Questions tagged [poetry]

Questions about poetry in general or about any specific poem. Please use this tag with the appropriate author tag, and, if applicable, a language tag (such as [french-literature].

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31 votes
2 answers
4k views

Did Lenore merely leave or is she dead?

Edgar Allen Poe's poem The Raven has the narrator mourning the loss of his love Lenore. But it's actually not entirely clear to me if Lenore merely left the narrator (for whatever relationship-related ...
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30 votes
1 answer
3k views

What is the pun in Kipling's poem "The Three-Decker"?

In the poem The Three-Decker, by Rudyard Kipling, there is one line where the meter is slightly different from all the other lines. I Googled that line, not expecting to find anything, and Google ...
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27 votes
2 answers
2k views

Did Poe plagiarise someone else's work when writing "The Raven"?

I've read that Poe's been accused of lifting significant elements from many authors including Elizabeth Barrett, Charles Dickens, Leo Penzoni, and Thomas Holley Chivers (and "unknown," of course). ...
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26 votes
1 answer
4k views

Why are haiku usually of 17 syllables?

One of the characteristics of Haiku is that the poems are usually of 17 syllables (5-7-5). Exceptions exist, of course, but 17 is the norm. Why 17? How did the originators of Haiku come to settle on ...
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  • 6,634
25 votes
2 answers
5k views

Bilbo’s song of Eärendil in “The Fellowship of the Ring”

In The Fellowship of the Ring, the character Bilbo Baggins recites a poem beginning with these lines: Eärendil was a mariner that tarried in Arvernien; he built a boat of timber felled in Nimbrethil ...
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25 votes
7 answers
8k views

Does "The Charge of the Light Brigade" glorify war or criticize it?

The Charge of the Light Brigade is an 1854 narrative poem at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War. Does it glorify war or criticize it?
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  • 1,055
24 votes
1 answer
620 views

Is the mariner immortal?

I pass, like night, from land to land; I have strange power of speech; That moment that his face I see, I know the man that must hear me: To him my tale I teach. This is one of the last ...
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22 votes
1 answer
484 views

Looking for a poem about the (fictionalized) writing of The Canterbury Tales Prologue

A friend of mine used to quote a poem that told the fictionalized story of Chaucer writing the first lines of the Prologue of The Canterbury Tales: "Whan that Aprill with his ... ". When he ...
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  • 179
20 votes
2 answers
2k views

Did T.S. Eliot really plagiarize in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"?

I've been trying to do research to confirm my English teacher's claim that T. S. Eliot plagiarized works by Jules Laforgue, Henri Bergson, and Andrew Marvell in his poem "The Love Song of J. ...
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  • 311
20 votes
5 answers
3k views

What does it mean to laugh like the letter k?

In Abuelito Who by Sandra Cisneros, the symbolic meaning of one line is quite confusing. The narrator is referring to her grandfather (abuelo), and she says he: who used to laugh like the letter k I'...
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  • 4,217
20 votes
2 answers
609 views

What circumstances is Bachchan referring to in this poem?

I came across a poem titled, Saathi, Sab Kuch Sahna Hoga (You have to tolerate this all, my friend) by Harivansh Rai Bachchan. I read this poem years ago and it is taken from an older book. Here is an ...
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  • 481
20 votes
2 answers
1k views

Why does the Lady of Shalott stay instead of stray?

In Tennyson's poem "The Lady of Shalott" there is the following verse: 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 ...
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  • 2,843
20 votes
1 answer
3k views

When and why did "No man is an island" start being regarded as a poem?

John Donne's "Meditation XVII" from Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1624) includes the following well-known passage: No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the ...
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20 votes
1 answer
5k views

What is the symbolism of the final rise of the Kraken?

I've been studying a lot of Tennyson, and I recently read The Kraken. The first 12 lines seem relatively straightforward, describing the giant beast that sleeps at the bottom of the sea, but the final ...
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  • 5,674
19 votes
7 answers
8k views

Significance of the Phoenician Sailor having pearls for eyes in The Waste Land

In T. S. Eliot's poem The Waste Land (which you can read online), the "Phoenician Sailor" (an image on a tarrot card) is described as having pearls for eyes in lie 48: Is your card, the drowned ...
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19 votes
1 answer
3k views

Which is the 'correct' version of "The Lady of Shalott" and why are there two?

It seems Tennyson wrote two versions of "The Lady of Shalott". They are quite similar but have some big differences, for example, the first stanza of the 1832 version is: On either side the ...
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  • 2,843
18 votes
1 answer
2k views

Accented è in Blake's "The little ones leapèd, and shoutèd, and laugh'd / And all the hills echoèd."

Here is a poem by William Blake with some accented è's (Nurse's Song, 1789). How is this è pronounced? What is the background as to why the e bears an accent? When the voices of children are heard on ...
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  • 549
17 votes
5 answers
19k views

What rough beast slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Turning and turning in the widening gyreThe falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and ...
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  • 3,990
17 votes
2 answers
112k views

What is the origin of this contradictory poem?

Does anyone know where this poem originates from: One fine morning in the middle of the night, Two dead men got up to fight, Back to back they faced each other, Drew their swords and shot one another....
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  • 2,843
17 votes
2 answers
5k views

What does 'Gilead' mean in The Raven?

Poe's poem The Raven contains the following words in the fifteenth stanza: [...] tell me truly, I implore— Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!" What does 'Gilead' mean ...
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  • 63.4k
17 votes
1 answer
394 views

How did T.S. Eliot's literary criticism affect his poetry?

T.S. Eliot wrote influential essays in New Criticism, a literary theory movement that if I understand correctly tried to revive formalism and focus on close reading and the text itself, as a response ...
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  • 5,775
16 votes
8 answers
6k views

Why does Robert Frost contradict himself in "The Road Not Taken"

In Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken" (which you can read online), the narrator gives two contradictory reasons for taking a particular fork in the road. At the beginning of the poem, the ...
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16 votes
1 answer
2k views

Children’s poem about a boy stuck between the tracks on the underground

When I was young I used to love Michael Rosen. Don’t put mustard in the custard and lots of silly ones like that. I also remember that there was a darker poem in one of the poem compilation books set ...
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  • 357
15 votes
4 answers
2k views

Terminology and examples for what George Orwell calls "good bad poetry"?

Recently I bumped into an article where "The Poetry Foundation’s president, John Barr, takes a look at what separates “serious” poetry from the rest". Poetry being an art form, obviously no such ...
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  • 255
15 votes
1 answer
3k views

What meter are "I lik the bred" poems in?

I'm trying to determine the meter of "i lik the bred" poems: "i lik the bred" is a series of short poems about a domesticated cow written by British author Sam Garland, better ...
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15 votes
3 answers
7k views

Meaning of "all the boards did shrink" in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

From The Rime of the Ancient Mariner: Water, water, every where, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink. What is the meaning of this phrase in ...
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  • 2,387
15 votes
1 answer
2k views

Whose were the "best minds" being destroyed in Ginsberg's "Howl"?

In Allen Ginsberg´s most famous poem "Howl", he claims he was witness to the destruction of the best minds of his generation: I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving ...
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15 votes
2 answers
2k views

Symbolism of "hot gammon" in T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land

I'm reading T. S. Eliot's poem The Waste Land (which you can read for free online) and one particular line stuck out at me: Well, that Sunday Albert was home, they had a hot gammon, And they ...
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15 votes
1 answer
2k views

How does the golden bough in "Sailing to Byzantium" relate to the story in the Aeneid, if at all?

According to Wikipedia of W.B. Yeats' "Sailing to Byzantium" is a metaphor for a spiritual journey. Yeats explores his thoughts and musings on how immortality, art, and the human spirit may ...
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  • 1,285
15 votes
1 answer
429 views

About l. 3 of the second stanza of Sappho's Ὠδὴ εἰς Ἀνακτωρίαν (Ode to Anactoria)

A long time ago, I translated all of Sappho's poems. In doing so, I had to reconstruct some parts of the texts, and do some amateur level criticism. One example of such work lies in the poem sometimes ...
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  • 621
15 votes
1 answer
1k views

Why did iambic pentameter become so 'standard' in classical English poetry?

Iambic pentameter is probably the most prevailing and widely used meter in classical English poetry, and it's the 'standard' form of verse in many forms of poetry such as sonnets. From Wikipedia (...
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14 votes
3 answers
6k views

Why does the poem "Naming of Parts" contrast war with nature?

Henry Reed's poem "Naming of Parts" (which you can read online) depicts a lesson used to teach soldiers the various parts of their rifles. (Hence the title "Naming of Parts"). Interspersed between the ...
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14 votes
3 answers
1k views

Who chained the albatross to the mariner's neck?

In the long poem by Samuel Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the mariner talks about an albatross being chained to his neck: Instead of the cross, the albatross About my neck was hung. ...
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14 votes
1 answer
873 views

How does the old norse kenning 'nausta blakks hlé-mána gífrs drífu gim-slöngvir' break down into 'warrior'

The 11th century icelandic skald Þórðr Sjáreksson wrote this kenning, quoted from wikipedia: nausta blakks hlé-mána gífrs drífu gim-slöngvir "fire-brandisher of blizzard of ogress of protection-...
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14 votes
1 answer
224 views

The name of a poem about a poet being happy that someone has forgotten the title of their poem

I read this poem in a collection and now I can't find it. It starts with the poet talking about how they were approached by someone who had loved one of their poems. But the reader could not remember ...
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14 votes
2 answers
8k views

What does the raven symbolize (besides death)?

Whenever I ask a friend about the symbolism of the Raven from The Raven, they always seem to say death. Is that the only thing the Raven is meant to symbolize?
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14 votes
1 answer
644 views

What happened to the epic poem?

It's so strange to me that we all praised and adore things, but would never consider supporting them in a modern setting. There are many examples of this: poetry (very unpopular nowadays; not in the ...
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  • 331
14 votes
1 answer
392 views

An imaginary young British poet who was invented as a literary hoax in the 1920s?

I think I read a brief piece about this a long time ago -- as in, over twenty years ago. (Possibly in some sort of literary reference book.) As near as I can recall, the following sequence of events ...
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  • 379
13 votes
2 answers
3k views

What literary work is being referred to in this limerick in which "The earth, like an orange, is blue"?

In the blog post Famous Poems Rewritten as Limericks on LanguageHat.com (2 April 2018), a certain Trond Engen posted the following limerick: The earth, like an orange, is blue. Your love and your ...
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  • 38.4k
13 votes
2 answers
225 views

Why is the month of Aprill masculine?

In the first line of the General Prologue of The Canterbury Tales, the month of April is given a masculine pronoun: Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote Why is this?
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13 votes
2 answers
6k views

What is the deeper meaning of "The Tyger"?

William Blake's poem "The Tyger" is part of his collection Songs of Innocence and of Experience, an extraordinary set of poems which explores ideas such as spirituality, love, poverty, repression, all ...
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  • 63.4k
13 votes
1 answer
688 views

Ogden Nash poem on hiccups

I have a vivid memory of reading a poem by Ogden Nash about hiccups that included the word "epiglottis" to help explain why they happen. I think it also had, as a poem, his quote about how &...
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  • 7,942
13 votes
4 answers
2k views

Does "The Soul selects her own Society" by Emily Dickinson have a simile?

Here is the poem "The Soul selects her own Society" by Emily Dickinson. The Soul selects her own Society — Then — shuts the Door — To her divine Majority — Present no more — Unmoved — ...
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13 votes
1 answer
588 views

Sentence structure of a stanza in "Ozymandias"—how the grammar works?

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. I do get that it says that the one who made ...
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13 votes
1 answer
7k views

Is the haiku in "You Only Live Twice" by Bashō?

Ian Fleming's Bond novel You Only Live Twice has one of my favourite poems: You only live twice Once when you're born And once when you look death in the face. According to the Wikipedia ...
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  • 6,634
13 votes
4 answers
6k views

What does "The Edge of Doom" mean?

The following stanza is from Robert Frost's Into My Own: One of my wishes is that those dark trees, So old and firm they scarcely show the breeze, Were not, as ’twere, the merest mask ...
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  • 435
13 votes
1 answer
543 views

Had Keats read any of Homer's works before reading Chapman's translation of them?

In "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer," John Keats writes: Oft of one wide expanse had I been told That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne; Yet never did I breathe its pure serene ...
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  • 1,442
12 votes
3 answers
8k views

What are the "dark Satanic mills" in Blake's Jerusalem?

The short poem Jerusalem by William Blake - not to be confused with his much longer epic poem of the same title; I'm talking about the "did those feet in ancient times" one - contains the following ...
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  • 63.4k
12 votes
1 answer
1k views

What is the "a-" prefix in "a-flying" and "a-getting" in Herrick's "To the Virgins"?

From Robert Herrick's "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time": Gather ye Rose-buds while ye may,     Old Time is still a-flying: And this same flower that smiles to day,     To morrow will ...
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12 votes
1 answer
2k views

Why is London 'the town which Brutus sought by dreams'?

In his short poem which begins 'Tagus, farewell', the English poet Sir Thomas Wyatt wrote of his longing to return to an unnamed city. For anyone familiar with the rudiments of either Wyatt's ...
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