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Sestina Analysis

Author: poem of Elizabeth Bishop Type: poem Views: 28

September rain falls on the house.
In the failing light, the old grandmother
sits in the kitchen with the child
beside the Little Marvel Stove,
reading the jokes from the almanac,
laughing and talking to hide her tears.

She thinks that her equinoctial tears
and the rain that beats on the roof of the house
were both foretold by the almanac,
but only known to a grandmother.
The iron kettle sings on the stove.
She cuts some bread and says to the child,

It's time for tea now; but the child
is watching the teakettle's small hard tears
dance like mad on the hot black stove,
the way the rain must dance on the house.
Tidying up, the old grandmother
hangs up the clever almanac

on its string. Birdlike, the almanac
hovers half open above the child,
hovers above the old grandmother
and her teacup full of dark brown tears.
She shivers and says she thinks the house
feels chilly, and puts more wood in the stove.

It was to be, says the Marvel Stove.
I know what I know, says the almanac.
With crayons the child draws a rigid house
and a winding pathway. Then the child
puts in a man with buttons like tears
and shows it proudly to the grandmother.

But secretly, while the grandmother
busies herself about the stove,
the little moons fall down like tears
from between the pages of the almanac
into the flower bed the child
has carefully placed in the front of the house.

Time to plant tears, says the almanac.
The grandmother sings to the marvelous stove
and the child draws another inscrutable house.


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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2) On dreary rainy day, the mother decides to read the almanac to her granddaughter. She learns from the almanac that the child is destined to die and begins to cry. From this point of the poem, 'tears' symbolize different steps of the death process. When the grandmother is aware of this death, she tries to distract the child by allowing her to draw, and repeatedly putting wood into the stove. However, the dark images the child draws is a confirmation of her death because it is so repetitive --like a life cycle. In order to stop this from happening, the grandmother opens the wings of the almanac like a dove in hopes of it rescuing the child and leaving the house at peace. Perhaps, this is why the child keeps drawing an image of a house. She senses from spirits that something is bound to happen inside the house. Again, the grandmother is hopeful as she cries all of the negative thoughts which turn into dark brown tears. When she feels a shiver and chill, the grandmother knows that the dove has reached the house. Unfortunately, the almanac (or dove) cannot save the child and warns the grandmother by telling her to prepare to plant tears -- in other words, prepare to plant the child in the flower bed that was put in front of the house by the child.

| Posted on 2014-01-21 | by a guest

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>tfw this poem
btw I live in denver

| Posted on 2013-01-31 | by a guest

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i like this poem because i think it is a cool poem and i also live in denver so thats why i guess

| Posted on 2013-01-06 | by a guest

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The almanac is symbolic of fate, as it seems to have control over the future of the grandmother and the child, who are helpless and ignorant

| Posted on 2012-10-19 | by a guest

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In “sestina” written by Elizabeth Bishop, she uses the continually uses the literary technique of repetition. Throughout the entire poem she repeats the words, “almanac”, “stove”, and “tears”. The use of tears in this poem represents the hidden sadness of a child. The tears of the teakettle are compared with the tears as well as the old grandmother hiding her tears. It is obvious that something tragic has happened in the family. The child draws something that seems to upset the Grandmother greatly. It is obvious that a close family member has died. The child is not yet aware of this fact. The stove is repeated to act as a distraction to the Grandmother. She tends, and adds more wood to the stove to distract herself from the pain. The child then shows the picture “proudly to the Grandmother” but then she “busies herself about the stove”. The almanac also plays an important role in this poem. It is said it “hovers half open above the child, hovers above the old grandmother”. This almanac serves as the recent event that has affected both the people it is hovering over. This almanac seems to act as the record of this horrible event, and it won’t go away. These repeated symbols add to the theme that repressed feelings must be expressed or they will haunt you.

| Posted on 2012-01-10 | by a guest

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Well I thing that this poem talks about a grandmothers view of life, as a person grows older their view of life changes. Viewing something through a child and viewing something threw a old person there is alot of difference. A child due to lack of experience does not know the full meaning about something, whereas a elderly person who has dealt with certain circumstances of life, has better experience and knows how to deal with a situations !!!

| Posted on 2010-11-07 | by a guest

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I like this poem bcuz it aint too hard to understand.o ya baby.

| Posted on 2010-03-04 | by a guest

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"Sestina" means song of sixes. There are six six-line stanzas and a final three-line stanza. In each six-line stanza, the writer repeats six end-words in a prescribed order and then uses those six words again, in any order, in the final three-line stanza. The six words in this one are house, grandmother, child, stove, almanac, tears. So this poem follows the rules exactly.

| Posted on 2009-07-02 | by a guest

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The origional title was early sorrow as ti tells the story of a girl living with her grandmother after her mother was sent to a mental institution.

| Posted on 2008-11-10 | by a guest

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I love this hot poem because it dont follow tha rule ss

| Posted on 2008-11-09 | by a guest

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The poem is awesome and it's in the form of a sestina, "A verse form first used by the Provençal troubadours, consisting of six six-line stanzas and a three-line envoy. The end words of the first stanza are repeated in varied order as end words in the other stanzas and also recur in the envoy." -

| Posted on 2008-05-04 | by a guest

.: the title :.

I belive that this poem has a story deep within it, but for the most part the poet is attempting to teach a lesson on moving on. That is why she says at the end of the poem "plant tears." However I don't understand the meaning of the title, dealing with its connection to the poem. I know that Sestina is a type of poem, and I know its ironic becuase it is a type of poem with repition, and there is a child involved within the poem, and since the grandmothers conscience is the almnac and the stove, then i believe that, thats the connection, is that worng?

| Posted on 2008-04-14 | by a guest

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