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

This answer grew too long for a single post, so I’ve split it in two, with history and analysis in this part, and detailed line notes in the other part. Summary Bilbo’s poem retells the myth of the ...
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27 votes

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

This is the second part of my answer, containing detailed line notes for the poem. If I’ve omitted any difficulties, let me know in the comments. I have preferred to use illustrative quotations from ...
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11 votes
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What is the deeper meaning of "The Tyger"?

This answer is somewhat of a generalization of my self answer to Why did the stars throw down their spears? where I ended up analyzing most of the poem to explain the meaning of one particular, ...
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  • 1,843
8 votes
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Edgar Allan Poe's "Alone"

This 22-line poem is constructed in iambic tetrameter with rhyming couplets. Anyone who has studied Shakespeare will know the structure of his iambic pentameter and its biological association with a ...
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  • 1,288
7 votes

What is the deeper meaning of "The Tyger"?

The perceived "banality" in relation to Innocence & Experience may be regarded as a device. In fact, the poems are all quite profound, but structured in a way as to be suitable for children as ...
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7 votes
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What is the meaning of Blake's poem "The Sick Rose"?

There is no one answer: a key part of this poem's appeal is its ambiguity. On the surface, it seems a poetic description of a rose flower sickening and dying due to a parasitic infection. However, ...
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5 votes

"The Laburnum Top" by Ted Hughes - poem explanation

Let's look at the poem verse by verse. For a Hughes poem, it is surprisingly literal. The Laburnum top is silent, quite still In the afternoon yellow September sunlight, A few leaves yellowing, all ...
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4 votes
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What does T. S. Eliot mean by "This is the way the world ends/Not with a bang but a whimper"?

While what a poet is trying to tell the reader will usually be a matter of dispute, B. C. Southam shines some light on these lines in A Student's Guide to the Selected Poems of T.S. Eliot, pp. 217-8: ...
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4 votes
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Approaching Beowulf scholarship - how to begin?

I have written up this guide in a way that should also be helpful for researching other work and authors from English literature, but the resources found are specific to Beowulf. The general approach ...
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4 votes
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Ezra Pound's "In a Station of the Metro"

Interpretation ‘Apparition’ means simply ‘appearance’ (the poet is thinking about the way the faces looked), or ‘the action of becoming visible’ (the faces suddenly stood out from the crowd to the ...
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  • 39.1k
4 votes

William Ernest Henley's "Invictus"

"Invictus" means "undefeated" or "unconquered." The poem's narrator says that he is not daunted by the circumstances in which he finds himself. Here is a paraphrase. Out ...
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4 votes
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Analysis of "While I speak God's law, I will not crack its voice with whimpering."

There is no onomatopoeia (strictly) in this excerpt. Onomatopoeia in the most restrictive sense is a word which resembles or evokes a sound in a directly sonic way. For example, if the sound of a car ...
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4 votes

What do the saint, the angel, the musician and the sandalwood refer to in Mallarmé's poem Sainte?

In my book of Mallarmé's poetry1, the notes for the poem say that Mallarmé is describing a stained glass window of Saint Cecilia. They point out that his original title of the poem was much more ...
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3 votes
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In how many ways can you interpret this haiku poem?

Here are my immediate thoughts: There is a “bow” in line 1, it is “stretched” in line 2, and something “flies” in line 3. So this could be a description of someone shooting an arrow from a bow by ...
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3 votes

John Betjeman’s "Suicide on Junction Road Station after Abstention from Evening Communion in North London"

I can't explain the terms any better than Peter Shor has already done, nor expand on the direct meaning of the poem, but I'd like to add some thematic commentary, in the hope that this might be ...
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  • 63.1k
3 votes

John Betjeman’s "Suicide on Junction Road Station after Abstention from Evening Communion in North London"

I believe the poem describes the suicide of a religious gay man who kills himself because he cannot stop "sinning”. One reason to abstain from communion, at least in the Catholic church, and probably ...
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  • 7,715
3 votes

Repetition of "smile" in Kamala Surayya's 'My Mother at Sixty-six'

Thought away The duplication of “thought away” is a mistake in your edition of the poem. The line should read: That she was as old as she looked, but soon See for example, Mary Ann Dasgupta, ed. (...
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3 votes
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What is "This is Just to Say" about?

From here: Williams's poem allows the reader a wide range of possibilities. He or she is free to decide whether it is "about" temptation, a re-enactment of the fall, or the triumph of the ...
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  • 4,179
3 votes
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Louise Glück's "Vespers"

Since nobody else is answering, I might as well. Unfortunately, I don't have that much to say about this poem in particular; it seems relatively straightforward, if you know something about the ...
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  • 7,715
3 votes

What is the central summary of "Erlkönig"?

Erlkönig is not a children's poem. In the poem, a boy is assaulted and killed by a supernatural specter, while his father cannot even perceive the threat and is thus unable to defend him. That would ...
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3 votes
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Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Figs from Thistles: First Fig"

“To burn (or light) the candle at both ends” is a metaphor meaning “to consume or waste in two directions at once”, according to the OED, which gives the citations: 1736   N. Bailey et al. ...
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3 votes
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Analyzing Thomas Mcguane's "Balloons"

McGuane talks, in the New Yorker, about his writing of the story: I often write until a story strikes some impasse, which can be terminal. That was nearly the case with “Balloons.” But I was helped ...
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  • 15.3k
3 votes

Analysis of "While I speak God's law, I will not crack its voice with whimpering."

I can see the following rhetorical devices in this sentence. Personification.† Danforth says that “God’s law” has a “voice”, thus creating an image of the law as a person who can speak. The effect of ...
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3 votes
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Thomas Moore’s “Copy of an Intercepted Despatch”

Strepitoso This is simply a borrowing in of the musical direction indicating that a composition be played in a ‘spirited or boisterous manner’ or in an ‘impetuous, boisterous style’ and hence gives ...
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  • 15.3k
2 votes
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What are the "lovely tales" in Keats' "Endymion"?

Lines 1–33 of ‘Endymion’ form an introduction to the story, which starts at line 34: Therefore, ’tis with full happiness that I Will trace the story of Endymion. The only way to understand the ...
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2 votes
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What's the implied meaning of this poem by Russell Edson?

The comments below are not intended as an exhaustive analysis but provide a number of starting points. You can look at the poem as working in two semantic realms: nature and society. Western society ...
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2 votes

What is the meaning of Blake's poem "The Sick Rose"?

William Blake was a Christian and so he is therefore using biblical symbolism. The rose symbolizes a Christian, specifically the Rose of Sharon, aka, the Lily of the Valley, in the Song of Solomon.(...
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2 votes

What is "This is Just to Say" about?

I checked multiple sources for you, and I found a common thread. Wikipedia says that it is just about plums, as they define it as an imagist poem. Imagists poems are defined by wikipedia as. ...
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2 votes

Emily Jane Pfeiffer's "Evolution"

TL;DR: Pfeiffer grapples with the impersonal nature of Darwinian evolution by personifying it: this contradictory endeavour yields confusion and paradox. Interpretation The discovery of “deep time” ...
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