October 18, 2005

Lightning and apple blossoms


I love lightning bolt poetry, the kind that hits in a flash and makes the whole world brilliant for a moment. Sara Teasdale is a master of this. Her poems are usually rather short, but say worlds. Today I found a lightning bolt moment in a Christina Rossetti poem, which is rather unusual. She is more inclined to longer, more graceful poems that take you through an elegant train of thought to a perfect ending. But in An Apple Gathering, the pattern is reversed-- she starts with a lightning bolt moment, and then trails off to a slower end. Here is the first stanza, a wonder of metaphor, gentle force, and tone--

I plucked pink blossoms from mine apple tree
And wore them all that evening in my hair:
Then in due season when I went to see
I found no apples there.
That is a perfect stanza. Try-- you can do nothing to improve it. She could have simply said that she tried to be attractive to someone and it didn't work, but the apple blossom metaphor conveys a breathtaking depth and subtlety and nuance that captures her emotions perfectly. Without reading the rest of the poem, you know exactly what happened and you understand the full spectrum of her thoughts and feelings. This is the essence of truly great poetry.


Mrs. Happy Housewife said...

I thought she was saying that by spending all her time thinking of her vanity that she had neglected her own needs and had no apples to eat.

ithchick said...

I could kick myself for not liking poetry. Oh well, at least I want to like it, even if I don't.