modes are often
present as well.


Published 1936


The Narrative Essay

A narrative essay recounts a personal experience. Not just any personal experience, but usually one that
taught the author an important life lesson. It is a common high school writing assignment.

The template for a narrative essay is usually simple and straightforward because the essay is typically
presented in a series of linear paragraphs, arranged in chronological order. The thesis is often implied,
rather than stated explicitly, in the introduction, but its reaffirmation in the conclusion may be more
explicit, especially if the writer wants to stress the nature of the life lesson he or she learned from the
experience the essay recounts.

A good narrative essay shares most of the qualities of a good essay in other rhetorical modes. It should
be clear, detailed, interesting, and informative. The difference between narrative and other essay forms
lies in its tone. The tone or voice of a writing assignment refers to the level of formality or informality
evident in the writing style. An email or text message to your friend, with its use of slang, relative
indifference to grammar, emojis, and inside jokes, is written in a very informal style. An article in an
academic journal, with its sophisticated diction and perfect grammar, is written in a formal style. Most
of your writing assignments will have a relatively formal tone, not to the level of an academic journal
article, but far more sophisticated than your text messages.

A narrative essay, however, since it recounts a personal experience, told from the first-person (“I was
in Bangladesh to visit…”) point-of-view, will tend to have a more casual, informal tone. Diction your
teacher might frown upon in an argument essay (“It was the last sailing of the night and it was one wild
ride”) is usually deemed acceptable in a narrative essay, which might also contain dialogue, rarely used
in other rhetorical modes. A less formal sentence structure may also be more acceptable in a narrative
than in a more academic essay (“And the curried prawns simmered in coconut milk. So good.”) It is not
essential to share with readers an experience they can relate to, but it does help add human interest to a

Here is a famous example of a narrative essay, “Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell
(1903–1950), the English novelist and essayist, best known for his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. When
he was a young man, Orwell worked for the Indian Imperial Police in Burma. “Shooting an Elephant” is
based upon an incident he experienced there.

Example: Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell


In Moulmein, in lower Burma,

I was hated by large numbers of people—the only time in my life that
I have been important enough for this to happen to me. I was sub-divisional police officer of the town,
and in an aimless, petty kind of way anti-European feeling was very bitter. No one had the guts to raise a
riot, but if a European woman went through the bazaars alone somebody would probably spit betel juice
over her dress. As a police officer I was an obvious target and was baited whenever it seemed safe to do
so. When a nimble Burman tripped me up on the football field and the referee (another Burman) looked
the other way, the crowd yelled with hideous laughter. This happened more than once. In the end the
sneering yellow faces of young men that met me everywhere, the insults hooted after me when I was at
a safe distance, got badly on my nerves. The young Buddhist priests were the worst of all. There were
several thousands of them in the town and none of them seemed to have anything to do except stand on
street corners and jeer at Europeans.

All this was perplexing and upsetting. For at that time I had already made up my mind that imperialism
was an evil thing and the sooner I chucked up my job and got out of it the better. Theoretically—and
secretly, of course—I was all for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British. As for the job
I was doing, I hated it more bitterly than I can perhaps make clear. In a job like that you see the dirty
work of Empire at close quarters. The wretched prisoners huddling in the stinking cages of the lock-ups,
the grey, cowed faces of the long-term convicts, the scarred buttocks of the men who had been Bogged
with bamboos—all these oppressed me with an intolerable sense of guilt. But I could get nothing into
perspective. I was young and ill-educated and I had had to think out my problems in the utter silence
that is imposed on every Englishman in the East. I did not even know that the British Empire is dying,
still less did I know that it is a great deal better than the younger empires that are going to supplant it.
All I knew was that I was stuck between my hatred of the empire I served and my rage against the evil-
spirited little beasts who tried to make my job impossible. With one part of my mind I thought of the
British Raj

as an unbreakable tyranny, as something clamped down, in saecula saeculorum,

upon the

will of prostrate peoples; with another part I thought that the greatest joy in the world would be to drive
a bayonet into a Buddhist priest’s guts. Feelings like these are the normal by-products of imperialism;
ask any Anglo-Indian official, if you can catch him off duty.

One day something happened which in a roundabout way was enlightening. It was a tiny incident in
itself, but it gave me a better glimpse than I had had before of the real nature of imperialism—the real
motives for which despotic governments act. Early one morning the sub-inspector at a police station the
other end of the town rang me up on the phone and said that an elephant was ravaging the bazaar. Would
I please come and do something about it? I did not know what I could do, but I wanted to see what was
happening and I got on to a pony and started out. I took my rifle, an old .44 Winchester and much too
small to kill an elephant, but I thought the noise might be useful in terrorem.

Various Burmans stopped

me on the way and told me about the elephant’s doings. It was not, of course, a wild elephant, but a tame
one which had gone “must.” It had been chained up, as tame elephants always are when their attack of
“must” is due, but on the previous night it had broken its chain and escaped. Its mahout, the only person
who could manage it when it was in that state, had set out in pursuit, but had taken the wrong direction
and was now twelve hours’ journey away, and in the morning the elephant had suddenly reappeared in
the town. The Burmese population had no weapons and were quite helpless against it. It had already
destroyed somebody’s bamboo hut, killed a cow and raided some fruit-stalls and devoured the stock;
also it had met the municipal rubbish van and, when the driver jumped out and took to his heels, had
turned the van over and inflicted violences upon it.

1. Now known as Myanmar, it is a country in southeast Asia bordering Thailand, Laos, China and Bangladesh.

2. British rule in India.

3. A Latin phrase which expresses the idea of eternity.

4. Latin, a legal threat; here, to inspire fear in someone.

The Narrative Essay 25

The Burmese sub-inspector and some Indian constables were waiting for me in the quarter where
the elephant had been seen. It was a very poor quarter, a labyrinth of squalid bamboo huts, thatched
with palm-leaf, winding all over a steep hillside. I remember that it was a cloudy, stuffy morning at
the beginning of the rains. We began questioning the people as to where the elephant had gone and, as
usual, failed to get any definite information. That is invariably the case in the East; a story always sounds
clear enough at a distance, but the nearer you get to the scene of events the vaguer it becomes. Some
of the people said that the elephant had gone in one direction, some said that he had gone in another,
some professed not even to have heard of any elephant. I had almost made up my mind that the whole
story was a pack of lies, when we heard yells a little distance away. There was a loud, scandalized cry
of “Go away, child! Go away this instant!” and an old woman with a switch in her hand came round
the corner of a hut, violently shooing away a crowd of naked children. Some more women followed,
clicking their tongues and exclaiming; evidently there was something that the children ought not to have
seen. I rounded the hut and saw a man’s dead body sprawling in the mud. He was an Indian, a black
Dravidian coolie,

almost naked, and he could not have been dead many minutes. The people said that

the elephant had come suddenly upon him round the corner of the hut, caught him with its trunk, put its
foot on his back and ground him into the earth. This was the rainy season and the ground was soft, and
his face had scored a trench a foot deep and a couple of yards long. He was lying on his belly with arms
crucified and head sharply twisted to one side. His face was coated with mud, the eyes wide open, the
teeth bared and grinning with an expression of unendurable agony. (Never tell me, by the way, that the
dead look peaceful. Most of the corpses I have seen looked devilish.) The friction of the great beast’s
foot had stripped the skin from his back as neatly as one skins a rabbit. As soon as I saw the dead man I
sent an orderly to a friend’s house nearby to borrow an elephant rifle. I had already sent back the pony,
not wanting it to go mad with fright and throw me if it smelt the elephant.

The orderly came back in a few minutes with a rifle and five cartridges, and meanwhile some Burmans
had arrived and told us that the elephant was in the paddy fields below, only a few hundred yards
away. As I started forward practically the whole population of the quarter flocked out of the houses
and followed me. They had seen the rifle and were all shouting excitedly that I was going to shoot the
elephant. They had not shown much interest in the elephant when he was merely ravaging their homes,
but it was different now that he was going to be shot. It was a bit of fun to them, as it would be to an
English crowd; besides they wanted the meat. It made me vaguely uneasy. I had no intention of shooting
the elephant—I had merely sent for the rifle to defend myself if necessary—and it is always unnerving
to have a crowd following you. I marched down the hill, looking and feeling a fool, with the rifle over
my shoulder and an ever-growing army of people jostling at my heels. At the bottom, when you got
away from the huts, there was a metalled road and beyond that a miry waste of paddy fields a thousand
yards across, not yet ploughed but soggy from the first rains and dotted with coarse grass. The elephant
was standing eight yards from the road, his left side towards us. He took not the slightest notice of the
crowd’s approach. He was tearing up bunches of grass, beating them against his knees to clean them and
stuffing them into his mouth.

I had halted on the road. As soon as I saw the elephant I knew with perfect certainty that I ought not
to shoot him. It is a serious matter to shoot a working elephant—it is comparable to destroying a huge
and costly piece of machinery—and obviously one ought not to do it if it can possibly be avoided. And
at that distance, peacefully eating, the elephant looked no more dangerous than a cow. I thought then and
I think now that his attack of “must” was already passing off; in which case he would merely wander
harmlessly about until the mahout came back and caught him. Moreover, I did not in the least want to

5. Dravidians are ancient race of southern India. Originally, “coolie” was a term meaning unskilled labourer; it is now considered a racially

offensive term.

26 Common Writing Assignments

shoot him. I decided that I would watch him for a little while to make sure that he did not turn savage
again, and then go home.

But at that moment I glanced round at the crowd that had followed me. It was an immense crowd, two
thousand at the least and growing every minute. It blocked the road for a long distance on either side.
I looked at the sea of yellow faces above the garish clothes-faces all happy and excited over this bit of
fun, all certain that the elephant was going to be shot. They were watching me as they would watch a
conjurer about to perform a trick. They did not like me, but with the magical rifle in my hands I was
momentarily worth watching. And suddenly I realized that I should have to shoot the elephant after all.
The people expected it of me and I had got to do it; I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me
forward, irresistibly. And it was at this moment, as I stood there with the rifle in my hands, that I first
grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man’s dominion in the East. Here was I, the white man
with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd—seemingly the leading actor of the piece;
but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind. I
perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys. He
becomes a sort of hollow, posing dummy, the conventionalized figure of a sahib.

For it is the condition

of his rule that he shall spend his life in trying to impress the “natives,” and so in every crisis he has got
to do what the “natives” expect of him. He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it. I had got to shoot
the elephant. I had committed myself to doing it when I sent for the rifle. A sahib has got to act like a
sahib; he has got to appear resolute, to know his own mind and do definite things. To come all that way,
rifle in hand, with two thousand people marching at my heels, and then to trail feebly away, having done
nothing—no, that was impossible. The crowd would laugh at me. And my whole life, every white man’s
life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at.

But I did not want to shoot the elephant. I watched him beating his bunch of grass against his knees,
with that preoccupied grandmotherly air that elephants have. It seemed to me that it would be murder
to shoot him. At that age I was not squeamish about killing animals, but I had never shot an elephant
and never wanted to. (Somehow it always seems worse to kill a large animal.) Besides, there was the
beast’s owner to be considered. Alive, the elephant was worth at least a hundred pounds; dead, he would
only be worth the value of his tusks, five pounds, possibly. But I had got to act quickly. I turned to some
experienced-looking Burmans who had been there when we arrived, and asked them how the elephant
had been behaving. They all said the same thing: he took no notice of you if you left him alone, but he
might charge if you went too close to him.

It was perfectly clear to me what I ought to do. I ought to walk up to within, say, twenty-five yards of
the elephant and test his behavior. If he charged, I could shoot; if he took no notice of me, it would be
safe to leave him until the mahout came back. But also I knew that I was going to do no such thing. I
was a poor shot with a rifle and the ground was soft mud into which one would sink at every step. If the
elephant charged and I missed him, I should have about as much chance as a toad under a steam-roller.
But even then I was not thinking particularly of my own skin, only of the watchful yellow faces behind.
For at that moment, with the crowd watching me, I was not afraid in the ordinary sense, as I would have
been if I had been alone. A white man mustn’t be frightened in front of “natives”; and so, in general,
he isn’t frightened. The sole thought in my mind was that if anything went wrong those two thousand
Burmans would see me pursued, caught, trampled on and reduced to a grinning corpse like that Indian
up the hill. And if that happened it was quite probable that some of them would laugh. That would never

There was only one alternative. I shoved the cartridges into the magazine and lay down on the road to
get a better aim. The crowd grew very still, and a deep, low, happy sigh, as of people who see the theatre

6. A term used by native inhabitants of India under the Raj to address a European of official status.

The Narrative Essay 27

curtain go up at last, breathed from innumerable throats. They were going to have their bit of fun after
all. The rifle was a beautiful German thing with cross-hair sights. I did not then know that in shooting an
elephant one would shoot to cut an imaginary bar running from ear-hole to ear-hole. I ought, therefore,
as the elephant was sideways on, to have aimed straight at his ear-hole, actually I aimed several inches
in front of this, thinking the brain would be further forward.

When I pulled the trigger I did not hear the bang or feel the kick—one never does when a shot goes
home—but I heard the devilish roar of glee that went up from the crowd. In that instant, in too short a
time, one would have thought, even for the bullet to get there, a mysterious, terrible change had come
over the elephant. He neither stirred nor fell, but every line of his body had altered. He looked suddenly
stricken, shrunken, immensely old, as though the frightful impact of the bullet had paralysed him without
knocking him down. At last, after what seemed a long time—it might have been five seconds, I dare
say—he sagged flabbily to his knees. His mouth slobbered. An enormous senility seemed to have settled
upon him. One could have imagined him thousands of years old. I fired again into the same spot. At
the second shot he did not collapse but climbed with desperate slowness to his feet and stood weakly
upright, with legs sagging and head drooping. I fired a third time. That was the shot that did for him. You
could see the agony of it jolt his whole body and knock the last remnant of strength from his legs. But
in falling he seemed for a moment to rise, for as his hind legs collapsed beneath him he seemed to tower
upward like a huge rock toppling, his trunk reaching skyward like a tree. He trumpeted, for the first and
only time. And then down he came, his belly towards me, with a crash that seemed to shake the ground
even where I lay.

I got up. The Burmans were already racing past me across the mud. It was obvious that the elephant
would never rise again, but he was not dead. He was breathing very rhythmically with long rattling
gasps, his great mound of a side painfully rising and falling. His mouth was wide open—I could see
far down into caverns of pale pink throat. I waited a long time for him to die, but his breathing did not
weaken. Finally I fired my two remaining shots into the spot where I thought his heart must be. The thick
blood welled out of him like red velvet, but still he did not die. His body did not even jerk when the shots
hit him, the tortured breathing continued without a pause. He was dying, very slowly and in great agony,
but in some world remote from me where not even a bullet could damage him further. I felt that I had
got to put an end to that dreadful noise. It seemed dreadful to see the great beast lying there, powerless
to move and yet powerless to die, and not even to be able to finish him. I sent back for my small rifle
and poured shot after shot into his heart and down his throat. They seemed to make no impression. The
tortured gasps continued as steadily as the ticking of a clock.

In the end I could not stand it any longer and went away. I heard later that it took him half an hour
to die. Burmans were bringing dahs and baskets even before I left, and I was told they had stripped his
body almost to the bones by the afternoon.

Afterwards, of course, there were endless discussions about the shooting of the elephant. The owner
was furious, but he was only an Indian and could do nothing. Besides, legally I had done the right thing,
for a mad elephant has to be killed, like a mad dog, if its owner fails to control it. Among the Europeans
opinion was divided. The older men said I was right, the younger men said it was a damn shame to shoot
an elephant for killing a coolie, because an elephant was worth more than any damn Coringhee


And afterwards I was very glad that the coolie had been killed; it put me legally in the right and it gave
me a sufficient pretext for shooting the elephant. I often wondered whether any of the others grasped
that I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool.

7. Dravidian labourer from the town of Coringa, India.

28 Common Writing Assignments


Shooting an Elephant

Study Questions

Respond to these questions in writing, in small group discussion, or both.

1. Do you think “Shooting an Elephant” is a well-written and entertaining narrative? Explain your

2. The narrator’s decision to kill the elephant is influenced by the crowd of onlookers. Describe a
time when you let other people’s expectations influence your actions.

3. How would you describe the tone or voice of “Shooting an Elephant”? How does the author
establish this tone?

4. This narrative is notable for its long paragraphs, filled with vivid details. Select one such
paragraph and analyze it in the context of the guidelines for effective paragraph development
discussed in the previous chapter.

5. “Shooting an Elephant” is not a racist narrative, yet some racist views are evident on occasion in
the story. Provide two examples of racist elements and comment on the effect they have on the
story Orwell tells.

Writing Assignments

1. Keeping in mind the guidelines presented above for writing an effective narrative, write a
narrative essay of approximately 750 words on a topic of your choice or one your teacher

2. Write a brief essay in which you examine the reasons why—the causes—the narrator shot the
elephant. See the section later in this chapter on the cause/effect essay.

Text Attributions

• “Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell is free of known copyright restrictions in Canada.

The Narrative Essay 29


The Examples Essay

An examples essay supports, develops, and defends its thesis in a series of paragraphs, each of which
typically illustrates one way in which the thesis statement can be supported.

If you were writing an essay on “Common Minor Penalties in Hockey,” you might have one
body paragraph on tripping, one on interference, and one on roughing. If you were doing a longer
assignment, such as a survey of all penalties in hockey, you could subdivide your essay into examples of
minor, major, and match penalties, each section of which would require more than one paragraph. The
conclusion needs to provide readers with that important sense of closure, asserting that the examples
have affirmed the thesis and possibly reminding readers of the benefits your information has provided:
Hockey is more entertaining to watch when we understand why players are sometimes sent to the penalty

To better understand what an examples essay is, read carefully this essay, which describes examples
of the red wine grapes of British Columbia.

Example: Red Wine Grapes of British Columbia

Oenophiles and even less devoted wine drinkers are more likely to associate red wine production with
France, Italy, and California than Canada. Yet British Columbia is home now to some excellent estate
wineries, especially in the Okanagan region, the climate of which is conducive to the growth of the finest
red wine grapes. British Columbia vintners grow and harvest Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot
Noir grapes to produce red wines, which are growing in quality and reputation.

The Merlot grape is dark blue. It is cultivated by vintners in virtually every wine-producing regions
of the world. It is the red wine grape that BC vintners plant and harvest most frequently (Pawsey 2). It
produces excellent varietal wines, which are those made mainly from the juice of a single type of grape
(“Varietal”). The Merlot grapes grown in British Columbia are high in tannins, a substance found in the
skin of the grape, which gives BC Merlots a pleasantly dry and bitter taste, redolent of unsweetened
black tea (“Tannins”). The tannins combined with the red fruit flavours from the juice of the grape
mellow out the taste of a Merlot wine, producing a medium-bodied, earthy sensation on the tongue. BC
Merlots pair well with most foods, though vegetarians and pescatarians will usually prefer a lighter-
bodied red.

The Cabernet Sauvignon grape is hardy enough to thrive in all wine-producing climates, including
in the Okanagan, with its sometimes severe temperature fluctuations. It produces wine darker in
colour than the Merlot but with less tannins (“Cabernet”). BC “cab savs” are usually full-bodied with
moderate acidity. Skilled wine drinkers can taste cherry and mint working in harmony in a fine Cabernet
Sauvignon wine (“Cabernet”). This is the carnivore’s grape, pairing well with meat lovers’ pizza, rare
steak, baked ham, lamb chops, and thick pulled-pork sandwiches.

If the Cabernet Sauvignon is the muscle grape, the Pinot Noir is the delicate and sensitive member
of the family. It is more susceptible than others to disease, and even when it is harvested successfully


and made into wine, the wine it produces is fickle, sometimes outstanding, sometimes disappointing
(Pawsey 3). British Columbia’s climate should not be conducive to growing the pinot noir grape, but
has become so, as one of the few fortunate consequences of global warming (Pawsey 2). BC Pinots are
low in tannins, light-bodied, and paler in colour than their Merlot and cab sav cousins. They typically
taste of red fruits, with hints of vanilla and leather (“Pinot Noir”). They pair perfectly with the salmon
caught in the Pacific Ocean and in the rivers of British Columbia, with other fish dishes, lighter cheeses,
and even vegan food.

When it comes to choosing a BC wine cultivated from a red grape, discriminating omnivores are the
lucky ones. They may choose a Merlot, a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Pinot Noir, or any blending of the three
to fulfill their quest for the perfect complement for their meal.

Works Cited

“Cabernet Sauvignon.” My Wine Canada. (n.d.),
sauvignon-wine. Accessed 31 Jan. 2018.

“Merlot.” My Wine Canada. (n.d.), Accessed 31
Jan. 2018.

Pawsey, Tim. “Pinot Noir Is the Bad Boy of the BC Wine Scene.” Quench Magazine, 27 Dec. 2017, Accessed 2 Feb. 2019.

“Pinot Noir.” My Wine Canada. (n.d.),
Accessed 31 Jan. 2018.

“Varietal.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 1 Nov. 2018,
Accessed 2 Feb. 2019.


Red Wine Grapes of British Columbia

Study Questions

Respond to these questions in writing, in small group discussion, or both.

1. What is the thesis of this essay?

2. What is an oenophile?

3. Do you think “The Red Wine Grapes of British Columbia” is informative? What did you learn
from the essay?

4. Is the concluding paragraph effective? Why or why not?

5. Is the works cited list appropriate for this essay? Why or why not?

The Examples Essay 31

Writing Assignment

Write an examples essay of approximately 750 words on one of the following topics: popular video games,
designer handbags, basketball shoes, science fiction movies, high-performance sports cars. You may also select
your own topic or one recommended by your teacher.

32 Common Writing Assignments


The Extended Definition Essay

The extended definition essay presents a detailed account of a single term or concept that is central to
the content of the course for which the essay is written. What is cryptocurrency? What is a black hole?
What is an algorithm? What is symbolism? What is deoxyribonucleic acid? What is National Socialism?
Every subject has its own special vocabulary, and teachers will often assign an essay requiring students
to present a detailed definition of a key term.

Read carefully this extended definition of feminism.

Example: On Feminism

The word “feminism” describes a popular movement for social justice, based on the premise that women
have been and continue to be systemically oppressed by men who do not want to share the greater
social, political, and economic power they have historically possessed. But the definition of feminism
extends beyond raising the status of one gender; feminism recognizes that equal standards for all people
regardless of gender will benefit society as a whole (Montgomery). In this respect, feminism can be
interpreted as synonymous with egalitarianism.

Feminist scholars divide the movement into three phases or “Waves.” First-wave feminism emerged
in the early twentieth century in the form of a fight for the rights to vote, to own property, and to qualify
for work in fields historically reserved for men. Second-wave feminism emerged in the 1960s as baby
boomers entered university and demanded admission to programs that traditionally favoured men, such
as engineering, medicine, and forestry, as well as “equal pay for work of equal value” (Montgomery).
Third-wave or post-feminism is the movement’s twenty-first century incarnation, devoted essentially to
ending all forms of gender discrimination. Some even argue that a fourth wave has recently emerged,
one that is concerned with the portrayal of women in social media.

While there is no clear consensus as to when first-wave feminism began, most accept that it emerged
as industrialization progressed in the nineteenth century. Martha Lear coined the term in 1968, though
the first wave focused on what we now consider basic issues of inequality (“What Was”). One of the
earliest feminists was Mary Wollstonecraft, who mostly wrote in the late eighteenth century advocating
that societies, and individuals specifically, should have rights that the state provides. Most other
philosophers and writers of the time ignored women and Wollstonecraft was among the first to call for
gender equality. After the American Civil War, Elizabeth Stanton and Susan Anthony rallied support for
what they saw as one of the first great obstacles to greater freedom: the right to vote. Others, such as
Barbara Leigh Smith, saw employment and education for women as critical areas to focus on.

Throughout the nineteenth century, Biblical interpretation of women’s role in the house and family
prevented their ability to advance feminist ideals. To counteract the power of the church’s sex-based
hierarchy, Stanton produced an influential work called The Woman’s Bible, in which she argued for
equality using biblical references. This helped to provide religious justification, at least for some, for
emerging feminism in the period. Furthermore, the National Woman Suffrage Association became a


prominent organization, and in 1869, John Allen Campbell, the governor of Wyoming, became the first
governor to grant women the right to vote (“What Was”). And when women replaced men in factories
during the First World War, many realized that women did have equal skills to men. In Canada, women
won the right to vote in most provinces during the war. In 1921, Agnes Macphail became the first woman
in Canada elected to Parliament.

In the US, women had to wait a bit longer. Feminist organizations lobbied indefatigably and
eventually convinced Congress that women should have the right to vote. Finally, in 1920, women
won the right to vote across the United States. While the process itself was contentious, featuring
hunger strikes and even mob violence, the gradual acceptance of women as voters can be considered the
culminating success of first-wave feminism.

“The Progressive Era” took place in the 1930s; women’s social and political activism grew, and First
Lady Eleanor Roosevelt advocated for the appointment of women to positions within the administration.
Her cause was further advanced during the Second World War when, again, women had to take over the
work enlisted men were forced to abandon. After the war, however, North America saw a new emphasis
on domesticity. When the soldiers returned, women were almost uniformly fired and forced back into
their duties of domestic chores and child-raising (Bisignani). Second-wave feminism was a reaction to
this post-war obsession with the ideal of the contented housewife and suburban domesticity, a lifestyle
that often isolated women and severely limited their choices and opportunities.

Feminism’s second wave truly began in the early 1960s and focused not just on legal barriers to civil
equality but also examined social inequalities. Second-wave feminists sought to change discriminatory
policies on sexuality and sexual identity; marriage and child-rearing; workplace environment;
reproductive rights; and violence against women. They formed local, regional, and federal government
groups on behalf of women, resulting in human rights and women’s equality becoming a growing part
of the North American political agenda. Finally, they created new, more positive images of women in
both pop culture and the media to fight the negative stereotypes commonly in circulation, primarily that
of the “happy housewife.”

The second wave of feminism included many landmark moments. In the 1960s, many government
health agencies approved the oral contraceptive pill, and in 1963, the Equal Pay Act was passed in the
US. In 1968, Coretta Scott King assumed leadership of the African-American civil rights movement
and expanded the platform to include women’s rights. This led to Shirley Chisholm becoming the first
African-American woman elected to Congress. In 1972, the passage of Title IX ensured equal funding
for women’s opportunities in education, and the first women’s studies program in the US opened at San
Diego State University. Perhaps the greatest achievement of the second wave came in 1973, when the
Roe v. Wade case resulted in women’s access to safe and legal abortion (Bisignani).

Third-wave feminism began in the 1990s and still exists today (Demarco). There are many different
outlets and angles of feminism now, but the most important values of the third wave include gender
equality, identity, language, sex positivity, breaking the glass ceiling, body positivity, ending violence
against women, fixing the media’s image of women, and environmentalism.

Third-wave feminists assert that there is no universal identity for women; women come from every
religion, nationality, culture, and sexual preference. Different forms of media such as fashion magazines,
newspapers, and television favour white, young, slender women, a fact which negatively impacts all
women and results in body anxiety. To combat this anxiety, modern feminists have fought for body
positivity, quashing the opinions of those who believe that overweight people are lazy and unhealthy.
Feminists want society’s view of women to expand, to recognize, for example, that it is possible to be
beautiful enough to be a model, but also smart enough to be an astronaut or a CEO. But considering
that, in 2017, only 18 out of 500 Fortune CEOs and 22 out of 197 global heads of state were women, it
is clear that third-wave feminism has not yet removed the glass ceiling (Demarco).

34 Common Writing Assignments

The emerging fourth wavers speak in terms of “intersectionality,” whereby women’s oppression can
only fully be understood in the context of marginalization of other groups, who are victims of racism,
ageism, classism, and homophobia (Demarco). Among the third wave’s bequests is the importance of
inclusion; in the fourth wave, the internet takes inclusion further by levelling hierarchies. The appeal of
the fourth wave is that there is a place in it for everyone. The academic and theoretical apparatus are
now well-honed and ready to support new broad-based activism in the home, in the workplace, on the
streets, and online.

No one is sure how feminism will progress from here. The movement has always included many
political, social and intellectual ideologies, each with its own tensions, points and counterpoints. But the
fact that each wave has been chaotic, multi-valanced, and disconcerted is cause for optimism; it is a sign
that the movement continues to thrive.

Works Cited

Bisignani, Dana. “Feminism’s Second Wave.” The Gender Press, 27 Jan. 2015, Accessed 25 March

Demarco, April. “What Is Third Wave Feminist Movement?” Viva Media, 17 March 2018, Accessed 26 March 2019.

Montgomery, Landon. “The True Definition Of Feminism.” The Odyssey, 8 March 2016, Accessed 27 March 2019.

“What Was the First Wave Feminist Movement?” Daily History, 19 Jan. 2019,
What_was_the_First_Wave_Feminist_Movement%3F. Accessed 28 March 2019.


On Feminism

Study Questions

Respond to these questions in writing, in small group discussion, or both.

1. “On Feminism” is an extended definition essay, but it has qualities of what other rhetorical modes
explained in this chapter?

2. What are the main differences between first- and second-wave feminism?

3. What are the main differences between third- and fourth-wave feminism?

4. Respond to the conclusions the author offers in her final paragraph. Do you agree with what she

5. In academic writing assignments, paragraphs should be unified, coherent, and well-developed.
Analyze two body paragraphs from this essay, commenting on the qualities of effective

The Extended Definition Essay 35

paragraphs they illustrate.

Writing Assignment

Write an extended definition of approximately 750 words on one of the following terms: Marxism, irony (in
literature), recession (in economics), pentathlon (as Olympic sport), dressage, algorithm, neutral zone trap,
cryptocurrency. You may also select your own topic or one provided by your teacher.

36 Common Writing Assignments


The Process (“How to”) Essay

The process or “how to” essay guides readers through the stages of completing a task successfully. It is
certainly among the most common forms of written discourse, an industry among publishers. Think of
the number of self-help books, cookbooks, textbooks, and guidebooks for doing virtually every activity
you can think of. In school subjects, the process essay is also a common assignment. Explain how a bill
becomes a law; how do you determine the theme of a poem; how do trees produce oxygen; how does
company X market its product; how does a hydroelectric dam produce electricity; how do you serve a
tennis ball?

The template for a process essay is usually straightforward. After the introductory paragraph, which
provides some context and presents the thesis, comes a series of body paragraphs, each one explaining a
step in the process. The conclusion often confirms the validity and usefulness the body of the essay has

Read carefully the following process essay on how to treat a common cold.

Example: How to Treat a Common Cold

From that first itch in your nose to your final cough, a cold generally lasts from seven to ten days
(Newman). Though researchers have yet to find a cure for these common but pesky viruses, some home
treatments can provide relief from a cold’s most unpleasant symptoms.

During the first couple days of a cold, no symptoms will alert you that you’ve been infected, but by
day three, you’ll start to sneeze, your body may ache, and you’ll likely have a tickle or soreness in your
throat (Jones). Next, you’ll feel congestion in your sinuses; your nose will run and, due to inflammation
around the airways, you may develop a cough that can persist after your other symptoms are long gone
(Jones). Fortunately, two weeks after the infection, you will produce antibodies that prevent you from
catching that particular cold virus again. Unfortunately, there exist around another 199 strains of cold
virus, so you can easily pick up another one (Jones)!

Purported cold remedies are almost as common as the cold virus itself; some might even help ease
your symptoms. Staying hydrated with water, clear broth or tea can loosen congestion; a saltwater gargle
made with ½ teaspoon of salt in eight ounces of water can relieve a sore throat (Mayo Clinic). Over-the-
counter saline nasal drops can relieve stuffiness, and pain relievers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen
can help with aches and fever, as long as you follow the recommended dosage. Some cold remedies
contain multiple ingredients, such as a decongestant plus a pain reliever, so make sure you’re not taking
too much of any medication and remember: medication will not shorten a cold’s duration (Mayo Clinic).

The list of cold remedies with conflicting evidence is long! Taking vitamin C before the onset of cold
symptoms may shorten the duration of symptoms, but it appears that, for the most part, taking vitamin C
won’t help the average person prevent colds (Mayo Clinic). Study results on whether echinacea prevents
or shortens colds are also mixed. Some studies show no benefit, but others show some reduction in the


severity and duration of cold symptoms when taken in the early stages of a cold. Different types of
echinacea used in different studies may have contributed to the differing results (Mayo Clinic).

There has been a lot of talk about taking zinc for colds ever since a 1984 study showed that zinc
supplements reduced the severity of colds (Mayo Clinic). Since then, other studies have shown that zinc
lozenges or syrup reduce the length of a cold by one day, especially when taken within 24 hours of the
first signs and symptoms of a cold. Both echinacea and zinc have potentially harmful side effects. Talk
to your doctor before considering the use of zinc to prevent or reduce the length of colds.

Evidently, the common cold defies medical science; it eludes both our immune systems and the
pharmaceutical industry. Colds are most often caused by rhinoviruses, a large family of viruses with
hundreds of variants. This makes vaccination impossible and gives our immune system a challenging
task. Additionally, these viruses evolve rapidly, so even if we could produce vaccines to cover the full
spectrum of rhinoviruses, they would quickly become resistant (Newman). However, according to a new
study, help may soon be at hand.

Professor Ed Tate of Imperial College London in the United Kingdom and his team of scientists are
taking a new approach. They have been looking for a compound to combat malaria and have found
two molecules that become effective when combined. Using advanced techniques, they used these two
molecules to produce a new compound that blocks an enzyme called N-myristoyltransferase (NMT),
which is found in human cells. Viruses normally steal NMT from human cells and use it to create a
protective shell; NMT is vital for the survival of cold viruses. All strains of the common cold virus use
this technique, so inhibiting NMT would cure all strains of common cold virus. The researchers have
high hopes for the drug, but much more research will be needed to confirm its efficacy and safety (Mayo

Until then, it may be tempting to try the latest internet-approved remedy, but the best thing to do is
take care of yourself. Rest, drink fluids, and try to wait patiently for your cold’s demise.

Works Cited

Jones, Amelia Jean. “Learn the Stages of a Cold and Beat the Winter Blues.” Women’s Health Magazine,
14 Dec. 2018,
cold/. Accessed 15 Jan. 2019.

Mayo Clinic Staff. “There’s No Cure for the Common Cold. But What about Cold Remedies that Claim
to Make You Feel Better Faster?” 14 March 2018,
common-cold/in-depth/cold-remedies/art-20046403. Accessed 15 Jan. 2019.

Newman, Tim. “Understanding the Basics of a Common Cold.” WebMD.
Accessed 15 Jan. 2019.


How to Treat a Common Cold

38 Common Writing Assignments

Study Questions

Respond to these questions in writing, in small groups, or both.

1. What is the thesis of this essay? How does the writer support her thesis?

2. For what audience or what type of reader is this essay written? How might the content and style
of this essay change if it were written for health care professionals?

3. A common and effective strategy for the conclusion of an essay is to look forward to future
circumstances and conditions related to the essay’s thesis. How does this essay employ this

Writing Assignment

Write a process essay of about 750 words on one of the following topics: How to train for a marathon,
cook a dinner for your boyfriend or girlfriend, buy a used car, win at poker, win at Fortnite (or other popular
video game), dance the tango, teach an alien the rules of hockey (or a different sport); determine if a designer
handbag is fake or real. You can also select your own topic or one provided by your teacher.

The Process (“How to”) Essay 39


The Cause/Effect Essay

The cause/effect essay delineates the reasons why—the causes—an event or phenomenon has occurred
and explains the consequences—the effects—of that event or phenomenon. It is a common assignment
in most school and college courses. What were the causes of the First World War and how did the war
affect Canadian society? Why does Hamlet procrastinate and how does his procrastination affect the
plot of the play? What causes global warning and how does global warming affect the integrity of the
planet? Why did the NBA introduce the three-point shot into basketball and how has the three-point shot
affected the game?

Every cause/effect essay will include causes and effects, though not necessarily in the same
proportion. The writer might give them equal treatment: Here are the three main causes of global
warming and here are three ways in which global warming affects our lives on planet earth. Or the
writer might privilege one, depending on the purpose of the essay or the nature of the assignment. If
you are writing an essay about how divorce affects teenagers, you are not necessarily going to present
a full account of the causes of divorce, but rather provide some indication of its frequency as part of
your introduction. If you are writing an essay about the effects on health of a vegetarian diet, you may
mention the increasing popularity of vegetarianism in your introduction, but then focus your attention
on the diet’s effects in body paragraphs.

Read carefully the following essay on the causes of forest fires.

Example: Why Our Forests Are Burning

Forestry ranks among British Columbia’s most lucrative industries, generating billions of dollars in
export revenue and providing jobs for over 200,000 workers. However, forest fires pose a big threat to
the viability of the business; in the past two years, fire has destroyed some 24,000 square kilometres
of British Columbia forests. The resulting costs to the province in loss of revenue, purchase and use of
expensive equipment, and overtime wages have reached nearly half a billion dollars (Lindsay). Though
lightning strikes and human carelessness continue to be the leading causes of forest fires, global warming
has intensified the danger in recent years.

In order to spread, fire needs fuel, oxygen, and heat. Biomass production and vegetative growth
provide fuel for forest fires and the photosynthesis of living green organisms creates oxygen (Nix).
When these natural combustibles reach 572ºF, gas in the steam given off reacts with oxygen to reach its
flash point with a burst of flame, creating an uncontrolled forest fire.

There are three primary classes of forest fires, depending on the types of fuels involved and their
moisture content. Surface fires typically burn readily but at a low intensity; crown fires generally result
from intense rising ground fire heat and occur in the higher sections of draping trees; ground fires are the
most infrequent type of fire but make for very intense blazes that can potentially destroy all vegetation
and organic manner, leaving only bare earth. These largest fires actually create their own winds and
weather, increasing the flow of oxygen and “feeding” the fire (Nix).


Naturally caused forest fires are usually started by dry lightning, where drought accompanies a stormy
weather disturbance. Lightning randomly strikes the earth an average of 100 times each second and has
caused some of the most notable woodland fire disasters in North America. Because they often occur in
isolated locations with limited access, lightning fires burn more acres than human-caused starts (Nix).

In 2018, between April 1 and August 27, humans were responsible for starting more than 420 of about
1,950 wildfires in British Columbia. Campfires, cigarettes, flares, and car accidents are some of the most
common human causes (Smart). During periods of heightened fire activity, these wildfires divert critical
resources away from the naturally caused wildfires that can’t be prevented. The Wildfire Service lumps
human activities that spark fires into broad categories, including smoking, electrical, and structure or
vehicle fires that spread. About 23 per cent of fires started by humans fall under the broad umbrella of
“incendiary devices,” which include matches, lighters, flare guns, and others. About 22 per cent spread
from campfires. And about the same number begin with open fires, which are larger fires that include
burn barrels, pile burning, and large-scale industrial burning (Smart).

Today, climate change is increasing both the frequency and intensity of wildfires; severe droughts,
declining snowpack, more frequent thunderstorms and extreme heat due to rapid warming in the Arctic
are all contributing factors. Early in 2018, the World Meteorological Organization noted that the years
2015, 2016, and 2017 were clearly warmer than any year prior to 2015 and, in BC, numerous heat
records were broken across the province in July 2018 (Riley).

Prolonged periods of drought cause forest floors to become lined with dry, dead wood. This
combustible material becomes fuel for wildfires and, in hot, dry conditions, a strike of lightning or a
carelessly discarded cigarette can be incendiary. Ensuing fires can rip through forests, quickly becoming
a dangerous crown fire that burns from treetop to treetop. We can attribute some of these hot, dry
conditions to the weakening of the jet stream, the air current that drives weather conditions in the
northern hemisphere. The jet stream gets its energy from the temperature difference between Arctic areas
and equatorial regions. That temperature difference is getting smaller, so that means our jet stream is
getting stagnant and it stalls. A weaker jet stream means hot and dry areas stay that way. The result has
obvious implications for wildfires (Riley).

Adaptation to a new climate-fuelled fire season will prove difficult. Most fire ecologists advocate for
prescribed burns, whereby intentionally lit fires burn off the excess fuel in the forest. Letting fires burn
may diminish the possibility of catastrophic fires in the future by reducing the amount of fuel built up
in the forest. But past forestry-management practices favoured extinguishing wildfires as soon as they
started, which has also contributed to increasingly devastating mega-fires. Climate change on top of fire
suppression has made the situation much worse. Even if we stopped producing greenhouse gases today,
we would continue to warm for the next 50 to 100 years because of the lag in our climate system (Riley).
We are going to continue to warm, so the time to act is now.

Works Cited

Lindsay, Bethany. “The Future Looks Grim after 2 Years of Devastating B.C. Wildfires.” CBC
devastating-b-c-wildfires-1.4801181. August 28, 2018.

Nix, Steve. “The Origin of Wildfires and How They Are Caused.” Thoughtco, July 19, 2018.

Riley, Sharon J. “How Climate Change Is Making B.C.’s Wildfire Season Hotter, Longer, Drier.” The
dryer. August 13, 2018.

The Cause/Effect Essay 41

Smart, Amy. “Humans Responsible for More Than 400 B.C. Wildfires So Far This Season.” The
Globe and Mail,
than-400-bc-wildfires-so-far-this-season. August 27, 2018.


Why Our Forests Are Burning

Study Questions

Respond to these questions in writing, in small groups, or both.

1. “Why Our Forests Are Burning” is a cause/effect essay. Are there aspects of other rhetorical
modes also present? Explain your answer.

2. Why and how does global warming intensify the danger of forest fires?

3. Why do some fire ecologists recommend deliberately starting forest fires in some areas?

4. Provide a few examples of the author’s use of rich detail to add content and interest to her essay.

Writing Assignment

Write a cause/effect essay of approximately 750 words on one of the following topics:

• Computer Science, communications, business, government, and economics are among the most
popular college majors. Select one and explain why students choose to major in this subject.

• Why did Team X fail to make the playoffs this year? (Or why did Team Y finish first this year?)

• Why is the sky blue?

• Why did Nation X win (or lose) War Y?

• You can also select your own topic or one provided by your teacher.

42 Common Writing Assignments


The Compare/Contrast Essay

The compare/contrast essay is a common high school and college writing assignment. Your teachers
might ask you to write an essay comparing and contrasting two poems, two short stories, two characters
in one or two novels, two similar consumer products, a policy of two world leaders, health care in the US
and Canada, the zone and the man-to-man defence, two film or music stars, two cities. Every academic
subject lends itself to the compare/contrast essay, and teachers assign it often because it assesses higher
order reasoning, since it requires reflection upon, knowledge of, and the ability to assess characteristics
of two different phenomena, entities, or artifacts.

There are two templates or outlines for a compare/contrast essay.
The first is the common traits method. Using this method, you identify the common traits for both of

the items you are comparing and contrasting, then write alternate paragraphs for each common trait. If
you were writing a compare/contrast essay on two capital cities, a paragraph on the friendliness of the
citizens of Ottawa might be compared and contrasted in the following paragraph with the friendliness
of the citizens of Beijing. The culture of the two cities, the shopping, the restaurants, the economy, the
natural beauty—these might be other points for comparison and contrast.

The second is the similarities and differences method. The first part of the body of your essay
describes how X and Y are similar; the second half describes how they are different. Suppose, for
example, you were comparing the Ferrari with the Lamborghini. The Ferrari and the Lamborghini
are both highest end luxury sports cars; their aesthetic appeal is similar; they both use 7-speed semi-
automatic transmissions; their performance ratings—horsepower, top speed, zero-to-sixty speed— are
close. These are all points of similarity you might include in the first part of a compare/contrast essay.
The Ferrari engine is closer to the front of the car than the Lamborghini engine, which is in the middle
of the body of the car; Ferrari is rear-wheel drive, Lamborghini is four-wheel drive; Ferrari offers
more model choices; Ferrari has won more prestigious racing awards. These are some points you might
develop into paragraphs for the differences part of this compare/contrast essay.

The compare/contrast essay is usually expository in that it presents readers with information and
broadens their knowledge, but it might have an argumentative edge. If, for example, you don’t want
a new strip mall built on the outskirts of your small town, your compare/contrast essay might end up
favouring the main street shopping experience.

Read carefully the following example of a compare/contrast essay on alternate sources of energy.

Example: The Wind and the Sun as Sources of Green Energy

Fossil fuels, oil, and natural gas have provided the power we need to drive our cars, heat our houses,
and operate our businesses for more than the last hundred years. Unfortunately, in about another hundred
years, the world’s reserves of fossil fuels will be depleted (Puiu). The demise of the fossil fuel industry
will not be mourned by all because carbon emissions are a source of pollution and a major factor in
climate change. But the end of fossil fuels does mean there will be a crucial need for alternate sources of


energy, and now is the time to find them. Wind and solar power are among the promising new sources
of the energy our great-grandchildren will require in the next century.

The wind and the sun provide renewable energy, at least as long as the wind blows and the sun shines.
They are also free, though harvesting their energy is not. Their energy is stored in a similar manner.
The sun’s heat can be absorbed by specially designed panels, which convert the sun’s heat and light into
electrical energy, which is stored within a battery. High-tech windmills power a turbine, which converts
wind into electrical energy and stores it within a battery. The two sources differ, however, in more ways
than they are similar.

Wind energy is more cost-effective than solar energy is. The panels that gather the sun’s energy are
more expensive to install—so expensive, in fact, that it may take many years before consumers start to
save the money they would have spent on oil or natural gas (Anderson). Wind is a more reliable source
of energy because it can blow all day and all night. The sun cannot shine all day and all night, and even
during the day, it can be blocked by clouds. Solar panels require less maintenance than wind turbines,
but not so much less to make them more cost-effective.

Solar panels do have the advantage when it comes to location. They can be installed on the roof of
a house, in an urban neighbourhood. Wind turbines are too noisy to erect in an urban neighbourhood.
They usually sprout on wind farms remote from urban settings, and even in oceans, where the wind can
be fierce. The cost of transporting wind energy to the consumers and businesses that need it can be high.
Too many wind farms are a blight on the landscape. And they can be lethal to inattentive birds, which
all too frequently unwittingly fly into their deadly blades.

Some environmentally conscious homeowners are installing both solar panels and wind turbines
to provide uninterrupted energy to heat and light their houses and run their entertainment units and
appliances. This approach solves or at least diminishes the problem of intermittent energy loss, which
occurs when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing. It is not an ideal solution. Upfront
installation costs are high. The wind turbine needs to be as high as possible to catch the wind, but it
will still generate noise that might disturb the neighbours. Ironically, the system can produce too much
energy, which can overwhelm and harm the batteries, or it might produce too little energy on calm nights.

Those skeptical of the promise of green energy love the joke “Is the wind blowing? I want to watch
TV tonight.” There is still some truth in this jest. But green energy engineers continue to work hard to
lower costs and improve performance, and they are confident that, properly harnessed, energy from the
wind and the sun can significantly diminish our reliance on disappearing fossil fuels and improve the air
we breathe.

Works Cited

Anderson, Mark. “Similarities and Differences of Solar and Wind Energy.” Hunker. (n.d.), Accessed 3 March

Puiu, Tibi. “How Long Before the World Runs out of Fossil Fuels?” Zmescience. 8 June 2018, Accessed 2
March 2019.

44 Common Writing Assignments


The Wind and the Sun as Sources of Green Energy

Study Questions

Respond to these questions in writing, in small group discussion, or both.

1. List the two main reasons why we will need new sources of energy, other than that provided by
fossil fuels, in the future.

2. Which of the two templates explained above for structuring a compare/contrast essay does the
writer use for this essay?

3. Which green energy source—wind or sun—shows greater promise, according to this essay?

Writing Assignment

Write a compare/contrast essay of approximately 750 words on one of these topics: two popular video
games; two television sitcoms; the defensive (or offensive) strategies of two sports teams; two brands of jeans,
or other clothing item; two fast-food burgers. You can also select your own topic or one your teacher provides.

The Compare/Contrast Essay 45

Published May 18, 2018 by
Today’s Parent


The Argument Essay

The argumentative or persuasive essay attempts to convince readers that the writer’s position, views, and
opinions on a controversial topic are valid, logical, and supported by research. The writer might simply
present his or her evidence in support of the thesis (an argument essay) or more assertively urge readers
to adopt his or her position, as well (a persuasive essay).

The template for an argument essay is less straightforward than it might at first appear. It is basic
insofar as the writer presents his or her thesis in the opening paragraph, and then presents a series of
body paragraphs that are well-developed with examples and details and supported by sources to back up,
support, and augment the thesis.

But a sound argument includes one more feature: it acknowledges the opposing point of view and
refutes or rebuts it. This is an important strategy in developing a sound argument because it indicates
that the writer knows the topic well and is treating the other side fairly. Moreover, the argument weakens
if the reader realizes there is a counter-argument the writer has not addressed.

If, for example, you were arguing that students who attend public schools should wear uniforms, you
might cite evidence of higher academic achievement, decrease in the amount of bullying, and greater
sense of community in schools whose students wear uniforms. But you would want to acknowledge the
opposing points—uniforms stifle individual expression and identity; they are too expensive for some
families to afford; they lack comfort and style—and explain why the opposing points are dubious or

An essay’s conclusion typically reaffirms its thesis and establishes a sense of closure; the former is
especially important in an argument essay.

Read carefully this essay about residential schools.

Example: Why Our Kids Need to Learn About Residential Schools by Bonnie


How would you feel, if this happened in your kid’s class? Last
fall, a grade 6 social studies class outside of Edmonton was
learning about residential schools. A student put up her hand and
said, “I don’t have anything against Indigenous people, but my
grandpa told me we had to put the Indians in residential schools
because they were killing each other and we had to civilize

Her words hung in the air for a moment. And then her teacher
responded, “Well, I don’t have anything against your grandpa, but people who are your grandpa’s age
and your parents’ age and even my age didn’t have the opportunity to learn the truth. So, we have a
responsibility, because we’re learning the truth now.”


Roberto Caruso, Beadwork: Catherine Blackburn; The General Synod Archives,
Anglican Church Of Canada.

For generations, the full history of Canada’s residential schools, which existed for more than a century
and housed 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit kids with the flat-out mission of assimilation into
white society, was suppressed and ignored. If you’re non-Indigenous, you may have had some hazy idea
of “Indian schools,” but the kind of nightmarish abuse, bullying, deprivation and death that went on?
It was rarely acknowledged and never discussed. I can remember first hearing about the schools only
about 10 years ago in one of those free-ranging discussions that go on at noisy book club meetings, and
thinking, “I have a history degree…how is it even possible I’ve never heard of residential schools?”

Today, however, Canadians—kids, adults, everybody—have that opportunity to learn that really
difficult truth. And we have a responsibility to acknowledge the truth and fight untruths, just like that
teacher told her class.

Two years ago, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) issued 94 calls to action to address
the legacy of residential schools and move toward reconciliation. I still can’t quite figure out what
reconciliation could or should look like in everyday life; it’s one of those slippery words that can mean
a thousand different things to a thousand different people. Maybe, then, we should pay attention to the
truth part first. As Pamala Agawa, a curriculum coordinator for First Nation, Métis and Inuit education
(FNMI) at York Region District School Board in Ontario, told me, we need to figure out the truth for
ourselves: “What biases do we carry; what learning do we need to do to better understand the true history
of the country?”

Chances are, your own kids are learning about residential schools in class this year. In the TRC’s
calls to action, points 62 and 63 specifically call on schools to deliver age-appropriate curriculum about
residential schools, as well as Indigenous culture and treaty education, to students in kindergarten to
grade 12. It’s not a quick and easy item on a to-do list. How do we talk about Canada’s cultural genocide
with our kids? How do we tell them about what our country did to families? Our world still has racist
grandpas and internet trolls and prejudices that have built up over decades. We owe it to our kids to learn
more and do better.

The Argument Essay 47

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

Growing up with the truth

As parents, we worry about our kids learning scary information. Sexual and physical abuse went on
at some residential schools—what age should kids learn about that? We may ask, is my kid going to
feel guilty now? Or, how could our church have been involved in that? I know I stuttered out a garbled
explanation when my seven-year-old asked why kids had to go away to school when it made them and
their families so sad. Still, I’m glad she asked me, even if I didn’t have a polished answer. Talking
honestly about hard things in a way kids can understand helps open a door to the empathy that’s part of
being a decent human being.

For some Indigenous parents, there may be added worry about classroom lessons. Will their child feel
singled out? Will they be anxious they’ll be taken away, too? For others, the lessons are welcome. Julie
Mallon of Port Dover, Ont., who is Anishinaabe and the daughter of a residential school survivor, says
she didn’t have any concerns. “I absolutely think it’s important for kids to learn it in school. It’s been
a hidden part of our history,” she says. “For this to be taught is just another layer of becoming more
emotionally aware and learning how to deal with their feelings.” While Mallon’s mom rarely talked
about her experiences when Mallon was a kid, she didn’t want it to be a taboo subject with her own kids.

Charlene Bearhead, the former education lead for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation,
has thought about those parent-kid conversations a lot. “Our children are going to grow up with this
truth, whether we’re ready or not,” she says. “The best thing we can do as parents is find the courage,
and know that it’s not going to be easy and it’s not going to be things that we want to hear. But it’s things
that we need to hear, and we can learn with our children.”

Our kids are going to be paying attention to how we talk about this, too. “There’s nothing in the calls
to action that calls on parents, and yet parents are among the most important people in a child’s life.
They are their children’s first teachers,” she says. “When a child goes home from school and talks to a
parent, their response is really going to have a major influence on how that child moves forward with
what they’ve learned.”

Teaching the teachers

That can feel daunting as parents, but we’re all in this learning curve together—teachers, board trustees

48 Common Writing Assignments

and superintendents are learning this along with the kids. “Educators have to relearn what they think
they know about Canada,” says Melissa Wilson, coordinator of Indigenous education at the Peel District
School Board in Ontario. “For instance, we talk about what it means to be Canadian: We’re multicultural,
everyone is welcome to this country, we believe in spreading human rights around the world. It’s not that
that story is incorrect; the problem is that story is very incomplete. It doesn’t speak to the story of how
Indigenous peoples have been treated in Canada.” At the Peel board, Wilson and her colleagues offer
teachers two years of Indigenous education training. They learn from Indigenous educators, elders and
knowledge keepers, tour a former residential school and meet with school survivors. Teachers then pass
on what they’ve learned to teachers and students in their own schools.

There’s no national standard for curriculum, and quality and content vary a great deal. It’s vital
that Indigenous educators take a lead role in both developing curriculum and visiting schools. One
Indigenous educator who’s deeply involved in creating curriculum is Rachel Mishenene, who is Ojibway
from Eabametoong First Nation, and works as an executive at the Elementary Teachers’ Federation
of Ontario. She’s excited about the possibilities of expanding FNMI curriculum. “I want to make sure
we highlight the positive and innovative contributions Indigenous peoples have made or continue to
make in arts, music, sports, science, anthropology, media, and as storytellers,” she says. “Residential
schools made their mark, and teaching that history is important. We also need to share stories of strength,
resilience and excellence.” Parents can play a key role here, too—Bearhead encourages parents to talk
to teachers and principals about the curriculum and what else can be added.

Helping kids get it

Talking about resilience is really powerful—and it’s something that kids can identify with. Janet Porter,
a reconciliation education consultant in the Nova Scotia department of education, which works with the
education group Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey, says Mi’kmaw community members were very clear they
wanted any representation of residential schools to be combined with the idea of resilience. In one of
the school programs, for example, kids make their own dolls after learning how Magit Poulette, now an
elder, secretly created a doll with rags and sticks after her baby doll was taken from her when she arrived
at Shubenacadie Residential School as a four-year-old.

It’s essential, too, to deal with the tough stuff in age-appropriate ways. “If a child’s primary reaction
to a book or video or illustration is one of upset or fear, then those emotions may become a barrier to
learning,” explains Porter. To that end, in the younger grades, teachers introduce the topic through books
and stories, and then ask kids about something special to them and how they’d feel if it was taken from
them, using phrases that kids can understand, like “not right” and “not fair.” (In older grades, students
talk more in depth about the devastating ripple effect that the abuse and loss of culture has on Indigenous

By making stories about residential schools relatable, kids can understand in their hearts, as well as
their brains. “It’s overwhelming when you hear that 150,000 kids were taken from their families, so
it was really important to us to connect the students with one child,” says Gail Stromquist, assistant
director of Aboriginal education at the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation. Along with her sister,
Janet Stromquist, who’s also a teacher, Gail created the e-book and teaching module Gladys We Never
Knew, about the life of their aunt Gladys Chapman, who fell ill with tuberculosis while at residential
school and died in 1931 at the age of 12. Jean Moir, a grade 4/5 teacher in Langley, BC, who helped
develop the lessons and piloted the project with her class two years ago, says that learning about a
child who lived fairly close by made Gladys real to her students. “They cared what happened to her and
absolutely ‘got’ how horribly she and so many others were treated.”

The Argument Essay 49

On a cool fall day, her grade 4/5 class got on a school bus and went on a field trip to Spuzzum, B.C. to
visit the territory of the Nlaka’pamux Nation, where Gladys grew up and was buried. Danny Ferguson
went with his son Joe on the field trip and saw how the kids reacted after they decorated the mossy
headstone with handmade hearts and flowers. “It’s not just about the information; there’s definitely a
teaching to the heart there,” he says. “Even today, Joe really connects with Gladys’ story. He still talks
about it and gets a bit emotional. Gladys is basically a hero to those kids.

Another personal story that resonates with kids is about Phyllis Webstad—and it sparked the national
movement of Orange Shirt Day, held annually on September 30. In 1973, six-year-old Phyllis was
excited about going away to school and she picked out a new orange shirt. When she arrived at school,
all her clothes, including her orange shirt, were taken from her. “The colour orange has always reminded
me of that and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing,”
explains Webstad. Orange Shirt Day’s message is that every child matters.

My daughter Jane, who’s in grade 2, is fully on board with theme days of any sort and picked out
orange hair elastics to go with her shirt when the note about Orange Shirt Day at her school here in
Thunder Bay, Ont., came home in her backpack this past fall. I don’t remember her telling us about her
day at dinner—I’m pretty sure she was in a hurry to go trampolining at the neighbours. But more than
two months later, we were at her school for an event and I spotted the mini-essays she and her classmates
had written on Orange Shirt Day, still taped up in the foyer. As we walked over to the display, she matter-
of-factly told me all about it. “We learned about those really mean schools they used to have, mom,”
she said. “It was real, you know, not just in a book. And there was this girl who had an orange shirt
she really liked and they took it away and she never got it back, so that’s why we wear orange shirts, to
remember those kids who had to go away to school.”

When Bearhead told me about that grade 6 student repeating her grandpa’s comment, I flinched,
thinking my daughter could hear something that casually cruel in her classroom, too. The legacy of
residential schools—those strained and broken threads of relationships and culture and identity—is like
a widening tear in a piece of fabric. If we have any hope of patching it, we’ve got to listen, really listen,
to Indigenous stories and experiences, and then talk to our kids. “The biggest measure of success for me
is about how families are talking about reconciliation at the dinner table, when no one else is listening,”
says Bearhead. “When we see that shift happening there, that’s when I believe we’ll be on the road to
reconciliation as a country.”


Why Our Kids Need to Learn About Residential Schools

Study Questions

Respond to these questions in writing, in small group discussion, or both.

1. The thesis for this essay is in the essay’s title. What are the key arguments the author makes in
support of her thesis?

50 Common Writing Assignments

2. What is the counter-argument that the author refutes in this essay, and how does the author rebut
these counter-arguments? Are there counter-arguments the writer fails to address?

3. Is this essay well-researched? What are the main sources of the author’s research?

4. How do the photographs support (or undermine) the author’s thesis?

5. What rhetorical modes, other than argument, are present in this essay?

Written Assignment

Select a social or political issue you feel strongly about—climate change, an endangered species, lowering
the voting age, vegetarian diet, social media, concussions in sports, violence in video games, Canada and the
monarchy, cloning, online dating, lyrics in modern music—and write an argument essay of approximately 750
words on that topic. You can also select a topic your teacher assigns.

Text Attributions

• “Why Our Kids Need to Learn About Residential Schools” by Bonnie Schiedel. All Rights
Reserved. Permission to use this article has been granted for non-commercial purposes in this
open textbook by Today’s Parent magazine.

Media Attributions

• Roberto Caruso, Beadwork: Catherine Blackburn; The General Synod Archives, Anglican
Church Of Canada © All Rights Reserved

• Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada © All Rights Reserved

The Argument Essay 51


Further Reading

It is easy to access online many other examples of all of the rhetorical modes of written expression. It is
well worth the effort. We learn by imitating the behaviour or the work of others who are especially adept
at the skill we are trying to acquire. Virtually all accomplished writers confirm that they read widely and
that the close reading of a written text is instructive and helps them learn how to master their craft.

Online editions of major national newspapers include well-written articles and editorials in all of the
rhetorical modes included in this chapter. Current issues are not always free, but back issues often are.
Check out the The Globe and Mail and The National Post.

Some magazine articles can also provide student writers with models worth studying and emulating.
Maclean’s magazine has a team of writers who cover all manner of topics. Kyle Edwards is Anishinaabe
and he writes informative articles on Indigenous issues. John Geddes writes about federal politics.
Anne Kingston covers contemporary culture. Shannon Proudfoot writes about public policy and is
especially adept at explaining in layman’s terms the content of serious academic studies. To access, go
to the Maclean’s website and click on the “Authors” tab.

The Walrus is a great source for fine narrative essays and for articles on arts and culture.
Articles in academic journals can also provide good models for student writers, though the content

of academic journals tends to be very specialized and their prose style tends to be more formal than the
more moderate style your teachers will expect. Many academic journals are indexed in search engines
and digital libraries. Google Scholar is one such search engine. Your school library might subscribe to
popular digital libraries such as Academic Search Premier or JSTOR. It is worth browsing through some
of the titles on these sources to see if they contain articles that might be of interest to you and help you
develop your writing skills.




The Elements of Poetry

Poetry is the genre of literature which uses language in its most unique, creative, and innovative ways to
clarify and intensify human experience. Language has its own rhythms. It has words that rhyme. Words
can be blended together to produce sensory images. Poets exploit the aesthetic properties of language to
intensify the human experience they are presenting.


This insight into human experience the poet offers is called the theme of the poem. Recurring themes in
poetry comment upon, explain, clarify, intensify, and offer insights into:

• aspects of love,

• work and leisure,

• family ties,

• the pursuit of happiness,

• social justice,

• the horror of war,

• the promise of faith,

• the nature of death and the quest for eternal life.

In this Chapter, we will read and study a variety of poems which deal with these and other themes which
inspire poets.

Form and Genre

There are three major forms or genres of poetry:

• regular verse,

• blank verse,

• free verse.


There are a variety of other minor forms of poetry, usually forms of regular verse. They include the:

• sonnet,

• ballad,

• ode,

• dramatic monologue,

• villanelle,

• elegy,

• haiku.

In this Chapter, we will learn about the conventions of the various forms of poetry, through a close
reading of iconic examples of each genre.

Figurative Language

Poetry is also distinguished by its use of figurative language. Figurative language is the blending of
words in ways to create a special effect, which intensifies and heightens the aesthetic appeal and the
theme of the poem. There are a variety of forms of figurative language. The forms of figurative
language we will define, learn about, and consider examples of, in this Chapter, include:

• simile,

• metaphor,

• alliteration,

• assonance,

• irony,

• imagery,

• hyperbole,

• symbolism,

• onomatopoeia,

• metonymy,

• oxymoron,

• personification.


Many poems, and works of literature, in general, are based upon the author’s personal experience or
on historical circumstances within which the author lived. Knowledge of historical and biographical
context can help enrich our enjoyment, appreciation, and understanding of a poem. In this Chapter we

54 Composition and Literature

will read and study some poems, whose meanings are enhanced by our knowledge of the author’s life
and times.

In the first section—the Introduction—of this Chapter, we will examine closely poems by a diverse
group of authors, in order to further our knowledge of:

• common themes in poetry;

• the major and minor forms of poetry;

• the use of the forms of figurative language;

• the role of biographical and historical context in enjoying and understanding poetry.

This introductory first section is followed by an Anthology of Poetry by a diverse group of authors.
Each poem is followed by Questions for Study and Discussion, activities, and links designed to facilitate
understanding, enjoyment, and appreciation.

A Handbook and Anthology 55


“I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth (Regular



William Wordsworth was born on April 7, 1770, at Cockermouth in Cumbria in northeast England,
near the Lake District, whose natural beauty would inspire many of Wordsworth’s poems. His mother
died when he was just 8 and his father, a lawyer, died when Wordsworth was 13. The five Wordsworth
children were scattered and spent their childhood with different relatives.

Wordsworth attended Cambridge University from 1787 to 1791. He studied French, and after he
graduated, he went to France to gain fluency in the language. In Blois, he met Annette Vallon, whom
he hoped to marry. They had a daughter, Caroline. Short of money, Wordsworth returned to England,
planning to return to France as soon as he was able. But in the wake of the French Revolution, which
Wordsworth ardently supported, and the subsequent leadership of Napoleon, England and France were
at war. Wordsworth could not return and would not for many years.

In 1795, Wordsworth received a legacy from a close relative, and he and his sister Dorothy went to
live in Dorset. Two years later they moved again, this time to Somerset, to live near Wordsworth’s dear
friend and collaborator Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Together, they produced a collection of poems, Lyrical
Ballads, published in 1798. It would prove to be a milestone in the history of English poetry, one of the
books that ushered in the Romantic movement (from 1800 to 1850, approximately). Coleridge’s “The


Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” are among the most famous poems in
this collection.

With sufficient independent means, Wordsworth settled in to the life of a poet, gaining fame and
recognition for his work over the years, culminating in 1842, when he was named England’s poet
laureate. “Ode: Intimations of Immortality” and the autobiographical The Prelude are among his more
famous long poems. He also wrote scores of much-loved short lyric poems and sonnets.

Wordsworth’s personal life was filled with joy and sorrow. In 1802, he married his childhood friend
Mary Hutchinson and they settled into Dove Cottage in Grasmere in the Lake District and raised a
happy family, which included the beloved aunt Dorothy. Unfortunately, over the years, he feuded with
Coleridge, three of his children died, one of his brothers, a ship’s captain, was drowned at sea, and
Dorothy suffered a mental breakdown. He was no longer the idealistic, radical young poet who supported
the cries for social justice that sparked the French Revolution. His political views evolved, becoming
increasingly conservative. He died on April 23, 1850.

“I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth (Regular Verse) 57

Published 1807

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

58 Poetry



What is the theme of this poem? The poet describes his appreciation—indeed, his awe—of nature’s
beauty. Out on a walk one day, he sees a field of golden daffodils, seeming to stretch in a “never-ending
line.” Here is a widely shared human experience, a common theme among poets. We have all been
overwhelmed by nature’s beauty at some point in our lives. But note that Wordsworth takes the theme
one step further. Experiences as significant as the one described in the poem have staying power. Days,
month, years later, perhaps one day when we are simply resting on the couch, that image will flash across
our minds—today, we might look at the picture we took with our cellphones—and we will experience
again the serenity that natures beauty provides.


Now note the form of the poem. It consists of twenty-four lines, divided into four sections—that is,
stanzas or verses—each six lines in length. Read the poem out loud, in a way that exaggerates its rhythm.
You will note that each line has four stressed sounds or beats, preceded by a less stressed sound. To
diagram this pattern, we assign a curved or a smile line to the less stressed beat and a slash to the stressed

~ / ~ / ~ / ~ /
I wandered lonely as a cloud
~ / ~ / ~ / ~ /
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
~ / ~ / ~ / ~ /
When all at once I saw a crowd,
~ / ~ / ~ / ~ /
A host, of golden daffodils.

The stressed-unstressed unit is called an iamb. Because there are four iambs in each line, we designate
the rhythm pattern of “I Wandered Lonely” as iambic tetrameter. There are four rhythm patterns in
English poetry: iambic, trochaic, anapestic, and dactylic. A line of poetry will typically contain four
(tetrameter) or five (pentameter) units, also called “beats” or “feet.” Examples of a variety of rhythm
patterns are presented in this chapter.

Discerning poetry readers might notice that Wordsworth alters the iambic tetrameter rhythm in the last
line of the first stanza, which would have to be scanned:

“I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth (Regular Verse) 59

/ ~ ~ ~ / ~ / ~ /
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze,

and, again, in the last line of the second stanza, which would be scanned:

/ ~ ~ / ~ / ~ /
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

Poets will sometimes alter their rhythm pattern to achieve a certain effect. The change in rhythm to
describe the daffodils “fluttering” and “tossing their heads” accentuates the movement of the flowers,
which so captured the poet’s attention.

Now note the words at the end of each line of each verse. The first and the third lines rhyme; the
second and fourth lines rhyme; the final two lines rhyme. There is a pattern, a scheme to the rhyme.
We illustrate this pattern by assigning small letters to words that rhyme. So the rhyme pattern or rhyme
scheme of each stanza of “I Wandered Lonely” is ababcdcdee.

Because there is a consistent rhythm pattern and consistent rhyme scheme to “I Wandered Lonely,”
we say this is a regular verse poem. There are two other genres or forms of poetry: blank verse and
free verse. We will see examples of each in this chapter. There are also several minor forms of poetry,
usually types of regular verse. The most common are the sonnet, elegy, ode, villanelle, epic, and dramatic
monologue. We will see examples of each in this chapter.

Note that each stanza of “I Wandered Lonely” forms a single sentence. Remember that the sentence
and not the line is the unit of meaning in a poem. When you are reading a poem, pay attention to the
punctuation, and discern the meaning of the complete sentence in poetry, not each individual line.

Figurative Language

Wordsworth opens the poem by comparing the poet, wandering alone through the woods to a cloud
floating high above him. He later writes that the flowers were “continuous as the stars that shine.” These
comparisons are a form of figurative language called a simile. A simile is cousin to a metaphor, which
is also a comparison used to describe more vividly an object in the poem. The difference is that a simile
signals the comparison with the words “like” or “as,” while a metaphor asserts the comparison directly.
Note “I felt like a fish out of water when I went skating for the first time” versus “I was a fish out of
water when I went skating for the first time.”

Wordsworth writes that the daffodils “stretched in never-ending line.” In reality, of course, the line
ended, but the poet wants to stress that he was so overwhelmed by the multitude of the beautiful flowers
that it seemed as if they never ended. He is using here a form of figurative language called hyperbole.
Hyperbole is the use of exaggeration, not to deceive, but to achieve a poetic effect.

Wordsworth writes that the daffodils danced and tossed their heads. But they can’t dance, and they

60 Poetry

don’t have heads. Here the poet uses personification, which ascribes human characteristics to an object
that is not human in order to achieve a poetic effect.

Embedded in the types of figurative language explained above and in other lines throughout the poem,
Wordsworth appeals to our sense sight, helping us visualize his experience. We see the poet out on his
country walk and, later, recalling his walk while resting on his couch. The daffodils dance and play, stars
“twinkle on the milky way,” the waves along the margin of the bay sparkle. This is imagery, words in
succession that arouse readers’ senses—the senses of sight and sound, especially, though sometimes also
the senses of taste and touch.

There are other forms of figurative language besides the five referenced here (simile, metaphor,
hyperbole, personification, and imagery). We will see examples of the others in our discussion of other


“I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” is based upon a true story which occurred on April 15, 1802.
Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy were taking a walk near Glencoyne Bay in England’s beautiful Lake
District, where they lived. Dorothy kept a journal that describes the experience in language and detail
similar to that Wordsworth uses in the poem. The Grasmere Journal was meant to be private, but it is
of great value to English literary history, and it was published in 1897, about forty years after Dorothy’s

Related Activities and Questions for Study and Discussion


1. Listen to “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” with musical accompaniment

2. Have you had an experience similar to the one Wordsworth describes, an experience when you
were so overwhelmed with some aspect of nature’s beauty that you take pleasure from it still?
Describe that experience in one or two paragraphs—or in a poem of your own, if that is an option
your teacher will accept.

Text Attributions

• “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth is free of known copyright
restrictions in Canada.

Media Attributions

• William Wordsworth © Public Domain

“I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth (Regular Verse) 61


“Birches” by Robert Frost (Blank Verse)


Robert Frost was born on March 26, 1874, in San Francisco. His father, a teacher and a journalist,
died in 1885, and his mother, also a teacher, moved the family to Lawrence, Massachusetts, where the
extended Frost family had settled generations ago. Frost graduated from Lawrence High School in 1892
and attended Dartmouth College briefly before returning to Lawrence to teach at his mother’s school
and to answer his calling to become a poet. He married his high school sweetheart, Elinor White, in
December of 1895.

Frost returned to university, this time to Harvard, where he was a student from 1897 to 1899. He left
to work the farm his grandfather purchased for him in Derry, New Hampshire. From 1906 to 1911, he
also taught high school and college English, mainly in Plymouth, New Hampshire. Throughout all of
these years, he was writing poetry, but he was not having much success getting his work published.

In 1912, he took his family to England, hoping he would find more success there as a poet. His
instincts proved to be exceptional. His first collection of poetry, A Boy’s Will, was published in England
in 1913; his second, North of Boston, in 1914. Including such iconic Frost poems as “Mending Wall”
and “After Apple-Picking” and his famous narrative “The Death of the Hired Man,” North of Boston
established firmly Frost’s reputation.

The Frosts returned to America in 1915, to Franconia, New Hampshire, where the growing family
bought another farm. His reputation was now established, and over the years, he would become a public
figure, America’s best-known and most popular poet. He supplemented his income, in the manner typical


Published 1915

of successful modern poets, by teaching and serving as poet-in-residence at a number of universities,
including the University of Michigan and Amherst and Middlebury Colleges.

Frost’s professional success is unmatched by any other American poet. He won four Pulitzer Prizes for
outstanding poetry: for New Hampshire, in 1924; Collected Poems, in 1931; A Further Range, in 1937;
and A Witness Tree, in 1943. The world’s great universities—Harvard, Princeton, Oxford, Cambridge,
Dartmouth—gave him honorary degrees. In 1960, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for
his contribution to American culture.

This professional success was tempered by tragedy in his personal life. His wife died of cancer in
1938. Four of his six children died before he did, his son Carol as a result of suicide. The contemplative
and sorrowful voice of much of his poetry is the result, in part, of these events.

Frost was invited to read a poem at the inauguration of President Kennedy, on January 20, 1961. He
was 87. He had written a poem especially for this occasion, but the glare from the sun on his paper
obscured his vision. Instead, he recited from memory “The Gift Outright,” his iconic poem about
America’s progress from a colony of Great Britain to an independent nation.

Frost died from complications of prostate surgery on January 29, 1963.


Read “Birches” by Robert Frost online.



The poem is set in the wake of an ice storm that has bent the branches of the birch trees in the woods
near the poet’s farm. The poet notices the bent branches, knows they are the victims of the ice storms,
but wishes they were bowed down because a young boy has been swinging on them. The poem suggests
that, through the exercise of our imagination, we can turn an unpleasant experience into a pleasant one.
He knows he is deceiving himself. He can’t escape the “Truth,” capitalized, in line 20. But he is grateful
for the temporary escape from the harsh realities of life his play provides.

There is a religious dimension to the theme of the poem. In line 13, the poet imagines “the inner dome
of heaven had fallen,” as the ice crystals fall from the branches. In line 56, he climbs the birches “Toward
[italicized] heaven.” But Earth is better, “the right place for love” (line 52). Ultimately, the theme of the
poem is that it is great to imagine, but it is better to be grounded. It is restorative to escape from harsh
reality, but ultimately, we must confront reality.


“Birches” is written in blank verse. Blank verse is a genre of poetry consisting of a regular rhythm
pattern—iambic pentameter—but no recurring rhyme scheme.

“Birches” by Robert Frost (Blank Verse) 63

~ / ~ / ~ / ~ / ~ /
When I see birches bend to left and right
~ / ~ / ~ / ~ / ~ /
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
~ / ~ / ~ / ~ / ~ /
I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.

It is a common and widely used verse form, revered because it is the form Shakespeare chose for his
thirty-seven plays, though he does break the form on occasion in the interest of certain dramatic effects.
It was also the form John Milton chose to use for the great epic poem in the English language, Paradise

Blank verse poems are usually quite long; at 59 lines, “Birches” is about average. They are often
narrative poems in that they tell a story. Blank verse is the poetry genre that most closely resembles
human speech, and so it lends itself to the narrative form. Blank verse poems often have a serious,
philosophical tone or voice.

Figurative Language

“Birches” is an example of an extended metaphor, in that tree climbing is associated with a temporary,
restorative escape from harsh reality throughout the poem.

In lines 10 and 11, Frost uses a series of words that begin with “s” and “sh”: “Soon the sun’s warmth
makes them shed crystal shells / Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—.” This repetition of a
consonant sound to achieve a particular effect is called alliteration. The repetition, especially of the “sh”
sound, mimics the sound of the ice crumbling from the branches and falling to the ground. The effect is
aided by the repetition of the vowel sound “e” in “shed” and “shells” and the “a” sound in “shattering”
and “avalanching.” This repetition of vowel sounds, a cousin to alliteration, is called assonance.

In line 19, Frost uses a simile, comparing the bowed branches to girls who dry their hair in the sun.
The relationship between the human and the natural worlds is central to the theme of this poem, and this
simile helps to augment this theme.

In line 21, Frost personifies Truth, breaking into his fantasy about the branches of the birch trees
bowed down because boys have been swinging on them. Truth will triumph over fantasy by the end of
the poem, and the personification highlight’s Truth’s strength.

The simile in line 44 draws an interesting comparison between life and “a pathless wood.” This is
actually an example of an extended simile, since the comparison does not end until line 47. Those
cobwebs that burn and tickle the face and those twigs that slash across the eyes are symbols that
represent all of the physical and emotional challenges life sends our way.


“Birches” was written while Frost was living in England, in 1913–14. It was first published in the
August 1915 edition of Atlantic Monthly, and it was included in his collection of poetry, Mountain
Interval, published in 1916. Frost biographies note that the action in the poem is based upon Frost’s own
adventures, climbing birch trees when he was a boy.

64 Poetry

Related Activities and Questions for Study and Discussion


1. In this poem, Frost suggests that it is good to use our imagination to escape from harsh realities,
but only if we are prepared to face reality after the vacation our imagination can provide. In his
poetry, Frost often recommends communing with nature as a way of coping with stress. Can you
relate to his recommendation? Explain your answer.

2. Hear Frost read “Birches”.

Media Attributions

• Robert Frost by Walter Albertin © Public Domain

“Birches” by Robert Frost (Blank Verse) 65


“The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes (Free Verse)


James Mercer Langston Hughes was born February 1, 1901, in Joplin, Missouri. For many years, he
lived an unsettled life. His father deserted the family while Langston was still an infant. Langston was
sent to Lawrence, Kansas, to be raised by his grandmother. When he reached adolescence, he rejoined
his mother and her new husband, now living in Lincoln, Illinois, but soon to relocate to Cleveland, where
Langston attended high school. He spent time with his father, now a lawyer in Mexico, who agreed to
help finance Langston’s education at Columbia University.

He dropped out of Columbia in 1922, feeling alienated as one of the few black students there.
He travelled and worked a variety of odd jobs. He was a busboy at a Washington hotel, where he
encountered the poet Vachel Lindsay. He shared some of his work with Lindsay, who, impressed, helped
him publish his first book of poems, The Weary Blues, which he had been writing since he was a high
school student.

Hughes returned to university, attending the historically black Lincoln University and graduating in
1929. He travelled some more, notably to the Soviet Union, because he was optimistic about the social
justice—the racial equality, especially—that communism promised. He returned to the US, settling now
in the Harlem borough of New York City, the centre for a renaissance in African-American culture. For
the rest of his life, he was a productive man of letters, the author of poetry collections, short stories,
novels, plays, and children’s books.

Hughes is generally regarded as the finest writer of the Harlem Renaissance. After the First World


Published 1921

War, the American economy boomed, and thousands of African-Americans migrated north to find work
in the rapidly expanding manufacturing sector. Many settled in the Harlem neighbourhood of New York.
Economic prosperity helps breed artistic expression, and scores of talented black poets began to publish
highly acclaimed collections. The Harlem Renaissance helped spawn the civil rights movement of the

Hughes died on May 22, 1967, after an unsuccessful operation to treat prostate cancer.

The Negro Speaks of Rivers

Read “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes online.



“The Negro Speaks of Rivers” is a black pride poem. In just thirteen free verse lines, the author
reviews milestones in the history of his race. Hughes presents a catalogue of the rivers the “Negro”
speaker—who is a kind of Everyman for the black race—has known. The great rivers of West Asia and
Africa—the Euphrates, the Congo, and the Nile—are naturally featured, but so, too, near the end of the
poem is the Mississippi, which he heard “singing,” “when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans.”
Hughes’s purpose is to extol the contributions of his race to world history.


“The Negro Speaks of Rivers” is a free verse poem, one that will have rhythm and may have rhyme
but not a recurring rhythm pattern or rhyme scheme. Note the varying lengths of the lines on the page,
usually a marker for a free verse poem.

The genius of the free verse form of the poem lies in the way it mimics the movement of a river. A
river flows in free verse. A three-word line winds into an eighteen-word line. An eight-word line forms
its own stanza, the waters moving slowly, then a five-line stanza picks up the pace, with a series of
subject-verb, imagery-rich lines—“I bathed,” I built,” “I looked,” “I heard”—as the river of the poem
seems to straighten out. The ending reaffirms the spiritual affinity of the black race with the natural
world, as the narrator repeats his earlier declaration that his soul “has grown deep like the rivers.”

Figurative Language

Hughes’s use of metaphor reaffirms the connection between the human and natural worlds, symbolized
by the rivers and essential to the poem’s theme. The metaphor in the poem’s first line compares rivers to
the “flow of human blood in human veins.” The simile that first appears in the fourth line and is repeated
in the last line reaffirms this connection, especially as it connects with black history: “My soul has grown
deep like the rivers.”

Hughes also uses imagery effectively, especially in the ninth and tenth lines. He is describing Abe

“The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes (Free Verse) 67

Lincoln sailing down the Mississippi River to its delta in New Orleans, and he writes of the river, “I’ve
seen its muddy / bosom turn all golden in the sunset.”


Hughes revealed that he wrote this poem in 1920, when he was crossing the Mississippi River on a
train, on his way to Mexico to visit his father. He included it in his volume of poetry The Weary Blues,
published in 1926. It is among Hughes’s most popular and anthologized poems.

Related Activities and Questions for Study and Discussion


1. Read Glynn Wilson’s essay “The Ultimate Metaphor: Life Is Like a River” online. Compare her
essay with Hughes’s poem.

2. Read some of the poems by other leading Harlem Renaissance authors, including Countee Cullen
and Jean Toomer.

3. Hear Hughes read some of his poetry.

Media Attributions

• Langston Hughes by Jack Delano © Public Domain

68 Poetry


“How Do I Love Thee?” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (Sonnet)


Elizabeth Barrett Browning was born March 6, 1806. Her father was wealthy, the owner of sugar
plantations and other businesses in Jamaica. Throughout most of her childhood and young adulthood,
Elizabeth lived with her family—she was the oldest of twelve children—on a magnificent estate near
Ledbury, Herefordshire, in the southwest central part of England. She craved knowledge, reading
voraciously and, with her brothers, attending lessons with well-qualified tutors. Before she was a
teenager, Elizabeth was writing poetry. When she was a young teenager, she began to suffer intense
headaches and spinal discomfort from a cause never really diagnosed. She spent most of her time
indoors, reading and writing.

In the early 1830s, her father suffered a financial setback, in part because of new laws ending slavery.
The family retained enough means to settle in a fine home on Wimpole Street in London. Elizabeth
continued to write, and the high quality of her poetry brought her critical recognition and some financial
success. By the time she was in her late 30s, Elizabeth was among the best-known and most highly
respected poets in the country.

Her work drew the attention of another poet, Robert Browning, who eventually wrangled an invitation
to visit. In May of 1845, they met and fell in love. Elizabeth began to write a series of sonnets, among
the most famous in English literary history, celebrating her love for Robert. To be together, they had to
to elope. Elizabeth’s father, devoted insofar as he encouraged and supported her education and literary
talent, was eccentrically opposed to Elizabeth’s marriage, indeed, to marriage of any of his children.


The couple moved to Florence, Italy, where they settled into the happy life of two writers who still
had enough independent means to live well enough to have the freedom to devote themselves to their
work. When William Wordsworth died in 1850, Elizabeth came close to becoming British Poet Laureate,
barely losing out to Alfred Tennyson. In Italy, her health improved, though she still used laudanum, a
derivative of heroin, to control her pain and elevate her mood. At age 43, she gave birth to a son, Robert,
whom they always called Pen. Throughout her life, she was an advocate for social justice, opposing
slavery and child labour in “The Cry of the Children”; championing women’s rights, in her verse novel
Aurora Leigh; and supporting Italy in its campaign for independence from Austria.

70 Poetry

Published 1850

How Do I Love Thee?

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

“How Do I Love Thee?” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (Sonnet) 71



The theme of Barrett Browning’s poem is that true love is an all-consuming passion. The quality of
true love the poet especially stresses is its spiritual nature. True love is an article of faith. References to
“soul,” “grace,” “praise,” “faith,” “saints,” and “God” help create this impression. The last line confirms
the power of true love, asserting as it does that it is eternal, surviving even death.


“How Do I Love Thee” is a sonnet. A sonnet is a form of regular verse, so it will have a regular rhythm
pattern and rhyme scheme. The rhythm pattern, as it is for most sonnets, is iambic pentameter, five beats
of an unstressed then stressed sound in each line:

~ / ~ / ~ / ~ / ~ /
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
~ / ~ / ~ / ~ / ~ /
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

Barrett Browning alters the rhythm pattern with extra stressed sounds—for emphasis—in the first and
thirteenth lines. Read those lines out loud, and you will hear the extra stressed sounds.

The rhyme scheme is abbaabba cdcdcd. Note that some of the rhymes are not absolute: ways/grace,
for example, and faith/breath. These are called half-rhymes and they are included in the assessment of
the rhyme scheme.

Note that the rhyme scheme divides the poem into two parts. The abbaabba part is called the octave
(octave for eight) and the cdcdcd section is called the sestet (sestet for six). This is a distinctive sonnet
pattern, called the Petrarchan sonnet, named after the Italian poet Francesco Petrarch, who first used the
form in the fourteenth century. It is a common pattern in English poetry. The other common pattern is
the Shakespearean sonnet, examples of which we will read later in the chapter.

Figurative Language

Barrett Browning uses hyperbole throughout the poem to underscore the intensity of her love. She uses
clever similes to the same effect, asserting that she loves as intensely as the free man determined to
champion all that is right (line 7); as purely as the pious man at prayer (line 8). Almost half of the lines
in the sonnet begin with the sentence “I love thee,” which reads like a mantra that reinforces the spiritual
connection she feels.

72 Poetry


Elizabeth Barrett met Robert Browning in May of 1845, and they married in September of 1846. During
their courtship, Elizabeth wrote a series of forty-five sonnets expressing her love for her fiancé. When
she showed them to Robert, he recognized their brilliance and encouraged her to publish them in her next
volume of poems, which came out in 1850. They did realize such an intensely emotional and personal
expression of love might make the Victorian English uneasy, and so the poems were published under the
title Sonnets from the Portuguese, to make it seem as if they were translations. “How Do I Love Thee?”
is Sonnet 43. The deception was soon uncovered, and Barrett Browning’s sonnet sequence came to be
revered, second only to Shakespeare’s, in English literary history.

Related Activities and Questions for Study and Discussion


1. “How Do I Love Thee?” has become such an iconic poem, it has overshadowed the others in
Sonnets from the Portuguese, though there are other sonnets in the collection that are equally
moving and powerful. Browse through the other sonnets, easily accessible online. Select one.
Paraphrase it and assess and comment on its theme and use of figurative language.

2. See a documentary on the relationship between Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning.

Text Attributions

• “How Do I Love Thee?” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning is free of known copyright
restrictions in Canada.

Media Attributions

• Elizabeth Barrett Browning by Thomas Buchanan Read © Public Domain

“How Do I Love Thee?” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (Sonnet) 73


“The Cremation of Sam McGee” by Robert Service (Ballad)


Robert Service was born January 16, 1874, in Preston, Lancashire, England. His father was a banker.
For some years in his childhood, he lived with relatives in his father’s small hometown in Scotland
before rejoining his parents, who had relocated to Glasgow. He followed in his father’s footsteps, finding
work after his schooling with what would become the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Service was a wanderer who rarely settled for long in one place. In 1895, he made his way to
British Columbia, worked as a store clerk in Cowichan Bay, and wrote poems, published in the
Victoria newspaper the Daily Colonist. He took some courses at what is now the University of Victoria,
apparently to impress a woman with whom he had fallen in love, but he did not distinguish himself.
By 1903, he was working at a bank in Victoria. Head office sent him off to the new small town of
Whitehorse, established in the frenzy of the Klondike Gold Rush and now in need of a bank.

Here, Service wrote his two now iconic comical ballads, “The Cremation of Sam McGee” and “The
Shooting of Dan McGrew.” Soon he had enough poems to fill a book, Songs of a Sourdough, which was
a huge success and made Service a wealthy man. Another book, Ballads of a Cheechako (1909), was
published soon after and was another bestseller. A novel, The Trail of ’98, and another book of poems,
Rhymes of a Rolling Stone, were published over the next few years. Service decided to move on, and he
left the Yukon.

In 1913, after working for a year as a correspondent for the Toronto Star, which sent him off to


cover the Balkan Wars, Service settled in France. He married a Parisian girl, Germaine, and they had a
daughter, Iris. He continued to write poetry and novels, some of which were made into silent movies.

Service worked as a stretcher bearer and ambulance driver in the First World War. After the war, he
returned to Paris, wintered in Nice, and continued to write, mostly suspense thrillers. He hobnobbed with
some of the great writers of his generation: H.G. Wells, Somerset Maugham, Colette, and James Joyce.
Ballads of a Bohemian was published in 1921.

He was in his 60s when the Second World War broke out and he moved his family to the safety of
California, though he did his part for the war effort, reciting his poetry—he was always a fine dramatic
reader—to soldiers in U.S. Army camps. He also appeared—as himself—in a movie, The Spoilers
(1942), with Marlene Dietrich and John Wayne.

After the war, Service returned to Paris, though he continued to travel, wintering in Monte Carlo and
Monaco, where he lived on and off from 1947 until his death in 1958.

“The Cremation of Sam McGee” by Robert Service (Ballad) 75

Published 1907

The Cremation of Sam McGee

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil

for gold;

The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge

of Lake Lebarge


I cremated Sam McGee.

Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam ’round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he’d often say in his homely way that “he’d sooner live in hell.”

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.

Talk of your cold! through the parka’s fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we’d close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn’t see;
It wasn’t much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.

And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow,
And the dogs were fed, and the stars o’erhead were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and “Cap,” says he, “I’ll cash in this trip, I guess;
And if I do, I’m asking that you won’t refuse my last request.”

Well, he seemed so low that I couldn’t say no; then he says with a sort of moan:
“It’s the cursèd cold, and it’s got right hold till I’m chilled clean through to the bone.
Yet ’tain’t being dead—it’s my awful dread of the icy grave that pains;
So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you’ll cremate my last remains.”

A pal’s last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail;
And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee;
And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee.

There wasn’t a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven,
With a corpse half hid that I couldn’t get rid, because of a promise given;
It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say: “You may tax your brawn and brains,
But you promised true, and it’s up to you to cremate those last remains.”

1. Work hard.

2. The margin; the shore.

3. Actually Lake Laberge, which Service changes to “Lebarge” to rhyme with “marge.” Lake Laberge is a widening of the Yukon River,

north of Whitehorse.

4. Supply route between Dawson City and Whitehorse.

76 Poetry

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.
In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load.
In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring,
Howled out their woes to the homeless snows— O God! how I loathed the thing.

And every day that quiet clay seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
And on I went, though the dogs were spent and the grub was getting low;
The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in;
And I’d often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin.

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay;
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the “Alice May.”
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum;
Then “Here,” said I, with a sudden cry, “is my cre-ma-tor-eum.”

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire;
Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher;
The flames just soared, and the furnace roared—such a blaze you seldom see;
And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

Then I made a hike, for I didn’t like to hear him sizzle so;
And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow.
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don’t know why;
And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky.

I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear;
But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: “I’ll just take a peep inside.
I guess he’s cooked, and it’s time I looked”; … then the door I opened wide.

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and he said: “Please close that door.
It’s fine in here, but I greatly fear you’ll let in the cold and storm—
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it’s the first time I’ve been warm.”

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

“The Cremation of Sam McGee” by Robert Service (Ballad) 77



“The Cremation of Sam McGee” is a narrative poem, set during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896–1899.
Until the last verse, it tells a grisly, almost Gothic story of two friends mushing their way along the
Dawson Trail, moiling for gold. The main—and title—character is sick and, convinced he is dying,
asks his friend to cremate him. A native of Tennessee, Sam simply cannot survive in such a harsh and
forbidding climate.

He dies, and his friend is determined to honour his last request. An old boat, the Alice May, is
shipwrecked on the shore of Lake Lebarge, and here the narrator will build a fire and cremate his friend.
He leaves, unable to watch his friend incinerate; he returns an hour or so later.

And here the plot of the poem twists: Gothic is replaced by comedy. The fire has thawed Sam out, and
he is alive and happy, warm for the first time since he has been in the Yukon.

“The Cremation of Sam McGee” is a popular ballad, meant to entertain and amuse readers, but
a theme about the meaning of friendship and respecting and honouring the wishes—however
gruesome—of a friend does emerge from the plot.


“The Cremation of Sam McGee” is a ballad. A ballad is a narrative poem, usually written in quatrains
(four-line stanzas) that alternate between iambic/anapestic pentameter and iambic/anapestic trimeter
lines and use an abcb rhyme scheme. This rhythm, metre, and rhyme creates the sing-song voice which
makes ballads so much fun to read out loud.

Here is the opening verse of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” perhaps
the best-known ballad in English literature. Read it out loud and note how the rhythm and the rhyme
quicken the pace of the lines:

~ / ~ / ~ / ~ /
It is an ancient Mariner,
~ ~ / ~ / ~ /
And he stoppeth one of three.
‘By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?

Service begins his poem with a refrain—also common in ballads—repeated at the end of the poem and
written in the typical tetrameter and trimeter, iambic and anapestic, ballad metre:

78 Poetry

~ ~ / ~ / ~ ~ / ~ /
There are strange things done in the midnight sun
~ ~ / ~ / ~ /
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;

His narrative begins thereafter, in lines of seven beats each—heptameter—in iambic and anapestic.
Service doubles the length of the typical ballad line, while maintaining the 4/3 pattern of the more
traditional ballad stanza.

~ / ~ / ~ ~ / ~ / ~ ~ / ~ / ~ /
Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam ‘round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he’d often say in his homely way that “he’d sooner live in hell.”

Note also the use of internal rhyme—that is, words that rhyme within a single line: McGee/Tennessee;
home/roam; cold/gold; say/way. Internal rhyme is often a feature of the ballad stanza.

Ballads also often contain an element of the supernatural. The fire reanimates Sam, dead by the time he
is cremated for several days. The refrain hints at supernatural events to come in the poem.

Figurative Language

In the first stanza, the simile “the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell” illustrates the allure of
wealth that brought a hundred thousand prospectors to the Yukon in the late 1890s. The simile in the
second stanza, which has the cold stabbing into Sam “like a driven nail,” creates an effective image of
the bitterest cold and foreshadows Sam’s “death.”

In the third stanza, stars are personified, “dancing heel and toe,” illustrating the natural beauty of the
Yukon, despite its bitter cold.

The assonance in stanza seven—“In the long, long night, by the lone firelight”—highlights the
narrator’s sense of loneliness, as he looks for a place to cremate his friend. The haunting image in the
next line, as the huskies “Howled out their woes to the homeless snows,” has a similar effect. The
personification and imagery of the eleventh stanza—“And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled,
and the wind began to blow”—further enhances the poem’s ominous tone. The last line of the same
stanza—“And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky”—is a similarly effective
metaphor and image.

The hyperbole of the final stanza, wherein the resurrected Sam wears “a smile you could see a mile,”
perfectly alters the tone of the poem from ominous to hilarious.

“The Cremation of Sam McGee” by Robert Service (Ballad) 79


“The Cremation of Sam McGee” is based in part on an experience of one of Service’s close friends, Dr.
Leonard Sugden, who had to cremate the body of a miner whom he found on an abandoned steamer, the
Olive May—Service makes it the Alice May—because the ground was too frozen to allow for a burial.

William Samuel McGee was a client of Service’s when he worked at the Bank of Commerce in
Whitehorse. Service asked and received permission to use McGee’s name.

The poem was published in Service’s 1907 collection, Songs of a Sourdough. A sourdough is a
resident of the Yukon.


The Cremation of Sam McGee

Your school library might have a copy of the book-length edition of “The Cremation of Sam McGee,”
illustrated by Ted Harrison, an artist who painted beautifully coloured, whimsical landscapes of the Yukon.
There are several readings of the poem on YouTube, including one by Service himself and an excellent one by
Johnny Cash, also illustrated with Ted Harrison paintings. Consult these sources and consider how they add to
your understanding and enjoyment of this iconic Canadian poem.

Text Attributions

• “The Cremation of Sam McGee” by Robert Service is free of known copyright restrictions in

Media Attributions

• Robert Service, c. 1905 © Public Domain

80 Poetry


“Ode to a Nightingale” by John Keats (Ode)


John Keats was born in London on October 31, 1795. His father helped manage businesses, an inn and a
livery stable, owned by his father-in-law, John Jennings. His childhood was traumatized by the death of
his father in a riding accident in April of 1804 and his mother’s hasty remarriage to William Rawlings,
who replaced Keats’s father as the family property manager but not, apparently, as a responsible father
figure. Conflicts over the dispersal of John Jennings’s considerable estate after his death broke the family
apart and would plague Keats with financial problems all of his life, though his share of the estate,
entangled in court proceedings, would have been considerable. Keats and his sister and two brothers
went off to live with their grandmother.

Eventually, the family did reconcile, and Keats did well at John Clarke’s school in Enfield, where,
despite his small size, he was an excellent athlete and a prizewinning student, popular with the other boys
at the school. Tragedy struck again when Keats’s mother died in March 1810. Her mother appointed a
family friend, Richard Abbey, executor of her estate.

Keats chose—or had chosen for him—medicine as his career. In the summer of 1810, he began work
as apprentice to the family doctor, Thomas Hammond, and he was accepted into medical school at Guy’s
Hospital in October of 1815. He did well, and in July of 1816, he earned the degree, which would qualify
him to practice as a pharmacist, physician, and surgeon.

Keats continued his friendship with Charles Clarke, whose father was headmaster of the school they
attended together. Clarke encouraged Keats’s budding interest in writing poetry, and he introduced


Keats to the radical editor Leigh Hunt, with whom Clarke had shared some of Keats’s work. Hunt
was impressed, especially with the early sonnet “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer,” written in
October of 1816, after Clarke had loaned Keats George Chapman’s translation of Homer’s great epic
poems, The Iliad and The Odyssey. Keats was a member now of the Hunt circle—he met poet Percy
Shelley in December. Soon they were seen, justifiably so, as the rising starts of English poetry.

Abbey was, understandably, furious that Keats was giving up medicine to be a poet, especially given
that the considerable expense of attending medical school would exacerbate Keats’s financial problems.
Keats’s first book, simply titled Poems, appeared in March of 1817, but it was hardly a commercial
success. He spent the next six months working on his long poem, Endymion, about the moon goddess
Cynthia, who falls in love with the mortal shepherd Endymion and eventually assumes mortal shape
herself so that they can be together. It was published in 1818 to indifferent reviews and poor sales. Still,
Keats’s reputation was growing, and he was enjoying an active social life, travelling throughout the
English countryside (on walking tours, mainly) and partying with a large group of London’s artists and
poets, Shelley and Wordsworth among the most prominent.

In December of 1818, Keats’s brother Tom died of tuberculosis. His other brother, George, had
immigrated to America, and Keats, always the responsible oldest brother, cared for Tom during his last
days. The sorrow of Tom’s death coincided with some cruel reviews of Keats’s work, his continuing
financial issues, and his own failing health, but his voluminous correspondence to his friends reveals the
extent to which he was determined to keep his spirits up. A new relationship with his neighbour Frances
Brawne helped him during this trying time.

Despite—perhaps because of—symptoms, which Dr. Keats recognized as the onset of tuberculosis, he
worked with determined intensity, completing his great poems, including “The Eve of St. Agnes,” “Ode
to a Nightingale,” “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” “La Belle Dame sans Merci,” and “To Autumn,” by the end
of 1819. He became unofficially engaged to Fanny, to the consternation of her mother, who was doubtful
of Keats’s prospects, and Keats’s friends, who did not warm to her. His final book (recognized now as a
milestone of English poetry), Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes and Other Poems, was published in
July 1820.

As his health continued to deteriorate, Keats sailed off to Italy with his close friend, the artist Joseph
Severn, hoping the mild Italian climate would revive him. He saw Fanny for the last time in September
of 1820. He lingered in Rome for some months before tuberculosis claimed him, as it had his brother
and mother, in February of 1821.

82 Poetry

Published 1819

Ode to a Nightingale

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock

I had drunk,

Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe

-wards had sunk:

‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness,—
That thou, light-winged Dryad

of the trees

In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance, and Provençal

song, and sunburnt mirth!

O for a beaker full of the warm South,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,


With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stained mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;


Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs,
Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,

1. A highly poisonous plant.

2. In Greek mythology, the river of forgetfulness in the underworld.

3. In Greek mythology, a spirit that resides in trees.

4. Provence is a region in southeastern France, known for its natural beauty.

5. In Greek mythology, a spring on Mount Helicon. Drink from the stream and you will be inspired to write poetry.

6. Keats’s younger brother Tom died of tuberculosis at just nineteen years of age. Keats, trained as a physician, cared for him. Keats himself,

like his mother and brother before him, would also die of tuberculosis at the young age of twenty-five. He knew he had the illness when

he wrote this poem in 1819.

“Ode to a Nightingale” by John Keats (Ode) 83

Not charioted by Bacchus

and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,
And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays


But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous

glooms and winding mossy ways.

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves;
And mid-May’s eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.


I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
To thy high requiem become a sod.

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth,

when, sick for home,

She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that oft-times hath

7. The Roman god of wine, agriculture, fertility, and general partying. His chariot was pulled by leopards, the “pards” referenced later in the

same line.

8. Fairies and/or elves.

9. Lushly green vegetation.

10. In the dark.

11. In the Bible, Ruth moves with her mother-in-law to Jerusalem after the death of her husband, though she is not herself Jewish. She misses

her home in Moab, but sacrifices her own happiness to be with and protect her mother-in-law.

84 Poetry

Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
As she is fam’d to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?

“Ode to a Nightingale” by John Keats (Ode) 85



As the poem opens, the speaker expresses heartache and despair. He contrasts this with the summer song
of the nightingale, whose happiness he envies. He wishes he had a magic potion that would transport
him to the nightingale’s world, where he could forget about the trials and tribulations of his own life.

By virtue of his poetic imagination, the speaker does imagine he enters the nightingale’s magical
world of tender nights, starry skies, and fragrant flowers. He is struck by the immortality of the
nightingale’s song in contrast to his own mortality and dark thoughts. He hears the birdsong on this day
and imagines Ruth of the Bible hearing it and remembering fondly her homeland.

He is jolted back to reality as the nightingale’s song fades away. He is left disoriented by the sensuous
experience which has both pleased and confused him.

The theme of the poem is that nature’s beauty, represented by the nightingale’s song, can take us away
from the harsh realities of life, but eventually, we will need to face and cope with them.


The poem is, as its title proclaims, an ode. An ode is a medium-length to long poem, ranging from about
36 to about 210 lines in length, formal in tone, and usually on a serious topic that has a philosophical
slant to it. Odes tend to be in iambic pentameter and have regular rhyme schemes, but the ode form is
determined by the author rather than prescribed.

“Ode to a Nightingale” is in iambic pentameter, with each of its eight ten-line stanzas using an
ababcdecde rhyme scheme.

Figurative Language

The nightingale’s song is a synecdoche, the use of a part to represent the whole. The famous aphorism
“the pen is mightier than the sword” is built upon synecdoche, the pen representing the written word
and the sword representing warfare. The nightingale’s song is a synecdoche for the beauty and the
permanence of nature, in that Keats heard it and celebrated it in 1819; Ruth of the Bible heard it two
thousand years ago; and we continue to hear it and marvel at it today.

Keats is a master of imagery, and sensuous images that help us see the poem’s beautiful settings and
hear its beautiful music appear in every stanza. The latter half of stanza 4 and all of stanza 5, wherein
Keats describes the imaginary world to which the nightingale’s song transported him, are especially
effective. As we read the poem aloud, we can feel the tender night, see the bright moon, smell and hear,
almost taste, the lush gardens, even though they are lit only by the moon. Alliteration and assonance
support and feed the imagery.


In the spring of 1819, Keats was sharing a house with his friend Charles Brown. The house was
Wentworth Place, in Hampstead, a suburb of London. The house is now Keats House, a museum

86 Poetry

dedicated to John Keats. According to Brown, Keats was captivated by the song of a nightingale, which
had nested in a plum tree—still there—in the garden. One morning, he sat under the plum tree for two
or three hours and wrote the poem.

Related Activities and Questions for Study and Discussion


1. Hear a nightingale sing.

2. Hear Benedict Cumberbatch read “Ode to a Nightingale”.

3. Do you get more out of the poem after you hear the bird sing and professional actor read? Explain
your answer.

4. Watch the trailer for Bright Star, a film about Keats’s relationship with Fanny.

Text Attributions

• “Ode to a Nightingale” by John Keats is free of known copyright restrictions in Canada.

Media Attributions

• John Keats by William Hilton, after Joseph Severn. National Portrait Gallery, London © CC
BY-NC-ND (Attribution NonCommercial NoDerivatives)

“Ode to a Nightingale” by John Keats (Ode) 87


“My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning (Dramatic Monologue)


Robert Browning was born on May 7, 1812, in Camberwell, England. His mother was an accomplished
pianist and a devout evangelical Christian. His father worked as a bank clerk and was also an artist,
scholar, antiquarian, and collector of books and pictures. His rare book collection of more than 6,000
volumes included works in Greek, Hebrew, Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish. Much of Browning’s
education came from his well-read father. It is believed that he was already proficient at reading and
writing by the age of five. A bright and anxious student, Browning learned Latin, Greek, and French
by the time he was fourteen. From fourteen to sixteen, he was educated at home, attended to by various
tutors in music, drawing, dancing, and horsemanship.

At the age of twelve, he wrote a volume of Byronic verse entitled Incondita, which his parents
attempted, unsuccessfully, to have published. In 1825, a cousin gave Browning a collection of Shelley’s
poetry; Browning was so taken with the book that he asked for the rest of Shelley’s works for his
thirteenth birthday, and declared himself a vegetarian and an atheist in emulation of the poet. Despite
this early passion, he apparently wrote no poems between the ages of thirteen and twenty. In 1828,
Browning enrolled at the University of London, but he soon left, anxious to read and learn at his own
pace. The random nature of his education later surfaced in his writing, leading to criticism of his poems’

In 1833, Browning anonymously published his first major published work, Pauline, and in 1840, he
published Sordello, which was widely regarded as a failure. He also tried his hand at drama, but his


plays, including Strafford, which ran for five nights in 1837, and the Bells and Pomegranates series,
were for the most part unsuccessful. Nevertheless, the techniques he developed through his dramatic
monologues—especially his use of diction, rhythm, and symbol—are regarded as his most important
contribution to poetry, influencing such major poets of the twentieth century as Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot,
and Robert Frost.

After reading Elizabeth Barrett’s Poems (1844) and corresponding with her for a few months,
Browning met her in 1845. They were married in 1846, against the wishes of Barrett’s father. The
couple moved to Pisa and then Florence, where they continued to write. They had a son, Robert
“Pen” Browning, in 1849, the same year Browning’s Collected Poems was published. Elizabeth inspired
Robert’s collection of poems Men and Women (1855), which he dedicated to her. Now regarded as one of
Browning’s best works, the book was received with little notice at the time; its author was then primarily
known as Elizabeth Barrett’s husband.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning died in 1861, and Robert and Pen Browning moved to London soon
after. Browning went on to publish Dramatis Personae (1864), and The Ring and the Book (1868). The
latter, based on a seventeenth century Italian murder trial, received wide critical acclaim, finally earning
Browning renown and respect in the twilight of his career. The Browning Society was founded in 1881,
and he was awarded honorary degrees by Oxford University in 1882 and the University of Edinburgh in
1884. Robert Browning died on the same day that his final volume of verse, Asolando, was published,
in 1889.

“My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning (Dramatic Monologue) 89

Published 1842

My Last Duchess


That’s my last Duchess

painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I


That piece a wonder, now; Fra Pandolf’s

Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
5Will’t please you sit and look at her? I said

“Fra Pandolf” by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
10The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ’twas not
Her husband’s presence only, called that spot
15Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek; perhaps
Fra Pandolf chanced to say, “Her mantle


Over my lady’s wrist too much,” or “Paint
Must never hope to reproduce the faint
Half-flush that dies along her throat.”

Such stuff

20Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy. She had
A heart—how shall I say?— too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
25Sir, ’twas all one! My favour at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace—all and each
30Would draw from her alike the approving speech,
Or blush, at least. She thanked men—good! but thanked

1. Browning identifies the speaker, who delivers the lines which form the poem. He is Alfonso II, the Duke of Ferrara, a Province in

northeast Italy.

2. In 1558, Ferrara married 14-year-old Lucrezia de Medici, daughter of the Grand Duke of another Italian province, Tuscany. She died in

1561. She may have died from tuberculosis, but Browning suggests in the poem she was murdered—poisoned or strangled—on the

orders of her husband.

3. The Duke is based upon Alfonso II, fifth Duke of Ferrara (1533–97). In 1558, he married 14-year-old Lucrezia de’ Medici, who died in

1561 under suspicious circumstances.

4. Brother or Friar Pandolf, a fictitious painter from a monastic order.

5. Her shawl.

6. Perhaps a hint, a foreshadowing, of the Duchess’s death by strangulation.

90 Poetry

Somehow—I know not how—as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody’s gift. Who’d stoop to blame
35This sort of trifling? Even had you skill
In speech—which I have not—to make your will
Quite clear to such a one, and say, “Just this
Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,
Or there exceed the mark”—and if she let
40Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set
Her wits to yours, forsooth,

and made excuse—

E’en then would be some stooping; and I choose
Never to stoop. Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without
45Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive. Will’t please you rise? We’ll meet
The company below, then. I repeat,
The Count your master’s known munificence
50Is ample warrant that no just pretense
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;


Though his fair daughter’s self, as I avowed
At starting, is my object. Nay, we’ll go
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune,


55Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,
Which Claus of Innsbruck

cast in bronze for me!

7. Indeed.

8. We learn now that the listener is the ambassador for another Duke or, in this case, a Count, whose daughter Ferrara wishes to marry, as

long as the dowry is sufficient. (In the interest of historical accuracy, it was more likely Tyrol’s niece whom Ferrara wished to marry.)

9. Roman sea god, here depicted as subduing a mythical beast, half horse, half fish.

10. An imaginary sculptor. The reference may be an indirect compliment to Ferdinand of Innsbruck, Count of Tyrol, whose daughter Alfonso

married in 1565.

“My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning (Dramatic Monologue) 91



The Duke’s speech reveals his character, and from his character emerges the theme of the poem. The
Duke’s late wife displeased him, because he thinks she took joy in the simple pleasures of life at the
expense of the attention and reverence she should have granted exclusively to him and to his “nine-
hundred-years-old name.” His last Duchess chatted with Fra Pandolf, who painted her portrait; she loved
the sunset; she loved the bough of cherries the gardener brought her; she loved riding around the estate
on her white mule. The Duke believes, on the basis of no evidence, that his Duchess flirted with men.
And so he “gave commands / Then all smiles stopped together.” He has her executed. The Duke reveals
himself to be pathologically jealous, a product of his own deep-seated insecurities. And herein lies the
main theme of the poem: the destructive power of jealousy arising from an arrogance that masks low


“My Last Duchess” is a dramatic monologue. It is a monologue in the sense that it consists of words
spoken by one person. It is dramatic in the sense that another person is present, listening to the speaker’s
words, which are shared with a wider audience, the poem’s readers. A dramatic monologue is, in a sense,
a very short one-act play.

This is a regular verse dramatic monologue, in rhyming couplet iambic pentameter.

Figurative Language

The Duke comes across as a blunt, plain-spoken man, not one to use imagery or metaphor. The striking
image of lines 18–19, noting that a painter would have trouble reproducing “the faint / Half-flush that
dies along [the Duchess’s] throat,” is in the voice of the artist. It does foreshadow the Duchess’s fate.

The bronze sculpture of Neptune taming a sea horse, which the Duke points out to the Count’s
ambassador before they rejoin the other guests, is a symbol of the control the Duke intends to exert upon
his new bride. He has an ulterior motive in pointing out the statue.

Irony, as an element of literature, is a behaviour or an event which is contrary to readers’ or audience
expectations. We say it is “ironic” when the Chief of Police is convicted of a crime. “My Last Duchess”
rings with irony. The Duke condemns his wife’s behaviour but reveals her to be an innocent free spirit.
He believes he is an honourable man, acting appropriately in the interest of preserving the integrity of
his “nine-hundred-years-old name.” Readers soon understand the truth: the Duke is an insecure control
freak and a murderer.


“My Last Duchess” was published in 1842, in Browning’s poetry collection Dramatic Lyrics. Browning
was a student of the history, literature, and culture of Renaissance Italy, which is the poem’s setting,
though he had not yet eloped with Elizabeth and settled with her in Italy.

92 Poetry

Related Activities and Questions for Study and Discussion


1. “My Last Duchess” was published in 1842 and is set in Italy in 1561. Consider how, if at all, the
story it tells and the character of the Duke continue to be relevant today.

2. Watch a dramatic reading of “My Last Duchess” by Robert Pennant Jones.

3. Watch a dramatic reading of “My Last Duchess” by Ed Peed.

Text Attributions

• Biography: “Robert Browning” from © All Rights Reserved. Biography reprinted
with the permission of the Academy of American Poets, 75 Maiden Lane, Suite 901, New
York, NY,

• “My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning is free of known copyright restrictions in Canada.

Media Attributions

• Robert Browning by Cameron, 1865 by Julia Margaret Cameron © Public Domain

“My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning (Dramatic Monologue) 93


“One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop (Villanelle)


Elizabeth Bishop was born on February 8, 1911, in Worcester, Massachusetts. Her father was a
prosperous building contractor, but he died while Elizabeth was still an infant. He left enough of a
legacy so his daughter, when she came of age, would be free to travel widely and pursue her work as
a poet. Elizabeth’s mother, devastated by her husband’s death, broke down emotionally and had to be

Elizabeth was sent to live with her mother’s family in Nova Scotia. She was happy there, but her
father’s family was wealthy enough to effect Elizabeth’s return to Massachusetts to live with them.
She was less happy there, and she was sent off again, this time to live with her mother’s sister, who
encouraged her love of reading, her interest in poetry, especially. Her health was never robust; she would
suffer from asthma all her life. But she was always a good student, and in 1934, she graduated from

She travelled widely—France, Spain, Africa, Italy—then settled for a time in Key West, where she
transformed her travel memories into poetry: North & South was published in 1946. Her famous and
much anthologized poem “The Fish” is included in this volume. She would return to Florida often
throughout her life.

Bishop moved to New York, the best city for networking and for making the contacts a poet
needed, where she would live until 1951. The poets Marianne Moore (1887–1972) and Robert Lowell
(1917–1977) befriended her, offered her the emotional support she always needed, and helped her


Published 1977

promote her work. Her next book, Poems: North & South. A Cold Spring, was published in 1955. It won
the 1956 Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

By then, Bishop was living in Rio de Janeiro. She had left New York in the fall of 1951, planning
a world tour. But in Rio, she caught up with Lota de Macedo Soares, whom she had met in New
York. They fell in love and lived together until 1967. Lota had an apartment in Rio and an estate near
Petropolis, an enclave for wealthy Brazilians. For a time, Elizabeth thrived. Her health improved, and
she controlled the heavy drinking that had plagued her all her adult life. Brazil’s natural beauty inspired
her. She was never a prolific poet, but her third book, Questions of Travel, was published in 1965.

Lota was a landscape architect from a prominent Brazilian family. In 1961, she was commissioned to
oversee the development of the lush gardens and buildings for Rio’s Flamengo Park, a massive project
which consumed much of her time. She also became increasingly involved in Brazil’s frenetic politics.
The intensity of her work strained her relationship with Elizabeth.

In 1965, Bishop took a teaching position at the University of Washington in Seattle. She returned to
Brazil in the summer of 1966, hoping to recover her happy life there. It was not to be. Lota could not
cope with the stress of her work, and she was furious to learn of Elizabeth’s relationship in Seattle with a
young woman, Roxanne Cummings. Lota had to be hospitalized, as did Elizabeth, for mental exhaustion.
In the summer of 1967, Elizabeth returned to New York. Feeling stronger, Lota joined her that autumn,
hoping to revive the relationship. But she was still far from healthy. She took an overdose of sleeping
pills the night she arrived, and died a few days later in September of 1967.

Elizabeth reunited with Roxanne and moved her—and her two-year-old son—to Brazil, hoping to
resume there the semblance of a happy life she had enjoyed there once. But the relationship did not last;
Roxanne and her son returned to Seattle. Elizabeth floundered, but was rescued again by Robert Lowell,
who got her a teaching position at Harvard, where he was a distinguished professor.

Elizabeth rallied and wrote some of the finest poetry she had ever written, published in Geography
III in 1977. At Harvard, she met the third love of her life, Alice Methfessel. They were happy enough
together (except for one dramatic temporary breakup) until Elizabeth’s death in October of 1979.

One Art

Read “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop online.



“One Art” asserts that, over time, we can recover from the loss of an object or even the loss of a loved
one. “The art of losing isn’t hard to master,” the poet says; practice by losing small objects, then build
up to the loss of homeland, home, and loved ones.

The key question the poem raises is this: Is the poet sincere or disingenuous? Is she deceiving
herself to mask the pain of heartache? Has she really recovered from the loss of the woman she
loved? Her advice—that we should practice the art of losing to prepare ourselves for a big loss—seems
counterintuitive. We do lose things we treasure and people we love, but it is hard to master loss.

On its surface, the theme of “One Art” is that with patience and practice, we can recover from loss.

“One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop (Villanelle) 95

The deeper theme might be the reverse: the loss of love is a disaster for which there is little or no


“One Art” is a form of regular verse known as a villanelle. It is a complex and challenging genre. It
consists of nineteen lines, divided into five tercets (three-line stanzas) and a final quatrain. The rhythm
pattern is iambic pentameter. The rhyme scheme is aba aba aba aba aba abaa. The first line of the
poem and the last line of the first tercet are repeated throughout the poem with, at most, slightly altered
wording. The first line of the poem serves as the last line of the second and fourth tercets. The last line
of the first stanza serves as the last line of the third and the fifth stanza. These repeating lines repeat one
last time, forming a rhyming couplet with which the poem ends.

The villanelle is not a form widely used by poets. Its subject is often personal and emotional. The
controlled and rigid structure helps poets restrain the emotion that might otherwise become excessive.

Figurative Language

The first phrase of the poem—“The art of losing”—is an oxymoron, a phrase that embeds a deliberate
contradiction to achieve a literary effect. The speaker is deceiving herself, pretending she does not care
about loss, and so she refers to it as an “art,” pretending to diminish the pain and frustration of loss.


In the fall of 1975, Bishop split up with her girlfriend, Alice Methfessel. They would reunite and remain
together until Bishop’s death in 1979, but the split inspired “One Art.” The “you” of the final stanza is a
reference to Alice.

The loss of the cities, countries, and even continents she alludes to in the poem remind readers of her
extensive travels and long residence in Rio de Janeiro.

Related Activities and Questions for Study and Discussion


1. In the film, In Her Shoes, the character of Maggie, played by Cameron Diaz, recites “One Art” to
a patient in the hospital where she works. She then offers her interpretation of the poem. Watch
Cameron Diaz recite “One Art” in the film In Her Shoes. What do you think of Maggie’s
interpretation of the poem?

2. Compare “One Art” with the song “The Place Where the Lost Things Go” from the film Mary
Poppins Returns.

3. Do you agree that Bishop is being disingenuous when she claims that losing her partner is not a

96 Poetry

disaster? Do you think she successfully exorcises Alice’s presence in her heart by writing a poem
about it? Is this a good way to cope with loss?

Media Attributions

• Elizabeth Bishop, 1934 © Public Domain

“One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop (Villanelle) 97


“To an Athlete Dying Young” by A.E. Housman (Elegy)


Alfred Edward Housman was born March 26, 1859, in a suburb of Bromsgrove, a small Worcestershire
town southwest of Birmingham. His father was a solicitor. Housman’s childhood was basically happy,
though marred by the death of his mother in 1871. His father remarried to his cousin Lucy, with whom
Housman had a close relationship. He was a bright student who won a scholarship to attend Oxford in
October of 1877.

Housman was brilliant but arrogant and overly self-confident about his intellectual abilities. He read
what he preferred to read, at the expense of the readings his professors assigned to him. Another
distraction was his unrequited love for his friend and fellow student, Moses Jackson. Housman failed his
final exams in May of 1881, and he had to return for another semester to earn his undistinguished degree
in Greek and Latin literature.

He was forced to put on hold the academic career for which he was well suited. For the next ten years,
he was a humble clerk in the Patent Office in London, where Moses also worked. He shared a house
with Moses and Moses’s brother, Adalbert. Apparently the roommates quarrelled, possibly because of
the awkwardness of Housman’s feelings. He moved out of the house in 1885; Jackson left for a teaching
position in India, in 1887, and Housman rarely saw him thereafter. Jackson would eventually settle in
Vancouver, where he died in 1923.

In his spare time, Housman edited the work of and wrote academic articles about Greek and Latin
writers. By 1892, he had a growing reputation, and University College London hired him as a professor


of Latin. In the spare time he now had, he travelled on holidays to the continent—France and Italy
were his favourite destinations—and he dabbled in poetry. His first collection, A Shropshire Lad, was
published in 1896. It would become one of the most popular, bestselling collections of poetry in the
history of English literature.

In 1910, Cambridge lured Housman away from UCL, and he worked at Cambridge as professor of
Latin for the rest of his life. Last Poems (mistitled, as it would turn out) was published in 1922. He died
in 1936, and his brother Laurence included additional poems in the biography he published the year after
Housman’s death. Housman was prouder of his brilliant scholarship and meticulous editing of Greek and
Latin texts than he was of his poetry, about which he was always reluctant to speak, though he remains
a famous man today due mainly to the enduring popularity of the poems in A Shropshire Lad.

“To an Athlete Dying Young” by A.E. Housman (Elegy) 99

Published 1896

To an Athlete Dying Young

The time you won your town the race
We chaired you

through the market-place;

Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

Today, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,

And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel


It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears.

Now you will not swell the rout

Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,


And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.


And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl’s.


1. Carried you above us on a chair to commemorate your victory.

2. In ancient Greece, victorious athletes were honoured with a laurel wreath, placed upon their head.

3. The crowd.

4. Here likely a reference to the coffin.

5. A lintel is the cross beam at the top of a door or a window. It is “low” here because it is the top of the coffin, where the dead athlete,

metaphorically, holds up his trophy.

6. The garland, the wreath of flowers, which girls make fade quickly, while the wreath on the head of the athlete does not fade.

100 Poetry



Coping with death is a common theme among virtually all poets, who often speculate on the promise
of eternal life through faith and the immortality of the soul. Housman has a different theme, asserting
that there are advantages to dying young, at the height of your fame, before your glory fades with time.
“Smart lad,” he writes, in praise of the athlete dying young, “to slip betimes away / From fields where
glory does not stay.”


“To an Athlete Dying Young” is an elegy, a poem written to honour and commemorate the passing of
someone to whom the poet was close, often a friend or family member. Elegies are naturally sad, though
the poet will often temper the sorrow by expressing the conviction the loved one lives on in the memory
of friends and family and in the promise of eternal life.

Housman’s is a regular verse elegy, in iambic tetrameter, with an aabb rhyme scheme.

Figurative Language

The tone of the poem is triumphant in the first stanza, when the young athlete has won the race. The
iambic tetrameter lines move quickly, and the diction—“cheering by,” “shoulder-high”—is upbeat. But
notice how the tone becomes more sombre as the verses progress. By the third verse, the lines, though
still iambic tetrameter, slow down, and the diction is more and more associated with the death, the coffin,
and the burial.

Plants and flowers—laurel, roses, garlands—are used throughout the poem as symbols of athletic
prowess and the transience of life.


“To an Athlete Dying Young” is one of the poems from Housman’s collection A Shropshire Lad,
published in 1896. Sales were slow at first, but picked up to such an extent that it eventually became a
bestseller, selling hundreds of thousands of copies, and is still in print today.

If there is an actual person whom Housman knew, a young athlete who died young, the person has not
been identified. He is likely a fictitious character.

“To an Athlete Dying Young” by A.E. Housman (Elegy) 101

Related Activities and Questions for Study and Discussion


1. Housman is the protagonist of Tom Stoppard’s 1997 play The Invention of Love. Watch an excerpt
of The Invention of Love.

2. Listen to some of the poems in A Shropshire Lad set to music.

3. In “To an Athlete Dying Young,” Housman suggests that dying young, at the height of your fame,
is less tragic than it might appear to be because your accomplishments are frozen in time, unable
to fade away. Do you agree? Think of those famous people who have died young—James Dean,
Princess Diana, Michael Jackson, Prince.

4. Housman’s poems have been parodied often. Clever parodies by Max Beerbohm and Humbert
Wolfe are easy to access online.

Text Attributions

• “To an Athlete Dying Young” by A.E. Housman is free of known copyright restrictions in

102 Poetry


“Eastern Guard Tower” by Etheridge Knight (Haiku)


Etheridge Knight was born on April 19, 1931, in Corinth, Mississippi. His father was a farmer and, later,
a construction worker on the Kentucky Dam. Knight’s childhood was unsettled. He was an excellent
student, but opportunities for poor black children in the South were few. He dropped out of school when
he was sixteen. He joined the army and served as a medical technician in the Korean War until November
1950. He was wounded and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, conditions which led to an
addiction to painkillers, morphine especially.

He settled in Indianapolis, where his family was now living. Opportunities were still few, and Knight
sold drugs to support his own addiction. In 1960, he was sentenced to eight years in prison for armed
robbery. In prison, Knight read widely and began to write poetry. By the mid 1960s, he was gaining
a reputation—especially among other African-American poets—as a gifted writer. Poems from Prison
was published in 1968, the same year Knight was released.

Upon his release, Knight married fellow poet Sonia Sanchez. They were, with Dudley Randall, Amiri
Baraka, and Gwendolyn Brooks, prominent in the Black Arts Movement. BAM was a more radical
successor to the Harlem Renaissance (see entry for Langston Hughes). By the 1960s, African-American
writers and artists were impatient with the slow march toward civil rights, and their work took a more
aggressive, radical, assertive position on the need for social change, for the end to racism, especially.

Knight struggled to control his drug addiction; his marriage to Sanchez did not survive. But his
career flourished. He found work as poet-i- residence at several universities, including the University of
Pittsburgh. He was the recipient of prestigious grants, including a Guggenheim. He continued to publish
poetry collections: Belly Song and Other Poems, in 1973; Born of a Woman, in 1980. His work was
widely acclaimed, and he was nominated for prestigious awards, including a Pulitzer Prize.

Knight got some control over his drug addiction; earned a degree in American poetry; and married
again, though he and his second wife separated in 1977. He died of lung cancer in March of 1991.


Published 1968

Eastern Guard Tower

Eastern guard tower
glints in sunset; convicts rest
like lizards on rocks.



As is usually the case for a haiku, theme emerges from the contrast embedded in the poem’s imagery.
The guard tower “glints in sunset,” the tower suggesting the beauty and freedom that lies beyond it. The
convicts, resting “like lizards on rocks,” suggests the pain and resentment of incarceration, of the loss of


“Eastern Guard Tower” is a haiku. The haiku is a form of free verse that originated in Japan and, though
it is a free verse form, does have its conventions. It is three lines in length. In its strict, classical form,
the three lines add up to seventeen syllables: five in the first line, seven in the second, and five again in
the third. Knight’s haiku follows this pattern.

A haiku typically consists of two contrasting images, its theme emerging from this contrast.

Figurative Language

The image of the guard tower, glinting in the sunset, contrasts with the simile, comparing the convicts to
lizards, resting on rocks. From the contrast emerges the theme of the poem.


Knight was imprisoned, from 1960 to 1968, for armed robbery. In prison, he wrote poems about the
pain and anguish of the life of a convict. He wrote a series of haikus, which reveal the intensity of his
ability to observe life around him and express his vision in the sharp, concise images that haikus require.
“Eastern Guard Tower” is the first in the series. It was published in 1968, in Poems from Prison.

Related Activities and Questions for Study and Discussion


104 Poetry

1. Read other haikus by Etheridge Knight.

2. Watch and hear Knight speak and read his poetry.

3. Write a haiku on a topic of your choice or on one assigned or recommended by your teacher.

“Eastern Guard Tower” by Etheridge Knight (Haiku) 105


An Anthology of Poems for Further Study

Philip Kevin Paul (1971–)

“Such a Tiny Light”

Read “Such a Tiny Light” and learn about its context.


1. “’Such a Tiny Light,’” Paul explains, “represents my conversation with and sensitivity to
mortality and loss.” What examples of mortality and loss does he provide in the poem to reinforce
this theme?

2. What is the form or genre of the poem?

3. Identify examples of personification in the poem, and explain how they support the poem’s

4. What, literally, is the tiny light to which the poem’s title alludes? What (metaphorically/
symbolically) does the tiny light represent?

Gregory Scofield (1966–)

“The Sewing Circle”

Read “The Sewing Circle” [PDF].


1. Who is the narrator of this poem? What seminal event in Canadian history inspired this poem?

2. What is a sewing circle? How has Scofield altered its traditional purpose to underscore the theme
of his poem?


3. Why does the poem include so many religious references, and how does the narrator’s faith
influence the poem’s theme?

4. Identify and explain the effect of the simile Scofield uses in stanzas 6-7.

5. Describe the tone, the voice of the poem. Does the tone suggest the outcome of battle to be

Marilyn Dumont (1955–)

“Leather and Naugahyde”

Read “Leather and Naugahyde.”


1. What are the qualities of “Leather and Naugahyde” that make it a poem, rather than a single prose

2. What is Naugahyde and why is it an effective metaphor for the differences in ethnic identities at
the heart of the poem?

3. What is a “treaty guy”? How and why does his attitude towards the poem’s narrator suddenly
change? What is the nature of the change?

4. What is the theme of the poem?

5. Read additional information on indigenous Canadian authors [PDF].

Rita Dove (1952–)

“Heart to Heart”

Read “Heart to Heart.”


1. What is a cliché? List the clichés related to the human heart that Dove references in the poem.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 107

What is her purpose in doing so?

2. How would you describe the tone, the voice of the poem? How does the form of the poem shape
the tone? Is there a change in tone, as the poem comes to an end?

3. Poems about hearts are usually love poems. Is this a love poem? Support your answer.

4. Watch an interview with Rita Dove. Does the interview give you any insights into the theme and
form of “Heart to Heart”?

Emma Laroque (1949–)

“The Red in Winter”

Read “The Red in Winter” and learn about its context.


1. What is the significance—the double entendre—of the title of the poem?

2. How do personification and symbolism add layers of meaning to this poem?

3. How does the form of the poem—its brevity, especially—influence its theme?

Yusef Komunyakaa (1947–)

“Facing It”

Read “Facing It” and watch and listen to Komunyakka read “Facing It.”


1. How do we know that the poet, visiting the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, is a Vietnam vet

2. Komunyakaa wants readers to know that civilians who would not have served in Vietnam still
were involved in the war. How does he accomplish this?

3. Why and how is race important in the context of this poem?

108 Poetry

4. What is the significance of the name “Andrew Johnson” mentioned in the poem?

5. Note two examples of imagery in the poem and determine how the imagery enhances the impact
the poem has on its readers.

6. Why does the poet end “Facing It” as he does? Do you think this is an effective ending? Explain
your answer.

Wendy Cope (1945–)

“Bloody Men”

Read “Bloody Men.”


1. In her poetry, Wendy Cope often uses humour to express a serious theme. How does “Bloody
Men” illustrate this technique?

2. Is this a feminist or an anti-feminist poem? Explain your answer.

3. What is the form of the poem? Why does Cope use this form?

4. Comment on the effectiveness of the extended simile/metaphor at the centre of this poem. What
does Cope mean by “flashing their indicators”?

5. See an interview with Cope. How does the interview help you understand and appreciate “Bloody

Kay Ryan (1945–)


Read “Blandeur.”


1. What does Ryan say in this poem about the nature of nature? What is the theme of the poem?

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 109

2. What is a pun? How is the title of this poem a pun?

3. “Blandeur is not a word found in the dictionary, nor is “unlean.” Has Ryan made a mistake? Why
does she make up her own words?

4. See an interview with Ryan. How does the interview help you understand and appreciate

Billy Collins (1941–)

“Introduction to Poetry”

Read “Introduction to Poetry.”


1. What is the source of the speaker’s frustration in the poem? How does this frustration help to
establish the poem’s theme?

2. Compare and contrast the two ways of reading poetry presented in “Introduction to Poetry.” In
your opinion, which method is preferable?

3. What metaphors does Collins use for the art of reading poetry? Do you think they are effective?

4. Watch and hear Collins read and discuss his poetry. How does his presentation help you
understand and appreciate “Introduction to Poetry”?

Buffy Sainte-Marie (1941–)

“Now that the Buffalo’s Gone”

Read the lyrics of “Now that the Buffalo’s Gone”. Hear Buffy Saint-Marie sing the song.


1. Why does the author reference the Buffalo in this song? For what is the buffalo a symbol and a

110 Poetry

2. What is the theme of this poem/song?

3. What is the basis of the comparison the author makes between the government’s defeat of
Germany and the defeat of Native Americans? How are the “victories” similar and how are they
different? Is the analogy effective?

4. The tribes the author references in the final stanza are the Inuit, Cheyanne, and Navaho? What is
the significance of her choice of these three tribes?

5. Buffy Sainte-Marie recorded “Now that the Buffalo’s Gone” in 1964. Have conditions for
indigenous people improved? Remained the same? Gotten worse? Explain your answer.

Margaret Atwood (1939–)

“You Fit into Me”

Read “You Fit into Me.”


1. What do we expect the hook and eye reference in the first stanza to be about? What does it
actually refer to, as revealed in the second stanza? How does this juxtaposition inform the theme
of the poem?

2. What do you think is the source of the problems with the relationship alluded to in the poem?

3. What is the form/genre of this poem?

4. Watch and listen to Margaret Atwood read one of her poems.

Sylvia Plath (1932–1963)


Read “Mirror.”


An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 111

1. Who narrates this poem? What literary device is Plath using here? How does this narrator inform
the theme of the poem?

2. What is the form or genre of the poem?

3. How is the poem relevant to contemporary life?

Adrienne Rich (1929–2012)

“Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers”

Read “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers.”

“Diving into the Wreck”

Read “Diving into the Wreck.” Watch and hear Rich read “Diving into the Wreck”.


1. “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” was published in 1950, before the feminist movement caught fire. How
does the poem foreshadow Rich’s eventual emergence as a leading feminist poet?

2. How do we know Aunt Jennifer is not in a happy marriage?

3. How does Aunt Jennifer cope with the sorrow in her life? What is the theme of the poem?

4. What is the form of the poem?

5. Compare and contrast “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” with William Blake’s “The Tiger.”

6. How is the aphorism “We destroy in order to recreate” relevant to the context and the theme of
“Diving into the Wreck?”

7. Identify three examples of symbolism used in “Diving into the Wreck” and reflect upon how the
symbolism augments the theme of the poem.

8. How and why is the sunken ship that the narrator explores an effective extended metaphor to
enhance the poem’s theme?

9. Can we tell by reading this poem that the poet is a feminist? Explain your answer.

112 Poetry

Maya Angelou (1928–2014)

“Still I Rise”

Read “Still I Rise.” Watch and hear Angelou read “Still I Rise”.

“Phenomenal Women”

Read “Phenomenal Woman.” Watch and hear Angelou read “Phenomenal Woman”.


1. “Still I Rise” has a distinctive rhythm pattern. Identify the rhythm and explain why it is effective.
Why does the rhythm pattern change in the last few stanzas?

2. Based upon the evidence in these poems, what social causes/movements does Angelou support?
Explain your answer.

3. How might we know these poems were written by the same author?

4. What stereotypes about female beauty does Angelou debunk in “Phenomenal Woman”? What is
the theme of the poem?

Maxine Kumin (1925–2014)

“Morning Swim”

Read “Morning Swim.”


Read “Woodchucks.” Watch and hear Kumin read “Woodchucks”.


1. Hear the hymn “Abide with Me”. Explain why the narrator of “Morning Swim” is singing this
hymn, while she swims. How does the hymn help develop the theme of the poem?

2. Provide three examples of imagery in “Morning Swim” and explain how imagery supports the

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 113

poem’s theme?

3. Compare and contrast the forms of the two poems by Kumin, noting especially similarities and
differences in theme and form.

4. What does “NIMBY” stand for, and how is the phrase relevant to the theme of “Woodchucks”?

5. Think of a time when your own values and ideals have been challenged by extraneous
circumstances and relate this conflict to the theme of “Woodchucks.”

Feature Unit: The Poetry of the Harlem Renaissance

The Poetry of the Harlem Renaissance


In the early years of the twentieth century, a labour shortage, mainly in the manufacturing sector, combined
with a pervasive racism, which the abolition of slavery had failed to eradicate, lured hundreds of thousands of
African Americans north, to the large cities of New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Chicago. Many settled
in the Harlem borough of New York. Prosperity fosters culture, and soon black artists, musicians, poets,
playwrights, and novelists were painting, writing music, editing literary magazines, producing plays, and
publishing their stories and poems.

Claude McKay’s 1922 poetry collection Harlem Shadows is among the earliest and most successful books,
credited by some literary historians as the book that initiated the Harlem Renaissance. Jean Toomer’s, Cane,
appeared a year later, to critical acclaim from not only black but prominent white authors, notably Sherwood
Anderson. Langston Hughes has emerged as the great poet of the movement, mainly because of his innovative
style, echoing the jazz rhythms and speech patterns of African American musicians and ordinary citizens,
evident in the poems included in his 1926 collection, The Weary Blues. Countee Cullen preferred to work
in traditional regular verse forms, though his poetry collections, Copper Sun, in 1927 and The Ballad of the
Brown Girl, a year later, reveal his commitment to the struggle for equal rights.

As a literary movement, the Harlem Renaissance faded in the 1930’s, as the Great Depression challenged
the same economic prosperity that had helped to launch the Renaissance. But the Harlem Renaissance left
a lasting legacy. It provided the inspiration—and fuel—for the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. It
resurged in the Black Arts Movement of the 1970’s, when poets like Amiri Baraka, Audre Lorde, Nikki
Giovanni, and Sonia Sanchez, using more militant language and angrier tones, protested against the same
social conditions which had angered and frustrated the poets of the Harlem Renaissance.

Claude McKay (1889–1948)

“Harlem Shadows”

I hear the halting footsteps of a lass
In Negro Harlem when the night lets fall

114 Poetry

Its veil. I see the shapes of girls who pass
To bend and barter at desire’s call.
Ah, little dark girls who in slippered feet
Go prowling through the night from street to street!

Through the long night until the silver break
Of day the little gray feet know no rest;
Through the lone night until the last snow-flake
Has dropped from heaven upon the earth’s white breast,
The dusky, half-clad girls of tired feet
Are trudging, thinly shod, from street to street.

Ah, stern harsh world, that in the wretched way
Of poverty, dishonor and disgrace,
Has pushed the timid little feet of clay,
The sacred brown feet of my fallen race!
Ah, heart of me, the weary, weary feet
In Harlem wandering from street to street.


1. What is the significance of the title of the poem?

2. What is the tone, the voice, of this poem and how does the poet achieve this tone?

3. Assess the poem’s rhythm and rhyme scheme.

4. Whom does the poet blame for the plight of the “dusky, half-clad girls of tired feet”?

Jean Toomer (1894–1967)

“Georgia Dusk”

The sky, lazily disdaining to pursue
The setting sun, too indolent to hold
A lengthened tournament for flashing gold,
Passively darkens for night’s barbecue,A feast of moon and men and barking hounds,
An orgy for some genius of the South
With blood-hot eyes and cane-lipped scented mouth,
Surprised in making folk-songs from soul sounds.

The sawmill blows its whistle, buzz-saws stop,
And silence breaks the bud of knoll and hill,
Soft settling pollen where plowed lands fulfill
Their early promise of a bumper crop.

Smoke from the pyramidal sawdust pile
Curls up, blue ghosts of trees, tarrying low
Where only chips and stumps are left to show
The solid proof of former domicile.

Meanwhile, the men, with vestiges of pomp,

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 115

Race memories of king and caravan,
High-priests, an ostrich, and a juju-man,


Go singing through the footpaths of the swamp.

Their voices rise . . the pine trees are guitars,
Strumming, pine-needles fall like sheets of rain . .
Their voices rise . . the chorus of the cane
Is caroling a vesper

to the stars . .

O singers, resinous and soft your songs
Above the sacred whisper of the pines,
Give virgin lips to cornfield concubines,
Bring dreams of Christ to dusky cane-lipped throngs.


1. Where and when is this poem set? How might the “dusk” of the title be used symbolically?

2. There is a narrative tinge to the poem. Summarize the story it tells.

3. What is the poet urging the black sawmill workers to do in the poem’s last stanza?

4. The Harlem Renaissance poets were concerned with African American emancipation, civil rights,
equality. How do these concerns figure in “Georgia Dusk”?

Langston Hughes (1902–1967)


Read “Harlem.”


1. What is the veiled threat implicit in this poem? What are the sources of the threat? How does this
threat inform the theme of the poem?

2. Identify similes and metaphors Hughes uses in the poem and assess why the are effective?

3. Hear Hughes read “Harlem”. How does hearing the poet read his work help you understand and
appreciate it?

Countee Cullen (1903–1946)

“Yet Do I Marvel”

I doubt not God is good, well-meaning, kind
And did He stoop to quibble could tell why
The little buried mole continues blind,
Why flesh that mirrors Him must some day die,

1. The magician/healer of the African village. The ostrich is native to Africa. It cannot fly; hence it might have symbolic overtones in a poem which touches

on African American freedom and oppression.

2. A religious service held in the late afternoon/early evening.

116 Poetry

Make plain the reason tortured Tantalus

Is baited by the fickle fruit, declare
If merely brute caprice dooms Sisyphus


To struggle up a never-ending stair.
Inscrutable His ways are, and immune
To catechism

by a mind too strewn

With petty cares to slightly understand
What awful brain compels His awful hand.
Yet do I marvel at this curious thing:
To make a poet black, and bid him sing!


1. What is the issue troubling the poet? What four examples does he provide to illustrate the nature
of the problem?

2. Does the “curious thing” referenced near the end of the poem help to exonerate God and the gods
or is it another example of the gods’ indifferent cruelty?

3. How do we know this poem is a Shakespeare sonnet?

4. Watch and hear “Yet Do I Marvel” read. Does hearing the poem read aloud help you understand

John Magee (1922–1941)

“High Flight”

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, —and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of —Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

3. In Greek mythology, Tantalus was left stranded in a pool of water, as punishment for his offenses against the gods. Above him were branches filled with

ripe fruits, but they were always just out of reach, whenever he tried to pick them. Below his was sweet water, but it receded whenever he tried to

drink. Our word “tantalize” comes from the Tantalus myth.

4. In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was forced to push a heavy boulder up a hill (in some versions of the myth, climb a never-ending staircase) as punishment

for his offenses against the gods. Whenever he was about to crest the hill, the boulder rolled back down.

5. Explication of a Christian text.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 117


1. Why does Magee describe the “bonds of earth” as “surly”?

2. Magee tries to use the rhythm of his language to mimic the feel of a small plane (here a spitfire in
which he was training to be a fighter pilot in World War II) in flight. Does he succeed? Support
your answer.

3. Why does God enter the poem in the last line? How does the reference add to the theme of the

4. How do we know this poem is a sonnet?

Dylan Thomas (1914–1953)

“Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night”

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieve it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


1. To what do the phrases “that good night” and “the dying of the light,” which echo throughout the
poem, refer?

2. What is the form/genre of this poem? How does the form influence the poem’s content?

3. Thomas references four types of people who refuse to go gentle into that good night, who rage
against the dying of the light. What are these four types of people? Why have all of them
experienced disappointments in their lives? What is the nature of these disappointments? How do

118 Poetry

they or should they express their regrets?

4. Watch and hear Thomas read “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night”. Does the reading of the
poem help you understand and appreciate it? Explain your answer.

Stevie Smith (1902–1971)

“Not Waving but Drowning”

Read “Not Waving but Drowning.” Watch and hear Smith read and explain the context of “Not Waving
but Drowning”.


1. How does the metaphor implicit in the poem’s title signal the theme of the poem?

2. Why do the drowning man’s friends misread and misinterpret signals he sends them?

3. Assess the truth of the theme of the poem, providing an example if you can.

E.E. Cummings (1894–1962)

“Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town”

Read “Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town.” Watch and hear Cummings read “Anyone Lived in a Pretty
How Town”.

“Somewhere I Have Never Travelled”

Read “Somewhere I Have Never Travelled.” Watch and hear Cummings read “Somewhere I Have Never


1. What is a ballad? How is “Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town” like a ballad? How is it not?

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 119

2. Why are the names of the characters in “Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town” so indeterminate?
How do their names help establish the theme of the poem?

3. Paraphrase stanza six of “Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town.”

4. The syntax is some lines of “Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town” is convoluted to such an
extent they make no literal sense. Identify two or three examples. What is Cummings’ point in so
defying the conventions of language?

5. Compare and contrast the form of “Somewhere I Have Never Travelled” with the form of
“Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town.”

6. To whom is “Somewhere I Have Never Travelled” addressed? Who is the “I”; who is the “you” in
the poem? How do you know this?

7. What effect does the “you” in the poem have upon the speaker? How does this relationship help
establish the theme of the poem?

8. Paraphrase stanza four of “Somewhere I Have Never Travelled.”

T.S. Eliot (1888–1965)

“The Hollow Men”

Read “The Hollow Men.”

“The Journey of the Magi”

Read “The Journey of the Magi.”

“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

Read “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”


1. Consider the form of “The Hollow Men”: short, free-verse lines, in five parts, sub-divided into
stanzas of various length and number. Some lines seem to end before the poet’s thought is
completed. How does this form augment the poem’s theme?

2. Is “The Hollow Men” as relevant today as it was when Eliot wrote it? Who are “The Hollow
Men” of contemporary society, and what do they need to lead a more fulfilling life?

3. Compare and contrast the tone (cf. Glossary) of “The Journey of the Magi” with the tone of the
earlier poems by Eliot. Is there a difference in tone? How do you account for the difference or the

120 Poetry

lack thereof?

4. Like “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” “The Journey of the Magi” is a free-verse narrative
poem, its speaker one of the Magi or Wise Men. Compare and contrast the characters of Prufrock
and the Wise Man.

5. Is “The Journey of the Magi” a Christian poem only, or is it relevant to people of other faiths?
Explain your answer.

6. What features of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” identify it as a dramatic monologue (cf.

7. Why does Prufrock find it impossible to ask “the overwhelming question”? What changes might
he make to his life and attitude that would help him ask the woman the question?

8. Does Prufrock evoke your pity? Your condemnation? Can you identify with him, in any way?

E. J. Pratt (1882–1964)

“From Stone to Steel”

Read “From Stone to Steel.”


1. Throughout the poem, Pratt presents many comparisons and contrasts: the stone age, bronze age,
steel age; Java and Geneva; the Neanderthal and the Aryan; paganism and Christianity; the
Euphrates and the Rhine; the temple and the cave. What point is Pratt making? What is the theme
of the poem?

2. Paraphrase the third stanza of the poem.

3. How does the regular verse form of the poem complement its theme?

4. In what sense do “The yearlings still the altars crave / As satisfaction for a sin”?

Feature Unit: The Poetry of World War I

The Poetry of World War I

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 121


The “war to end wars,” as H.G. Wells described it in a series of newspaper articles,

began in 1914. The
main belligerents were the allied forces of France, Britain, and the dominions, including Canada, Australia,
and New Zealand; Russia (until 1917) and, after April 1917, the United States—versus the central powers:
Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey. Few believed that the war would last very long, but
gradually both sides became mired in a stalemate, and it dragged on until November 1918, with unparalleled
loss of life—nearly nine million combatants and millions of civilians died as a result of the war.

One striking difference between the war poetry of the Victorian Age as seen in Tennyson’s “The Charge of
the Light Brigade” and the poetry of World War I is the shift from a more or less unquestioning acceptance of
war to a growing disillusionment. Although Tennyson makes clear that the military command had blundered in
this instance, he refuses to dwell on the incompetence of the generals and instead emphasizes the bravery of the
British soldier. Similarly, Rupert Brooke, perhaps the public face of the British war effort before his death prior
to seeing action, carries forward a romanticized, chivalric view of war, particularly in his poem, “The Soldier,”
a poem that Dean Inge, one of the most important clergymen in Britain, read as part of his Easter Sunday
sermon at St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1914, and to which Winston Churchill referred in an obituary published in
the Times three days after Brooke’s death. Even Siegfried Sassoon, the poet who, along with Wilfred Owen,
was considered one of the poets most critical of the war, seems to echo Brooke’s romanticizing attitude in an
early poem, “Absolution”:

…War is our scourge; yet war has made us wise,
And, fighting for our freedom, we are free.

Horror of wounds and anger at the foe,
And loss of things desired; all these must pass.
We are the happy legion…

But as the war dragged on, with more and more poets killed and the survivors increasingly disillusioned,
a patriotic poem such as ‘The Soldier’ became a ridiculous anachronism in the face of the realities of trench
warfare, and the even more blatantly patriotic note sounded by John Freeman’s ‘Happy is England Now,’
which claimed that ‘there’s not a nobleness of heart, hand, brain/But shines the purer; happiest is England now/
In those that fight’ seemed obscene” (Norton Anthology of English Literature, 20th Century and After, 9th ed.,
2017). And unlike Tennyson’s uncritical response to the effects of blundering generals, Sassoon implies in a
later poem, that the cheery old general, safely distant from the front line, who passes two enlisted men on their
way to the front, is perhaps the real enemy: “Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of ’em dead/And we’re
cursing his Staff for incompetent swine” (“The General”). Interestingly, Sassoon tempered the sting of the final
line in the published version. A draft version reads, “murdered them” rather than “did for them.”

For a complete account of the rich history of World War I poetry, see the First World War Poetry Digital

Wilfred Owen (1893–1918)


He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,
And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,
Legless, sewn short at elbow. Through the park
Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn,

6. The articles were later published in book form as The War That Will End War (>)

122 Poetry

Voices of play and pleasure after day,
Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him.

About this time Town used to swing so gay
When glow-lamps budded in the light blue trees,
And girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim,
—In the old times, before he threw away his knees.
Now he will never feel again how slim
Girls’ waists are, or how warm their subtle hands.
All of them touch him like some queer disease.

There was an artist silly for his face,
For it was younger than his youth, last year.
Now, he is old; his back will never brace;
He’s lost his colour very far from here,
Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry,
And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race,
And leap of purple spurted from his thigh.
One time he liked a bloodsmear down his leg,
After the matches carried shoulder-high.
It was after football, when he’d drunk a peg,
He thought he’d better join. He wonders why . . .
Someone had said he’d look a god in kilts.

That’s why; and maybe, too, to please his Meg,
Aye, that was it, to please the giddy jilts,
He asked to join. He didn’t have to beg;
Smiling they wrote his lie; aged nineteen years.
Germans he scarcely thought of; and no fears
Of Fear came yet. He thought of jewelled hilts
For daggers in plaid socks; of smart salutes;
And care of arms; and leave; and pay arrears;
Esprit de corps; and hints for young recruits.
And soon, he was drafted out with drums and cheers.

Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal.
Only a solemn man who brought him fruits
Thanked him; and then inquired about his soul.
Now, he will spend a few sick years in Institutes,
And do what things the rules consider wise,
And take whatever pity they may dole.
To-night he noticed how the women’s eyes
Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.
How cold and late it is! Why don’t they come
And put him into bed? Why don’t they come?

“Dulce et Decorum Est”

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,

7. Owen alludes in the title and in the last two lines to Horace, Odes 3.2.13: “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.”

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 123

Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines

that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime…
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin; (20)
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest (25)
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.


Move him into the sun—
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields unsown.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know.

Think how it wakes the seeds—
Woke, once, the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs so dear-achieved, are sides
Full-nerved,—still warm,—too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
—O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth’s sleep at all?

8. 5.9-caliber shells.

124 Poetry

“Anthem for Doomed Youth”

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle

— Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds


Owen Activities

1. Look at the following recruitment poster. Do you think Owen had it in mind when he wrote the
last line of “Disabled”?

2. Read Dr. Stuart Lee’s Background to “Dulce et Decorum Est”. Which one of the four do you
prefer and why?

3. Notice the subtitle in the first: “To a Certain Poetess” Who might that be? Remember to click on
the Stage 1 and 2 links at To visit Oxford Tutorial page for Dulce et Decorum Est.

4. What has occurred just before the poem “Futility” begins?

5. What scene do you visualize at the opening of “Futility”?

6. Who is speaking in “Futility”? What is his relation to “him”?

7. To whom is he speaking in line 1 of “Futility”?

8. Why does the speaker in “Futility” want “him” moved into the sun?

9. What reasons does the speaker in “Futility” give for thinking the sun will help?

10. What is the connotation of “sun”? “snow”? “clay”?

11. What does “fatuous” mean?

12. Rhythm: How should we read the second stanza of “Futility”? What effect do the many hyphens

9. Siegfried Sassoon helped Owen with the revision of this poem and suggested the word “anthem” for the title.

10. Jon Stallworthy notes in his edition of Owen’s poetry, “WO was probably responding to the anonymous Prefatory Note to Poems of Today: an Anthology

(1916), of which he possessed the December 1916 reprint: ‘This book has been compiled in order that boys and girls, …may also know something of

the newer poetry of their own day. Most of the writers are living…while one of the youngest…has gone singing to lay down his life for his country’s

cause….there is no arbitrary isolation of one theme from another; they mingle and interpenetrate throughout, to the music of Pan’s flute, and of Love’s

viol, and the bugle-call of Endeavour, and the passing-bells of Death.’”

11. Stallworthy reminds the reader that “the drawing down of blinds, now an almost-forgotten custom, indicated either that a funeral procession was passing

or that there had been a death in the house. It was customary to keep the coffin in the house until taking it to church; it would be placed in the darkened

parlour, with a pall and flowers on it and lighted candles nearby. Relatives and friends would enter the room to pay their last respects. The sestet of the

poem, in fact, refers to a household in mourning.”

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 125

have on the tempo of our reading?

13. How does the title “Futility” relate to the theme?

14. What kind of sonnet is “Anthem for Doomed Youth”? What is its rhyme scheme?

Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)


Read Sassoon’s “Counter-Attack.”

Sassoon Activities

1. What does the image in line 8 of Stanza 2 describe? One critic is reminded of the Goya painting
The Colossus, which described another war scene (the Peninsular War). What do you think?

2. In the published version of the poem (Collected Poems: 1908-1956, Faber), the lines 7–13 are
indented. What would be the effect or purpose of this indentation?

Wallace Stevens (1879–1955)

“The Emperor of Ice Cream”

Read “The Emperor of Ice Cream.”


1. What is a wake? What evidence in the poem suggests its setting is a wake?

2. What is the denotation and the connotation of the “wenches” of line 4?

3. Express line 7 in your own words. How does this line, along with line 15, suggest the theme of
the poem?

4. What is hedonism? Does “The Emperor of Ice Cream” embrace or reject a hedonistic philosophy?
Explain your answer.

5. Hear “The Emperor of Ice Cream” read and explicated. Does the explication enhance your
understanding and enjoyment?

126 Poetry

E.A. Robinson (1869–1935)

“Richard Cory”

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.And he was rich—yes, richer than a king—
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.


1. What does Richard Cory look like? Why is his physical appearance important to the poem’s

2. What is the form/genre of this poem, its rhythm pattern and rhyme scheme? How does the form
intensify the shock of the poem’s ending?

3. When is the poem set? How does the setting intensify the shock of the poem’s ending?

4. Is the story embedded in this poem credible? Support your answer.

William Butler Yeats (1865–1939)

“The Lake Isle of Innisfree”

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles


Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,

12. Innisfree is a small island in the middle of Lough (Lake) Gill, near Sligo, the town in the northwest of Ireland, where Yeats spent

many happy summers, holidaying with his mother’s family. He was living in London in 1888 when he wrote the poem. The

poem expresses the universal desire to “get away from it all,” to retreat from a busy life in the city and find a quiet haven,

surrounded by nature’s beauty. Though one of his most famous poems, he, ironically, grew weary of reciting it at his lectures,

so often was it requested.
13. Thin branches woven together.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 127

And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

“No Second Troy”

Why should I blame her

that she filled my days
With misery

, or that she would of late

Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways,
Or hurled the little streets upon the great.
Had they but courage equal to desire?
What could have made her peaceful with a mind
That nobleness made simple as a fire,
With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind
That is not natural in an age like this,
Being high and solitary and most stern?
Why, what could she have done, being what she is?
Was there another Troy for her to burn?

“Easter, 1916”

I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,

14. Maud Gonne, the beautiful Irish revolutionary leader, whom Yeats loved for much of his life. She was to him the reincarnation of Helen

of Troy, in the ancient world a major trading port in what is now Turkey. Helen was so beautiful, she was abducted by the Trojan Paris,

and her husband, Menelaus, King of the Greek city of Sparta, attacked Troy to get her back.

15. Yeats proposed to Maud, but she admitted to him she had two children with a married French journalist. Later, she married John

MacBride, a major in the Irish Republican Army, a man Yeats despised. (cf. “Easter, 1916”).

16. On Easter Monday, April 24, 1916, a paramilitary group of Irish republicans occupied central Dublin and proclaimed Ireland

independent of Great Britain. The British government regained control within the week, and, ultimately charged the

republican leaders with treason. They were tried quickly and executed, compounding rather than solving the problem, in that

many moderate republicans were outraged and radicalized. Yeats was among them. His bewildered new perspective is

expressed in the poem’s famous refrain, “A terrible beauty is born.” He knew many of the revolutionary leaders, including

Maud Gonne’s estranged husband whom he despised, as “A drunken vainglorious lout,” but whom he nevertheless

acknowledges in this poem.

128 Poetry

Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley

is worn:

All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

That woman’s

days were spent
In ignorant good-will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When, young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man

had kept a school

And rode our winged horse

This other his helper and friend


Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vainglorious lout


He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.

17. Colourful, often ragged clothing worn by a court jester.

18. Constance Gore-Booth (1868-1927), the only woman among the revolutionary and the only one spared execution, sentenced instead to a

long prison sentence, later commuted.

19. Padraic Pearse (1879-1916), a teacher and a poet.

20. Pegasus, the winged horse, upon whom rode the poets’ muse.

21. Thomas MacDonagh (1878-1916), Yeats’s fellow poet and dramatist.

22. John MacBride, Irish Republican Army major, whom Yeats despised because he had married and abused Maud before she left him.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 129

The horse that comes from the road.
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute by minute they live:
The stone’s in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven’s part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith


For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse —
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly

and Pearse

Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

“The Second Coming”

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

23. That is, may grant independence to Ireland, as Britain finally did in 1921.

24. James Connolly (1870-1916), prominent trade unionist, one of the rebellion’s paramilitary commanders.

25. The second coming of Jesus Christ—whom Yeats envisions here as an anti-Christ—on Judgment Day.
26. A spiral that continues to widen until it collapses. The gyre is Yeats’s symbol of a civilization spiralling out of control, at the end of its

2,000-year cycle.

130 Poetry

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi


Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,


A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep


Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem

to be born?

“A Prayer for My Daughter”

Once more the storm is howling, and half hid
Under this cradle-hood and coverlid
My child sleeps on. There is no obstacle
But Gregory’s wood

and one bare hill

Whereby the haystack- and roof-levelling wind.
Bred on the Atlantic, can be stayed;
And for an hour I have walked and prayed
Because of the great gloom that is in my mind.

I have walked and prayed for this young child an hour
And heard the sea-wind scream upon the tower,
And-under the arches of the bridge, and scream
In the elms above the flooded stream;

27. The spirit of the world. Similar to Carl Jung’s notion of the collective unconscious, it is a storehouse of knowledge shared by all; here,

knowledge of a saviour or demon.

28. The anti-Christ, similar to the Beast of the Apocalypse, described in the “Book of Revelation” in the Christian Bible.

29. The 2,000 years before the birth of Christ.

30. Wherein lay the baby Jesus.

31. Town in the Middle East, famous as the birthplace of Jesus.

32. Yeats was 54 when his first child, a daughter Ann, was born on February 26, 1919. An artist, she never married and died in 2001.

Yeats’s son, two years younger, was an Irish politician. He died in 2007, survived by three daughters and a son.
33. On Lady Gregory’s property (cf. “The Wild Swans at Coole”), and near the ancient Norman tower, Thoor Ballylee, in Galway, which

Yeats renovated, and where he lived, on and off, from his marriage in 1917 until his death.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 131

Imagining in excited reverie
That the future years had come,
Dancing to a frenzied drum,
Out of the murderous innocence of the sea.

May she be granted beauty and yet not
Beauty to make a stranger’s eye distraught,
Or hers before a looking-glass, for such,
Being made beautiful overmuch,
Consider beauty a sufficient end,
Lose natural kindness and maybe
The heart-revealing intimacy
That chooses right, and never find a friend.


being chosen found life flat and dull
And later had much trouble from a fool,
While that great Queen,

that rose out of the spray,

Being fatherless could have her way
Yet chose a bandy-legged smith

for man.

It’s certain that fine women

A crazy salad with their meat
Whereby the Horn of plenty

is undone.

In courtesy I’d have her chiefly learned;
Hearts are not had as a gift but hearts are earned
By those that are not entirely beautiful;
Yet many, that have played the fool
For beauty’s very self, has charm made wise.
And many a poor man that has roved,
Loved and thought himself beloved,
From a glad kindness cannot take his eyes.

May she become a flourishing hidden tree
That all her thoughts may like the linnet be,
And have no business but dispensing round
Their magnanimities of sound,
Nor but in merriment begin a chase,
Nor but in merriment a quarrel.
O may she live like some green laurel
Rooted in one dear perpetual place.

My mind, because the minds that I have loved,

34. See “No Second Troy,” note 1.

35. Venus, the goddess of love.

36. Vulcan, lame; i.e., bandy-legged, blacksmith to the gods.

37. Yeats is likely thinking of Maud Gonne, who married a man vastly inferior, in Yeats’s opinion, to him.

38. In Greek myth, the horn of the goat that suckled the chief of the gods, Zeus, filling Zeus with nectar and ambrosia; hence, the horn of

plenty is a symbol of abundance, “plenty.”

132 Poetry

The sort of beauty that I have approved,
Prosper but little, has dried up of late,
Yet knows that to be choked with hate
May well be of all evil chances chief.
If there’s no hatred in a mind
Assault and battery of the wind
Can never tear the linnet from the leaf.

An intellectual hatred is the worst,
So let her think opinions are accursed.
Have I not seen the loveliest woman


Out of the mouth of plenty’s horn,
Because of her opinionated mind
Barter that horn and every good
By quiet natures understood
For an old bellows full of angry wind?

Considering that, all hatred driven hence,
The soul recovers radical innocence
And learns at last that it is self-delighting,
Self-appeasing, self-affrighting,
And that its own sweet will is Heaven’s will;
She can, though every face should scowl
And every windy quarter howl
Or every bellows burst, be happy still.

And may her bridegroom bring her to a house
Where all’s accustomed, ceremonious;
For arrogance and hatred are the wares
Peddled in the thoroughfares.
How but in custom and in ceremony
Are innocence and beauty born?
Ceremony’s a name for the rich horn,
And custom for the spreading laurel tree

“Leda and the Swan”

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

39. Maud Gonne again.

40. Leda was the queen of the Greek city state, Sparta; the Swan was Zeus, supreme god of Greek mythology. According to the myth

that inspired this sonnet, Zeus came to Leda in the form of a swan and raped her. Nine months later, Leda gave birth to two

girls. Helen would precipitate the Trojan War when she ran off with the Trojan prince, Paris, escaping from her Greek husband

Menelaus. Clytemnestra would marry and murder Agamemnon, the leader of the Greek army and the brother of Menelaus.

Leda also gave birth to two boys: Castor and Pollux.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 133

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower


And Agamemnon dead.

Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

“Sailing to Byzantium”



is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
— Those dying generations — at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.


An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing,

and louder sing

For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.


41. References events of the Trojan War.

42. In A Vision, the book wherein he outlines his personal philosophy, Yeats identified sixth-century Byzantium (present-day

Istanbul in Turkey) as his idea of Utopia. The unity of purpose among citizens from all walks of life to create a city that revealed

their reverence for art, poetry, music, and architecture was, for Yeats, a model all nations, especially Ireland, should follow.
43. Ireland.

44. One of Yeats’s favourite poets was William Blake (1757-1827), who claimed he saw the soul of a brother who had just died, rise out of

his body and ascend to heaven, clapping its hands for joy as it did so. Here Yeats says old age is “a paltry thing” unless we can renew

our spirit.

134 Poetry

O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,


And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.


Once out Of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling


To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

“Among School Children”


I walk through the long schoolroom questioning;
A kind old nun in a white hood replies;
The children learn to cipher and to sing,
To study reading-books and histories,
To cut and sew, be neat in everything
In the best modern way — the children’s eyes
In momentary wonder stare upon
A sixty-year-old smiling public man.



I dream of a Ledaean

body, bent
Above a sinking fire, a tale that she
Told of a harsh reproof, or trivial event
That changed some childish day to tragedy —

45. To “perne” means to spin; the gyre is the ever-widening spiral, Yeats’s favourite symbol of the progress of life and civilization. The

“sages” on the Byzantium mosaics approach the poet in this manner to symbolize his spiritual rebirth.

46. In Yeats’s own note to this poem, he references the golden mechanical birds which sat in a tree in the emperor’s palace in Byzantium and

sang. Yeats wants to be reincarnated as one of these birds, to end the cycle of birth and rebirth, once he is “Out of nature.” The singing

echoes his own profession as a poet.

47. Yeats was a politician when he wrote the poem, a senator in the Irish Free State. The inspiration for this poem was an official visit he

made to a school in Waterford in 1926.

48. Maud Gonne, who was to Yeats the reincarnation of Helen of Troy, the “Ledaean body,” in that her mother was Leda. See notes to “Leda

and the Swan.”

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 135

Told, and it seemed that our two natures blent
Into a sphere from youthful sympathy,
Or else, to alter Plato’s


Into the yolk and white of the one shell.


And thinking of that fit of grief or rage
I look upon one child or t’other there
And wonder if she stood so at that age —
For even daughters of the swan can share
Something of every paddler’s heritage —
And had that colour upon cheek or hair,
And thereupon my heart is driven wild:
She stands before me as a living child.


Her present image floats into the mind —
Did Quattrocento

finger fashion it

Hollow of cheek as though it drank the wind
And took a mess of shadows for its meat?
And I though never of Ledaean kind
Had pretty plumage once — enough of that,
Better to smile on all that smile, and show
There is a comfortable kind of old scarecrow.


What youthful mother, a shape upon her lap
Honey of generation

had betrayed,

And that must sleep, shriek, struggle to escape
As recollection or the drug decide,
Would think her Son, did she but see that shape
With sixty or more winters on its head,
A compensation for the pang of his birth,
Or the uncertainty of his setting forth?


Plato thought nature but a spume

that plays

49. The reference is to Greek philosopher Plato’s Symposium, the parable being that the primitive human was spherical, like an egg, divided

in the process of evolution. Love is the desire to form the sphere again.

50. Some 15th-century (“Quattrocento”) Italian painters painted women in the anorexic way Maud now appears to Yeats.

51. The neo-Platonic philosopher, Porphyry, believed that an ambrosia, honey-like drug was released at birth, and if the infant tasted it, he or

she would forget about the bliss of prenatal happiness; but if he or she did not taste it, the infant would be condemned to a sad life

because he or she would always search for the unattainable happiness of a previous life.

52. Froth; insubstantial matter, in contrast, in Plato’s view, to a real substantial ideal world, a “paradigm of things.”

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Upon a ghostly paradigm of things;
Solider Aristotle

played the taws

Upon the bottom of a king of kings;

World-famous golden-thighed Pythagoras

Fingered upon a fiddle-stick or strings
What a star sang and careless Muses heard:
Old clothes upon old sticks to scare a bird.


Both nuns and mothers worship images,
But those the candles light are not as those
That animate a mother’s reveries,
But keep a marble or a bronze repose.
And yet they too break hearts — O presences
That passion, piety or affection knows,
And that all heavenly glory symbolise —
O self-born mockers of man’s enterprise;


Labour is blossoming or dancing where
The body is not bruised to pleasure soul.
Nor beauty born out of its own despair,
Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.
O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole


O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?


The unpurged images of day recede;
The Emperor’s drunken soldiery are abed;
Night resonance recedes, night walkers’ song
After great cathedral gong;
A starlit or a moonlit dome


All that man is,

53. Aristotle was “solider” in that he believed the physical world we experience is the real world, not the “spume” Plato believed it was.

54. Alexander the Great (356 – 323 BC), leader of the Greek confederation, student of Aristotle who strapped him, “played the taws,” when

he needed discipline.

55. Greek philosopher, venerated by his followers who thought he had a golden thigh, the sign of a god. He believed that the beauty of music

reflected a universal harmony.

56. Stem or trunk.

57. In “Sailing to Byzantium,” written four years earlier in 1926, Yeats expresses his desire to be reincarnated as a work of art, a

golden bird, living in sixth-century Byzantium (now Istanbul), his ideal city. In this poem, he imagines he has achieved his

dream, and he watches as other souls are purified.
58. Of the sprawling Greek Orthodox basilica, St. Sophia (now a museum).

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 137

All mere complexities,
The fury and the mire of human veins.

Before me floats an image, man or shade,
Shade more than man, more image than a shade;
For Hades’ bobbin bound in mummy-cloth
May unwind the winding path;


A mouth that has no moisture and no breath
Breathless mouths may summon;
I hail the superhuman;
I call it death-in-life and life-in-death.

Miracle, bird or golden handiwork,
More miracle than bird or handiwork,
Planted on the star-lit golden bough,
Can like the cocks of Hades crow,


Or, by the moon embittered, scorn aloud
In glory of changeless metal
Common bird or petal
And all complexities of mire or blood.

At midnight on the Emperor’s pavement flit
Flames that no faggot

feeds, nor steel has lit,

Nor storm disturbs, flames begotten of flame,
Where blood-begotten spirits come
And all complexities of fury leave,
Dying into a dance,
An agony of trance,
An agony of flame that cannot singe a sleeve.


Astraddle on the dolphin’s mire and blood,
Spirit after Spirit! The smithies break the flood.
The golden smithies of the Emperor!


Marbles of the dancing floor
Break bitter furies of complexity,
Those images that yet
Fresh images beget,
That dolphin-torn, that gong-tormented


59. After death, when the soul is in Hades (the underworld), the bobbin or spool or gyre of life may unwind, in preparation to enter the realm

of pure spirit.

60. To announce a reincarnation.

61. A bundle of sticks tied together, used to fuel fire.

62. Here Yeats describes the ritual process whereby the mortal soul is purified to render it immortal.

63. Overwhelmed by the number of sprits who come on the backs of dolphins, which in Greek mythology carried souls to the Isles of the

Blessed, the goldsmiths call a halt to the purification process, unable to accommodate any more, for now.

64. From the ringing of the gong, the funeral bell.

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“Crazy Jane Talks with the Bishop”

I met the Bishop on the road
And much said he and I.
‘Those breasts are flat and fallen now,
Those veins must soon be dry;
Live in a heavenly mansion,
Not in some foul sty.’

‘Fair and foul are near of kin,
And fair needs foul,’ I cried.
‘My friends are gone, but that’s a truth
Nor grave nor bed denied,
Learned in bodily lowliness
And in the heart’s pride.

‘A woman can be proud and stiff
When on love intent;
But Love has pitched his mansion in
The place of excrement;
For nothing can be sole or whole
That has not been rent.’

“The Circus Animals’ Desertion”


I sought a theme and sought for it in vain,
I sought it daily for six weeks or so.
Maybe at last, being but a broken man,
I must be satisfied with my heart, although
Winter and summer till old age began
My circus animals were all on show,
Those stilted boys, that burnished chariot,
Lion and woman and the Lord knows what.


What can I but enumerate old themes?
First that sea-rider Oisin

led by the nose

Through three enchanted islands, allegorical dreams,
Vain gaiety, vain battle, vain repose,
Themes of the embittered heart, or so it seems,
That might adorn old songs or courtly shows;

65. Between 1929 and 1932, Yeats wrote seven poems featuring the wisdom of an old peasant woman who lived in Galway.
66. Pronounced “Usheen,” Oisin was a hero in Irish mythology, a warrior poet, and the subject of Yeats’s early epic poem, The Wanderings of


An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 139

But what cared I that set him on to ride,
I, starved for the bosom of his faery bride?

And then a counter-truth filled out its play,
‘The Countess Cathleen’ was the name I gave it;
She, pity-crazed, had given her soul away,
But masterful Heaven had intervened to save it.
I thought my dear

must her own soul destroy,

So did fanaticism and hate enslave it,
And this brought forth a dream and soon enough
This dream itself had all my thought and love.

And when the Fool and Blind Man stole the bread

fought the ungovernable sea;

Heart-mysteries there, and yet when all is said
It was the dream itself enchanted me:
Character isolated by a deed
To engross the present and dominate memory.
Players and painted stage took all my love,
And not those things that they were emblems of.


Those masterful images because complete
Grew in pure mind, but out of what began?
A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,
Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,
Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut
Who keeps the till. Now that my ladder’s gone,
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart.


“The Lake Isle of Innisfree”

1. How would you describe the tone, the voice, and the mood of this poem? Is it melancholy,
enthusiastic, or some point between? How does Yeats achieve this tone? How does it complement
his theme?

2. What is alliteration (cf. Glossary)? Find an example in “Lake Isle” and comment on its effect.

67. Maud Gonne, who starred not in Yeats play The Countess Cathleen, but in his 1902 play Cathleen ni Houlihan. She hated the British and

was, indeed, a fanatical and active opponent of their rule in Ireland.

68. A hero in Irish mythology, and a recurring character in several of Yeats’s plays and poems.

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3. Determine the poem’s rhythm (cf. Glossary) and rhyme scheme (cf. Glossary) and assess their
effect on theme.

“No Second Troy”

1. How do you interpret the last line of this poem?

2. Why is this poem almost, but not quite, a Shakespearean sonnet (cf. Glossary)?

3. What does this poem reveal about Yeats’s attitude to Maud, who was married to another man,
when Yeats wrote this poem? Does he love her still? Dislike her? Resent her?

“Easter, 1916”

1. The rhythm of this poem is unusual, basically uneven iambic trimetre (cf. Glossary). Why do you
think Yeats used this rhythm for this poem?

2. Explain the meaning of the poem’s famous refrain, “A terrible beauty is born.” Reveal in your
answer the type of figurative language exemplified in the phrase “a terrible beauty.”

3. “Easter, 1916” presupposes a considerable knowledge of historical and biographical
context. Does the need for this knowledge add to or take away from the poem’s intensity?

“A Prayer for My Daughter”

1. What are the character traits and the outlook on life Yeats hopes his daughter will possess? How
does Yeats’s relationship with Maud Gonne influence his hopes?

2. Why is there a “great gloom” in Yeats’s mind, as he writes this poem?

3. “A Prayer for My Daughter” is a regular verse poem, mainly iambic pentameter, with an
aabbcddc rhyme scheme. Note that in lines 6 and 7 of each stanza (after the first) Yeats switches
to iambic tetrameter. What effect does this switch have on theme of the poem?

“Leda and the Swan”

1. What are three features of the form and structure of “Leda and the Swan” that identify it as a
sonnet (cf. Glossary)?

2. What, in the Christian faith, is the Annunciation, and how and why does Yeats connect the
Annunciation to the events he describes in this poem?

3. Express in your own words the meaning of the question with which the sonnet concludes.

“Sailing to Byzantium”

1. Note the rhyme scheme (cf. Glossary) of this poem. It is regular, but Yeats makes extensive use of
half rhyme (cf. Glossary). What is the effect of this use of half rhyme?

2. Review Yeats’s biography and determine why he expresses disappointment in his native Ireland at
the beginning of this poem.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 141

3. The desire to transcend death is a common poetic theme. How does Yeats render this theme in
“Sailing to Byzantium”? How does he hope to transcend death?

“Among School Children”

1. In “Among School Children,” Yeats seeks common ground among apparently disparate, things,
people, and ideas: nuns, mothers, and philosophers; Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras; leaf, blossom,
and bole; music, dancer, and dance. How does this search for a unity of purpose influence the
theme of the poem?

2. An understanding of this poem presupposes so much reader prior knowledge of the poet’s life and
of philosophy and mythology. What are the benefits and the drawbacks this presupposition?

3. The verse form of the poem is Ottava rima (cf. Glossary). Why might Yeats have chosen this form
for this poem?


1. Is “Byzantium” a regular verse or a free verse poem (cf. Glossary)? Explain your answer.

2. What is it that Yeats, now reincarnated as a golden bird, witnesses from his perch on the golden
bough of the Emperor’s palace? What are his mood and emotions as he witnesses the

3. The desire that Yeats expresses in “Sailing to Byzantium” and its fulfillment in “Byzantium” has
been described by some as visionary and by others as eccentric. How would you describe the
goal, expressed in these poems, Yeats wants to achieve? Explain your answer.

“Crazy Jane Talks with the Bishop”

1. What is satire (cf. Glossary)? In what sense is “Crazy Jane” a satiric poem?

2. The poem is framed as a debate between Jane and a bishop. What argument does Jane advance to
win the debate? Do you support hers or the bishop’s argument?

3. The poem is a first-person narrative, written in modified ballad stanzas (cf. Glossary). Why might
Yeats have chosen this form for this poem?

“The Circus Animals’ Desperation”

1. What fear does Yeats express in this poem? How will he overcome this fear?

2. How might readers know, without referring to Yeats’s biography, that this is one of his last

3. Explain the famous metaphor with which this poem concludes.

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Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936)

“Fuzzy Wuzzy”

Soudan Expeditionary force. Early campaign

We’ve fought with many men acrost the seas,
An’ some of ’em was brave an’ some was not.
The Paythan

an’ the Zulu an’ Burmese;

But the Fuzzy

was the finest o’ the lot.
We never got a ha’porth’s

change of ‘im:

‘E squatted in the scrub an’ ‘ocked our ‘orses,
‘E cut our sentries up at Suakim


An’ ‘e played the cat an’ banjo with our forces.
So ‘ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, at your ‘ome in the Soudan;
You’re a pore benighted ‘eathen but a first-class fightin’ man;
We gives you your certificate, an’ if you want it signed
We’ll come an’ ‘ave a romp with you whenever you’re inclined.

We took our chanst among the Kyber’ills

The Boers

knocked us silly at a mile,

The Burman give us Irriwady chills

An’ a Zulu impi

dished us up in style:

But all we ever got from such as they
Was pop

to what the Fuzzy made us swaller


We ‘eld our bloomin’ own, the papers say,
But man for man the Fuzzy knocked us ‘oller.
Then ‘ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, an’ the missis and the kid;
Our orders was to break you, an’ of course we went an’ did.
We sloshed you with Martinis

, an’ it wasn’t ‘ardly fair;

But for all the odds agin’ you, Fuzzy-Wuz, you broke the square


‘E ‘asn’t got no papers of ‘is own,

69. Pathans, people on the northwest frontier of India.

70. Sudanese followers of the Mahdi, so called because of their frizzled hair (Durand, Ralph. A Handbook to the Poetry of Rudyard Kipling

[London: 1914]).

71. A halfpenny’s worth.

72. A port in northeast Sudan on the Red Sea, it was the headquarters of British and Egyptian troops operating in the eastern Sudan against

the dervishes in 1884 (Durand, 22).

73. Khyber Mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

74. Dutch-speaking settlers in South Africa who fought against the British in the Boer Wars.

75. In the Burmese campaign, the British forces came down with malaria near the Irrawady River.

76. A regiment of the Zulus, a Bantu ethnic group in South Africa.

77. Ginger beer.

78. Swallow.

79. A rifle in general use in the British Army from 1871-1888.

80. In 1884, near Tamai, the Sudanese army broke into the first British brigade square (a formation of soldiers) and “temporarily captured the

naval guns” (Durand, 23).

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 143

‘E ‘asn’t got no medals nor rewards,
So we must certify the skill ‘e’s shown
In usin’ of ‘is long two-‘anded swords:
When ‘e’s ‘oppin’ in an’ out among the bush
With ‘is coffin-‘eaded shield an’ shovel-spear,
An ‘appy day with Fuzzy on the rush
Will last an ‘ealthy Tommy

for a year.

So ‘ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, an’ your friends which are no more,
If we ‘adn’t lost some messmates we would ‘elp you to deplore;
But give an’ take’s the gospel, an’ we’ll call the bargain fair,
For if you ‘ave lost more than us, you crumpled up the square!

‘E rushes at the smoke when we let drive,
An’, before we know, ‘e’s ‘ackin’ at our ‘ead;
‘E’s all ‘ot sand an’ ginger when alive,
An’ ‘e’s generally shammin’

when ‘e’s dead.

‘E’s a daisy

, ‘e’s a ducky

, ‘e’s a lamb

‘E’s a injia-rubber idiot on the spree


‘E’s the on’y thing that doesn’t give a damn
For a Regiment o’ British Infantree!
So ‘ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, at your ‘ome in the Soudan;
You’re a pore benighted ‘eathen, but a first-class fightin’ man;
An’ ‘ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, with your ‘ayrick ‘ead of ‘air—
You big black boundin’ beggar—for you broke a British square!

[The editor is indebted to Representative Poetry, ed. Ian Lancashire for many of the notes to this poem].


1. Who is the poem’s speaker? Why would Kipling have chosen him to represent British presence in
the Nile region?

2. The term “Fuzzy-Wuzzy” refers to the Sudanese Hadandoa tribesmen of the upper Nile, who
charged into battle with their hair arranged to look as fearsome as possible. What is the effect of
the speaker’s use of this term? Of his reference to his enemy in the singular?

3. What do we know about the speaker from his use of language?

4. What attitudes are ascribed to the speaker as he says, “We’ll come an’ ‘have romp with you
whenever you’re inclined”? What other attitudes seemingly appropriate for a British soldier does

81. Colloquial term for a British soldier.

82. Pretending.

83. Good fellow.

84. Nice chap.

85. Darling.

86. A drunken binge.

144 Poetry

he exhibit?

5. On what grounds does the speaker respect his enemy? Are the Hadandoa expected to successfully
defend their homeland? What are the implications of praising the tribesmen for breaking “a
British square” (a reference to the victory of the Sudanese in the battle of Tamai, 1884)?

6. How do the poem’s stanza form and rhythms convey or complement its meaning?

7. In reading this poem, what attitude toward the issue of imperialist wars is the Victorian reader
expected to take?

Pauline Johnson (1861–1913)

“The Song My Paddle Sings”

West wind, blow from your prairie nest,
Blow from the mountains, blow from the west.
The sail is idle, the sailor too;
O! wind of the west, we wait for you.
Blow, blow!
I have wooed you so,
But never a favour you bestow.
You rock your cradle the hills between,
But scorn to notice my white lateen.


I stow the sail, unship the mast:
I wooed you long but my wooing’s past;
My paddle will lull you into rest.
O! drowsy wind of the drowsy west,
Sleep, sleep,
By your mountain steep,
Or down where the prairie grasses sweep!
Now fold in slumber your laggard wings,
For soft is the song my paddle sings.

August is laughing across the sky,
Laughing while paddle, canoe and I,
Drift, drift,
Where the hills uplift
On either side of the current swift.

The river rolls in its rocky bed;
My paddle is plying its way ahead;
Dip, dip,

87. A sail in the shape of a triangle.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 145

While the waters flip
In foam as over their breast we slip.

And oh, the river runs swifter now;
The eddies circle about my bow.
Swirl, swirl!
How the ripples curl
In many a dangerous pool awhirl!

And forward far the rapids roar,
Fretting their margin for evermore.
Dash, dash,
With a mighty crash,
They seethe, and boil, and bound, and splash.

Be strong, O paddle! be brave, canoe!
The reckless waves you must plunge into.
Reel, reel.
On your trembling keel,
But never a fear my craft will feel.

We’ve raced the rapid, we’re far ahead!
The river slips through its silent bed.
Sway, sway,
As the bubbles spray
And fall in tinkling tunes away.

And up on the hills against the sky,
A fir tree rocking its lullaby,
Swings, swings,
Its emerald wings,
Swelling the song that my paddle sings.


1. Why does the speaker “stow the sail” of her canoe?

2. What is the effect of the word repetition at the middle of each stanza?

3. What type of figurative language does Johnson use throughout this poem? What is its effect?

4. In what sense is “The Song My Paddle Sings” a narrative poem? What elements of suspense are
in the narrative?

5. Compare and contrast this poem with John Magee’s “High Flight” and with Lampman’s
“Morning on the Lievre.”

146 Poetry

6. Hear a musical version of “The Song My Paddle Sings”.

A.E. Housman (1859–1936)

“Loveliest of Trees”

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten

Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

“Is My Team Ploughing”

“Is my team ploughing,
That I was used to drive
And hear the harness jingle
When I was man alive?”

Ay, the horses trample,
The harness jingles now;
No change though you lie under
The land you used to plough.

“Is football playing
Along the river shore,
With lads to chase the leather,
Now I stand up no more?”

Ay, the ball is flying,
The lads play heart and soul;
The goal stands up, the keeper
Stands up to keep the goal.

88. Psalm 90:10 “The days of our years are threescore and ten….” A score is 20, so threescore and ten is 70 years.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 147

“Is my girl happy,
That I thought hard to leave,
And has she tired of weeping
As she lies down at eve?”

Ay, she lies down lightly,
She lies not down to weep,
Your girl is well contented.
Be still, my lad, and sleep.

“Is my friend hearty,
Now I am thin and pine,
And has he found to sleep in
A better bed than mine?”

Yes, lad, I lie easy,
I lie as lads would choose;
I cheer a dead man’s sweetheart,
Never ask me whose.


“Loveliest of Trees”

1. How old is the speaker in the poem?

2. What is the setting of the poem (i.e., time and place)?

3. What is the speaker’s purpose in the poem?

4. What is the significance of the word “Eastertide”?

5. What kind of cycle is suggested by the second stanza, and how is this connected to Eastertide and

6. What is the theme of the poem?

“Is My Team Ploughing”

1. According to Thomas Hardy’s widow, this was Hardy’s favourite Housman poem. Compare it
with Hardy’s “Ah, Are You Digging on My Grave?”

2. Of the three kinds of irony — verbal, situational, and dramatic — which type do you find in this
poem? Discuss.

3. View Ian Bostridge’s rendition of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s “Is My Team Ploughing”. How does
the singer emphasize the colloquy between the living and the dead?

4. Dr. Joseph Mersand, in his edition of A Shropshire Lad, points out that Vaughan Williams cut

148 Poetry

stanzas 3 and 4, which prompted Housman’s angry observation, “How would he like me to cut
two bars of his music?” (A Shropshire Lad, p. 82). Which version, Housman’s original or that of
Vaughan Williams, do you prefer?

Read “Farewell to Barn and Stack” by A. E. Housman

Thomas Hardy (1840–1928)

“Drummer Hodge”


They throw in Drummer Hodge, to rest
Uncoffined – just as found:
His landmark is a kopje-crest


That breaks the veldt

And foreign constellations west
Each night above his mound.


Young Hodge the Drummer never knew –
Fresh from his Wessex home –
The meaning of the broad Karoo


The Bush, the dusty loam,
And why uprose to nightly view
Strange stars amid the gloam.


Yet portion of that unknown plain
Will Hodge forever be;
His homely Northern breast and brain
Grow to some Southern tree,
And strange-eyed constellations reign
His stars eternally.

“The Ruined Maid”

“O ‘Melia

, my dear, this does everything crown!

89. Afrikaans for “small hill.”

90. South African grassland.

91. Semi-desert region of South Africa.

92. Short and familiar form of Amelia.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 149

Who could have supposed I should meet you in Town?
And whence such fair garments, such prosperi-ty?” —
“O didn’t you know I’d been ruined?” said she.

— “You left us in tatters, without shoes or socks,
Tired of digging potatoes, and spudding up docks


And now you’ve gay bracelets and bright feathers three!” —
“Yes: that’s how we dress when we’re ruined,” said she.

— “At home in the barton

you said thee’ and thou,’
And thik oon,’ and theäs oon,’ and t’other’; but now
Your talking quite fits ‘ee for high compa-ny!” —
“Some polish is gained with one’s ruin,” said she.

— “Your hands were like paws then, your face blue and bleak
But now I’m bewitched by your delicate cheek,
And your little gloves fit as on any la-dy!” —
“We never do work when we’re ruined,” said she.

— “You used to call home-life a hag-ridden dream,
And you’d sigh, and you’d sock

; but at present you seem

To know not of megrims

or melancho-ly!” —
“True. One’s pretty lively when ruined,” said she.

— “I wish I had feathers, a fine sweeping gown,
And a delicate face, and could strut about Town!” —
“My dear — a raw country girl, such as you be,
Cannot quite expect that. You ain’t ruined,” said she.

“The Convergence of the Twain”

(Lines on the loss of the Titanic)


In a solitude of the sea
Deep from human vanity,
And the Pride of Life that planned her, stilly couches she.


Steel chambers, late the pyres
Of her salamandrine fires,
Cold currents thrid, and turn to rhythmic tidal lyres.

93. Weeds.

94. Farmyard.

95. Sigh.

96. Low spirits.

150 Poetry


Over the mirrors meant
To glass the opulent
The sea-worm crawls — grotesque, slimed, dumb, indifferent.


Jewels in joy designed
To ravish the sensuous mind
Lie lightless, all their sparkles bleared and black and blind.


Dim moon-eyed fishes near
Gaze at the gilded gear
And query: “What does this vaingloriousness down here?” …


Well: while was fashioning
This creature of cleaving wing,
The Immanent Will that stirs and urges everything


Prepared a sinister mate
For her — so gaily great —
A Shape of Ice, for the time far and dissociate.


And as the smart ship grew
In stature, grace, and hue,
In shadowy silent distance grew the Iceberg too.


Alien they seemed to be;
No mortal eye could see
The intimate welding of their later history,


Or sign that they were bent
By paths coincident
On being anon twin halves of one august event,


An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 151

Till the Spinner of the Years
Said “Now!” And each one hears,
And consummation comes, and jars two hemispheres.

“Ah, Are You Digging on My Grave”

“Ah, are you digging on my grave,
My loved one? — planting rue


— “No: yesterday he went to wed
One of the brightest wealth has bred.
‘It cannot hurt her now,’ he said,
‘That I should not be true.’”

“Then who is digging on my grave,
My nearest dearest kin?”
— “Ah, no: they sit and think, ‘What use!
What good will planting flowers produce?
No tendance of her mound can loose
Her spirit from Death’s gin


“But someone digs upon my grave?
My enemy? — prodding sly?”
— “Nay: when she heard you had passed the Gate
That shuts on all flesh soon or late,
She thought you no more worth her hate,
And cares not where you lie.

“Then, who is digging on my grave?
Say — since I have not guessed!”
— “O it is I, my mistress dear,
Your little dog , who still lives near,
And much I hope my movements here
Have not disturbed your rest?”

“Ah yes! You dig upon my grave…
Why flashed it not to me
That one true heart was left behind!
What feeling do we ever find
To equal among human kind
A dog’s fidelity!”

“Mistress, I dug upon your grave
To bury a bone, in case
I should be hungry near this spot
When passing on my daily trot.

97. A strong-scented, woody herb. Also, sorrow, regret.

98. A trap.

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I am sorry, but I quite forgot
It was your resting place.”

“Channel Firing”

That night your great guns, unawares,
Shook all our coffins as we lay,
And broke the chancel


We thought it was the Judgment-day

And sat upright. While drearisome
Arose the howl of wakened hounds:
The mouse let fall the altar-crumb,
The worms drew back into the mounds,

The glebe

cow drooled. Till God called, “No;
It’s gunnery practice out at sea
Just as before you went below;
The world is as it used to be:

“All nations striving strong to make
Red war yet redder. Mad as hatters
They do no more for Christés sake
Than you who are helpless in such matters.

“That this is not the judgment-hour
For some of them’s a blessed thing,
For if it were they’d have to scour
Hell’s floor for so much threatening….

“Ha, ha. It will be warmer when
I blow the trumpet (if indeed
I ever do; for you are men,
And rest eternal sorely need).”

So down we lay again. “I wonder,
Will the world ever saner be,”
Said one, “than when He sent us under
In our indifferent century!”

And many a skeleton shook his head.
“Instead of preaching forty year,”
My neighbour Parson Thirdly said,
“I wish I had stuck to pipes and beer.”

99. The title refers to gunnery practice in the English Channel in April 1914. World War I began on August 4, 1914.
100. Part of the church nearest the altar.

101. A portion of land assigned to a clergyman as part of his benefice.

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Again the guns disturbed the hour,
Roaring their readiness to avenge,
As far inland as Stourton Tower


And Camelot, and starlit Stonehenge.

“The Man He Killed”

“Had he and I but met
By some old ancient inn,
We should have sat us down to wet
Right many a nipperkin!

“But ranged as infantry,
And staring face to face,
I shot at him as he at me,
And killed him in his place.

“I shot him dead because —
Because he was my foe,
Just so: my foe of course he was;
That’s clear enough; although

“He thought he’d ‘list, perhaps,
Off-hand like — just as I —
Was out of work — had sold his traps —
No other reason why.

“Yes; quaint and curious war is!
You shoot a fellow down
You’d treat if met where any bar is,
Or help to half-a-crown.”


“Drummer Hodge”

1. What place and what war make up the setting?

2. Compare the point of stanza 3 to a similar point made in Rupert Brooke’s “The Soldier.”

102. King Alfred’s Tower was built near Stourton in the county of Wiltshire, to celebrate a victory by the Saxon, King Alfred, over the Danes

in AD 878. Camelot was the legendary site of King Arthur’s court, and Stonehenge is the site of the prehistoric stone circle at

Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain.

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“The Ruined Maid”

1. What are some meanings of the word “ruined”?

2. Look up the word “maid.” What does the word mean in the title?

3. Describe the structure: the number of speakers, the use of dashes, who speaks first, who speaks

4. Describe the two former co-workers.

5. Can you distinguish between the two women’s speech patterns?

6. What is the main irony?

“The Convergence of the Twain”

1. In what year did the Titanic sink?

2. Define both nouns in the title.

3. Paraphrase the first stanza, placing the grammatical subject at the beginning of the sentence.

4. Who is guilty of pride?

5. How does alliteration emphasize theme?

6. How is the deity depicted? How is the deity depicted in “Let Me Enjoy”?

7. What is the “creature of cleaving wing”?

8. Clarify the marriage metaphor in the poem.

“Ah, Are You Digging on My Grave”

1. Clarify the major irony and its type in this poem.

2. Compare this poem with Housman’s “Is My Team Ploughing?”

“Channel Firing”

1. To what promised biblical event does the poem refer?

2. Who is the speaker?

3. How does Hardy use humour to make serious points about war?

4. How is this a pessimistic poem?

5. Discuss the thematic significance of the three places mentioned in the last two lines.

“The Man He Killed”

1. Comment on how the speaker’s diction characterizes him.

2. Why did the soldier enlist?

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 155

3. Give specific examples of irony in the third stanza and final stanzas. What are the denotations of
“quaint” and “curious”?

4. How does Hardy’s use of dashes affect the metre and theme?

Archibald Lampman (1861–1899)

“Morning on the Lievre”

Far above us where a jay
Screams his matins

to the day,

Capped with gold and amethyst,

Like a vapor from the forge
Of a giant somewhere hid,
Out of hearing of the clang
Of his hammer, skirts of mist
Slowly up the woody gorge
Lift and hang.

Softly as a cloud we go,
Sky above and sky below,
Down the river; and the dip
Of the paddles scarcely breaks,
With the little silvery drip
Of the water as it shakes
From the blades, the crystal deep
Of the silence of the morn,
Of the forest yet asleep;
And the river reaches borne
In a mirror, purple gray,
Sheer away
To the misty line of light,
Where the forest and the stream
In the shadow meet and plight,
Like a dream.

From amid a stretch of reeds,
Where the lazy river sucks
All the water as it bleeds
From a little curling creek,

103. The Lievre is a tributary, flowing into the Ottawa River, about 97 kilometers north of Ottawa. A camping trip with fellow poet

Duncan Campbell Scott inspired Lampman to write this poem.
104. A morning prayer, especially in the Anglican Church. Lampman’s father was an Anglican minister.

105. A precious stone, violet or purple in colour.

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And the muskrats peer and sneak
In around the sunken wrecks
Of a tree that swept the skies
Long ago,
On a sudden seven ducks
With a splashy rustle rise,
Stretching out their seven necks,
One before, and two behind,
And the others all arow,
And as steady as the wind
With a swivelling whistle go,
Through the purple shadow led,
Till we only hear their whir
In behind a rocky spur


Just ahead.


1. Compare this poem with two other poems you have studied about the effects of nature’s beauty.

2. How do we know this is a free verse poem?

3. Identify a simile in the poem’s first stanza. Is the simile appropriate and effective?

4. What does the poet mean by “sky below,” in the second stanza?

5. What is the tone, the mood, the voice of this poem?

6. What is the effect of the alliteration in the final stanza?

7. Watch the film the National Film Board of Canada made of “Morning on the Lievre”. Does the
film enhance your appreciation of the poem? Explain your answer.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–1889)

“God’s Grandeur”

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil


Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

106. Here meaning a projection from the base of the mountain.

107. Likely olive oil, a sacramental oil in the Catholic faith. Hopkins was a Jesuit priest.

108. Obey God’s commands.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 157

And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost

over the bent

World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.


1. Compare and contrast this sonnet with Wordsworth’s “The World Is Too Much with Us.”

2. To what extent does the theme of this poem, written in the middle of the 19th century hold true

3. Why, in the context of this poem, will humankind never destroy nature?

4. How does Hopkin’s language, his style, reinforce humankind’s relationship with the natural
world, as the poet describes it in the poem’s ocatave?

Christina Rossetti (1830–1894)

“Goblin Market”

Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
“Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpecked cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Bloom-down-cheeked peaches,
Swart-headed mulberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
Crab-apples, dewberries,
Pine-apples, blackberries,
Apricots, strawberries;—
All ripe together
In summer weather,—
Morns that pass by,

109. The Holy Spirit, the resurrected soul of Jesus.

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Fair eves that fly;
Come buy, come buy:
Our grapes fresh from the vine,
Pomegranates full and fine,
Dates and sharp bullaces


Rare pears and greengages,
Damsons and bilberries,
Taste them and try:
Currants and gooseberries,
Bright-fire-like barberries


Figs to fill your mouth,
Citrons from the South,
Sweet to tongue and sound to eye;
Come buy, come buy.”

Evening by evening
Among the brookside rushes,
Laura bowed her head to hear,
Lizzie veiled her blushes:
Crouching close together
In the cooling weather,
With clasping arms and cautioning lips,
With tingling cheeks and finger-tips.
“Lie close,” Laura said,
Pricking up her golden head:
“We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits:
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry thirsty roots?”
“Come buy,” call the goblins
Hobbling down the glen.
“O,” cried Lizzie, “Laura, Laura,
You should not peep at goblin men.”
Lizzie covered up her eyes,
Covered close lest they should look;
Laura reared her glossy head,
And whispered like the restless brook:
“Look, Lizzie, look, Lizzie,
Down the glen tramp little men.
One hauls a basket,
One bears a plate,
One lugs a golden dish
Of many pounds’ weight.
How fair the vine must grow
Whose grapes are so luscious;

110. Bullaces, greengages, damsons are all varieties of plum. A bilberry resembles a blueberry.

111. Oblong red berries of a barberry shrub.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 159

How warm the wind must blow
Through those fruit bushes.”
“No,” said Lizzie, “no, no, no;
Their offers should not charm us,
Their evil gifts would harm us.”
She thrust a dimpled finger
In each ear, shut eyes and ran:
Curious Laura chose to linger
Wondering at each merchant man.
One had a cat’s face,
One whisked a tail,
One tramped at a rat’s pace,
One crawled like a snail,
One like a wombat

prowled obtuse and furry,

One like a ratel

tumbled hurry-scurry.
She heard a voice like voice of doves
Cooing all together:
They sounded kind and full of loves
In the pleasant weather.

Laura stretched her gleaming neck
Like a rush-imbedded swan,
Like a lily from the beck


Like a moonlit poplar branch,
Like a vessel at the launch
When its last restraint is gone.

Backwards up the mossy glen
Turned and trooped the goblin men,
With their shrill repeated cry,
“Come buy, come buy.”
When they reached where Laura was
They stood stock still upon the moss,
Leering at each other,
Brother with queer brother;
Signalling each other,
Brother with sly brother.
One set his basket down,
One reared his plate;
One began to weave a crown
Of tendrils, leaves, and rough nuts brown
(Men sell not such in any town);
One heaved the golden weight
Of dish and fruit to offer her:

112. A burrowing marsupial resembling a small bear.

113. A nocturnal animal resembling a badger. Pronounced “ray-tell.”

114. A small brook.

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“Come buy, come buy,” was still their cry.
Laura stared but did not stir,
Longed but had no money:
The whisk-tailed merchant bade her taste
In tones as smooth as honey,
The cat-faced purr’d,
The rat-paced spoke a word
Of welcome, and the snail-paced even was heard;
One parrot-voiced and jolly
Cried “Pretty Goblin” still for “Pretty Polly”;—
One whistled like a bird.

But sweet-tooth Laura spoke in haste:
“Good folk, I have no coin;
To take were to purloin:
I have no copper in my purse,
I have no silver either,
And all my gold is on the furze
That shakes in windy weather
Above the rusty heather.”
“You have much gold upon your head,”
They answered altogether:
“Buy from us with a golden curl.”
She clipped a precious golden lock,
She dropped a tear more rare than pearl,
Then sucked their fruit globes fair or red:
Sweeter than honey from the rock


Stronger than man-rejoicing wine,
Clearer than water flowed that juice;
She never tasted such before,
How should it cloy with length of use?
She sucked and sucked and sucked the more
Fruits which that unknown orchard bore;
She sucked until her lips were sore;
Then flung the emptied rinds away,
But gathered up one kernel stone,
And knew not was it night or day
As she turned home alone.
Lizzie met her at the gate
Full of wise upbraidings:
“Dear, you should not stay so late,
Twilight is not good for maidens;
Should not loiter in the glen
In the haunts of goblin men.
Do you not remember Jeanie,
How she met them in the moonlight,

115. cf. Deuteronomy 32:13, “…suck honey out of the rock.”

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 161

Took their gifts both choice and many,
Ate their fruits and wore their flowers
Plucked from bowers
Where summer ripens at all hours?
But ever in the noonlight
She pined and pined away;
Sought them by night and day,
Found them no more, but dwindled and grew gray,
Then fell with the first snow,
While to this day no grass will grow
Where she lies low:
I planted daisies there a year ago
That never blow.
You should not loiter so.”
“Nay, hush,” said Laura:
“Nay, hush, my sister:
I ate and ate my fill,
Yet my mouth waters still;
To-morrow night I will
Buy more,”—and kissed her.
“Have done with sorrow;
I’ll bring you plums to-morrow
Fresh on their mother twigs,
Cherries worth getting;
You cannot think what figs
My teeth have met in,
What melons icy-cold
Piled on a dish of gold
Too huge for me to hold,
What peaches with a velvet nap,
Pellucid grapes without one seed:
Odorous indeed must be the mead
Whereon they grow, and pure the wave they drink,
With lilies at the brink,
And sugar-sweet their sap.”

Golden head by golden head,
Like two pigeons in one nest
Folded in each other’s wings,
They lay down in their curtained bed:
Like two blossoms on one stem,
Like two flakes of new-fallen snow,
Like two wands of ivory
Tipped with gold for awful kings.
Moon and stars gazed in at them,
Wind sang to them lullaby,
Lumbering owls forbore to fly,

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Not a bat flapped to and fro
Round their rest:
Cheek to cheek and breast to breast
Locked together in one nest.
Early in the morning
When the first cock crowed his warning,
Neat like bees, as sweet and busy,
Laura rose with Lizzie:
Fetched in honey, milked the cows,
Aired and set to rights the house,
Kneaded cakes of whitest wheat,
Cakes for dainty mouths to eat,
Next churned butter, whipped up cream,
Fed their poultry, sat and sewed;
Talked as modest maidens should:
Lizzie with an open heart,
Laura in an absent dream,
One content, one sick in part;
One warbling for the mere bright day’s delight,
One longing for the night.

At length slow evening came:
They went with pitchers to the reedy brook;
Lizzie most placid in her look,
Laura most like a leaping flame.
They drew the gurgling water from its deep;
Lizzie plucked purple and rich golden flags


Then turning homeward said: “The sunset flushes
Those furthest loftiest crags;
Come, Laura, not another maiden lags,
No wilful squirrel wags,
The beasts and birds are fast asleep.”
But Laura loitered still among the rushes
And said the bank was steep.
And said the hour was early still,
The dew not fallen, the wind not chill:
Listening ever, but not catching
The customary cry,
“Come buy, come buy,”
With its iterated jingle
Of sugar-baited words:
Not for all her watching
Once discerning even one goblin
Racing, whisking, tumbling, hobbling;
Let alone the herds
That used to tramp along the glen,

116. Irises.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 163

In groups or single,
Of brisk fruit-merchant men.

Till Lizzie urged: “O Laura, come;
I hear the fruit-call, but I dare not look:
You should not loiter longer at this brook:
Come with me home.
The stars rise, the moon bends her arc,
Each glow-worm winks her spark,
Let us get home before the night grows dark;
For clouds may gather
Though this is summer weather,
Put out the lights and drench us through;
Then if we lost our way what should we do?”

Laura turned cold as stone
To find her sister heard that cry alone,
That goblin cry,
“Come buy our fruits, come buy.”
Must she then buy no more such dainty fruit?
Must she no more such succous

pasture find,

Gone deaf and blind?
Her tree of life drooped from the root:
She said not one word in her heart’s sore ache;
But peering thro’ the dimness, naught discerning,
Trudged home, her pitcher dripping all the way;
So crept to bed, and lay
Silent till Lizzie slept;
Then sat up in a passionate yearning,
And gnashed her teeth for balked desire, and wept
As if her heart would break.

Day after day, night after night,
Laura kept watch in vain,
In sullen silence of exceeding pain.
She never caught again the goblin cry:
“Come buy, come buy”;—
She never spied the goblin men
Hawking their fruits along the glen:
But when the noon waxed bright
Her hair grew thin and gray;
She dwindled, as the fair full moon doth turn
To swift decay, and burn
Her fire away.

One day remembering her kernel-stone

117. Succulent.

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She set it by a wall that faced the south;
Dewed it with tears, hoped for a root,
Watched for a waxing shoot,
But there came none;
It never saw the sun,
It never felt the trickling moisture run:
While with sunk eyes and faded mouth
She dreamed of melons, as a traveller sees
False waves in desert drouth
With shade of leaf-crowned trees,
And burns the thirstier in the sandful breeze.

She no more swept the house,
Tended the fowls or cows,
Fetched honey, kneaded cakes of wheat,
Brought water from the brook:
But sat down listless in the chimney-nook
And would not eat.

Tender Lizzie could not bear
To watch her sister’s cankerous care,
Yet not to share.
She night and morning
Caught the goblins’ cry:
“Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy.”
Beside the brook, along the glen,
She heard the tramp of goblin men,
The voice and stir
Poor Laura could not hear;
Longed to buy fruit to comfort her,
But feared to pay too dear.
She thought of Jeanie in her grave,
Who should have been a bride;
But who for joys brides hope to have
Fell sick and died
In her gay prime,
In earliest winter-time,
With the first glazing rime,
With the first snow-fall of crisp winter-time.

Till Laura, dwindling,
Seemed knocking at Death’s door:
Then Lizzie weighed

no more

Better and worse,
But put a silver penny in her purse,

118. Considered.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 165

Kissed Laura, crossed the heath with clumps of furze
At twilight, halted by the brook;
And for the first time in her life
Began to listen and look.

Laughed every goblin
When they spied her peeping:
Came towards her hobbling,
Flying, running, leaping,
Puffing and blowing,
Chuckling, clapping, crowing,
Clucking and gobbling,
Mopping and mowing,
Full of airs and graces,
Pulling wry faces,
Demure grimaces,
Cat-like and rat-like,
Ratel and wombat-like,
Snail-paced in a hurry,
Parrot-voiced and whistler,
Helter-skelter, hurry-skurry,
Chattering like magpies,
Fluttering like pigeons,
Gliding like fishes,—
Hugged her and kissed her;
Squeezed and caressed her;
Stretched up their dishes,
Panniers and plates:
“Look at our apples
Russet and dun,
Bob at our cherries,
Bite at our peaches,
Citrons and dates,
Grapes for the asking,
Pears red with basking
Out in the sun,
Plums on their twigs;
Pluck them and suck them,
Pomegranates, figs.”

“Good folk,” said Lizzie,
Mindful of Jeanie,
“Give me much and many”;—
Held out her apron,
Tossed them her penny.
“Nay, take a seat with us,
Honor and eat with us,”

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They answered grinning:
“Our feast is but beginning.
Night yet is early,
Warm and dew-pearly,
Wakeful and starry:
Such fruits as these
No man can carry;
Half their bloom would fly,
Half their dew would dry,
Half their flavor would pass by.
Sit down and feast with us,
Be welcome guest with us,
Cheer you and rest with us.”
“Thank you,” said Lizzie; “but one waits
At home alone for me:
So, without further parleying,
If you will not sell me any
Of your fruits though much and many,
Give me back my silver penny
I tossed you for a fee.”
They began to scratch their pates,
No longer wagging, purring,
But visibly demurring,
Grunting and snarling.
One called her proud,
Cross-grained, uncivil;
Their tones waxed loud,
Their looks were evil.
Lashing their tails
They trod and hustled her,
Elbowed and jostled her,
Clawed with their nails,
Barking, mewing, hissing, mocking,
Tore her gown and soiled her stocking,
Twitched her hair out by the roots,
Stamped upon her tender feet,
Held her hands and squeezed their fruits
Against her mouth to make her eat.

White and golden Lizzie stood,
Like a lily in a flood,—
Like a rock of blue-veined stone
Lashed by tides obstreperously,—
Like a beacon left alone
In a hoary roaring sea,
Sending up a golden fire,—
Like a fruit-crowned orange-tree

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 167

White with blossoms honey-sweet
Sore beset by wasp and bee,—
Like a royal virgin town
Topped with gilded dome and spire
Close beleaguered by a fleet
Mad to tug her standard down.

One may lead a horse to water,
Twenty cannot make him drink.
Though the goblins cuffed and caught her,
Coaxed and fought her,
Bullied and besought her,
Scratched her, pinched her black as ink,
Kicked and knocked her,
Mauled and mocked her,
Lizzie uttered not a word;
Would not open lip from lip
Lest they should cram a mouthful in;
But laughed in heart to feel the drip
Of juice that syrupped all her face,
And lodged in dimples of her chin,
And streaked her neck which quaked like curd.
At last the evil people,
Worn out by her resistance,
Flung back her penny, kicked their fruit
Along whichever road they took,
Not leaving root or stone or shoot.
Some writhed into the ground,
Some dived into the brook
With ring and ripple,
Some scudded on the gale without a sound,
Some vanished in the distance.

In a smart, ache, tingle,
Lizzie went her way;
Knew not was it night or day;
Sprang up the bank, tore through the furze,
Threaded copse and dingle,
And heard her penny jingle
Bouncing in her purse,—
Its bounce was music to her ear.
She ran and ran
As if she feared some goblin man
Dogged her with gibe or curse
Or something worse:
But not one goblin skurried after,
Nor was she pricked by fear;

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The kind heart made her windy-paced
That urged her home quite out of breath with haste
And inward laughter.

She cried “Laura,” up the garden,
“Did you miss me?
Come and kiss me.
Never mind my bruises,
Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices
Squeezed from goblin fruits for you,
Goblin pulp and goblin dew.
Eat me, drink me, love me;
Laura, make much of me:
For your sake I have braved the glen
And had to do with goblin merchant men.”

Laura started from her chair,
Flung her arms up in the air,
Clutched her hair:
“Lizzie, Lizzie, have you tasted
For my sake the fruit forbidden?
Must your light like mine be hidden,
Your young life like mine be wasted,
Undone in mine undoing
And ruined in my ruin,
Thirsty, cankered, goblin-ridden?”
She clung about her sister,
Kissed and kissed and kissed her:
Tears once again
Refreshed her shrunken eyes,
Dropping like rain
After long sultry drouth;
Shaking with aguish

fear, and pain,

She kissed and kissed her with a hungry mouth.

Her lips began to scorch,
That juice was wormwood to her tongue,
She loathed the feast:
Writhing as one possessed she leaped and sung,
Rent all her robe, and wrung
Her hands in lamentable haste,
And beat her breast.
Her locks streamed like the torch
Borne by a racer at full speed,
Or like the mane of horses in their flight,
Or like an eagle when she stems the light

119. Feverish.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 169

Straight toward the sun,
Or like a caged thing freed,
Or like a flying flag when armies run.

Swift fire spread through her veins, knocked at her heart,
Met the fire smouldering there
And overbore its lesser flame;
She gorged on bitterness without a name:
Ah! fool, to choose such part
Of soul-consuming care!
Sense failed in the mortal strife:
Like the watch-tower of a town
Which an earthquake shatters down,
Like a lightning-stricken mast,
Like a wind-uprooted tree
Spun about,
Like a foam-topped water-spout
Cast down headlong in the sea,
She fell at last;
Pleasure past and anguish past,
Is it death or is it life?

Life out of death.
That night long Lizzie watched by her,
Counted her pulse’s flagging stir,
Felt for her breath,
Held water to her lips, and cooled her face
With tears and fanning leaves:
But when the first birds chirped about their eaves,
And early reapers plodded to the place
Of golden sheaves,
And dew-wet grass
Bowed in the morning winds so brisk to pass,
And new buds with new day
Opened of cup-like lilies on the stream,
Laura awoke as from a dream,
Laughed in the innocent old way,
Hugged Lizzie but not twice or thrice;
Her gleaming locks showed not one thread of gray,
Her breath was sweet as May,
And light danced in her eyes.

Days, weeks, months, years
Afterwards, when both were wives
With children of their own;
Their mother-hearts beset with fears,
Their lives bound up in tender lives;

170 Poetry

Laura would call the little ones
And tell them of her early prime,
Those pleasant days long gone
Of not-returning time:
Would talk about the haunted glen,
The wicked, quaint

fruit-merchant men,

Their fruits like honey to the throat,
But poison in the blood;
(Men sell not such in any town;)
Would tell them how her sister stood
In deadly peril to do her good,
And win the fiery antidote:
Then joining hands to little hands
Would bid them cling together,
“For there is no friend like a sister,
In calm or stormy weather,
To cheer one on the tedious way,
To fetch one if one goes astray,
To lift one if one totters down,
To strengthen whilst one stands.”

Feature Poet: Emily Dickinson (1830–1886)

Emily Dickinson


Emily Dickinson was born December 10, 1830, in Amherst Massachusetts. Her family was prominent in
the community; her father was a lawyer and a politician, who served a term in the U.S. Congress.

Emily attended school in Amherst and enrolled in Mount Holyoake College, where she stayed for less than
a year. The curriculum privileged evangelical Christianity and did not mesh with Emily’s independent spirit
and free-thinking nature.

She returned to Homestead, her spacious family home in Amherst, where she would live for most of the rest
of her life. She settled into a routine which was partly domestic—she loved to bake, and she tended a most
beautiful fragrant garden—and partly intellectual—she was a voracious reader and a prolific poet and letter
writer. She wrote nearly 1,800 poems, over the course of her life.

She had close friendships, though they tended to be affirmed through the frequent long letters she wrote
nearly every day. Some were school friends, and some were older men. One was Samuel Bowles, editor
of a local newspaper, one of the few editors to publish any of her poems. Another was Charles Wadsworth,
a Philadelphia preacher whom she met on one of her rare trips away from Amherst. They corresponded

120. Strange.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 171

regularly, though few of their letters are extant. Another was Thomas Higginson, editor of the Atlantic
Monthly, who rejected her poems for publications but entered into a correspondence with the aspiring young
poet. A later correspondent was a Massachusetts judge Otis Lord, whose interest in Emily may have been
romantic, after his wife died in December of 1877, though no romance developed.

Neither she nor her younger sister Lavinia married. Too many young men left Amherst to strike it rich in
the Gold Rush or to fight in the Civil War. There were few men available to court upper-middle class women.
And, in such poems as “I Cannot Live with You,” Emily expresses her reluctance to marry and lose her own
independent identity to that of wife and mother.

She was close to her family, celebrating the birth of her brother’s children and devastated by the death of
her nephew Gilbert in 1882. Her most intense friendship was with Austin’s wife, her sister-in-law Susan, in
whom she confided and to whom she sent her poems for constructive criticism. The relationship was close,
if contentious at times, and perhaps, at least in the view of some biographers, intimate. Susan lived with her
family next door to Emily’s house. The two houses are now the Emily Dickinson Museum.

Emily died in 1886, likely from kidney disease. She had asked Lavinia to destroy the letters stacked in
her dresser drawers. Lavinia destroyed the letters—an immeasurable loss to American literary history—but
she saved the poems—an immeasurable gift to world literature. Her brother’s mistress, Mabel Loomis Todd,
the wife of an Amherst College professor, and another one of Emily’s pen pals, recognized the excellence
of Emily’s work. With the help of Higginson, she arranged for publication of a book of selected poems,
privileging those that were regular in rhythm and rhyme; providing titles, which Emily had not; and even
altering the content of some poems to render them more conventional. That book appeared in 1890.
Thereafter, more and volumes appeared, culminating in R.W. Franklin’s Variorum edition of The Poems of
Emily Dickinson, published in 1998.

Dickinson wrote nearly two thousand poems. Her themes are conventional—nature, faith, death—but her
treatment of the themes is complex. Nature is beautiful, a tonic that eases a troubled heart and mind; but it is
also has a dark side, in the form of a bird that bites a worm in half and eats it raw, a snake slithering ominously
through the grass. God’s love can comfort us—if God exists. “Faith is a fine invention,” she writes, though
it’s advisable to turn to science for answers to some questions. The soul is immortal: Death is not the end of
existence, in such poems as “Because I Could not Stop for Death.” But in “Safe in Their Alabaster Chambers,”
the dead seem soulless. She did not write often about love, though the passion of poems such as “Wild Nights,
Wild Nights” suggest an unexpected longing for physical intimacy.

She wrote several startling poems about her health, which was fragile. One of her few trips outside Amherst
was to Boston to see an eye specialist about her vision issues. Her shaky mental health—her proneness to
depression—emerges in such poems as “There’s a Certain Slant of Light” and I Felt a Funeral in My Brain.”

Dickinson’s style, similarly, reflects her preference for conventional regular verse forms, but her work
explodes beyond the confines of regular verse in compact images dense with meaning, jarring half-rhymes,
and those signature dashes which moderate the pace of her poems.


39 [I never lost as much but twice -]

I never lost as much but twice,
And that was in the sod.


121. Dickinson did not number or title her poems. In 1998, Belknap Press published The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Variorum Edition, edited by R.W. Franklin, who numbered the
poems in chronological order, based upon the best available evidence on the order in which Dickinson composed them. He used the number followed by the first line, the

line enclosed in square brackets, to identify the poems. His numbering has become the standard.

122. A loved one has died, and Dickinson is reminded of two others now dead and buried.

172 Poetry

Twice have I stood a beggar
Before the door of God!

Angels—twice descending
Reimbursed my store—


Burglar! Banker—Father!

I am poor once more!

112 [Success is counted sweetest]

Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne’er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.

Not one of all the purple Host

Who took the Flag today
Can tell the definition
So clear of victory

As he defeated – dying –
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Burst agonized and clear!

124 [Safe in their Alabaster Chambers -]

Safe in their Alabaster Chambers –
Untouched by Morning –
and untouched by noon –
Sleep the meek members of the Resurrection,
Rafter of Satin and Roof of Stone –

Grand go the Years,
In the Crescent above them –
Worlds scoop their Arcs –


and Firmaments – row –

– drop –

And Doges

surrender –
Soundless as Dots,
On a Disk of Snow.

123. Perhaps her nieces and/or nephews, children of her brother Austin.

124. God stole from her; then He deposited two more loved ones into the bank of her love; the third name she gives to God—“Father”—seems to suggest she

is reconciled to inevitable change.

125. The victorious army which defeated—took the flag—of the enemy.

126. The universe evolves and revolves in its orbits.

127. Jewels of monarchs.

128. Chief magistrates; important people.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 173

202 [“Faith” is a fine invention]

“Faith” is a fine invention
For Gentlemen who see!
But Microscopes are prudent
In an Emergency!

207 [I taste a liquor never brewed -]

I taste a liquor never brewed –
From Tankards scooped in Pearl –
Not all the Frankfort


Yield such an Alcohol!

Inebriate of air – am I –
And Debauchee of Dew –
Reeling – thro’ endless summer days –
From inns of molten Blue –

When “Landlords” turn the drunken Bee
Out of the Foxglove’s door –
When Butterflies – renounce their “drams” –
I shall but drink the more!

Till Seraphs

swing their snowy Hats –
And Saints – to windows run –
To see the little Tippler
Leaning against the – Sun!

236 [Some keep the Sabbath going to Church -]

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church –
I keep it, staying at Home –
With a Bobolink for a Chorister –
And an Orchard, for a Dome –

Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice –
I, just wear my Wings –
And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,
Our little Sexton

– sings.

God preaches, a noted Clergyman –
And the sermon is never long,
So instead of getting to Heaven, at last –
I’m going, all along.

129. Known for producing fine white wines.

130. Angels.

131. Caretaker of a church and churchyard.

174 Poetry

269 [Wild Nights -Wild Nights!]

Wild nights – Wild nights!
Were I with thee
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile – the winds –
To a Heart in port –
Done with the Compass –
Done with the Chart!

Rowing in Eden –
Ah – the Sea!
Might I but moor – tonight –
In thee!

320 [ There’s a certain Slant of light]

There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes –

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference –
Where the Meanings, are –

None may teach it – Any –
‘Tis the seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air –

When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, ’tis like the Distance
On the look of Death –
When is “There’s a Certain Slant of Light” set? What is the significance of this setting?

340 [I felt a Funeral, in my Brain]

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading – treading – till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through –

And when they all were seated,
A Service, like a Drum –

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 175

Kept beating – beating – till I thought
My mind was going numb –

And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my Soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again,
Then Space – began to toll,

As all the Heavens were a Bell,
And Being, but an Ear,
And I, and Silence, some strange Race,
Wrecked, solitary, here –

And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down –
And hit a World, at every plunge,
And Finished knowing – then –

355 [It was not Death, for I stood up]

It was not Death, for I stood up,
And all the Dead, lie down –
It was not Night, for all the Bells
Put out their Tongues, for Noon.

It was not Frost, for on my Flesh
I felt Siroccos

– crawl –

Nor Fire – for just my marble feet
Could keep a Chancel,

cool –

And yet, it tasted, like them all,
The Figures I have seen
Set orderly, for Burial
Reminded me, of mine –

As if my life were shaven,
And fitted to a frame,
And could not breathe without a key,
And ’twas like Midnight, some –

When everything that ticked – has stopped –
And space stares – all around –
Or Grisly frosts – first Autumn morns,
Repeal the Beating Ground –

But most, like Chaos – Stopless – cool –
Without a Chance, or spar


132. Hot winds.

133. Part of the church behind the altar.

134. Pole that supports the mast of a ship. The poet is shipwrecked and there is not even a remnant of the ship to save her.

176 Poetry

Or even a Report of Land –
To justify-Despair.

359 [A Bird, came down the Walk -]

A Bird, came down the Walk –
He did not know I saw –
He bit an Angle Worm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw,

And then, he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass –
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
To let a Beetle pass –

He glanced with rapid eyes,
That hurried all abroad –
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought,
He stirred his Velvet Head. –

Like one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him a Crumb,
And he unrolled his feathers,
And rowed him softer Home –

Than Oars divide the Ocean,
Too silver for a seam,
Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon,
Leap, plashless

as they swim.

409 [The Soul selects her own Society -]

The Soul selects her own Society —
Then — shuts the Door —
To her divine Majority —
Present no more —

Unmoved — she notes the Chariots — pausing —
At her low Gate —
Unmoved — an Emperor be kneeling
Upon her Mat —

I’ve known her — from an ample nation —
Choose One —
Then — close the Valves of her attention —
Like Stone —

135. Without splashing.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 177

479 [ Because I could not stop for Death -]

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.

We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility –

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –
We passed the Setting Sun –

Or rather – He passed Us –
The Dews drew quivering and Chill –
For only Gossamer, my Gown –
My Tippet

– only Tulle –

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground –
The Roof was scarcely visible –
The Cornice – in the Ground –

Since then – ’tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity –

519 [This is my letter to the World]

This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me,-
The simple news that Nature told,
With tender majesty

Her message is committed
To hands I cannot see;
For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me!

591 [I heard a Fly buzz -when I died -]

I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –
The Stillness in the Room

136. Her shawl, which is made of the fine light fabric tulle.

178 Poetry

Was like the Stillness in the Air –
Between the Heaves of Storm –

The Eyes around – had wrung them dry –
And Breaths were gathering firm
For that last Onset – when the King
Be witnessed – in the Room –

I willed my Keepsakes – Signed away
What portion of me be
Assignable – and then it was
There interposed a Fly –

With Blue – uncertain – stumbling Buzz –
Between the light – and me –
And then the Windows failed – and then
I could not see to see –

598 [The Brain -is wider than the Sky -]

The Brain—is wider than the Sky—
For—put them side by side—
The one the other will contain
With ease—and You—beside—

The Brain is deeper than the sea—
For—hold them—Blue to Blue—
The one the other will absorb—
As Sponges—Buckets—do—

The Brain is just the weight of God—
For—Heft them—Pound for Pound—
And they will differ—if they do—
As Syllable from Sound—

620 [Much Madness is divinest Sense -]

Much Madness is divinest Sense –
To a discerning Eye –
Much Sense – the starkest Madness –
’Tis the Majority
In this, as all, prevail –
Assent – and you are sane –
Demur – you’re straightway dangerous –
And handled with a Chain –

656 [I started Early -Took my Dog -]

I started Early – Took my Dog –
And visited the Sea –

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 179

The Mermaids in the Basement
Came out to look at me –

And Frigates

– in the Upper Floor
Extended Hempen Hands –
Presuming Me to be a Mouse –
Aground – upon the Sands –

But no Man moved Me – till the Tide
Went past my simple Shoe –
And past my Apron – and my Belt
And past my Bodice – too –

And made as He would eat me up –
As wholly as a Dew
Upon a Dandelion’s Sleeve –
And then – I started – too –

And He – He followed – close behind –
I felt His Silver Heel
Upon my Ankle – Then my Shoes
Would overflow with Pearl –

Until We met the Solid Town –
No One He seemed to know
And bowing – with a Mighty look –
At me – The Sea withdrew –

706 [I cannot live with You -]

I cannot live with You —
It would be Life —
And Life is over there —
Behind the Shelf

The Sexton keeps the Key to —
Putting up
Our Life — His Porcelain —
Like a Cup —

Discarded of the Housewife —
Quaint — or Broke —
A newer Sevres pleases —
Old Ones crack —

I could not die — with You —
For One must wait
To shut the Other’s Gaze down —
You — could not —

137. A small war ship.

180 Poetry

And I — Could I stand by
And see You — freeze —
Without my Right of Frost —
Death’s privilege?

Nor could I rise — with You —
Because Your Face
Would put out Jesus’ —
That New Grace

Glow plain — and foreign
On my homesick Eye —
Except that You than He
Shone closer by —

They’d judge Us — How —
For You — served Heaven — You know,
Or sought to —
I could not —

Because You saturated Sight —
And I had no more Eyes
For sordid excellence
As Paradise

And were You lost, I would be —
Though My Name
Rang loudest
On the Heavenly fame —

And were You — saved —
And I — condemned to be
Where You were not —
That self — were Hell to Me —

So We must meet apart —
You there — I — here —
With just the Door ajar
That Oceans are — and Prayer —
And that White Sustenance —
Despair —

764 [My Life had stood -a Loaded Gun -]

My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun –
In Corners – till a Day
The Owner passed – identified –
And carried Me away –

And now We roam in Sovreign Woods –

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 181

And now We hunt the Doe –
And every time I speak for Him
The Mountains straight reply –

And do I smile, such cordial light
Opon the Valley glow –
It is as a Vesuvian


Had let it’s pleasure through –

And when at Night – Our good Day done –
I guard My Master’s Head –
’Tis better than the Eider Duck’s
Deep Pillow – to have shared –

To foe of His – I’m deadly foe –
None stir the second time –
On whom I lay a Yellow Eye –
Or an emphatic Thumb –

Though I than He – may longer live
He longer must – than I –
For I have but the power to kill,
Without – the power to die –

1096 [A narrow Fellow in the Grass]

A narrow Fellow in the Grass
Occasionally rides –
You may have met him? Did you not
His notice instant is –

The Grass divides as with a Comb,
A spotted Shaft is seen,
And then it closes at your Feet
And opens further on –

He likes a Boggy Acre –
A Floor too cool for Corn –
But when a Boy and Barefoot
I more than once at Noon

Have passed I thought a Whip Lash
Unbraiding in the Sun
When stooping to secure it
It wrinkled And was gone –

Several of Nature’s People
I know, and they know me

138. Vesuvius is a volcanic mountain in Italy.

182 Poetry

I feel for them a transport
Of Cordiality

But never met this Fellow
Attended or alone
Without a tighter Breathing
And Zero at the Bone.

1263 [Tell all the Truth but tell it slant -]

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —

1773 [My life closed twice before its close]

My life closed twice before its close—
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A third event to me

So huge, so hopeless to conceive
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven.
And all we need of hell.


1. What does the poet beg for “Before the door of God” in “I Never Lost as Much but Twice”? What
does the line “Angels—twice descending” mean? To whom does “Banker” refer in the last

2. What argument is the poet making in “Success Is Counted Sweetest”? Do you agree with her?

3. What is the form of “Safe in Their Alabaster Chambers,” and how does the form help establish
the theme of the poem? How are the first and second stanzas connected to each other? Explain the
simile in the last two lines.

4. Does Dickinson place more faith in science or religion? Support your answer.

5. What effect does the beauty of nature have on the poet in “I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed”? What
are the “inns of molten Blue” referenced in the second stanza? How does the use of alliteration in
the final stanza of enliven the poem?

6. What does the poet mean by the reference to her “Wings” in “Some Keep the Sabbath Going to
Church”? Why is it better to worship in God in nature than in a church?

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 183

7. How does the rhythm of “Wild Nights, Wild Nights” inform the action in the poem? Explain the
metaphor in the second stanza. To whom does the “thee” in the last line refer?

8. Paraphrase the second stanza of “There’s a Certain Slant of Light.” How is “the certain slant of
light” used metaphorically? Is this an effective metaphor? Support your answer. What is the
soundtrack to “There’s a Certain Slant of Light”? How is the soundtrack appropriate to the tone
and theme of the poem? What is the nature of the “Despair” the poet alludes to in stanza 3? How
do such phrases as “Heavenly Hurt” and “imperial affliction” help define the nature of the
despair? What type of figurative language is “heavenly hurt” an example of? Note the trochaic
meter of “There’s a Certain Slant of Light.” Why is the trochaic meter appropriate for this poem?
Compare and contrast the mood of the poet at the start of the poem with her mood at the end of
the poem.

9. What is wrong with the speaker in “I Felt a Funeral in My Brain”? What is happening to her?

10. Find two examples of imperfect rhyme in the poem. Does the imperfect rhyme mar or enhance
the poem? Explain your answer. How is a funeral and its rituals an appropriate metaphor for the
poet’s condition in “I Felt a Funeral in My Brain”? What is the significance of the inconclusive
ending to the poem?

11. How, in the first two stanzas of “It Was not Death” is the poet’s fate worse than death? Is there
any relief for the state the poet is in? Explain your answer. What is the effect of the imperfect
rhyme the poet uses throughout the poem?

12. How does “A Bird Came Down the Walk” defy a conventional view of the beauty and harmony
of the natural world? What do you make of the final stanza? When is the ocean “Too silver for a
seam”? What are the “Banks of Noon”?

13. What is the theme of “The Soul Selects Her Own Society”? Do you agree with the argument
implicit in this poem? Note the rhythm of “The Soul Selects Her Own Society.” Dickinson
usually alternates between a line with four beats and a line with three beats, usually iambic. But in
this poem, she alternates four with two, and, in the last stanza, four iambic beats with just one.
How does this rhythm support the theme of the poem?

14. How is Death personified in “Because I Could not Stop for Death”? Explain the poet’s symbolism
is stanza 3. What is the “house” of stanza 5? Where is the carriage going, and how does its
destination inform the theme of the poem?

15. What is the chief source of Dickinson’s inspiration, judging from “This Is My Letter to the

16. How is the phrase “tender majesty” an apt description of nature? Dickinson commits, entrusts, the
poem to your hands. What does she ask in return?

17. Identify the simile in stanza 1 of “I Heard a Fly Buzz,” and comment on its effectiveness.

18. Who is the “King” the family of the dying person awaits? Dickinson does not use enjambment
regularly but uses it to dramatic effect in Stanza 3. Where is the enjambment and what is its
effect? How is significant, symbolic, that a fly buzzes at the moment of the narrator’s death?

19. In what sense is the brain wider than the sky and deeper than the sea? What is the significance of
the poet’s claim that “The Brain is just the weight of God? What is the theme of the poem?

20. Is Dickinson correct, when she says, in “Much Madness is Divinest Sense” that “’Tis the Majority
/ In this, as all, prevail”? What example does she give to support her theme? What example can
you provide to confirm her theme?

184 Poetry

21. What elements of a nursery rhyme does “I Started Early—Took My Dog” have in the first two
stanzas? How does the narrative change thereafter? Why does the narrator remain still in stanza 3,
while the tide rises past her waist? How might the rising tide be used metaphorically? Note the
spondee in the first line of stanza 5; why does Dickinson change the rhythm here? How can the
narrator feel “His Silver Heel” (note that she capitalizes each word), if “He” is chasing her from
behind? What is the “Pearl” which covers her shoes? What is the nature of the danger the narrator
faces, and does she escape from it?

22. What seems to have provoked Dickinson to write “I Cannot Live with You”? What reasons does
she give for her refusal to agree with the request from the “You” in the poem? What does she
offer in place of the request made to her? How do you think the “You” might respond”? What do
the last two lines of the poem mean to you?

23. Who is the narrator of “My Life Had Stood—a Loaded Gun”? What story does the narrator tell?
Explain the apparent paradox with which the poem concludes.

24. What is “the narrow fellow in the grass”? What does the poet say here about the nature of nature?
What does “Zero at the Bone” mean?

25. In what sense is “Tell All the Truth but Tell It Slant” a poem about white lies? In what sense is it a
poem about poetry? In what sense is it a poem about religion? Watch Jack Nicolson, as Colonel
Jessup give his “you can’t handle the truth” speech from A Few Good Men. How might this
speech and Dickinson’s poem be similar?

Robert Browning (1812–1889)

“Porphyria’s Lover”

The rain set early in to-night,
The sullen wind was soon awake,
It tore the elm-tops down for spite,
And did its worst to vex the lake:
I listened with heart fit to break.
When glided in Porphyria; straight
She shut the cold out and the storm,
And kneeled and made the cheerless grate
Blaze up, and all the cottage warm;
Which done, she rose, and from her form
Withdrew the dripping cloak and shawl,
And laid her soiled gloves by, untied
Her hat and let the damp hair fall,
And, last, she sat down by my side
And called me. When no voice replied,
She put my arm about her waist,
And made her smooth white shoulder bare,
And all her yellow hair displaced,
And, stooping, made my cheek lie there,

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 185

And spread, o’er all, her yellow hair,
Murmuring how she loved me — she
Too weak, for all her heart’s endeavour,
To set its struggling passion free
From pride, and vainer ties dissever,
And give herself to me for ever.
But passion sometimes would prevail,
Nor could to-night’s gay feast restrain
A sudden thought of one so pale
For love of her, and all in vain:
So, she was come through wind and rain.
Be sure I looked up at her eyes
Happy and proud; at last I knew
Porphyria worshipped me; surprise
Made my heart swell, and still it grew
While I debated what to do.
That moment she was mine, mine, fair,
Perfectly pure and good: I found
A thing to do, and all her hair
In one long yellow string I wound
Three times her little throat around,
And strangled her. No pain felt she;
I am quite sure she felt no pain.
As a shut bud that holds a bee,
I warily oped her lids: again
Laughed the blue eyes without a stain.
And I untightened next the tress
About her neck; her cheek once more
Blushed bright beneath my burning kiss:
I propped her head up as before,
Only, this time my shoulder bore
Her head, which droops upon it still:
The smiling rosy little head,
So glad it has its utmost will,
That all it scorned at once is fled,
And I, its love, am gained instead!
Porphyria’s love: she guessed not how
Her darling one wish would be heard.
And thus we sit together now,
And all night long we have not stirred,
And yet God has not said a word!


186 Poetry

1. Why does the speaker murder Porphyria?

2. Read the following essay about Browning’s “Porphyria’s Lover”, which argues that Shakespeare’s
Othello is another source for the poem.

Read “The Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister”, “The Bishop Orders His Tomb”, and see the study questions.

Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849)

“The Raven”

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
“’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;—
This it is and nothing more.”

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—
Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”—
Merely this and nothing more.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 187

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
’Tis the wind and nothing more!”

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian


Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door—
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as “Nevermore.”

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing farther then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—
Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before—
On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.”
Then the bird said “Nevermore.”

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of ‘Never—nevermore’.”

But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—

139. In Roman mythology, Pluto is god of the underworld, of Hell.

188 Poetry

What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet-violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite—respite and nepenthe

from thy memories of Lenore;

Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—
On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—is there balm in Gilead?

—tell me—tell me, I implore!”

Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,


It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting—
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas

just above my chamber door;

And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;

140. A drug of Greek mythology. When ingested, nepenthe induces relief from pain, sorrow, and grief.

141. In the Bible, Gilead is a region in Jordan associated with despair; hence, it is the name of the nation in Margaret Atwood’s dystopian

novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. The speaker asks “Is there…balm in Gilead”? Will I ever have relief from my suffering.

142. Arabic word for paradise; Eden.

143. In Greek mythology, the Goddess of Wisdom.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 189

And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore!


1. What is the narrator’s state of mind? Why is he in this state of mind?

2. The poem is set at midnight in December. Why is this significant?

3. Why might we suspect the narrator is hallucinating?

4. How does the poem’s dramatic trochaic meter, frequent use of alliteration, and internal rhyme
influence tone and theme?

5. What does the Raven mean by “Nevermore”? How does the Raven’s declaration help establish
the theme of the poem?

6. Watch and hear James Earl Jones read “The Raven”. Watch and hear Vincent Price read “The
Raven”. Which version do you prefer? Why?

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892)

“The Lady of Shallot”

Part I

On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold

and meet the sky;

And through the field the road runs by
To many-towered Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow


Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott.

Willows whiten

, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Through the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four grey walls, and four grey towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,

144. A plain.

145. Bloom.

146. The white underside of the willow leaves are lifted by the wind.

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And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.

By the margin, willow-veiled,
Slide the heavy barges trailed
By slow horses; and unhailed
The shallop

flitteth silken-sailed

Skimming down to Camelot:
But who hath seen her wave her hand?
Or at the casement seen her stand?
Or is she known in all the land,
The Lady of Shalott?

Only reapers, reaping early
In among the bearded barley,
Hear a song that echoes cheerly
From the river winding clearly,
Down to towered Camelot:
And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
Listening, whispers “‘Tis the fairy
Lady of Shalott.”

Part II

There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay


To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.

And moving through a mirror

That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
There she sees the highway near
Winding down to Camelot:
There the river eddy whirls,
And there the surly village-churls


147. A small, open boat propelled by oars or sails and used mainly in shallow waters.

148. Pause.

149. At her loom, the lady faces the back of her tapestry, and weaves by consulting a mirror in which the design is reflected.

150. Peasants.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 191

And the red cloaks of market girls,
Pass onward from Shalott.

Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,
An abbot on an ambling pad,
Sometimes a curly shepherd-lad,
Or long-haired page in crimson clad,
Goes by to towered Camelot;
And sometimes through the mirror blue
The knights come riding two and two:
She hath no loyal knight and true,
The Lady of Shalott.

But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror’s magic sights,
For often through the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
And music, went to Camelot:
Or when the moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed;
“I am half sick of shadows,” said
The Lady of Shalott.

Part III

A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley-sheaves,
The sun came dazzling through the leaves,
And flamed upon the brazen greaves


Of bold Sir Lancelot.
A red-cross knight for ever kneeled
To a lady in his shield,
That sparkled on the yellow field,
Beside remote Shalott.

The gemmy bridle glittered free,
Like to some branch of stars we see
Hung in the golden Galaxy.
The bridle bells rang merrily
As he rode down to Camelot:
And from his blazoned baldric


A mighty silver bugle hung,
And as he rode his armour rung,
Beside remote Shalott.

151. Armour for the leg below the knee.

152. A belt worn over one shoulder to support a sword or bugle.

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All in the blue unclouded weather
Thick-jewelled shone the saddle-leather,
The helmet and the helmet-feather
Burned like one burning flame together,
As he rode down to Camelot.
As often through the purple night,
Below the starry clusters bright,
Some bearded meteor, trailing light,
Moves over still Shalott.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glowed;
On burnished hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flowed
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode down to Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flashed into the crystal mirror,
“Tirra lirra

,” by the river

Sang Sir Lancelot.

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces through the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She looked down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror cracked from side to side;
“The curse is come upon me,” cried
The Lady of Shalott.

Part IV

In the stormy east-wind straining,
The pale yellow woods were waning,
The broad stream in his banks complaining,
Heavily the low sky raining
Over towered Camelot;
Down she came and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat,
And round about the prow she wrote
The Lady of Shalott.

And down the river’s dim expanse,
Like some bold seër in a trance
Seeing all his own mischance—
With a glassy countenance

153. In Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, (4.3: 11-12), Autolycus sings about “tumbling in the hay” with his “aunts” (whores).

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 193

Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott.

Lying, robed in snowy white
That loosely flew to left and right—
The leaves upon her falling light—
Through the noises of the night
She floated down to Camelot:
And as the boat-head wound along
The willowy hills and fields among,
They heard her singing her last song,
The Lady of Shalott.

Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darkened wholly,
Turned to towered Camelot.
For ere she reached upon the tide
The first house by the water-side,
Singing in her song she died,
The Lady of Shalott.

Under tower and balcony,
By garden-wall and gallery,
A gleaming shape she floated by,
Dead-pale between the houses high,
Silent into Camelot.
Out upon the wharfs they came,
Knight and burgher, lord and dame,
And round the prow they read her name,
The Lady of Shalott.

Who is this? and what is here?
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they crossed themselves for fear,
All the knights at Camelot:
But Lancelot mused a little space;
He said, “She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott.”

194 Poetry


The main source of this dramatic monologue is Dante’s Inferno XXVI, 94-126. Here Ulysses sets
out westward through the Pillars of Hercules: “When I left Circe….not fondness for my son, …nor
Penelope’s claim to the joys of love could drive out of my mind the lust to experience the far-flung
world….I put out on the…open sea/with a single ship/and only those few souls/who stayed true when
the rest deserted me.” But Tennyson melds details of this account with those of Homer’s Odyssey 19-24,
after he has returned to Ithaca and been reunited with his wife and son and resumed his duties as king.

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees; all times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades


Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour’d of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy,
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end


To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life. Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

154. A cluster of stars in Taurus, associated by the ancients with rainy weather.

155. cf. Ulysses’ speech in Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida 3.3. 144-47: “Perseverance…/Keeps honour bright. To have done is to hang/

Quite out of fashion, like a rusty mail/In monumental mockery.”

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 195

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the scepter and the isle—
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro’ soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you

and I are old;

Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles


And see the great Achilles

, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

156. The companions of Ulysses.

157. The Elysian Fields, or Greek paradise.

158. Greek hero of the Iliad who defeated Hector in the Trojan War. When he died, his arms went to Ulysses.

196 Poetry

“Selected poems from In Memoriam A.H.H.”


Strong Son of God, immortal Love,
Whom we, that have not seen thy face,
By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
Believing where we cannot prove;

Thine are these orbs of light and shade

Thou madest Life in man and brute;
Thou madest Death; and lo, thy foot
Is on the skull which thou hast made.

Thou wilt not leave us in the dust:
Thou madest man, he knows not why,
He thinks he was not made to die;
And thou hast made him: thou art just.

Thou seemest human and divine,
The highest, holiest manhood, thou.
Our wills are ours, we know not how;
Our wills are ours, to make them thine.

Our little systems

have their day;
They have their day and cease to be:
They are but broken lights of thee,
And thou, O Lord, art more than they.

We have but faith: we cannot know;
For knowledge is of things we see
And yet we trust it comes from thee,
A beam in darkness: let it grow.

Let knowledge grow from more to more,
But more of reverence in us dwell;
That mind and soul, according well,
May make one music as before


But vaster. We are fools and slight;
We mock thee when we do not fear:
But help thy foolish ones to bear;
Help thy vain worlds to bear thy light.

159. He died in 1883.

160. Sun and moon.

161. Systems of philosophy.

162. Before mind and soul came to sing different tunes with the advent of science.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 197

Forgive what seem’d my sin in me;
What seem’d my worth since I began;
For merit lives from man to man,
And not from man, O Lord, to thee.

Forgive my grief for one removed,
Thy creature, whom I found so fair.
I trust he lives in thee, and there
I find him worthier to be loved.

Forgive these wild and wandering cries,
Confusions of a wasted youth;
Forgive them where they fail in truth,
And in thy wisdom make me wise.



I held it truth, with him who sings
To one clear harp in divers tones


That men may rise on stepping-stones
Of their dead selves to higher things.

But who shall so forecast the years
And find in loss a gain to match?
Or reach a hand thro’ time to catch
The far-off interest of tears?

Let Love clasp Grief lest both be drown’d,
Let darkness keep her raven gloss:
Ah, sweeter to be drunk with loss,
To dance with death, to beat the ground,

Than that the victor Hours should scorn
The long result of love, and boast,
‘Behold the man that loved and lost,
But all he was is overworn.’


Old Yew, which graspest at the stones
That name the under-lying dead,

163. The 11 stanzas that Tennyson wrote as a prologue were written after the rest of the poem was complete.

164. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832).

198 Poetry

Thy fibres net the dreamless head,
Thy roots are wrapt about the bones.

The seasons bring the flower again,
And bring the firstling to the flock;
And in the dusk of thee, the clock


Beats out the little lives of men.

O, not for thee the glow, the bloom,
Who changest not in any gale,
Nor branding summer suns avail
To touch thy thousand years of gloom


And gazing on thee, sullen tree,
Sick for thy stubborn hardihood,
I seem to fail from out my blood
And grow incorporate into thee.


O Sorrow, cruel fellowship,
O Priestess in the vaults of Death,
O sweet and bitter in a breath,
What whispers from thy lying lip?

‘The stars,’ she whispers, ‘blindly run

A web is wov’n across the sky;
From out waste places comes a cry,
And murmurs from the dying sun:

‘And all the phantom, Nature, stands?
With all the music in her tone,
A hollow echo of my own,?
A hollow form with empty hands.’

And shall I take a thing so blind,
Embrace her as my natural good;
Or crush her, like a vice of blood,
Upon the threshold of the mind?


To Sleep I give my powers away;

165. The clock of the church tower behind the yew.

166. The yew tree, symbolic of grief, has a very long life.

167. cf. “Planets and Suns run blindly thro’ the sky,” Pope, “Essay on Man”, I. 252.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 199

My will is bondsman to the dark;
I sit within a helmless bark,
And with my heart I muse and say:

O heart, how fares it with thee now,
That thou should’st fail from thy desire,
Who scarcely darest to inquire,
‘What is it makes me beat so low?’

Something it is which thou hast lost,
Some pleasure from thine early years.
Break, thou deep vase of chilling tears,
That grief hath shaken into frost!

Such clouds of nameless trouble cross
All night below the darken’d eyes;
With morning wakes the will, and cries,
‘Thou shalt not be the fool of loss.’


I sometimes hold it half a sin
To put in words the grief I feel;
For words, like Nature, half reveal
And half conceal the Soul within.

But, for the unquiet heart and brain,
A use in measured language lies;
The sad mechanic exercise,
Like dull narcotics, numbing pain.

In words, like weeds

, I’ll wrap me o’er,
Like coarsest clothes against the cold:
But that large grief which these enfold
Is given in outline and no more.


One writes, that ‘Other friends remain,’
That ‘Loss is common to the race’?
And common is the commonplace,
And vacant chaff well meant for grain.

168. Mourning clothes.

200 Poetry

That loss is common would not make
My own less bitter, rather more:
Too common! Never morning wore
To evening, but some heart did break.

O father, wheresoe’er thou be,
Who pledgest now thy gallant son;
A shot, ere half thy draught be done,
Hath still’d the life that beat from thee.

O mother, praying God will save
Thy sailor,—while thy head is bow’d,
His heavy-shotted hammock-shroud


Drops in his vast and wandering grave.

Ye know no more than I who wrought
At that last hour to please him well;
Who mused on all I had to tell,
And something written, something thought;

Expecting still his advent home;
And ever met him on his way
With wishes, thinking, ‘here to-day,’
Or ‘here to-morrow will he come.’

O somewhere, meek, unconscious dove

That sittest ranging golden hair;
And glad to find thyself so fair,
Poor child, that waitest for thy love!

For now her father’s chimney glows
In expectation of a guest;
And thinking ‘this will please him best,’
She takes a riband or a rose;

For he will see them on to-night;
And with the thought her colour burns;
And, having left the glass, she turns
Once more to set a ringlet right;

And, even when she turn’d, the curse
Had fallen, and her future Lord
Was drown’d in passing thro’ the ford,
Or kill’d in falling from his horse.

169. Sailors were often buried in their own hammocks, which were weighted to allow the corpse to sink.

170. Tennyson’s sister Emilia (1811-87), who had been engaged to Hallam. She later married Richard Jesse, a British naval officer, and their

eldest son was given the names Arthur Henry Hallam.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 201

O what to her shall be the end?
And what to me remains of good?
To her, perpetual maidenhood,
And unto me no second friend.


Dark house

, by which once more I stand
Here in the long unlovely street,
Doors, where my heart was used to beat
So quickly, waiting for a hand,

A hand that can be clasp’d no more?
Behold me, for I cannot sleep,
And like a guilty thing I creep
At earliest morning to the door.

He is not here; but far away
The noise of life begins again,
And ghastly thro’ the drizzling rain
On the bald street breaks the blank day.


A happy lover who has come
To look on her that loves him well,
Who ‘lights and rings the gateway bell,
And learns her gone and far from home;

He saddens, all the magic light
Dies off at once from bower and hall,
And all the place is dark, and all
The chambers emptied of delight:

So find I every pleasant spot
In which we two were wont to meet,
The field, the chamber, and the street,
For all is dark where thou art not.

Yet as that other, wandering there
In those deserted walks, may find
A flower beat with rain and wind,
Which once she foster’d up with care;

So seems it in my deep regret,
O my forsaken heart, with thee

171. The house at 67 Wimpole Street where Hallam had lived.

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And this poor flower of poesy
Which little cared for fades not yet.

But since it pleased a vanish’d eye

I go to plant it on his tomb,
That if it can it there may bloom,
Or, dying, there at least may die.


Fair ship, that from the Italian shore

Sailest the placid ocean-plains
With my lost Arthur’s loved remains,
Spread thy full wings, and waft him o’er.

So draw him home to those that mourn
In vain; a favourable speed
Ruffle thy mirror’d mast, and lead
Thro’ prosperous floods his holy urn.

All night no ruder air perplex
Thy sliding keel, till Phosphor

, bright

As our pure love, thro’ early light
Shall glimmer on the dewy decks.

Sphere all your lights around, above;
Sleep, gentle heavens, before the prow;
Sleep, gentle winds, as he sleeps now,
My friend, the brother of my love;

My Arthur, whom I shall not see
Till all my widow’d race be run;
Dear as the mother to the son,
More than my brothers are to me.


I hear the noise about thy keel;
I hear the bell struck in the night:
I see the cabin-window bright;
I see the sailor at the wheel.

172. Hallam wrote a positive review of Tennyson’s early poems in 1831.

173. Hallam’s body was brought back by ship from Trieste, the Italian port.

174. The morning star.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 203

Thou bring’st the sailor to his wife,
And travell’d men from foreign lands;
And letters unto trembling hands;
And, thy dark freight, a vanish’d life.

So bring him; we have idle dreams:
This look of quiet flatters thus
Our home-bred fancies. O to us,
The fools of habit, sweeter seems

To rest beneath the clover sod,
That takes the sunshine and the rains,
Or where the kneeling hamlet drains
The chalice of the grapes of God;

Than if with thee the roaring wells
Should gulf him fathom-deep in brine;
And hands so often clasp’d in mine,
Should toss with tangle and with shells.


Calm is the morn without a sound,
Calm as to suit a calmer grief,
And only thro’ the faded leaf
The chestnut pattering to the ground:

Calm and deep peace on this high wold

And on these dews that drench the furze


And all the silvery gossamers
That twinkle into green and gold:

Calm and still light on yon great plain
That sweeps with all its autumn bowers,
And crowded farms and lessening towers,
To mingle with the bounding main:

Calm and deep peace in this wide air,
These leaves that redden to the fall;
And in my heart, if calm at all,
If any calm, a calm despair:

Calm on the seas, and silver sleep,
And waves that sway themselves in rest,

175. An upland plain.

176. A spiny evergreen shrub.

204 Poetry

And dead calm in that noble breast
Which heaves but with the heaving deep.


Lo, as a dove when up she springs
To bear thro’ Heaven a tale of woe,
Some dolorous message knit below
The wild pulsation of her wings;

Like her I go; I cannot stay;
I leave this mortal ark behind,
A weight of nerves without a mind,
And leave the cliffs, and haste away

O’er ocean-mirrors rounded large,
And reach the glow of southern skies,
And see the sails at distance rise,
And linger weeping on the marge,

And saying; ‘Comes he thus, my friend?
Is this the end of all my care?’
And circle moaning in the air:
‘Is this the end? Is this the end?’

And forward dart again, and play
About the prow, and back return
To where the body sits, and learn
That I have been an hour away.


Tears of the widower, when he sees
A late-lost form that sleep reveals,
And moves his doubtful arms, and feels
Her place is empty, fall like these;

Which weep a loss for ever new,
A void where heart on heart reposed;
And, where warm hands have prest and closed,
Silence, till I be silent too.

Which weep the comrade of my choice,
An awful thought, a life removed,
The human-hearted man I loved,
A Spirit, not a breathing voice.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 205

Come, Time, and teach me, many years,
I do not suffer in a dream;
For now so strange do these things seem,
Mine eyes have leisure for their tears;

My fancies time to rise on wing,
And glance about the approaching sails,
As tho’ they brought but merchants’ bales,
And not the burthen that they bring.


If one should bring me this report,
That thou hadst touch’d the land to-day,
And I went down unto the quay,
And found thee lying in the port;

And standing, muffled round with woe,
Should see thy passengers in rank
Come stepping lightly down the plank,
And beckoning unto those they know;

And if along with these should come
The man I held as half-divine;
Should strike a sudden hand in mine,
And ask a thousand things of home;

And I should tell him all my pain,
And how my life had droop’d of late,
And he should sorrow o’er my state
And marvel what possess’d my brain;

And I perceived no touch of change,
No hint of death in all his frame,
But found him all in all the same,
I should not feel it to be strange.


To-night the winds begin to rise
And roar from yonder dropping day:
The last red leaf is whirl’d away,
The rooks are blown about the skies;

206 Poetry

The forest crack’d, the waters curl’d,
The cattle huddled on the lea;
And wildly dash’d on tower and tree
The sunbeam strikes along the world:

And but for fancies, which aver
That all thy motions gently pass
Athwart a plane of molten glass


I scarce could brook the strain and stir

That makes the barren branches loud;
And but for fear it is not so,
The wild unrest that lives in woe
Would dote and pore on yonder cloud

That rises upward always higher,
And onward drags a labouring breast,
And topples round the dreary west,
A looming bastion fringed with fire.


The Danube to the Severn

The darken’d heart that beat no more;
They laid him by the pleasant shore,
And in the hearing of the wave.

There twice a day the Severn fills;
The salt sea-water passes by,
And hushes half the babbling Wye,
And makes a silence in the hills.

The Wye is hush’d nor moved along,
And hush’d my deepest grief of all,
When fill’d with tears that cannot fall,
I brim with sorrow drowning song.

The tide flows down, the wave again
Is vocal in its wooded walls;
My deeper anguish also falls,
And I can speak a little then.

177. Calm sea.

178. Hallam died in Vienna, on the Danube River, and was buried in the church at Clevedon on the Severn River in southwest England.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 207


And was the day of my delight
As pure and perfect as I say?
The very source and fount of Day
Is dash’d with wandering isles of night.

If all was good and fair we met,
This earth had been the Paradise
It never look’d to human eyes
Since our first Sun arose and set.

And is it that the haze of grief
Makes former gladness loom so great?
The lowness of the present state,
That sets the past in this relief?

Or that the past will always win
A glory from its being far;
And orb into the perfect star
We saw not, when we moved therein?


I envy not in any moods
The captive void of noble rage,
The linnet born within the cage,
That never knew the summer woods:

I envy not the beast that takes
His license in the field of time,
Unfetter’d by the sense of crime,
To whom a conscience never wakes;

Nor, what may count itself as blest,
The heart that never plighted troth
But stagnates in the weeds of sloth;
Nor any want-begotten rest.

I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

208 Poetry


The time draws near the birth of Christ

The moon is hid; the night is still;
The Christmas bells from hill to hill
Answer each other in the mist.

Four voices of four hamlets round,
From far and near, on mead and moor,
Swell out and fail, as if a door
Were shut between me and the sound:

Each voice four changes

on the wind,
That now dilate, and now decrease,
Peace and goodwill, goodwill and peace,
Peace and goodwill, to all mankind.

This year I slept and woke with pain,
I almost wish’d no more to wake,
And that my hold on life would break
Before I heard those bells again:

But they my troubled spirit rule,
For they controll’d me when a boy;
They bring me sorrow touch’d with joy,
The merry merry bells of Yule.


With trembling fingers did we weave
The holly round the Chrismas hearth;
A rainy cloud possess’d the earth,
And sadly fell our Christmas-eve.

At our old pastimes in the hall
We gambol’d, making vain pretence
Of gladness, with an awful sense
Of one mute Shadow watching all.

We paused: the winds were in the beech:
We heard them sweep the winter land;
And in a circle hand-in-hand
Sat silent, looking each at each.

179. As the first Christmas (1833) after Hallam’s death approaches, the poet listens to the church bells from four villages. A.C. Bradley

suggests that the second part of “In Memoriam” begins here in XXVIII. A Commentary on Tennyson’s In Memoriam.

180. Arrangements of church bell ringing.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 209

Then echo-like our voices rang;
We sung, tho’ every eye was dim,
A merry song we sang with him
Last year: impetuously we sang:

We ceased: a gentler feeling crept
Upon us: surely rest is meet:
‘They rest,’ we said, ‘their sleep is sweet,’
And silence follow’d, and we wept.

Our voices took a higher range;
Once more we sang: ‘They do not die
Nor lose their mortal sympathy,
Nor change to us, although they change;

‘Rapt from the fickle and the frail
With gather’d power, yet the same,
Pierces the keen seraphic flame
From orb to orb, from veil to veil.’

Rise, happy morn, rise, holy morn,
Draw forth the cheerful day from night:
O Father, touch the east, and light
The light that shone when Hope was born.


My own dim life should teach me this,
That life shall live for evermore,
Else earth is darkness at the core,
And dust and ashes all that is;

This round of green, this orb of flame,
Fantastic beauty such as lurks
In some wild Poet, when he works
Without a conscience or an aim.

What then were God to such as I?
‘Twere hardly worth my while to choose
Of things all mortal, or to use
A tattle patience ere I die;

‘Twere best at once to sink to peace,
Like birds the charming serpent draws,
To drop head-foremost in the jaws
Of vacant darkness and to cease.

210 Poetry


Old warder

of these buried bones,
And answering now my random stroke
With fruitful cloud and living smoke,
Dark yew, that graspest at the stones

And dippest toward the dreamless head,
To thee too comes the golden hour
When flower is feeling after flower;
But Sorrow?fixt upon the dead,

And darkening the dark graves of men,?
What whisper’d from her lying lips?
Thy gloom is kindled at the tips,
And passes into gloom again.


Be near me when my light is low,
When the blood creeps, and the nerves prick
And tingle; and the heart is sick,
And all the wheels of Being slow.

Be near me when the sensuous frame
Is rack’d with pangs that conquer trust;
And Time, a maniac scattering dust,
And Life, a Fury slinging flame.

Be near me when my faith is dry,
And men the flies of latter spring,
That lay their eggs, and sting and sing
And weave their petty cells and die.

Be near me when I fade away,
To point the term of human strife,
And on the low dark verge of life
The twilight of eternal day.


Oh yet we trust that somehow good
Will be the final goal of ill,

181. The churchyard yew. This section was written in 1868; cf. II.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 211

To pangs of nature, sins of will,
Defects of doubt, and taints of blood;

That nothing walks with aimless feet;
That not one life shall be destroy’d,
Or cast as rubbish to the void,
When God hath made the pile complete;

That not a worm is cloven in vain;
That not a moth with vain desire
Is shrivell’d in a fruitless fire,
Or but subserves another’s gain.

Behold, we know not anything;
I can but trust that good shall fall
At last—far off—at last, to all,
And every winter change to spring.

So runs my dream: but what am I?
An infant crying in the night:
An infant crying for the light:
And with no language but a cry.


The wish, that of the living whole
No life may fail beyond the grave,
Derives it not from what we have
The likest God within the soul


Are God and Nature then at strife,
That Nature lends such evil dreams?
So careful of the type

she seems,

So careless of the single life;

That I, considering everywhere
Her secret meaning in her deeds,
And finding that of fifty seeds
She often brings but one to bear,

I falter where I firmly trod,
And falling with my weight of cares
Upon the great world’s altar-stairs
That slope thro’ darkness up to God,

182. The inner consciousness—the divine in man [Tennyson’s note].

183. Species; i.e., Nature ensures the preservation of the species but is indifferent to the fate of the individual.

212 Poetry

I stretch lame hands of faith, and grope,
And gather dust and chaff, and call
To what I feel is Lord of all,
And faintly trust the larger hope



‘So careful of the type?’ but no.
From scarpèd cliff and quarried stone

cries, ‘A thousand types are gone


I care for nothing, all shall go.

‘Thou makest thine appeal to me:
I bring to life, I bring to death:
The spirit does but mean the breath:
I know no more.’ And he, shall he,

Man, her last work, who seem’d so fair,
Such splendid purpose in his eyes,
Who roll’d the psalm to wintry skies,
Who built him fanes

of fruitless prayer,

Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation’s final law?
Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek’d against his creed?

Who loved, who suffer’d countless ills,
Who battled for the True, the Just,
Be blown about the desert dust,
Or seal’d within the iron hills?

No more? A monster then, a dream,
A discord. Dragons of the prime,
That tare each other in their slime,
Were mellow music match’d with him.

O life as futile, then, as frail!
O for thy voice to soothe and bless!

184. Tennyson’s son Hallam writes in the biography of his father, “…by ‘the larger hope’ that the whole human race would through, perhaps,

ages of suffering, be at length purified and saved” (Alfred Lord Tennyson: A Memoir, I, 321-22).

185. Nature.

186. The new science of geology, particularly in Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geology (1830) , which Tennyson had read, was providing

evidence that countless forms of life have disappeared from the earth.

187. Temples.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 213

What hope of answer, or redress?
Behind the veil, behind the veil.


O Sorrow, wilt thou live with me
No casual mistress, but a wife,
My bosom-friend and half of life;
As I confess it needs must be;

O Sorrow, wilt thou rule my blood,
Be sometimes lovely like a bride,
And put thy harsher moods aside,
If thou wilt have me wise and good.

My centred passion cannot move,
Nor will it lessen from to-day;
But I’ll have leave at times to play
As with the creature of my love;

And set thee forth, for thou art mine,
With so much hope for years to come,
That, howsoe’er I know thee, some
Could hardly tell what name were thine.


When on my bed the moonlight falls,
I know that in thy place of rest
By that broad water of the west


There comes a glory on the walls;

Thy marble bright in dark appears,
As slowly steals a silver flame
Along the letters of thy name,
And o’er the number of thy years.

The mystic glory swims away;
From off my bed the moonlight dies;
And closing eaves of wearied eyes
I sleep till dusk is dipt in gray;

And then I know the mist is drawn

188. Hallam was buried near the Severn River in southwestern England.

214 Poetry

A lucid veil from coast to coast,
And in the dark church like a ghost
Thy tablet glimmers to the dawn.


Risest thou thus, dim dawn, again

And howlest, issuing out of night,
With blasts that blow the poplar white,
And lash with storm the streaming pane?

Day, when my crown’d estate

To pine in that reverse of doom


Which sicken’d every living bloom,
And blurr’d the splendour of the sun;

Who usherest in the dolorous hour
With thy quick tears that make the rose
Pull sideways, and the daisy close
Her crimson fringes to the shower;

Who might’st have heaved a windless flame
Up the deep East, or, whispering, play’d
A chequer-work of beam and shade
Along the hills, yet look’d the same.

As wan, as chill, as wild as now;
Day, mark’d as with some hideous crime,
When the dark hand struck down thro’ time,
And cancell’d nature’s best: but thou,

Lift as thou may’st thy burthen’d brows
Thro’ clouds that drench the morning star,
And whirl the ungarner’d sheaf afar,
And sow the sky with flying boughs,

And up thy vault with roaring sound
Climb thy thick noon, disastrous day;
Touch thy dull goal of joyless gray,
And hide thy shame beneath the ground.

189. The first anniversary of Hallam’s death, September 15, 1884.

190. State of happiness.

191. Reversal of fortunes as the result of Hallam’s death.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 215


Again at Christmas

did we weave
The holly round the Christmas hearth;
The silent snow possess’d the earth,
And calmly fell our Christmas-eve:

The yule-clog

sparkled keen with frost,
No wing of wind the region swept,
But over all things brooding slept
The quiet sense of something lost.

As in the winters left behind,
Again our ancient games had place,
The mimic picture’s

breathing grace,

And dance and song and hoodman-blind.

Who show’d a token of distress?
No single tear, no mark of pain:
O sorrow, then can sorrow wane?
O grief, can grief be changed to less?

O last regret, regret can die!
No—mixt with all this mystic frame,
Her deep relations are the same,
But with long use her tears are dry.


If any vague desire should rise,
That holy Death ere Arthur died
Had moved me kindly from his side,
And dropt the dust on tearless eyes;

Then fancy shapes, as fancy can,
The grief my loss in him had wrought,
A grief as deep as life or thought,
But stay’d in peace with God and man.

I make a picture in the brain;
I hear the sentence that he speaks;
He bears the burthen of the weeks
But turns his burthen into gain.

His credit thus shall set me free;

192. The second Christmas (1884) after Hallam’s death.

193. Yule log.

194. Tableau-vivant; literally, “living picture,” a silent and motionless group of people arranged to represent a scene or incident.

216 Poetry

And, influence-rich to soothe and save,
Unused example from the grave
Reach out dead hands to comfort me.


Sweet after showers

, ambrosial air,
That rollest from the gorgeous gloom
Of evening over brake and bloom
And meadow, slowly breathing bare

The round of space, and rapt below
Thro’ all the dewy-tassell’d wood,
And shadowing down the horned flood
In ripples, fan my brows and blow

The fever from my cheek, and sigh
The full new life that feeds thy breath
Throughout my frame, till Doubt and Death,
Ill brethren, let the fancy fly

From belt to belt of crimson seas
On leagues of odour streaming far,
To where in yonder orient star
A hundred spirits whisper ‘Peace.’


Witch-elms that counterchange the floor
Of this flat lawn with dusk and bright;
And thou, with all thy breadth and height
Of foliage, towering sycamore;

How often, hither wandering down,
My Arthur found your shadows fair,
And shook to all the liberal air
The dust and din and steam of town:

He brought an eye for all he saw;
He mixt in all our simple sports;

195. This poem signals “the full new life which is beginning to revive in the poet’s heart and to dispel the last shadow of the evil dreams which

Nature seemed to lend when he was under the sway of…Doubt and Death” (Bradley, 223).

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 217

They pleased him, fresh from brawling courts
And dusty purlieus of the law


O joy to him in this retreat,
Inmantled in ambrosial dark,
To drink the cooler air, and mark
The landscape winking thro’ the heat:

O sound to rout the brood of cares,
The sweep of scythe in morning dew,
The gust that round the garden flew,
And tumbled half the mellowing pears!

O bliss, when all in circle drawn
About him, heart and ear were fed
To hear him, as he lay and read
The Tuscan poets

on the lawn:

Or in the all-golden afternoon
A guest, or happy sister, sung,
Or here she brought the harp and flung
A ballad to the brightening moon:

Nor less it pleased in livelier moods,
Beyond the bounding hill to stray,
And break the livelong summer day
With banquet in the distant woods;

Whereat we glanced from theme to theme,
Discuss’d the books to love or hate,
Or touch’d the changes of the state,
Or threaded some Socratic dream;

But if I praised the busy town,
He loved to rail against it still,
For ‘ground in yonder social mill
We rub each other’s angles down,

‘And merge,’ he said, ‘in form and gloss
The picturesque of man and man.’
We talk’d: the stream beneath us ran,
The wine-flask lying couch’d in moss,

Or cool’d within the glooming wave;
And last, returning from afar,

196. After leaving Cambridge, Hallam became a law student in London.

197. Dante and Petrarch.

218 Poetry

Before the crimson-circled star
Had fall’n into her father’s grave,

And brushing ankle-deep in flowers,
We heard behind the woodbine veil
The milk that bubbled in the pail,
And buzzings of the honied hours.


I shall not see thee. Dare I say
No spirit ever brake the band
That stays him from the native land
Where first he walk’d when claspt in clay?

No visual shade of some one lost,
But he, the Spirit himself, may come
Where all the nerve of sense is numb;
Spirit to Spirit, Ghost to Ghost.

O, therefore from thy sightless range
With gods in unconjectured bliss,
O, from the distance of the abyss
Of tenfold-complicated change,

Descend, and touch, and enter; hear
The wish too strong for words to name;
That in this blindness of the frame
My Ghost may feel that thine is near.


How pure at heart and sound in head,
With what divine affections bold
Should be the man whose thought would hold
An hour’s communion with the dead.

In vain shalt thou, or any, call
The spirits from their golden day,
Except, like them, thou too canst say,
My spirit is at peace with all.

They haunt the silence of the breast,
Imaginations calm and fair,

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 219

The memory like a cloudless air,
The conscience as a sea at rest:

But when the heart is full of din,
And doubt beside the portal waits,
They can but listen at the gates
And hear the household jar within.


By night we linger’d on the lawn,
For underfoot the herb was dry;
And genial warmth; and o’er the sky
The silvery haze of summer drawn;

And calm that let the tapers burn
Unwavering: not a cricket chirr’d:
The brook alone far-off was heard,
And on the board the fluttering urn


And bats went round in fragrant skies,
And wheel’d or lit the filmy shapes
That haunt the dusk, with ermine capes
And woolly breasts and beaded eyes;

While now we sang old songs that peal’d
From knoll to knoll, where, couch’d at ease,
The white kine

glimmer’d, and the trees

Laid their dark arms about the field.

But when those others, one by one,
Withdrew themselves from me and night,
And in the house light after light
Went out, and I was all alone,

A hunger seized my heart; I read
Of that glad year which once had been,
In those fall’n leaves which kept their green,
The noble letters of the dead:

And strangely on the silence broke
The silent-speaking words, and strange
Was love’s dumb cry defying change
To test his worth; and strangely spoke

198. Vessel for boiling water for tea or coffee.

199. Cows.

220 Poetry

The faith, the vigour, bold to dwell
On doubts that drive the coward back,
And keen thro’ wordy snares to track
Suggestion to her inmost cell.

So word by word, and line by line,
The dead man touch’d me from the past,
And all at once it seem’d at last
The living soul was flash’d on mine,

And mine in his was wound, and whirl’d
About empyreal heights of thought,
And came on that which is, and caught
The deep pulsations of the world,

Aeonian music

measuring out
The steps of Time—the shocks of Chance—
The blows of Death. At length my trance
Was cancell’d, stricken thro’ with doubt.

Vague words! but ah, how hard to frame
In matter-moulded forms of speech,
Or ev’n for intellect to reach
Thro’ memory that which I became:

Till now the doubtful dusk reveal’d
The knolls once more where, couch’d at ease,
The white kine glimmer’d, and the trees
Laid their dark arms about the field;

And suck’d from out the distant gloom
A breeze began to tremble o’er
The large leaves of the sycamore,
And fluctuate all the still perfume,

And gathering freshlier overhead,
Rock’d the full-foliaged elms, and swung
The heavy-folded rose, and flung
The lilies to and fro, and said,

‘The dawn, the dawn,’ and died away;
And East and West, without a breath,
Mixt their dim lights, like life and death,
To broaden into boundless day.

200. Age-old music.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 221


You say, but with no touch of scorn,
Sweet-hearted, you, whose light-blue eyes
Are tender over drowning flies,
You tell me, doubt is Devil-born.

I know not: one

indeed I knew
In many a subtle question versed,
Who touch’d a jarring lyre at first,
But ever strove to make it true:

Perplext in faith, but pure in deeds,
At last he beat his music out.
There lives more faith in honest doubt,
Believe me, than in half the creeds.

He fought his doubts and gather’d strength,
He would not make his judgment blind,
He faced the spectres of the mind
And laid them: thus he came at length

To find a stronger faith his own;
And Power was with him in the night,
Which makes the darkness and the light,
And dwells not in the light alone,

But in the darkness and the cloud,
As over Sinai’s peaks of old,
While Israel made their gods of gold,
Altho’ the trumpet blew so loud.


Risest thou thus, dim dawn, again

So loud with voices of the birds,
So thick with lowings of the herds,
Day, when I lost the flower of men;

Who tremblest thro’ thy darkling red
On yon swoll’n brook that bubbles fast
By meadows breathing of the past,
And woodlands holy to the dead;

Who murmurest in the foliaged eaves
A song that slights the coming care,

201. Hallam.

202. September 15, 1835, the second anniversary of Hallam’s death.

222 Poetry

And Autumn laying here and there
A fiery finger on the leaves;

Who wakenest with thy balmy breath
To myriads on the genial earth,
Memories of bridal, or of birth,
And unto myriads more, of death.

O, wheresoever those may be,
Betwixt the slumber of the poles,
To-day they count as kindred souls;
They know me not, but mourn with me.


The time draws near the birth of Christ

The moon is hid, the night is still;
A single church

below the hill

Is pealing, folded in the mist.

A single peal of bells below,
That wakens at this hour of rest
A single murmur in the breast,
That these are not the bells I know


Like strangers’ voices here they sound,
In lands where not a memory strays,
Nor landmark breathes of other days,
But all is new unhallow’d ground.


To-night ungather’d let us leave
This laurel, let this holly stand:
We live within the stranger’s land,
And strangely falls our Christmas-eve.

Our father’s dust is left alone
And silent under other snows:

203. The third Christmas since Hallam’s death.

204. Waltham Abbey.

205. Tennyson’s family has moved to a new home in Epping, Surrey, where they spent their first Christmas in 1837, four years after Hallam’s


An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 223

There in due time the woodbine blows,
The violet comes, but we are gone.

No more shall wayward grief abuse
The genial hour with mask and mime,
For change of place, like growth of time,
Has broke the bond of dying use.

Let cares that petty shadows cast,
By which our lives are chiefly proved,
A little spare the night I loved,
And hold it solemn to the past.

But let no footstep beat the floor,
Nor bowl of wassail mantle warm;
For who would keep an ancient form
Thro’ which the spirit breathes no more?

Be neither song, nor game, nor feast;
Nor harp be touch’d, nor flute be blown;
No dance, no motion, save alone
What lightens in the lucid east

Of rising worlds by yonder wood.
Long sleeps the summer in the seed;
Run out your measured arcs, and lead
The closing cycle rich in good.


Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die


Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more;

206. New Year’s resolutions. Tennyson is determined “to re-shape his attitude to Hallam’s death: ‘let him die….Year by year, Tennyson’s cause

has been to keep Hallam’s memory alive; all of a sudden, he sounds resolved to let his memory fade in the comforting knowledge that

he lives forever in Christ’ (‘Ring in the Christ that is meant to be’)” (Cash 9).

224 Poetry

Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.


It is the day when he was born

A bitter day that early sank
Behind a purple-frosty bank
Of vapour, leaving night forlorn.

The time admits not flowers or leaves
To deck the banquet. Fiercely flies
The blast of North and East, and ice
Makes daggers at the sharpen’d eaves,

And bristles all the brakes and thorns
To yon hard crescent, as she hangs
Above the wood which grides and clangs
Its leafless ribs and iron horns

207. February 1, Hallam’s birthday.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 225

Together, in the drifts that pass
To darken on the rolling brine
That breaks the coast. But fetch the wine,
Arrange the board and brim the glass;

Bring in great logs and let them lie,
To make a solid core of heat;
Be cheerful-minded, talk and treat
Of all things ev’n as he were by;

We keep the day. With festal cheer,
With books and music, surely we
Will drink to him, whate’er he be,
And sing the songs he loved to hear.


I will not shut me from my kind,
And, lest I stiffen into stone,
I will not eat my heart alone,
Nor feed with sighs a passing wind:

What profit lies in barren faith,
And vacant yearning, tho’ with might
To scale the heaven’s highest height,
Or dive below the wells of Death?

What find I in the highest place,
But mine own phantom chanting hymns?
And on the depths of death there swims
The reflex of a human face.

I’ll rather take what fruit may be
Of sorrow under human skies:
‘Tis held that sorrow makes us wise,
Whatever wisdom sleep with thee.


Now fades the last long streak of snow,
Now burgeons every maze of quick


208. Hawthorn hedge.

226 Poetry

About the flowering squares

, and thick
By ashen roots the violets blow.

Now rings the woodland loud and long,
The distance takes a lovelier hue,
And drown’d in yonder living blue
The lark becomes a sightless song.

Now dance the lights on lawn and lea,
The flocks are whiter down the vale,
And milkier every milky sail
On winding stream or distant sea;

Where now the seamew

pipes, or dives
In yonder greening gleam, and fly
The happy birds, that change their sky
To build and brood; that live their lives

From land to land; and in my breast
Spring wakens too; and my regret
Becomes an April violet,
And buds and blossoms like the rest.


O days and hours, your work is this
To hold me from my proper place,
A little while from his embrace,
For fuller gain of after bliss:

That out of distance might ensue
Desire of nearness doubly sweet;
And unto meeting when we meet,
Delight a hundredfold accrue,

For every grain of sand that runs,
And every span of shade that steals,
And every kiss of toothed wheels,
And all the courses of the suns.

209. Fields.

210. Seabird.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 227


Contèmplate all this work of Time

The giant labouring in his youth;
Nor dream of human love and truth,
As dying Nature’s earth and lime


But trust that those we call the dead
Are breathers of an ampler day
For ever nobler ends. They


The solid earth whereon we tread

In tracts of fluent heat began,
And grew to seeming-random forms,
The seeming prey of cyclic storms,
Till at the last arose the man;

Who throve and branch’d from clime to clime,
The herald of a higher race,
And of himself in higher place,
If so he type

this work of time

Within himself, from more to more;
Or, crown’d with attributes of woe
Like glories, move his course, and show
That life is not as idle ore,

But iron dug from central gloom,
And heated hot with burning fears,
And dipt in baths of hissing tears,
And batter’d with the shocks of doom

To shape and use. Arise and fly
The reeling Faun

, the sensual feast;

Move upward, working out the beast,
And let the ape and tiger die.



, where my heart was used to beat

211. The Titan giant Cronus (Saturn) regarded as the god of devouring time.

212. Do not dream that love and fidelity are merely transient things.

213. Scientists.

214. Prefigures.

215. Faunus. Also Pan, Roman god of country life, half-beast, half man.

216. The doors of Hallam’s London house at 67 Wimpole Street, to which Tennyson has returned.

228 Poetry

So quickly, not as one that weeps
I come once more; the city sleeps;
I smell the meadow in the street;

I hear a chirp of birds; I see
Betwixt the black fronts long-withdrawn
A light-blue lane of early dawn,
And think of early days and thee,

And bless thee, for thy lips are bland,
And bright the friendship of thine eye;
And in my thoughts with scarce a sigh
I take the pressure of thine hand.


I trust I have not wasted breath:
I think we are not wholly brain,
Magnetic mockeries

; not in vain,

Like Paul with beasts, I fought with Death;

Not only cunning casts in clay:
Let Science prove we are, and then
What matters Science unto men,
At least to me? I would not stay.

Let him, the wiser man who springs
Hereafter, up from childhood shape
His action like the greater ape,
But I was born to other things.


There rolls the deep where grew the tree.
O earth, what changes hast thou seen!
There where the long street roars, hath been
The stillness of the central sea.

The hills are shadows, and they flow
From form to form, and nothing stands;
They melt like mist, the solid lands,
Like clouds they shape themselves and go.

217. Automatons.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 229

But in my spirit will I dwell,
And dream my dream, and hold it true;
For tho’ my lips may breathe adieu,
I cannot think the thing farewell.


That which we dare invoke to bless;
Our dearest faith; our ghastliest doubt;
He, They, One, All; within, without;
The Power in darkness whom we guess,—

I found Him not in world or sun,
Or eagle’s wing, or insect’s eye


Nor thro’ the questions men may try,
The petty cobwebs we have spun.

If e’er when faith had fall’n asleep,
I heard a voice ‘believe no more,’
And heard an ever-breaking shore
That tumbled in the Godless deep,

A warmth within the breast would melt
The freezing reason’s colder part,
And like a man in wrath the heart
Stood up and answer’d ‘I have felt.’

No, like a child in doubt and fear:
But that blind clamour made me wise;
Then was I as a child that cries,
But, crying, knows his father near;

And what I am beheld again
What is, and no man understands;
And out of darkness came the hands
That reach thro’ nature, moulding men.


Thy voice is on the rolling air;
I hear thee where the waters run;
Thou standest in the rising sun,
And in the setting thou art fair.

What art thou then? I cannot guess;

218. Tennyson rejects the argument of God’s existence from the design of nature and hence the need for a designer.

230 Poetry

But tho’ I seem in star and flower
To feel thee some diffusive power,
I do not therefore love thee less.

My love involves the love before;
My love is vaster passion now;
Tho’ mix’d with God and Nature thou,
I seem to love thee more and more.

Far off thou art, but ever nigh;
I have thee still, and I rejoice;
I prosper, circled with thy voice;
I shall not lose thee tho’ I die.


O living will

that shalt endure
When all that seems shall suffer shock,
Rise in the spiritual rock


Flow thro’ our deeds and make them pure,

That we may lift from out of dust
A voice as unto him that hears,
A cry above the conquer’d years
To one that with us works, and trust,

With faith that comes of self-control,
The truths that never can be proved
Until we close with all we loved,
And all we flow from, soul in soul.

[from Epilogue


…And rise, O moon, from yonder down,
Till over down and over dale
All night the shining vapour sail
And pass the silent-lighted town,

The white-faced halls, the glancing rills,
And catch at every mountain head,
And o’er the friths that branch and spread
Their sleeping silver thro’ the hills;

219. Tennyson equated this with “Free-will, the higher and enduring part of man” (Alfred Lord Tennyson: A Memoir, I, 319).

220. Christ. cf. 1 Corinthians: 10.4

221. The poem comes full circle with a description of the wedding of Tennyson’s sister Cecilia to Edward Lushington and to the birth which

will result from their union.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 231

And touch with shade the bridal doors,
With tender gloom the roof, the wall;
And breaking let the splendour fall
To spangle all the happy shores

By which they rest, and ocean sounds,
And, star and system rolling past,
A soul shall draw from out the vast
And strike his being into bounds,

And, moved thro’ life of lower phase,
Result in man, be born and think,
And act and love, a closer link
Betwixt us and the crowning race

Of those that, eye to eye, shall look
On knowledge, under whose command
Is Earth and Earth’s, and in their hand
Is Nature like an open book;

No longer half-akin to brute,
For all we thought and loved and did,
And hoped, and suffer’d, is but seed
Of what in them is flower and fruit;

Whereof the man, that with me trod
This planet, was a noble type
Appearing ere the times were ripe,
That friend of mine who lives in God,

That God, which ever lives and loves,
One God, one law, one element,
And one far-off divine event,
To which the whole creation moves.

“The Charge of the Light Brigade”

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

‘Forward, the Light Brigade!’

232 Poetry

Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldiers knew
Some one had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flash’d all their sabres bare,
Flash’d as they turned in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army while
All the world wonder’d:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel’d from the sabre-stroke
Shatter’d and sunder’d.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro’ the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder’d.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 233

Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!


“The Lady of Shallot”

1. After looking at both published versions of the poem, might you, as did George Eliot, express a
preference for any of the original lines, published in 1833? If so, which ones would you wish
Tennyson had not revised?

2. What are features of the poem’s meter and diction? How do these add to the magical or eerie

3. What might the striking image of the tower symbolize? the mirror? What is significant about the
lady’s being enclosed in a high tower?

4. What was the result of Sir Lancelot’s adulterous relationship with King Arthur’s queen,

5. What irony is associated with Lancelot?

6. After looking at the link above—isolate some details that support the contention that the poem
deals with “the Woman Question”; that is, the position of Victorian women?

7. What details might support an allegorical interpretation pertaining to art versus life?

8. Why do you think the Lady of Shalott became the subject of so many Victorian paintings (Hunt,
Rossetti, Waterhouse)? First, see the link above: “The Man Behind the Lady.”

9. Listen to Loreena McKennitt’s musical adaptation of “The Lady of Shalott”.


1. Tennyson is quoted as saying that “Ulysses” was “written soon after Arthur Hallam’s death, and
gave my feeling about the need of going forward, and braving the struggle of life perhaps more
simply than anything in ‘In Memoriam’” (Memoir, I, 196). To which section of “In Memoriam” is
“Ulysses” most parallel?

2. Some critics argue that the poem is not wholly a dramatic monologue. Looking at it section by
section (i.e., ll. 1–32; ll. 33–43, and ll. 44–70), which section is most clearly a dramatic

“Selected poems from In Memoriam A.H.H.”

1. Download Gatty’s A Key to In Memoriam as well as a searchable Project Gutenberg e-text of In

◦ A Key to Lord Tennyson’s ‘In Memoriam’ by Alfred Gatty

234 Poetry

◦ In Memoriam

2. In her excellent notes on In Memoriam, Professor Florence Boos states, “According to Tennyson,
the poem fell naturally into the following 10 sections, with 1–77; 78–103; and 104–131 forming
the three main sections:

◦ Sections 1–8, ending with a sense of hope; 9–20, ending with a sense of hope; 21–27,
ending with a sense of hope; 28–49, ending with a sense of despair; 50–58; 59–71;
72–98; 99–103; 104–131; Epilogue.

3. Find examples to support the following assertion. “Whereas the first Christmas (28–77) was
marked overwhelmingly by grief, the second cycle (78–103) beginning with the second Christmas
since Hallam’s death, marks a turning point in the poem, as from here on the poet begins to move
more steadily towards hope and consolation”. Compare sections 30 and 78, as well as 7 and 119,
in particular.

4. Look in a glossary of literary terms and then find examples of anaphora in Parts 11 and 101.

5. The Cambridge History of English Literature (CHEL), (XIII, II, 3) states that Ben Jonson and
Lord Herbert of Cherbury used the so-called “In Memoriam stanza” before Tennyson. Find one
example of Jonson’s and Lord Herbert of Cherbury’s use of the “In Memoriam stanza.” See
Edward Hirsch, A Poet’s Glossary (Google books). See also Hallam Tennyson, Alfred Lord
Tennyson: A Memoir, I, 305 for Tennyson’s own discussion of what is now known as the “In
Memoriam stanza.” Be sure to use quotes before and after your search terms when using the
“search inside” box inside the Memoir.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861)

Selected poems from Sonnets from the Portuguese


Say over again, and yet once over again,
That thou dost love me. Though the word repeated
Should seem a “cuckoo-song,

” as thou dost treat it,

Remember, never to the hill or plain,
Valley and wood, without her cuckoo-strain
Comes the fresh Spring in all her green completed.
Beloved, I, amid the darkness greeted
By a doubtful spirit-voice, in that doubt’s pain
Cry, “Speak once more—thou lovest!” Who can fear
Too many stars, though each in heaven shall roll,
Too many flowers, though each shall crown the year?
Say thou dost love me, love me, love me—toll
The silver iterance!—only minding, Dear,
To love me also in silence with thy soul.

222. Repetitious.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 235


When our two souls stand up erect and strong,
Face to face, silent, drawing nigh and nigher,
Until the lengthening wings break into fire
At either curved point,—what bitter wrong
Can the earth do to us, that we should not long
Be here contented? Think! In mounting higher,
The angels would press on us and aspire
To drop some golden orb of perfect song
Into our deep, dear silence. Let us stay
Rather on earth, Beloved,—where the unfit
Contrarious moods of men recoil away
And isolate pure spirits, and permit
A place to stand and love in for a day,
With darkness and the death-hour rounding it.


The first time that the sun rose on thine oath
To love me, I looked forward to the moon
To slacken all those bonds which seemed too soon
And quickly tied to make a lasting troth.
Quick-loving hearts, I thought, may quickly loathe;
And, looking on myself, I seemed not one
For such man’s love!—more like an out-of-tune
Worn viol, a good singer would be wroth
To spoil his song with, and which, snatched in haste,
Is laid down at the first ill-sounding note.
I did not wrong myself so, but I placed
A wrong on thee. For perfect strains may float
‘Neath master-hands, from instruments defaced,—
And great souls, at one stroke, may do and doat.


How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

236 Poetry

With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.


1. Determine the rhyme scheme for each of these sonnets. To what type do the Sonnets from the
Portuguese belong—the English or the Petrarchan form?

2. Log on to the Wikisource page for all 43 sonnets. Do any of the sonnets break from the standard
rhyme scheme used in sonnets 21, 22, 32, and 43 above?

3. In terms of form, especially rhyme scheme, which English sonneteer does Barrett Browning most
resemble: Sidney, Spenser, or Shakespeare? For Sidney, see Astrophil and Stella, Sonnets 31, 52,
74. For Spenser, see any of the sonnets in Amoretti. For Shakespeare, see Sonnet 1.

4. Barrett Browning knew the poetry of John Donne very well. Do any of the above sonnets
resemble Donne’s “sonnets” in terms of style or imagery?

5. In a short essay, compare and contrast one sonnet by Browning and one by either Shakespeare,
Sidney, or Spenser.

John Keats (1795–1821)

“On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”

Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,

And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.


Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;


Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken


Or like stout Cortez

when with eagle eyes

223. The Elizabethan poet George Chapman (1559 – 1634) translated the great epic poems, The Iliad and The Odyssey, by the ancient
Greek poet, Homer. Keats had not read Chapman’s translation of Homer, until his old school friend, Charles Clarke, shared his

copy which the two friends read together on evening in October, 1816. Keats was so enthralled with Chapman’s translation,

he wrote this sonnet the same night and gave Clarke a copy the following morning.
224. In other words, I have read a lot of wonderful poetry in my day.

225. I have read much of the work of western European poets, those bards who pay homage to Apollo, the god of poetry.

226. I often heard about the dominion, the “demesne,” described by Homer,

227. Likely a reference to the discovery of the planet Uranus by William Hershel in 1781.

228. Hernan Cortes, Spanish explorer—though it was actually a different Spanish explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa, who was the first

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 237

He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

“La Belle Dame Sans Merci”

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel’s granary is full,
And the harvest’s done.

I see a lily on thy brow,
With anguish moist and fever-dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too.

I met a lady in the meads

Full beautiful—a faery’s child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.

I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She looked at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan

I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
A faery’s song.

She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna-dew,
And sure in language strange she said—
‘I love thee true’.

She took me to her Elfin grot

And there she wept and sighed full sore,

European explorer to see the Pacific Ocean from a peak in the Panama region of Darien.

229. French for the beautiful woman without mercy or pity. The 15th century French poet Alain Chartier wrote a poem with the

same title though with different content.
230. The meadow.

231. Her home, her cave, her grotto.

238 Poetry

And there I shut her wild wild eyes
With kisses four.

And there she lullèd me asleep,
And there I dreamed—Ah! woe betide!—
The latest dream I ever dreamt
On the cold hill side.

I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried—‘La Belle Dame sans Merci
Thee hath in thrall!’

I saw their starved lips in the gloam

With horrid warning gapèd wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
On the cold hill’s side.

And this is why I sojourn here,
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.

“To Autumn”

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers: And sometimes like a gleaner

thou dost keep

Steady thy laden head across a brook;

232. Short for gloaming; the twilight, just after sunset or before sunrise, when the sky is in semi-darkness.

233. The farm worker who gathers any remains of a crop, after it has been harvested.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 239

Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows,

borne aloft

Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.


“On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”

1. What is an extended metaphor and what metaphor does Keats use in “On First Looking into
Chapman’s Homer”?

2. How do we know “Chapman’s Homer” is a sonnet?

3. Describe a personal experience, similar to the one Keats describes in “On First Looking into
Chapman’s Homer.” Have you ever read a book or seen a film or had another experience you
could describe as awe-inspiring and inspirational?

“La Belle Dame Sans Merci”

1. In what season is “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” set? How do we know? How is the setting

2. What is the answer to the question which opens “La Belle Dame Sans Merci?”

3. How might you support an opinion that la belle dame sans merci symbolizes the poet’s muse?

“To Autumn”

1. What qualities of Autumn does Keats stress in “To Autumn”?

2. How would you describe the tone, the voice of “To Autumn”?

3. How does Keats use personification to communicate his vision of autumn?

4. How does Keats’ use of imagery help readers experience the sights and sounds of autumn?

5. How do we know “To Autumn” is an ode?

234. Willow trees.

240 Poetry

6. What is the effect of the last line of “To Autumn”?

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)


I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

“Ode to the West Wind”


O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow

Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill

235. The Greek name for the ancient Egyptian pharaoh, Ramesses II, who ruled Egypt from 1279–1213, B.C.E. He expanded the

Egyptian empire into what is now Syria and Libya.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 241

(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:

Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh hear!


Thou on whose stream, mid the steep sky’s commotion,
Loose clouds like earth’s decaying leaves are shed,
Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean,

Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread
On the blue surface of thine aëry surge,
Like the bright hair uplifted from the head

Of some fierce Maenad, even from the dim verge
Of the horizon to the zenith’s height,
The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge

Of the dying year, to which this closing night
Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre,
Vaulted with all thy congregated might

Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere
Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst: oh hear!


Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams
The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,
Lull’d by the coil of his crystalline streams,

Beside a pumice isle in Baiae’s bay,
And saw in sleep old palaces and towers
Quivering within the wave’s intenser day,

All overgrown with azure moss and flowers
So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou
For whose path the Atlantic’s level powers

Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below
The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear
The sapless foliage of the ocean, know

Thy voice, and suddenly grow gray with fear,
And tremble and despoil themselves: oh hear!

242 Poetry


If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;
If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;
A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share

The impulse of thy strength, only less free
Than thou, O uncontrollable! If even
I were as in my boyhood, and could be

The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven,
As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed
Scarce seem’d a vision; I would ne’er have striven

As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!

A heavy weight of hours has chain’d and bow’d
One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud.


Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies

Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like wither’d leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,

Scatter, as from an unextinguish’d hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawaken’d earth

The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?


An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 243


1. The story of “Ozymandias” is told not directly by the poet but by “a traveller from an antique
land.” How is this remote point-of-view significant to the theme of the poem?

2. Provide examples of and explain the significance of the dramatic irony and situational irony in

3. How does the poet’s use of half rhyme and the unconventional sonnet rhyme scheme add to the
meaning of “Ozymandias”?

“Ode to the West Wind”

1. What is the tone, the mood, the voice of “Ode to the West Wind”? Does the poet’s mood change
as the poem evolves? Quote from the poem to help explain your answer.

2. How and for what does Shelley use the west wind as a metaphor?

3. What effect does the west wind have on land? In the sky? In the ocean?

4. What does the poet want from the West Wind, in stanza 5?

George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788–1824)

“She Walks in Beauty”


walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,

236. Probably Byron’s aristocratic distant cousin, Anne Horton (Lady Wilmot). He met her at a London party in June, 1814 and was struck by

her beauty.

244 Poetry

A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

“So We’ll Go No More A Roving”

So, we’ll go no more a roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.

For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.

Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we’ll go no more a roving
By the light of the moon.


“She Walks in Beauty”

1. How does Byron’s use of imagery and simile accentuate the beauty of the woman he describes in
“She Walks in Beauty”?

2. What is the other quality the woman possesses that accentuates her beauty? How does this
emphasis help establish the theme of the poem?

“So We’ll Go No More A Roving”

1. Why does the poet, in “So We’ll Go No More A Roving,” resolve to spend less time partying?

2. Explain the metaphors Byron presents in the first two lines of the second stanza of “So We’ll Go
No More A Roving.”

3. The rhythm pattern of “So We’ll Go No More A Roving” is a combination of iambic and
anapestic. What is the effect of the poem’s rhythm?

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 245

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834)

“Kubla Khan; Or, a vision in a dream. A Fragment.”

In Xanadu

did Kubla Khan

A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph,

the sacred river, ran

Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,


Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart

a cedarn cover!

A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
And mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean;
And ’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.

237. A region in China, around what is now Beijing.

238. Thirteenth century Chinese emperor, grandson of Genghis Khan.

239. There is no Alph River in China, but Coleridge may be referring to the Alpheus River in Greece. It flows into the Ionian Sea. Legend has

it that its waters rise again in fountains in Sicily, similar to the Alph fountain of line 20.

240. Curving streams.

241. Diagonally from corner to corner.

246 Poetry

It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

A damsel with a dulcimer

In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.


Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight ’twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.



1. What is unusual about the gardens of Xanadu? Compare and contrast the gardens as they appear
in the first and the second stanzas. What might the gardens symbolize. How might they act as a

2. The Romantic poets believed in the power of the imagination to effect social change. How does
this belief influence the theme of “Kubla Khan”? Is this an optimistic or a pessimistic poem?
Compare this poem with Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind.”

3. How does the imagery in the poem help establish its tone?

4. What is the effect of the alliteration of line 26?

242. Young woman playing a small stringed instrument. Likely representing the muse who inspires poetry, though she has deserted the poet at

this point in the poem. According to a note Coleridge prefaced to this poem, he had taken some medicine—probably opium-based

laudanum—and had fallen asleep, while reading a travel book, describing the magnificent gardens of Kubla Khan’s palace. The

description in the book gave rise to a vivid dream, which he planned to transform into a long narrative poem about Kubla Khan’s reign.

Upon awaking, he began to write the poem, the lines coming swiftly and easily to him. He was interrupted by a knock on his door, the

visitor taking up an hour of his time on an unspecified matter of business. When he returned to his desk, he found his inspiration had

vanished. Instead of the epic poem he had planned, “Kubla Khan” becomes a poem about the loss of poetic inspiration.

243. There is no Mount Abora, but the first draft of the poem read “Mount Amara,” which is in Ethiopia, known as Abyssinia in Coleridge’s

time. Not clear why Coleridge changed the name.

244. The poet is frustrated that the muse has deserted him because the inspired artist is a force to be reckoned with, one who, having drunk the

nectar of Eden, deserves to be worshipped.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 247

5. What is the verse form, the genre, the rhythm and the rhyme scheme of “Kubla Khan”? What is
the effect of form and language and theme of the poem?

William Wordsworth (1770–1850)

“She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways”

She dwelt among the untrodden ways
Beside the springs of Dove,


A Maid whom there were none to praise
And very few to love:

A violet by a mossy stone
Half hidden from the eye!
—Fair as a star, when only one
Is shining in the sky.

She lived unknown, and few could know
When Lucy

ceased to be;

But she is in her grave, and, oh,
The difference to me!

“The World Is Too Much with Us”

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon


This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;

245. There is a Dove River in England’s Lake District, where Wordsworth famously lived.

246. Wordsworth wrote a series of poems—the “Lucy Poems”—about a beautiful young woman, who died young and unknown. Efforts have

been made to identify a real-life counterpart, but they have not been successful.

247. An inappropriate gift.

248 Poetry

Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.



“She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways”

1. Consider the form in which “She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways” is written and the effect the
form has on the poem’s theme.

2. What is the nature of the poet’s relationship with Lucy?

“The World Is Too Much with Us”

1. “The World is Too Much with Us” was written in the earliest years of the 19th century. How does
it maintain its relevance today?

2. How is the rhyme scheme of “The World Is Too Much with Us” deviate from usually sonnet

William Blake (1757–1827)

“The Tyger”

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?

248. Wordsworth suggests that in Pagan times people had more respect for nature. Proteus was a sea creature who could assume many shapes.

Triton was a sea god who played a conch shell like a trumpet.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 249

What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!

When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?


I wander thro’ each charter’d

Near where the charter’d Thames does flow.
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infants cry of fear,
In every voice: in every ban,


The mind-forg’d manacles I hear

How the Chimney-sweepers cry
Every blackning Church appalls,


And the hapless Soldiers sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls


But most thro’ midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlots curse
Blasts the new-born Infants tear


And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.


249. Mapped out in a way implying constriction, as if private property.

250. Rules suppressing human freedom.

251. Chimney sweeping epitomizes cruel child labour, to which the Church turns a blind eye.

252. The implication is that the rulers forge the mindless foreign policy which leads to the wars the common soldier pays for with his life.

253. Probably referring the blindness that can result when the harlot’s venereal disease is passed on to her infant.

254. Prostitution destroys, kills marriages.

250 Poetry

“The Tyger”

1. Is the tiger, as described by Blake, beautiful or ugly? Is it a product of heaven or of hell? Does it
symbolize good or evil or something else?

2. What is the theme of the “The Tyger”?

3. How does the poem’s trochaic rhythm complement the tiger’s nature?


1. Why do the citizens of London, as Blake describes them, seem so downcast?

2. What do you think Blake means by “mind-forged manacles,” in line 8 of “London”?

3. Explain the metaphors Blake uses in the third stanza of “London.”

4. Blake describes the London of the late nineteenth century. How have the world’s largest cities
changed since then, and how have they remained the same?

Richard Lovelace (1617–1657)

“To Lucasta, Going to the Wars”

Tell me not (Sweet) I am unkind,
That from the nunnery
Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind
To war and arms I fly.

True, a new mistress now I chase,
The first foe in the field;
And with a stronger faith embrace
A sword, a horse, a shield.

Yet this inconstancy is such
As you too shall adore;
I could not love thee (Dear) so much,
Lov’d I not Honour more.


1. Who is Lucasta? How do you think she might have responded when she received this poem? Will
she “adore” the poet’s “inconstancy”?

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 251

2. Identify examples of alliteration in the poem and explain why Lovelace uses alliteration.

3. This poem was written in the 17th century. Is its theme still relevant today? Support your answer.

Anne Bradstreet (1612–1672)

“To My Dear and Loving Husband”

If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee.
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold,
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay;
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let’s so persever,
That when we live no more, we may live ever.


1. The poem is written in rhyming couplets. How does the form support the theme?

2. What is hyperbole, and how is it used in this poem?

3. The poem was written in the 17th century. Is it old-fashioned? Would a spouse express such
sentiments today?

John Milton (1608–1674)

“When I Consider How My Light Is Spent”

When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,


And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent

255. Milton gradually lost his eyesight, becoming completely blind by 1652, when he was 44.

252 Poetry

To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide


“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”


1. What is the double meaning of “spent” in line 1?

2. How do we know “When I Consider How My Light Is Spent” is a Petrarchan sonnet?

3. How does Milton use personification in this sonnet?

4. What is the meaning of the last line, and how does the line inform the theme of the poem?

John Donne (1572–1631)

“The Sun Rising”

Busy old fool, unruly Sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains, call on us?
Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run?
Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
Late school-boys and sour prentices,


Go tell court-huntsmen that the king will ride,
Call country ants to harvest offices;
Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.

Thy beams so reverend, and strong
Why shouldst thou think


I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,
But that I would not lose her sight so long.

256. He is worried that God will “chide,” scold him for his inability to put his “Talent” as a poet to good use, though he would complete

Paradise Lost, the great English language epic poem, after he lost his sight.

257. Apprentice workers angry (“sour”) about getting to work so early.

258. i.e. why do you think your beams are so strong, when all I have to do is close my eyes to blot them out?

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 253

If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Look, and to-morrow late tell me,
Whether both th’ Indias

of spice and mine

Be where thou left’st them, or lie here with me.
Ask for those kings whom thou saw’st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear, “All here in one bed lay.”

She’s all states, and all princes I;
Nothing else is;
Princes do but play us; compared to this,
All honour’s mimic, all wealth alchemy.
Thou, Sun, art half as happy as we,
In that the world’s contracted thus;
Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To warm the world, that’s done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy center is, these walls thy sphere.

“The Indifferent”

I can love both fair and brown;
Her whom abundance melts, and her whom want betrays;
Her who loves loneness best, and her who masks and plays;
Her whom the country form’d, and whom the town;
Her who believes, and her who tries;
Her who still weeps with spongy eyes,
And her who is dry cork, and never cries.
I can love her, and her, and you, and you;
I can love any, so she be not true.

Will no other vice content you?
Will it not serve your turn to do as did your mothers?
Or have you all old vices spent, and now would find out others?
Or doth a fear that men are true torment you?
O we are not, be not you so;
Let me—and do you—twenty know;
Rob me, but bind me not, and let me go.
Must I, who came to travail through you,
Grow your fix’d subject, because you are true?

Venus heard me sigh this song;
And by love’s sweetest part, variety, she swore,
She heard not this till now; and that it should be so no more.
She went, examined, and return’d ere long,
And said, “Alas! some two or three

259. The West Indies were associated with mineral wealth (gold), and India or the East Indies, with spices.

254 Poetry

Poor heretics in love there be,
Which think to stablish dangerous constancy.
But I have told them, ‘Since you will be true,
You shall be true to them who’re false to you.’”

“The Apparition”

WHEN by thy scorn, O murd’ress, I am dead,
And that thou thinkst thee free
From all solicitation from me,
Then shall my ghost come to thy bed,
And thee, feign’d vestal,

in worse arms shall see:

Then thy sick taper will begin to wink,
And he, whose thou art then, being tired before,
Will, if thou stir, or pinch to wake him, think
Thou call’st for more,
And, in false sleep, will from thee shrink:
And then, poor aspen wretch, neglected thou
Bathed in a cold quicksilver

sweat wilt lie,

A verier ghost than I.
What I will say, I will not tell thee now,
Lest that preserve thee; and since my love is spent,
I’d rather thou shouldst painfully repent,
Than by my threatenings rest still innocent.

“Break of Day”

’Tis true, ’tis day; what though it be?
O, wilt thou therefore rise from me?
Why should we rise because ’tis light?
Did we lie down because ’twas night?
Love, which in spite of darkness brought us hither,
Should in despite of light keep us together.
Light hath no tongue, but is all eye;
If it could speak as well as spy,
This were the worst that it could say,
That being well I fain would stay,
And that I loved my heart and honour so
That I would not from him, that had them, go.

Must business thee from hence remove?
O! that’s the worst disease of love,
The poor, the foul, the false, love can
Admit, but not the busied man.

260. Pretending to be a virgin.

261. A treatment for sexually transmitted disease.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 255

He which hath business, and makes love, doth do
Such wrong, as when a married man doth woo.

“Love’s Alchemy”

Some that have deeper digg’d love’s mine than I,
Say, where his centric happiness doth lie.
I have loved, and got, and told,
But should I love, get, tell, till I were old,
I should not find that hidden mystery.
O! ’tis imposture all;
And as no chemic

yet th’ elixir


But glorifies his pregnant pot,
If by the way to him befall
Some odoriferous thing, or medicinal,
So, lovers dream a rich and long delight,
But get a winter-seeming summer’s night


Our ease, our thrift, our honour, and our day,
Shall we for this vain bubble’s shadow pay?
Ends love in this, that my man


Can be as happy as I can, if he can
Endure the short scorn of a bridegroom’s play?
That loving wretch that swears,
’Tis not the bodies marry, but the minds,
Which he in her angelic finds,
Would swear as justly, that he hears,
In that day’s rude hoarse minstrelsy, the spheres


Hope not for mind in women; at their best,
Sweetness and wit they are, but mummy

, possess’d.

“The Flea”

Mark but this flea, and mark in this,
How little that which thou deniest me is;
It suck’d me first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea our two bloods mingled be.
Thou know’st that this cannot be said
A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead;
Yet this enjoys before it woo,

262. Alchemist.

263. The alchemists held that the elixir prolonged life indefinitely and that it could change ordinary metals into gold.

264. A cold, short night.

265. Manservant.

266. Pythagoras theorized that the planets made harmonious sounds in their motions.

267. Body without mind. Paste or wax. See Swift, Gulliver’s Travels Bk. 4, 12, hypothetical warfaring horses, “battering the warriors’ faces

into mummy.”

256 Poetry

And pamper’d swells with one blood made of two;
And this, alas! is more than we would do.

O stay,

three lives in one flea spare,
Where we almost, yea, more than married are.
This flea is you and I, and this
Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is.
Though parents grudge, and you, we’re met,
And cloister’d in these living walls of jet


Though use make you apt to kill me,
Let not to that self-murder added be,
And sacrilege, three sins in killing three.

Cruel and sudden, hast thou since
Purpled thy nail in blood of innocence


Wherein could this flea guilty be,
Except in that drop which it suck’d from thee?
Yet thou triumph’st, and say’st that thou
Find’st not thyself nor me the weaker now.
’Tis true; then learn how false fears be;
Just so much honour, when thou yield’st to me,
Will waste, as this flea’s death took life from thee.

“A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning”

As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
“Now his breath goes,” and some say, “No.”

So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;
’Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.

Moving of th’ earth brings harms and fears;
Men reckon what it did, and meant;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.


Dull sublunary

lovers’ love

268. The young woman threatens to kill the flea.

269. Black, as in “jet black.”

270. She kills the flea by scraping it with her nail against her skin.

271. We feel an earthquake but not tremors that occur in outer space.

272. A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning. In the Ptolemaic depiction of the universe, the concentric sphere below the moon was considered

less perfect and more time-bound than the spheres above the moon and furthest from the earth.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 257

—Whose soul is sense—cannot admit
Of absence, ’cause it doth remove
The thing which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refined,
That ourselves know not what it is,
Inter-assurèd of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to aery thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two;
Thy soul, the fix’d foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if th’ other do.

And though it in the centre sit,
Yet, when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th’ other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just
And makes me end where I begun.

“Holy Sonnet 10”

Death be not proud, though some have callèd thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,


And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy, or charmes can make us sleep as well,
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then;
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more, death, thou shalt die.

273. Since we take pleasure in rest and sleep, we must take even more pleasure in death.

258 Poetry

“Holy Sonnet 14”

Batter my heart, three-person’d God; for you
As yet but knock; breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.


“The Sun Rising”

1. What is the meaning of “busy” in line 1?

2. Give the dramatic situation; i.e., the setting and the speaker.

3. If you were filming this poem, how many actors and what props would you need?

4. Paraphrase lines 11–14.

5. What is the meaning of “reverend”?

6. How does the speaker’s tone change in the last stanza?

“The Indifferent”

1. Define “indifferent”

2. What is the one kind of woman the speaker cannot love? See line 9.

3. Explain the paradox in the use of the word “vice” in line 10.

4. Clarify who is meant by “you” in line 10.

5. Explain the shift in dramatic situation beginning in line 19.

6. Who was Venus?

7. Identify the speaker in lines 23–29.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 259

“The Apparition”

1. Define “apparition.”

2. List at least two Petrarchan conventions in this poem. Name one that is used straightforwardly,
another which is parodied.

3. What is the dramatic situation at the beginning of the poem? If you were filming a dramatization
of the poem, how many actors would you need? What props would be essential?

4. What is a taper and why would her taper “wink”?

5. What dramatic movement do you see in the poem?

6. How is the conflict resolved?

7. What does “preserve” mean (l. 15)?

8. What does “still” mean in the last line?

“Break of Day”

1. Show how this poem is a good example of an aubade.

2. What is the probable gender of the speaker?

3. What quality does the speaker insist is incompatible with being a lover?

“Love’s Alchemy”

1. The title can be read as “the alchemy of love”, but also “Love is alchemy”. If the latter, what does
the title suggest about the nature of love?

2. What does the speaker suggest about his man servant in lines 15–17?

3. What is the speaker’s opinion about platonic, spiritual love?

4. Look up the word “charivari”. What kind of “music” was associated with a wedding day

“The Flea”

1. Who is the speaker and his audience?

2. What is the best way to kill a flea by hand?

3. Look up the word “jet” in a good college dictionary. Why do you suppose jet is used in the phrase

4. What is the fate of the flea?

5. Why does the speaker ask the lady to spare the flea?

6. How does the speaker use the lady’s killing of the flea to his advantage?

260 Poetry

“A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning”

1. What is a valediction? Look up this word and find its etymology. What is the purpose of the
valedictorian’s address at a high school graduation?

2. As with “The Sun Rising”, if you were directing a film adaptation of this poem, how many actors
and props would you need?

3. Why would a virtuous man die “mildly”? What might “mildly” mean here?

4. Who is speaking in this poem, and to whom is he speaking?

5. Define “laity” and “profanation”. Both are terms associated with religion. Is Donne suggesting a
“religion” of love here? If so, explain.

6. The title of the poem suggests that the poem might be discussing death as its main subject. Is this
the case? If not, what is the main subject of the poem?

7. What property of gold does the poet highlight in line 24?

8. What kind of compass is described in the famous metaphor of stanza 7: a navigational or a
geometrical one?

“Holy Sonnet 10”

1. Donne’s sonnets follow the Petrarchan pattern distinguished by its octave (first 8 lines) and its
sestet (last 6 lines rhyming cde cde or variation). Analyze Donne’s Holy Sonnets according to the
following description of this twofold division: “The octave bears the burden: a doubt, a problem,
a reflection, a query, a historical statement, a cry of indignation or desire, a vision of the ideal.
The sestet eases the load, resolves the problem or doubt, answers the query, solaces the yearning,
realizes the vision.” Quoted in Holman and Harmon, Handbook to Literature, 6th ed., p. 449.

2. Does the octave in this sonnet serve one of the functions listed above by Holman and Harmon?

3. Explain the personification in this poem.

4. In what way is Death a slave?

5. Cite one example of paradox in this poem.

6. Why does Donne use the second person singular form of the pronoun (thee, thou) rather than

7. Is this an Elizabethan or a Petrarchan sonnet?

8. What is the poem’s rhyme scheme?

“Holy Sonnet 14”

1. Define paradox, and then give two examples in this poem.

2. Explain the simile “like an usurped town”.

3. What is meant by “three-personed god”?

4. What is a viceroy? Why does Donne call “reason” god’s viceroy?

5. Who is “You” in line 9?

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 261

6. Define “fain”, then provide a more modern word.

7. In line 14, what does “except” mean? Substitute a word that you think would be clearer.


1. In an extended definition essay of around 600 words, show how Donne’s poem “Love’s
Alchemy” (or another Donne poem) is a good example of a metaphysical poem. Be sure to jot
down several characteristics of metaphysical poetry. See the following definition:

◦ When it was first applied to Donne and his imitators by the poet John Dryden in
dubbing them the “Metaphysical school”, it meant intellectual poetry, poetry
characterized by WIT. Metaphysical wit means the combining of dissimilar images in
which the poet brings together things normally remote. The two prime characteristics
of metaphysical poetry are LEARNING and SUBTLETY. In addition, the verse is
marked by FRANKNESS, REALISM, and a deliberate SHOCK effect. DISCORD is
evident in the deliberate harshness in tone and diction and in the distortion of rhythm.
There is a fondness for PROSAIC DICTION; the diction is blunt, matter‑of‑fact,
explosive. The poetry reveals a POWERFUL DRAMATIC AND VISUAL SENSE.
There is a SCIENTIFIC PREOCCUPATION evident; the poet draws for his imagery
on geography, alchemy, navigation, and medicine. The poets SEARCH FOR
NOVELTY; they avoid the stock conceit and search for freshness and surprising
originality. Finally, there is a SPECIAL KIND OF ATTITUDE TOWARD LOVE AND
DEATH. Love is often turned into religion, but Donne regards love as all‑consuming
and emphasizes the tyrannical demands of love, both physical and spiritual.

….We are always aware of the speaking voice in the poem, a feature which makes
many of Donne’s poems approach the Dramatic Monologue in form. The
conversational diction, the shifting tones, the tangled, tortuous, sinewy development
of the thought all combine to produce an intensely dramatic and realistic situation as
though we are the onlookers to the workings of the human mind. (Renaissance Prose
and Poetry, John Stumpf, Toronto: Forum, 1969.)

2. Contrast Donne’s “The Apparition” with Spenser’s “Men Call You Fair” paying particular
attention to how Petrarchan love conventions are followed or parodied.

◦ Edmund Spenser (1552-1599) from Amoretti Sonnet 79

Men call you fair, and you do credit it,
For that yourself ye daily such do see:
But the true fair, that is the gentle wit,
And vertuous mind, is much more prais’d of me.
For all the rest, however fair it be, 5
Shall turn to naught and lose that glorious hue:
But only that is permanent and free
From frail corruption, that doth flesh ensue.
That is true beauty: that doth argue you
To be divine, and born of heavenly seed: 10
Deriv’d from that fair Spirit, from whom all true
And perfect beauty did at first proceed.

262 Poetry

He only fair, and what he fair hath made,
All other fair, like flowers untimely fade.

3. For a good overview of Donne, look at these excellent public domain Creative Commons
websites at the British Library:

◦ John Donne and metaphysical poetry

◦ A close reading of ‘The Flea’

◦ Love poetry in Renaissance England

4. According to one critic, Donne capitalizes on “the witty depravity, the entirely unidealized and
unspiritualized sensuality, of Ovid, . . .” J.B. Leishman, The Monarch of Wit, 149). Compare
Ovid’s Amores II.IV (2.4) and “The Indifferent”. Have a look at J. Lewis May’s 1930 English
translation of Ovid’s Love Books, particularly the Amores, 2.4. How do you think Donne used it
as a source for “The Indifferent”?Also, perhaps Ovid’s Amores I: XIII (1.13) can be seen as a
rough source for Donne’s “The Sun Rising”.

Feature Unit: The Sonnets of William Shakespeare (1564–1616)

The Sonnets of William Shakespeare


William Shakespeare began to write his famous collection of sonnets, in the early 1590’s, when he was in
his late 20’s.

He was mainly a playwright, of course, but outbreaks of a horrific and highly contagious disease, known as
the bubonic plague, occasionally forced the theatres to close, and it may have been one such epidemic which
forced Shakespeare to take a reprieve from play writing and turn to poetry instead. There was also a vogue for
sonnet writing, in the latter half of the sixteenth century, another reason which likely motivated him. And he
had found the love interest upon which a sonnet collection will focus.

The sonnets tell a story of a young writer who forms a deep friendship with a young man, apparently of
noble birth. The poet praises his dear friend’s beauty and intelligence, and urges him, possibly at instigation of
his friend’s mother, to marry and raise a family. Such rare beauty and intelligence must be passed along; you
owe it to the world, the poet argues.

As time goes by, the poet seems to realize that his advice is misplaced because a wife and family
would threaten the amount of time his friend could spend with him. He turns his attention away from
recommendations his friend marry and raise a family and more towards expressions of praise for his friend’s
beauty, grace, intelligence, generosity, and charm. He resolves to immortalize his friends’ many virtues, a
resolution he certainly fulfilled.

But paradise always has its troubles, and trouble comes in the form of a rival poet who turns the friend’s

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 263

head and secures the patronage Shakespeare now must share. Suddenly Shakespeare is worried about his place
in his friend’s universe, and he pours out his anguish and insecurity, convinced of his own inferiority in this
new chapter in the story.

The influence of the rival poet fades and passes, but another crisis arises. The poet has fallen for a beautiful
dark-haired woman, and expresses his love, and, more so, his desire her for her. He is insecure in this
relationship. The Dark Lady is something of a free spirit. He suspects that his dear friend and his Dark Lady
are cheating on him. He is devastated.

The crisis is not resolved. The story ends inconclusively, the poet unable to resist the Dark Lady’s charms,
even while he suspects her of infidelity.

The real-life identities of the characters in the Sonnets, are the great mystery of English literary history.
Who is the handsome noble friend? There are intriguing clues. When the Sonnets were published in 1609,
possibly without the poet’s permission. The title page announced “the only begetter” of the sonnets as one
W.H. Scholars who define begetter as author believe the printer simply mistook the H for an S or omitted the
S before the H, which would have established the “begetter” clearly as W. SH.

Scholars who define begetter as muse suggest the W.H. refers to the handsome young nobleman, who
inspired the poems. Shakespeare knew well two such men. Both were generous patrons of poets and
playwrights. One was Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton; the other was William Herbert, the Earl
of Pembroke. Southampton’s age and physical appearance match the contents of some of the sonnets, but his
initials are reversed on the title page, possibly by error, possibly as an attempt to conceal his true identity.
Pembroke’s initials are correct, but he was only twelve when the sonnets were written, inappropriately young
to be the muse of a thirty-year old man. The debate continues, with other even less likely identities suggested,
but it will probably never be resolved.

Nor can the identity of the other major characters in the story be established with any certainty. The
rival poet may be one of Shakespeare’s contemporaries: Christopher Marlow or George Chapman or Samuel
Daniel. The Dark Lady may be Amelia Lanier, the daughter of Queen Elizabeth’s musical director, though this
recent essay on Lanier leads away from the thesis that she was the origin of Shakespeare’s Dark Lady.

All of the main characters may be fictitious, products of Shakespeare’s magnificent imagination. In the end,
it makes little difference to the integrity of Shakespeare’s sonnet sequence, one of the crowning achievements
of English literature.


Sonnet 3

Look in thy glass,

and tell the face thou viewest
Now is the time that face should form another;


Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest,
Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother,


For where is she so fair whose unear’d womb
Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?


Or who is he so fond will be the tomb
Of his self-love, to stop posterity?


274. Your mirror.

275. You should have a child to replicate your good looks.

276. You deny the world and the mother of your child the pleasure of adding another beautiful person to the population, if you do not renew yourself.

277. Any woman would be happy to bear your child.

278. Don’t be so vain as to think physical beauty ends when you end.

264 Poetry

Thou art thy mother’s glass, and she in thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime:


So thou through windows of thine age shall see
Despite of wrinkles this thy golden time.


But if thou live, remember’d not to be,
Die single, and thine image dies with thee.


Sonnet 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,


By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;


Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines

to time thou grow’st;

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Sonnet 20

A woman’s face with Nature’s own hand painted
Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion;
A woman’s gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change

, as is false women’s fashion;

An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hue

, all ‘hues’ in his controlling,

Much steals men’s eyes and women’s souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert thou first created;
Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.

279. Your mother was very beautiful, and you have inherited her beauty. She sees this when she looks at you. Details like these in lines 8 and 9 lead many

Shakespeare critics, scholars, and biographers to believe that the sonnets are autobiographical, that Shakespeare did have a handsome friend, and that

the sonnets chronicle the course of their friendship. Opinion about the true identity is divided, though most experts believe the handsome friend is

either Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton, or William Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke. Both men had mothers known for their beauty.

Pembroke’s mother was the sister of Philip Sidney, the author of another famous sonnet sequence.

280. You want to be able to look at your child and remember your own beauty, which will fade as you age.

281. If you want to deny yourself this form immortality, don’t marry and have children.

282. Everything that is beautiful—“fair”—declines with time.

283. That beauty you own.

284. The wrinkles on your face; also the lines of this sonnet.

285. Sonnet 20. Trending, according to the latest fashion.

286. Appearance.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 265

But since she prick’d

thee out for women’s pleasure,
Mine be thy love and thy love’s use their treasure.

Sonnet 29

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless


And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur’d like him, like him with friends possess’d,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

Sonnet 73

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs

, where late the sweet birds


In me thou seest the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by


This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

Sonnet 80

O, how I faint when I of you do write,
Knowing a better spirit doth use your name,
And in the praise thereof spends all his might,
To make me tongue-tied, speaking of your fame!


But since your worth, wide as the ocean is,

287. Obvious sexual pun.

288. Useless. Heaven does not answer the poet’s prayers for a happier, more fulfilled life.

289. Sonnet 73. The area in the church where the choir sang.

290. Choir members.

291. The image is that of a burnt-out fire-log.

292. The poet is jealous because his special friend has befriended another poet, one better, he thinks, than he is. The other poet’s genius makes Shakespeare

266 Poetry

The humble as the proudest sail doth bear,
My saucy bark inferior far to his
On your broad main doth wilfully appear.


Your shallowest help will hold me up afloat,
Whilst he upon your soundless deep doth ride;


Or being wreck’d, I am a worthless boat,
He of tall building and of goodly pride:


Then if he thrive and I be cast away,
The worst was this; my love was my decay.


Sonnet 97

How like a winter hath my absence been
From thee,

the pleasure of the fleeting year!

What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!
What old December’s bareness every where!
And yet this time remov’d was summer’s time,
The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,
Bearing the wanton burden of the prime,
Like widow’d wombs after their lord’s decease:


Yet this abundant issue seem’d to me
But hope of orphans and unfather’d fruit;


For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,
And, thou away, the very birds are mute;
Or, if they sing, ’tis with so dull a cheer
That leaves look pale, dreading the winter’s near.

Sonnet 116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments

. Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark


tongue-tied. The identity of this other poet, known as the Rival Poet, is also the subject of endless speculation among Shakespeare biographers, critics,

and scholars. Contenders include Christopher Marlowe and Samuel Daniel.

293. Still my smaller boat—“bark”—continues to sail on the ocean of your love.

294. I don’t ask for much—just a bit of help to keep me afloat. Both the Earl of Southampton and the Earl of Pembroke—assuming one of these two is the

dear friend Shakespeare writes about in his sonnets—were patrons of poets an playwrights: they would provide some financial support so writers had

the time they need to work.

295. If I am shipwrecked—if your patronage ends—I will be worthless, while the “tall building” of the Rival Poet’s ship sails on, proud of his victory over


296. The irony is that my love for you has caused my feelings of worthlessness.

297. The Earl of Southampton was imprisoned in 1601 for his support of the Essex Rebellion against Queen Elizabeth I. Some Shakespeare biographers cite

this fact as evidence that the special friend is Henry Wriothesley.

298. As if a widow had become pregnant after her husband had died. The poet stresses his point that richness of autumn is muted because his friend is away.

299. He reiterates the point of lines 7–8. Autumn is the season of abundance but it is diminished for the poet because his friend is not around.

300. Sonnet 116. Obstacles. See Study Questions.

301. Small boat.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 267

Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom


If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Sonnet 129

The expense of spirit in a waste of shame

Is lust in action; and till action, lust
Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,
Enjoy’d no sooner but despised straight,
Past reason hunted, and no sooner had
Past reason hated, as a swallow’d bait
On purpose laid to make the taker mad;
Mad in pursuit and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;
Before, a joy proposed; behind

, a dream.

All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.

Sonnet 130

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

Sonnet 138

When my love swears that she

is made of truth

302. Judgement Day.

303. Sonnet 129. Sexual puns: spirit (semen). Waste (desert, but also waist.)

304. Afterwards.

305. The final major character of Shakespeare’s sonnet sequence is a Dark Lady, with whom the poet falls is love, or, perhaps more accurately, in lust. (See

268 Poetry

I do believe her, though I know she lies,
That she might think me some untutor’d youth,
Unlearned in the world’s false subtleties.


Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
Although she knows my days are past the best,


Simply I credit her false speaking tongue:
On both sides thus is simple truth suppress’d.
But wherefore says she not she is unjust?
And wherefore say not I that I am old?
O, love’s best habit is in seeming trust,
And age in love loves not to have years told:
Therefore I lie

with her and she with me,

And in our faults by lies we flatter’d be.

Sonnet 144

Two loves I have of comfort and despair,
Which like two spirits do suggest

me still:

The better angel is a man right fair,
The worser spirit a woman colour’d ill.
To win me soon to hell, my female evil
Tempteth my better angel from my side,
And would corrupt my saint to be a devil,
Wooing his purity with her foul pride.
And whether that my angel be turn’d fiend
Suspect I may, but not directly tell;
But being both from me

, both to each friend,

I guess one angel in another’s hell:
Yet this shall I ne’er know, but live in doubt,
Till my bad angel fire my good one out.

Sonnet 146

Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth,
[Thrall to]

these rebel powers that thee array;

Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth,
Painting thy outward walls so costly gay?
Why so large cost, having so short a lease,
Dost thou upon thy fading mansion spend?
Shall worms, inheritors of this excess,

Sonnet 129, easily accessible online). Predictably, biographers have speculated industriously on the identity of the Dark Lady, but proof of her identity

remains elusive. The poet suspects the Dark Lady and his nobleman friend are in a clandestine relationship. (See Sonnet 144). The poet confronts her;

she denies it; and he pretends to believe her.

306. He pretends to believe her because he wants her to think he has the naivety of youth.

307. Shakespeare was probably in his late 20’s, early 30’s, when he wrote his sonnets.

308. We tell each other lies and continue to lie, that is, to sleep, together.

309. Sonnet 144. Seek to influence. “Still” Always.

310. Away from me.

311. Sonnet 146. The edition of 1609 incorrectly repeats the last three words of line 1. “Thrall to”, as well as “Starved by” are among several guesses by

scholars as to the original words. A thrall is a slave or captive, hence the word “enthralled”: “to hold in slavery” but also “to hold spellbound”.

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 269

Eat up thy charge? is this thy body’s end?
Then soul, live thou upon thy servant’s loss,
And let that pine to aggravate thy store;
Buy terms divine in selling hours of dross;
Within be fed, without be rich no more:
So shalt thou feed on Death, that feeds on men,
And Death once dead, there’s no more dying then.


1. Why does the poet urge his friend to marry and have children in Sonnet 3? What is a modern
synonym for “glass”? What is meant by the verb “beguile”? What is the theme of this poem?

2. How does the poet support his view expressed in Sonnet 18 that his friend’s beauty is superior
even to the beauty of nature? What, according to the poet, will make the person addressed
(“thee”) live on, even after death? Define “temperate” and “temperance”. In what ways is the
beloved more temperate than a summer’s day? Which meaning of the transitive verb “untrim”
listed in the Oxford English Dictionary seems most apt in line 8: a. to deprive of trimness or
elegance, to strip of ornament or b. to unbalance. Give an example of personification in the poem.
What is the rhyme scheme?

3. What is the gender of the person praised in Sonnet 20? What is the vice the speaker’s “master
mistress” does not share with the “false women” of lines 4 and 5? How does the speaker
personify Nature? Paraphrase lines 11 and 12; 13 and 14.

4. Why is the poet depressed in Sonnet 29, and how does he overcome his depression? How would
he like to change his life? Why is such change not necessary?

5. How old was Shakespeare when Sonnet 73 was published in 1609? Of course, it is possible that
he wrote it before that year, since at least two (138 and 144) were published in 1599 in “The
Passionate Pilgrim”, an anthology of some 20 poems. How many sentences make up this poem?
What are the four main similes? Where does the variation from the iambic foot come in line 4,
line 8, 13? Give a few examples of assonance (repetition of vowel sounds) in the first five lines.
What is the effect of alliteration in line 7?

6. What does the poet mean when he writes, at the end of Sonnet 80, “my love was my decay”?
Who might the rival poet of line 2 be? See this article on the Rival Poet. “Speaking of your fame”
Who might the poet be referring to here? Which meaning in line 14 seems most apt, “my
beloved” or, “the love I feel for you”?

7. How does the use of irony, in Sonnet 97, underscore the theme of the poem? Explain the
metaphor around which this sonnet is built.

8. For the context of the first two lines of Sonnet 116, see the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.
How does the speaker define love? How is time personified? Paraphrase line 3. Define “bark” in
line 7. Which star is suggested in line 7? Is each line written in iambic pentameter? Which are
not? In each of the three quatrains, state the main idea about love.

9. What is a cliché, and how does the use of cliché in Sonnet 130 help establish the theme of the
poem? Give some examples to demonstrate that this is an anti-Petrarchan poem. What does the
word “reeks” mean here? Is the poet suggesting that his lady has bad breath? Paraphrase the last
two lines, paying special attention to the meaning of “rare”, “she”, and “belied.” Is the word
“she” in line 14 being used as a pronoun? If not, what part of speech is being used here?

270 Poetry

10. Assess the health of the relationship between the poet and the Dark Lady, based upon the content
of Sonnet 138. Why does the poet believe “her,” when “he knows she lies”? Why does she
believe him? What is the theme of this sonnet?

11. Paraphrase the first line of Sonnet 144. Look up the term “psychomachia” in a good college
dictionary. Then show how this poem is a kind of “psychomachia”. Look up Prudentius, a
Christian Latin poet, whose poem “Psychomachia” was written in the 5th century. What does
“still” mean in this instance (line2)? “Suggest”? Paraphrase lines 11 and 12. What suspicion
troubles the speaker? Look up the term “hell” in Eric Partridges’s reference book Shakespeare’s
Bawdy, then paraphrase the last line.

12. Does line 1 of Sonnet 146 use imagery that suggests astronomy, or does “earth” suggest “body”?
What are the powers that rebel against the soul? What does “array” mean? Note it sometimes has
a military sense. See O.E.D., “To set or place in order of readiness, to marshall. esp. To draw up
prepared for battle, and in obsolete phr. to array a battle. List some of the real estate metaphors.
Is the verb “aggravate” being used in the sense of “annoy”? Look up this verb in a good college

13. You might enjoy looking at the historical documents in the unit on Shakespeare’s sonnets from
the British Library.

Text Attributions

• All poems included in full text in this chapter are free of known copyright restrictions in

An Anthology of Poems for Further Study 271


Short Stories



Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–1864)


Nathaniel Hawthorne was an American novelist and short story writer. He was born in 1804 in Salem,
Massachusetts. His ancestors include John Hathorne, the only judge involved in the Salem witch
trials who never repented of his actions. He graduated from Bowdoin College in 1825. He worked
at the Boston Custom House and joined Brook Farm, a transcendentalist community, before marrying
Sophia Peabody in 1842.

Much of Hawthorne’s writing centres on New England, with many of his works featuring
moral metaphors with an anti-Puritan inspiration. His themes often centre on the inherent evil and sin of
humanity, and his works often have moral messages and deep psychological complexity. Hawthorne’s
works belong to Romanticism or, more specifically, Dark Romanticism, cautionary tales that suggest
that guilt, sin, and evil are the most inherent natural qualities of humanity. Many of his works are inspired
by Puritan New England, combining historical romance loaded with symbolism and deep psychological
themes, bordering on surrealism. His depictions of the past are a version of historical fiction used only as
a vehicle to express common themes of ancestral sin, guilt, and retribution. His later writings also reflect
his negative view of the transcendentalism movement.

Hawthorne was predominantly a short story writer in his early career. Upon publishing the collection
Twice-Told Tales, however, he noted, “I do not think much of them,” and he expected little response from
the public. His four major novels were written between 1850 and 1860: The Scarlet Letter (1850), The


House of the Seven Gables (1851), The Blithedale Romance (1852), and The Marble Faun: Or, The
Romance of Monte Beni (1860).

Hawthorne died on May 19, 1864, and was survived by his wife and their three children.

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Published in 1835

Young Goodman Brown

Young Goodman Brown came forth at sunset into the street at Salem
village; but put his head back, after crossing the threshold, to exchange a
parting kiss with his young wife. And Faith, as the wife was aptly named,
thrust her own pretty head into the street, letting the wind play with the
pink ribbons of her cap while she called to Goodman Brown.

“Dearest heart,” whispered she, softly and rather sadly, when her lips
were close to his ear, “prithee put off your journey until sunrise and sleep
in your own bed to-night. A lone woman is troubled with such dreams and such thoughts that she’s afeard
of herself sometimes. Pray tarry with me this night, dear husband, of all nights in the year.”

“My love and my Faith,” replied young Goodman Brown, “of all nights in the year, this one night must
I tarry away from thee. My journey, as thou callest it, forth and back again, must needs be done ‘twixt
now and sunrise. What, my sweet, pretty wife, dost thou doubt me already, and we but three months

“Then God bless you!” said Faith, with the pink ribbons; “and may you find all well when you come

“Amen!” cried Goodman Brown. “Say thy prayers, dear Faith, and go to bed at dusk, and no harm
will come to thee.”

So they parted; and the young man pursued his way until, being about to turn the corner by the
meeting-house, he looked back and saw the head of Faith still peeping after him with a melancholy air,
in spite of her pink ribbons.

“Poor little Faith!” thought he, for his heart smote him. “What a wretch am I to leave her on such an
errand! She talks of dreams, too. Methought as she spoke there was trouble in her face, as if a dream had
warned her what work is to be done tonight. But no, no; ‘t would kill her to think it. Well, she’s a blessed
angel on earth; and after this one night I’ll cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven.”

With this excellent resolve for the future, Goodman Brown felt himself justified in making more haste
on his present evil purpose. He had taken a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest,
which barely stood aside to let the narrow path creep through, and closed immediately behind. It was
all as lonely as could be; and there is this peculiarity in such a solitude, that the traveller knows not
who may be concealed by the innumerable trunks and the thick boughs overhead; so that with lonely
footsteps he may yet be passing through an unseen multitude.

“There may be a devilish Indian behind every tree,” said Goodman Brown to himself; and he glanced
fearfully behind him as he added, “What if the devil himself should be at my very elbow!”

His head being turned back, he passed a crook of the road, and, looking forward again, beheld the
figure of a man, in grave and decent attire, seated at the foot of an old tree. He arose at Goodman
Brown’s approach and walked onward side by side with him.

“You are late, Goodman Brown,” said he. “The clock of the Old South was striking as I came through
Boston, and that is full fifteen minutes agone.”

“Faith kept me back a while,” replied the young man, with a tremor in his voice, caused by the sudden
appearance of his companion, though not wholly unexpected.

It was now deep dusk in the forest, and deepest in that part of it where these two were journeying.
As nearly as could be discerned, the second traveller was about fifty years old, apparently in the same
rank of life as Goodman Brown, and bearing a considerable resemblance to him, though perhaps more in

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–1864) 275

expression than features. Still they might have been taken for father and son. And yet, though the elder
person was as simply clad as the younger, and as simple in manner too, he had an indescribable air of
one who knew the world, and who would not have felt abashed at the governor’s dinner table or in King
William’s court, were it possible that his affairs should call him thither. But the only thing about him
that could be fixed upon as remarkable was his staff, which bore the likeness of a great black snake, so
curiously wrought that it might almost be seen to twist and wriggle itself like a living serpent. This, of
course, must have been an ocular deception, assisted by the uncertain light.

“Come, Goodman Brown,” cried his fellow-traveller, “this is a dull pace for the beginning of a
journey. Take my staff, if you are so soon weary.”

“Friend,” said the other, exchanging his slow pace for a full stop, “having kept covenant by meeting
thee here, it is my purpose now to return whence I came. I have scruples touching the matter thou wot’st

“Sayest thou so?” replied he of the serpent, smiling apart. “Let us walk on, nevertheless, reasoning as
we go; and if I convince thee not thou shalt turn back. We are but a little way in the forest yet.”

“Too far! too far!” exclaimed the goodman, unconsciously resuming his walk. “My father never went
into the woods on such an errand, nor his father before him. We have been a race of honest men and
good Christians since the days of the martyrs; and shall I be the first of the name of Brown that ever took
this path and kept—”

“Such company, thou wouldst say,” observed the elder person, interpreting his pause. “Well said,
Goodman Brown! I have been as well acquainted with your family as with ever a one among the
Puritans; and that’s no trifle to say. I helped your grandfather, the constable, when he lashed the Quaker
woman so smartly through the streets of Salem; and it was I that brought your father a pitch-pine knot,
kindled at my own hearth, to set fire to an Indian village, in King Philip’s war. They were my good
friends, both; and many a pleasant walk have we had along this path, and returned merrily after midnight.
I would fain be friends with you for their sake.”

“If it be as thou sayest,” replied Goodman Brown, “I marvel they never spoke of these matters; or,
verily, I marvel not, seeing that the least rumor of the sort would have driven them from New England.
We are a people of prayer, and good works to boot, and abide no such wickedness.”

“Wickedness or not,” said the traveller with the twisted staff, “I have a very general acquaintance
here in New England. The deacons of many a church have drunk the communion wine with me; the
selectmen of divers towns make me their chairman; and a majority of the Great and General Court are
firm supporters of my interest. The governor and I, too—But these are state secrets.”

“Can this be so?” cried Goodman Brown, with a stare of amazement at his undisturbed companion.
“Howbeit, I have nothing to do with the governor and council; they have their own ways, and are no rule
for a simple husbandman like me. But, were I to go on with thee, how should I meet the eye of that good
old man, our minister, at Salem village? Oh, his voice would make me tremble both Sabbath day and
lecture day.”

Thus far the elder traveller had listened with due gravity; but now burst into a fit of irrepressible mirth,
shaking himself so violently that his snake-like staff actually seemed to wriggle in sympathy.

“Ha! ha! ha!” shouted he again and again; then composing himself, “Well, go on, Goodman Brown,
go on; but, prithee, don’t kill me with laughing.”

“Well, then, to end the matter at once,” said Goodman Brown, considerably nettled, “there is my wife,
Faith. It would break her dear little heart; and I’d rather break my own.”

“Nay, if that be the case,” answered the other, “e’en go thy ways, Goodman Brown. I would not for
twenty old women like the one hobbling before us that Faith should come to any harm.”

As he spoke he pointed his staff at a female figure on the path, in whom Goodman Brown recognized

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a very pious and exemplary dame, who had taught him his catechism in youth, and was still his moral
and spiritual adviser, jointly with the minister and Deacon Gookin.

“A marvel, truly, that Goody Cloyse should be so far in the wilderness at nightfall,” said he. “But with
your leave, friend, I shall take a cut through the woods until we have left this Christian woman behind.
Being a stranger to you, she might ask whom I was consorting with and whither I was going.”

“Be it so,” said his fellow-traveller. “Betake you to the woods, and let me keep the path.”
Accordingly the young man turned aside, but took care to watch his companion, who advanced softly

along the road until he had come within a staff’s length of the old dame. She, meanwhile, was making
the best of her way, with singular speed for so aged a woman, and mumbling some indistinct words—a
prayer, doubtless—as she went. The traveller put forth his staff and touched her withered neck with what
seemed the serpent’s tail.

“The devil!” screamed the pious old lady.
“Then Goody Cloyse knows her old friend?” observed the traveller, confronting her and leaning on

his writhing stick.
“Ah, forsooth, and is it your worship indeed?” cried the good dame. “Yea, truly is it, and in the very

image of my old gossip, Goodman Brown, the grandfather of the silly fellow that now is. But—would
your worship believe it?—my broomstick hath strangely disappeared, stolen, as I suspect, by that
unhanged witch, Goody Cory, and that, too, when I was all anointed with the juice of smallage, and
cinquefoil, and wolf’s bane.”

“Mingled with fine wheat and the fat of a new-born babe,” said the shape of old Goodman Brown.
“Ah, your worship knows the recipe,” cried the old lady, cackling aloud. “So, as I was saying, being

all ready for the meeting, and no horse to ride on, I made up my mind to foot it; for they tell me there is
a nice young man to be taken into communion to-night. But now your good worship will lend me your
arm, and we shall be there in a twinkling.”

“That can hardly be,” answered her friend. “I may not spare you my arm, Goody Cloyse; but here is
my staff, if you will.”

So saying, he threw it down at her feet, where, perhaps, it assumed life, being one of the rods which
its owner had formerly lent to the Egyptian magi. Of this fact, however, Goodman Brown could not take
cognizance. He had cast up his eyes in astonishment, and, looking down again, beheld neither Goody
Cloyse nor the serpentine staff, but his fellow-traveller alone, who waited for him as calmly as if nothing
had happened.

“That old woman taught me my catechism,” said the young man; and there was a world of meaning
in this simple comment.

They continued to walk onward, while the elder traveller exhorted his companion to make good speed
and persevere in the path, discoursing so aptly that his arguments seemed rather to spring up in the
bosom of his auditor than to be suggested by himself. As they went, he plucked a branch of maple
to serve for a walking stick, and began to strip it of the twigs and little boughs, which were wet with
evening dew. The moment his fingers touched them they became strangely withered and dried up as with
a week’s sunshine. Thus the pair proceeded, at a good free pace, until suddenly, in a gloomy hollow of
the road, Goodman Brown sat himself down on the stump of a tree and refused to go any farther.

“Friend,” said he, stubbornly, “my mind is made up. Not another step will I budge on this errand.
What if a wretched old woman do choose to go to the devil when I thought she was going to heaven: is
that any reason why I should quit my dear Faith and go after her?”

“You will think better of this by and by,” said his acquaintance, composedly. “Sit here and rest yourself
a while; and when you feel like moving again, there is my staff to help you along.”

Without more words, he threw his companion the maple stick, and was as speedily out of sight as if he
had vanished into the deepening gloom. The young man sat a few moments by the roadside, applauding

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–1864) 277

himself greatly, and thinking with how clear a conscience he should meet the minister in his morning
walk, nor shrink from the eye of good old Deacon Gookin. And what calm sleep would be his that very
night, which was to have been spent so wickedly, but so purely and sweetly now, in the arms of Faith!
Amidst these pleasant and praiseworthy meditations, Goodman Brown heard the tramp of horses along
the road, and deemed it advisable to conceal himself within the verge of the forest, conscious of the
guilty purpose that had brought him thither, though now so happily turned from it.

On came the hoof tramps and the voices of the riders, two grave old voices, conversing soberly as they
drew near. These mingled sounds appeared to pass along the road, within a few yards of the young man’s
hiding-place; but, owing doubtless to the depth of the gloom at that particular spot, neither the travellers
nor their steeds were visible. Though their figures brushed the small boughs by the wayside, it could not
be seen that they intercepted, even for a moment, the faint gleam from the strip of bright sky athwart
which they must have passed. Goodman Brown alternately crouched and stood on tiptoe, pulling aside
the branches and thrusting forth his head as far as he durst without discerning so much as a shadow. It
vexed him the more, because he could have sworn, were such a thing possible, that he recognized the
voices of the minister and Deacon Gookin, jogging along quietly, as they were wont to do, when bound
to some ordination or ecclesiastical council. While yet within hearing, one of the riders stopped to pluck
a switch.

“Of the two, reverend sir,” said the voice like the deacon’s, “I had rather miss an ordination dinner
than to-night’s meeting. They tell me that some of our community are to be here from Falmouth and
beyond, and others from Connecticut and Rhode Island, besides several of the Indian powwows, who,
after their fashion, know almost as much deviltry as the best of us. Moreover, there is a goodly young
woman to be taken into communion.”

“Mighty well, Deacon Gookin!” replied the solemn old tones of the minister. “Spur up, or we shall be
late. Nothing can be done, you know, until I get on the ground.”

The hoofs clattered again; and the voices, talking so strangely in the empty air, passed on through the
forest, where no church had ever been gathered or solitary Christian prayed. Whither, then, could these
holy men be journeying so deep into the heathen wilderness? Young Goodman Brown caught hold of a
tree for support, being ready to sink down on the ground, faint and overburdened with the heavy sickness
of his heart. He looked up to the sky, doubting whether there really was a heaven above him. Yet there
was the blue arch, and the stars brightening in it.

“With heaven above and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil!” cried Goodman Brown.
While he still gazed upward into the deep arch of the firmament and had lifted his hands to pray, a

cloud, though no wind was stirring, hurried across the zenith and hid the brightening stars. The blue
sky was still visible, except directly overhead, where this black mass of cloud was sweeping swiftly
northward. Aloft in the air, as if from the depths of the cloud, came a confused and doubtful sound of
voices. Once the listener fancied that he could distinguish the accents of towns-people of his own, men
and women, both pious and ungodly, many of whom he had met at the communion table, and had seen
others rioting at the tavern. The next moment, so indistinct were the sounds, he doubted whether he had
heard aught but the murmur of the old forest, whispering without a wind. Then came a stronger swell of
those familiar tones, heard daily in the sunshine at Salem village, but never until now from a cloud of
night. There was one voice of a young woman, uttering lamentations, yet with an uncertain sorrow, and
entreating for some favor, which, perhaps, it would grieve her to obtain; and all the unseen multitude,
both saints and sinners, seemed to encourage her onward.

“Faith!” shouted Goodman Brown, in a voice of agony and desperation; and the echoes of the
forest mocked him, crying, “Faith! Faith!” as if bewildered wretches were seeking her all through the

The cry of grief, rage, and terror was yet piercing the night, when the unhappy husband held his breath

278 Short Stories

for a response. There was a scream, drowned immediately in a louder murmur of voices, fading into
far-off laughter, as the dark cloud swept away, leaving the clear and silent sky above Goodman Brown.
But something fluttered lightly down through the air and caught on the branch of a tree. The young man
seized it, and beheld a pink ribbon.

“My Faith is gone!” cried he, after one stupefied moment. “There is no good on earth; and sin is but a
name. Come, devil; for to thee is this world given.”

And, maddened with despair, so that he laughed loud and long, did Goodman Brown grasp his staff
and set forth again, at such a rate that he seemed to fly along the forest path rather than to walk or run.
The road grew wilder and drearier and more faintly traced, and vanished at length, leaving him in the
heart of the dark wilderness, still rushing onward with the instinct that guides mortal man to evil. The
whole forest was peopled with frightful sounds—the creaking of the trees, the howling of wild beasts,
and the yell of Indians; while sometimes the wind tolled like a distant church bell, and sometimes gave a
broad roar around the traveller, as if all Nature were laughing him to scorn. But he was himself the chief
horror of the scene, and shrank not from its other horrors.

“Ha! ha! ha!” roared Goodman Brown when the wind laughed at him.
“Let us hear which will laugh loudest. Think not to frighten me with your deviltry. Come witch, come

wizard, come Indian powwow, come devil himself, and here comes Goodman Brown. You may as well
fear him as he fear you.”

In truth, all through the haunted forest there could be nothing more frightful than the figure of
Goodman Brown. On he flew among the black pines, brandishing his staff with frenzied gestures, now
giving vent to an inspiration of horrid blasphemy, and now shouting forth such laughter as set all the
echoes of the forest laughing like demons around him. The fiend in his own shape is less hideous than
when he rages in the breast of man. Thus sped the demoniac on his course, until, quivering among the
trees, he saw a red light before him, as when the felled trunks and branches of a clearing have been set
on fire, and throw up their lurid blaze against the sky, at the hour of midnight. He paused, in a lull of
the tempest that had driven him onward, and heard the swell of what seemed a hymn, rolling solemnly
from a distance with the weight of many voices. He knew the tune; it was a familiar one in the choir of
the village meeting-house. The verse died heavily away, and was lengthened by a chorus, not of human
voices, but of all the sounds of the benighted wilderness pealing in awful harmony together. Goodman
Brown cried out, and his cry was lost to his own ear by its unison with the cry of the desert.

In the interval of silence he stole forward until the light glared full upon his eyes. At one extremity
of an open space, hemmed in by the dark wall of the forest, arose a rock, bearing some rude, natural
resemblance either to an altar or a pulpit, and surrounded by four blazing pines, their tops aflame, their
stems untouched, like candles at an evening meeting. The mass of foliage that had overgrown the summit
of the rock was all on fire, blazing high into the night and fitfully illuminating the whole field. Each
pendent twig and leafy festoon was in a blaze. As the red light arose and fell, a numerous congregation
alternately shone forth, then disappeared in shadow, and again grew, as it were, out of the darkness,
peopling the heart of the solitary woods at once.

“A grave and dark-clad company,” quoth Goodman Brown.
In truth they were such. Among them, quivering to and fro between gloom and splendor, appeared

faces that would be seen next day at the council board of the province, and others which, Sabbath after
Sabbath, looked devoutly heavenward, and benignantly over the crowded pews, from the holiest pulpits
in the land. Some affirm that the lady of the governor was there. At least there were high dames well
known to her, and wives of honored husbands, and widows, a great multitude, and ancient maidens, all
of excellent repute, and fair young girls, who trembled lest their mothers should espy them. Either the
sudden gleams of light flashing over the obscure field bedazzled Goodman Brown, or he recognized
a score of the church members of Salem village famous for their especial sanctity. Good old Deacon

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–1864) 279

Gookin had arrived, and waited at the skirts of that venerable saint, his revered pastor. But, irreverently
consorting with these grave, reputable, and pious people, these elders of the church, these chaste dames
and dewy virgins, there were men of dissolute lives and women of spotted fame, wretches given over
to all mean and filthy vice, and suspected even of horrid crimes. It was strange to see that the good
shrank not from the wicked, nor were the sinners abashed by the saints. Scattered also among their pale-
faced enemies were the Indian priests, or powwows, who had often scared their native forest with more
hideous incantations than any known to English witchcraft.

“But where is Faith?” thought Goodman Brown; and, as hope came into his heart, he trembled.
Another verse of the hymn arose, a slow and mournful strain, such as the pious love, but joined

to words which expressed all that our nature can conceive of sin, and darkly hinted at far more.
Unfathomable to mere mortals is the lore of fiends. Verse after verse was sung; and still the chorus of the
desert swelled between like the deepest tone of a mighty organ; and with the final peal of that dreadful
anthem there came a sound, as if the roaring wind, the rushing streams, the howling beasts, and every
other voice of the unconcerted wilderness were mingling and according with the voice of guilty man in
homage to the prince of all. The four blazing pines threw up a loftier flame, and obscurely discovered
shapes and visages of horror on the smoke wreaths above the impious assembly. At the same moment the
fire on the rock shot redly forth and formed a glowing arch above its base, where now appeared a figure.
With reverence be it spoken, the figure bore no slight similitude, both in garb and manner, to some grave
divine of the New England churches.

“Bring forth the converts!” cried a voice that echoed through the field and rolled into the forest.
At the word, Goodman Brown stepped forth from the shadow of the trees and approached the

congregation, with whom he felt a loathful brotherhood by the sympathy of all that was wicked in his
heart. He could have well-nigh sworn that the shape of his own dead father beckoned him to advance,
looking downward from a smoke wreath, while a woman, with dim features of despair, threw out her
hand to warn him back. Was it his mother? But he had no power to retreat one step, nor to resist, even in
thought, when the minister and good old Deacon Gookin seized his arms and led him to the blazing rock.
Thither came also the slender form of a veiled female, led between Goody Cloyse, that pious teacher of
the catechism, and Martha Carrier, who had received the devil’s promise to be queen of hell. A rampant
hag was she. And there stood the proselytes beneath the canopy of fire.

“Welcome, my children,” said the dark figure, “to the communion of your race. Ye have found thus
young your nature and your destiny. My children, look behind you!”

They turned; and flashing forth, as it were, in a sheet of flame, the fiend worshippers were seen; the
smile of welcome gleamed darkly on every visage.

“There,” resumed the sable form, “are all whom ye have reverenced from youth. Ye deemed them
holier than yourselves, and shrank from your own sin, contrasting it with their lives of righteousness
and prayerful aspirations heavenward. Yet here are they all in my worshipping assembly. This night
it shall be granted you to know their secret deeds: how hoary-bearded elders of the church have
whispered wanton words to the young maids of their households; how many a woman, eager for widows’
weeds, has given her husband a drink at bedtime and let him sleep his last sleep in her bosom; how
beardless youths have made haste to inherit their fathers’ wealth; and how fair damsels—blush not,
sweet ones—have dug little graves in the garden, and bidden me, the sole guest to an infant’s funeral.
By the sympathy of your human hearts for sin ye shall scent out all the places—whether in church,
bedchamber, street, field, or forest—where crime has been committed, and shall exult to behold the
whole earth one stain of guilt, one mighty blood spot. Far more than this. It shall be yours to penetrate, in
every bosom, the deep mystery of sin, the fountain of all wicked arts, and which inexhaustibly supplies
more evil impulses than human power—than my power at its utmost—can make manifest in deeds. And
now, my children, look upon each other.”

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They did so; and, by the blaze of the hell-kindled torches, the wretched man beheld his Faith, and the
wife her husband, trembling before that unhallowed altar.

“Lo, there ye stand, my children,” said the figure, in a deep and solemn tone, almost sad with its
despairing awfulness, as if his once angelic nature could yet mourn for our miserable race. “Depending
upon one another’s hearts, ye had still hoped that virtue were not all a dream. Now are ye undeceived.
Evil is the nature of mankind. Evil must be your only happiness. Welcome again, my children, to the
communion of your race.”

“Welcome,” repeated the fiend worshippers, in one cry of despair and triumph.
And there they stood, the only pair, as it seemed, who were yet hesitating on the verge of wickedness

in this dark world. A basin was hollowed, naturally, in the rock. Did it contain water, reddened by the
lurid light? or was it blood? or, perchance, a liquid flame? Herein did the shape of evil dip his hand and
prepare to lay the mark of baptism upon their foreheads, that they might be partakers of the mystery of
sin, more conscious of the secret guilt of others, both in deed and thought, than they could now be of
their own. The husband cast one look at his pale wife, and Faith at him. What polluted wretches would
the next glance show them to each other, shuddering alike at what they disclosed and what they saw!

“Faith! Faith!” cried the husband, “look up to heaven, and resist the wicked one.”
Whether Faith obeyed he knew not. Hardly had he spoken when he found himself amid calm night

and solitude, listening to a roar of the wind which died heavily away through the forest. He staggered
against the rock, and felt it chill and damp; while a hanging twig, that had been all on fire, besprinkled
his cheek with the coldest dew.

The next morning young Goodman Brown came slowly into the street of Salem village, staring around
him like a bewildered man. The good old minister was taking a walk along the graveyard to get an
appetite for breakfast and meditate his sermon, and bestowed a blessing, as he passed, on Goodman
Brown. He shrank from the venerable saint as if to avoid an anathema. Old Deacon Gookin was at
domestic worship, and the holy words of his prayer were heard through the open window. “What God
doth the wizard pray to?” quoth Goodman Brown. Goody Cloyse, that excellent old Christian, stood in
the early sunshine at her own lattice, catechizing a little girl who had brought her a pint of morning’s
milk. Goodman Brown snatched away the child as from the grasp of the fiend himself. Turning the
corner by the meeting-house, he spied the head of Faith, with the pink ribbons, gazing anxiously forth,
and bursting into such joy at sight of him that she skipped along the street and almost kissed her husband
before the whole village. But Goodman Brown looked sternly and sadly into her face, and passed on
without a greeting.

Had Goodman Brown fallen asleep in the forest and only dreamed a wild dream of a witch-meeting?
Be it so if you will; but, alas! it was a dream of evil omen for young Goodman Brown. A stern,

a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man did he become from the night of that
fearful dream. On the Sabbath day, when the congregation were singing a holy psalm, he could not
listen because an anthem of sin rushed loudly upon his ear and drowned all the blessed strain. When the
minister spoke from the pulpit with power and fervid eloquence, and, with his hand on the open Bible,
of the sacred truths of our religion, and of saint-like lives and triumphant deaths, and of future bliss or
misery unutterable, then did Goodman Brown turn pale, dreading lest the roof should thunder down upon
the gray blasphemer and his hearers. Often, waking suddenly at midnight, he shrank from the bosom of
Faith; and at morning or eventide, when the family knelt down at prayer, he scowled and muttered to
himself, and gazed sternly at his wife, and turned away. And when he had lived long, and was borne to
his grave a hoary corpse, followed by Faith, an aged woman, and children and grandchildren, a goodly
procession, besides neighbors not a few, they carved no hopeful verse upon his tombstone, for his dying
hour was gloom.

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–1864) 281


Young Goodman Brown

Study Questions

1. What characters seem to correspond to Sigmund Freud’s ego, id, and superego?

2. Is Faith aptly named?

3. Why are her pink ribbons mentioned so often?

4. Give two examples of dramatic irony in the story.

5. Look up “allegory” in the glossary. In an allegory, an image on the surface level represents an
abstract idea on a deeper level. What do the following surface details in the story represent: the
forest, the town of Salem, the path, the serpentine staff, the dew, the fire in the clearing?

6. What is the meaning of the last sentence?

7. Look up C.G. Jung’s theory of individuation and the shadow, persona, and anima as archetypes
and show how they might be applied in this story.

8. Look up “Witches’ Sabbath” in an encyclopedia. Is the description accurate?

9. What is the cause of Goodman Brown’s tragedy?

Text Attributions

• Biography: Nathaniel Hawthorne by Wikipedia. Adapted by James Sexton © Creative
Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Licence.

• “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne is free of known copyright restrictions in

Media Attributions

• Nathaniel Hawthorne by Brady, 1860-64 by Mathew Brady © Public Domain

282 Short Stories


Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849)


Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849) was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Within a year, his alcoholic father
deserted his mother and three infant children. When his mother died of tuberculosis in Richmond,
Virginia, three-year-old Edgar was adopted by John Allan and his wife. Allan, a prosperous
businessperson, spent time in England, where Poe began his education at private schools.

Back in the United States, Allan forced Poe to leave the University of Virginia in 1826 when
Poe incurred gambling debts he could not pay. He served in the U.S. Army from 1827 to 1829,
eventually attaining the rank of sergeant major. Poe next attended West Point, hoping for further military

Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Allan died of tuberculosis. Poe angrily confronted his foster father about his
extramarital affairs; for this candour, he was disowned. Believing that Allan would never reinstate him
as heir, Poe deliberately violated rules to provoke his dismissal from the Academy. In 1835, Poe began
his career as editor, columnist, and reviewer, earning a living he could not make as a writer of stories
and poems. That same year, he married his thirteen-year-old cousin, Virginia Clemm, and lived with her
and her mother during a period marked by illness and poverty. Virginia died of tuberculosis in 1847. Poe
died, delirious, under mysterious circumstances, in 1849.

He perfected the Gothic horror story with “The Fall of the House of Usher” and originated the modern
detective story in “The Gold-Bug” and “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.”


Published 1846

The Cask of Amontillado

THE thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he
ventured upon insult I vowed revenge. You, who so well know the nature of
my soul, will not suppose, however, that I gave utterance to a threat. At
length I would be avenged; this was a point definitely settled—but the very
definitiveness with which it was resolved precluded the idea of risk. I must
not only punish but punish with impunity. A wrong is unredressed when
retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger

fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.
It must be understood that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good

will. I continued, as was my wont, to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was
at the thought of his immolation.

He had a weak point—this Fortunato—although in other regards he was a man to be respected and
even feared. He prided himself on his connoisseurship in wine. Few Italians have the true virtuoso spirit.
For the most part their enthusiasm is adopted to suit the time and opportunity, to practise imposture
upon the British and Austrian millionaires. In painting and gemmary, Fortunato, like his countrymen,
was a quack, but in the matter of old wines he was sincere. In this respect I did not differ from him
materially;—I was skilful in the Italian vintages myself, and bought largely whenever I could.

It was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of the carnival season, that I encountered
my friend. He accosted me with excessive warmth, for he had been drinking much. The man wore
motley. He had on a tight-fitting parti-striped dress, and his head was surmounted by the conical cap and
bells. I was so pleased to see him that I thought I should never have done wringing his hand.

I said to him—”My dear Fortunato, you are luckily met. How remarkably well you are looking to-day.
But I have received a pipe of what passes for Amontillado, and I have my doubts.”

“How?” said he. “Amontillado, A pipe? Impossible! And in the middle of the carnival!”
“I have my doubts,” I replied; “and I was silly enough to pay the full Amontillado price without

consulting you in the matter. You were not to be found, and I was fearful of losing a bargain.”
“I have my doubts.”
“And I must satisfy them.”
“As you are engaged, I am on my way to Luchresi. If any one has a critical turn it is he. He will tell

“Luchresi cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry.”
“And yet some fools will have it that his taste is a match for your own.
“Come, let us go.”
“To your vaults.”
“My friend, no; I will not impose upon your good nature. I perceive you have an engagement.

“I have no engagement;—come.”

284 Short Stories

“My friend, no. It is not the engagement, but the severe cold with which I perceive you are afflicted.
The vaults are insufferably damp. They are encrusted with nitre.”

“Let us go, nevertheless. The cold is merely nothing. Amontillado! You have been imposed upon. And
as for Luchresi, he cannot distinguish Sherry from Amontillado.”

Thus speaking, Fortunato possessed himself of my arm; and putting on a mask of black silk and
drawing a roquelaure

closely about my person, I suffered him to hurry me to my palazzo.

There were no attendants at home; they had absconded to make merry in honour of the time. I had
told them that I should not return until the morning, and had given them explicit orders not to stir from
the house. These orders were sufficient, I well knew, to insure their immediate disappearance, one and
all, as soon as my back was turned.

I took from their sconces two flambeaux, and giving one to Fortunato, bowed him through several
suites of rooms to the archway that led into the vaults. I passed down a long and winding staircase,
requesting him to be cautious as he followed. We came at length to the foot of the descent, and stood
together upon the damp ground of the catacombs of the Montresors.

The gait of my friend was unsteady, and the bells upon his cap jingled as he strode.
“The pipe,” he said.
“It is farther on,” said I; “but observe the white web-work which gleams from these cavern walls.”
He turned towards me, and looked into my eves with two filmy orbs that distilled the rheum of

“Nitre?” he asked, at length.
“Nitre,” I replied. “How long have you had that cough?”
“Ugh! ugh! ugh! —ugh! ugh! ugh! —ugh! ugh! ugh! —ugh! ugh! ugh! —ugh! ugh! ugh!”
My poor friend found it impossible to reply for many minutes.
“It is nothing,” he said, at last.
“Come,” I said, with decision, “we will go back; your health is precious. You are rich, respected,

admired, beloved; you are happy, as once I was. You are a man to be missed. For me it is no matter. We
will go back; you will be ill, and I cannot be responsible. Besides, there is Luchresi —”

“Enough,” he said; “the cough’s a mere nothing; it will not kill me. I shall not die of a cough.”
“True—true,” I replied; “and, indeed, I had no intention of alarming you unnecessarily—but you

should use all proper caution. A draught of this Médoc will defend us from the damps.
Here I knocked off the neck of a bottle which I drew from a long row of its fellows that lay upon the

“Drink,” I said, presenting him the wine.
He raised it to his lips with a leer. He paused and nodded to me familiarly, while his bells jingled.
“I drink,” he said, “to the buried that repose around us.”
“And I to your long life.”
He again took my arm, and we proceeded.
“These vaults,” he said, “are extensive.”
“The Montresors,” I replied, “were a great and numerous family.”
“I forget your arms.”
“A huge human foot d’or, in a field azure; the foot crushes a serpent rampant whose fangs are

imbedded in the heel.”
“And the motto?”
“Nemo me impune lacessit.


1. A lined and trimmed cloak reaching to the knees.

2. No one harms me with impunity.

Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849) 285

“Good!” he said.
The wine sparkled in his eyes and the bells jingled. My own fancy grew warm with the Medoc. We had

passed through long walls of piled skeletons, with casks and puncheons intermingling, into the inmost
recesses of the catacombs. I paused again, and this time I made bold to seize Fortunato by an arm above
the elbow.

“The nitre!” I said; “see, it increases. It hangs like moss upon the vaults. We are below the river’s bed.
The drops of moisture trickle among the bones. Come, we will go back ere it is too late. Your cough—”

“It is nothing,” he said; “let us go on. But first, another draught of the Médoc.”
I broke and reached him a flagon of De Grâve. He emptied it at a breath. His eyes flashed with a fierce

light. He laughed and threw the bottle upwards with a gesticulation I did not understand.
I looked at him in surprise. He repeated the movement—a grotesque one.
“You do not comprehend?” he said.
“Not I,” I replied.
“Then you are not of the brotherhood.”
“You are not of the masons.”
“Yes, yes,” I said; “yes, yes.”
“You? Impossible! A mason?”
“A mason,” I replied.
“A sign,” he said, “a sign.”
“It is this,” I answered, producing from beneath the folds of my roquelaure a trowel.
“You jest,” he exclaimed, recoiling a few paces. “But let us proceed to the Amontillado.”
“Be it so,” I said, replacing the tool beneath the cloak and again offering him my arm. He leaned

upon it heavily. We continued our route in search of the Amontillado. We passed through a range of low
arches, descended, passed on, and descending again, arrived at a deep crypt, in which the foulness of the
air caused our flambeaux rather to glow than flame.

At the most remote end of the crypt there appeared another less spacious. Its walls had been lined with
human remains, piled to the vault overhead, in the fashion of the great catacombs of Paris. Three sides of
this interior crypt were still ornamented in this manner. From the fourth side the bones had been thrown
down, and lay promiscuously upon the earth, forming at one point a mound of some size. Within the
wall thus exposed by the displacing of the bones, we perceived a still interior crypt or recess, in depth
about four feet, in width three, in height six or seven. It seemed to have been constructed for no especial
use within itself, but formed merely the interval between two of the colossal supports of the roof of the
catacombs, and was backed by one of their circumscribing walls of solid granite.

It was in vain that Fortunato, uplifting his dull torch, endeavoured to pry into the depth of the recess.
Its termination the feeble light did not enable us to see.

“Proceed,” I said; “herein is the Amontillado. As for Luchresi—”
“He is an ignoramus,” interrupted my friend, as he stepped unsteadily forward, while I followed

immediately at his heels. In an instant he had reached the extremity of the niche, and finding his progress
arrested by the rock, stood stupidly bewildered. A moment more and I had fettered him to the granite. In
its surface were two iron staples, distant from each other about two feet, horizontally. From one of these
depended a short chain, from the other a padlock. Throwing the links about his waist, it was but the work
of a few seconds to secure it. He was too much astounded to resist. Withdrawing the key I stepped back
from the recess.

“Pass your hand,” I said, “over the wall; you cannot help feeling the nitre. Indeed, it is very damp.
Once more let me implore you to return. No? Then I must positively leave you. But I must first render
you all the little attentions in my power.”

286 Short Stories

“The Amontillado!” ejaculated my friend, not yet recovered from his astonishment.
“True,” I replied; “the Amontillado.”
As I said these words I busied myself among the pile of bones of which I have before spoken.

Throwing them aside, I soon uncovered a quantity of building stone and mortar. With these materials
and with the aid of my trowel, I began vigorously to wall up the entrance of the niche.

I had scarcely laid the first tier of the masonry when I discovered that the intoxication of Fortunato had
in a great measure worn off. The earliest indication I had of this was a low moaning cry from the depth
of the recess. It was not the cry of a drunken man. There was then a long and obstinate silence. I laid the
second tier, and the third, and the fourth; and then I heard the furious vibrations of the chain. The noise
lasted for several minutes, during which, that I might hearken to it with the more satisfaction, I ceased
my labours and sat down upon the bones. When at last the clanking subsided, I resumed the trowel, and
finished without interruption the fifth, the sixth, and the seventh tier. The wall was now nearly upon
a level with my breast. I again paused, and holding the flambeaux over the mason-work, threw a few
feeble rays upon the figure within.

A succession of loud and shrill screams, bursting suddenly from the throat of the chained form,
seemed to thrust me violently back. For a brief moment I hesitated, I trembled. Unsheathing my rapier,
I began to grope with it about the recess; but the thought of an instant reassured me. I placed my hand
upon the solid fabric of the catacombs, and felt satisfied. I reapproached the wall; I replied to the yells
of him who clamoured. I re-echoed, I aided, I surpassed them in volume and in strength. I did this, and
the clamourer grew still.

It was now midnight, and my task was drawing to a close. I had completed the eighth, the ninth and
the tenth tier. I had finished a portion of the last and the eleventh; there remained but a single stone to be
fitted and plastered in. I struggled with its weight; I placed it partially in its destined position. But now
there came from out the niche a low laugh that erected the hairs upon my head. It was succeeded by a
sad voice, which I had difficulty in recognizing as that of the noble Fortunato. The voice said—

“Ha! ha! ha!—he! he! he!—a very good joke, indeed —an excellent jest. We will have many a rich
laugh about it at the palazzo —he! he! he!—over our wine—he! he! he!”

“The Amontillado!” I said.
“He! he! he!—he! he! he!—yes, the Amontillado. But is it not getting late? Will not they be awaiting

us at the palazzo, the Lady Fortunato and the rest? Let us be gone.”
“Yes,” I said, “let us be gone.”
“For the love of God, Montresor!”
“Yes,” I said, “for the love of God!”
But to these words I hearkened in vain for a reply. I grew impatient. I called aloud—
No answer. I called again—
No answer still. I thrust a torch through the remaining aperture and let it fall within. There came forth

in return only a jingling of the bells. My heart grew sick; it was the dampness of the catacombs that
made it so. I hastened to make an end of my labour. I forced the last stone into its position; I plastered it
up. Against the new masonry I re-erected the old rampart of bones. For the half of a century no mortal
has disturbed them. In pace requiescat


3. Rest in peace.

Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849) 287


The Cask of Amontillado

Study Questions

1. What is the evidence that Montresor has carefully planned the murder of Fortunato?

2. Why is it significant that the murder takes place during “the supreme madness of the carnival

3. Explain the significance of all of the names in the story—Fortunato, Montresor, and Luchresi.

4. Summarize in your own words Montresor’s criteria for successful revenge and then explain
whether they are met.

5. How does the Montresor family coat of arms relate to the events of the story?

6. Dramatic irony occurs when there is a discrepancy between what a character seems to be saying
and what he or she actually means. For example, dramatic irony occurs when Montresor tells
Fortunato that he is “luckily met” because Montresor knows that the meeting will be an unlucky
one. Explain some other instances of dramatic irony in the story.

7. Explain the circumstances under which Montresor tells his story. Who is the speaker addressing?

8. Give some examples of situational irony.


1. You might like to view this short film adaptation of the story. Watch “The Cask of Amontillado
(Edgar Allan Poe)”.

2. You can read a collection of work written by and about Edgar Allan Poe here: EDGAR ALLAN
POE: Tales, Sketches and Selected Criticism

Text Attributions

• “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe is free of known copyright restrictions in

Media Attributions

• Edgar Allan Poe © Public Domain

288 Short Stories


Kate Chopin (1850–1904)


Katherine O’Flaherty was born in 1850 in St. Louis, Missouri, to an affluent family. She was formally
educated in a Catholic school for girls. At age twenty, she married Oscar Chopin and moved with him to
New Orleans. In 1879, the couple relocated to Cloutierville, an area where many members of the Creole
community lived. The Chopins lived, worked, and raised their six children together until Oscar died
unexpectedly in 1882, leaving his wife in serious debt. Chopin worked and sold the family business to
pay off the debt, eventually moving back to St. Louis to be near her mother, who died soon after Chopin

After experiencing these losses, Chopin turned to reading and writing to deal with her grief. Her
experiences in New Orleans and Cloutierville provided rich writing material, and during the 1890s, she
enjoyed success as a writer, publishing a number of stories in the local colour tradition. By 1899, her
style had evolved, and her important work The Awakening, published that year, shocked the Victorian
audience of the time in its frank depiction of a woman’s sexuality. Unprepared for the negative critical
reception that ensued, Chopin retreated from the publishing world.

She died unexpectedly a few years later in 1904 from a brain hemorrhage.
In her lifetime, Chopin was known primarily as a regional writer who produced a number of important

short stories, many of which were collected in Bayou Folk in 1894. Her groundbreaking novel The
Awakening (1899) was ahead of its time in the examination of the rigid cultural and legal boundaries
placed on women, which limited or prevented them from living authentic, fully self-directed lives.


Published 1893

Désirée’s Baby

As the day was pleasant, Madame Valmonde drove over to L’Abri to see
Désirée and the baby.

It made her laugh to think of Désirée with a baby. Why, it seemed but
yesterday that Désirée was little more than a baby herself; when Monsieur in
riding through the gateway of Valmonde had found her lying asleep in the
shadow of the big stone pillar.

The little one awoke in his arms and began to cry for “Dada.” That was as
much as she could do or say. Some people thought she might have strayed there of her own accord, for
she was of the toddling age. The prevailing belief was that she had been purposely left by a party of
Texans, whose canvas-covered wagon, late in the day, had crossed the ferry that Coton Mais kept, just
below the plantation. In time Madame Valmonde abandoned every speculation but the one that Désirée
had been sent to her by a beneficent Providence to be the child of her affection, seeing that she was
without child of the flesh. For the girl grew to be beautiful and gentle, affectionate and sincere,–the idol
of Valmonde.

It was no wonder, when she stood one day against the stone pillar in whose shadow she had lain
asleep, eighteen years before, that Armand Aubigny riding by and seeing her there, had fallen in love
with her. That was the way all the Aubignys fell in love, as if struck by a pistol shot. The wonder was
that he had not loved her before; for he had known her since his father brought him home from Paris, a
boy of eight, after his mother died there. The passion that awoke in him that day, when he saw her at the
gate, swept along like an avalanche, or like a prairie fire, or like anything that drives headlong over all

Monsieur Valmonde grew practical and wanted things well considered: that is, the girl’s obscure
origin. Armand looked into her eyes and did not care. He was reminded that she was nameless. What did
it matter about a name when he could give her one of the oldest and proudest in Louisiana? He ordered
the corbeille

from Paris, and contained himself with what patience he could until it arrived; then they

were married.
Madame Valmonde had not seen Désirée and the baby for four weeks. When she reached L’Abri she

shuddered at the first sight of it, as she always did. It was a sad looking place, which for many years
had not known the gentle presence of a mistress, old Monsieur Aubigny having married and buried his
wife in France, and she having loved her own land too well ever to leave it. The roof came down steep
and black like a cowl, reaching out beyond the wide galleries that encircled the yellow stuccoed house.
Big, solemn oaks grew close to it, and their thick-leaved, far-reaching branches shadowed it like a pall.
Young Aubigny’s rule was a strict one, too, and under it his negroes had forgotten how to be gay, as they
had been during the old master’s easy-going and indulgent lifetime.

The young mother was recovering slowly, and lay full length, in her soft white muslins and laces,
upon a couch. The baby was beside her, upon her arm, where he had fallen asleep, at her breast. The
yellow nurse woman sat beside a window fanning herself.

Madame Valmonde bent her portly figure over Désirée and kissed her, holding her an instant tenderly
in her arms. Then she turned to the child.

“This is not the baby!” she exclaimed, in startled tones. French was the language spoken at Valmonde
in those days.

1. Fr., literally, a basket. A kind of trousseau or hope chestfilled with household gifts.

290 Short Stories

“I knew you would be astonished,” laughed Désirée, “at the way he has grown. The little cochon de

! Look at his legs, mamma, and his hands and fingernails,–real finger-nails. Zandrine had to cut them

this morning. Isn’t it true, Zandrine?”
The woman bowed her turbaned head majestically, “Mais si, Madame.”
“And the way he cries,” went on Désirée, “is deafening. Armand heard him the other day as far away

as La Blanche’s cabin.”
Madame Valmonde had never removed her eyes from the child. She lifted it and walked with it over

to the window that was lightest. She scanned the baby narrowly, then looked as searchingly at Zandrine,
whose face was turned to gaze across the fields.

“Yes, the child has grown, has changed,” said Madame Valmonde, slowly, as she replaced it beside its
mother. “What does Armand say?”

Désirée’s face became suffused with a glow that was happiness itself.
“Oh, Armand is the proudest father in the parish, I believe, chiefly because it is a boy, to bear his

name; though he says not,–that he would have loved a girl as well. But I know it isn’t true. I know
he says that to please me. And mamma,” she added, drawing Madame Valmonde’s head down to her,
and speaking in a whisper, “he hasn’t punished one of them–not one of them–since baby is born. Even
Negrillon, who pretended to have burnt his leg that he might rest from work–he only laughed, and said
Negrillon was a great scamp. Oh, mamma, I’m so happy; it frightens me.”

What Désirée said was true. Marriage, and later the birth of his son had softened Armand Aubigny’s
imperious and exacting nature greatly. This was what made the gentle Désirée so happy, for she loved
him desperately. When he frowned she trembled, but loved him. When he smiled, she asked no greater
blessing of God. But Armand’s dark, handsome face had not often been disfigured by frowns since the
day he fell in love with her.

When the baby was about three months old, Désirée awoke one day to the conviction that there was
something in the air menacing her peace. It was at first too subtle to grasp. It had only been a disquieting
suggestion; an air of mystery among the blacks; unexpected visits from far-off neighbors who could
hardly account for their coming. Then a strange, an awful change in her husband’s manner, which she
dared not ask him to explain. When he spoke to her, it was with averted eyes, from which the old love-
light seemed to have gone out. He absented himself from home; and when there, avoided her presence
and that of her child, without excuse. And the very spirit of Satan seemed suddenly to take hold of him
in his dealings with the slaves. Désirée was miserable enough to die.

She sat in her room, one hot afternoon, in her peignoir, listlessly drawing through her fingers the
strands of her long, silky brown hair that hung about her shoulders. The baby, half naked, lay asleep
upon her own great mahogany bed, that was like a sumptuous throne, with its satin-lined half-canopy.
One of La Blanche’s little quadroon boys–half naked too–stood fanning the child slowly with a fan of
peacock feathers. Désirée’s eyes had been fixed absently and sadly upon the baby, while she was striving
to penetrate the threatening mist that she felt closing about her. She looked from her child to the boy
who stood beside him, and back again; over and over. “Ah!” It was a cry that she could not help; which
she was not conscious of having uttered. The blood turned like ice in her veins, and a clammy moisture
gathered upon her face.

She tried to speak to the little quadroon boy; but no sound would come, at first. When he heard his
name uttered, he looked up, and his mistress was pointing to the door. He laid aside the great, soft fan,
and obediently stole away, over the polished floor, on his bare tiptoes.

She stayed motionless, with gaze riveted upon her child, and her face the picture of fright.

2. Suckling pig.

Kate Chopin (1850–1904) 291

Presently her husband entered the room, and without noticing her, went to a table and began to search
among some papers which covered it.

“Armand,” she called to him, in a voice which must have stabbed him, if he was human. But he did
not notice. “Armand,” she said again. Then she rose and tottered towards him. “Armand,” she panted
once more, clutching his arm, “look at our child. What does it mean? tell me.”

He coldly but gently loosened her fingers from about his arm and thrust the hand away from him.
“Tell me what it means!” she cried despairingly.

“It means,” he answered lightly, “that the child is not white; it means that you are not white.”
A quick conception of all that this accusation meant for her nerved her with unwonted courage to deny

it. “It is a lie; it is not true, I am white! Look at my hair, it is brown; and my eyes are gray, Armand,
you know they are gray. And my skin is fair,” seizing his wrist. “Look at my hand; whiter than yours,
Armand,” she laughed hysterically.

“As white as La Blanche’s,” he returned cruelly; and went away leaving her alone with their child.
When she could hold a pen in her hand, she sent a despairing letter to Madame Valmonde.
“My mother, they tell me I am not white. Armand has told me I am not white. For God’s sake tell

them it is not true. You must know it is not true. I shall die. I must die. I cannot be so unhappy, and live.”
The answer that came was brief:
“My own Désirée: Come home to Valmonde; back to your mother who loves you. Come with your

When the letter reached Désirée she went with it to her husband’s study, and laid it open upon the desk

before which he sat. She was like a stone image: silent, white, motionless after she placed it there.
In silence he ran his cold eyes over the written words.
He said nothing. “Shall I go, Armand?” she asked in tones sharp with agonized suspense.
“Yes, go.”
“Do you want me to go?”
“Yes, I want you to go.”
He thought Almighty God had dealt cruelly and unjustly with him; and felt, somehow, that he was

paying Him back in kind when he stabbed thus into his wife’s soul. Moreover he no longer loved her,
because of the unconscious injury she had brought upon his home and his name.

She turned away like one stunned by a blow, and walked slowly towards the door, hoping he would
call her back.

“Good-by, Armand,” she moaned.
He did not answer her. That was his last blow at fate.
Désirée went in search of her child. Zandrine was pacing the sombre gallery with it. She took the little

one from the nurse’s arms with no word of explanation, and descending the steps, walked away, under
the live-oak branches.

It was an October afternoon; the sun was just sinking. Out in the still fields the negroes were picking

Désirée had not changed the thin white garment nor the slippers which she wore. Her hair was
uncovered and the sun’s rays brought a golden gleam from its brown meshes. She did not take the broad,
beaten road which led to the far-off plantation of Valmonde. She walked across a deserted field, where
the stubble bruised her tender feet, so delicately shod, and tore her thin gown to shreds.

She disappeared among the reeds and willows that grew thick along the banks of the deep, sluggish
bayou; and she did not come back again.

Some weeks later there was a curious scene enacted at L’Abri. In the centre of the smoothly swept
back yard was a great bonfire. Armand Aubigny sat in the wide hallway that commanded a view of the
spectacle; and it was he who dealt out to a half dozen negroes the material which kept this fire ablaze.

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A graceful cradle of willow, with all its dainty furbishings, was laid upon the pyre, which had already
been fed with the richness of a priceless layette. Then there were silk gowns, and velvet and satin ones
added to these; laces, too, and embroideries; bonnets and gloves; for the corbeille had been of rare

The last thing to go was a tiny bundle of letters; innocent little scribblings that Désirée had sent to him
during the days of their espousal. There was the remnant of one back in the drawer from which he took
them. But it was not Désirée’s; it was part of an old letter from his mother to his father. He read it. She
was thanking God for the blessing of her husband’s love:–

“But above all,” she wrote, “night and day, I thank the good God for having so arranged our lives that
our dear Armand will never know that his mother, who adores him, belongs to the race that is cursed
with the brand of slavery.”

Kate Chopin (1850–1904) 293

Published 1894

The Story of an Hour

Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with heart trouble, great care was
taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband’s death.

It was her sister Josephine who told her, in broken sentences; veiled hints
that revealed in half concealing. Her husband’s friend Richards was there,
too, near her. It was he who had been in the newspaper office when
intelligence of the railroad disaster was received, with Brently Mallard’s
name leading the list of “killed.” He had only taken the time to assure

himself of its truth by a second telegram and had hastened to forestall any less careful, less tender friend
in bearing the sad message.

She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept
its significance. She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister’s arms. When the storm
of grief had spent itself she went away to her room alone. She would have no one follow her.

There stood, facing the open window, a comfortable, roomy armchair. Into this she sank, pressed down
by a physical exhaustion that haunted her body and seemed to reach into her soul.

She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new
spring life. The delicious breath of rain was in the air. In the street below a peddler was crying his wares.
The notes of a distant song which some one was singing reached her faintly, and countless sparrows
were twittering in the eaves.

There were patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds that had met and piled one
above the other in the west facing her window.

She sat with her head thrown back upon the cushion of the chair, quite motionless, except when a sob
came up into her throat and shook her, as a child who has cried itself to sleep continues to sob in its

She was young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength. But
now there was a dull stare in her eyes, whose gaze was fixed away off yonder on one of those patches of
blue sky. It was not a glance of reflection, but rather indicated a suspension of intelligent thought.

There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully. What was it? She did not
know; it was too subtle and elusive to name. But she felt it, creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her
through the sounds, the scents, the colour that filled the air.

Now her bosom rose and fell tumultuously. She was beginning to recognize this thing that was
approaching to possess her, and she was striving to beat it back with her will–as powerless as her two
white slender hands would have been. When she abandoned herself a little, whispered word escaped her
slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under her breath: “free, free, free!” The vacant stare and
the look of terror that had followed it went from her eyes. They stayed keen and bright. Her pulses beat
fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.

She did not stop to ask if it were or were not a monstrous joy that held her. A clear and exalted
perception enabled her to dismiss the suggestion as trivial. She knew that she would weep again when
she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death; the face that had never looked save with love upon her,
fixed and gray and dead. But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that
would belong to her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome.

There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself. There would
be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have

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a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature. A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act
seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination.

And yet she had loved him–sometimes. Often she had not. What did it matter! What could love,
the unsolved mystery, count for in the face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly
recognized as the strongest impulse of her being!

“Free! Body and soul free!” she kept whispering.
Josephine was kneeling before the closed door with her lips to the keyhole, imploring for admission.

“Louise, open the door! I beg; open the door–you will make yourself ill. What are you doing, Louise?
For heaven’s sake open the door.”

“Go away. I am not making myself ill.” No; she was drinking in a very elixir of life through that open

Her fancy was running riot along those days ahead of her. Spring days, and summer days, and all sorts
of days that would be her own. She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday
she had thought with a shudder that life might be long.

She arose at length and opened the door to her sister’s importunities. There was a feverish triumph
in her eyes, and she carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory. She clasped her sister’s waist,
and together they descended the stairs. Richards stood waiting for them at the bottom.

Someone was opening the front door with a latchkey. It was Brently Mallard who entered, a little
travel-stained, composedly carrying his grip-sack and umbrella. He had been far from the scene of the
accident and did not even know there had been one. He stood amazed at Josephine’s piercing cry; at
Richards’ quick motion to screen him from the view of his wife.

When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease–of the joy that kills.

Kate Chopin (1850–1904) 295


Désirée’s Baby

Study Questions

1. Look at the names in the story: Désirée, La Blanche, L’Abri. What is the associated meaning of
each name, and how does that relate to the story?

2. Examine the character of Armand. What is his background? Does he have a choice at the end of
the story regarding Désirée and the baby?

3. What do the shadow and the pillar suggest? What might fire symbolize at the end of the story?

4. Identify the three main colours in the story. Who is associated with each of the colours and what
is the significance?

5. Discuss Chopin’s treatment of gender in this story.

6. Do you think Armand knew he was of mixed race before discovering the letter from his mother to
his father at the end of the story?

7. Find an example of irony in the story.

8. Find two examples of foreshadowing that prepare the reader for the ending.

The Story of an Hour

Study Questions

1. What is the double meaning of Mrs. Mallard’s heart trouble, mentioned in the first line of the

2. Discuss the function of the imagery in paragraphs four, five, and six.

3. How does Chopin maintain our sympathy for Mrs. Mallard?

4. Discuss the significance of images associated with spring.

5. Discuss the irony of the final line.

6. Was Brently Mallard a bad husband?

7. Try to find two examples of irony in the story. What type of irony is found in the doctor’s words
at the end of the story? Explain the irony.

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Text Attributions

• Biography: “Kate Chopin” by University System of Georgia. Adapted by James Sexton ©
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.

• “Désirée’s Baby” by Kate Chopin is free of known copyright restrictions in Canada.

• “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin is free of known copyright restrictions in Canada.

Media Attributions

• Kate Chopin © Public Domain

Kate Chopin (1850–1904) 297


Charles G.D. Roberts (1860–1943)


Sir Charles George Douglas Roberts was born in New Brunswick in 1860. A prolific poet and prose
writer, he was one of the first Canadian authors to gain an international audience. He, his cousin Bliss
Carman (1861–1929), Archibald Lampman (1861–1899) and Duncan Campbell Scott (1862–1947), are
known as the Confederation Poets. He earned his B.A. and M.A. from the University of New Brunswick,
and in 1880, he married Mary Fenety. The couple had five children.

After moving to New York City, he continued to publish animal stories, and according to critic W.J.
Keith, he is remembered for helping to establish “the one native Canadian art-form” in his animal stories.
(Canadian Encyclopedia, online ed., February 10, 2008). During the First World War, he served in the
British Army, attaining the rank of captain, and later transferred to the Canadian Army. After the war he
sojourned in North Africa and Europe until 1925. In that year, he returned to Canada and resumed his
poetry writing. He died in 1943 shortly after his second marriage at the age of 83.


Published 1904

The Truce

Too early, while yet the snow was thick and the food scarce, the big black
bear had roused himself from his long winter sleep and forsaken his snug den
under the roots of the pine tree. The thawing spring world he found an empty
place—no rabbits to be captured, no roots to be dug from wet meadows; and
his appetite was sorely vexing him. He would have crept back into his hole
for another nap; but the air was too stimulatingly warm, too full of promise
of life, to suffer him to resume the old, comfortable drowsiness. Moreover,
having gone to bed thin the previous December, he had waked up hungry; and hunger is a restless
bedfellow. In three days he had had but one meal—a big trout, clawed out half-dead from a rocky eddy
below the Falls; and now, as he sniffed the soft, wet air with fiercely eager nostrils, he forgot his
customary tolerance of mood and was ready to do battle with anything that walked the wilderness.

It was a little past noon, and the shadows of the tree-tops fell blue on the rapidly shrinking snow.
The air was full of faint, trickling noises, and thin tinklings where the snow veiled the slopes of little
rocky hollows. Under the snow and under the rotting patches of ice, innumerable small streams were
everywhere hurrying to swell the still ice-fettered flood of the river, the Big Fork, whose roomy valley
lay about a half-mile eastward through the woods. Every now and then, when a soft gust drew up from
the south, it bore with it a heavy roar, a noise as of muffled and tremendous trampling—the voice of the
Big Fork Falls thundering out from under their decaying lid of ice. The falls were the only thing which
the black bear really feared. Often as he had visited them, to catch wounded fish in the black eddies
at their foot, he could never look at their terrific plunge without a certain awed dilation of his eyes, a
certain shrinking at his heart. Perhaps by reason of some association of his cubhood, some imminent
peril and narrow escape at the age when his senses were most impressionable, in all his five years of
life the falls had never become a commonplace to him. And even now, while questing noiselessly and
restlessly for food, he rarely failed to pay the tribute of an instinctive, unconscious turn of head whenever
that portentous voice came up upon the wind.

Prowling hither and thither among the great ragged trunks, peering and sniffing and listening, the bear
suddenly caught the sound of small claws on wood. The sound came apparently from within the trunk of
a huge maple, close at hand. Leaning his head to one side, he listened intently, his ears cocked, eager as
a child listening to a watch. There was, indeed, something half childish in the attitude of the huge figure,
strangely belying the ferocity in his heart. Yes, the sound came, unmistakably, from within the trunk. He
nosed the bark warily. There was no opening; and the bark was firm. He stole to the other side of the
tree, his head craftily outstretched and reaching around far before him.

The situation was clear to him at once—and his hungry muzzle jammed itself into the entrance to a
chipmunk’s hole. The maple tree was dead, and partly decayed, up one side of the trunk. All his craft
forgotten on the instant, the bear sniffed and snorted and drew loud, fierce breaths, as if he thought
to suck the little furry tenant forth by inhalation. The live, warm smell that came from the hole was
deliciously tantalizing to his appetite. The hole, however, was barely big enough to admit the tip of his
black snout, so he presently gave over his foolish sniffings, and set himself to tear an entrance with
his resistless claws. The bark and dead wood flew in showers under his efforts, and it was evident that
the chipmunk’s little home would speedily lie open to the foe. But the chipmunk, meanwhile, from the
crotch of a limb overhead, was looking down in silent indignation. Little Stripe-sides had been wise
enough to provide his dwelling with a sort of skylight exit.

Charles G.D. Roberts (1860–1943) 299

Suddenly, in the midst of his task, the bear stopped and lifted his muzzle to the wind. What was that
new taint upon the air? It was one almost unknown to him, but one which he instinctively dreaded,
though without any reason based directly upon experience of his own. At almost any other time, indeed,
he would have taken the first whiff of that ominous man-smell as a signal to efface himself and make
off noiselessly down the wind. But just now, his first feeling was wrath at the thought of being hindered
from his prospective meal. He would let no one, not even a man, rob him of that chipmunk. Then, as
his wrath swelled rapidly, he decided to hunt the man himself. Perhaps, as the bear relishes practically
everything edible under the sun except human flesh, he had no motive but a savage impulse to punish
the intruder for such an untimely intrusion. However that may be, a red light came into his eyes, and he
swung away to meet this unknown trespasser upon his trails.

On that same day, after a breakfast before dawn in order that he might make an early start, a gaunt
trapper had set out from the settlement on the return journey to his camp beyond the Big Fork. He had
been in to the settlement with a pack of furs, and was now hurrying back as fast as he could, because of
the sudden thaw. He was afraid the ice might go out of the river and leave him cut off from his camp—for
his canoe was on the other side. As the pelts were beginning to get poor, he had left his rifle at home,
and carried no weapon but his knife. He had grown so accustomed to counting all the furry wild folk as
his prey that he never thought of them as possible adversaries—unless it might chance to be some such
exception as a bull-moose in rutting season. A rifle, therefore, when he was not after skins, seemed to
him a useless burden; and he was carrying, moreover, a pack of camp supplies on his broad back. He
was tall, lean, leather-faced and long-jawed, with calm, light blue eyes under heavy brows; and he wore
a stout, yellow-brown home-spun shirt, squirrel-skin cap, long leggings of deerhide, and oiled cowhide
moccasins. He walked rapidly with a long, slouching stride that was almost a lope, his toes pointing
straight ahead like an Indian’s.

When, suddenly, the bear lurched out into his trail and confronted him, the woodsman was in no
way disturbed. The bear paused, swaying in surly fashion about ten paces in front of him, completely
blocking the trail. But the woodsman kept right on. The only attention he paid to the big, black stranger
was to shout at him authoritatively— “Git out the way, thar!”

To his unbounded astonishment, however, the beast, instead of getting out of the way, ran at him with
a snarling growl. The woodsman’s calm blue eyes flamed with anger; but the life of the woods teaches
one to think quickly, or, rather, to act in advance of one’s thoughts. He knew that with no weapon but his
knife he was no match for such a foe, so, leaping aside as lightly as a panther, he darted around a tree,
regained the trail beyond his assailant, and ran on at his best speed toward the river. He made sure that
the bear had acted under a mere spasm of ill-temper and would not take the trouble to follow far.

When, once in a long time, a hunter or trapper gets the worst of it in his contest with the wild kindreds,
in the majority of cases it is because he had fancied he knew all about bears. The bear is strong in
individuality and delights to set at nought the traditions of his kind. So it happens that every now and
then a woodsman pays with his life for failing to recognize that the bear won’t always play by rule.

To the trapper’s disgusted amazement, this particular bear followed him so vindictively that, before he
realized the full extent of his peril he was almost overtaken. He saw that he must deliver up his precious
pack, the burden of which was effectively handicapping him in the race for life. When the bear was
almost upon him, he flung the bundle away, with angry violence, expecting that it would at once divert
the pursuer’s attention.

In about ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, perhaps, it would have done so, for it contained, among
other things, bacon and sugar, dainties altogether delectable to a bear’s palate. But as luck would have
it, the bundle so bitterly hurled struck the beast full on the snout, making him grunt with pain and fresh
fury. From that moment he was a veritable demon of vengeance. Well enough he knew it was not the

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bundle, but the man who had thrown it, upon whom he must wipe out the affront. His hunger was all
forgotten in red rage.

Fortunate it was now for the tall woodsman that he had lived abstemiously and labored sanely all that
winter, and could depend upon both wind and limb. Fortunate, too, that on the open trail, cut years before
by the lumbermen of the Big Fork drive, the snow was already almost gone, so that it did not seriously
impede his running. He ran almost like a caribou, with enough in reserve to be able to glance back over
his shoulder from time to time. But seeing how implacable was the black bulk that pursued, he could
not help thinking what would happen, there in the great, wet, shadow-mottled solitudes, if he should
chance to trip upon a root, or if his wind should fail him ere he could reach the camp. At this thought,
not fear but a certain disgust and impotent resentment swelled his heart; and with a challenging look at
the ancient trunks, the familiar forest aisles, the high, branch-fretted blue, bright with spring sunshine, he
defied the wilderness, which he had so long loved and ruled, to turn upon him with such an unspeakable

The wilderness loves a master; and the challenge was not accepted. No root tripped his feet, nor did
his wind fail him; and so he came out, with the bear raging some ten paces behind his heels, upon the
banks of the Big Fork. Once across that quarter-mile of sloppy, rotting ice, he knew there was good,
clear running to his cabin and his gun. His heart rose, his resentment left him, and he grinned as he gave
one more glance over his shoulder.

As he raced down the bank, the trampling of the falls, a mile away, roared up to him on a gust of wind.
In spite of himself he could not but notice how treacherous the ice was looking. In spite of himself he
noticed it, having no choice but to trust it. The whole surface looked sick, with patches of sodden white
and sickly lead-color; and down along the shore it was covered by a lane of shallow, yellowish water.
It appeared placid and innocent enough; but the woodsman’s practised eye perceived that it might break
up, or “go out,” at any moment. The bear was at his heels, however, and that particular moment was not
the one for indecision. The woodsman dashed knee deep through the margin water, and out upon the free
ice; and he heard the bear, reckless of all admonitory signs, splash after him about three seconds later.

On the wide, sun-flooded expanse of ice, with the dark woods beyond and soft blue sky above, the
threat of imminent death seemed to the woodsman curiously out of place. Yet there death was, panting
savagely at his heels, ready for the first misstep. And there, too, a mile below, was death in another form,
roaring heavily from the swollen falls. And hidden under a face of peace, he knew that death lurked all
about his feet, liable to rise in mad fury at any instant with the breaking of the ice. As he thought of
all this besetting menace, the woodsman’s nerves drew themselves to steel. He set his teeth grimly. A
light of elation came into his eyes. And he felt himself able to win the contest against whatever odds. As
this sense of new vigor and defiance spurred him to a fresh burst of speed, the woodsman took notice
that he was just about half-way across the ice. “Good,” he muttered, counting the game now more than
half won. Then, even as he spoke, a strange, terrifying sound ran all about him. Was it in the air, or
beneath the ice? It came from everywhere at once, a straining grumble, ominous as the first growl of
an earthquake. The woodsman understood that dreadful voice very well. He wavered for a second, then
sprang forward desperately. And the bear pursuing understood also. His rage vanished in a breath. He
stumbled, whimpered, cast one frightened glance at the too distant shore behind him, then followed the
woodsman’s flight—followed now, with no more heed to pursue.

For less than half a minute that straining grumble continued. Then it grew louder, mingled with sharp,
ripping crashes; and long, black lanes opened suddenly in every direction. Right before the woodsman’s
flying feet one opened. He took it with a bound. But even as he sprang the ice went all to pieces. What he
sprang to was no longer a solid surface, but a tossing fragment which promptly went down beneath the
impact of his descent. Not for nothing, was it, however, that the woodsman had learned to “run the logs”
in many a tangled boom and racing “drive.” His foot barely touched the treacherous floe ere he leaped

Charles G.D. Roberts (1860–1943) 301

again, and yet again; till he had gained, by a path which none but a riverman could ever have dreamed
of traversing, an ice-cake broad and firm enough to give him foothold. Beyond this refuge was a space
of surging water, foam, and ice-mush, too broad for the essay of any human leap.

The Big Fork from shore to shore was now a tossing, swishing, racing, whirling, and grinding chaos
of ice-cakes, churning in an angry flood and hurrying blindly to the falls. In the center of his own floe the
woodsman sat down, the better to preserve his balance. He bit off a chew from his plug of “blackjack,”
and with calm eyes surveyed the doom toward which he was rushing. A mile is a very short distance
when it lies above the inevitable. The woodsman saw clearly that there was nothing to be done but chew
his “blackjack,” and wait on fate. That point settled, he turned his head to see what the bear was doing.

To his surprise, the animal was now a good fifty yards farther up stream, having evidently been
delayed by some vagary of the struggling ice. He was now sitting up on his haunches on a floe, and
staring silently at the volleying cloud which marked the Falls. The woodsman was aware of a curious
fellow-feeling for the great beast which, not five minutes ago, had been raging for his life. To the
woodsman, with his long knowledge and understanding of the wild kindreds, that rage and that pursuit
now appeared as lying more or less in the course of events, a part of the normal savagery of nature,
and no matter of personal vindictiveness. Now that he and his enemy were involved in a common and
appalling doom, the enmity was forgotten. “Got cl’ar grit, too!” he murmured to himself, as he took note
of the quiet way the bear was eyeing the Falls.

And now it seemed to him that the trampling roar grew louder every second, drowning into dumbness
the crashing and grinding of the ice; and the volleying mist-clouds seemed to race up-stream to meet
him. Then, with a sickening jump and turn of his heart, a hope came and shook him out of his stoicism.
He saw that his ice-cake was sailing straight for a little rocky islet just above the fall. Two minutes more
would decide his fate—at least for the time. He did not trouble to think what he would do on the island,
if he got there. He rose cautiously and crouched, every sinew tense to renew the battle for life.

Another minute fled away, and the island was close ahead, wrapped in the roar and the mist-volleys.
A cross-current, seizing the racing ice-cake, dragged it aside—and the man clenched his fists in a fury of
disappointment as he saw that he would miss the refuge after all. He made ready to plunge in and at least
die battling, when fate took yet another whim, and a whirling mass of logs and ice, colliding with the
floe, forced it back to its original course. Another moment and it grounded violently, breaking into four
pieces, which rolled off on either side toward the abyss. And the woodsman, splashing into the turbulent
shallows, made good his hold upon a rock and dragged himself ashore.

Fairly landed, he shook himself, spat coolly into the flood, and turned to see what was happening to
his fellow in distress. To the roaring vortex just below him—so close that it seemed as if it might at
any moment drag down the little island and engulf it—he paid no heed whatever, but turned his back
contemptuously upon the tumult and the mists. His late enemy, alive, strong, splendid, and speeding to
a hideous destruction, was of the keener interest to his wilderness spirit.

The bear was now about twenty paces above the island; but caught by an inexorable current, he was
nearly that distance beyond it. With a distinct regret, a pang of sympathy, the man saw that there was
no chance of his adversary’s escape. But the bear, like himself, seeing a refuge so near, was not of the
temper to give up without a struggle. Suddenly, like a gigantic spring uncoiling, he launched himself
forth with a violence that completely up-ended his ice-cake, and carried him over a space of churned
torrent to the edge of another floe. Gripping this with his mighty forearms till he pulled it half under, he
succeeded in clawing out upon it. Scrambling across, he launched himself again desperately, sank almost
out of sight, rose and began swimming, with all the energy of courage and despair combined.

But already he was opposite the head of the island. Could he make it? The man’s own muscles strained
and heaved in unconscious sympathy with that struggle. The bear was a gallant swimmer, and for a

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moment it looked as if there might be the ghost of a chance for him. But no; the torrent had too deadly a
grip upon his long-furred bulk. He would just miss that last safe ledge!

In his eagerness, and without any conscious thought of what he was doing, the man stepped down into
the water knee-deep, bracing himself, and clinging with his left hand to a tough projecting root. Closer
came the bear, beating down the splintered refuse that obstructed him, his long, black body laboring
dauntlessly. Closer he came—but not quite close enough to get his strong paws on the rock. A foot more
would have done it—but that paltry foot he was unable to make good.

The man could not stand it. It was quite too fine a beast to be dragged over the falls before his eyes, if
he could help it. Reaching out swiftly with his right hand, he caught the swimmer by the long fur of his
neck, and heaved with all his strength.

For a moment he wondered if he could hold on. The great current drew and sucked, almost irresistibly.
But his grip was of steel, his muscles sound and tense. For a moment or two the situation hung in doubt.
Then the swimmer, stroking desperately, began to gain. A moment more and that narrow, deadly foot of
space was covered. The animal got first one paw upon the rocks, then the other. With prompt discretion,
the woodsman dropped his hold and stepped back to the top of the island, suddenly grown doubtful of
his own wisdom.

Drawing himself just clear of the torrent, the bear crouched, panting, for several minutes, exhausted
from the tremendous struggle; and the man, on the top of the rock, waited with his hand upon his knife
hilt to see what would come of his reckless act. In reality, however, he did not look for trouble, knowing
intuitively as he did the natures of the wild kindreds. He was merely holding himself on guard against the
unexpected. But he soon saw that his caution was unnecessary. Recovering breath, the bear clambered
around the very edge of the rocks to the farther side of the island, as far as possible from his rescuer.
There he seated himself upon his haunches, and devoted himself to gazing down, as if fascinated, at the
cauldron from which he had been snatched.

During the next half-hour the woodsman began to think. For the present, he knew that the bear was
quite inoffensive, being both grateful and overawed. But there was no food on the island for either,
except the other. So the fight was bound to be renewed at last. And after that, whoever might be the
victor, what remained for him? From that island, on the lip of the fall and walled about with wild
rapids, there could be no escape. The situation was not satisfactory from any point of view. But that
it was clear against his principles to knuckle down, under any conditions, to beast or man or fate, the
woodsman might have permitted himself to wish that, after all, his ice-cake had missed the island. As it
was, however, he took another bite from his plug of “blackjack” and set himself to whittling a stick.

With a backwoodsman’s skill in the art of whittling, he had made good progress toward the shaping
of a toy hand-sled, when, looking up from his task, he saw something that mightily changed the face of
affairs. He threw away the half-shaped toy, thrust the knife back into his belt, and rose to his feet. After
a long, sagacious survey of the flood, he drew his knife again and proceeded to cut himself a stout staff,
a sort of alpenstock. He saw that an ice-jam was forming just above the falls.

The falls of the Big Fork lie at a sharp elbow of the river, and cross the channel on a slant. Immediately
above them the river shoals sharply, and though at ordinary seasons there is only one island visible, at
times of low water huge rocks appear all along the brink. It chanced, at this particular time, that after
the first run of the ice had passed there came a second run that was mixed with logs. This ice, moreover,
was less rotten than that which had formed near the falls, and it came down in larger cakes. When some
of these big cakes, cemented with logs, grounded on the head of the island, the nucleus of a jam was
promptly formed. At the same time some logs, deeply frozen into another floe, caught and hung on one
of the unseen mid-stream ledges. An accumulation gathered in the crook of the elbow, over on the further
shore; and then, as if by magic, the rush stopped, the flood ran almost clear from the lip of the falls, and
the river was closed from bank to bank.

Charles G.D. Roberts (1860–1943) 303

The woodsman sat quietly watching, as if it were a mere idle spectacle, instead of the very bridge
of life, that was forming before his eyes. Little by little the structure welded itself, the masses of
drift surging against the barrier, piling up and diving under, till it was compacted and knit to the very
bottom—and the roar of the falls dwindled with the diminishing of the stream. This was the moment for
which the man was waiting. Now, if ever, the jam was solid, and might hold so until he gained the further
shore. But beyond this moment every second of delay only served to gather the forces that were straining
to break the obstruction. He knew that in a very few minutes the rising weight of the flood must either
sweep all before it or flow roaring over the top of the jam in a new cataract that would sweep the island
bare. He sprang to his feet, grasped his stick, and scanned the tumbled, precarious surface, choosing his
path. Then he turned and looked at the bear, wondering if that animal’s woodcraft were subtler than his
own to distinguish when the jam was secure. He found that the bear was eyeing him anxiously, and not
looking at the ice at all; so he chuckled, told himself that if he didn’t know more than a bear he’d no
business in the woods, and stepped resolutely forth upon the treacherous pack. Before he had gone ten
paces the bear jumped up with a whimper, and followed hastily, plainly conceding that the man knew
more than he.

In the strange sudden quiet, the shrunken falls clamouring thinly and the broken ice swishing against
the upper side of the jam, the man picked his way across the slippery, chaotic surface, expecting every
moment that it would crumble with a roar from under his feet. About ten or a dozen yards behind him
came the bear, stepping hurriedly, and trembling as he looked down at the diminished cataract. The
miracle of the vanishing falls daunted his spirit most effectively, and he seemed to think that the whole
mysterious phenomenon was of the man’s creating. When the two reached shore, the flood was already
boiling far up the bank. Without so much as a thank you, the bear scurried past his rescuer, and made
off through the timber like a scared cat. The man looked after him with a slow smile, then turned and
scanned the perilous path he had just traversed. As he did so, the jam seemed to melt away in mid-
channel. Then a terrific, rending roar tortured the air. The mass of logs and ice, and all the incalculable
weight of imprisoned waters hurled themselves together over the brink with a stupefying crash, and
throbbing volumes of spray leaped skyward. The woodsman’s lean face never changed a muscle, but
presently, giving a hitch to his breeches under the belt, he muttered thoughtfully:

“Blame good thing we come away when we did!”
Then, turning on his larriganed

heels, he strode up the trail till the great woods closed about him and

the raving thunders gradually died into quiet.

1. Larrigan. An oil-tanned moccasin with a long sock often reaching the knee.

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The Truce

Study Questions

1. From whose point of view is the story written?

2. Quickly read the article “Real and Sham Natural History” by John Burroughs. What is his main
negative critique of both Roberts regarding his description of the porcupine in Kindred of the Wild
(which Burroughs called “the most brilliant collection of animal stories that has appeared”) and
Ernest Thompson Seton’s story of the cottontail rabbit “Raggylug” [PDF] from Wild Animals I
Have Known (1898)?


In 1903, the American naturalist John Burroughs (1837–1921) criticized the animal stories of Roberts and
others in an article called “Real and Sham Natural History” in Atlantic Monthly vol. 91, no. 545 (March
1903), pp. 298-310. Roberts later took part in this “nature fakers’” controversy. Read and then, in an essay,
summarize Burroughs’s article, and try to find either Roberts’s, Jack London’s, or Ernest Thompson Seton’s
published rebuttals to this article. Start with the Atlantic Monthly article by Burroughs above and the online
article “Nature fakers controversy”. Another excellent source on Edsitement is “Jack London’s The Call of the
Wild: “Nature Faker”?”

Text Attributions

• “The Truce” by Charles G. D. Roberts is free of known copyright restrictions in Canada.

Media Attributions

• Charles G. D. Roberts by Unknown © Public Domain

Charles G.D. Roberts (1860–1943) 305


E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake) (1861–1913)

E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake) (1895), wearing her performance costume. Cochran, Library and Archives
Canada, accession number 1952-010, C-085125


Emily Pauline Johnson was born in 1861 at “Chiefswood,” the home her father built for his wife on
what is now the largest First Nations reserve in Canada—the Six Nations reserve—near Brantford in
present-day Ontario. Since her father was the Mohawk Chief Onwanonsyshon (George Johnson) and her
mother was an Englishwoman, Emily Susanna Howells, the family enjoyed two cultural heritages. Chief
Tekahionwake, Pauline’s great-grandfather, was the first to take the British name Johnson. He named
himself after Sir William Johnson, his godfather and British Superintendent of Indian Affairs, who in
turn was given the Mohawk name, Warraghiyagey.

During their Chiefswood period, her family hosted many distinguished guests, including Queen
Victoria’s daughter and son Princess Louise and Prince Arthur, who served as the tenth Governor
General of Canada.

Home-schooled in her early years, she later attended Brantford Central Collegiate. After the death of
her father in 1884, Mrs. Johnson and her daughters left Chiefswood and moved to Brantford, Ontario.

In the 1880s, Johnson wrote and performed in amateur theatre productions as well as began publishing
poems in the United States and Canada. In 1895, her first volume of poetry, The White Wampum, was
published. She continued to publish poems and prose in various magazines and newspapers, and as
her reputation grew, she began signing her work as both E. Pauline Johnson and Tekahionwake, her


great-grandfather’s name, thereby emphasizing her Mohawk identity and creating the “Indian princess”

From 1892 until 1909, she gave a series of successful poetry and prose recitals across Canada, the
United States, and Britain. While visiting London for the second time in 1906, she met Squamish
Chief Sa7plek (pronounced Sahp-luk), also known as Joe Capilano, and his delegation, who were there
protesting against hunting and fishing restrictions imposed on the First Nations of the British Columbia

In 1909, she moved to Vancouver to concentrate on writing. She soon began publishing Indigenous
legends recounted to her by Capilano, first in the Vancouver Province newspaper, later collected in book
form as Legends of Vancouver (1911). She died of breast cancer in 1913 and, at her request, was buried
in Stanley Park.

E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake) (1861–1913) 307

A Red Girl’s Reasoning

“Be pretty good to her, Charlie, my boy, or she’ll balk sure as shooting.”
That was what old Jimmy Robinson said to his brand-new son-in-law, while they waited for the bride

to reappear.
“Oh! you bet, there’s no danger of much else. I’ll be good to her, help me Heaven,” replied Charlie

McDonald, brightly.
“Yes, of course you will,” answered the old man, “but don’t you forget, there’s a good big bit of her

mother in her, and,” closing his left eye significantly, “you don’t understand these Indians as I do.”
“But I’m just as fond of them, Mr. Robinson,” Charlie said assertively, “and I get on with them too,

now, don’t I?”
“Yes, pretty well for a town boy; but when you have lived forty years among these people, as I have

done; when you have had your wife as long as I have had mine—for there’s no getting over it, Christine’s
disposition is as native as her mother’s, every bit—and perhaps when you’ve owned for eighteen years
a daughter as dutiful, as loving, as fearless, and, alas! as obstinate as that little piece you are stealing
away from me to-day—I tell you, youngster, you’ll know more than you know now. It is kindness for
kindness, bullet for bullet, blood for blood. Remember, what you are, she will be,” and the old Hudson
Bay trader scrutinized Charlie McDonald’s face like a detective.

It was a happy, fair face, good to look at, with a certain ripple of dimples somewhere about the mouth,
and eyes that laughed out the very sunniness of their owner’s soul. There was not a severe nor yet a
weak line anywhere. He was a well-meaning young fellow, happily dispositioned, and a great favorite
with the tribe at Robinson’s Post, whither he had gone in the service of the Department of Agriculture,
to assist the local agent through the tedium of a long census-taking. As a boy he had had the Indian relic-
hunting craze, as a youth he had studied Indian archaeology and folk-lore, as a man he consummated his
predilections for Indianology, by loving, winning and marrying the quiet little daughter of the English
trader, who himself had married a native woman twenty years ago. The country was all backwoods, and
the Post miles and miles from even the semblance of civilization, and the lonely young Englishman’s
heart had gone out to the girl who, apart from speaking a very few words of English, was utterly
uncivilized and uncultured, but had withal that marvellously innate refinement so universally possessed
by the higher tribes of North American Indians.

Like all her race, observant, intuitive, having a horror of ridicule, consequently quick at acquirement
and teachable in mental and social habits, she had developed from absolute pagan indifference into a
sweet, elderly Christian woman, whose broken English, quiet manner, and still handsome copper-colored
face, were the joy of old Robinson’s declining years.

He had given their daughter Christine all the advantages of his own learning— which, if truthfully
told, was not universal; but the girl had a fair common education, and the native adaptability to progress.

She belonged to neither and still to both types of the cultured Indian. The solemn, silent, almost heavy
manner of the one so commingled with the gesticulating Frenchiness and vivacity of the other, that one
unfamiliar with native Canadian life would find it difficult to determine her nationality.

She looked very pretty to Charles McDonald’s loving eyes, as she reappeared in the doorway, holding
her mother’s hand and saying some happy words of farewell. Personally she looked much the same as
her sisters, all Canada through, who are the offspring of red and white parentage—olive-complexioned,
gray-eyed, black-haired, with figure slight and delicate, and the wistful, unfathomable expression in her
whole face that turns one so heart-sick as they glance at the young Indians of to-day—it is the forerunner

308 Short Stories

too frequently of “the white man’s disease,” consumption
—but McDonald was pathetically in love, and

thought her the most beautiful woman he had ever seen in his life.
There had not been much of a wedding ceremony. The priest had cantered through the service in Latin,

pronounced the benediction in English, and congratulated the “happy couple” in Indian, as a compliment
to the assembled tribe in the little amateur structure that did service at the post as a sanctuary.

But the knot was tied as firmly and indissolubly as if all Charlie McDonald’s swell city friends had
crushed themselves up against the chancel to congratulate him, and in his heart he was deeply thankful
to escape the flower-pelting, white gloves, rice-throwing, and ponderous stupidity of a breakfast, and
indeed all the regulation gimcracks of the usual marriage celebrations, and it was with a hand trembling
with absolute happiness that he assisted his little Indian wife into the old muddy buckboard that, hitched
to an underbred-looking pony, was to convey them over the first stages of their journey. Then came
more adieus, some hand-clasping, old Jimmy Robinson looking very serious just at the last, Mrs. Jimmy,
stout, stolid, betraying nothing of visible emotion, and then the pony, rough-shod and shaggy, trudged
on, while mutual hand-waves were kept up until the old Hudson Bay Post dropped out of sight, and the
buckboard with its lightsome load of hearts deliriously happy, jogged on over the uneven trail.

She was “all the rage” that winter at the provincial capital.

The men called her a “deuced fine little
woman.” The ladies said she was “just the sweetest wildflower.” Whereas she was really but an ordinary,
pale, dark girl who spoke slowly and with a strong accent, who danced fairly well, sang acceptably, and
never stirred outside the door without her husband.

Charlie was proud of her; he was proud that she had “taken” so well among his friend, proud that she
bore herself so complacently in the drawing-rooms of the wives of pompous Government officials, but
doubly proud of her almost abject devotion to him. If ever human being was worshipped that being was
Charlie McDonald; it could scarcely have been otherwise, for the almost godlike strength of his passion
for that little wife of his would have mastered and melted a far more invincible citadel than an already
affectionate woman’s heart.

Favorites socially, McDonald and his wife went everywhere. In fashionable circles she was “new”—a
potent charm to acquire popularity, and the little velvet-clad figure was always the centre of interest
among all the women in the room. She always dressed in velvet. No woman in Canada, has she but the
faintest dash of native blood in her veins, but loves velvets and silks. As beef to the Englishman, wine to
the Frenchman, fads to the Yankee, so are velvet and silk to the Indian girl, be she wild as prairie grass,
be she on the borders of civilization, or, having stepped within its boundary, mounted the steps of culture
even under its superficial heights.

“Such a dolling little appil blossom,” said the wife of a local M.P., who brushed up her etiquette and
English once a year at Ottawa. “Does she always laugh so sweetly, and gobble you up with those great
big gray eyes of her, when you are togetheah at home, Mr. McDonald? If so, I should think youah pooah
brothah would feel himself terrible de trop


He laughed lightly. “Yes, Mrs. Stuart, there are not two of Christie; she is the same at home and
abroad, and as for Joe, he doesn’t mind us a bit; he’s no end fond of her.”

“I’m very glad he is. I always fancied he did not care for her, d’you know.”
If ever a blunt woman existed it was Mrs. Stuart. She really meant nothing, but her remark bothered

Charlie. He was fond of his brother, and jealous for Christie’s popularity. So that night when he and Joe
were having a pipe, he said:

“I’ve never asked you yet what you thought of her, Joe.” A brief pause, then Joe spoke. “I’m glad she
loves you.”

1. Tuberculosis.

2. Toronto.

3. Unwelcome.

E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake) (1861–1913) 309

“Because that girl has but two possibilities regarding humanity—love or hate.” “Humph! Does she

love or hate you?”
“Ask her.”
“You talk bosh. If she hated you, you’d get out. If she loved you I’d make you get out.” Joe McDonald

whistled a little, then laughed.
“Now that we are on the subject, I might as well ask—honestly, old man, wouldn’t you and Christie

prefer keeping house alone to having me always around?”
“Nonsense, sheer nonsense. Why, thunder, man, Christie’s no end fond of you, and as for me—you

surely don’t want assurances from me?”
“No, but I often think a young couple—”
“Young couple be blowed! After a while when they want you and your old surveying chains, and

spindle-legged tripod telescope kickshaws, farther west, I venture to say the little woman will cry her
eyes out—won’t you, Christie?” This last in a higher tone, as through clouds of tobacco smoke he caught
sight of his wife passing the doorway.

She entered. “Oh, no, I would not cry; I never do cry, but I would be heart-sore to lose you Joe, and
apart from that”—a little wickedly—”you may come in handy for an exchange someday, as Charlie does
always say when he hoards up duplicate relics.”

“Are Charlie and I duplicates?”
“Well—not exactly”—her head a little to one side, and eyeing them both merrily, while she slipped

softly on to the arm of her husband’s chair—” but, in the event of Charlie’s failing me”—everyone
laughed then. The “someday” that she spoke of was nearer than they thought. It came about in this wise.

There was a dance at the Lieutenant-Governor’s, and the world and his wife were there. The nobs

were in great feather that night, particularly the women, who flaunted about in new gowns and much
splendor. Christie McDonald had a new gown also, but wore it with the utmost unconcern, and if she
heard any of the flattering remarks made about her she at least appeared to disregard them.

“I never dreamed you could wear blue so splendidly,” said Captain Logan, as they sat out a dance

“Indeed she can, though,” interposed Mrs. Stuart, halting in one of her gracious sweeps down the
room with her husband’s private secretary.

“Don’t shout so, captain. I can hear every sentence you uttah—of course Mrs. McDonald can wear
blue—she has a morning gown of cadet blue that she is a picture in.”

“You are both very kind,” said Christie. “I like blue; it is the color of all the Hudson’s Bay posts, and
the factor’s residence is always decorated in blue.”

“Is it really? How interesting—do tell us some more of your old home, Mrs. McDonald; you so
seldom speak of your life at the post, and we fellows so often wish to hear of it all,” said Logan eagerly.
“Why do you not ask me of it, then?”

“Well—er, I’m sure I don’t know; I’m fully interested in the Ind—in your people— your mother’s
people, I mean, but it always seems so personal, I suppose; and— a—a—”

“Perhaps you are, like all other white people, afraid to mention my nationality to me.”
The captain winced and Mrs. Stuart laughed uneasily. Joe McDonald was not far off, and he was

listening, and chuckling, and saying to himself, “That’s you, Christie, lay ‘em out; it won’t hurt ‘em to
know how they appear once in a while.”

“Well, Captain Logan,” she was saying, “what is it you would like to hear—of my people, or my
parents, or myself?”

4. Wealthy people with high social standing.

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“All, all, my dear,” cried Mrs. Stuart clamorously. “I’ll speak for him—tell us of yourself and your
mother—your father is delightful, I am sure—but then he is only an ordinary Englishman, not half as
interesting as a foreigner, or—or, perhaps I should say, a native.”

Christie laughed. “Yes,” she said, “my father often teases my mother now about how very native
she was when he married her; then, how could she have been otherwise? She did not know a word of
English, and there was not another English-speaking person besides my father and his two companions
within sixty miles.”

“Two companions, eh? one a Catholic priest and the other a wine merchant, I suppose, and with your
father in the Hudson Bay, they were good representatives of the pioneers in the New World,” remarked
Logan, waggishly.

“Oh, no, they were all Hudson Bay men. There were no rum-sellers and no missionaries in that part
of the country then.”

Mrs. Stuart looked puzzled. “No missionaries?” she repeated with an odd intonation.
Christie’s insight was quick. There was a peculiar expression of interrogation in the eyes of her

listeners, and the girl’s blood leapt angrily up into her temples as she said hurriedly, “I know what you
mean; I know what you are thinking. You were wondering how my parents were married—”

“Well—er, my dear, it seems peculiar—if there was no priest, and no magistrate, why—a—” Mrs.
Stuart paused awkwardly.

“The marriage was performed by Indian rites,” said Christie.
“Oh, do tell me about it; is the ceremony very interesting and quaint—are your chieftains anything

like Buddhist priests?” It was Logan who spoke.
“Why, no,” said the girl in amazement at that gentleman’s ignorance. “There is no ceremony at all,

save a feast. The two people just agree to live only with and for each other, and the man takes his wife to
his home, just as you do. There is no ritual to bind them; they need none; an Indian’s word was his law
in those days, you know.”

Mrs. Stuart stepped backwards. “Ah!” was all she said. Logan removed his eye-glass and stared
blankly at Christie. “And did McDonald marry you in this singular fashion?” He questioned.

“Oh, no, we were married by Father O’Leary. Why do you ask?” “Because if he had, I’d have blown
his brain out to-morrow.”

Mrs. Stuart’s partner, who had hitherto been silent, coughed and began to twirl his cuff stud nervously,
but nobody took any notice of him. Christie had risen, slowly, ominously—risen, with the dignity and
pride of an empress.

“Captain Logan,” she said, “what do you dare to say to me? What do you dare to mean? Do you
presume to think it would not have been lawful for Charlie to marry me according to my people’s rites?
Do you for one instant dare to question that my parents were not as legally—”

“Don’t, dear, don’t,” interrupted Mrs. Stuart hurriedly; “it is bad enough now, goodness knows; don’t
make—” Then she broke off blindly. Christie’s eyes glared at the mumbling woman, at her uneasy
partner, at the horrified captain. Then they rested on the McDonald brothers, who stood within earshot,
Joe’s face scarlet, her husband’s white as ashes, with something in his eyes she had never seen before. It
was Joe who saved the situation.

Stepping quickly across towards his sister-in-law, he offered her his arm, saying, “The next dance is
ours, I think, Christie.”

Then Logan pulled himself together, and attempted to carry Mrs. Stuart off for the waltz, but for once
in her life that lady had lost her head. “It is shocking!” she said, “outrageously shocking! I wonder if
they told Mr. McDonald before he married her!” Then looking hurriedly round, she too saw the young
husband’s face—and knew that they had not.

E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake) (1861–1913) 311

“Humph! deuced nice kettle of fish—and poor old Charlie has always thought so much of honorable

Logan thought he spoke in an undertone, but “poor old Charlie” heard him. He followed his wife and
brother across the room. “Joe,” he said, “will you see that a trap is called?” Then to Christie, “Joe will
see that you get home all right.” He wheeled on his heel then and left the ball-room.

Joe did see.
He tucked a poor, shivering, pallid little woman into a cab, and wound her bare throat up in the scarlet

velvet cloak that was hanging uselessly over her arm. She crouched down beside him, saying, “I am so
cold, Joe; I am so cold,” but she did not seem to know enough to wrap herself up. Joe felt all through
this long drive that nothing this side of Heaven would be so good as to die, and he was glad when the
little voice at his elbow said, “What is he so angry at, Joe?”

“I don’t know exactly, dear,” he said gently, “but I think it was what you said about this Indian

“But why should I not have said it? Is there anything wrong about it?” she asked pitifully.
“Nothing, that I can see—there was no other way; but Charlie is very angry, and you must be brave

and forgiving with him, Christie, dear.”
“But I did never see him like that before, did you?”
“Oh, at college, one day, a boy tore his prayer book in half, and threw it into the grate, just to be mean,

you know. Our mother had given it to him at his confirmation.”
“And did he look so?”
“About, but it all blew over in a day—Charlie’s tempers are short and brisk. Just don’t take any notice

of him; run off to bed, and he’ll have forgotten it by the morning.”
They reached home at last. Christie said goodnight quietly, going directly to her room.
Joe went to his room also, filled a pipe and smoked for an hour. Across the passage he could hear

her slippered feet pacing up and down, up and down the length of her apartment. There was something
panther-like in those restless footfalls, a meaning velvetyness that made him shiver, and again he wished
he were dead—or elsewhere.

After a time the hall door opened, and someone came upstairs, along the passage, and to the little
woman’s room. As he entered, she turned and faced him.

“Christie,” he said harshly, “do you know what you have done?”
“Yes,” taking a step nearer him, her whole soul springing up into her eyes, “I have angered you,

Charlie, and—”
“Angered me? You have disgraced me; and, moreover, you have disgraced yourself and both your

“Yes, disgraced; you have literally declared to the whole city that your father and mother were never

married, and that you are the child of—what shall we call it—love? certainly not legality.”
Across the hallway sat Joe McDonald, his blood freezing; but it leapt into every vein like fire at the

awful anguish in the little voice that cried simply, “Oh! Charlie!”
“How could you do it, how could you do it, Christie, without shame either for yourself or for me, let

alone your parents?”
The voice was like an angry demon’s—not a trace was there in it of the yellow-haired, blue-eyed,

laughing-lipped boy who had driven away so gaily to the dance five hours before.
“Shame? Why should I be ashamed of the rites of my people any more than you should be ashamed

of the customs of yours—of a marriage more sacred and holy than half of your white man’s mockeries.”

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It was the voice of another nature in the girl—the love and the pleading were dead in it. “Do you
mean to tell me, Charlie—you who have studied my race and their laws for years—do you mean to tell
me that, because there was no priest and no magistrate, my mother was not married? Do you mean to
say that all my forefathers, for hundreds of years back, have been illegally born? If so, you blacken my
ancestry beyond— beyond—beyond all reason.”

“No, Christie, I would not be so brutal as that; but your father and mother live in more civilized times.
Father O’Leary has been at the post for nearly twenty years. Why was not your father straight enough to
have the ceremony performed when he did get the chance?”

The girl turned upon him with the face of a fury. “Do you suppose,” she almost hissed, “that my
mother would be married according to your white rites after she had been five years a wife, and
I had been born in the meantime? No, a thousand times I say, no. When the priest came with his
notions of Christianizing, and talked to them of re-marriage by the Church, my mother arose and said,
‘Never—never—I have never had but this one husband; he has had none but me for wife, and to have
you re-marry us would be to say as much to the whole world as that we had never been married before.
[Fact.] You go away; I do not ask that your people be re-married; talk not so to me. I am married, and
you or the Church cannot do or undo it.’”

“Your father was a fool not to insist upon the law, and so was the priest.”
“Law? My people have no priest, and my nation cringes not to law. Our priest is purity, and our law is

honor. Priest? Was there a priest at the most holy marriage known to humanity—that stainless marriage
whose offspring is the God you white men told my pagan mother of?”

“Christie—you are worse than blasphemous; such a profane remark shows how little you understand
the sanctity of the Christian faith—”

“I know what I do understand; it is that you are hating me because I told some of the beautiful customs
of my people to Mrs. Stuart and those men.”

“Pooh! who cares for them? It is not them; the trouble is they won’t keep their mouths shut. Logan’s a
cad and will toss the whole tale about at the club to-morrow night; and as for the Stuart woman, I’d like
to know how I’m going to take you to Ottawa for presentation and the opening, while she is blabbing the
whole miserable scandal in every drawing-room, and I’ll be pointed out as a romantic fool, and you—
as worse; I can’t understand why your father didn’t tell me before we were married; I at least might
have warned you never to mention it.” Something of recklessness rang up through his voice, just as the
panther-likeness crept up from her footsteps and couched herself in hers. She spoke in tones quiet, soft,

“Before we were married! Oh! Charlie, would it have—made—any—difference?” “God knows,” he
said, throwing himself into a chair, his blonde hair rumpled and wet. It was the only boyish thing about
him now.

She walked towards him, then halted in the centre of the room. “Charlie McDonald,” she said, and it
was as if a stone had spoken, “look up.” He raised his head, startled by her tone. There was a threat in
her eyes that, had his rage been less courageous, his pride less bitterly wounded, would have cowed him.

“There was no such time as that before our marriage, for we are not married now. Stop,” she said,
outstretching her palms against him as he sprang to his feet, “I tell you we are not married. Why should
I recognize the rites of your nation when you do not acknowledge the rites of mine? According to
your own words, my parents should have gone through your church ceremony as well as through an
Indian contract; according to my words, we should go through an Indian contract as well as through a
church marriage. If their union is illegal, so is ours. If you think my father is living in dishonor with
my mother, my people will think I am living in dishonor with you. How do I know when another nation
will come and conquer you as you white men conquered us? And they will have another marriage rite to

E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake) (1861–1913) 313

perform, and they will tell us another truth, that you are not my husband, that you are but disgracing and
dishonoring me, that you are keeping me here, not as your wife, but as your—your—squaw.”

The terrible word had never passed her lips before, and the blood stained her face to her very temples.
She snatched off her wedding ring and tossed it across the room, saying scornfully, “That thing is as
empty to me as the Indian rites to you.”

He caught her by the wrists; his small white teeth were locked tightly, his blue eyes blazed into hers.
“Christine, do you dare doubt my honor towards you? you, whom I should have died for; do you dare

to think I have kept you here, not as my wife, but—”
“Oh, God! You are hurting me; you are breaking my arm,” she gasped.
The door was flung open, and Joe McDonald’s sinewy hands clinched like vices on his brother’s

“Charlie, you’re mad, mad as the devil. Let go of her this minute.”
The girl staggered backwards as the iron fingers loosed her wrists. “Oh! Joe,” she cried, “I am not his

wife, and he says I am born—nameless.”
“Here,” said Joe, shoving his brother towards the door. “Go downstairs till you can collect your senses.

If ever a being acted like an infernal fool, you’re the man.”
The young husband looked from one to the other, dazed by his wife’s insult, abandoned to a fit of

ridiculously childish temper. Blind as he was with passion, he remembered long afterwards seeing them
standing there, his brother’s face darkened with a scowl of anger—his wife, clad in the mockery of her
ball dress, her scarlet velvet cloak half covering her bare brown neck and arms, her eyes like flames of
fire, her face like a piece of sculptured graystone.

Without a word he flung himself furiously from the room, and immediately afterwards they heard the
heavy hall door bang behind him.

“Can I do anything for you, Christie?” asked her brother-in-law calmly. “No, thank you—unless—I
think I would like a drink of water, please.”

He brought her up a goblet filled with wine; her hand did not even tremble as she took it. As for Joe,
a demon arose in his soul as he noticed she kept her wrists covered.

“Do you think he will come back?” she said.
“Oh, yes, of course; he’ll be all right in the morning. Now go to bed like a good little girl, and—and,

I say, Christie, you can call me if you want anything; I’ll be right here, you know.”
“Thank you, Joe; you are kind—and good.”
He returned then to his apartment. His pipe was out, but he picked up a newspaper instead, threw

himself into an armchair, and in a half-hour was in the land of dreams.
When Charlie came home in the morning, after a six-mile walk into the country and back again, his

foolish anger was dead and buried. Logan’s “Poor old Charlie” did not ring so distinctly in his ears.
Mrs. Stuart’s horrified expression had faded considerably from his recollection. He thought only of that
surprisingly tall, dark girl, whose eyes looked like coals, whose voice pierced him like a flint-tipped
arrow. Ah, well, they would never quarrel again like that, he told himself. She loved him so, and would
forgive him after he had talked quietly to her, and told her what an ass he was.

She was simple-minded and awfully ignorant to pitch those old Indian laws at him in her fury, but he
could not blame her; oh, no, he could not for one moment blame her. He had been terribly severe and
unreasonable, and the horrid McDonald temper had got the better of him; and he loved her so. Oh! He
loved her so! She would surely feel that, and forgive him, and— He went straight to his wife’s room.
The blue velvet evening dress lay on the chair into which he had thrown himself when he doomed his
life’s happiness by those two words, “God knows.” A bunch of dead daffodils and her slippers were on
the floor, everything—but Christie.

He went to his brother’s bedroom door.

314 Short Stories

“Joe,” he called, rapping nervously thereon; “Joe, wake up; where’s Christie, d’you know?” “Good
Lord, no,” gasped that youth, springing out of his armchair and opening the door. As he did so a note fell
from off the handle. Charlie’s face blanched to his very hair while Joe read aloud, his voice weakening
at every word:

“DEAR OLD JOE,—I went into your room at daylight to get that picture of the Post on your
bookshelves. I hope you do not mind, but I kissed your hair while your slept; it was so curly, and yellow,
and soft, just like his. Good-bye, Joe.

And when Joe looked into his brother’s face and saw the anguish settle in those laughing blue eyes,

the despair that drove the dimples away from that almost girlish mouth; when he realized that this boy
was but four-and-twenty years old, and that all his future was perhaps darkened and shadowed forever, a
great, deep sorrow arose in his heart, and he forgot all things, all but the agony that rang up through the
voice of the fair, handsome lad as he staggered forward, crying, “Oh! Joe—what shall I do—what shall
I do!”

It was months and months before he found her, but during all that time he had never known a
hopeless moment; discouraged he often was, but despondent, never. The sunniness of his ever-boyish
heart radiated with warmth that would have flooded a much deeper gloom than that which settled within
his eager young life. Suffer? ah! yes, he suffered, not with locked teeth and stony stoicism, not with
the masterful self-command, the reserve, the conquered bitterness of the still-water sort of nature, that
is supposed to run to such depths. He tried to be bright, and his sweet old boyish self. He would laugh
sometimes in a pitiful, pathetic fashion. He took to petting dogs, looking into their large, solemn eyes
with his wistful, questioning blue ones; he would kiss them, as women sometimes do, and call them
“dear old fellow,” in tones that had tears; and once in the course of his travels while at a little way-station,
he discovered a huge St. Bernard imprisoned by some mischance in an empty freight car; the animal
was nearly dead from starvation, and it seemed to salve his own sick heart to rescue back the dog’s life.
Nobody claimed the big starving creature, the train hands knew nothing of its owner, and gladly handed
it over to its deliverer. “Hudson,” he called it, and afterwards when Joe McDonald would relate the story
of his brother’s life he invariably terminated it with, “And I really believe that big lumbering brute saved
him.” From what, he was never to say.

But all things end, and he heard of her at last. She had never returned to the Post, as he at first thought
she would, but had gone to the little town of B——, in Ontario, where she was making her living at
embroidery and plain sewing.

The September sun had set redly when at last he reached the outskirts of the town, opened up the
wicket gate, and walked up the weedy, unkept path leading to the cottage where she lodged.

Even through the twilight, he could see her there, leaning on the rail of the verandah—oddly enough
she had about her shoulders the scarlet velvet cloak she wore when he had flung himself so madly from
the room that night.

The moment the lad saw her his heart swelled with a sudden heat, burning moisture leapt into his
eyes, and clogged his long, boyish lashes. He bounded up the steps— “Christie,” he said, and the word
scorched his lips like audible flame.

She turned to him, and for a second stood magnetized by his passionately wistful face; her peculiar
grayish eyes seemed to drink the very life of his unquenchable love, though the tears that suddenly
sprang into his seemed to absorb every pulse in his body through those hungry, pleading eyes of his that
had, oh! so often been blinded by her kisses when once her whole world lay in their blue depths.

“You will come back to me, Christie, my wife? My wife, you will let me love you again?”
She gave a singular little gasp and shook her head. “Don’t, oh! don’t,” he cried piteously. “You will

E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake) (1861–1913) 315

come to me, dear? it is all such a bitter mistake—I did not understand. Oh! Christie, I did not understand,
and you’ll forgive me, and love me again, won’t you—won’t you?”

“No,” said the girl with quick, indrawn breath.
He dashed the back of his hand across his wet eyelids. His lips were growing numb, and he bungled

over the monosyllable “Why?”
“I do not like you,” she answered quietly. “God! Oh! God, what is there left?”
She did not appear to hear the heart-break in his voice; she stood like one wrapped in sombre thought;

no blaze, no tear, nothing in her eyes; no hardness, no tenderness about her mouth. The wind was
blowing her cloak aside, and the only visible human life in her whole body was once when he spoke the
muscles of her brown arm seemed to contract.

“But, darling, you are mine—mine—we are husband and wife! Oh, heaven, you must love me, and
you must come to me again.”

“You cannot make me come,” said the icy voice, “neither church, nor law, nor even”—and the voice
softened— “nor even love can make a slave of a red girl.”

“Heaven forbid it,” he faltered. “No, Christie, I will never claim you without your love. What reunion
would that be? But oh, Christie, you are lying to me, you are lying to yourself, you are lying to heaven.”

She did not move. If only he could touch her he felt as sure of her yielding as he felt sure there was a
hereafter. The memory of the times when he had but to lay his hand on her hair to call a most passionate
response from her filled his heart with a torture that choked all words before they reached his lips; at
the thought of those days he forgot she was unapproachable, forgot how forbidding were her eyes, how
stony her lips. Flinging himself forward, his knee on the chair at her side, his face pressed hardly in
the folds of the cloak on her shoulder, he clasped his arms about her with a boyish petulance, saying,
“Christie, Christie, my little girl wife, I love you, I love you, and you are killing me.”

She quivered from head to foot as his fair, wavy hair brushed her neck, his despairing face sank lower
until his cheek, hot as fire, rested on the cool, olive flesh of her arm. A warm moisture oozed up through
her skin, and as he felt its glow he looked up. Her teeth, white and cold, were locked over her under lip,
and her eyes were as gray stones.

Not murderers alone know the agony of a death sentence.
“Is it all useless? all useless, dear?” he said, with lips starving for hers.
“All useless,” she repeated. “I have no love for you now. You forfeited me and my heart months ago,

when you said those two words.”
His arms fell away from her wearily, he arose mechanically, he placed his little gray checked cap on

the back of his yellow curls, the old-time laughter was dead in the blue eyes that now looked scared and
haunted, the boyishness and the dimples crept away forever from the lips that quivered like a child’s; he
turned from her, but she had looked once into his face as the Law Giver must have looked at the land of

outspread at his feet. She watched him go down the long path and through the picket gate, she

watched the big yellowish dog that had waited for him lumber up on to its feet—stretch—then follow
him. She was conscious of but two things, the vengeful lie in her soul, and a little space on her arm that
his wet lashes had brushed.

It was hours afterwards when he reached his room. He had said nothing, done nothing—what use were
words or deeds? Old Jimmy Robinson was right; she had “balked” sure enough.

What a bare, hotelish room it was! He tossed off his coat and sat for ten minutes looking blankly at
the sputtering gas jet. Then his whole life, desolate as a desert, loomed up before him with appalling
distinctness. Throwing himself on the floor beside his bed, with clasped hands and arms outstretched on
the white counterpane, he sobbed. “Oh! God, dear God, I thought you loved me; I thought you’d let me

5. The promised land which God gave to Abraham and his descendants.

316 Short Stories

have her again, but you must be tired of me, tired of loving me too. I’ve nothing left now, nothing! it
doesn’t seem that I even have you to-night.”

He lifted his face then, for his dog, big and clumsy and yellow, was licking at his sleeve.

E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake) (1861–1913) 317


A Red Girl’s Reasoning

Study Questions

1. What is the main conflict in the story?

2. What are the story’s settings?

3. Describe the social circle to which Charlie was accustomed in the provincial capital of Toronto.
What does the word “swell” mean? Check the definition in the Canadian Oxford Dictionary or in
a good college dictionary.

4. Describe Mrs. Stuart.

5. Describe Charlie’s brother Joe McDonald.

6. Why does Captain Logan refer to Charlie as “poor old Charlie”?

7. What is the main disagreement between Charlie and Christine?

8. To what does Christine refer as “the most holy marriage known to humanity”?

9. How does Johnson critique stereotypes about women and Indigenous people in the story?

10. What does Charlie say that leads to the couple’s breakup?


1. Read the short CanLit study guide on Johnson from the University of British Columbia
(Canadian Literature) Apr. 2013.

2. Next, read Johnson’s essay “A Strong Race Opinion” [PDF] (file provided by the CanLit Guides
page on “A Strong Race Opinion”), in which she argues that North American literature represents
Aboriginal women in a stereotypical way. How does “A Red Girl’s Reasoning” reflect Johnson’s
criticism of North American representations of Indigenous women in “A Strong Race Opinion”?
Is Christine her Indigenous heroine?

3. Look up the term “assimilation” in Canadian history. Does Christine reject the notion of

Media Attributions

• E. Pauline Johnson by Cochran, Library and Archives Canada, accession number 1952-010,
C-085125 © Public Domain

318 Short Stories


O. Henry (1862–1910)


William Sidney Porter (who wrote under his pen name, O. Henry) was born on September 11, 1862,
in Greensboro, North Carolina. When William was three, his mother died, and he and his physician
father moved into the home of his paternal grandmother. As a child, Porter read widely. Until he turned
fifteen, he received tutoring from his aunt, and by the age of nineteen, he was licensed as a pharmacist.

For health reasons, in 1882, Porter moved to Texas, where he became a ranch hand and his health
improved. In 1884, he travelled to Austin, Texas, where he stayed for a number of years. He spent some
time again working as a pharmacist and began writing on the side.

In 1887, Porter eloped with Athol Estes, who had been ill with tuberculosis. Two years later, she gave
birth to a daughter.

Porter later began working at the First National Bank of Austin as a teller and bookkeeper, and in
1894, he was accused by the bank of embezzlement and lost his job, but he was not indicted at the time.

Porter’s father-in-law posted bail to keep him out of jail. He was due to stand trial on July 7, 1896,
but the day before, as he was changing trains to get to the courthouse, he fled to New Orleans and later
to Honduras, with which the United States had no extradition treaty. Porter had sent Athol and Margaret
back to Austin to live with Athol’s parents. Athol became too ill to meet Porter in Honduras as he
had planned. When he learned that his wife was dying, Porter returned to Austin in February 1897 and
surrendered to the court, pending trial. Athol Estes Porter died from tuberculosis on July 25, 1897.

Found guilty on February 17, 1898, of embezzling $854.08, he was sentenced to five years in prison


at the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus. Porter was a licensed pharmacist and was able to work in the
prison hospital as the night druggist. He was given his own room in the hospital wing, and there is no
record that he actually spent time in the cell block of the prison. He had fourteen stories published under
various pseudonyms while he was in prison but was becoming best known as “O. Henry,” a pseudonym
that first appeared over the story “Whistling Dick’s Christmas Stocking” in the December 1899 issue
of McClure’s Magazine. A friend of his in New Orleans would forward his stories to publishers so that
they had no idea that the writer was imprisoned.

Porter was released on July 24, 1901, for good behaviour after serving three years. He reunited
with his daughter Margaret, now age 11, in Pittsburgh, where Athol’s parents had moved after Porter’s
conviction. Margaret was never told that her father had been in prison—just that he had been away on

Porter’s most prolific writing period started in 1902, when he moved to New York City to be near his
publishers. While there, he wrote 381 short stories. He wrote a story a week for over a year for the New
York World Sunday Magazine. His wit, characterization, and plot twists were adored by his readers but
often panned by critics.

Porter married again in 1907 to his childhood sweetheart Sarah Lindsey Coleman, whom he met again
after revisiting his native state of North Carolina. Sarah Lindsey Coleman was herself a writer and wrote
a romanticized and fictionalized version of their correspondence and courtship in her novella Wind of

Porter was a heavy drinker, and by 1908, his markedly deteriorating health affected his writing. In
1909, Sarah left him, and he died on June 5, 1910.

Cabbages and Kings (1904) was his first collection of stories, followed by The Four Million (1906),
whose title is something of a rebuke to a prominent society journalist. In the book’s preface, Porter
criticized the journalist’s “assertion that there were only ‘Four Hundred’ people in New York City who
were really worth noticing. But a wiser man has arisen—the census taker—and his larger estimate of
human interest has been preferred in marking out the field of these little stories of the ‘Four Million.’”
To O. Henry, everyone in New York counted.

320 Short Stories

Published 1906

After Twenty Years

The policeman on the beat moved up the avenue impressively. The
impressiveness was habitual and not for show, for spectators were few. The
time was barely 10 o’clock at night, but chilly gusts of wind with a taste of
rain in them had well nigh de-peopled the streets.

Trying doors as he went, twirling his club with many intricate and artful
movements, turning now and then to cast his watchful eye adown the pacific
thoroughfare, the officer, with his stalwart form and slight swagger, made a
fine picture of a guardian of the peace. The vicinity was one that kept early hours. Now and then you
might see the lights of a cigar store or of an all-night lunch counter; but the majority of the doors
belonged to business places that had long since been closed.

When about midway of a certain block the policeman suddenly slowed his walk. In the doorway of a
darkened hardware store a man leaned, with an unlighted cigar in his mouth. As the policeman walked
up to him the man spoke up quickly.

“It’s all right, officer,” he said, reassuringly. “I’m just waiting for a friend. It’s an appointment made
twenty years ago. Sounds a little funny to you, doesn’t it? Well, I’ll explain if you’d like to make certain
it’s all straight. About that long ago there used to be a restaurant where this store stands—’Big Joe’
Brady’s restaurant.”

“Until five years ago,” said the policeman. “It was torn down then.”
The man in the doorway struck a match and lit his cigar. The light showed a pale, square-jawed face

with keen eyes, and a little white scar near his right eyebrow. His scarfpin was a large diamond, oddly

“Twenty years ago to-night,” said the man, “I dined here at ‘Big Joe’ Brady’s with Jimmy Wells,
my best chum, and the finest chap in the world. He and I were raised here in New York, just like two
brothers, together. I was eighteen and Jimmy was twenty. The next morning I was to start for the West
to make my fortune. You couldn’t have dragged Jimmy out of New York; he thought it was the only
place on earth. Well, we agreed that night that we would meet here again exactly twenty years from that
date and time, no matter what our conditions might be or from what distance we might have to come.
We figured that in twenty years each of us ought to have our destiny worked out and our fortunes made,
whatever they were going to be.”

“It sounds pretty interesting,” said the policeman. “Rather a long time between meets, though, it seems
to me. Haven’t you heard from your friend since you left?”

“Well, yes, for a time we corresponded,” said the other. “But after a year or two we lost track of each
other. You see, the West is a pretty big proposition, and I kept hustling around over it pretty lively. But
I know Jimmy will meet me here if he’s alive, for he always was the truest, stanchest old chap in the
world. He’ll never forget. I came a thousand miles to stand in this door to-night, and it’s worth it if my
old partner turns up.”

The waiting man pulled out a handsome watch, the lids of it set with small diamonds.
“Three minutes to ten,” he announced. “It was exactly ten o’clock when we parted here at the

restaurant door.”
“Did pretty well out West, didn’t you?” asked the policeman.
“You bet! I hope Jimmy has done half as well. He was a kind of plodder, though, good fellow as he

O. Henry (1862–1910) 321

was. I’ve had to compete with some of the sharpest wits going to get my pile. A man gets in a groove in
New York. It takes the West to put a razor-edge on him.”

The policeman twirled his club and took a step or two.
“I’ll be on my way. Hope your friend comes around all right. Going to call time on him sharp?”
“I should say not!” said the other. “I’ll give him half an hour at least. If Jimmy is alive on earth he’ll

be here by that time. So long, officer.”
“Good-night, sir,” said the policeman, passing on along his beat, trying doors as he went.
There was now a fine, cold drizzle falling, and the wind had risen from its uncertain puffs into a

steady blow. The few foot passengers astir in that quarter hurried dismally and silently along with coat
collars turned high and pocketed hands. And in the door of the hardware store the man who had come a
thousand miles to fill an appointment, uncertain almost to absurdity, with the friend of his youth, smoked
his cigar and waited.

About twenty minutes he waited, and then a tall man in a long overcoat, with collar turned up to his
ears, hurried across from the opposite side of the street. He went directly to the waiting man.

“Is that you, Bob?” he asked, doubtfully.
“Is that you, Jimmy Wells?” cried the man in the door.
“Bless my heart!” exclaimed the new arrival, grasping both the other’s hands with his own. “It’s Bob,

sure as fate. I was certain I’d find you here if you were still in existence. Well, well, well!—twenty years
is a long time. The old restaurant’s gone, Bob; I wish it had lasted, so we could have had another dinner
there. How has the West treated you, old man?”

“Bully; it has given me everything I asked it for. You’ve changed lots, Jimmy. I never thought you
were so tall by two or three inches.”

“Oh, I grew a bit after I was twenty.”
“Doing well in New York, Jimmy?”
“Moderately. I have a position in one of the city departments. Come on, Bob; we’ll go around to a

place I know of, and have a good long talk about old times.”
The two men started up the street, arm in arm. The man from the West, his egotism enlarged by

success, was beginning to outline the history of his career. The other, submerged in his overcoat, listened
with interest.

At the corner stood a drug store, brilliant with electric lights. When they came into this glare each of
them turned simultaneously to gaze upon the other’s face.

The man from the West stopped suddenly and released his arm.
“You’re not Jimmy Wells,” he snapped. “Twenty years is a long time, but not long enough to change

a man’s nose from a Roman to a pug.”
“It sometimes changes a good man into a bad one,” said the tall man. “You’ve been under arrest for

ten minutes, ‘Silky’ Bob. Chicago thinks you may have dropped over our way and wires us she wants to
have a chat with you. Going quietly, are you? That’s sensible. Now, before we go on to the station here’s
a note I was asked to hand you. You may read it here at the window. It’s from Patrolman Wells.”

The man from the West unfolded the little piece of paper handed him. His hand was steady when he
began to read, but it trembled a little by the time he had finished. The note was rather short.

Bob: I was at the appointed place on time. When you struck a match to light your cigar I saw it was
the face of the man wanted in Chicago. Somehow I couldn’t do it myself, so I went around and got a
plain clothes man to do the job.


322 Short Stories


After Twenty Years

Study Questions

1. Discuss the major irony revealed in the last section of the story.

2. Of the three types of irony, which one does it best illustrate: verbal irony, dramatic irony, or irony
of situation?

3. Discuss the main difference between Jimmy and Bob in terms of their values.

4. Discuss the importance of the line near the end of the story, “It sometimes changes a good man
into a bad one.” What is the theme of this story?

5. Find the two jewellery images and explain their significance.

6. Why was Jimmy twenty minutes late for the two men’s appointment?

7. Why does the tall policeman who walks with Bob wear his coat “up to his ears”?

8. What thematic purpose is served by the description of the first policeman as “guarding the

9. In terms of setting, how is “the West” contrasted with “New York”? What adjective in popular
culture is often used before “West”? Find one line of Bob’s that suggests a key difference.

10. In the film script (using the closed captioning), find at least three examples of incorrect
transcription in the movie adaptation below.

11. Write a short paper arguing that the policeman described in the first few paragraphs is or is not
Jimmy Wells.


Please watch the following short film adaptation, produced in 2016 by an Indian production company. It
soon becomes clear that the actors are not Americans, but Indians. Does this fact lessen your appreciation of the
film? Discuss the effectiveness of the setting, the soundtrack, and the lighting. Watch the short film adaptation
of O. Henry’s “After Twenty Years”.

Text Attributions

• Biography: O. Henry by Wikipedia. Adapted by James Sexton. © Creative Commons
Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Licence

• “After Twenty Years” by O. Henry is free of known copyright restrictions in Canada.

O. Henry (1862–1910) 323

Media Attributions

• William Sydney Porter by doubleday by W. M. Vanderweyde © Public Domain

324 Short Stories


Edith Wharton (1862–1937)


Edith Wharton was an American author, born Edith Newbold Jones. She was born into a wealthy New
York family, whose wealth and privilege made it the alleged source of the phrase “keeping up with the
Joneses.” She was a prolific author of nearly twenty novels and many short stories, essays, poems, and
works of non-fiction, and is best known for her novels and novellas, such as The House of Mirth (1905),
Ethan Frome (1911), and The Age of Innocence (1920). For this last book she was awarded the Pulitzer
Prize, making her the first female recipient of this award.

Many of her novels of manners show New York society, often depicting individuals struggling against
its rigid conventions and moral codes. Her marriage to a wealthy but older Bostonian was an unhappy
one, and after gaining a divorce from Edward “Teddy” Wharton, who for years struggled with a mental
disorder, she settled in Paris and later, in the south of France at Castel Sainte Claire in Hyères.

In 1932, Aldous Huxley wrote an article praising Twilight Sleep (1927), her novel satirizing modern
materialistic values, noting that Edith Wharton “has laid her finger on the essential act about modern
superstitions. They give results here and now; and if they don’t give results, they fail. People turn to
the supernatural for some immediate benefit—such as slenderer hips, freedom from worry, shortcuts to
success, improved digestions, money. They want not truth, but power” (Aldous Huxley’s Hearst Essays,
ed. J. Sexton, New York 1994). Later he wrote a kind of fan letter to Wharton from his own villa nearby
in Sanary-sur-Mer, near Marseille, and they remained friends until her death, exchanging visits a few
times a year.


Published 1934

Roman Fever

From the table at which they had been lunching two American ladies of ripe
but well-cared-for middle age moved across the lofty terrace of the Roman
restaurant and, leaning on its parapet, looked first at each other, and then
down on the outspread glories of the Palatine

and the Forum, with the same

expression of vague but benevolent approval.
As they leaned there a girlish voice echoed up gaily from the stairs leading

to the court below. “Well, come along, then,” it cried, not to them but to an
invisible companion, “and let’s leave the young things to their knitting,” and a voice as fresh laughed
back: “Oh, look here, Babs, not actually knitting—” “Well, I mean figuratively,” rejoined the first. “After
all, we haven’t left our poor parents much else to do.. . .” At that point the turn of the stairs engulfed the

The two ladies looked at each other again, this time with a tinge of smiling embarrassment, and the
smaller and paler one shook her head and colored slightly.

“Barbara!” she murmured, sending an unheard rebuke after the mocking voice in the stairway.
The other lady, who was fuller, and higher in color, with a small determined nose supported by

vigorous black eyebrows, gave a good-humored laugh. “That’s what our daughters think of us.”
Her companion replied by a deprecating gesture. “Not of us individually. We must remember that. It’s

just the collective modern idea of Mothers. And you see—” Half guiltily she drew from her handsomely
mounted black handbag a twist of crimson silk run through by two fine knitting needles. “One never
knows,” she murmured. “The new system has certainly given us a good deal of time to kill; and
sometimes I get tired just looking—even at this.” Her gesture was now addressed to the stupendous
scene at their feet.

The dark lady laughed again, and they both relapsed upon the view, contemplating it in silence, with
a sort of diffused serenity which might have been borrowed from the spring effulgence of the Roman
skies. The luncheon hour was long past, and the two had their end of the vast terrace to themselves. At
its opposite extremity a few groups, detained by a lingering look at the outspread city, were gathering
up guidebooks and fumbling for tips. The last of them scattered, and the two ladies were alone on the
air-washed height.

“Well, I don’t see why we shouldn’t just stay here,” said Mrs. Slade, the lady of the high color and
energetic brows. Two derelict basket chairs stood near, and she pushed them into the angle of the parapet,
and settled herself in one, her gaze upon the Palatine. “After all, it’s still the most beautiful view in the

“It always will be, to me,” assented her friend Mrs. Ansley, with so slight a stress on the “me”
that Mrs. Slade, though she noticed it, wondered if it were not merely accidental, like the random
underlinings of old-fashioned letter writers.

“Grace Ansley was always old-fashioned,” she thought; and added aloud, with a retrospective smile:
“It’s a view we’ve both been familiar with for a good many years. When we first met here we were
younger than our girls are now. You remember!”

“Oh, yes, I remember,” murmured Mrs. Ansley, with the same undefinable stress— “There’s that
head-waiter wondering,” she interpolated. She was evidently far less sure than her companion of herself
and of her rights in the world.

1. Centremost of the Seven Hills of Rome. It stands forty metres above the Roman Forum, the central plaza of ancient Rome.

326 Short Stories

“I’ll cure him of wondering,” said Mrs. Slade, stretching her hand toward a bag as discreetly opulent-
looking as Mrs. Ansley’s. Signing to the headwaiter, she explained that she and her friend were old
lovers of Rome, and would like to spend the end of the afternoon looking down on the view—that is, if
it did not disturb the service! The headwaiter, bowing over her gratuity, assured her that the ladies were
most welcome, and would be still more so if they would condescend to remain for dinner. A full moon
night, they would remember….

Mrs. Slade’s black brows drew together, as though references to the moon were out of place and even
unwelcome. But she smiled away her frown as the headwaiter retreated. “Well, why not! We might do
worse. There’s no knowing, I suppose, when the girls will be back. Do you even know back from where?
I don’t!”

Mrs. Ansley again colored slightly. “I think those young Italian aviators we met at the Embassy invited
them to fly to Tarquinia

for tea. I suppose they’ll want to wait and fly back by moonlight.”

“Moonlight—moonlight! What a part it still plays. Do you suppose they’re as sentimental as we

“I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t in the least know what they are,” said Mrs. Ansley. “And
perhaps we didn’t know much more about each other.”

“No, perhaps we didn’t.”
Her friend gave her a shy glance. “I never should have supposed you were sentimental, Alida.”
“Well, perhaps I wasn’t.” Mrs. Slade drew her lids together in retrospect; and for a few moments

the two ladies, who had been intimate since childhood, reflected how little they knew each other.
Each one, of course, had a label ready to attach to the other’s name; Mrs. Delphin Slade, for instance,
would have told herself, or anyone who asked her, that Mrs. Horace Ansley, twenty-five years ago,
had been exquisitely lovely—no, you wouldn’t believe it, would you! though, of course, still charming,
distinguished…. Well, as a girl she had been exquisite; far more beautiful than her daughter, Barbara,
though certainly Babs, according to the new standards at any rate, was more effective—had more edge,
as they say. Funny where she got it, with those two nullities as parents. Yes; Horace Ansley was—well,
just the duplicate of his wife. Museum specimens of old New York. Good-looking, irreproachable,
exemplary. Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley had lived opposite each other—actually as well as
figuratively—for years. When the drawing-room curtains in No. 20 East Seventy-third Street were
renewed, No. 23, across the way, was always aware of it. And of all the movings, buyings, travels,
anniversaries, illnesses—the tame chronicle of an estimable pair. Little of it escaped Mrs. Slade. But she
had grown bored with it by the time her husband made his big coup in Wall Street, and when they bought
in upper Park Avenue had already begun to think: “I’d rather live opposite a speakeasy for a change; at
least one might see it raided.” The idea of seeing Grace raided was so amusing that (before the move)
she launched it at a woman’s lunch. It made a hit, and went the rounds—she sometimes wondered if it
had crossed the street, and reached Mrs. Ansley. She hoped not, but didn’t much mind. Those were the
days when respectability was at a discount, and it did the irreproachable no harm to laugh at them a little.

A few years later, and not many months apart, both ladies lost their husbands. There was an
appropriate exchange of wreaths and condolences, and a brief renewal of intimacy in the half shadow
of their mourning; and now, after another interval, they had run across each other in Rome, at the same
hotel, each of them the modest appendage of a salient daughter. The similarity of their lot had again
drawn them together, lending itself to mild jokes, and the mutual confession that, if in old days it must
have been tiring to “keep up” with daughters, it was now, at times, a little dull not to.

No doubt, Mrs. Slade reflected, she felt her unemployment more than poor Grace ever would. It was
a big drop from being the wife of Delphin Slade to being his widow. She had always regarded herself

2. An old Italian city approximately fifty miles northwest of Rome, known for its ancient Etruscan tombs.

Edith Wharton (1862–1937) 327

(with a certain conjugal pride) as his equal in social gifts, as contributing her full share to the making
of the exceptional couple they were: but the difference after his death was irremediable. As the wife of
the famous corporation lawyer, always with an international case or two on hand, every day brought its
exciting and unexpected obligation: the impromptu entertaining of eminent colleagues from abroad, the
hurried dashes on legal business to London, Paris or Rome, where the entertaining was so handsomely
reciprocated; the amusement of hearing in her wakes: “What, that handsome woman with the good
clothes and the eyes is Mrs. Slade—the Slade’s wife! Really! Generally the wives of celebrities are such

Yes; being the Slade’s widow was a dullish business after that. In living up to such a husband all
her faculties had been engaged; now she had only her daughter to live up to, for the son who seemed
to have inherited his father’s gifts had died suddenly in boyhood. She had fought through that agony
because her husband was there, to be helped and to help; now, after the father’s death, the thought of
the boy had become unbearable. There was nothing left but to mother her daughter; and dear Jenny was
such a perfect daughter that she needed no excessive mothering. “Now with Babs Ansley I don’t know
that I should be so quiet,” Mrs. Slade sometimes half-enviously reflected; but Jenny, who was younger
than her brilliant friend, was that rare accident, an extremely pretty girl who somehow made youth and
prettiness seem as safe as their absence. It was all perplexing—and to Mrs. Slade a little boring. She
wished that Jenny would fall in love—with the wrong man, even; that she might have to be watched,
out-maneuvered, rescued. And instead, it was Jenny who watched her mother, kept her out of drafts,
made sure that she had taken her tonic…

Mrs. Ansley was much less articulate than her friend, and her mental portrait of Mrs. Slade was
slighter, and drawn with fainter touches. “Alida Slade’s awfully brilliant; but not as brilliant as she
thinks,” would have summed it up; though she would have added, for the enlightenment of strangers,
that Mrs. Slade had been an extremely dashing girl; much more so than her daughter, who was pretty, of
course, and clever in a way, but had none of her mother’s—well, “vividness,” someone had once called
it. Mrs. Ansley would take up current words like this, and cite them in quotation marks, as unheard-
of audacities. No; Jenny was not like her mother. Sometimes Mrs. Ansley thought Alida Slade was
disappointed; on the whole she had had a sad life. Full of failures and mistakes; Mrs. Ansley had always
been rather sorry for her….

So these two ladies visualized each other, each through the wrong end of her little telescope.
For a long time they continued to sit side by side without speaking. It seemed as though, to both,

there was a relief in laying down their somewhat futile activities in the presence of the vast Memento

which faced them. Mrs. Slade sat quite still, her eyes fixed on the golden slope of the Palace of the

Caesars, and after a while Mrs. Ansley ceased to fidget with her bag, and she too sank into meditation.
Like many intimate friends, the two ladies had never before had occasion to be silent together, and Mrs.
Ansley was slightly embarrassed by what seemed, after so many years, a new stage in their intimacy,
and one with which she did not yet know how to deal.

Suddenly the air was full of that deep clangor of bells which periodically covers Rome with a roof of
silver. Mrs. Slade glanced at her wristwatch. “Five o’clock already,” she said, as though surprised.

Mrs. Ansley suggested interrogatively: “There’s bridge at the Embassy at five.” For a long time Mrs.
Slade did not answer. She appeared to be lost in contemplation, and Mrs. Ansley thought the remark had
escaped her. But after a while she said, as if speaking out of a dream: “Bridge, did you say! Not unless
you want to…. But I don’t think I will, you know.”

“Oh, no,” Mrs. Ansley hastened to assure her. “I don’t care to at all. It’s so lovely here; and so

3. A remembrance of human mortality. From Latin, “Remember you will die.”

328 Short Stories

full of old memories, as you say.” She settled herself in her chair, and almost furtively drew forth her
knitting. Mrs. Slade took sideways note of this activity, but her own beautifully cared-for hands remained
motionless on her knee.

“I was just thinking,” she said slowly, “what different things Rome stands for to each generation of
travelers. To our grandmothers, Roman fever;

to our mothers, sentimental dangers—how we used to be

guarded!—to our daughters, no more dangers than the middle of Main Street. They don’t know it—but
how much they’re missing!”

The long golden light was beginning to pale, and Mrs. Ansley lifted her knitting a little closer to her
eyes. “Yes, how we were guarded”

“I always used to think,” Mrs. Slade continued, “that our mothers had a much more difficult job than
our grandmothers. When Roman fever stalked the streets it must have been comparatively easy to gather
in the girls at the danger hour; but when you and I were young, with such beauty calling us, and the spice
of disobedience thrown in, and no worse risk than catching cold during the cool hour after sunset, the
mothers used to be put to it to keep us in—didn’t they!”

She turned again toward Mrs. Ansley, but the latter had reached a delicate point in her knitting. “One,
two, three—slip two; yes, they must have been,” she assented, without looking up.

Mrs. Slade’s eyes rested on her with a deepened attention. “She can knit—in the face of this! How
like her…. ”

Mrs. Slade leaned back, brooding, her eyes ranging from the ruins which faced her to the long green
hollow of the Forum, the fading glow of the church fronts beyond it, and the outlying immensity of
the Colosseum. Suddenly she thought: “It’s all very well to say that our girls have done away with
sentiment and moonlight. But if Babs Ansley isn’t out to catch that young aviator—the one who’s a

—then I don’t know anything. And Jenny has no chance beside her. I know that too. I wonder

if that’s why Grace Ansley likes the two girls to go everywhere together! My poor Jenny as a foil—!”
Mrs. Slade gave a hardly audible laugh, and at the sound Mrs. Ansley dropped her knitting.

“I—oh, nothing. I was only thinking how your Babs carries everything before her. That Campolieri

boy is one of the best matches in Rome. Don’t look so innocent, my dear—you know he is. And I was
wondering, ever so respectfully, you understand… wondering how two such exemplary characters as
you and Horace had managed to produce anything quite so dynamic.” Mrs. Slade laughed again, with a
touch of asperity.

Mrs. Ansley’s hands lay inert across her needles. She looked straight out at the great accumulated
wreckage of passion and splendor at her feet. But her small profile was almost expressionless. At length
she said, “I think you overrate Babs, my dear.”

Mrs. Slade’s tone grew easier. “No; I don’t. I appreciate her. And perhaps envy you. Oh, my girl’s
perfect; if I were a chronic invalid I’d—well, I think I’d rather be in Jenny’s hands. There must be
times… but there! I always wanted a brilliant daughter… and never quite understood why I got an angel

Mrs. Ansley echoed her laugh in a faint murmur. “Babs is an angel too.”
“Of course—of course! But she’s got rainbow wings. Well, they’re wandering by the sea with their

young men; and here we sit… and it all brings back the past a little too acutely.”
Mrs. Ansley had resumed her knitting. One might almost have imagined (if one had known her less

well, Mrs. Slade reflected) that, for her also, too many memories rose from the lengthening shadows of
those august ruins. But no; she was simply absorbed in her work. What was there for her to worry about!

4. Malaria. Before Rome’s swamps were drained, malaria (from Ital., mala aria, bad air) was a risk due to the presence in the swamps of the

Anopheles mosquito, carrier of the disease.

5. An Italian aristocrat.

Edith Wharton (1862–1937) 329

She knew that Babs would almost certainly come back engaged to the extremely eligible Campolieri.
“And she’ll sell the New York house, and settle down near them in Rome, and never be in their way…
she’s much too tactful. But she’ll have an excellent cook, and just the right people in for bridge and
cocktails… and a perfectly peacefuI old age among her grandchildren.”

Mrs. Slade broke off this prophetic flight with a recoil of self-disgust. There was no one of whom
she had less right to think unkindly than of Grace Ansley. Would she never cure herself of envying her!
Perhaps she had begun too long ago.

She stood up and leaned against the parapet, filling her troubled eyes with the tranquilizing magic
of the hour. But instead of tranquilizing her the sight seemed to increase her exasperation. Her gaze
turned toward the Colosseum. Already its golden flank was drowned in purple shadow, and above it the
sky curved crystal clear, without light or color. It was the moment when afternoon and evening hang
balanced in midheaven.

Mrs. Slade turned back and laid her hand on her friend’s arm. The gesture was so abrupt that Mrs.
Ansley looked up, startled.

“The sun’s set. You’re not afraid, my dear?”
“Of Roman fever or pneumonia! I remember how ill you were that winter. As a girl you had a very

delicate throat, hadn’t you?”
“Oh, we’re all right up here. Down below, in the Forum, it does get deathly cold, all of a sudden…

but not here.”
“Ah, of course you know because you had to be so careful.” Mrs. Slade turned back to the parapet.

She thought: “I must make one more effort not to hate her.” Aloud she said: “Whenever I look at the
Forum from up here, I remember that story about a great-aunt of yours, wasn’t she? A dreadfully wicked

“Oh, yes; Great-aunt Harriet. The one who was supposed to have sent her young sister out to the
Forum after sunset to gather a nightblooming flower for her album. All our great-aunts and grandmothers
used to have albums of dried flowers.”

Mrs. Slade nodded. “But she really sent her because they were in love with the same man—”
“Well, that was the family tradition. They said Aunt Harriet confessed it years afterward. At any rate,

the poor little sister caught the fever and died. Mother used to frighten us with the story when we were

“And you frightened me with it, that winter when you and I were here as girls. The winter I was
engaged to Delphin.”

Mrs. Ansley gave a faint laugh. “Oh, did I! Really frightened you? I don’t believe you’re easily

“Not often; but I was then. I was easily frightened because I was too happy. I wonder if you know
what that means?”

“I—yes… ” Mrs. Ansley faltered.
“Well, I suppose that was why the story of your wicked aunt made such an impression on me. And I

thought: ‘There’s no more Roman fever, but the Forum is deathly cold after sunset—especially after a
hot day. And the Colosseum’s even colder and damper.’”

“The Colosseum—?”
“Yes. It wasn’t easy to get in, after the gates were locked for the night. Far from easy. Still, in those

days it could be managed; it was managed, often. Lovers met there who couldn’t meet elsewhere. You
knew that?”

“I—I daresay. I don’t remember.”
“You don’t remember? You don’t remember going to visit some ruins or other one evening, just after

330 Short Stories

dark, and catching a bad chill! You were supposed to have gone to see the moonrise. People always said
that expedition was what caused your illness.”

There was a moment’s silence; then Mrs. Ansley rejoined: “Did they? It was all so long ago.”
“Yes. And you got well again—so it didn’t matter. But I suppose it struck your friends—the reason

given for your illness. I mean—because everybody knew you were so prudent on account of your throat,
and your mother took such care of you…. You had been out late sightseeing, hadn’t you, that night”

“Perhaps I had. The most prudent girls aren’t always prudent. What made you think of it now?”
Mrs. Slade seemed to have no answer ready. But after a moment she broke out: “Because I simply

can’t bear it any longer—”
Mrs. Ansley lifted her head quickly. Her eyes were wide and very pale. “Can’t bear what?”
“Why—your not knowing that I’ve always known why you went.”
“Why I went—?”
“Yes. You think I’m bluffing, don’t you? Well, you went to meet the man I was engaged to—and I can

repeat every word of the letter that took you there.”
While Mrs. Slade spoke Mrs. Ansley had risen unsteadily to her feet. Her bag, her knitting and gloves,

slid in a panic-stricken heap to the ground. She looked at Mrs. Slade as though she were looking at a

“No, no—don’t,” she faltered out.
“Why not? Listen, if you don’t believe me. ‘My one darling, things can’t go on like this. I must see

you alone. Come to the Colosseum immediately after dark tomorrow. There will be somebody to let you
in. No one whom you need fear will suspect’—but perhaps you’ve forgotten what the letter said?”

Mrs. Ansley met the challenge with an unexpected composure. Steadying herself against the chair she
looked at her friend, and replied: “No; I know it by heart too.”

“And the signature? ‘Only your D.S.’ Was that it? I’m right, am I? That was the letter that took you
out that evening after dark?”

Mrs. Ansley was still looking at her. It seemed to Mrs. Slade that a slow struggle was going on behind
the voluntarily controlled mask of her small quiet face. “I shouldn’t have thought she had herself so well
in hand,” Mrs. Slade reflected, almost resentfully. But at this moment Mrs. Ansley spoke. “I don’t know
how you knew. I burned that letter at once.”

“Yes; you would, naturally—you’re so prudent!” The sneer was open now. “And if you burned the
letter you’re wondering how on earth I know what was in it. That’s it, isn’t it?”

Mrs. Slade waited, but Mrs. Ansley did not speak.
“Well, my dear, I know what was in that letter because I wrote it!”
“You wrote it?”
The two women stood for a minute staring at each other in the last golden light. Then Mrs. Ansley

dropped back into her chair. “Oh,” she murmured, and covered her face with her hands.
Mrs. Slade waited nervously for another word or movement. None came, and at length she broke out:

“I horrify you.”
Mrs. Ansley’s hands dropped to her knees. The face they uncovered was streaked with tears. “I wasn’t

thinking of you. I was thinking—it was the only letter I ever had from him!”
“And I wrote it. Yes; I wrote it! But I was the girl he was engaged to. Did you happen to remember

Mrs. Ansley’s head drooped again. “I’m not trying to excuse myself… I remembered… ”
“And still you went?”
“Still I went.”
Mrs. Slade stood looking down on the small bowed figure at her side. The flame of her wrath had

Edith Wharton (1862–1937) 331

already sunk, and she wondered why she had ever thought there would be any satisfaction in inflicting
so purposeless a wound on her friend. But she had to justify herself.

“You do understand? I’d found out—and I hated you, hated you. I knew you were in love with
Delphin—and I was afraid; afraid of you, of your quiet ways, your sweetness… your… well, I wanted
you out of the way, that’s all. Just for a few weeks; just till I was sure of him. So in a blind fury I wrote
that letter… I don’t know why I’m telling you now.”

“I suppose,” said Mrs. Ansley slowly, “it’s because you’ve always gone on hating me.”
“Perhaps. Or because I wanted to get the whole thing off my mind.” She paused. “I’m glad you

destroyed the letter. Of course I never thought you’d die.”
Mrs. Ansley relapsed into silence, and Mrs. Slade, leaning above her, was conscious of a strange sense

of isolation, of being cut off from the warm current of human communion. “You think me a monster!”
“I don’t know… It was the only letter I had, and you say he didn’t write it”
“Ah, how you care for him still!”
“I cared for that memory,” said Mrs. Ansley.
Mrs. Slade continued to look down on her. She seemed physically reduced by the blow—as if, when

she got up, the wind might scatter her like a puff of dust. Mrs. Slade’s jealousy suddenly leaped up again
at the sight. All these years the woman had been living on that letter. How she must have loved him, to
treasure the mere memory of its ashes! The letter of the man her friend was engaged to. Wasn’t it she
who was the monster?

“You tried your best to get him away from me, didn’t you? But you failed; and I kept him. That’s all.”
“Yes. That’s all.”
“I wish now I hadn’t told you. I’d no idea you’d feel about it as you do; I thought you’d be amused. It

all happened so long ago, as you say; and you must do me the justice to remember that I had no reason to
think you’d ever taken it seriously. How could I, when you were married to Horace Ansley two months
afterward? As soon as you could get out of bed your mother rushed you off to Florence and married you.
People were rather surprised—they wondered at its being done so quickly; but I thought I knew. I had an
idea you did it out of pique—to be able to say you’d got ahead of Delphin and me. Kids have such silly
reasons for doing the most serious things. And your marrying so soon convinced me that you’d never
really cared.”

“Yes. I suppose it would,” Mrs. Ansley assented.
The clear heaven overhead was emptied of all its gold. Dusk spread over it, abruptly darkening the

Seven Hills. Here and there lights began to twinkle through the foliage at their feet. Steps were coming
and going on the deserted terrace—waiters looking out of the doorway at the head of the stairs, then
reappearing with trays and napkins and flasks of wine. Tables were moved, chairs straightened. A feeble
string of electric lights flickered out. A stout lady in a dustcoat suddenly appeared, asking in broken
Italian if anyone had seen the elastic band which held together her tattered Baedeker. She poked with her
stick under the table at which she had lunched, the waiters assisting.

The corner where Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley sat was still shadowy and deserted. For a long time
neither of them spoke. At length Mrs. Slade began again: “I suppose I did it as a sort of joke—”

“A joke?”
“Well, girls are ferocious sometimes, you know. Girls in love especially. And I remember laughing to

myself all that evening at the idea that you were waiting around there in the dark, dodging out of sight,
listening for every sound, trying to get in—of course I was upset when I heard you were so ill afterward.”

Mrs. Ansley had not moved for a long time. But now she turned slowly toward her companion. “But
I didn’t wait. He’d arranged everything. He was there. We were let in at once,” she said.

Mrs. Slade sprang up from her leaning position. “Delphin there! They let you in! Ah, now you’re
lying!” she burst out with violence.

332 Short Stories

Mrs. Ansley’s voice grew clearer, and full of surprise. “But of course he was there. Naturally he

“Came? How did he know he’d find you there? You must be raving!”
Mrs. Ansley hesitated, as though reflecting. “But I answered the letter. I told him I’d be there. So he

Mrs. Slade flung her hands up to her face. “Oh, God—you answered! I never thought of your

answering…. ”
“It’s odd you never thought of it, if you wrote the letter.”
“Yes. I was blind with rage.”
Mrs. Ansley rose, and drew her fur scarf about her. “It is cold here. We’d better go…. I’m sorry for

you,” she said, as she clasped the fur about her throat.
The unexpected words sent a pang through Mrs. Slade. “Yes; we’d better go.” She gathered up her

bag and cloak. “I don’t know why you should be sorry for me,” she muttered.
Mrs. Ansley stood looking away from her toward the dusky mass of the Colosseum. “Well—because

I didn’t have to wait that night.”
Mrs. Slade gave an unquiet laugh. “Yes, I was beaten there. But I oughtn’t to begrudge it to you, I

suppose. At the end of all these years. After all, I had everything; I had him for twenty-five years. And
you had nothing but that one letter that he didn’t write.”

Mrs. Ansley was again silent. At length she took a step toward the door of the terrace, and turned
back, facing her companion.

“I had Barbara,” she said, and began to move ahead of Mrs. Slade toward the stairway.

Edith Wharton (1862–1937) 333


Roman Fever

Study Questions

1. Contrast Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley in terms of appearance and character.

2. Contrast Alida Slade’s and Grace Ansley’s daughters, Barbara (Babs) and Jenny.

3. What is the medical name for roman fever? Is it a symbol? If so, what does it symbolize?

4. Discuss the significance of Grace Ansley’s great-aunt Harriet to the plot.

5. Give a couple of examples of irony in the story.

6. What is the significance of the last line of the story?

7. What would you say is the climax of the story?

8. What does Grace’s knitting symbolize?

9. What did Alida Slade appreciate most about being Mrs. Slade?

10. What is the main conflict in the story?


Look up Edith Wharton’s biography. What autobiographical elements do you find in this story?

Three of Wharton’s novels have been released as feature films: Ethan Frome (dir. John Madden, 1993), The
Age of Innocence (dir. Martin Scorsese, 1993), and The House of Mirth (dir. Terence Davies, 2000). Watch this
twenty-three-minute short film adaptation of “Roman Fever” that was released in 2014 (dir. Derek Coutts).

Text Attributions

• “Roman Fever” by Edith Wharton is free of known copyright restrictions in Canada.

Media Attributions

• Edith Newbold Jones Wharton by E. F. Cooper © Public Domain

334 Short Stories


Hector Hugh Munro (Saki) (1870–1916)


Hector Hugh Munro (“Saki”) was born in Burma in 1870. His father was an inspector general in
the Burma police, and when Hector was only two, his mother died following complications from a
miscarriage. After their mother’s death, he and his two older siblings were raised in Devon by two
strict and puritanical maiden aunts. In 1893, when he was in his early twenties, Munro joined the
colonial Indian Imperial Police in Burma—just as the young Eric Blair (George Orwell) was to do years
later. Malaria caused his return to England a year later, where he soon became a successful journalist
and, by 1909, a popular writer of fiction. Many of his stories satirize Edwardian attitudes to the class
structure—the nobility, the new rich, and the working classes. His pen name “Saki” is probably an
allusion to the cupbearer in the Edward Fitzgerald translation of the Rubáiyat of Omar Khayyám, a very
popular poem at the time.

His biographer describes his method: “Characters are defined with a bizarre name and a deft phrase
or two, the wit depends on perfect wording and unexpected turns, and the action is often some kind of
practical joke, aimed at deflating pretension or exposing cowardice….His epigrammatic style and witty,
amoral young men such as Clovis Sangrail derive from Oscar Wilde, his fantastical humour owes much
to Lewis Carroll, and some of his grimmer stories, like his politics, put him close to Kipling” (Dominic
Hibberd, “Munro, Hector Hugh [Saki] (1870–1916),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford
University Press, 2004).

Even though, at the beginning of the First World War, he was 43 and officially too old to serve as a


soldier, Munro enlisted in the 22nd Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. He refused a commission, but was soon
promoted to lance sergeant. On November 16, 1916, while serving in France, he was killed by a German
sniper’s bullet. Allegedly, his last words were, “Put that bloody cigarette out!”

336 Short Stories

Published in 1911

The Open Window

“My aunt will be down presently, Mr. Nuttel,” said a very self-possessed
young lady of fifteen; “in the meantime you must try and put up with me.”

Framton Nuttel endeavoured to say the correct something which should
duly flatter the niece of the moment without unduly discounting the aunt
that was to come. Privately he doubted more than ever whether these
formal visits on a succession of total strangers would do much towards
helping the nerve cure which he was supposed to be undergoing.

“I know how it will be,” his sister had said when he was preparing to migrate to this rural retreat; “you
will bury yourself down there and not speak to a living soul, and your nerves will be worse than ever
from moping. I shall just give you letters of introduction to all the people I know there. Some of them,
as far as I can remember, were quite nice.”

Framton wondered whether Mrs. Sappleton, the lady to whom he was presenting one of the letters of
introduction, came into the nice division.

“Do you know many of the people round here?” asked the niece, when she judged that they had had
sufficient silent communion.

“Hardly a soul,” said Framton. “My sister was staying here, at the rectory, you know, some four years
ago, and she gave me letters of introduction to some of the people here.”

He made the last statement in a tone of distinct regret.
“Then you know practically nothing about my aunt?” pursued the self-possessed young lady.
“Only her name and address,” admitted the caller. He was wondering whether Mrs. Sappleton was in

the married or widowed state. An undefinable something about the room seemed to suggest masculine

“Her great tragedy happened just three years ago,” said the child; “that would be since your sister’s

“Her tragedy?” asked Framton; somehow in this restful country spot tragedies seemed out of place.
“You may wonder why we keep that window wide open on an October afternoon,” said the niece,

indicating a large French window that opened on to a lawn.
“It is quite warm for the time of the year,” said Framton; “but has that window got anything to do with

the tragedy?”
“Out through that window, three years ago to a day, her husband and her two young brothers went off

for their day’s shooting. They never came back. In crossing the moor to their favourite snipe-shooting
ground they were all three engulfed in a treacherous piece of bog. It had been that dreadful wet summer,
you know, and places that were safe in other years gave way suddenly without warning. Their bodies
were never recovered. That was the dreadful part of it.” Here the child’s voice lost its self-possessed note
and became falteringly human. “Poor aunt always thinks that they will come back some day, they and
the little brown spaniel that was lost with them, and walk in at that window just as they used to do. That
is why the window is kept open every evening till it is quite dusk. Poor dear aunt, she has often told me
how they went out, her husband with his white waterproof coat over his arm, and Ronnie, her youngest
brother, singing ‘Bertie, why do you bound?’

as he always did to tease her, because she said it got on

1. A lyric from the song “Bertie the Bounder” in the popular Edwardian musical comedy Our Miss Gibbs (1909).


Hector Hugh Munro (Saki) (1870–1916) 337

her nerves. Do you know, sometimes on still, quiet evenings like this, I almost get a creepy feeling that
they will all walk in through that window —”

She broke off with a little shudder. It was a relief to Framton when the aunt bustled into the room with
a whirl of apologies for being late in making her appearance.

“I hope Vera has been amusing you?” she said.
“She has been very interesting,” said Framton.
“I hope you don’t mind the open window,” said Mrs. Sappleton briskly; “my husband and brothers

will be home directly from shooting, and they always come in this way. They’ve been out for snipe in
the marshes today, so they’ll make a fine mess over my poor carpets. So like you men-folk, isn’t it?”

She rattled on cheerfully about the shooting and the scarcity of birds, and the prospects for duck in the
winter. To Framton it was all purely horrible. He made a desperate but only partially successful effort to
turn the talk on to a less ghastly topic; he was conscious that his hostess was giving him only a fragment
of her attention, and her eyes were constantly straying past him to the open window and the lawn beyond.
It was certainly an unfortunate coincidence that he should have paid his visit on this tragic anniversary.

“The doctors agree in ordering me complete rest, an absence of mental excitement, and avoidance
of anything in the nature of violent physical exercise,” announced Framton, who laboured under the
tolerably widespread delusion that total strangers and chance acquaintances are hungry for the least
detail of one’s ailments and infirmities, their cause and cure. “On the matter of diet they are not so much
in agreement,” he continued.

“No?” said Mrs. Sappleton, in a voice which only replaced a yawn at the last moment. Then she
suddenly brightened into alert attention — but not to what Framton was saying.

“Here they are at last!” she cried. “Just in time for tea, and don’t they look as if they were muddy up
to the eyes!”

Framton shivered slightly and turned towards the niece with a look intended to convey sympathetic
comprehension. The child was staring out through the open window with dazed horror in her eyes. In a
chill shock of nameless fear Framton swung round in his seat and looked in the same direction.

In the deepening twilight three figures were walking across the lawn towards the window; they all
carried guns under their arms, and one of them was additionally burdened with a white coat hung over
his shoulders. A tired brown spaniel kept close at their heels. Noiselessly they neared the house, and then
a hoarse young voice chanted out of the dusk: “I said, Bertie, why do you bound?”

Framton grabbed wildly at his stick and hat; the hall-door, the gravel-drive, and the front gate were
dimly-noted stages in his headlong retreat. A cyclist coming along the road had to run into the hedge to
avoid an imminent collision.

“Here we are, my dear,” said the bearer of the white mackintosh, coming in through the window;
“fairly muddy, but most of it’s dry. Who was that who bolted out as we came up?”

“A most extraordinary man, a Mr. Nuttel,” said Mrs. Sappleton; “could only talk about his illnesses,
and dashed off without a word of good-bye or apology when you arrived. One would think he had seen
a ghost.”

“I expect it was the spaniel,” said the niece calmly; “he told me he had a horror of dogs. He was once
hunted into a cemetery somewhere on the banks of the Ganges by a pack of pariah dogs, and had to
spend the night in a newly dug grave with the creatures snarling and grinning and foaming just above
him. Enough to make anyone lose their nerve.”

Romance at short notice was her specialty.

338 Short Stories


The Open Window

Study Questions

1. Consult a good dictionary and then clarify the meaning of the word “romance” in the last

2. In what way are the names of the three main characters well chosen?

3. Give an example of each of the three types of irony in the story: verbal, dramatic, and situational


Watch the short film The Open Doors, an adaptation of “The Open Window.”

Text Attributions

• Biography: “A Biography of H.H. Munro” by Ethel Munro. Adapted by James Sexton.

• “The Open Window” by Saki is free of known copyright restrictions in Canada.

Media Attributions

• Hector Hugh Munro © Public Domain

Hector Hugh Munro (Saki) (1870–1916) 339


Stephen Crane (1871–1900)


Stephen Crane was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1871. He was the fourteenth and last child born to a
Methodist minister and his devout wife. After the death of his father, Crane attended military school and
later college, but eventually left to become a writer. He secured work as a freelance journalist, eventually
accepting an assignment as a war correspondent in Cuba during the Spanish–American War. His first
novel, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, published in 1893, offered a raw exploration of a young woman’s
struggle to thrive in the slums of New York amid poverty and prostitution, and it represented a distinct
departure from mainstream Realist works to a new literary style known as Naturalism. This philosophy
emphasizes the ironies of human existence and the helplessness of people against the forces of society,
nature, or fate.

Through his short life, Crane was a prolific writer, producing a significant number of poems,
short stories, and journalistic pieces, as well as several other novels. While he never married, Crane
established a relationship with Cora Taylor, a free-spirited bohemian from Jacksonville, Florida. The two
travelled and lived abroad, eventually settling in England, where Crane’s health deteriorated from his
long struggle with tuberculosis. Crane died at the young age of twenty-eight.

Most critics today see many of his major works as representative of American literary Naturalism.
Taking issue with the Realism of William Dean Howells (1837–1920) as too restrictive and genteel
and under the influence of Darwin’s ideas, Naturalist writers such as Crane and Jack London pushed
for Realism to go further in scope and subject matter, to tackle grittier subjects such as poverty, crime,


violence, and other sociological ills of the increasingly urban landscapes of the late nineteenth century.
Naturalist writers also explored humans at odds with the natural world—vast oceans, deserts, and frozen
tundra—characterized as indifferent or even hostile to human striving and suffering.

In Crane’s “The Open Boat,” based on a real-life ordeal that Crane endured off the coast of Florida, the
shipwreck survivors are depicted not as larger than life figures able to control their destinies through free
will, but as small, insignificant dots on the vast and indifferent sea, unable to understand their plight or
control the outcome of their desperate circumstances. While they fight for their lives, the correspondent
comes to the stark conclusion that, after a brutal and exhausting fight to reach shore and safety, the waves
may cause their dinghy to crash on the rocks, raising yet another hurdle to survival for the weakened
and injured men, who must now swim to shore among the dangerous rocks in order to save their lives.
As mentioned before, ideas such as justice, fairness, and mercy are shown as illusions in the Darwinian
environment. The men are at the mercy of natural forces that they can neither understand nor control,
and while they may feel some solidarity with one another in the boat, once it swamps, each man is alone
in his struggle for survival.

Stephen Crane (1871–1900) 341

Published 1898

The Blue Hotel


The Palace Hotel at Fort Romper was painted a light blue, a shade that is on
the legs of a kind of heron, causing the bird to declare its position against any
background. The Palace Hotel, then, was always screaming and howling in a
way that made the dazzling winter landscape of Nebraska seem only a gray
swampish hush. It stood alone on the prairie, and when the snow was falling

the town two hundred yards away was not visible. But when the traveller alighted at the railway station
he was obliged to pass the Palace Hotel before he could come upon the company of low clapboard
houses which composed Fort Romper, and it was not to be thought that any traveller could pass the
Palace Hotel without looking at it. Pat Scully, the proprietor, had proved himself a master of strategy
when he chose his paints. It is true that on clear days, when the great trans-continental expresses, long
lines of swaying Pullmans, swept through Fort Romper, passengers were overcome at the sight, and the
cult that knows the brown-reds and the subdivisions of the dark greens of the East expressed shame, pity,
horror, in a laugh. But to the citizens of this prairie town and to the people who would naturally stop
there, Pat Scully had performed a feat. With this opulence and splendor, these creeds, classes, egotisms,
that streamed through Romper on the rails day after day, they had no color in common.

As if the displayed delights of such a blue hotel were not sufficiently enticing, it was Scully’s habit
to go every morning and evening to meet the leisurely trains that stopped at Romper and work his
seductions upon any man that he might see wavering, gripsack in hand.

One morning, when a snow-crusted engine dragged its long string of freight cars and its one passenger
coach to the station, Scully performed the marvel of catching three men. One was a shaky and quick-
eyed Swede, with a great shining cheap valise; one was a tall bronzed cowboy, who was on his way to
a ranch near the Dakota line; one was a little silent man from the East, who didn’t look it, and didn’t
announce it. Scully practically made them prisoners. He was so nimble and merry and kindly that each
probably felt it would be the height of brutality to try to escape. They trudged off over the creaking board
sidewalks in the wake of the eager little Irishman. He wore a heavy fur cap squeezed tightly down on his
head. It caused his two red ears to stick out stiffly, as if they were made of tin.

At last, Scully, elaborately, with boisterous hospitality, conducted them through the portals of the
blue hotel. The room which they entered was small. It seemed to be merely a proper temple for an
enormous stove, which, in the centre, was humming with godlike violence. At various points on its
surface the iron had become luminous and glowed yellow from the heat. Beside the stove Scully’s son
Johnnie was playing High-Five with an old farmer who had whiskers both gray and sandy. They were
quarrelling. Frequently the old farmer turned his face towards a box of sawdust—colored brown from
tobacco juice—that was behind the stove, and spat with an air of great impatience and irritation. With a
loud flourish of words Scully destroyed the game of cards, and bustled his son up-stairs with part of the
baggage of the new guests. He himself conducted them to three basins of the coldest water in the world.
The cowboy and the Easterner burnished themselves fiery-red with this water, until it seemed to be some
kind of a metal polish. The Swede, however, merely dipped his fingers gingerly and with trepidation. It
was notable that throughout this series of small ceremonies the three travellers were made to feel that
Scully was very benevolent. He was conferring great favors upon them. He handed the towel from one
to the other with an air of philanthropic impulse.

342 Short Stories

Afterwards they went to the first room, and, sitting about the stove, listened to Scully’s officious
clamor at his daughters, who were preparing the mid-day meal. They reflected in the silence of
experienced men who tread carefully amid new people. Nevertheless, the old farmer, stationary,
invincible in his chair near the warmest part of the stove, turned his face from the sawdust box frequently
and addressed a glowing commonplace to the strangers. Usually he was answered in short but adequate
sentences by either the cowboy or the Easterner. The Swede said nothing. He seemed to be occupied in
making furtive estimates of each man in the room. One might have thought that he had the sense of silly
suspicion which comes to guilt. He resembled a badly frightened man.

Later, at dinner, he spoke a little, addressing his conversation entirely to Scully. He volunteered that
he had come from New York, where for ten years he had worked as a tailor. These facts seemed to strike
Scully as fascinating, and afterwards he volunteered that he had lived at Romper for fourteen years. The
Swede asked about the crops and the price of labor. He seemed barely to listen to Scully’s extended
replies. His eyes continued to rove from man to man.

Finally, with a laugh and a wink, he said that some of these Western communities were very
dangerous; and after his statement he straightened his legs under the table, tilted his head, and laughed
again, loudly. It was plain that the demonstration had no meaning to the others. They looked at him
wondering and in silence.


As the men trooped heavily back into the front-room, the two little windows presented views of a
turmoiling sea of snow. The huge arms of the wind were making attempts—mighty, circular, futile—to
embrace the flakes as they sped. A gate-post like a still man with a blanched face stood aghast amid
this profligate fury. In a hearty voice Scully announced the presence of a blizzard. The guests of the
blue hotel, lighting their pipes, assented with grunts of lazy masculine contentment. No island of the sea
could be exempt in the degree of this little room with its humming stove. Johnnie, son of Scully, in a
tone which defined his opinion of his ability as a card-player, challenged the old farmer of both gray
and sandy whiskers to a game of High-Five. The farmer agreed with a contemptuous and bitter scoff.
They sat close to the stove, and squared their knees under a wide board. The cowboy and the Easterner
watched the game with interest. The Swede remained near the window, aloof, but with a countenance
that showed signs of an inexplicable excitement.

The play of Johnnie and the gray-beard was suddenly ended by another quarrel. The old man arose
while casting a look of heated scorn at his adversary. He slowly buttoned his coat, and then stalked with
fabulous dignity from the room. In the discreet silence of all other men the Swede laughed. His laughter
rang somehow childish. Men by this time had begun to look at him askance, as if they wished to inquire
what ailed him.

A new game was formed jocosely. The cowboy volunteered to become the partner of Johnnie, and
they all then turned to ask the Swede to throw in his lot with the little Easterner, He asked some
questions about the game, and, learning that it wore many names, and that he had played it when it was
under an alias, he accepted the invitation. He strode towards the men nervously, as if he expected to be
assaulted. Finally, seated, he gazed from face to face and laughed shrilly. This laugh was so strange that
the Easterner looked up quickly, the cowboy sat intent and with his mouth open, and Johnnie paused,
holding the cards with still fingers.

Afterwards there was a short silence. Then Johnnie said, “Well, let’s get at it. Come on now!” They
pulled their chairs forward until their knees were bunched under the board. They began to play, and their
interest in the game caused the others to forget the manner of the Swede.

Stephen Crane (1871–1900) 343

The cowboy was a board-whacker. Each time that he held superior cards he whanged them, one by
one, with exceeding force, down upon the improvised table, and took the tricks with a glowing air of
prowess and pride that sent thrills of indignation into the hearts of his opponents. A game with a board-
whacker in it is sure to become intense. The countenances of the Easterner and the Swede were miserable
whenever the cowboy thundered down his aces and kings, while Johnnie, his eyes gleaming with joy,
chuckled and chuckled.

Because of the absorbing play none considered the strange ways of the Swede. They paid strict heed to
the game. Finally, during a lull caused by a new deal, the Swede suddenly addressed Johnnie: “I suppose
there have been a good many men killed in this room.” The jaws of the others dropped and they looked
at him.

“What in hell are you talking about?” said Johnnie.
The Swede laughed again his blatant laugh, full of a kind of false courage and defiance. “Oh, you

know what I mean all right,” he answered.
“I’m a liar if I do!” Johnnie protested. The card was halted, and the men stared at the Swede. Johnnie

evidently felt that as the son of the proprietor he should make a direct inquiry. “Now, what might you
be drivin’ at, mister?” he asked. The Swede winked at him. It was a wink full of cunning. His fingers
shook on the edge of the board. “Oh, maybe you think I have been to nowheres. Maybe you think I’m a

“I don’t know nothin’ about you,” answered Johnnie, “and I don’t give a damn where you’ve been.
All I got to say is that I don’t know what you’re driving at. There hain’t never been nobody killed in this

The cowboy, who had been steadily gazing at the Swede, then spoke: “What’s wrong with you,

Apparently it seemed to the Swede that he was formidably menaced. He shivered and turned white
near the corners of his mouth. He sent an appealing glance in the direction of the little Easterner. During
these moments he did not forget to wear his air of advanced pot-valor. “They say they don’t know what
I mean,” he remarked mockingly to the Easterner.

The latter answered after prolonged and cautious reflection. “I don’t understand you,” he said,

The Swede made a movement then which announced that he thought he had encountered treachery
from the only quarter where he had expected sympathy, if not help. “Oh, I see you are all against me. I

The cowboy was in a state of deep stupefaction. “Say,” he cried, as he tumbled the deck violently
down upon the board “—say, what are you gittin’ at, hey?”

The Swede sprang up with the celerity of a man escaping from a snake on the floor. “I don’t want to
fight!” he shouted. “I don’t want to fight!”

The cowboy stretched his long legs indolently and deliberately. His hands were in his pockets. He spat
into the sawdust box. “Well, who the hell thought you did?” he inquired.

The Swede backed rapidly towards a corner of the room. His hands were out protectingly in front of
his chest, but he was making an obvious struggle to control his fright. “Gentlemen,” he quavered, “I
suppose I am going to be killed before I can leave this house! I suppose I am going to be killed before
I can leave this house!” In his eyes was the dying-swan look. Through the windows could be seen the
snow turning blue in the shadow of dusk. The wind tore at the house and some loose thing beat regularly
against the clap-boards like a spirit tapping.

A door opened, and Scully himself entered. He paused in surprise as he noted the tragic attitude of the
Swede. Then he said, “What’s the matter here?”

The Swede answered him swiftly and eagerly: “These men are going to kill me.”

344 Short Stories

“Kill you!” ejaculated Scully. “Kill you! What are you talkin’?”
The Swede made the gesture of a martyr.
Scully wheeled sternly upon his son. “What is this, Johnnie?”
The lad had grown sullen. “Damned if I know,” he answered. “I can’t make no sense to it.” He began

to shuffle the cards, fluttering them together with an angry snap. “He says a good many men have been
killed in this room, or something like that. And he says he’s goin’ to be killed here too. I don’t know
what ails him. He’s crazy, I shouldn’t wonder.”

Scully then looked for explanation to the cowboy, but the cowboy simply shrugged his shoulders.
“Kill you?” said Scully again to the Swede. “Kill you? Man, you’re off your nut.”
“Oh, I know.” burst out the Swede. “I know what will happen. Yes, I’m crazy—yes. Yes, of course,

I’m crazy—yes. But I know one thing—” There was a sort of sweat of misery and terror upon his face.
“I know I won’t get out of here alive.”

The cowboy drew a deep breath, as if his mind was passing into the last stages of dissolution. “Well,
I’m dog-goned,” he whispered to himself.

Scully wheeled suddenly and faced his son. “You’ve been troublin’ this man!”
Johnnie’s voice was loud with its burden of grievance. “Why, good Gawd, I ain’t done nothin’ to ‘im.”
The Swede broke in. “Gentlemen, do not disturb yourselves. I will leave this house. I will go away

because”—he accused them dramatically with his glance—”because I do not want to be killed.”
Scully was furious with his son. “Will you tell me what is the matter, you young divil? What’s the

matter, anyhow? Speak out!”
“Blame it!” cried Johnnie in despair, “don’t I tell you I don’t know. He—he says we want to kill him,

and that’s all I know. I can’t tell what ails him.”
The Swede continued to repeat: “Never mind, Mr. Scully; never mind. I will leave this house. I will

go away, because I do not wish to be killed. Yes, of course, I am crazy—yes. But I know one thing! I
will go away. I will leave this house. Never mind, Mr. Scully; never mind. I will go away.”

“You will not go ‘way,” said Scully. “You will not go ‘way until I hear the reason of this business. If
anybody has troubled you I will take care of him. This is my house. You are under my roof, and I will
not allow any peaceable man to be troubled here.” He cast a terrible eye upon Johnnie, the cowboy, and
the Easterner.

“Never mind, Mr. Scully; never mind. I will go away. I do not wish to be killed.” The Swede moved
towards the door, which opened upon the stairs. It was evidently his intention to go at once for his

“No, no,” shouted Scully peremptorily; but the white-faced man slid by him and disappeared. “Now,”
said Scully severely, “what does this mane?”

Johnnie and the cowboy cried together: “Why, we didn’t do nothin’ to ‘im!”
Scully’s eyes were cold. “No,” he said, “you didn’t?”
Johnnie swore a deep oath. “Why this is the wildest loon I ever see. We didn’t do nothin’ at all. We

were jest sittin’ here play in’ cards, and he—”
The father suddenly spoke to the Easterner. “Mr. Blanc,” he asked, “what has these boys been doin’?”
The Easterner reflected again. “I didn’t see anything wrong at all,” he said at last, slowly.
Scully began to howl. “But what does it mane?” He stared ferociously at his son. “I have a mind to

lather you for this, me boy.”
Johnnie was frantic. “Well, what have I done?” he bawled at his father.

Stephen Crane (1871–1900) 345


“I think you are tongue-tied,” said Scully finally to his son, the cowboy, and the Easterner; and at the
end of this scornful sentence he left the room.

Up-stairs the Swede was swiftly fastening the straps of his great valise. Once his back happened to be
half turned towards the door, and, hearing a noise there, he wheeled and sprang up, uttering a loud cry.
Scully’s wrinkled visage showed grimly in the light of the small lamp he carried. This yellow effulgence,
streaming upward, colored only his prominent features, and left his eyes, for instance, in mysterious
shadow. He resembled a murderer.

“Man! man!” he exclaimed, “have you gone daffy?”
“Oh, no! Oh, no!” rejoined the other. “There are people in this world who know pretty nearly as much

as you do—understand?”
For a moment they stood gazing at each other. Upon the Swede’s deathly pale checks were two spots

brightly crimson and sharply edged, as if they had been carefully painted. Scully placed the light on the
table and sat himself on the edge of the bed. He spoke ruminatively. “By cracky, I never heard of such
a thing in my life. It’s a complete muddle. I can’t, for the soul of me, think how you ever got this idea
into your head.” Presently he lifted his eyes and asked: “And did you sure think they were going to kill

The Swede scanned the old man as if he wished to see into his mind. “I did,” he said at last. He
obviously suspected that this answer might precipitate an outbreak. As he pulled on a strap his whole
arm shook, the elbow wavering like a bit of paper.

Scully banged his hand impressively on the foot-board of the bed. “Why, man, we’re goin’ to have a
line of ilictric street-cars in this town next spring.”

“‘A line of electric street-cars,’” repeated the Swede, stupidly.
“And,” said Scully, “there’s a new railroad goin’ to be built down from Broken Arm to here. Not to

mintion the four churches and the smashin’ big brick school-house. Then there’s the big factory, too.
Why, in two years Romper ‘ll be a metropolis.”

Having finished the preparation of his baggage, the Swede straightened himself. “Mr. Scully,” he said,
with sudden hardihood, “how much do I owe you?”

“You don’t owe me anythin’,” said the old man, angrily.
“Yes, I do,” retorted the Swede. He took seventy-five cents from his pocket and tendered it to Scully;

but the latter snapped his fingers in disdainful refusal. However, it happened that they both stood gazing
in a strange fashion at three silver pieces on the Swede’s open palm.

“I’ll not take your money,” said Scully at last. “Not after what’s been goin’ on here.” Then a plan
seemed to strike him. “Here,” he cried, picking up his lamp and moving towards the door. “Here! Come
with me a minute.”

“No,” said the Swede, in overwhelming alarm.
“Yes,” urged the old man. “Come on! I want you to come and see a picter—just across the hall—in

my room.”
The Swede must have concluded that his hour was come. His jaw dropped and his teeth showed like a

dead man’s. He ultimately followed Scully across the corridor, but he had the step of one hung in chains.
Scully flashed the light high on the wall of his own chamber. There was revealed a ridiculous

photograph of a little girl. She was leaning against a balustrade of gorgeous decoration, and the
formidable bang to her hair was prominent. The figure was as graceful as an upright sled-stake, and,
withal, it was of the hue of lead. “There,” said Scully, tenderly, “that’s the picter of my little girl that
died. Her name was Carrie. She had the purtiest hair you ever saw! I was that fond of her, she—”

346 Short Stories

Turning then, he saw that the Swede was not contemplating the picture at all, but, instead, was keeping
keen watch on the gloom in the rear.

“Look, man!” cried Scully, heartily. “That’s the picter of my little gal that died. Her name was Carrie.
And then here’s the picter of my oldest boy, Michael. He’s a lawyer in Lincoln, an’ doin’ well. I gave
that boy a grand eddycation, and I’m glad for it now. He’s a fine boy. Look at ‘im now. Ain’t he bold as
blazes, him there in Lincoln, an honored an’ respicted gintleman. An honored an’ respicted gintleman,”
concluded Scully with a flourish. And, so saying, he smote the Swede jovially on the back.

The Swede faintly smiled.
“Now,” said the old man, “there’s only one more thing.” He dropped suddenly to the floor and thrust

his head beneath the bed. The Swede could hear his muffled voice. “I’d keep it under me piller if it
wasn’t for that boy Johnnie. Then there’s the old woman—Where is it now? I never put it twice in the
same place. Ah, now come out with you!”

Presently he backed clumsily from under the bed, dragging with him an old coat rolled into a bundle.
“I’ve fetched him,” he muttered. Kneeling on the floor, he unrolled the coat and extracted from its heart
a large yellow-brown whiskey bottle.

His first maneuver was to hold the bottle up to the light. Reassured, apparently, that nobody had been
tampering with it, he thrust it with a generous movement towards the Swede.

The weak-kneed Swede was about to eagerly clutch this element of strength, but he suddenly jerked
his hand away and cast a look of horror upon Scully.

“Drink,” said the old man affectionately. He had risen to his feet, and now stood facing the Swede.
There was a silence. Then again Scully said: “Drink!”
The Swede laughed wildly. He grabbed the bottle, put it to his mouth, and as his lips curled absurdly

around the opening and his throat worked, he kept his glance, burning with hatred, upon the old man’s


After the departure of Scully the three men, with the card-board still upon their knees, preserved for a
long time an astounded silence. Then Johnnie said: “That’s the dod-dangest Swede I ever see.”

“He ain’t no Swede,” said the cowboy, scornfully.
“Well, what is he then?” cried Johnnie. “What is he then?”
“It’s my opinion,” replied the cowboy deliberately, “he’s some kind of a Dutchman.” It was a

venerable custom of the country to entitle as Swedes all light-haired men who spoke with a heavy
tongue. In consequence the idea of the cowboy was not without its daring. “Yes, sir,” he repeated. “It’s
my opinion this feller is some kind of a Dutchman.”

“Well, he says he’s a Swede, anyhow,” muttered Johnnie, sulkily. He turned to the Easterner: “What
do you think, Mr. Blanc?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” replied the Easterner.
“Well, what do you think makes him act that way?” asked the cowboy.
“Why, he’s frightened.” The Easterner knocked his pipe against a rim of the stove. “He’s clear

frightened out of his boots.”
“What at?” cried Johnnie and cowboy together.
The Easterner reflected over his answer.
“What at?” cried the others again.
“Oh, I don’t know, but it seems to me this man has been reading dime-novels, and he thinks he’s right

out in the middle of it—the shootin’ and stabbin’ and all.”

Stephen Crane (1871–1900) 347

“But,” said the cowboy, deeply scandalized, “this ain’t Wyoming, ner none of them places. This is

“Yes,” added Johnnie, “an’ why don’t he wait till he gits out West?”
The travelled Easterner laughed. “It isn’t different there even—not in these days. But he thinks he’s

right in the middle of hell.”
Johnnie and the cowboy mused long.
“It’s awful funny,” remarked Johnnie at last.
“Yes,” said the cowboy. “This is a queer game. I hope we don’t git snowed in, because then we’d have

to stand this here man bein’ around with us all the time. That wouldn’t be no good.”
“I wish pop would throw him out,” said Johnnie.
Presently they heard a loud stamping on the stairs, accompanied by ringing jokes in the voice of old

Scully, and laughter, evidently from the Swede. The men around the stove stared vacantly at each other.
“Gosh!” said the cowboy. The door flew open, and old Scully, flushed and anecdotal, came into the
room. He was jabbering at the Swede, who followed him, laughing bravely. It was the entry of two
roisterers from a banquet-hall.

“Come now,” said Scully sharply to the three seated men, “move up and give us a chance at the stove.”
The cowboy and the Easterner obediently sidled their chairs to make room for the new-comers. Johnnie,
however, simply arranged himself in a more indolent attitude, and then remained motionless.

“Come! Git over, there,” said Scully.
“Plenty of room on the other side of the stove,” said Johnnie.
“Do you think we want to sit in the draught?” roared the father.
But the Swede here interposed with a grandeur of confidence. “No, no. Let the boy sit where he likes,”

he cried in a bullying voice to the father.
“All right! All right!” said Scully, deferentially. The cowboy and the Easterner exchanged glances of

The five chairs were formed in a crescent about one side of the stove. The Swede began to talk;

he talked arrogantly, profanely, angrily. Johnnie, the cowboy, and the Easterner maintained a morose
silence, while old Scully appeared to be receptive and eager, breaking in constantly with sympathetic

Finally the Swede announced that he was thirsty. He moved in his chair, and said that he would go for
a drink of water.

“I’ll git it for you,” cried Scully at once.
“No,” said the Swede, contemptuously. “I’ll get it for myself.” He arose and stalked with the air of an

owner off into the executive parts of the hotel.
As soon as the Swede was out of hearing Scully sprang to his feet and whispered intensely to the

others: “Up-stairs he thought I was tryin’ to poison ‘im.”
“Say,” said Johnnie, “this makes me sick. Why don’t you throw ‘im out in the snow?”
“Why, he’s all right now,” declared Scully. “It was only that he was from the East, and he thought this

was a tough place. That’s all. He’s all right now.”
The cowboy looked with admiration upon the Easterner. “You were straight,” he said. “You were on

to that there Dutchman.”
“Well,” said Johnnie to his father, “he may be all right now, but I don’t see it. Other time he was

scared, but now he’s too fresh.”
Scully’s speech was always a combination of Irish brogue and idiom, Western twang and idiom, and

scraps of curiously formal diction taken from the story-books and newspapers, He now hurled a strange
mass of language at the head of his son. “What do I keep? What do I keep? What do I keep?” he
demanded, in a voice of thunder. He slapped his knee impressively, to indicate that he himself was going

348 Short Stories

to make reply, and that all should heed. “I keep a hotel,” he shouted. “A hotel, do you mind? A guest
under my roof has sacred privileges. He is to be intimidated by none. Not one word shall he hear that
would prejudice him in favor of goin’ away. I’ll not have it. There’s no place in this here town where
they can say they iver took in a guest of mine because he was afraid to stay here.” He wheeled suddenly
upon the cowboy and the Easterner. “Am I right?”

“Yes, Mr. Scully,” said the cowboy, “I think you’re right.”
“Yes, Mr. Scully,” said the Easterner, “I think you’re right.”


At six-o’clock supper, the Swede fizzed like a fire-wheel. He sometimes seemed on the point of bursting
into riotous song, and in all his madness he was encouraged by old Scully. The Easterner was incased
in reserve; the cowboy sat in wide-mouthed amazement, forgetting to eat, while Johnnie wrathily
demolished great plates of food. The daughters of the house, when they were obliged to replenish the
biscuits, approached as warily as Indians, and, having succeeded in their purpose, fled with ill-concealed
trepidation. The Swede domineered the whole feast, and he gave it the appearance of a cruel bacchanal.
He seemed to have grown suddenly taller; he gazed, brutally disdainful, into every face. His voice
rang through the room. Once when he jabbed out harpoon-fashion with his fork to pinion a biscuit, the
weapon nearly impaled the hand of the Easterner which had been stretched quietly out for the same

After supper, as the men filed towards the other room, the Swede smote Scully ruthlessly on the
shoulder. “Well, old boy, that was a good, square meal.” Johnnie looked hopefully at his father; he knew
that shoulder was tender from an old fall; and, indeed, it appeared for a moment as if Scully was going
to flame out over the matter, but in the end he smiled a sickly smile and remained silent. The others
understood from his manner that he was admitting his responsibility for the Swede’s new view-point.

Johnnie, however, addressed his parent in an aside. “Why don’t you license somebody to kick you
down-stairs?” Scully scowled darkly by way of reply.

When they were gathered about the stove, the Swede insisted on another game of High Five. Scully
gently deprecated the plan at first, but the Swede turned a wolfish glare upon him. The old man subsided,
and the Swede canvassed the others. In his tone there was always a great threat. The cowboy and the
Easterner both remarked indifferently that they would play. Scully said that he would presently have to
go to meet the 6.58 train, and so the Swede turned menacingly upon Johnnie. For a moment their glances
crossed like blades, and then Johnnie smiled and said, “Yes, I’ll play.”

They formed a square, with the little board on their knees. The Easterner and the Swede were again
partners. As the play went on, it was noticeable that the cowboy was not board-whacking as usual.
Meanwhile, Scully, near the lamp, had put on his spectacles and, with an appearance curiously like an old
priest, was reading a newspaper. In time he went out to meet the 6.58 train, and, despite his precautions,
a gust of polar wind whirled into the room as he opened the door. Besides scattering the cards, it dulled
the players to the marrow. The Swede cursed frightfully. When Scully returned, his entrance disturbed a
cosy and friendly scene. The Swede again cursed. But presently they were once more intent, their heads
bent forward and their hands moving swiftly. The Swede had adopted the fashion of board-whacking.

Scully took up his paper and for a long time remained immersed in matters which were extraordinarily
remote from him. The lamp burned badly, and once he stopped to adjust the wick. The newspaper, as
he turned from page to page, rustled with a slow and comfortable sound. Then suddenly he heard three
terrible words: “You are cheatin’!”

Such scenes often prove that there can be little of dramatic import in environment. Any room can

Stephen Crane (1871–1900) 349

present a tragic front; any room can be comic. This little den was now hideous as a torture-chamber. The
new faces of the men themselves had changed it upon the instant. The Swede held a huge fist in front of
Johnnie’s face, while the latter looked steadily over it into the blazing orbs of his accuser. The Easterner
had grown pallid; the cowboy’s jaw had dropped in that expression of bovine amazement which was one
of his important mannerisms. After the three words, the first sound in the room was made by Scully’s
paper as it floated forgotten to his feet. His spectacles had also fallen from his nose, but by a clutch he
had saved them in air. His hand, grasping the spectacles, now remained poised awkwardly and near his
shoulder. He stared at the card-players.

Probably the silence was while a second elapsed. Then, if the floor had been suddenly twitched out
from under the men they could not have moved quicker. The five had projected themselves headlong
towards a common point. It happened that Johnnie, in rising to hurl himself upon the Swede, had
stumbled slightly because of his curiously instinctive care for the cards and the board. The loss of the
moment allowed time for the arrival of Scully, and also allowed the cowboy time to give the Swede a
great push which sent him staggering back. The men found tongue together, and hoarse shouts of rage,
appeal, or fear burst from every throat. The cowboy pushed and jostled feverishly at the Swede, and the
Easterner and Scully clung wildly to Johnnie; but, through the smoky air, above the swaying bodies of
the peace-compellers, the eyes of the two warriors ever sought each other in glances of challenge that
were at once hot and steely.

Of course the board had been overturned, and now the whole company of cards was scattered over the
floor, where the boots of the men trampled the fat and painted kings and queens as they gazed with their
silly eyes at the war that was waging above them.

Scully’s voice was dominating the yells. “Stop now? Stop, I say! Stop, now—”
Johnnie, as he struggled to burst through the rank formed by Scully and the Easterner, was crying,

“Well, he says I cheated! He says I cheated! I won’t allow no man to say I cheated! If he says I cheated,
he’s a ——— ———!”

The cowboy was telling the Swede, “Quit, now! Quit, d’ye hear—”
The screams of the Swede never ceased: “He did cheat! I saw him! I saw him—”
As for the Easterner, he was importuning in a voice that was not heeded: “Wait a moment, can’t you?

Oh, wait a moment. What’s the good of a fight over a game of cards? Wait a moment—”
In this tumult no complete sentences were clear. “Cheat”—”Quit”—”He says”—these fragments

pierced the uproar and rang out sharply. It was remarkable that, whereas Scully undoubtedly made the
most noise, he was the least heard of any of the riotous band.

Then suddenly there was a great cessation. It was as if each man had paused for breath; and although
the room was still lighted with the anger of men, it could be seen that there was no danger of immediate
conflict, and at once Johnnie, shouldering his way forward, almost succeeded in confronting the Swede.
“What did you say I cheated for? What did you say I cheated for? I don’t cheat, and I won’t let no man
say I do!”

The Swede said, “I saw you! I saw you!”
“Well,” cried Johnnie, “I’ll fight any man what says I cheat!”
“No, you won’t,” said the cowboy. “Not here.”
“Ah, be still, can’t you?” said Scully, coming between them.
The quiet was sufficient to allow the Easterner’s voice to be heard. He was repeating, “Oh, wait a

moment, can’t you? What’s the good of a fight over a game of cards? Wait a moment!”
Johnnie, his red face appearing above his father’s shoulder, hailed the Swede again. “Did you say I

The Swede showed his teeth. “Yes.”
“Then,” said Johnnie, “we must fight.”

350 Short Stories

“Yes, fight,” roared the Swede. He was like a demoniac. “Yes, fight! I’ll show you what kind of a man
I am! I’ll show you who you want to fight! Maybe you think I can’t fight! Maybe you think I can’t! I’ll
show you, you skin, you card-sharp! Yes, you cheated! You cheated! You cheated!”

“Well, let’s go at it, then, mister,” said Johnnie, coolly.
The cowboy’s brow was beaded with sweat from his efforts in intercepting all sorts of raids. He turned

in despair to Scully. “What are you goin’ to do now?”
A change had come over the Celtic visage of the old man. He now seemed all eagerness; his eyes

“We’ll let them fight,” he answered, stalwartly. “I can’t put up with it any longer. I’ve stood this

damned Swede till I’m sick. We’ll let them fight.”


The men prepared to go out-of-doors. The Easterner was so nervous that he had great difficulty in getting
his arms into the sleeves of his new leather coat. As the cowboy drew his fur cap down over his cars his
hands trembled. In fact, Johnnie and old Scully were the only ones who displayed no agitation. These
preliminaries were conducted without words.

Scully threw open the door. “Well, come on,” he said. Instantly a terrific wind caused the flame of the
lamp to struggle at its wick, while a puff of black smoke sprang from the chimney-top. The stove was
in mid-current of the blast, and its voice swelled to equal the roar of the storm. Some of the scarred and
bedabbled cards were caught up from the floor and dashed helplessly against the farther wall. The men
lowered their heads and plunged into the tempest as into a sea.

No snow was falling, but great whirls and clouds of flakes, swept up from the ground by the frantic
winds, were streaming southward with the speed of bullets. The covered land was blue with the sheen
of an unearthly satin, and there was no other hue save where, at the low, black railway station—which
seemed incredibly distant—one light gleamed like a tiny jewel. As the men floundered into a thigh deep
drift, it was known that the Swede was bawling out something. Scully went to him, put a hand on his
shoulder and projected an ear. “What’s that you say?” he shouted.

“I say,” bawled the Swede again, “I won’t stand much show against this gang. I know you’ll all pitch
on me.”

Scully smote him reproachfully on the arm. “Tut, man!” he yelled. The wind tore the words from
Scully’s lips and scattered them far alee.

“You are all a gang of—” boomed the Swede, but the storm also seized the remainder of this sentence.
Immediately turning their backs upon the wind, the men had swung around a corner to the sheltered

side of the hotel. It was the function of the little house to preserve here, amid this great devastation
of snow, an irregular V-shape of heavily incrusted grass, which crackled beneath the feet. One could
imagine the great drifts piled against the windward side. When the party reached the comparative peace
of this spot it was found that the Swede was still bellowing.

“Oh, I know what kind of a thing this is! I know you’ll all pitch on me. I can’t lick you all!”
Scully turned upon him panther fashion. “You’ll not have to whip all of us. You’ll have to whip my

son Johnnie. An’ the man what troubles you durin’ that time will have me to dale with.”
The arrangements were swiftly made. The two men faced each other, obedient to the harsh commands

of Scully, whose face, in the subtly luminous gloom, could be seen set in the austere impersonal lines
that are pictured on the countenances of the Roman veterans. The Easterner’s teeth were chattering, and
he was hopping up and down like a mechanical toy. The cowboy stood rock-like.

Stephen Crane (1871–1900) 351

The contestants had not stripped off any clothing. Each was in his ordinary attire. Their fists were up,
and they eyed each other in a calm that had the elements of leonine cruelty in it.

During this pause, the Easterner’s mind, like a film, took lasting impressions of three men—the iron-
nerved master of the ceremony; the Swede, pale, motionless, terrible; and Johnnie, serene yet ferocious,
brutish yet heroic. The entire prelude had in it a tragedy greater than the tragedy of action, and this aspect
was accentuated by the long, mellow cry of the blizzard, as it sped the tumbling and wailing flakes into
the black abyss of the south.

“Now!” said Scully.
The two combatants leaped forward and crashed together like bullocks. There was heard the

cushioned sound of blows, and of a curse squeezing out from between the tight teeth of one.
As for the spectators, the Easterner’s pent-up breath exploded from him with a pop of relief, absolute

relief from the tension of the preliminaries. The cowboy bounded into the air with a yowl. Scully was
immovable as from supreme amazement and fear at the fury of the fight which he himself had permitted
and arranged.

For a time the encounter in the darkness was such a perplexity of flying arms that it presented no
more detail than would a swiftly revolving wheel. Occasionally a face, as if illumined by a flash of light,
would shine out, ghastly and marked with pink spots. A moment later, the men might have been known
as shadows, if it were not for the involuntary utterance of oaths that came from them in whispers.

Suddenly a holocaust of warlike desire caught the cowboy, and he bolted forward with the speed of a
broncho. “Go it, Johnnie! go it! Kill him! Kill him!”

Scully confronted him. “Kape back,” he said; and by his glance the cowboy could tell that this man
was Johnnie’s father.

To the Easterner there was a monotony of unchangeable fighting that was an abomination. This
confused mingling was eternal to his sense, which was concentrated in a longing for the end, the
priceless end. Once the fighters lurched near him, and as he scrambled hastily backward he heard them
breathe like men on the rack.

“Kill him, Johnnie! Kill him! Kill him! Kill him!” The cowboy’s face was contorted like one of those
agony masks in museums.

“Keep still,” said Scully, icily.
Then there was a sudden loud grunt, incomplete, cut short, and Johnnie’s body swung away from the

Swede and fell with sickening heaviness to the grass. The cowboy was barely in time to prevent the mad
Swede from flinging himself upon his prone adversary. “No, you don’t,” said the cowboy, interposing
an arm. “Wait a second.”

Scully was at his son’s side. “Johnnie! Johnnie, me boy!” His voice had a quality of melancholy
tenderness. “Johnnie! Can you go on with it?” He looked anxiously down into the bloody, pulpy face of
his son.

There was a moment of silence, and then Johnnie answered in his ordinary voice, “Yes, I—it—yes.”
Assisted by his father he struggled to his feet. “Wait a bit now till you git your wind,” said the old

A few paces away the cowboy was lecturing the Swede. “No, you don’t! Wait a second!”
The Easterner was plucking at Scully’s sleeve. “Oh, this is enough,” he pleaded. “This is enough! Let

it go as it stands. This is enough!”
“Bill,” said Scully, “git out of the road.” The cowboy stepped aside. “Now.” The combatants were

actuated by a new caution as they advanced towards collision. They glared at each other, and then the
Swede aimed a lightning blow that carried with it his entire weight. Johnnie was evidently half stupid
from weakness, but he miraculously dodged, and his fist sent the over-balanced Swede sprawling.

The cowboy, Scully, and the Easterner burst into a cheer that was like a chorus of triumphant soldiery,

352 Short Stories

but before its conclusion the Swede had scuffled agilely to his feet and come in berserk abandon at his
foe. There was another perplexity of flying arms, and Johnnie’s body again swung away and fell, even
as a bundle might fall from a roof. The Swede instantly staggered to a little wind-waved tree and leaned
upon it, breathing like an engine, while his savage and flame-lit eyes roamed from face to face as the
men bent over Johnnie. There was a splendor of isolation in his situation at this time which the Easterner
felt once when, lifting his eyes from the man on the ground, he beheld that mysterious and lonely figure,

“Are you any good yet, Johnnie?” asked Scully in a broken voice.
The son gasped and opened his eyes languidly. After a moment he answered, “No—I ain’t—any

good—any—more.” Then, from shame and bodily ill he began to weep, the tears furrowing down
through the blood-stains on his face. “He was too—too—too heavy for me.”

Scully straightened and addressed the waiting figure. “Stranger,” he said, evenly, “it’s all up with our
side.” Then his voice changed into that vibrant huskiness which is commonly the tone of the most simple
and deadly announcements. “Johnnie is whipped.”

Without replying, the victor moved off on the route to the front door of the hotel.
The cowboy was formulating new and un-spellable blasphemies. The Easterner was startled to find

that they were out in a wind that seemed to come direct from the shadowed arctic floes. He heard again
the wail of the snow as it was flung to its grave in the south. He knew now that all this time the cold had
been sinking into him deeper and deeper, and he wondered that he had not perished. He felt indifferent
to the condition of the vanquished man.

“Johnnie, can you walk?” asked Scully.
“Did I hurt—hurt him any?” asked the son.
“Can you walk, boy? Can you walk?”
Johnnie’s voice was suddenly strong. There was a robust impatience in it. “I asked you whether I hurt

him any!”
“Yes, yes, Johnnie,” answered the cowboy, consolingly; “he’s hurt a good deal.”
They raised him from the ground, and as soon as he was on his feet he went tottering off, rebuffing all

attempts at assistance. When the party rounded the corner they were fairly blinded by the pelting of the
snow. It burned their faces like fire. The cowboy carried Johnnie through the drift to the door. As they
entered some cards again rose from the floor and beat against the wall.

The Easterner rushed to the stove. He was so profoundly chilled that he almost dared to embrace the
glowing iron. The Swede was not in the room. Johnnie sank into a chair, and, folding his arms on his
knees, buried his face in them. Scully, warming one foot and then the other at a rim of the stove, muttered
to himself with Celtic mournfulness. The cowboy had removed his fur cap, and with a dazed and rueful
air he was running one hand through his tousled locks. From overhead they could hear the creaking of
boards, as the Swede tramped here and there in his room.

The sad quiet was broken by the sudden flinging open of a door that led towards the kitchen. It was
instantly followed by an inrush of women. They precipitated themselves upon Johnnie amid a chorus of
lamentation. Before they carried their prey off to the kitchen, there to be bathed and harangued with that
mixture of sympathy and abuse which is a feat of their sex, the mother straightened herself and fixed old
Scully with an eye of stern reproach. “Shame be upon you, Patrick Scully!” she cried. “Your own son,
too. Shame be upon you!”

“There, now! Be quiet, now!” said the old man, weakly.
“Shame be upon you, Patrick Scully!” The girls, rallying to this slogan, sniffed disdainfully in the

direction of those trembling accomplices, the cowboy and the Easterner. Presently they bore Johnnie
away, and left the three men to dismal reflection.

Stephen Crane (1871–1900) 353


“I’d like to fight this here Dutchman myself,” said the cowboy, breaking a long silence.
Scully wagged his head sadly. “No, that wouldn’t do. It wouldn’t be right. It wouldn’t be right.”
“Well, why wouldn’t it?” argued the cowboy. “I don’t see no harm in it.”
“No,” answered Scully, with mournful heroism. “It wouldn’t be right. It was Johnnie’s fight, and now

we mustn’t whip the man just because he whipped Johnnie.”
“Yes, that’s true enough,” said the cowboy; “but—he better not get fresh with me, because I couldn’t

stand no more of it.”
“You’ll not say a word to him,” commanded Scully, and even then they heard the tread of the Swede

on the stairs. His entrance was made theatric. He swept the door back with a bang and swaggered to the
middle of the room. No one looked at him. “Well,” he cried, insolently, at Scully, “I s’pose you’ll tell me
now how much I owe you?”

The old man remained stolid. “You don’t owe me nothin’.”
“Huh!” said the Swede, “huh! Don’t owe ‘im nothin’.”
The cowboy addressed the Swede. “Stranger, I don’t see how you come to be so gay around here.”
Old Scully was instantly alert. “Stop!” he shouted, holding his hand forth, fingers upward. “Bill, you

shut up!”
The cowboy spat carelessly into the sawdust box. “I didn’t say a word, did I?” he asked.
“Mr. Scully,” called the Swede, “how much do I owe you?” It was seen that he was attired for

departure, and that he had his valise in his hand.
“You don’t owe me nothin’,” repeated Scully in his same imperturbable way.
“Huh!” said the Swede. “I guess you’re right. I guess if it was any way at all, you’d owe me somethin’.

That’s what I guess.” He turned to the cowboy. “‘Kill him! Kill him! Kill him!’” he mimicked, and then
guffawed victoriously. “‘Kill him!’” He was convulsed with ironical humor.

But he might have been jeering the dead. The three men were immovable and silent, staring with
glassy eyes at the stove.

The Swede opened the door and passed into the storm, giving one derisive glance backward at the still

As soon as the door was closed, Scully and the cowboy leaped to their feet and began to curse. They
trampled to and fro, waving their arms and smashing into the air with their fists. “Oh, but that was a hard
minute!” wailed Scully. “That was a hard minute! Him there leerin’ and scoffin’! One bang at his nose
was worth forty dollars to me that minute! How did you stand it, Bill?”

“How did I stand it?” cried the cowboy in a quivering voice. “How did I stand it? Oh!”
The old man burst into sudden brogue. “I’d loike to take that Swade,” he wailed, “and hould ‘im down

on a shtone flure and bate ‘im to a jelly wid a shtick!”
The cowboy groaned in sympathy. “I’d like to git him by the neck and ha-ammer him “—he brought

his hand down on a chair with a noise like a pistol-shot—”hammer that there Dutchman until he couldn’t
tell himself from a dead coyote!”

“I’d bate ‘im until he—”
“I’d show him some things—”
And then together they raised a yearning, fanatic cry—”Oh-o-oh! if we only could—”
“And then I’d—”

354 Short Stories


The Swede, tightly gripping his valise, tacked across the face of the storm as if he carried sails. He was
following a line of little naked, gasping trees, which he knew must mark the way of the road. His face,
fresh from the pounding of Johnnie’s fists, felt more pleasure than pain in the wind and the driving snow.
A number of square shapes loomed upon him finally, and he knew them as the houses of the main body
of the town. He found a street and made travel along it, leaning heavily upon the wind whenever, at a
corner, a terrific blast caught him.

He might have been in a deserted village. We picture the world as thick with conquering and elate
humanity, but here, with the bugles of the tempest pealing, it was hard to imagine a peopled earth. One
viewed the existence of man then as a marvel, and conceded a glamour of wonder to these lice which
were caused to cling to a whirling, fire-smote, ice-locked, disease-stricken, space-lost bulb. The conceit
of man was explained by this storm to be the very engine of life. One was a coxcomb not to die in it.
However, the Swede found a saloon.

In front of it an indomitable red light was burning, and the snow-flakes were made blood color as
they flew through the circumscribed territory of the lamp’s shining. The Swede pushed open the door
of the saloon and entered. A sanded expanse was before him, and at the end of it four men sat about a
table drinking. Down one side of the room extended a radiant bar, and its guardian was leaning upon his
elbows listening to the talk of the men at the table. The Swede dropped his valise upon the floor, and,
smiling fraternally upon the barkeeper, said, “Gimme some whiskey, will you?” The man placed a bottle,
a whiskey-glass, and a glass of ice-thick water upon the bar. The Swede poured himself an abnormal
portion of whiskey and drank it in three gulps. “Pretty bad night,” remarked the bartender, indifferently.
He was making the pretension of blindness which is usually a distinction of his class; but it could have
been seen that he was furtively studying the half-erased blood-stains on the face of the Swede. “Bad
night,” he said again.

“Oh, it’s good enough for me,” replied the Swede, hardily, as he poured himself some more whiskey.
The barkeeper took his coin and maneuvered it through its reception by the highly nickelled cash-
machine. A bell rang; a card labelled “20 cts.” had appeared.

“No,” continued the Swede, “this isn’t too bad weather. It’s good enough for me.”
“So?” murmured the barkeeper, languidly.
The copious drams made the Swede’s eyes swim, and he breathed a trifle heavier. “Yes, I like this

weather. I like it. It suits me.” It was apparently his design to impart a deep significance to these words.
“So?” murmured the bartender again. He turned to gaze dreamily at the scroll-like birds and bird-like

scrolls which had been drawn with soap upon the mirrors back of the bar.
“Well, I guess I’ll take another drink,” said the Swede, presently. “Have something?”
“No, thanks; I’m not drinkin’,” answered the bartender. Afterwards he asked, “How did you hurt your

The Swede immediately began to boast loudly. “Why, in a fight. I thumped the soul out of a man down

here at Scully’s hotel.”
The interest of the four men at the table was at last aroused.
“Who was it?” said one.
“Johnnie Scully,” blustered the Swede. “Son of the man what runs it. He will be pretty near dead for

some weeks, I can tell you. I made a nice thing of him, I did. He couldn’t get up. They carried him in the
house. Have a drink?”

Instantly the men in some subtle way incased themselves in reserve. “No, thanks,” said one. The
group was of curious formation. Two were prominent local business men; one was the district-attorney;

Stephen Crane (1871–1900) 355

and one was a professional gambler of the kind known as “square.” But a scrutiny of the group would
not have enabled an observer to pick the gambler from the men of more reputable pursuits. He was, in
fact, a man so delicate in manner, when among people of fair class, and so judicious in his choice of
victims, that in the strictly masculine part of the town’s life he had come to be explicitly trusted and
admired. People called him a thoroughbred. The fear and contempt with which his craft was regarded
was undoubtedly the reason that his quiet dignity shone conspicuous above the quiet dignity of men who
might be merely hatters, billiard markers, or grocery-clerks. Beyond an occasional unwary traveller, who
came by rail, this gambler was supposed to prey solely upon reckless and senile farmers, who, when
flush with good crops, drove into town in all the pride and confidence of an absolutely invulnerable
stupidity. Hearing at times in circuitous fashion of the despoilment of such a farmer, the important men
of Romper invariably laughed in contempt of the victim, and, if they thought of the wolf at all, it was
with a kind of pride at the knowledge that he would never dare think of attacking their wisdom and
courage. Besides, it was popular that this gambler had a real wife and two real children in a neat cottage
in a suburb, where he led an exemplary home life; and when any one even suggested a discrepancy in his
character, the crowd immediately vociferated descriptions of this virtuous family circle. Then men who
led exemplary home lives, and men who did not lead exemplary home lives, all subsided in a bunch,
remarking that there was nothing more to be said.

However, when a restriction was placed upon him—as, for instance, when a strong clique of members
of the new Pollywog Club refused to permit him, even as a spectator, to appear in the rooms of the
organization—the candor and gentleness with which he accepted the judgment disarmed many of his
foes and made his friends more desperately partisan. He invariably distinguished between himself and
a respectable Romper man so quickly and frankly that his manner actually appeared to be a continual
broadcast compliment.

And one must not forget to declare the fundamental fact of his entire position in Romper. It is
irrefutable that in all affairs outside of his business, in all matters that occur eternally and commonly
between man and man, this thieving card-player was so generous, so just, so moral, that, in a contest, he
could have put to flight the consciences of nine-tenths of the citizens of Romper.

And so it happened that he was seated in this saloon with the two prominent local merchants and the

The Swede continued to drink raw whiskey, meanwhile babbling at the barkeeper and trying to induce
him to indulge in potations. “Come on. Have a drink. Come on. What—no? Well, have a little one, then.
By gawd, I’ve whipped a man to-night, and I want to celebrate. I whipped him good, too. Gentlemen,”
the Swede cried to the men at the table, “have a drink?”

“Ssh!” said the barkeeper.
The group at the table, although furtively attentive, had been pretending to be deep in talk, but now a

man lifted his eyes towards the Swede and said, shortly, “Thanks. We don’t want any more.”
At this reply the Swede ruffled out his chest like a rooster. “Well,” he exploded, “it seems I can’t get

anybody to drink with me in this town. Seems so, don’t it? Well!”
“Ssh!” said the barkeeper.
“Say,” snarled the Swede, “don’t you try to shut me up. I won’t have it. I’m a gentleman, and I want

people to drink with me. And I want ’em to drink with me now. Now—do you understand?” He rapped
the bar with his knuckles.

Years of experience had calloused the bartender. He merely grew sulky. “I hear you,” he answered.
“Well,” cried the Swede, “listen hard then. See those men over there? Well, they’re going to drink

with me, and don’t you forget it. Now you watch.”
“Hi!” yelled the barkeeper, “this won’t do!”

356 Short Stories

“Why won’t it?” demanded the Swede. He stalked over to the table, and by chance laid his hand upon
the shoulder of the gambler. “How about this?” he asked, wrathfully. “I asked you to drink with me.”

The gambler simply twisted his head and spoke over his shoulder. “My friend, I don’t know you.”
“Oh, hell!” answered the Swede, “come and have a drink.”
“Now, my boy,” advised the gambler, kindly, “take your hand off my shoulder and go ‘way and mind

your own business.” He was a little, slim man, and it seemed strange to hear him use this tone of heroic
patronage to the burly Swede. The other men at the table said nothing.

“What! You won’t drink with me, you little dude? I’ll make you then! I’ll make you!” The Swede
had grasped the gambler frenziedly at the throat, and was dragging him from his chair. The other men
sprang up. The barkeeper dashed around the corner of his bar. There was a great tumult, and then was
seen a long blade in the hand of the gambler. It shot forward, and a human body, this citadel of virtue,
wisdom, power, was pierced as easily as if it had been a melon. The Swede fell with a cry of supreme

The prominent merchants and the district attorney must have at once tumbled out of the place
backward. The bartender found himself hanging limply to the arm of a chair and gazing into the eyes of
a murderer.

“Henry,” said the latter, as he wiped his knife on one of the towels that hung beneath the bar-rail, “you
tell ’em where to find me. I’ll be home, waiting for ’em.” Then he vanished. A moment afterwards the
barkeeper was in the street dinning through the storm for help, and, moreover, companionship.

The corpse of the Swede, alone in the saloon, had its eyes fixed upon a dreadful legend that dwelt atop
of the cash-machine: “This registers the amount of your purchase.”


Months later, the cowboy was frying pork over the stove of a little ranch near the Dakota line, when there
was a quick thud of hoofs outside, and presently the Easterner entered with the letters and the papers.

“Well,” said the Easterner at once, “the chap that killed the Swede has got three years. Wasn’t much,
was it?”

“He has? Three years?” The cowboy poised his pan of pork, while he ruminated upon the news.
“Three years. That ain’t much.”

“No. It was a light sentence,” replied the Easterner as he unbuckled his spurs. “Seems there was a
good deal of sympathy for him in Romper.”

“If the bartender had been any good,” observed the cowboy, thoughtfully, “he would have gone in and
cracked that there Dutchman on the head with a bottle in the beginnin’ of it and stopped all this here

“Yes, a thousand things might have happened,” said the Easterner, tartly.
The cowboy returned his pan of pork to the fire, but his philosophy continued. “It’s funny, ain’t it? If

he hadn’t said Johnnie was cheatin’ he’d be alive this minute. He was an awful fool. Game played for
fun, too. Not for money. I believe he was crazy.”

“I feel sorry for that gambler,” said the Easterner.
“Oh, so do I,” said the cowboy. “He don’t deserve none of it for killin’ who he did.”
“The Swede might not have been killed if everything had been square.”
“Might not have been killed?” exclaimed the cowboy. “Everythin’ square? Why, when he said that

Johnnie was cheatin’ and acted like such a jackass? And then in the saloon he fairly walked up to git
hurt?” With these arguments the cowboy browbeat the Easterner and reduced him to rage.

Stephen Crane (1871–1900) 357

“You’re a fool!” cried the Easterner, viciously. “You’re a bigger jackass than the Swede by a million
majority. Now let me tell you one thing. Let me tell you something. Listen! Johnnie was cheating!”

“‘Johnnie,’” said the cowboy, blankly. There was a minute of silence, and then he said, robustly, “Why,
no. The game was only for fun.”

“Fun or not,” said the Easterner, “Johnnie was cheating. I saw him. I know it. I saw him. And I refused
to stand up and be a man. I let the Swede fight it out alone. And you—you were simply puffing around
the place and wanting to fight. And then old Scully himself! We are all in it! This poor gambler isn’t
even a noun. He is kind of an adverb. Every sin is the result of a collaboration. We, five of us, have
collaborated in the murder of this Swede. Usually there are from a dozen to forty women really involved
in every murder, but in this case it seems to be only five men—you, I, Johnnie, old Scully, and that fool
of an unfortunate gambler came merely as a culmination, the apex of a human movement, and gets all
the punishment.”

The cowboy, injured and rebellious, cried out blindly into this fog of mysterious theory: “Well, I didn’t
do anythin’, did I?”

358 Short Stories


The Blue Hotel

Study Questions

1. Look up Naturalism in the glossary and then list several naturalistic aspects in this story.

2. Is the Swede correct in his belief that Fort Romper is a typical “Wild West” town?

3. Describe the character of the Easterner, Mr. Blanc. Do you agree with his final assessment that he
and the cowboy were complicit in the Swede’s death? If so, why?

4. Discuss the role of chance in the story and give two examples of the use of this word.

5. Why does Scully insist that the Swede stay in the hotel even after it’s clear that the Swede wants
to leave? Why does he show the pictures of his children?


How does this poem by Crane relate to the story’s theme? How would the response of Mr. Blanc, the
Easterner, to this poem differ from that of the Cowboy?

A man said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”

Watch this two-part film adaption of “The Blue Hotel”.

Check out Crane’s newspaper articles.

Text Attributions

• Biography: Stephen Crane [PDF] by University System of Georgia. Adapted by James
Sexton. © Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Licence

• “The Blue Hotel” by Stephen Crane is free of known copyright restrictions in Canada.

Media Attributions

• Stephen Crane © Public Domain

Stephen Crane (1871–1900) 359


Willa Cather (1873–1947)


Willa Cather was born in Virginia on December 7, 1873. Her family moved to Nebraska in 1883,
ultimately settling in the town of Red Cloud, where the National Willa Cather Center is located
today. After graduating from the University of Nebraska, she became a journalist in Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania, later teaching high school English there.

Willa’s first book, April Twilights (1903), was a collection of poems. In 1906, she moved to New York
City to take an editorial position at McClure’s Magazine, where she worked until 1912, when she left to
again focus on her creative writing.

She is the author of twenty books and is best known for her fiction, including the novels Death Comes
for the Archbishop (1927); One of Ours (1922), which won the Pulitzer Prize; My Ántonia (1918); and O
Pioneers! (1913).

She died in New York City on April 24, 1947.


Paul’s Case

It was Paul’s afternoon to appear before the faculty of the Pittsburgh High School to account for his
various misdemeanors. He had been suspended a week ago, and his father had called at the Principal’s
office and confessed his perplexity about his son. Paul entered the faculty room suave and smiling. His
clothes were a trifle outgrown, and the tan velvet on the collar of his open overcoat was frayed and worn;
but for all that there was something of the dandy about him, and he wore an opal pin in his neatly knotted
black four-in-hand, and a red carnation in his buttonhole. This latter adornment the faculty somehow felt
was not properly significant of the contrite spirit befitting a boy under the ban of suspension.

Paul was tall for his age and very thin, with high, cramped shoulders and a narrow chest. His eyes were
remarkable for a certain hysterical brilliancy, and he continually used them in a conscious, theatrical sort
of way, peculiarly offensive in a boy. The pupils were abnormally large, as though he were addicted to
belladonna, but there was a glassy glitter about them which that drug does not produce.

When questioned by the Principal as to why he was there Paul stated, politely enough, that he wanted
to come back to school. This was a lie, but Paul was quite accustomed to lying; found it, indeed,
indispensable for overcoming friction. His teachers were asked to state their respective charges against
him, which they did with such a rancor and aggrievedness as evinced that this was not a usual case.
Disorder and impertinence were among the offenses named, yet each of his instructors felt that it was
scarcely possible to put into words the real cause of the trouble, which lay in a sort of hysterically defiant
manner of the boy’s; in the contempt which they all knew he felt for them, and which he seemingly
made not the least effort to conceal. Once, when he had been making a synopsis of a paragraph at the
blackboard, his English teacher had stepped to his side and attempted to guide his hand. Paul had started
back with a shudder and thrust his hands violently behind him. The astonished woman could scarcely
have been more hurt and embarrassed had he struck at her. The insult was so involuntary and definitely
personal as to be unforgettable. in one way and another he had made all his teachers, men and women
alike, conscious of the same feeling of physical aversion. In one class he habitually sat with his hand
shading his eyes; in another he always looked out of the window during the recitation; in another he
made a running commentary on the lecture, with humorous intention.

His teachers felt this afternoon that his whole attitude was symbolized by his shrug and his flippantly
red carnation flower, and they fell upon him without mercy, his English teacher leading the pack. He
stood through it smiling, his pale lips parted over his white teeth. (His lips were continually twitching,
and be had a habit of raising his eyebrows that was contemptuous and irritating to the last degree.) Older
boys than Paul had broken down and shed tears under that baptism of fire, but his set smile did not once
desert him, and his only sign of discomfort was the nervous trembling of the fingers that toyed with the
buttons of his overcoat, and an occasional jerking of the other hand that held his hat. Paul was always
smiling, always glancing about him, seeming to feel that people might be watching him and trying to
detect something. This conscious expression, since it was as far as possible from boyish mirthfulness,
was usually attributed to insolence or “smartness.”

As the inquisition proceeded one of his instructors repeated an impertinent remark of the boy’s,
and the Principal asked him whether he thought that a courteous speech to have made a woman. Paul
shrugged his shoulders slightly and his eyebrows twitched.

Willa Cather (1873–1947) 361

“I don’t know,” he replied. “I didn’t mean to be polite or impolite, either. I guess it’s a sort of way I
have of saying things regardless.”

The Principal, who was a sympathetic man, asked him whether he didn’t think that a way it would be
well to get rid of. Paul grinned and said he guessed so. When he was told that he could go he bowed
gracefully and went out. His bow was but a repetition of the scandalous red carnation.

His teachers were in despair, and his drawing master voiced the feeling of them all when he declared
there was something about the boy which none of them understood. He added: “I don’t really believe
that smile of his comes altogether from insolence; there’s something sort of haunted about it. The boy is
not strong, for one thing. I happen to know that he was born in Colorado, only a few months before his
mother died out there of a long illness. There is something wrong about the fellow.”

The drawing master had come to realize that, in looking at Paul, one saw only his white teeth and the
forced animation of his eyes. One warm afternoon the boy had gone to sleep at his drawing board, and
his master had noted with amazement what a white, blue-veined face it was; drawn and wrinkled like an
old man’s about the eyes, the lips twitching even in his sleep, and stiff with a nervous tension that drew
them back from his teeth.

His teachers left the building dissatisfied and unhappy; humiliated to have felt so vindictive toward a
mere boy, to have uttered this feeling in cutting terms, and to have set each other on, as it were, in the
gruesome game of intemperate reproach. Some of them remembered having seen a miserable street cat
set at bay by a ring of tormentors.

As for Paul, he ran down the hill whistling the “Soldiers’ Chorus” from Faust, looking wildly
behind him now and then to see whether some of his teachers were not there to writhe under his
lightheartedness. As it was now late in the afternoon and Paul was on duty that evening as usher
at Carnegie Hall,

he decided that he would not go home to supper. When he reached the concert

hall the doors were not yet open and, as it was chilly outside, he decided to go up into the picture
gallery—always deserted at this hour—where there were some of Raffelli’s

gay studies of Paris streets

and an airy blue Venetian scene or two that always exhilarated him. He was delighted to find no one in
the gallery but the old guard, who sat in one corner, a newspaper on his knee, a black patch over one eye
and the other closed. Paul possessed himself of the peace and walked confidently up and down, whistling
under his breath. After a while he sat down before a blue Rico

and lost himself. When he bethought him

to look at his watch, it was after seven o’clock, and he rose with a start and ran downstairs, making a
face at Augustus, peering out from the cast room, and an evil gesture at the Venus de Milo as he passed
her on the stairway.

When Paul reached the ushers’ dressing room half a dozen boys were there already, and he began
excitedly to tumble into his uniform. It was one of the few that at all approached fitting, and Paul thought
it very becoming-though he knew that the tight, straight coat accentuated his narrow chest, about which
he was exceedingly sensitive. He was always considerably excited while be dressed, twanging all over
to the tuning of the strings and the preliminary flourishes of the horns in the music room; but tonight
he seemed quite beside himself, and he teased and plagued the boys until, telling him that he was crazy,
they put him down on the floor and sat on him.

Somewhat calmed by his suppression, Paul dashed out to the front of the house to seat the early
comers. He was a model usher; gracious and smiling he ran up and down the aisles; nothing was too
much trouble for him; he carried messages and brought programs as though it were his greatest pleasure
in life, and all the people in his section thought him a charming boy, feeling that he remembered and

1. Not to be confused with Carnegie Hall in New York, both funded by Andrew Carnegie, wealthy steel magnate (1835–1919).

2. Jean-François Raffaelli (1850–1924). French realist artist.

3. Martín Rico (1833–1908). Spanish landscape painter. Paul sneers at statues of Augustus Caesar and the Venus de Milo as he descends the


362 Short Stories

admired them. As the house filled, he grew more and more vivacious and animated, and the color came
to his cheeks and lips. It was very much as though this were a great reception and Paul were the host.
Just as the musicians came out to take their places, his English teacher arrived with checks for the seats
which a prominent manufacturer had taken for the season. She betrayed some embarrassment when she
handed Paul the tickets, and a hauteur which subsequently made her feel very foolish. Paul was startled
for a moment, and had the feeling of wanting to put her out; what business had she here among all these
fine people and gay colors? He looked her over and decided that she was not appropriately dressed and
must be a fool to sit downstairs in such togs. The tickets had probably been sent her out of kindness, he
reflected as he put down a seat for her, and she had about as much right to sit there as he had.

When the symphony began Paul sank into one of the rear seats with a long sigh of relief, and lost
himself as he had done before the Rico. It was not that symphonies, as such, meant anything in particular
to Paul, but the first sigh of the instruments seemed to free some hilarious and potent spirit within him;
something that struggled there like the genie in the bottle found by the Arab fisherman. He felt a sudden
zest of life; the lights danced before his eyes and the concert hall blazed into unimaginable splendor.
When the soprano soloist came on Paul forgot even the nastiness of his teacher’s being there and gave
himself up to the peculiar stimulus such personages always had for him. The soloist chanced to be a
German woman, by no means in her first youth, and the mother of many children; but she wore an
elaborate gown and a tiara, and above all she had that indefinable air of achievement, that world-shine
upon her, which, in Paul’s eyes, made her a veritable queen of Romance.

After a concert was over Paul was always irritable and wretched until he got to sleep, and tonight
he was even more than usually restless. He had the feeling of not being able to let down, of its being
impossible to give up this delicious excitement which was the only thing that could be called living at
all. During the last number he withdrew and, after hastily changing his clothes in the dressing room,
slipped out to the side door where the soprano’s carriage stood. Here he began pacing rapidly up and
down the walk, waiting to see her come out.

Over yonder, the Schenley, in its vacant stretch, loomed big and square through the fine rain, the
windows of its twelve stories glowing like those of a lighted cardboard house under a Christmas tree.
All the actors and singers of the better class stayed there when they were in the city, and a number of the
big manufacturers of the place lived there in the winter. Paul had often hung about the hotel, watching
the people go in and out, longing to enter and leave schoolmasters and dull care behind him forever.

At last the singer came out, accompanied by the conductor, who helped her into her carriage and
closed the door with a cordial auf wiedersehen which set Paul to wondering whether she were not an old
sweetheart of his. Paul followed the carriage over to the hotel, walking so rapidly as not to be far from
the entrance when the singer alighted, and disappeared behind the swinging glass doors that were opened
by a Negro in a tall hat and a long coat. In the moment that the door was ajar it seemed to Paul that he,
too, entered. He seemed to feel himself go after her up the steps, into the warm, lighted building, into an
exotic, tropical world of shiny, glistening surfaces and basking ease. He reflected upon the mysterious
dishes that were brought into the dining room, the green bottles in buckets of ice, as he had seen them in
the supper party pictures of the Sunday World supplement. A quick gust of wind brought the rain down
with sudden vehemence, and Paul was startled to find that he was still outside in the slush of the gravel
driveway; that his boots were letting in the water and his scanty overcoat was clinging wet about him;
that the lights in front of the concert hall were out and that the rain was driving in sheets between him
and the orange glow of the windows above him. There it was, what he wanted—tangibly before him,
like the fairy world of a Christmas pantomime—but mocking spirits stood guard at the doors, and, as
the rain beat in his face, Paul wondered whether he were destined always to shiver in the black night
outside, looking up at it.

He turned and walked reluctantly toward the car tracks. The end had to come sometime; his father in

Willa Cather (1873–1947) 363

his nightclothes at the top of the stairs, explanations that did not explain, hastily improvised fictions that
were forever tripping him up, his upstairs room and its horrible yellow wallpaper, the creaking bureau
with the greasy plush collarbox, and over his painted wooden bed the pictures of George Washington
and John Calvin, and the framed motto, “Feed my Lambs,”

which had been worked in red worsted by

his mother.
Half an hour later Paul alighted from his car and went slowly down one of the side streets off the

main thoroughfare. It was a highly respectable street, where all the houses were exactly alike, and
where businessmen of moderate means begot and reared large families of children, all of whom went to
Sabbath school and learned the shorter catechism, and were interested in arithmetic; all of whom were
as exactly alike as their homes, and of a piece with the monotony in which they lived. Paul never went
up Cordelia Street without a shudder of loathing. His home was next to the house of the Cumberland
minister. He approached it tonight with the nerveless sense of defeat, the hopeless feeling of sinking
back forever into ugliness and commonness that he had always had when he came home. The moment
he turned into Cordelia Street he felt the waters close above his head. After each of these orgies of
living he experienced all the physical depression which follows a debauch; the loathing of respectable
beds, of common food, of a house penetrated by kitchen odors; a shuddering repulsion for the flavorless,
colorless mass of everyday existence; a morbid desire for cool things and soft lights and fresh flowers.

The nearer he approached the house, the more absolutely unequal Paul felt to the sight of it all: his
ugly sleeping chamber; the cold bathroom with the grimy zinc tub, the cracked mirror, the dripping
spiggots; his father, at the top of the stairs, his hairy legs sticking out from his nightshirt, his feet
thrust into carpet slippers. He was so much later than usual that there would certainly be inquiries and
reproaches. Paul stopped short before the door. He felt that he could not be accosted by his father tonight;
that he could not toss again on that miserable bed. He would not go in. He would tell his father that he
had no carfare and it was raining so hard he had gone home with one of the boys and stayed all night.

Meanwhile, he was wet and cold. He went around to the back of the house and tried one of the
basement windows, found it open, raised it cautiously, and scrambled down the cellar wall to the floor.
There he stood, holding his breath, terrified by the noise he had made, but the floor above him was silent,
and there was no creak on the stairs. He found a soapbox, and carried it over to the soft ring of light
that streamed from the furnace door, and sat down. He was horribly afraid of rats, so he did not try to
sleep, but sat looking distrustfully at the dark, still terrified lest he might have awakened his father. In
such reactions, after one of the experiences which made days and nights out of the dreary blanks of the
calendar, when his senses were deadened, Paul’s head was always singularly clear. Suppose his father
had heard him getting in at the window and had come down and shot him for a burglar? Then, again,
suppose his father had come down, pistol in hand, and he had cried out in time to save himself, and his
father had been horrified to think how nearly he had killed him? Then, again, suppose a day should come
when his father would remember that night, and wish there had been no warning cry to stay his hand?
With this last supposition Paul entertained himself until daybreak.

The following Sunday was fine; the sodden November chill was broken by the last flash of autumnal
summer. In the morning Paul had to go to church and Sabbath school, as always. On seasonable
Sunday afternoons the burghers of Cordelia Street always sat out on their front stoops and talked to
their neighbors on the next stoop, or called to those across the street in neighborly fashion. The men
usually sat on gay cushions placed upon the steps that led down to the sidewalk, while the women, in
their Sunday “waists,” sat in rockers on the cramped porches, pretending to be greatly at their ease.
The children played in the streets; there were so many of them that the place resembled the recreation
grounds of a kindergarten. The men on the steps—all in their shirt sleeves, their vests unbuttoned—sat

4. Christ’s words to Simon Peter. John 21:15.

364 Short Stories

with their legs well apart, their stomachs comfortably protruding, and talked of the prices of things, or
told anecdotes of the sagacity of their various chiefs and overlords. They occasionally looked over the
multitude of squabbling children, listened affectionately to their high-pitched, nasal voices, smiling to
see their own proclivities reproduced in their offspring, and interspersed their legends of the iron kings
with remarks about their sons’ progress at school, their grades in arithmetic, and the amounts they had
saved in their toy banks.

On this last Sunday of November Paul sat all the afternoon on the lowest step of his stoop, staring
into the street, while his sisters, in their rockers, were talking to the minister’s daughters next door about
how many shirtwaists they had made in the last week, and how many waffles someone had eaten at the
last church supper. When the weather was warm, and his father was in a particularly jovial frame of
mind, the girls made lemonade, which was always brought out in a red-glass pitcher, ornamented with
forget-me-nots in blue enamel. This the girls thought very fine, and the neighbors always joked about
the suspicious color of the pitcher.

Today Paul’s father sat on the top step, talking to a young man who shifted a restless baby from knee
to knee. He happened to be the young man who was daily held up to Paul as a model, and after whom
it was his father’s dearest hope that he would pattern. This young man was of a ruddy complexion, with
a compressed, red mouth, and faded, nearsighted eyes, over which he wore thick spectacles, with gold
bows that curved about his ears. He was clerk to one of the magnates of a great steel corporation, and
was looked upon in Cordelia Street as a young man with a future. There was a story that, some five years
ago—he was now barely twenty-six—he had been a trifle dissipated, but in order to curb his appetites
and save the loss of time and strength that a sowing of wild oats might have entailed, he had taken his
chief’s advice, oft reiterated to his employees, and at twenty- one had married the first woman whom he
could persuade to share his fortunes. She happened to be an angular schoolmistress, much older than he,
who also wore thick glasses, and who had now borne him four children, all nearsighted, like herself.

The young man was relating how his chief, now cruising in the Mediterranean, kept in touch with
all the details of the business, arranging his office hours on his yacht just as though he were at home,
and “knocking off work enough to keep two stenographers busy.” His father told, in turn, the plan his
corporation was considering, of putting in an electric railway plant in Cairo. Paul snapped his teeth; he
had an awful apprehension that they might spoil it all before he got there. Yet he rather liked to hear these
legends of the iron kings that were told and retold on Sundays and holidays; these stories of palaces in
Venice, yachts on the Mediterranean, and high play at Monte Carlo appealed to his fancy, and he was
interested in the triumphs of these cash boys who had become famous, though he had no mind for the
cash-boy stage.

After supper was over and he had helped to dry the dishes, Paul nervously asked his father whether he
could go to George’s to get some help in his geometry, and still more nervously asked for carfare. This
latter request he had to repeat, as his father, on principle, did not like to hear requests for money, whether
much or little. He asked Paul whether he could not go to some boy who lived nearer, and told him that
he ought not to leave his schoolwork until Sunday; but he gave him the dime. He was not a poor man,
but he had a worthy ambition to come up in the world. His only reason for allowing Paul to usher was
that he thought a boy ought to be earning a little.

Paul bounded upstairs, scrubbed the greasy odor of the dishwater from his hands with the ill-smelling
soap he hated, and then shook over his fingers a few drops of violet water from the bottle he kept hidden
in his drawer. He left the house with his geometry conspicuously under his arm, and the moment he got
out of Cordelia Street and boarded a downtown car, he shook off the lethargy of two deadening days and
began to live again.

The leading juvenile of the permanent stock company which played at one of the downtown theaters
was an acquaintance of Paul’s, and the boy had been invited to drop in at the Sunday-night rehearsals

Willa Cather (1873–1947) 365

whenever he could. For more than a year Paul had spent every available moment loitering about Charley
Edwards’s dressing room. He had won a place among Edwards’s following not only because the young
actor, who could not afford to employ a dresser, often found him useful, but because he recognized in
Paul something akin to what churchmen term “vocation.”

It was at the theater and at Carnegie Hall that Paul really lived; the rest was but a sleep and a
forgetting. This was Paul’s fairy tale, and it had for him all the allurement of a secret love. The moment
he inhaled the gassy, painty, dusty odor behind the scenes, he breathed like a prisoner set free, and felt
within him the possibility of doing or saying splendid, brilliant, poetic things. The moment the cracked
orchestra beat out the overture from Martha, or jerked at the serenade from Rigoletto, all stupid and ugly
things slid from him, and his senses were deliciously, yet delicately fired.

Perhaps it was because, in Paul’s world, the natural nearly always wore the guise of ugliness, that a
certain element of artificiality seemed to him necessary in beauty. Perhaps it was because his experience
of life elsewhere was so full of Sabbath-school picnics, petty economies, wholesome advice as to how
to succeed in life, and the inescapable odors of cooking, that he found this existence so alluring, these
smartly clad men and women so attractive, that he was so moved by these starry apple orchards that
bloomed perennially under the limelight.

It would be difficult to put it strongly enough how convincingly the stage entrance of that theater
was for Paul the actual portal of Romance. Certainly none of the company ever suspected it, least of
all Charley Edwards. It was very like the old stories that used to float about London of fabulously rich
Jews, who had subterranean halls there, with palms, and fountains, and soft lamps and richly appareled
women who never saw the disenchanting light of London day. So, in the midst of that smoke-palled city,
enamored of figures and grimy toil, Paul had his secret temple, his wishing carpet, his bit of blue-and-
white Mediterranean shore bathed in perpetual sunshine.

Several of Paul’s teachers had a theory that his imagination had been perverted by garish fiction, but
the truth was that he scarcely ever read at all. The books at home were not such as would either tempt or
corrupt a youthful mind, and as for reading the novels that some of his friends urged upon him—well,
he got what he wanted much more quickly from music; any sort of music, from an orchestra to a barrel
organ. He needed only the spark, the indescribable thrill that made his imagination master of his senses,
and he could make plots and pictures enough of his own. It was equally true that he was not stage-
struck—not, at any rate, in the usual acceptation of that expression. He had no desire to become an actor,
any more than he had to become a musician. He felt no necessity to do any of these things; what he
wanted was to see, to be in the atmosphere, float on the wave of it, to be carried out, blue league after
blue league, away from everything.

After a night behind the scenes Paul found the schoolroom more than ever repulsive; the bare floors
and naked walls; the prosy men who never wore frock coats, or violets in their buttonholes; the women
with their dull gowns, shrill voices, and pitiful seriousness about prepositions that govern the dative. He
could not bear to have the other pupils think, for a moment, that he took these people seriously; he must
convey to them that he considered it all trivial, and was there only by way of a jest, anyway. He had
autographed pictures of all the members of the stock company which he showed his classmates, telling
them the most incredible stories of his familiarity with these people, of his acquaintance with the soloists
who came to Carnegie Hall, his suppers with them and the flowers he sent them. When these stories lost
their effect, and his audience grew listless, he became desperate and would bid all the boys good-by,
announcing that he was going to travel for a while; going to Naples, to Venice, to Egypt. Then, next
Monday, he would slip back, conscious and nervously smiling; his sister was ill, and he should have to
defer his voyage until spring.

Matters went steadily worse with Paul at school. In the itch to let his instructors know how heartily
he despised them and their homilies, and how thoroughly he was appreciated elsewhere, he mentioned

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once or twice that he had no time to fool with theorems; adding—with a twitch of the eyebrows and a
touch of that nervous bravado which so perplexed them—that he was helping the people down at the
stock company; they were old friends of his.

The upshot of the matter was that the Principal went to Paul’s father, and Paul was taken out of school
and put to work. The manager at Carnegie Hall was told to get another usher in his stead; the doorkeeper
at the theater was warned not to admit him to the house; and Charley Edwards remorsefully promised
the boy’s father not to see him again.

The members of the stock company were vastly amused when some of Paul’s stories reached
them—especially the women. They were hardworking women, most of them supporting indigent
husbands or brothers, and they laughed rather bitterly at having stirred the boy to such fervid and florid
inventions. They agreed with the faculty and with his father that Paul’s was a bad case.

The eastbound train was plowing through a January snowstorm; the dull dawn was beginning to show
gray when the engine whistled a mile out of Newark. Paul started up from the seat where he had lain
curled in uneasy slumber, rubbed the breath-misted window glass with his hand, and peered out. The
snow was whirling in curling eddies above the white bottom lands, and the drifts lay already deep in the
fields and along the fences, while here and there the long dead grass and dried weed stalks protruded
black above it. Lights shone from the scattered houses, and a gang of laborers who stood beside the track
waved their lanterns.

Paul had slept very little, and he felt grimy and uncomfortable. He had made the all-night journey
in a day coach, partly because he was ashamed, dressed as he was, to go into a Pullman, and partly
because he was afraid of being seen there by some Pittsburgh businessman, who might have noticed
him in Denny & Carson’s office. When the whistle awoke him, he clutched quickly at his breast pocket,
glancing about him with an uncertain smile. But the little, clay-bespattered Italians were still sleeping,
the slatternly women across the aisle were in open-mouthed oblivion, and even the crumby, crying babies
were for the nonce stilled. Paul settled back to struggle with his impatience as best he could.

When he arrived at the Jersey City station he hurried through his breakfast, manifestly ill at ease and
keeping a sharp eye about him. After he reached the Twenty-third Street station, he consulted a cabman
and had himself driven to a men’s-furnishings establishment that was just opening for the day. He spent
upward of two hours there, buying with endless reconsidering and great care. His new street suit he put
on in the fitting room; the frock coat and dress clothes he had bundled into the cab with his linen. Then
he drove to a hatter’s and a shoe house. His next errand was at Tiffany’s, where he selected his silver and
a new scarf pin. He would not wait to have his silver marked, he said. Lastly, he stopped at a trunk shop
on Broadway and had his purchases packed into various traveling bags.

It was a little after one o’clock when he drove up to the Waldorf, and after settling with the cabman,
went into the office. He registered from Washington; said his mother and father had been abroad, and that
he had come down to await the arrival of their steamer. He told his story plausibly and had no trouble,
since he volunteered to pay for them in advance, in engaging his rooms; a sleeping room, sitting room,
and bath.

Not once, but a hundred times, Paul had planned this entry into New York. He had gone over every
detail of it with Charley Edwards, and in his scrapbook at home there were pages of description about
New York hotels, cut from the Sunday papers. When he was shown to his sitting room on the eighth
floor he saw at a glance that everything was as it should be; there was but one detail in his mental picture
that the place did not realize, so he rang for the bellboy and sent him down for flowers. He moved about
nervously until the boy returned, putting away his new linen and fingering it delightedly as he did so.
When the flowers came he put them hastily into water, and then tumbled into a hot bath. Presently he
came out of his white bathroom, resplendent in his new silk underwear, and playing with the tassels of
his red robe. The snow was whirling so fiercely outside his windows that he could scarcely see across

Willa Cather (1873–1947) 367

the street, but within the air was deliciously soft and fragrant. He put the violets and jonquils on the
taboret beside the couch, and threw himself down, with a long sigh, covering himself with a Roman
blanket. He was thoroughly tired; he had been in such haste, he had stood up to such a strain, covered
so much ground in the last twenty-four hours, that he wanted to think how it had all come about. Lulled
by the sound of the wind, the warm air, and the cool fragrance of the flowers, he sank into deep, drowsy

It had been wonderfully simple; when they had shut him out of the theater and concert hall, when
they had taken away his bone, the whole thing was virtually determined. The rest was a mere matter of
opportunity. The only thing that at all surprised him was his own courage—for he realized well enough
that he had always been tormented by fear, a sort of apprehensive dread that, of late years, as the meshes
of the lies he had told closed about him, had been pulling the muscles of his body tighter and tighter.
Until now he could not remember the time when he had not been dreading something. Even when he
was a little boy it was always there—behind him, or before, or on either side. There had always been the
shadowed corner, the dark place into which he dared not look, but from which something seemed always
to be watching him—and Paul had done things that were not pretty to watch, he knew.

But now he had a curious sense of relief, as though he had at last thrown down the gauntlet to the
thing in the corner.

Yet it was but a day since he had been sulking in the traces; but yesterday afternoon that he had been
sent to the bank with Denny & Carson’s deposit, as usual—but this time he was instructed to leave the
book to be balanced. There was above two thousand dollars in checks, and nearly a thousand in the
bank notes which he had taken from the book and quietly transferred to his pocket. At the bank he had
made out a new deposit slip. His nerves had been steady enough to permit of his returning to the office,
where he had finished his work and asked for a full day’s holiday tomorrow, Saturday, giving a perfectly
reasonable pretext. The bankbook, be knew, would not be returned before Monday or Tuesday, and his
father would be out of town for the next week. From the time he slipped the bank notes into his pocket
until he boarded the night train for New York, he had not known a moment’s hesitation. It was not the
first time Paul had steered through treacherous waters.

How astonishingly easy it had all been; here he was, the thing done; and this time there would be no
awakening, no figure at the top of the stairs. He watched the snowflakes whirling by his window until
he fell asleep.

When he awoke, it was three o’clock in the afternoon. He bounded up with a start; half of one of
his precious days gone already! He spent more than an hour in dressing, watching every stage of his
toilet carefully in the mirror. Everything was quite perfect; he was exactly the kind of boy he had always
wanted to be.

When he went downstairs Paul took a carriage and drove up Fifth Avenue toward the Park. The snow
had somewhat abated; carriages and tradesmen’s wagons were hurrying soundlessly to and fro in the
winter twilight; boys in woolen mufflers were shoveling off the doorsteps; the avenue stages made fine
spots of color against the white street. Here and there on the corners were stands, with whole flower
gardens blooming under glass cases, against the sides of which the snowflakes stuck and melted; violets,
roses, carnations, lilies of the valley—somehow vastly more lovely and alluring that they blossomed
thus unnaturally in the snow. The Park itself was a wonderful stage winterpiece.

When he returned, the pause of the twilight had ceased and the tune of the streets had changed. The
snow was falling faster, lights streamed from the hotels that reared their dozen stories fearlessly up into
the storm, defying the raging Atlantic winds. A long, black stream of carriages poured down the avenue,
intersected here and there by other streams, tending horizontally. There were a score of cabs about the
entrance of his hotel, and his driver had to wait. Boys in livery were running in and out of the awning
stretched across the sidewalk, up and down the red velvet carpet laid from the door to the street. Above,

368 Short Stories

about, within it all was the rumble and roar, the hurry and toss of thousands of human beings as hot
for pleasure as himself, and on every side of him towered the glaring affirmation of the omnipotence of

The boy set his teeth and drew his shoulders together in a spasm of realization; the plot of all dramas,
the text of all romances, the nerve-stuff of all sensations was whirling about him like the snowflakes. He
burnt like a faggot in a tempest.

When Paul went down to dinner the music of the orchestra came floating up the elevator shaft to
greet him. His head whirled as he stepped into the thronged corridor, and he sank back into one of the
chairs against the wall to get his breath. The lights, the chatter, the perfumes, the bewildering medley of
color—he had, for a moment, the feeling of not being able to stand it. But only for a moment; these were
his own people, he told himself. He went slowly about the corridors, through the writing rooms, smoking
rooms, reception rooms, as though he were exploring the chambers of an enchanted palace, built and
peopled for him alone.

When he reached the dining room he sat down at a table near a window. The flowers, the white linen,
the many-colored wineglasses, the gay toilettes of the women, the low popping of corks, the undulating
repetitions of the Blue Danube from the orchestra, all flooded Paul’s dream with bewildering radiance.
When the roseate tinge of his champagne was added—that cold, precious, bubbling stuff that creamed
and foamed in his glass— Paul wondered that there were honest men in the world at all. This was what
all the world was fighting for, he reflected; this was what all the struggle was about. He doubted the
reality of his past. Had he ever known a place called Cordelia Street, a place where fagged-looking
businessmen got on the early car; mere rivets in a machine they seemed to Paul,—sickening men, with
combings of children’s hair always hanging to their coats, and the smell of cooking in their clothes.
Cordelia Street—Ah, that belonged to another time and country; had he not always been thus, had he
not sat here night after night, from as far back as he could remember, looking pensively over just such
shimmering textures and slowly twirling the stem of a glass like this one between his thumb and middle
finger? He rather thought he had.

He was not in the least abashed or lonely. He had no especial desire to meet or to know any of
these people; all he demanded was the right to look on and conjecture, to watch the pageant. The mere
stage properties were all he contended for. Nor was he lonely later in the evening, in his lodge at the
Metropolitan. He was now entirely rid of his nervous misgivings, of his forced aggressiveness, of the
imperative desire to show himself different from his surroundings. He felt now that his surroundings
explained him. Nobody questioned the purple; he had only to wear it passively. He had only to glance
down at his attire to reassure himself that here it would be impossible for anyone to humiliate him.

He found it hard to leave his beautiful sitting room to go to bed that night, and sat long watching
the raging storm from his turret window. When he went to sleep it was with the lights turned on in his
bedroom; partly because of his old timidity, and partly so that, if he should wake in the night, there
would be no wretched moment of doubt, no horrible suspicion of yellow wallpaper, or of Washington
and Calvin above his bed.

Sunday morning the city was practically snowbound. Paul breakfasted late, and in the afternoon he
fell in with a wild San Francisco boy, a freshman at Yale, who said he had run down for a “little flyer”
over Sunday. The young man offered to show Paul the night side of the town, and the two boys went out
together after dinner, not returning to the hotel until seven o’clock the next morning. They had started
out in the confiding warmth of a champagne friendship, but their parting in the elevator was singularly
cool. The freshman pulled himself together to make his train, and Paul went to bed. He awoke at two
o’clock in the afternoon, very thirsty and dizzy, and rang for ice-water, coffee, and the Pittsburgh papers.

On the part of the hotel management, Paul excited no suspicion. There was this to be said for him, that
he wore his spoils with dignity and in no way made himself conspicuous. Even under the glow of his

Willa Cather (1873–1947) 369

wine he was never boisterous, though he found the stuff like a magician’s wand for wonder-building. His
chief greediness lay in his ears and eyes, and his excesses were not offensive ones. His dearest pleasures
were the gray winter twilights in his sitting room; his quiet enjoyment of his flowers, his clothes, his
wide divan, his cigarette, and his sense of power. He could not remember a time when he had felt so at
peace with himself. The mere release from the necessity of petty lying, lying every day and every day,
restored his self-respect. He had never lied for pleasure, even at school; but to be noticed and admired, to
assert his difference from other Cordelia Street boys; and he felt a good deal more manly, more honest,
even, now that he had no need for boastful pretensions, now that he could, as his actor friends used to
say, “dress the part.” It was characteristic that remorse did not occur to him. His golden days went by
without a shadow, and he made each as perfect as he could.

On the eighth day after his arrival in New York he found the whole affair exploited in the Pittsburgh
papers, exploited with a wealth of detail which indicated that local news of a sensational nature was at a
low ebb. The firm of Denny & Carson announced that the boy’s father had refunded the full amount of
the theft and that they had no intention of prosecuting. The Cumberland minister had been interviewed,
and expressed his hope of yet reclaiming the motherless lad, and his Sabbath-school teacher declared
that she would spare no effort to that end. The rumor had reached Pittsburgh that the boy had been seen
in a New York hotel, and his father had gone East to find him and bring him home.

Paul had just come in to dress for dinner; he sank into a chair, weak to the knees, and clasped his head
in his hands. It was to be worse than jail, even; the tepid waters of Cordelia Street were to close over
him finally and forever. The gray monotony stretched before him in hopeless, unrelieved years; Sabbath
school, Young People’s Meeting, the yellow-papered room, the damp dishtowels; it all rushed back upon
him with a sickening vividness. He had the old feeling that the orchestra had suddenly stopped, the
sinking sensation that the play was over. The sweat broke out on his face, and he sprang to his feet,
looked about him with his white, conscious smile, and winked at himself in the mirror, With something
of the old childish belief in miracles with which he had so often gone to class, all his lessons unlearned,
Paul dressed and dashed whistling down the corridor to the elevator.

He had no sooner entered the dining room and caught the measure of the music than his remembrance
was lightened by his old elastic power of claiming the moment, mounting with it, and finding it all-
sufficient. The glare and glitter about him, the mere scenic accessories had again, and for the last time,
their old potency. He would show himself that he was game, he would finish the thing splendidly.
He doubted, more than ever, the existence of Cordelia Street, and for the first time he drank his wine
recklessly. Was he not, after all, one of those fortunate beings born to the purple, was he not still himself
and in his own place? He drummed a nervous accompaniment to the Pagliacci music and looked about
him, telling himself over and over that it had paid.

He reflected drowsily, to the swell of the music and the chill sweetness of his wine, that he might
have done it more wisely. He might have caught an outbound steamer and been well out of their clutches
before now. But the other side of the world had seemed too far away and too uncertain then; he could
not have waited for it; his need had been too sharp. If he had to choose over again, he would do the same
thing tomorrow. He looked affectionately about the dining room, now gilded with a soft mist. Ah, it had
paid indeed!

Paul was awakened next morning by a painful throbbing in his head and feet. He had thrown himself
across the bed without undressing, and had slept with his shoes on. His limbs and hands were lead heavy,
and his tongue and throat were parched and burnt. There came upon him one of those fateful attacks
of clear-headedness that never occurred except when he was physically exhausted and his nerves hung
loose. He lay still, closed his eyes, and let the tide of things wash over him.

His father was in New York; “stopping at some joint or other,” he told himself. The memory of
successive summers on the front stoop fell upon him like a weight of black water. He had not a hundred

370 Short Stories

dollars left; and he knew now, more than ever, that money was everything, the wall that stood between
all he loathed and all he wanted. The thing was winding itself up; he had thought of that on his first
glorious day in New York, and had even provided a way to snap the thread. It lay on his dressing table
now; he had got it out last night when he came blindly up from dinner, but the shiny metal hurt his eyes,
and he disliked the looks of it.

He rose and moved about with a painful effort, succumbing now and again to attacks of nausea. It
was the old depression exaggerated; all the world had become Cordelia Street. Yet somehow he was not
afraid of anything, was absolutely calm; perhaps because he had looked into the dark corner at last and
knew. It was bad enough, what he saw there, but somehow not so bad as his long fear of it had been. He
saw everything clearly now. He had a feeling that he had made the best of it, that he had lived the sort of
life he was meant to live, and for half an hour he sat staring at the revolver. But he told himself that was
not the way, so he went downstairs and took a cab to the ferry.

When Paul arrived in Newark he got off the train and took another cab, directing the driver to follow
the Pennsylvania tracks out of the town. The snow lay heavy on the roadways and had drifted deep in the
open fields. Only here and there the dead grass or dried weed stalks projected, singularly black, above
it. Once well into the country, Paul dismissed the carriage and walked, floundering along the tracks, his
mind a medley of irrelevant things. He seemed to hold in his brain an actual picture of everything he
had seen that morning. He remembered every feature of both his drivers, of the toothless old woman
from whom he had bought the red flowers in his coat, the agent from whom he had got his ticket, and all
of his fellow passengers on the ferry. His mind, unable to cope with vital matters near at hand, worked
feverishly and deftly at sorting and grouping these images. They made for him a part of the ugliness of
the world, of the ache in his head, and the bitter burning on his tongue. He stooped and put a handful of
snow into his mouth as he walked, but that, too, seemed hot. When he reached a little hillside, where the
tracks ran through a cut some twenty feet below him, he stopped and sat down.

The carnations in his coat were drooping with the cold, he noticed, their red glory all over. It occurred
to him that all the flowers he had seen in the glass cases that first night must have gone the same way,
long before this. It was only one splendid breath they had, in spite of their brave mockery at the winter
outside the glass; and it was a losing game in the end, it seemed, this revolt against the homilies by which
the world is run. Paul took one of the blossoms carefully from his coat and scooped a little hole in the
snow, where he covered it up. Then he dozed awhile, from his weak condition, seemingly insensible to
the cold.

The sound of an approaching train awoke him, and he started to his feet, remembering only his
resolution, and afraid lest he should be too late. He stood watching the approaching locomotive, his teeth
chattering, his lips drawn away from them in a frightened smile; once or twice he glanced nervously
sidewise, as though he were being watched. When the right moment came, he jumped. As he fell, the
folly of his haste occurred to him with merciless clearness, the vastness of what he had left undone.
There flashed through his brain, clearer than ever before, the blue of Adriatic water, the yellow of
Algerian sands.

He felt something strike his chest, and that his body was being thrown swiftly through the air, on
and on, immeasurably far and fast, while his limbs were gently relaxed. Then, because the picture-
making mechanism was crushed, the disturbing visions flashed into black, and Paul dropped back into
the immense design of things.

Willa Cather (1873–1947) 371


Paul’s Case

Study Questions

1. Look up the noun “dandy” in a good college dictionary. To what is Paul unduly devoted or
concerned about?

2. What is Paul’s reaction to the painting and the symphony at the concert hall? Does he love art?
Does he want to be a musician or an actor? What does he get from art?

3. From what does Paul wish to escape?

4. Andrew Carnegie (1835–1919) was the very wealthy founder of the Carnegie Steel
Company—later U.S. Steel—in Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh Carnegie Hall was one of at least two
(the other in New York), and many libraries. Paul thinks of such concert halls and theatres as
“temples.” Why?

5. Why does Paul’s father take Paul out of school and put him to work at Denny and Carson’s?

6. How does Paul get the money to travel to New York? Why didn’t he choose a sleeper (Pullman)
car rather than a day car for the overnight train trip?

7. Why is the phrase “the omnipotence of wealth” so significant to Paul? What is his attitude to
money? Remember that Carnegie referred to “the Gospel of Wealth.”

8. The words “radiance” and “many-colored” are used by Percy Shelley in his Romantic poem
“Adonais,” an elegy on the early death of John Keats. (“Life, like a dome of many-colored
glass,/Stains the white radiance of eternity.”) Paul’s dream at the Waldorf Hotel in New York is
described in very similar terms. Is this a coincidence?

9. Paul increasingly doubts the reality of his past existence on Cordelia St. Has he, like Jay Gatsby,
“sprung from some Platonic conception of himself”?

10. What does the symbol of the dark corner suggest? The flowers?

11. How does Paul view the world before he dies? Why does he put snow in his mouth?

12. Is Paul a Romantic?

13. Is it appropriate that he is killed by a locomotive?

14. Why does the author refer to Paul’s brain as “the picture-making mechanism?”


Watch this film adaptation of Paul’s Case, released in 1980 and available in two parts.

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Text Attributions

• “Paul’s Case” by Willa Cather is free of known copyright restrictions in Canada.

Media Attributions

• Willa Cather ca. 1912 wearing necklace from Sarah Orne Jewett by Aime Dupont Studio,
New York © Public Domain

Willa Cather (1873–1947) 373


James Joyce (1882–1941)


James Joyce was born in Dublin, Ireland, on February 2, 1882, the eldest of ten surviving children.
He was educated by Jesuits at Clongowes Wood College and Belvedere College before going on to
University College, then located on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin, where he studied modern languages.

After he graduated from university, Joyce went to Paris, ostensibly to study medicine, and was
recalled to Dublin in April 1903 because of the illness and subsequent death of his mother. He stayed in
Ireland until 1904, and in June that year, he met Nora Barncale, the Galway woman who was to become
his partner and later his wife.

In August 1904, the first of Joyce’s short stories was published in the Irish Homestead magazine,
which later published two others. In October of that year, Joyce and Nora left Ireland, going first to Pola
(now Pula, Croatia), where Joyce got a job teaching English at a Berlitz school. Joyce returned to Ireland
only four times in his life, the last visit being in 1912, after which he never returned again.

Six months after their arrival in Pola, James and Nola moved to Trieste, Italy, where they spent most of
the next ten years. While there, they learned the local Triestine dialect, and Italian remained the family’s
home language for many years. Joyce wrote and published articles in Italian in the newspaper Il Piccolo
della Sera and gave lectures on English literature. A portrait of Nora was painted by the Italian artist
Tullio Silvestri in Trieste just before the First World War. The James Joyce Centre in Dublin has on
display a reproduction of this portrait.

The year 1914 proved a crucial one for Joyce. With Ezra Pound’s assistance, A Portrait of the Artist


as a Young Man, Joyce’s first novel, appeared in serial form in Harriet Weaver’s Egoist magazine in
London. His collection of short stories, Dubliners,

on which he had been working since 1904, was

finally published, and he also wrote his only play, Exiles. Having cleared his desk, Joyce could then start
in earnest on the novel he had been thinking about since 1907: Ulysses.

With the start of the First World War, Joyce and Nora, along with their two children, Giorgio and
Lucia, were forced to leave Trieste. They moved to Zurich, Switzerland, where they lived for the
duration of the war. The family had little money, relying on subventions from friends and family, people
like Harriet Weaver in London, and Nora’s uncle in Galway. They often ended up living in cramped,
squalid accommodation as Joyce persisted in writing Ulysses. In fact, Joyce never really had a room or
an office of his own in which to do his writing, and far from trying to block out the world around him
while he wrote, Joyce included things going on around him as part of the book. Characteristics of his
friends, Trieste, Zurich, and Paris are given to characters in the book, and, most notably, Nora’s language
and writing style become the voice of Molly Bloom in the novel.

Though Joyce wanted to settle in Trieste again after the war, the poet Ezra Pound persuaded him to
come to Paris for a while, and Joyce stayed for the next 20 years. The publication of Ulysses in serial
form in the American journal The Little Review was brought to a halt in 1921 when a court banned it
as obscene. Shortly after, Harriet Weaver ran out of printers willing to set the text in England, and for a
while, it looked as though Ulysses would never be published.

In July 1920, Joyce met Sylvia Beach, an American expatriate living in Paris who owned and ran the
bookshop Shakespeare and Copany. In 1921, Beach offered to publish Ulysses and finally, on February
2, 1922, Joyce’s 40th birthday, the first edition of the book was published. Beach continued to publish
Ulysses through 1930.

After Beach gave up the rights to Ulysses, much of Joyce’s business was taken over by Paul Léon, a
Russian Jewish émigré living in Paris. As a close friend of Joyce and Joyce’s family, Léon also became
Joyce’s business advisor, looking after his correspondence and dealing with his literary and legal affairs.
The Léons’ apartment became a centre for Joyce’s studies, and Léon and others met Joyce there to
discuss translations of Ulysses and the early serial publications of what became Finnegans Wake.

For the next ten years, Joyce and Léon were in almost daily contact, and Léon came to assume a
role as necessary and important to Joyce and his work as Sylvia Beach had played in the 1920s. Not
only did he manage Joyce’s legal, financial, and daily existence, much as Beach had during the years
she published Ulysses, Léon played an essential part in the composition and proofreading of Joyce’s
last and perhaps most challenging work, Finnegans Wake, which was published on May 4, 1939. It was
immediately listed as “the book of the week” in the United Kingdom and the United States.

In 1940, when Joyce fled to the south of France ahead of the Nazi invasion, Léon returned to the
Joyces’ apartment in Paris to salvage their belongings and put them into safekeeping for the duration
of the war, and it’s thanks to Léon’s efforts that much of Joyce’s personal possessions and manuscripts

Joyce died just short of age 59 on January 13, 1941, at 2 a.m., in Zurich, where he and his family had
been given asylum. He is buried in Fluntern Cemetery, Zurich.

1. See a useful introduction to Dubliners and detailed biography of Joyce here.

James Joyce (1882–1941) 375

Published 1904

Dubliners: Eveline

She sat at the window

watching the evening invade the avenue. Her head
was leaned against the window curtains and in her nostrils was the odour of
dusty cretonne.

She was tired.

Few people passed. The man out of the last house passed on his way
home; she heard his footsteps clacking along the concrete pavement and
afterwards crunching on the cinder path before the new red houses. One time
there used to be a field there in which they used to play every evening with

other people’s children. Then a man from Belfast bought the field and built houses in it — not like their
little brown houses but bright brick houses with shining roofs. The children of the avenue used to play
together in that field — the Devines, the Waters, the Dunns, little Keogh the cripple, she and her brothers
and sisters. Ernest, however, never played: he was too grown up. Her father used often to hunt them in
out of the field with his blackthorn stick; but usually little Keogh used to keep nix and call out when he
saw her father coming. Still they seemed to have been rather happy then. Her father was not so bad then;
and besides, her mother was alive. That was a long time ago; she and her brothers and sisters were all
grown up her mother was dead. Tizzie Dunn was dead, too, and the Waters had gone back to England.
Everything changes. Now she was going to go away like the others, to leave her home.

Home! She looked round the room, reviewing all its familiar objects which she had dusted once a
week for so many years, wondering where on earth all the dust came from. Perhaps she would never
see again those familiar objects from which she had never dreamed of being divided. And yet during all
those years she had never found out the name of the priest whose yellowing photograph hung on the wall
above the broken harmonium beside the coloured print of the promises made to Blessed Margaret Mary

He had been a school friend of her father. Whenever he showed the photograph to a visitor

her father used to pass it with a casual word:
“He is in Melbourne now.”
She had consented to go away, to leave her home. Was that wise? She tried to weigh each side of the

question. In her home anyway she had shelter and food; she had those whom she had known all her life
about her. O course she had to work hard, both in the house and at business. What would they say of her
in the Stores when they found out that she had run away with a fellow? Say she was a fool, perhaps; and
her place would be filled up by advertisement. Miss Gavan would be glad. She had always had an edge
on her

, especially whenever there were people listening.

“Miss Hill, don’t you see these ladies are waiting?”
“Look lively, Miss Hill, please.”
She would not cry many tears at leaving the Stores.
But in her new home, in a distant unknown country, it would not be like that. Then she would be

married — she, Eveline. People would treat her with respect then. She would not be treated as her mother
had been. Even now, though she was over nineteen, she sometimes felt herself in danger of her father’s
violence. She knew it was that that had given her the palpitations. When they were growing up he had
never gone for her like he used to go for Harry and Ernest, because she was a girl but latterly he had

2. cf. Tennyson’s Lady of Shalott, whose fate is sealed once she looks out the window.

3. A strong unglazed cotton or linen cloth used for curtains.

4. Canonized in 1920, a French nun (1647–1690) famed for “the Great Revelations of the Sacred Heart,” in which Christ made twelve

promises to her.

5. Sharp, sarcastic manner.

376 Short Stories

begun to threaten her and say what he would do to her only for her dead mother’s sake. And no she had
nobody to protect her. Ernest was dead and Harry, who was in the church decorating business, was nearly
always down somewhere in the country. Besides, the invariable squabble for money on Saturday nights
had begun to weary her unspeakably. She always gave her entire wages — seven shillings — and Harry
always sent up what he could but the trouble was to get any money from her father. He said she used
to squander the money, that she had no head, that he wasn’t going to give her his hard-earned money to
throw about the streets, and much more, for he was usually fairly bad on Saturday night. In the end he
would give her the money and ask her had she any intention of buying Sunday’s dinner. Then she had
to rush out as quickly as she could and do her marketing, holding her black leather purse tightly in her
hand as she elbowed her way through the crowds and returning home late under her load of provisions.
She had hard work to keep the house together and to see that the two young children who had been left
to her charge went to school regularly and got their meals regularly. It was hard work — a hard life —
but now that she was about to leave it she did not find it a wholly undesirable life.

She was about to explore another life with Frank. Frank was very kind, manly, open-hearted. She was
to go away with him by the night-boat to be his wife and to live with him in Buenos Ayres where he had
a home waiting for her. How well she remembered the first time she had seen him; he was lodging in a
house on the main road where she used to visit. It seemed a few weeks ago. He was standing at the gate,
his peaked cap pushed back on his head and his hair tumbled forward over a face of bronze. Then they
had come to know each other. He used to meet her outside the Stores every evening and see her home.
He took her to see The Bohemian Girl

and she felt elated as she sat in an unaccustomed part of the

theatre with him. He was awfully fond of music and sang a little. People knew that they were courting
and, when he sang about the lass that loves a sailor, she always felt pleasantly confused. He used to call
her Poppens out of fun. First of all it had been an excitement for her to have a fellow and then she had
begun to like him. He had tales of distant countries. He had started as a deck boy at a pound a month on
a ship of the Allan Line going out to Canada. He told her the names of the ships he had been on and the
names of the different services. He had sailed through the Straits of Magellan and he told her stories of
the terrible Patagonians. He had fallen on his feet in Buenos Ayres, he said, and had come over to the old
country just for a holiday. Of course, her father had found out the affair and had forbidden her to have
anything to say to him.

“I know these sailor chaps,” he said.
One day he had quarrelled with Frank and after that she had to meet her lover secretly.
The evening deepened in the avenue. The white of two letters in her lap grew indistinct. One was to

Harry; the other was to her father. Ernest had been her favourite but she liked Harry too. Her father was
becoming old lately, she noticed; he would miss her. Sometimes he could be very nice. Not long before,
when she had been laid up for a day, he had read her out a ghost story and made toast for her at the
fire. Another day, when their mother was alive, they had all gone for a picnic to the Hill of Howth. She
remembered her father putting on her mother’s bonnet to make the children laugh.

Her time was running out but she continued to sit by the window, leaning her head against the window
curtain, inhaling the odour of dusty cretonne. Down far in the avenue she could hear a street organ
playing. She knew the air. Strange that it should come that very night to remind her of the promise to
her mother, her promise to keep the home together as long as she could. She remembered the last night
of her mother’s illness; she was again in the close dark room at the other side of the hall and outside she
heard a melancholy air of Italy. The organ-player had been ordered to go away and given sixpence. She
remembered her father strutting back into the sickroom saying:

“Damned Italians! coming over here!”

6. An opera by Michael Balfe (1808–1870). It contains a heroine ready to run away with the hero.

James Joyce (1882–1941) 377

As she mused the pitiful vision of her mother’s life laid its spell on the very quick of her being — that
life of commonplace sacrifices closing in final craziness. She trembled as she heard again her mother’s
voice saying constantly with foolish insistence:

“Derevaun Seraun! Derevaun Seraun!”

She stood up in a sudden impulse of terror. Escape! She must escape! Frank would save her. He would
give her life, perhaps love, too. But she wanted to live. Why should she be unhappy? She had a right to
happiness. Frank would take her in his arms, fold her in his arms. He would save her.

She stood among the swaying crowd in the station at the North Wall.

He held her hand and she knew
that he was speaking to her, saying something about the passage over and over again. The station was
full of soldiers with brown baggages. Through the wide doors of the sheds she caught a glimpse of the
black mass of the boat, lying in beside the quay wall, with illumined portholes. She answered nothing.
She felt her cheek pale and cold and, out of a maze of distress, she prayed to God to direct her, to show
her what was her duty. The boat blew a long mournful whistle into the mist. If she went, tomorrow she
would be on the sea with Frank, steaming towards Buenos Ayres. Their passage had been booked. Could
she still draw back after all he had done for her? Her distress awoke a nausea in her body and she kept
moving her lips in silent fervent prayer.

A bell clanged upon her heart. She felt him seize her hand:
All the seas of the world tumbled about her heart. He was drawing her into them: he would drown her.

She gripped with both hands at the iron railing.
No! No! No! It was impossible. Her hands clutched the iron in frenzy. Amid the seas she sent a cry of

“Eveline! Evvy!”
He rushed beyond the barrier and called to her to follow. He was shouted at to go on but he still called

to her. She set her white face to him, passive, like a helpless animal. Her eyes gave him no sign of love
or farewell or recognition.

7. Possibly a loose Gaelic equivalent of “The end of pleasure is pain.”

8. A quayside dock on the north bank of the River Liffey.

378 Short Stories

Published 1914

Dubliners: Araby

North Richmond Street being blind
, was a quiet street except at the hour

when the Christian Brothers’ School set the boys free. An uninhabited house
of two storeys stood at the blind end, detached from its neighbours in a
square ground The other houses of the street, conscious of decent lives
within them, gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces.

The former tenant of our house, a priest, had died in the back drawing-
room. Air, musty from having been long enclosed, hung in all the rooms, and
the waste room behind the kitchen was littered with old useless papers. Among these I found a few
paper-covered books, the pages of which were curled and damp: The Abbot,

by Walter Scott, The

Devout Communicant

and The Memoirs of Vidocq.

I liked the last best because its leaves were yellow.
The wild garden behind the house contained a central apple-tree and a few straggling bushes under one
of which I found the late tenant’s rusty bicycle-pump. He had been a very charitable priest; in his will he
had left all his money to institutions and the furniture of his house to his sister.

When the short days of winter came dusk fell before we had well eaten our dinners. When we met
in the street the houses had grown sombre. The space of sky above us was the colour of ever-changing
violet and towards it the lamps of the street lifted their feeble lanterns. The cold air stung us and we
played till our bodies glowed. Our shouts echoed in the silent street. The career of our play brought us
through the dark muddy lanes behind the houses where we ran the gauntlet of the rough tribes from
the cottages

, to the back doors of the dark dripping gardens where odours arose from the ashpits, to

the dark odorous stables where a coachman smoothed and combed the horse or shook music from the
buckled harness. When we returned to the street light from the kitchen windows had filled the areas. If
my uncle was seen turning the corner we hid in the shadow until we had seen him safely housed. Or
if Mangan’s sister came out on the doorstep to call her brother in to his tea we watched her from our
shadow peer up and down the street. We waited to see whether she would remain or go in and, if she
remained, we left our shadow and walked up to Mangan’s steps resignedly. She was waiting for us, her
figure defined by the light from the half-opened door. Her brother always teased her before he obeyed
and I stood by the railings looking at her. Her dress swung as she moved her body and the soft rope of
her hair tossed from side to side.

Every morning I lay on the floor in the front parlour watching her door. The blind was pulled down
to within an inch of the sash so that I could not be seen. When she came out on the doorstep my heart
leaped. I ran to the hall, seized my books and followed her. I kept her brown figure always in my eye
and, when we came near the point at which our ways diverged, I quickened my pace and passed her.
This happened morning after morning. I had never spoken to her, except for a few casual words, and yet
her name was like a summons to all my foolish blood.

Her image accompanied me even in places the most hostile to romance. On Saturday evenings when
my aunt went marketing I had to go to carry some of the parcels. We walked through the flaring streets,
jostled by drunken men and bargaining women, amid the curses of labourers, the shrill litanies of shop-

9. A dead-end street.

10. A historical romance (1820). In this novel, the young hero becomes the guardian of Mary, Queen of Scots’s state secrets.

11. Subtitled “Pious Meditations and Aspirations for the Three Days Before and the Three Days After Receiving the Holy Eucharist,” by

English Franciscan friar Pacificus Baker (1695–1774).

12. Memoirs of Eugène François Vidocq, a criminal turned French police detective. The Memoirs were first published in 1828.

13. Small dwellings for the poor.

James Joyce (1882–1941) 379

boys who stood on guard by the barrels of pigs’ cheeks, the nasal chanting of street-singers, who sang a

about O’Donovan Rossa, or a ballad about the troubles in our native land. These noises

converged in a single sensation of life for me: I imagined that I bore my chalice safely through a throng
of foes. Her name sprang to my lips at moments in strange prayers and praises which I myself did not
understand. My eyes were often full of tears (I could not tell why) and at times a flood from my heart
seemed to pour itself out into my bosom. I thought little of the future. I did not know whether I would
ever speak to her or not or, if I spoke to her, how I could tell her of my confused adoration. But my body
was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires.

One evening I went into the back drawing-room in which the priest had died. It was a dark rainy
evening and there was no sound in the house. Through one of the broken panes I heard the rain impinge
upon the earth, the fine incessant needles of water playing in the sodden beds. Some distant lamp or
lighted window gleamed below me. I was thankful that I could see so little. All my senses seemed to
desire to veil themselves and, feeling that I was about to slip from them, I pressed the palms of my hands
together until they trembled, murmuring: “O love! O love!” many times.

At last she spoke to me. When she addressed the first words to me I was so confused that I did not
know what to answer. She asked me was I going to Araby.

I forgot whether I answered yes or no. It

would be a splendid bazaar, she said she would love to go.
“And why can’t you?” I asked.
While she spoke she turned a silver bracelet round and round her wrist. She could not go, she said,

because there would be a retreat that week in her convent. Her brother and two other boys were fighting
for their caps and I was alone at the railings. She held one of the spikes, bowing her head towards me.
The light from the lamp opposite our door caught the white curve of her neck, lit up her hair that rested
there and, falling, lit up the hand upon the railing. It fell over one side of her dress and caught the white
border of a petticoat, just visible as she stood at ease.

“It’s well for you,” she said.
“If I go,” I said, “I will bring you something.”
What innumerable follies laid waste my waking and sleeping thoughts after that evening! I wished

to annihilate the tedious intervening days. I chafed against the work of school. At night in my bedroom
and by day in the classroom her image came between me and the page I strove to read. The syllables of
the word Araby were called to me through the silence in which my soul luxuriated and cast an Eastern
enchantment over me. I asked for leave to go to the bazaar on Saturday night. My aunt was surprised and
hoped it was not some Freemason

affair. I answered few questions in class. I watched my master’s face

pass from amiability to sternness; he hoped I was not beginning to idle. I could not call my wandering
thoughts together. I had hardly any patience with the serious work of life which, now that it stood
between me and my desire, seemed to me child’s play, ugly monotonous child’s play.

On Saturday morning I reminded my uncle that I wished to go to the bazaar in the evening. He was
fussing at the hallstand, looking for the hat-brush, and answered me curtly:

“Yes, boy, I know.”
As he was in the hall I could not go into the front parlour and lie at the window. I left the house in bad

humour and walked slowly towards the school. The air was pitilessly raw and already my heart misgave

When I came home to dinner my uncle had not yet been home. Still it was early. I sat staring at the

14. A topical ballad—in this case, one about the exploits of Fenian leader Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa (1831–1915).

15. The young Joyce attended the Araby Bazaar in 1894. The term “Araby” held exotic, romantic connotations in the nineteenth century

British Empire, particularly after the reception of such works as Edward Fitzgerald’s Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám (1859) and Sir

Richard Burton’s version of the Arabian Nights (1885–88).

16. A fraternal organization to which the Roman Catholic Church objected.

380 Short Stories

clock for some time and. when its ticking began to irritate me, I left the room. I mounted the staircase
and gained the upper part of the house. The high cold empty gloomy rooms liberated me and I went from
room to room singing. From the front window I saw my companions playing below in the street. Their
cries reached me weakened and indistinct and, leaning my forehead against the cool glass, I looked over
at the dark house where she lived. I may have stood there for an hour, seeing nothing but the brown-clad
figure cast by my imagination, touched discreetly by the lamplight at the curved neck, at the hand upon
the railings and at the border below the dress.

When I came downstairs again I found Mrs. Mercer sitting at the fire. She was an old garrulous
woman, a pawnbroker’s widow, who collected used stamps for some pious purpose. I had to endure the
gossip of the tea-table. The meal was prolonged beyond an hour and still my uncle did not come. Mrs.
Mercer stood up to go: she was sorry she couldn’t wait any longer, but it was after eight o’clock and she
did not like to be out late as the night air was bad for her. When she had gone I began to walk up and
down the room, clenching my fists. My aunt said:

“I’m afraid you may put off your bazaar for this night of Our Lord.”
At nine o’clock I heard my uncle’s latchkey in the halldoor. I heard him talking to himself and heard

the hallstand rocking when it had received the weight of his overcoat. I could interpret these signs.
When he was midway through his dinner I asked him to give me the money to go to the bazaar. He had

“The people are in bed and after their first sleep now,” he said.
I did not smile. My aunt said to him energetically:
“Can’t you give him the money and let him go? You’ve kept him late enough as it is.”
My uncle said he was very sorry he had forgotten. He said he believed in the old saying: “All work

and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” He asked me where I was going and, when I had told him a second
time he asked me did I know The Arab’s Farewell to his Steed.

When I left the kitchen he was about to

recite the opening lines of the piece to my aunt.
I held a florin

tightly in my hand as I strode down Buckingham Street towards the station. The sight

of the streets thronged with buyers and glaring with gas recalled to me the purpose of my journey. I took
my seat in a third-class carriage of a deserted train. After an intolerable delay the train moved out of
the station slowly. It crept onward among ruinous house and over the twinkling river. At Westland Row
Station a crowd of people pressed to the carriage doors; but the porters moved them back, saying that it
was a special train for the bazaar. I remained alone in the bare carriage. In a few minutes the train drew
up beside an improvised wooden platform. I passed out on to the road and saw by the lighted dial of
a clock that it was ten minutes to ten. In front of me was a large building which displayed the magical

I could not find any sixpenny entrance and, fearing that the bazaar would be closed, I passed in quickly
through a turnstile, handing a shilling to a weary-looking man. I found myself in a big hall girdled at half
its height by a gallery. Nearly all the stalls were closed and the greater part of the hall was in darkness.
I recognised a silence like that which pervades a church after a service. I walked into the centre of the
bazaar timidly. A few people were gathered about the stalls which were still open. Before a curtain, over
which the words Cafe Chantant

were written in coloured lamps, two men were counting money on a

salver. I listened to the fall of the coins.

Remembering with difficulty why I had come I went over to one of the stalls and examined porcelain

17. A popular romantic poem by Caroline Norton (1808–1877).

18. A two-shilling coin.

19. In France, a coffeehouse with entertainment.

20. cf. Matthew 21:12–13, Jesus confronts the moneylenders at the temple. A salver was derived from “saviour” and was originally used to

catch drops of wine from the chalice placed upon it.

James Joyce (1882–1941) 381

vases and flowered tea-sets. At the door of the stall a young lady was talking and laughing with two
young gentlemen. I remarked their English accents and listened vaguely to their conversation.

“O, I never said such a thing!”
“O, but you did!”
“O, but I didn’t!”
“Didn’t she say that?”
“Yes. I heard her.”
“O, there’s a . . . fib!”
Observing me the young lady came over and asked me did I wish to buy anything. The tone of her

voice was not encouraging; she seemed to have spoken to me out of a sense of duty. I looked humbly at
the great jars that stood like eastern guards at either side of the dark entrance to the stall and murmured:

“No, thank you.”
The young lady changed the position of one of the vases and went back to the two young men. They

began to talk of the same subject. Once or twice the young lady glanced at me over her shoulder.
I lingered before her stall, though I knew my stay was useless, to make my interest in her wares seem

the more real. Then I turned away slowly and walked down the middle of the bazaar. I allowed the two
pennies to fall against the sixpence in my pocket. I heard a voice call from one end of the gallery that the
light was out. The upper part of the hall was now completely dark.

Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes
burned with anguish and anger.

382 Short Stories

Published 1914

Dubliners: After the Race

The cars came scudding in towards Dublin, running evenly like pellets in the
groove of the Naas Road.

At the crest of the hill at Inchicore


had gathered in clumps to watch the cars careering homeward and through
this channel of poverty and inaction the Continent sped its wealth and
industry. Now and again the clumps of people raised the cheer of the
gratefully oppressed. Their sympathy, however, was for the blue cars — the
cars of their friends, the French.


The French, moreover, were virtual victors. Their team had finished solidly; they had been placed
second and third and the driver of the winning German car was reported a Belgian. Each blue car,
therefore, received a double measure of welcome as it topped the crest of the hill and each cheer of
welcome was acknowledged with smiles and nods by those in the car. In one of these trimly built cars
was a party of four young men whose spirits seemed to be at present well above the level of successful
Gallicism: in fact, these four young men were almost hilarious. They were Charles Ségouin, the owner
of the car; André Rivière, a young electrician of Canadian birth; a huge Hungarian named Villona and
a neatly groomed young man named Doyle. Ségouin was in good humour because he had unexpectedly
received some orders in advance (he was about to start a motor establishment in Paris) and Rivière was
in good humour because he was to be appointed manager of the establishment; these two young men
(who were cousins) were also in good humour because of the success of the French cars. Villona was in
good humour because he had had a very satisfactory luncheon; and besides he was an optimist by nature.
The fourth member of the party, however, was too excited to be genuinely happy.

He was about twenty-six years of age, with a soft, light brown moustache and rather innocent-looking
grey eyes. His father, who had begun life as an advanced Nationalist,

had modified his views early.

He had made his money as a butcher in Kingstown and by opening shops in Dublin and in the suburbs
he had made his money many times over. He had also been fortunate enough to secure some of the
police contracts and in the end he had become rich enough to be alluded to in the Dublin newspapers
as a merchant prince. He had sent his son to England to be educated in a big Catholic college and had
afterwards sent him to Dublin University to study law. Jimmy did not study very earnestly and took to
bad courses for a while. He had money and he was popular; and he divided his time curiously between
musical and motoring circles. Then he had been sent for a term to Cambridge to see a little life. His
father, remonstrative, but covertly proud of the excess, had paid his bills and brought him home. It was
at Cambridge that he had met Ségouin. They were not much more than acquaintances as yet but Jimmy
found great pleasure in the society of one who had seen so much of the world and was reputed to own
some of the biggest hotels in France. Such a person (as his father agreed) was well worth knowing, even
if he had not been the charming companion he was. Villona was entertaining also — a brilliant pianist
— but, unfortunately, very poor.

The car ran on merrily with its cargo of hilarious youth. The two cousins sat on the front seat; Jimmy
and his Hungarian friend sat behind. Decidedly Villona was in excellent spirits; he kept up a deep bass
hum of melody for miles of the road. The Frenchmen flung their laughter and light words over their

21. Rhymes with “grace.” A town to the southeast of Dublin.

22. Village on the south bank of the Liffey.

23. The race in question, which took place on July 2, 1903, was the Gordon Bennett Cup, a forerunner of the Grand Prix series of automobile


24. A strong supporter of home rule.

James Joyce (1882–1941) 383

shoulders and often Jimmy had to strain forward to catch the quick phrase. This was not altogether
pleasant for him, as he had nearly always to make a deft guess at the meaning and shout back a suitable
answer in the face of a high wind. Besides Villona’s humming would confuse anybody; the noise of the
car, too.

Rapid motion through space elates one; so does notoriety; so does the possession of money. These
were three good reasons for Jimmy’s excitement. He had been seen by many of his friends that day in
the company of these Continentals. At the control

Ségouin had presented him to one of the French

competitors and, in answer to his confused murmur of compliment, the swarthy face of the driver had
disclosed a line of shining white teeth. It was pleasant after that honour to return to the profane world of
spectators amid nudges and significant looks. Then as to money — he really had a great sum under his
control. Ségouin, perhaps, would not think it a great sum but Jimmy who, in spite of temporary errors,
was at heart the inheritor of solid instincts, knew well with what difficulty it had been got together. This
knowledge had previously kept his bills within the limits of reasonable recklessness, and if he had been
so conscious of the labour latent in money when there had been question merely of some freak of the
higher intelligence, how much more so now when he was about to stake the greater part of his substance!
It was a serious thing for him.

Of course, the investment was a good one and Ségouin had managed to give the impression that it was
by a favour of friendship the mite of Irish money was to be included in the capital of the concern. Jimmy
had a respect for his father’s shrewdness in business matters and in this case it had been his father who
had first suggested the investment; money to be made in the motor business, pots of money. Moreover
Ségouin had the unmistakable air of wealth. Jimmy set out to translate into days’ work that lordly car in
which he sat. How smoothly it ran. In what style they had come careering along the country roads! The
journey laid a magical finger on the genuine pulse of life and gallantly the machinery of human nerves
strove to answer the bounding courses of the swift blue animal.

They drove down Dame Street. The street was busy with unusual traffic, loud with the horns of
motorists and the gongs of impatient tram-drivers. Near the Bank

Ségouin drew up and Jimmy and his

friend alighted. A little knot of people collected on the footpath to pay homage to the snorting motor.
The party was to dine together that evening in Ségouin’s hotel and, meanwhile, Jimmy and his friend,
who was staying with him, were to go home to dress. The car steered out slowly for Grafton Street


while the two young men pushed their way through the knot of gazers. They walked northward with a
curious feeling of disappointment in the exercise, while the city hung its pale globes of light above them
in a haze of summer evening.

In Jimmy’s house this dinner had been pronounced an occasion. A certain pride mingled with his
parents’ trepidation, a certain eagerness, also, to play fast and loose for the names of great foreign cities
have at least this virtue. Jimmy, too, looked very well when he was dressed and, as he stood in the hall
giving a last equation to the bows of his dress tie, his father may have felt even commercially satisfied at
having secured for his son qualities often unpurchaseable. His father, therefore, was unusually friendly
with Villona and his manner expressed a real respect for foreign accomplishments; but this subtlety of
his host was probably lost upon the Hungarian, who was beginning to have a sharp desire for his dinner.

The dinner was excellent, exquisite. Ségouin, Jimmy decided, had a very refined taste. The party was
increased by a young Englishman named Routh whom Jimmy had seen with Ségouin at Cambridge.
The young men supped in a snug room lit by electric candle lamps. They talked volubly and with
little reserve. Jimmy, whose imagination was kindling, conceived the lively youth of the Frenchmen
twined elegantly upon the firm framework of the Englishman’s manner. A graceful image of his, he

25. One of the timing stages in the race.

26. The Bank of Ireland.

27. The most fashionable Dublin street.

384 Short Stories

thought, and a just one. He admired the dexterity with which their host directed the conversation. The
five young men had various tastes and their tongues had been loosened. Villona, with immense respect,
began to discover to the mildly surprised Englishman the beauties of the English madrigal, deploring
the loss of old instruments. Rivière, not wholly ingenuously, undertook to explain to Jimmy the triumph
of the French mechanicians. The resonant voice of the Hungarian was about to prevail in ridicule of
the spurious lutes of the romantic painters when Ségouin shepherded his party into politics. Here was
congenial ground for all. Jimmy, under generous influences, felt the buried zeal of his father wake to
life within him: he aroused the torpid Routh at last. The room grew doubly hot and Ségouin’s task grew
harder each moment: there was even danger of personal spite. The alert host at an opportunity lifted his
glass to Humanity and, when the toast had been drunk, he threw open a window significantly.

That night the city wore the mask of a capital. The five young men strolled along Stephen’s Green
in a faint cloud of aromatic smoke. They talked loudly and gaily and their cloaks dangled from their
shoulders. The people made way for them. At the corner of Grafton Street a short fat man was putting
two handsome ladies on a car in charge of another fat man. The car drove off and the short fat man
caught sight of the party.

“It’s Farley!”
A torrent of talk followed. Farley was an American. No one knew very well what the talk was about.

Villona and Rivière were the noisiest, but all the men were excited. They got up on a car, squeezing
themselves together amid much laughter. They drove by the crowd, blended now into soft colours, to a
music of merry bells. They took the train at Westland Row and in a few seconds, as it seemed to Jimmy,
they were walking out of Kingstown Station. The ticket-collector saluted Jimmy; he was an old man:

“Fine night, sir!”
It was a serene summer night; the harbour lay like a darkened mirror at their feet. They proceeded

towards it with linked arms, singing Cadet Roussel

in chorus, stamping their feet at every:
“Ho! Ho! Hohé, vraiment!”
They got into a rowboat at the slip and made out for the American’s yacht. There was to be supper,

music, cards. Villona said with conviction:
“It is delightful!”
There was a yacht piano in the cabin. Villona played a waltz for Farley and Rivière, Farley acting

as cavalier and Rivière as lady. Then an impromptu square dance, the men devising original figures.
What merriment! Jimmy took his part with a will; this was seeing life, at least. Then Farley got out of
breath and cried “Stop!” A man brought in a light supper, and the young men sat down to it for form’s
sake. They drank, however: it was Bohemian. They drank Ireland, England, France, Hungary, the United
States of America. Jimmy made a speech, a long speech, Villona saying: “Hear! hear!” whenever there
was a pause. There was a great clapping of hands when he sat down. It must have been a good speech.
Farley clapped him on the back and laughed loudly. What jovial fellows! What good company they

Cards! cards! The table was cleared. Villona returned quietly to his piano and played voluntaries for
them. The other men played game after game, flinging themselves boldly into the adventure. They drank
the health of the Queen of Hearts and of the Queen of Diamonds. Jimmy felt obscurely the lack of an
audience: the wit was flashing. Play ran very high and paper began to pass. Jimmy did not know exactly
who was winning but he knew that he was losing. But it was his own fault for he frequently mistook his
cards and the other men had to calculate his I.O.U.’s for him. They were devils of fellows but he wished

28. A popular French satirical song.

James Joyce (1882–1941) 385

they would stop: it was getting late. Someone gave the toast of the yacht The Belle of Newport and then
someone proposed one great game for a finish.

The piano had stopped; Villona must have gone up on deck. It was a terrible game. They stopped just
before the end of it to drink for luck. Jimmy understood that the game lay between Routh and Ségouin.
What excitement! Jimmy was excited too; he would lose, of course. How much had he written away?
The men rose to their feet to play the last tricks, talking and gesticulating. Routh won. The cabin shook
with the young men’s cheering and the cards were bundled together. They began then to gather in what
they had won. Farley and Jimmy were the heaviest losers.

He knew that he would regret in the morning but at present he was glad of the rest, glad of the dark
stupor that would cover up his folly. He leaned his elbows on the table and rested his head between his
hands, counting the beats of his temples. The cabin door opened and he saw the Hungarian standing in a
shaft of grey light:

“Daybreak, gentlemen!”

386 Short Stories

Published 1914

Dubliners: Counterparts

The bell rang furiously and, when Miss Parker went to the tube,

a furious
voice called out in a piercing North of Ireland accent:

“Send Farrington here!”
Miss Parker returned to her machine, saying to a man who was writing at a

“Mr. Alleyne wants you upstairs.”
The man muttered “Blast him!” under his breath and pushed back his

chair to stand up. When he stood up he was tall and of great bulk. He had a hanging face, dark wine-
coloured, with fair eyebrows and moustache: his eyes bulged forward slightly and the whites of them
were dirty. He lifted up the counter and, passing by the clients, went out of the office with a heavy step.

He went heavily upstairs until he came to the second landing, where a door bore a brass plate with the
inscription Mr. Alleyne. Here he halted, puffing with labour and vexation, and knocked. The shrill voice

“Come in!”
The man entered Mr. Alleyne’s room. Simultaneously Mr. Alleyne, a little man wearing gold-rimmed

glasses on a cleanshaven face, shot his head up over a pile of documents. The head itself was so pink
and hairless it seemed like a large egg reposing on the papers. Mr. Alleyne did not lose a moment:

“Farrington? What is the meaning of this? Why have I always to complain of you? May I ask you why
you haven’t made a copy of that contract between Bodley and Kirwan? I told you it must be ready by
four o’clock.”

“But Mr. Shelley said, sir ——”
“Mr. Shelley said, sir . . . . Kindly attend to what I say and not to what Mr. Shelley says, sir. You have

always some excuse or another for shirking work. Let me tell you that if the contract is not copied before
this evening I’ll lay the matter before Mr. Crosbie. . . . Do you hear me now?”

“Yes, sir.”
“Do you hear me now? . . . Ay and another little matter! I might as well be talking to the wall as

talking to you. Understand once for all that you get a half an hour for your lunch and not an hour and a
half. How many courses do you want, I’d like to know. . . . Do you mind me now?”

“Yes, sir.”
Mr. Alleyne bent his head again upon his pile of papers. The man stared fixedly at the polished skull

which directed the affairs of Crosbie & Alleyne, gauging its fragility. A spasm of rage gripped his throat
for a few moments and then passed, leaving after it a sharp sensation of thirst. The man recognised the
sensation and felt that he must have a good night’s drinking. The middle of the month was passed and,
if he could get the copy done in time, Mr. Alleyne might give him an order on the cashier. He stood still,
gazing fixedly at the head upon the pile of papers. Suddenly Mr. Alleyne began to upset all the papers,
searching for something. Then, as if he had been unaware of the man’s presence till that moment, he shot
up his head again, saying:

“Eh? Are you going to stand there all day? Upon my word, Farrington, you take things easy!”
“I was waiting to see . . . ”
“Very good, you needn’t wait to see. Go downstairs and do your work.”

29. Voice tube, an early type of office intercom.

James Joyce (1882–1941) 387

The man walked heavily towards the door and, as he went out of the room, he heard Mr. Alleyne cry
after him that if the contract was not copied by evening Mr. Crosbie would hear of the matter.

He returned to his desk in the lower office and counted the sheets which remained to be copied. He
took up his pen and dipped it in the ink but he continued to stare stupidly at the last words he had written:
In no case shall the said Bernard Bodley be . . . The evening was falling and in a few minutes they would
be lighting the gas: then he could write. He felt that he must slake the thirst in his throat. He stood up
from his desk and, lifting the counter as before, passed out of the office. As he was passing out the chief
clerk looked at him inquiringly.

“It’s all right, Mr. Shelley,” said the man, pointing with his finger to indicate the objective of his

The chief clerk glanced at the hat-rack, but, seeing the row complete, offered no remark. As soon as
he was on the landing the man pulled a shepherd’s plaid cap out of his pocket, put it on his head and ran
quickly down the rickety stairs. From the street door he walked on furtively on the inner side of the path
towards the corner and all at once dived into a doorway. He was now safe in the dark snug of O’Neill’s
shop, and filling up the little window that looked into the bar with his inflamed face, the colour of dark
wine or dark meat, he called out:

“Here, Pat, give us a g.p.

, like a good fellow.”
The curate brought him a glass of plain porter. The man drank it at a gulp and asked for a caraway

seed. He put his penny on the counter and, leaving the curate to grope for it in the gloom, retreated out
of the snug as furtively as he had entered it.

Darkness, accompanied by a thick fog, was gaining upon the dusk of February and the lamps in
Eustace Street had been lit. The man went up by the houses until he reached the door of the office,
wondering whether he could finish his copy in time. On the stairs a moist pungent odour of perfumes
saluted his nose: evidently Miss Delacour had come while he was out in O’Neill’s. He crammed his cap
back again into his pocket and re-entered the office, assuming an air of absent-mindedness.

“Mr. Alleyne has been calling for you,” said the chief clerk severely. “Where were you?”
The man glanced at the two clients who were standing at the counter as if to intimate that their

presence prevented him from answering. As the clients were both male the chief clerk allowed himself
a laugh.

“I know that game,” he said. “Five times in one day is a little bit . . . Well, you better look sharp and
get a copy of our correspondence in the Delacour case for Mr. Alleyne.”

This address in the presence of the public, his run upstairs and the porter he had gulped down so
hastily confused the man and, as he sat down at his desk to get what was required, he realised how
hopeless was the task of finishing his copy of the contract before half past five. The dark damp night
was coming and he longed to spend it in the bars, drinking with his friends amid the glare of gas and the
clatter of glasses. He got out the Delacour correspondence and passed out of the office. He hoped Mr.
Alleyne would not discover that the last two letters were missing.

The moist pungent perfume lay all the way up to Mr. Alleyne’s room. Miss Delacour was a middle-
aged woman of Jewish appearance. Mr. Alleyne was said to be sweet on her or on her money. She came
to the office often and stayed a long time when she came. She was sitting beside his desk now in an
aroma of perfumes, smoothing the handle of her umbrella and nodding the great black feather in her hat.
Mr. Alleyne had swivelled his chair round to face her and thrown his right foot jauntily upon his left
knee. The man put the correspondence on the desk and bowed respectfully but neither Mr. Alleyne nor
Miss Delacour took any notice of his bow. Mr. Alleyne tapped a finger on the correspondence and then
flicked it towards him as if to say: “That’s all right: you can go.”

30. A glass of porter.

388 Short Stories

The man returned to the lower office and sat down again at his desk. He stared intently at the
incomplete phrase: In no case shall the said Bernard Bodley be . . . and thought how strange it was that
the last three words began with the same letter. The chief clerk began to hurry Miss Parker, saying she
would never have the letters typed in time for post. The man listened to the clicking of the machine for
a few minutes and then set to work to finish his copy. But his head was not clear and his mind wandered
away to the glare and rattle of the public-house. It was a night for hot punches. He struggled on with his
copy, but when the clock struck five he had still fourteen pages to write. Blast it! He couldn’t finish it in
time. He longed to execrate aloud, to bring his fist down on something violently. He was so enraged that
he wrote Bernard Bernard instead of Bernard Bodley and had to begin again on a clean sheet.

He felt strong enough to clear out the whole office single-handed. His body ached to do something, to
rush out and revel in violence. All the indignities of his life enraged him. . . . Could he ask the cashier
privately for an advance? No, the cashier was no good, no damn good: he wouldn’t give an advance. . . .
He knew where he would meet the boys: Leonard and O’Halloran and Nosey Flynn. The barometer of
his emotional nature was set for a spell of riot.

His imagination had so abstracted him that his name was called twice before he answered. Mr. Alleyne
and Miss Delacour were standing outside the counter and all the clerks had turn round in anticipation of
something. The man got up from his desk. Mr. Alleyne began a tirade of abuse, saying that two letters
were missing. The man answered that he knew nothing about them, that he had made a faithful copy. The
tirade continued: it was so bitter and violent that the man could hardly restrain his fist from descending
upon the head of the manikin

before him:

“I know nothing about any other two letters,” he said stupidly.
“You — know — nothing. Of course you know nothing,” said Mr. Alleyne. “Tell me,” he added,

glancing first for approval to the lady beside him, “do you take me for a fool? Do you think me an utter

The man glanced from the lady’s face to the little egg-shaped head and back again; and, almost before
he was aware of it, his tongue had found a felicitous moment:

“I don’t think, sir,” he said, “that that’s a fair question to put to me.”
There was a pause in the very breathing of the clerks. Everyone was astounded (the author of the

witticism no less than his neighbours) and Miss Delacour, who was a stout amiable person, began to
smile broadly. Mr. Alleyne flushed to the hue of a wild rose and his mouth twitched with a dwarf’s
passion. He shook his fist in the man’s face till it seemed to vibrate like the knob of some electric

“You impertinent ruffian! You impertinent ruffian! I’ll make short work of you! Wait till you see!
You’ll apologise to me for your impertinence or you’ll quit the office instanter! You’ll quit this, I’m
telling you, or you’ll apologise to me!”

He stood in a doorway opposite the office watching to see if the cashier would come out alone. All the
clerks passed out and finally the cashier came out with the chief clerk. It was no use trying to say a word
to him when he was with the chief clerk. The man felt that his position was bad enough. He had been
obliged to offer an abject apology to Mr. Alleyne for his impertinence but he knew what a hornet’s nest
the office would be for him. He could remember the way in which Mr. Alleyne had hounded little Peake
out of the office in order to make room for his own nephew. He felt savage and thirsty and revengeful,
annoyed with himself and with everyone else. Mr. Alleyne would never give him an hour’s rest; his life
would be a hell to him. He had made a proper fool of himself this time. Could he not keep his tongue in
his cheek? But they had never pulled together from the first, he and Mr. Alleyne, ever since the day Mr.
Alleyne had overheard him mimicking his North of Ireland accent to amuse Higgins and Miss Parker:

31. A little man.

James Joyce (1882–1941) 389

that had been the beginning of it. He might have tried Higgins for the money, but sure Higgins never had
anything for himself. A man with two establishments to keep up, of course he couldn’t. . . .

He felt his great body again aching for the comfort of the public-house. The fog had begun to chill
him and he wondered could he touch Pat in O’Neill’s. He could not touch him for more than a bob


and a bob was no use. Yet he must get money somewhere or other: he had spent his last penny for the
g.p. and soon it would be too late for getting money anywhere. Suddenly, as he was fingering his watch-
chain, he thought of Terry Kelly’s pawn-office in Fleet Street. That was the dart! Why didn’t he think of
it sooner?

He went through the narrow alley of Temple Bar quickly, muttering to himself that they could all go to
hell because he was going to have a good night of it. The clerk in Terry Kelly’s said A crown!

but the

consignor held out for six shillings; and in the end the six shillings was allowed him literally. He came
out of the pawn-office joyfully, making a little cylinder, of the coins between his thumb and fingers. In
Westmoreland Street the footpaths were crowded with young men and women returning from business
and ragged urchins ran here and there yelling out the names of the evening editions. The man passed
through the crowd, looking on the spectacle generally with proud satisfaction and staring masterfully at
the office-girls. His head was full of the noises of tram-gongs and swishing trolleys and his nose already
sniffed the curling fumes punch. As he walked on he preconsidered the terms in which he would narrate
the incident to the boys:

“So, I just looked at him — coolly, you know, and looked at her. Then I looked back at him again —
taking my time, you know. ‘I don’t think that that’s a fair question to put to me,’ says I.”

Nosey Flynn was sitting up in his usual corner of Davy Byrne’s and, when he heard the story, he stood
Farrington a half-one, saying it was as smart a thing as ever he heard. Farrington stood a drink in his turn.
After a while O’Halloran and Paddy Leonard came in and the story was repeated to them. O’Halloran
stood tailors of malt, hot, all round and told the story of the retort he had made to the chief clerk when
he was in Callan’s of Fownes’s Street; but, as the retort was after the manner of the liberal shepherds in
the eclogues

, he had to admit that it was not as clever as Farrington’s retort. At this Farrington told the

boys to polish off that and have another.
Just as they were naming their poisons who should come in but Higgins! Of course he had to join in

with the others. The men asked him to give his version of it, and he did so with great vivacity for the
sight of five small hot whiskies was very exhilarating. Everyone roared laughing when he showed the
way in which Mr. Alleyne shook his fist in Farrington’s face. Then he imitated Farrington, saying, “And
here was my nabs, as cool as you please,” while Farrington looked at the company out of his heavy dirty
eyes, smiling and at times drawing forth stray drops of liquor from his moustache with the aid of his
lower lip.

When that round was over there was a pause. O’Halloran had money but neither of the other two
seemed to have any; so the whole party left the shop somewhat regretfully. At the corner of Duke Street
Higgins and Nosey Flynn bevelled off to the left while the other three turned back towards the city. Rain
was drizzling down on the cold streets and, when they reached the Ballast Office, Farrington suggested
the Scotch House. The bar was full of men and loud with the noise of tongues and glasses. The three men
pushed past the whining matchsellers at the door and formed a little party at the corner of the counter.
They began to exchange stories. Leonard introduced them to a young fellow named Weathers who
was performing at the Tivoli as an acrobat and knockabout artiste. Farrington stood a drink all round.
Weathers said he would take a small Irish and Apollinaris

. Farrington, who had definite notions of what

32. One shilling.

33. Five shillings.

34. A possible reference to the gross “liberal shepherds” in Hamlet 4.7.

35. A German mineral water.

390 Short Stories

was what, asked the boys would they have an Apollinaris too; but the boys told Tim to make theirs hot.
The talk became theatrical. O’Halloran stood a round and then Farrington stood another round, Weathers
protesting that the hospitality was too Irish. He promised to get them in behind the scenes and introduce
them to some nice girls. O’Halloran said that he and Leonard would go, but that Farrington wouldn’t go
because he was a married man; and Farrington’s heavy dirty eyes leered at the company in token that he
understood he was being chaffed. Weathers made them all have just one little tincture at his expense and
promised to meet them later on at Mulligan’s in Poolbeg Street.

When the Scotch House closed they went round to Mulligan’s. They went into the parlour at the back
and O’Halloran ordered small hot specials all round. They were all beginning to feel mellow. Farrington
was just standing another round when Weathers came back. Much to Farrington’s relief he drank a glass
of bitter this time. Funds were getting low but they had enough to keep them going. Presently two young
women with big hats and a young man in a check suit came in and sat at a table close by. Weathers
saluted them and told the company that they were out of the Tivoli.

Farrington’s eyes wandered at every

moment in the direction of one of the young women. There was something striking in her appearance.
An immense scarf of peacock-blue muslin was wound round her hat and knotted in a great bow under
her chin; and she wore bright yellow gloves, reaching to the elbow. Farrington gazed admiringly at
the plump arm which she moved very often and with much grace; and when, after a little time, she
answered his gaze he admired still more her large dark brown eyes. The oblique staring expression in
them fascinated him. She glanced at him once or twice and, when the party was leaving the room, she
brushed against his chair and said “O, pardon!” in a London accent. He watched her leave the room in
the hope that she would look back at him, but he was disappointed. He cursed his want of money and
cursed all the rounds he had stood, particularly all the whiskies and Apollinaris which he had stood to
Weathers. If there was one thing that he hated it was a sponge. He was so angry that he lost count of the
conversation of his friends.

When Paddy Leonard called him he found that they were talking about feats of strength. Weathers
was showing his biceps muscle to the company and boasting so much that the other two had called on
Farrington to uphold the national honour. Farrington pulled up his sleeve accordingly and showed his
biceps muscle to the company. The two arms were examined and compared and finally it was agreed
to have a trial of strength. The table was cleared and the two men rested their elbows on it, clasping
hands. When Paddy Leonard said “Go!” each was to try to bring down the other’s hand on to the table.
Farrington looked very serious and determined.

The trial began. After about thirty seconds Weathers brought his opponent’s hand slowly down on to
the table. Farrington’s dark wine-coloured face flushed darker still with anger and humiliation at having
been defeated by such a stripling.

“You’re not to put the weight of your body behind it. Play fair,” he said.
“Who’s not playing fair?” said the other.
“Come on again. The two best out of three.”
The trial began again. The veins stood out on Farrington’s forehead, and the pallor of Weathers’

complexion changed to peony. Their hands and arms trembled under the stress. After a long struggle
Weathers again brought his opponent’s hand slowly on to the table. There was a murmur of applause
from the spectators. The curate, who was standing beside the table, nodded his red head towards the
victor and said with stupid familiarity:

“Ah! that’s the knack!”
“What the hell do you know about it?” said Farrington fiercely, turning on the man. “What do you put

in your gab for?”

36. A Dublin music hall theatre.

James Joyce (1882–1941) 391

“Sh, sh!” said O’Halloran, observing the violent expression of Farrington’s face. “Pony up, boys.
We’ll have just one little smahan more and then we’ll be off.”

A very sullen-faced man stood at the corner of O’Connell Bridge waiting for the little Sandymount
tram to take him home. He was full of smouldering anger and revengefulness. He felt humiliated and
discontented; he did not even feel drunk; and he had only twopence in his pocket. He cursed everything.
He had done for himself in the office, pawned his watch, spent all his money; and he had not even got
drunk. He began to feel thirsty again and he longed to be back again in the hot reeking public-house. He
had lost his reputation as a strong man, having been defeated twice by a mere boy. His heart swelled with
fury and, when he thought of the woman in the big hat who had brushed against him and said Pardon!
his fury nearly choked him.

His tram let him down at Shelbourne Road and he steered his great body along in the shadow of the
wall of the barracks. He loathed returning to his home. When he went in by the side-door he found the
kitchen empty and the kitchen fire nearly out. He bawled upstairs:

“Ada! Ada!”
His wife was a little sharp-faced woman who bullied her husband when he was sober and was bullied

by him when he was drunk. They had five children. A little boy came running down the stairs.
“Who is that?” said the man, peering through the darkness.
“Me, pa.”
“Who are you? Charlie?”
“No, pa. Tom.”
“Where’s your mother?”
“She’s out at the chapel.”
“That’s right. . . . Did she think of leaving any dinner for me?”
“Yes, pa. I—”
“Light the lamp. What do you mean by having the place in darkness? Are the other children in bed?”
The man sat down heavily on one of the chairs while the little boy lit the lamp. He began to mimic

his son’s flat accent, saying half to himself: “At the chapel. At the chapel, if you please!” When the lamp
was lit he banged his fist on the table and shouted:

“What’s for my dinner?”
“I’m going . . . to cook it, pa,” said the little boy.
The man jumped up furiously and pointed to the fire.
“On that fire! You let the fire out! By God, I’ll teach you to do that again!”
He took a step to the door and seized the walking-stick which was standing behind it.
“I’ll teach you to let the fire out!” he said, rolling up his sleeve in order to give his arm free play.
The little boy cried “O, pa!” and ran whimpering round the table, but the man followed him and

caught him by the coat. The little boy looked about him wildly but, seeing no way of escape, fell upon
his knees.

“Now, you’ll let the fire out the next time!” said the man striking at him vigorously with the stick.
“Take that, you little whelp!”

The boy uttered a squeal of pain as the stick cut his thigh. He clasped his hands together in the air and
his voice shook with fright.

“O, pa!” he cried. “Don’t beat me, pa! And I’ll . . . I’ll say a Hail Mary for you. . . . I’ll say a Hail
Mary for you, pa, if you don’t beat me. . . . I’ll say a Hail Mary. . . . ”

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1. Describe Eveline’s home life.

2. How does she expect her new life to be different?

3. Is Buenos Aires a symbol?

4. List specific references to dust. What is the significance of the dust image?

5. What is Eveline’s father like? Compare him to Mansfield’s late colonel or to O’Casey’s Capt.

6. What was her mother like? What happened to her? Does Eveline identify with her mother in any

7. What do you think her mother meant by her repeating “the end of pleasure is pain”?

8. What does her father mean when he tells her, “I know these sailor chaps”? What possible reasons
would he have for trying to break up her romance with Frank?

9. What type of person is Frank? What does she actually know about him?

10. Has Eveline romanticized Frank in any way? Is her father’s objection to him perhaps justified?

11. What is Eveline’s duty to her father? What promise did she make to her dying mother?

12. What is her duty to herself? Does she really believe she has “a right to happiness”? Why or why

13. How does Eveline feel about leaving her brother, Harry?

14. In what ways is Eveline “like a helpless animal”? What is she afraid of?

15. Why do you think her eyes give Frank “no sign of love or farewell or recognition”?

16. Do you think Eveline made the right decision? Why or why not?

17. Read the notes on the musical allusion to “The Lass that Loves a Sailor” as well as the lyrics to
the song. Then discuss how it contributes to a contrast between Frank and Eveline’s father.

18. In an essay of 1,000 to 1,500 words, give a feminist interpretation of the story.


James Joyce (1882–1941) 393

Study Questions

1. What are some connotations of the word “Araby”?

2. Give a few examples of how the narrator distances himself from the boy he once was.

3. What is the main meaning of the word in the last sentence? In what sense was the protagonist
“driven and derided by vanity”?

4. In a brief essay, discuss how religious imagery relates to the theme.

5. Discuss the motif of initiation or innocence to experience in the story.


Listen to John McCormack’s “I’ll Sing Thee Songs of Araby” or read the lyrics of “I’ll Sing Thee Songs of
Araby.” It’s possible that this song inspired “Araby,” which refers to an actual fair that took place in Dublin in
May 1894. To learn more, see Music in the Works of James Joyce.

After the Race

Study Questions

1. Comment on the thematic significance of paragraph 1, “…this channel of poverty and inaction”
and of “cheer of the gratefully oppressed.”

2. Describe Jimmy’s education. Why is his father secretly proud of his excesses?

3. Why is Jimmy taken with Ségouin?

4. In what is Jimmy about to invest? Does this seem to be a good investment? Why or why not?

5. How does Ségouin diffuse the heated discussion of politics? What does this say about him?

6. What meaning do you take from the line “he would lose, of course”?

7. What is Routh’s nationality, and why is it significant to the theme?


394 Short Stories

Study Questions

1. What is the narrative point of view in the story?

2. In the office scene, what is the narrator’s attitude toward Farrington? How does he refer to him?
List some descriptions used.

3. Is there any difference between the descriptions and references to Farrington in the office scene
and in the bar scenes?

4. Describe the atmosphere of the office.

5. Describe Mr. Alleyne.

6. Describe Farrington. What is his response after the arm-wrestling loss? What is his attitude to the
chief clerk? The pub keeper (curate)?

7. The story breaks naturally into three main scenes. List them.

8. Describe the atmosphere of Farrington’s home.

9. Is Tom’s beating inevitable? That is, are you surprised when Farrington lashes out at him? If not,
why not?

10. What is the significance of the title? Look up “counterpart” in a good dictionary.

11. Is it significant that Alleyne is from Northern Ireland, Weathers is from England, and the divided
family is from Southern Ireland?

12. The protagonist Farrington beats his young son Tom (see last paragraph of story). Write a
600-word essay on what causes the beating. Try to find at least two or three major causes. If you
decide that one of the causes of the beating is excessive alcohol consumption, be sure to make the
logical link to violence. Otherwise, you might commit a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, which
occurs when the writer substitutes a mere correlation for the cause. An example: “Let’s not invite
Tom to our next picnic. Whenever he has attended our picnics, it has rained; whenever he was
absent, it was sunny.”

13. In an essay of 1,500 to 2,000 words, discuss “After the Race” and “Counterparts” as stories
dealing with imperialism. Incidentally, the first chapter (“Telemachus”) of Joyce’s Ulysses also
relates to the theme of colonialism: pay particular attention to Stephen’s words to the English
visitor Haines: “I am the servant of two masters…an English and an Italian.” Identify these two
masters and how they touch upon the colonialism topic. Also Joyce, in his portrait of the poor old
milkwoman in the same chapter, alludes to Cathleen ni Houlihan, a traditional symbol of Ireland
herself: she serves Mulligan and the Englishman Haines, “Her conqueror [Haines] and her gay
betrayer [Mulligan].”

Additional Resources

• Check out A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classic Edition of James Joyce’s Dubliners

James Joyce (1882–1941) 395

[PDF] for useful study questions for each story, as well as useful historical and related

• Read “Joyce’s Dublin” by Irene Togher for information on how Dublin appears in Joyce’s

• Check out this podcast on Joyce’s “The Dead,” the final story in Dubliners: Joyce’s
Dublin: An Exploration of “The Dead”.


Web edition of Ulysses, provided by the University of Adelaide.

Prof. Michael Groden’s notes on Ulysses: Chapter 1, “Telemachus”.

Notes on Ulysses: Chapter 4, “Calypso”.

Notes on Ulysses: Chapter 18, “Penelope”.

Text Attributions

• Biography: James Joyce’s Life by the James Joyce Centre. Adapted by James Sexton. Used
with permission.

• “Eveline” by James Joyce is free of known copyright restrictions in Canada.

• “Araby” by James Joyce is free of known copyright restrictions in Canada.

• “After the Race” by James Joyce is free of known copyright restrictions in Canada.

• “Counterparts” by James Joyce is free of known copyright restrictions in Canada.

Media Attributions

• James Joyce by Alex Ehrenzweig © Public Domain

396 Short Stories


D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930)


David Herbert Lawrence, born on September 11, 1885, was an English novelist, poet, playwright,
essayist, literary critic, and painter who published as D. H. Lawrence. His collected works, among
other things, represent an extended reflection upon the de-humanising effects of modernity and
industrialization. In them, some of the issues Lawrence explores are emotional health, vitality,
spontaneity, and instinct.

Lawrence’s opinions earned him many enemies and he endured official persecution, censorship, and
misrepresentation of his creative work throughout the second half of his life, much of which he spent in
a voluntary exile, which he called his “savage pilgrimage.”

At the time of his death, on March 2, 1930, his public reputation was that of a pornographer who
had wasted his considerable talents. E. M. Forster, in an obituary notice, challenged this widely held
view, describing him as, “The greatest imaginative novelist of our generation.” Later, the influential
Cambridge critic F. R. Leavis championed both his artistic integrity and his moral seriousness, placing
much of Lawrence’s fiction within the canonical “great tradition” of the English novel.


Published in 1922

The Horse Dealer’s Daughter

‘Well, Mabel, and what are you going to do with yourself?’ asked Joe,
with foolish flippancy. He felt quite safe himself. Without listening for an
answer, he turned aside, worked a grain of tobacco to the tip of his tongue,
and spat it out. He did not care about anything, since he felt safe himself.

The three brothers and the sister sat round the desolate breakfast table,
attempting some sort of desultory consultation. The morning’s post had
given the final tap to the family fortunes, and all was over. The dreary

dining-room itself, with its heavy mahogany furniture, looked as if it were waiting to be done away with.
But the consultation amounted to nothing. There was a strange air of ineffectuality about the three

men, as they sprawled at table, smoking and reflecting vaguely on their own condition. The girl was
alone, a rather short, sullen-looking young woman of twenty-seven. She did not share the same life as
her brothers. She would have been good-looking, save for the impassive fixity of her face, ‘bull-dog’, as
her brothers called it.

There was a confused tramping of horses’ feet outside. The three men all sprawled round in their
chairs to watch. Beyond the dark holly-bushes that separated the strip of lawn from the highroad, they
could see a cavalcade of shire horses swinging out of their own yard, being taken for exercise. This was
the last time. These were the last horses that would go through their hands. The young men watched with
critical, callous look. They were all frightened at the collapse of their lives, and the sense of disaster in
which they were involved left them no inner freedom.

Yet they were three fine, well-set fellows enough. Joe, the eldest, was a man of thirty-three, broad and
handsome in a hot, flushed way. His face was red, he twisted his black moustache over a thick finger, his
eyes were shallow and restless. He had a sensual way of uncovering his teeth when he laughed, and his
bearing was stupid. Now he watched the horses with a glazed look of helplessness in his eyes, a certain
stupor of downfall.

The great draught-horses swung past. They were tied head to tail, four of them, and they heaved
along to where a lane branched off from the highroad, planting their great hoofs floutingly in the fine
black mud, swinging their great rounded haunches sumptuously, and trotting a few sudden steps as they
were led into the lane, round the corner. Every movement showed a massive, slumbrous strength, and a
stupidity which held them in subjection. The groom at the head looked back, jerking the leading rope.
And the calvalcade moved out of sight up the lane, the tail of the last horse, bobbed up tight and stiff,
held out taut from the swinging great haunches as they rocked behind the hedges in a motionlike sleep.

Joe watched with glazed hopeless eyes. The horses were almost like his own body to him. He felt
he was done for now. Luckily he was engaged to a woman as old as himself, and therefore her father,
who was steward of a neighbouring estate, would provide him with a job. He would marry and go into
harness. His life was over, he would be a subject animal now.

He turned uneasily aside, the retreating steps of the horses echoing in his ears. Then, with foolish
restlessness, he reached for the scraps of bacon-rind from the plates, and making a faint whistling sound,
flung them to the terrier that lay against the fender. He watched the dog swallow them, and waited till
the creature looked into his eyes. Then a faint grin came on his face, and in a high, foolish voice he said:

‘You won’t get much more bacon, shall you, you little b——?’
The dog faintly and dismally wagged its tail, then lowered his haunches, circled round, and lay down


398 Short Stories

There was another helpless silence at the table. Joe sprawled uneasily in his seat, not willing to go till
the family conclave was dissolved. Fred Henry, the second brother, was erect, clean-limbed, alert. He
had watched the passing of the horses with more sang-froid.

If he was an animal, like Joe, he was an

animal which controls, not one which is controlled.
He was master of any horse, and he carried himself with a well-tempered air of mastery. But he was

not master of the situations of life. He pushed his coarse brown moustache upwards, off his lip, and
glanced irritably at his sister, who sat impassive and inscrutable.

‘You’ll go and stop with Lucy for a bit, shan’t you?’ he asked. The girl did not answer.
‘I don’t see what else you can do,’ persisted Fred Henry.
‘Go as a skivvy,’ Joe interpolated laconically.
The girl did not move a muscle.
‘If I was her, I should go in for training for a nurse,’ said Malcolm, the youngest of them all. He was

the baby of the family, a young man of twenty-two, with a fresh, jaunty museau.

But Mabel did not take any notice of him. They had talked at her and round her for so many years,
that she hardly heard them at all.

The marble clock on the mantel-piece softly chimed the half-hour, the dog rose uneasily from the
hearthrug and looked at the party at the breakfast table. But still they sat on in ineffectual conclave.

‘Oh, all right,’ said Joe suddenly, à propos of nothing. ‘I’ll get a move on.’
He pushed back his chair, straddled his knees with a downward jerk, to get them free, in horsy fashion,

and went to the fire. Still he did not go out of the room; he was curious to know what the others would
do or say. He began to charge his pipe, looking down at the dog and saying, in a high, affected voice:

‘Going wi’ me? Going wi’ me are ter? Tha’rt goin’ further than tha counts on just now, dost hear?’
The dog faintly wagged its tail, the man stuck out his jaw and covered his pipe with his hands, and

puffed intently, losing himself in the tobacco, looking down all the while at the dog with an absent brown
eye. The dog looked up at him in mournful distrust. Joe stood with his knees stuck out, in real horsy

‘Have you had a letter from Lucy?’ Fred Henry asked of his sister.
‘Last week,’ came the neutral reply.
‘And what does she say?’
There was no answer.
‘Does she ask you to go and stop there?’ persisted Fred Henry.
‘She says I can if I like.’
‘Well, then, you’d better. Tell her you’ll come on Monday.’
This was received in silence.
‘That’s what you’ll do then, is it?’ said Fred Henry, in some exasperation.
But she made no answer. There was a silence of futility and irritation in the room. Malcolm grinned

‘You’ll have to make up your mind between now and next Wednesday,’ said Joe loudly, ‘or else find

yourself lodgings on the kerbstone.’
The face of the young woman darkened, but she sat on immutable.
‘Here’s Jack Fergusson!’ exclaimed Malcolm, who was looking aimlessly out of the window.
‘Where?’ exclaimed Joe, loudly.
‘Just gone past.’
‘Coming in?’

1. Literally “cold blood”; self-possession, imperturbability.

2. Colloquial term for face.

D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930) 399

Malcolm craned his neck to see the gate.
‘Yes,’ he said.
There was a silence. Mabel sat on like one condemned, at the head of the table. Then a whistle was

heard from the kitchen. The dog got up and barked sharply. Joe opened the door and shouted:
‘Come on.’
After a moment a young man entered. He was muffled up in overcoat and a purple woollen scarf, and

his tweed cap, which he did not remove, was pulled down on his head. He was of medium height, his
face was rather long and pale, his eyes looked tired.

‘Hello, Jack! Well, Jack!’ exclaimed Malcolm and Joe. Fred Henry merely said, ‘Jack.’
‘What’s doing?’ asked the newcomer, evidently addressing Fred Henry.
‘Same. We’ve got to be out by Wednesday.—Got a cold?’
‘I have—got it bad, too.’
‘Why don’t you stop in?’
‘Me stop in? When I can’t stand on my legs, perhaps I shall have a chance.’ The young man spoke

huskily. He had a slight Scotch accent.
‘It’s a knock-out, isn’t it,’ said Joe, boisterously, ‘if a doctor goes round croaking with a cold. Looks

bad for the patients, doesn’t it?’
The young doctor looked at him slowly.
‘Anything the matter with you, then?’ he asked sarcastically.
‘Not as I know of. Damn your eyes, I hope not. Why?’
‘I thought you were very concerned about the patients, wondered if you might be one yourself.’
‘Damn it, no, I’ve never been patient to no flaming doctor, and hope I never shall be,’ returned Joe.
At this point Mabel rose from the table, and they all seemed to become aware of her existence. She

began putting the dishes together. The young doctor looked at her, but did not address her. He had not
greeted her. She went out of the room with the tray, her face impassive and unchanged.

‘When are you off then, all of you?’ asked the doctor.
‘I’m catching the eleven-forty,’ replied Malcolm. ‘Are you goin’ down wi’th’ trap, Joe?’
‘Yes, I’ve told you I’m going down wi’ th’ trap, haven’t I?’
‘We’d better be getting her in then.—So long, Jack, if I don’t see you before I go,’ said Malcolm,

shaking hands.
He went out, followed by Joe, who seemed to have his tail between his legs.
‘Well, this is the devil’s own,’ exclaimed the doctor, when he was left alone with Fred Henry. ‘Going

before Wednesday, are you?’
‘That’s the orders,’ replied the other.
‘Where, to Northampton?’
‘That’s it.’
‘The devil!’ exclaimed Fergusson, with quiet chagrin.
And there was silence between the two.
‘All settled up, are you?’ asked Fergusson.
There was another pause.
‘Well, I shall miss yer, Freddy, boy,’ said the young doctor.
‘And I shall miss thee, Jack,’ returned the other.
‘Miss you like hell,’ mused the doctor.
Fred Henry turned aside. There was nothing to say. Mabel came in again, to finish clearing the table.
‘What are you going to do, then, Miss Pervin?’ asked Fergusson. ‘Going to your sister’s, are you?’

400 Short Stories

Mabel looked at him with her steady, dangerous eyes, that always made him uncomfortable, unsettling
his superficial ease.

‘No,’ she said.
‘Well, what in the name of fortune are you going to do? Say what you mean to do,’ cried Fred Henry,

with futile intensity.
But she only averted her head, and continued her work. She folded the white table-cloth, and put on

the chenille cloth.
‘The sulkiest bitch that ever trod!’ muttered her brother.
But she finished her task with perfectly impassive face, the young doctor watching her interestedly all

the while. Then she went out.
Fred Henry stared after her, clenching his lips, his blue eyes fixing in sharp antagonism, as he made a

grimace of sour exasperation.
‘You could bray her into bits, and that’s all you’d get out of her,’ he said, in a small, narrowed tone.
The doctor smiled faintly.
‘What’s she going to do, then?’ he asked.
‘Strike me if I know!’ returned the other.
There was a pause. Then the doctor stirred.
‘I’ll be seeing you tonight, shall I?’ he said to his friend.
‘Ay—where’s it to be? Are we going over to Jessdale?’
‘I don’t know. I’ve got such a cold on me. I’ll come round to the Moon and Stars, anyway.’
‘Let Lizzie and May miss their night for once, eh?’
‘That’s it—if I feel as I do now.’
‘All’s one—’
The two young men went through the passage and down to the back door together. The house was

large, but it was servantless now, and desolate.
At the back was a small bricked house-yard, and beyond that a big square, gravelled fine and red, and

having stables on two sides. Sloping, dank, winter-dark fields stretched away on the open sides.
But the stables were empty. Joseph Pervin, the father of the family, had been a man of no education,

who had become a fairly large horse dealer. The stables had been full of horses, there was a great turmoil
and come-and-go of horses and of dealers and grooms. Then the kitchen was full of servants. But of late
things had declined. The old man had married a second time, to retrieve his fortunes. Now he was dead
and everything was gone to the dogs, there was nothing but debt and threatening.

For months, Mabel had been servantless in the big house, keeping the home together in penury for
her ineffectual brothers. She had kept house for ten years. But previously, it was with unstinted means.
Then, however brutal and coarse everything was, the sense of money had kept her proud, confident. The
men might be foul-mouthed, the women in the kitchen might have bad reputations, her brothers might
have illegitimate children. But so long as there was money, the girl felt herself established, and brutally
proud, reserved.

No company came to the house, save dealers and coarse men. Mabel had no associates of her own
sex, after her sister went away. But she did not mind. She went regularly to church, she attended to her
father. And she lived in the memory of her mother, who had died when she was fourteen, and whom she
had loved. She had loved her father, too, in a different way, depending upon him, and feeling secure in
him, until at the age of fifty-four he married again. And then she had set hard against him. Now he had
died and left them all hopelessly in debt.

She had suffered badly during the period of poverty. Nothing, however, could shake the curious sullen,
animal pride that dominated each member of the family. Now, for Mabel, the end had come. Still she
would not cast about her. She would follow her own way just the same. She would always hold the keys

D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930) 401

of her own situation. Mindless and persistent, she endured from day to day. Why should she think? Why
should she answer anybody? It was enough that this was the end, and there was no way out. She need not
pass any more darkly along the main street of the small town, avoiding every eye. She need not demean
herself any more, going into the shops and buying the cheapest food. This was at an end. She thought of
nobody, not even of herself. Mindless and persistent, she seemed in a sort of ecstasy to be coming nearer
to her fulfilment, her own glorification, approaching her dead mother, who was glorified.

In the afternoon she took a little bag, with shears and sponge and a small scrubbing brush, and went
out. It was a grey, wintry day, with saddened, dark-green fields and an atmosphere blackened by the
smoke of foundries not far off. She went quickly, darkly along the causeway, heeding nobody, through
the town to the churchyard.

There she always felt secure, as if no one could see her, although as a matter of fact she was exposed to
the stare of everyone who passed along under the churchyard wall. Nevertheless, once under the shadow
of the great looming church, among the graves, she felt immune from the world, reserved within the
thick churchyard wall as in another country.

Carefully she clipped the grass from the grave, and arranged the pinky-white, small chrysanthemums
in the tin cross. When this was done, she took an empty jar from a neighbouring grave, brought water,
and carefully, most scrupulously sponged the marble headstone and the coping-stone.

It gave her sincere satisfaction to do this. She felt in immediate contact with the world of her mother.
She took minute pains, went through the park in a state bordering on pure happiness, as if in performing
this task she came into a subtle, intimate connexion with her mother. For the life she followed here in
the world was far less real than the world of death she inherited from her mother.

The doctor’s house was just by the church. Fergusson, being a mere hired assistant, was slave to the
countryside. As he hurried now to attend to the outpatients in the surgery, glancing across the graveyard
with his quick eye, he saw the girl at her task at the grave. She seemed so intent and remote, it was like
looking into another world. Some mystical element was touched in him. He slowed down as he walked,
watching her as if spell-bound.

She lifted her eyes, feeling him looking. Their eyes met. And each looked again at once, each feeling,
in some way, found out by the other. He lifted his cap and passed on down the road. There remained
distinct in his consciousness, like a vision, the memory of her face, lifted from the tombstone in the
churchyard, and looking at him with slow, large, portentous eyes. It was portentous, her face. It seemed
to mesmerize him. There was a heavy power in her eyes which laid hold of his whole being, as if he
had drunk some powerful drug. He had been feeling weak and done before. Now the life came back into
him, he felt delivered from his own fretted, daily self.

He finished his duties at the surgery as quickly as might be, hastily filling up the bottles of the waiting
people with cheap drugs. Then, in perpetual haste, he set off again to visit several cases in another part
of his round, before teatime. At all times he preferred to walk, if he could, but particularly when he was
not well. He fancied the motion restored him.

The afternoon was falling. It was grey, deadened, and wintry, with a slow, moist, heavy coldness
sinking in and deadening all the faculties. But why should he think or notice? He hastily climbed the
hill and turned across the dark-green fields, following the black cinder-track. In the distance, across a
shallow dip in the country, the small town was clustered like smouldering ash, a tower, a spire, a heap
of low, raw, extinct houses. And on the nearest fringe of the town, sloping into the dip, was Oldmeadow,
the Pervins’ house. He could see the stables and the outbuildings distinctly, as they lay towards him on
the slope. Well, he would not go there many more times! Another resource would be lost to him, another
place gone: the only company he cared for in the alien, ugly little town he was losing. Nothing but work,
drudgery, constant hastening from dwelling to dwelling among the colliers and the iron-workers. It wore
him out, but at the same time he had a craving for it. It was a stimulant to him to be in the homes of

402 Short Stories

the working people, moving as it were through the innermost body of their life. His nerves were excited
and gratified. He could come so near, into the very lives of the rough, inarticulate, powerfully emotional
men and women. He grumbled, he said he hated the hellish hole. But as a matter of fact it excited him,
the contact with the rough, strongly-feeling people was a stimulant applied direct to his nerves.

Below Oldmeadow, in the green, shallow, soddened hollow of fields, lay a square, deep pond. Roving
across the landscape, the doctor’s quick eye detected a figure in black passing through the gate of the
field, down towards the pond. He looked again. It would be Mabel Pervin. His mind suddenly became
alive and attentive.

Why was she going down there? He pulled up on the path on the slope above, and stood staring. He
could just make sure of the small black figure moving in the hollow of the failing day. He seemed to see
her in the midst of such obscurity, that he was like a clairvoyant, seein rather with the mind’s eye than
with ordinary sight. Yet he could see her positively enough, whilst he kept his eye attentive. He felt, if
he looked away from her, in the thick, ugly falling dusk, he would lose her altogether.

He followed her minutely as she moved, direct and intent, like something transmitted rather than
stirring in voluntary activity, straight down the field towards the pond. There she stood on the bank for a
moment. She never raised her head. Then she waded slowly into the water.

He stood motionless as the small black figure walked slowly and deliberately towards the centre of
the pond, very slowly, gradually moving deeper into the motionless water, and still mov