Your assignment must be based on one of the poems in the class text.
ONE OF THE POEM IS 70 CANADIAN POETS: FIFTH EDITION(ED:GARY GEDDES). Oxford: OUP, 2014
Length: 1.5 to 2 pages, typed in 12 point Times New Roman font with one inch margins all round, double spaced, stapled and printed on one side (recto) of the paper. Any manipulation of these requirements will result in grade penalties.
(i) The assignment must have a title page containing an informative and succinct title
(ii) (not“FirstAssignment” or “Explication”), your name and student number, and the course code and title and my name. It must also have a separateWorks Cited page.
(iii) The assignment must conform in all particulars to the M.L.A. guidelines (see the English Department’s Style Guide or consult the OWL Purdue website – MLA Formatting Page).
(iv) You are not required to provide any secondary source research for this assignment, but if you do, your sources must be correctly attributedin the essay and on your works cited page. For regulations concerning plagiarism and academic fraud, consult the class syllabus. If you have any concerns about the attribution of sources do not hesitate to consult me.
**You are advised to proofread your essay; mechanical errors will result in reduced grades. .**
(iv) Your assignment must be based on one of the poems in the class text.
(iv) Note the penalties attached to late submission of papers – see the class syllabus.You should also consult the class syllabus about concerns plagiarism and academic fraud. If you are unsure about attribution of any information in your paper, do not hesitate to consult me.
Do not submit essays through e-mail; you are strongly advised not to rely upon the efficiency of friends.
Essays do sometimes get mislaid; you are advised to retain your own copy of the essay.
Read and re-read this assignment sheet before you submit your essay for grading. Marks will be deducted if any of the requirements for this assignment are not fulfilled.
1. An explication / analysis of any of the poems in the course anthology .
An explication of a poem takes the reader through the poem, almost line by line, drawing the reader’s attention to significant elements like the effects of structure, genre, rhyme scheme, allusions, denotations or connotations of words, irony, metaphor, simile, symbolism, figures of speech etc etc. An explication or analysis should also show how each part contributes to the theme and / tone of the poem as a whole. You will find this exercise very useful as a practise for the final exam.
Below, find two examples of explication / analysis taken from X.J. Kennedy’s and Dana Gioia’sAn Introduction to Poetry: Tenth Edition.i (New York: Longman, 2002: pp609 – 617). Both short essays are taken from the works of actual students, and, while there are certain problems with each, I think you will find them very useful as models. In fact, an ideal paper would combine what each students had to say together.
Explication examples for “Design”by Robert Frost.
I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth —
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth —
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.
What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?–
If design govern in a thing so small.
“Starting with the title, “Design,” any reader of this poem will find it full of meaning. As Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines “design”, the word can denote a plan, purpose, intention or aim. Some arguments for the existence of God . . . are based on the ‘argument from design’; that because the world shows a systematic order, there must be a Designer who made it. But the word “design” can also mean ‘a secret or sinister scheme’ (Webster)such as we attribute to a ‘designing person’ (Webster). As we shall see, Frost’s poem incorporates all of these meanings. His poem raises the old philosophic question of whether there is a designer, an evil Designer, or no Designer at all.
Like many other sonnets, ‘Design’ is divided into two parts. The first eight lines draw a picture centering on the spider, who at first seems almost jolly. It is ‘dimpled’ and ‘fat’ like a baby, or Santa Claus. The spider stands on a wildflower whose name, heal-all, seems ironic: a heal—all is supposed to cure any disease, but this flower has no power to restore life to the dead moth. . . . . In the second line we discover, too, that the spider has hold of another creature, a dead moth. We then see the moth described with an odd simile in line three: ’like a white piece of rigid satin cloth.’ Suddenly, the moth becomes not a creature but a piece of fabric – lifeless and dead – and yet ‘satin’ has connotations of beauty. Satin is a luxurious material used in rich, formal clothing, such as coronation gowns and brides’ dresses. Additionally, there is great accuracy in the word: the smooth and slightly plush surface of satin is like the powder-smooth surface of moths’ wings. But this ‘cloth,’ rigid and white, could be the lining to Dracula’s coffin.
In the fifth line an invisible hand enters. The characters are ‘mixed’ like ingredients in an evil potion. Some force doing the mixing is behind the scene. The characters themselves are innocent enough, but when brought together, their whiteness and look of rigor mortis are overwhelming. There is something diabolical in the spider’s feast. The [phrase] ‘morning right’ echoes the word ‘rite,’ a ritual – in this case, apparently a Black Mass or a Witches’ Sabbath. The simile in line seven (‘a flower like a froth’) is more ambiguous and harder to describe. A froth is white, foamy and delicate – something found on a brook in the woods or on a beach after a wave recedes. However, in the natural world, froth can also be ugly: the foam on a polluted stream or a rabid dog’s mouth. The dualism in nature – its beauty and its horror — is there in that one simile.
So far, the poem has portrayed a small, frozen scene, with the dimpled killer holdings its victim as innocently as a boy holds a kite. Already, Frost has hinted that Nature may be, as Radcliffe Squires suggests, “Nothing but an ash-white plain without love or faith or hope, where ignorant appetites cross by chance’ (87). Now, in the last six lines of the sonnet, Frost comes out and directly states his theme. What else could bring these deathly pale, stiff things together ’but design of darkness to appall?’ The question is clearly rhetorical; we are meant to answer, ‘Yes, there does seem an evil design at work here.’ I take the last line to mean, ‘What except a design so dark and sinister that we are appalled by it?’ ‘Appall,’ by the way, is the second pun in the poem: it sounds like ‘a pall’ or shroud. (the derivation of ‘appall’ according to Webster’s , is ultimately from a Latin word meaning ‘to grow pale’ – an interesting word choice for a poem full of white pale images). ‘Steered’ carries the suggestion of a steering wheel or rudder that some pilot has to control. Like the word ‘brought’, it implies that some invisible force charted the paths of the spider, heal-all, and moth, so that they arrived together.
[However], having suggested that the universe is in the hands of that sinister force, (an indifferent God?Fate? The Devil?), Frost adds a note of doubt. The Bible tells us that ‘His eye is on the sparrow,’ but at the moment the poet does not seem sure. Perhaps, he hints, when things in the universe drop below a certain size, they pass completely out of the Designer’s notice. When creatures are this little, perhaps God does not bother to govern them, but just lets them run wild. Possibly, the same mindless chance is all that governs human lives, also. [But] because this is even more senseless than having an angry God intent on punishing us, it is, Frost, suggests, the worst suspicion of all.
‘Appall,’ ‘Design.’ Webster’s Tenth New Collegiate Dictionary. 1993
Frost, Robert. ‘Design.’Collected Poems, Prose and Plays. New York: Library of America, 1995:
Squires, Radcliffe.The Major Themes of Robert Frost.Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1963.”
Explication: example 2.
“In this poem the sonnet form has at least two advantages. As in most Italian sonnets, the poem’s arguments fall into two parts. In the octave, Robert Frost’s persona draws a still-life of a spider, a flower and a moth. In the sestet, he contemplates the meaning of his still-life. The sestet focuses on a universal: the possible existence of a vindictive deity who causes the spider to catch the moth and, no doubt, also causes – when viewed anthropomorphically – other suffering.
Frost’s persona weaves his own little web. The unwary audience is led through the poem’s argument from its opening [narrative] to a point at which something must be made of the story’s symbolic significance. Even the rhyme scheme contributes to the poem’s successful leading of the audience toward the sestet’s theological questioning. The word ‘white’ ends the first line of the sestet, and the same vowel sound is echoed in the lines that follow. All in all, half of the sonnet’s lines end in the ‘ite’ sound, as if to render significant the whiteness – the symbolic innocence – of nature’s representation of a greater truth.
A sonnet has a familiar design, and the poem’s classical form points to the thematic concern that there seems to be an order to the universe that might be perceived by looking at seemingly insignificant natural events. The sonnet must follow certain conventions, and nature, though not as readily apprehensible as a poetic form, is apparently governed by a set of laws. There is a ready-made irony in Frost’s choosing such an order-driven form to indicate whether or not there is any order in the universe. However, whether or not his questioning sestet is actually approaching an answer or, indeed, the answer, Frost has approached an order that seems to echo the larger order in using the sonnet form. An approach through poetic form and substance is itself significant in Frost’s own estimation, for Frost argues that what a poet achieves in writing poetry is “a momentary stay against confusion’ (777).
Although design clearly governs this poem – in ‘this thing so small’ – the design is not particularly predictable. The poem does start out in the form of an Italian sonnet, relying on only two rhyming sounds. However, unlike an Italian sonnet, one of the octave’s rhyming sounds – the ‘ite’ – continues into the sestet. Additionally, ‘Design’ ends in a couplet, much in the manner of the Shakespearian sonnet, which frequently offers, in the final couplet, a summing up of the sonnet’s argument. Perhaps, not only Nature’s ‘story’ of the spider, the flower and the moth but also Frost’s poem itself echoes the larger universe. It looks perfectly orderly until the details are given their due.
Frost Robert. ‘The Figure a Poem Makes.’ Collected Poems, Prose and Plays. New York: Library of America, 1995: 776 – 78.”