Close analysis

First impressions

When you are presented with a question asking you to analyze a particular poem, it is a good idea to:

  • Read it through a couple of times to remind yourself of its content
  • Consider exactly what the question is asking for
  • Go through and annotate it – that is, write brief marginal notes whenever anything strikes you about its style and significance.

Think about:

  • The subject matter of the poem
    • What do you think Rossetti was writing about?
  • Who is the speaker of the poem?
    • Who are they speaking to?
    • Why do they use certain words?
    • What emotions does their language convey?
  • The imagery and symbolism
    • How does it contribute to the overall tone of the poem?
    • How does it contribute to the emotion that is being expressed?
  • The specific poetic techniques that Rossetti is using in the poem
  • The metre of the poem
    • How would you describe it?
    • What overall effects does it create?
    • How does the structure and versification relate to the subject matter?

(This has been done for you below by using numbers and also using full sentences; but you should write jottings alongside each line, using just brief phrases).

From notes to an answer

  • At this stage, you will be going through chronologically – that is, starting at the beginning and working your way down to the end
  • When you begin your actual answer, you will probably not want to use a completely chronological approach
  • It is always vital to show that you have a good sense of what is going on overall in the poem and what is being described
  • Do not simply list features of style. For example, it is pointless to say that the writer uses imagery or alliteration unless you can say what the effect is, or might be, upon the reader.

Answer the specific question! Your answer must show that it focuses upon what is asked for and that it is exactly relevant.

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