Monday, May 26, 2014

Analysis of "A Study (A Soul)" by Christina Rossetti

Original poem reprinted online here: "A Study (A Soul)" by Christina Rossetti
Originally read: October 16, 2013
More information about the Poet: Christina Rossetti


The poem is in the Italian sonnet form with an abba/cddc/efe/efe rhyme scheme.  The break apart is distanced here -- just like the title which indicates a systematic introspection into the parenthetical soul.

     She stands as pale as Parian statues stand;
     Like Cleopatra when she turned at bay,
     And felt her strength above the Roman sway,
     And felt the aspic writing in her hand.

The soul, I'm assuming, the she is described in the physical stance first.  The color and the ability to stand is what's important to note, and then the context of standing is described further in -- power, like Cleopatra, both in a militaristic sense and the writing (diplomatic) sense.  What does this mean for the soul?  the soul seems timeless, something historic.

    Her face is steadfast toward the shadowy land
    for dim beyond it looms the light of day;
    Her feet are steadfast, all the arduous way
    That foot-track hat no wavered on the sand.

The semi-colon is key to this portion of the poem (note that there are no stanza breaks).  The first two lines follow the simile of Cleopatra proud and powerful, but also looking over the metaphorical "shadowy land" to the light of day -- some semblance of hope, maybe?  Or perhaps the ideal of perseverance.   In any case, the her speaker, because of this, is steadfast.

     She stands there like a beacon thor' the night
     A pale clear beacon where the storm-drift is;
     She stands alone, a wonder deathly white,
     She stands there patient, nerved with inner light.

Past me wrote, "biggest hint of the allusion" with the first line here.  Yes, this could allude to the Statue of Liberty.  Actually, a very high likelihood.  But note how the anaphora of "she stands" becomes wavers in dedication from being a simile, to the physical, to the metaphorical.  I think the "strength" the speaker is talking about is being able to withstand all these descriptions (some overreaching, some too on the nose).

"Indomitable in her feebleness, / Her face and will athirst against the light"  And here's why I don't think this is about the Statue of Liberty -- is that with all the strength the speaker has, there's the self identification at the end as "feeble" and being "athirst" against the light -- perhaps the inner light, perhaps the light of day -- whatever is referenced here.  Or expanding outward to ideals like titles and responsibility.  But remember this is a study of "a soul" in general, nothing specific.

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