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Analysis of Wordsworth’s Surprised by Joy

Analysis of Wordsworth’s Surprised by Joy

Death, like ink dropped in a glass of water, taints one’s perception of life by coloring every experience with a sad shade of grief. In his poem, “Surprised by Joy,” William Wordsworth relates how a moment of joy caused him to remember the death of his four-year-old daughter, Catharine. The memory effectively crushed any positive feelings he had during his encounter with joy and replaced them with quilt and sadness. This sonnet, though Italian in rhyme scheme, abandons the typical conflict-to-resolution form of argument for one which begins with the desired end-result and progresses towards the heart of the problem. Throughout the sonnet, Wordsworth shifts from expressing raw emotions of joy and grief, to realizing his loss, and finally, to accepting her death on a very removed and intellectual level. This originality of sonnet form combines with carefully placed sound effects to express the intense grief that embitters Wordsworth’s experience of joy.

The first quatrain opens with Wordsworth’s moment of joy and his eagerness to share the experience with his daughter. The abruptness of the phrase, “[s]urprised by joy,” and the very word “surprised” — which is onomatopoetic in that it starts with soft s and ur sounds, explodes into the plosive p and long i sounds and is quickly stifled by the ed sound — mimics the unexpected, short lived occurrence of joy (1). The caesura following this phrase chops the flow of words, showing the haste of his thoughts as he continues, “impatient and the Wind / I turned to share the transport” (1,2). The slight enjambment after “Wind” suggests the image of wind as a pushing force and created s sort of turning sensation into the next line….

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/ x x / x / x x x /

Ev’n for | the least | divi | sion of | an hour,

x / x / x / x / x /

Have I | been so | beguiled | as to | be blind

x / x / x / || x / x /

To my | most grie| vous loss! | — That thought’s | return

x x / / x / x / x /

Was the | worst pang | that sor | row ev | er bore,

x / || / x x || / x / x /

Save one, | one on | ly, when | I stood | forlorn,

/ x x / x / x / x /

Knowing | my heart’s | best trea | sure was | no more;

x / x / x / x / x /

That nei | ther pres | ent time, | nor years | unborn

x / x / x / x / x /

Could to | my sight | that heav’n| ly face | restore.

Quilting – The Feminist Dynamic of Lucille Clifton

The Feminist Dynamic of Lucille Clifton

Quilting bees were occasions for women to gather bringing discarded scraps of material, which they masterfully transformed, into works of art. The bee was also a social gathering where women told tales, exchanged ideas, and encouraged one another. Lucille Clifton’s collection of poetry entitled Quilting continues the wonderful tradition by skillfully bringing together poems that entertain, inform, and encourage. Two of Clifton’s poems, “eve’s version” and “a woman who loves,” are excellent examples of the quilting process where material is re-worked to reveal a perspective that is female. The poem, “eve’s version” defies the negative issues that have arisen from the Christian tradition of the fall of mankind. The present female condition is addressed in the poem, “a woman who loves.” Women have been blatantly marginalized in our society and a reading of these Clifton works offers a description of how feminist power has been subverted to construct the inequality of power that is entrenched in our patriarchal culture.

The ancient Greeks attributed the power of love and procreation to women. The goddess Aphrodite exemplifies their knowledge of this fundamental power. Christian doctrine subverts female power by aligning Eve, the original woman, with the fall of man. The power that is life producing is tainted because it is suggested that Lucifer was able to control Eve by manipulating her power. The resulting Christian premise is that Eve must be protected because she is unable to resist the forces of evil. Eve’s garden experience resulted in punishment subjecting her to the rule of her husband. It therefore becomes God’s will that men should dominate women so that evil can be con…

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…a woman who loves” because Clifton has given her a pattern for success in her offering of “eve’s version.” She provides direction to those women who are locked behind windows and lack the vision necessary to see beyond the view that society has presented to them. The direction affords the possibility of telling their own story from their own unique point of view. Women are also given the responsibility for providing an honest allocation of power in today’s richly diverse culture. Lucille Clifton ‘s quilting bee gathers the feminist dynamic that has been altered and dispersed and reworks it into a garment which makes this powerful force available to all women. These quilts can be displayed to tell the story or they can be used to offer warmth and security.

Work Cited

Clifton, Lucille. quilting poems 1987-1990. Rochester, New York: BOA Editions Ltd., 1991.

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