Reason #46578 Why I Love Poetry

It means something a little different to everyone who chooses to delve into it.

Being an English major, something I do a lot (in and out of class) is analyze written works. Because of my love for poetry, I am the most harsh and meticulous is said analysis. I am passionate. However, no matter how deep and overwhelmed my passion is, there is a good chance that I will never fully understand the poem to the author’s intent. Why is this? This is for the simple fact that every writer has a story.

Just as I write in allusions and metaphors, so do most other authors — especially in poetry. Because of this — because of the lack of a straightforward approach — one can only take from it what they have studied or experience themselves. This can be seen in many different works of art, in many different fashions.

For an example’s sake, I will give you a few lines of poetry and then give you several different possibilities of meanings, as well as the author’s (my) intent. Here goes.

The black gown of mourner’s rest
is placed upon her wretched chest.
She is numb and tingling with the pain of loss;
she is empty beyond all cost.

Looking at this from an analytic standpoint, the color black means death, sin, darkness, evil, etc. The word “mourner” brings a funeral to image, and “the black gown of mourner’s rest” suggests that it is she that is the mourner. “She is numb and tingling with the pain of loss” explains the feelings of one who has just experienced the tragic death of someone close — a pain that strips all other feelings. “She is empty beyond all cost” shows that this person was part of who she is. This could be a spouse/significant other, parent, or just someone else that she shared a close bond with. 

Seems pretty spot on, no? It clearly depicts the image of a girl who is mourning the death of someone she loves. Well, now it is time for the author’s intended meaning.

The color black in “the black gown of mourner’s rest” refers to a darkness that is all about the protagonist’s being. She is surrounded in it and with it. The color also suggests a sense of death when paired with the words “mourner’s rest”, but unknown to the reader, this does not imply a carnal (physical) death. “Placed upon her wretched chest” is a key line in this verse; it implies that the darkness rests right outside the chamber of her heart — the instrument that feeds her life. The word “loss” in line three refers to the feelings that she is no longer able to access. The numbness, also found in line 3, is the result of being surrounded and submerged in the darkness around her. “She is empty beyond all cost” once again refers to the feelings that are no longer there. She is unable to find something inside of her that is worth calling substance to. She sees herself as empty — lost.  

Now, re-read the poem again and see if you can see both sides of the analysis.

 The black gown of mourner’s rest
is placed upon her wretched chest.
She is numb and tingling with the pain of loss;
she is empty beyond all cost.

While one version is intended and the other is derived, neither views are wrong. As I said earlier, the end result will always be tied directly to the education level of the reader — about general terms and the author’s life and style — as well as any personal experiences that may contribute to the topic at hand. For example, someone who just lost someone to death is more apt to derive conclusion that the girl also lost someone who she loved. A person’s exposure and involvement in life with always act as a fuel when deconstructing someone else’s words, especially in art.

So, next time you read a poem, try to see if you can get more than your accustomed view out of it. Make this simple exercise fun, but secretly know that it will better both your understanding and ability to analyze works of art! And hey, if you are really curious about the meaning of a poem, try asking the author about it. Sometimes they may (or may not) let you in on their intended meaning!

Thanks for the read,
Brittany Rose

PS: I would like to go ahead and admit that the number in the title is not a precise number. Let’s just say I estimated. (;

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