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36 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 ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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28 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 ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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21 votes
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Why did T.S. Eliot compare “waiting for death” with “a feather on the back of the hand"?

The couplet in question is: My life is light, waiting for the death wind, Like a feather on the back of my hand. And the poem describes Simeon, a biblical character. He is an elderly Jew who was ...
Matt Thrower's user avatar
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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, ...
Torisuda's user avatar
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9 votes
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What did Lem find in his game-theoretical analysis of the writings of Marquis de Sade?

To say that Lem applied game theory to the writings of the Marquis de Sade is a little bit of an overstatement. In the essay Markiz w grafie (“The Marquis in the Network”) he first argues how game ...
Clara Díaz Sanchez's user avatar
9 votes
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Meaning of "My owners'll have to rank with the rest on their charter-party"?

Here's the situation with commercial shipping. You are a Norwegian timber merchant, with many planks of finest spruce to sell. You believe that you can make lots of money, if only you could deliver ...
alexg's user avatar
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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 ...
DukeZhou's user avatar
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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, ...
Matt Thrower's user avatar
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6 votes

Meaning behind “Where Once The Waters Of Your Face“

Interpretation on Reading It seems to me, on reading the work, but not any analysis others have done of it, that the "you" of the poem is a personified voice of the oceans, all the seas of ...
David Siegel's user avatar
5 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 ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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5 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: ...
Jos's user avatar
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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 ...
Matt Thrower's user avatar
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5 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 ...
verbose's user avatar
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5 votes

Actual meaning of Shakespeare's sonnet 30

The sonnet is, at least on the surface, as simple as can be: the speaker says that when they think about the past, they are sad, but when they think about “thee (dear friend)”, they are happy. That’s ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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4 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 ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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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 ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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4 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. ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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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 ...
Julius Hamilton's user avatar
4 votes
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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 ...
Peter Shor's user avatar
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4 votes

Meaning of "My owners'll have to rank with the rest on their charter-party"?

The sentence you quote needs a bit of prefatory explanation to make its meaning clear. But in the process, I shall probably let drop major spoilers. Sadly ’Can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs’...
schweppz's user avatar
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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 ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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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 ...
CHEESE's user avatar
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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 ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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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 ...
Peter Shor's user avatar
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3 votes

Thomas Hardy’s “The Man He Killed”

The speaker of this poem is a young man of rural lower-class origins who enlisted as an infantryman and who has just killed an enemy soldier (“my foe”) in battle. The symmetry of the situation strikes ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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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. (...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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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 ...
Peter Shor's user avatar
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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 ...
Eike Pierstorff's user avatar
3 votes
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What does the poem "Philosophy" by Nissim Ezekiel mean?

Ezekiel starts by saying that at times, he is able to assume a philosophical attitude, a "cold lucidity" beyond everyday phenomena. This lucidity's "will is uncontrolled", i.e., ...
verbose's user avatar
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