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A Musical Instrument Analysis

Author: poem of Elizabeth Barrett Browning Type: poem Views: 34

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What was he doing, the great god Pan,

Down in the reeds by the river?

Spreading ruin and scattering ban,

Splashing and paddling with hoofs of a goat,

And breaking the golden lilies afloat

With the dragon-fly on the river.

He tore out a reed, the great god Pan,

From the deep cool bed of the river:

The limpid water turbidly ran,

And the broken lilies a-dying lay,

And the dragon-fly had fled away,

Ere he brought it out of the river.

High on the shore sat the great god Pan,

While turbidly flowed the river;

And hacked and hewed as a great god can,

With his hard bleak steel at the patient reed,

Till there was not a sign of the leaf indeed

To prove it fresh from the river.

He cut it short, did the great god Pan,

(How tall it stood in the river!)

Then drew the pith, like the heart of a man,

Steadily from the outside ring,

And notched the poor dry empty thing

In holes, as he sat by the river.

"This is the way," laughed the great god Pan,

(Laughed while he sat by the river)

"The only way, since gods began

To make sweet music, they could succeed."

Then, dropping his mouth to a hole in the reed,

He blew in power by the river.

Sweet, sweet, sweet, O Pan!

Piercing sweet by the river!

Blinding sweet, O great god Pan!

The sun on the hill forgot to die,

And the lilies revived, and the dragon-fly

Came back to dream on the river.

Yet half a beast is the great god Pan,

To laugh as he sits by the river,

Making a poet out of a man:

The true gods sigh for the cost and pain—

For the reed which grows nevermore again

As a reed with the reeds in the river.


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

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Poets are usually out of their mind. They don't think over a topic technically and write stupid things in a dramatic way.

| Posted on 2014-12-17 | by a guest

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Elizabeth Browning was a radical feminist poet of the Victorian Era, who broke a lot of societal chains in her own life, one by eloping with her husband, RObert Browning, because of her father's disapproval of the union.
"A Musical Instrument" was one of Elizabeth Browning's last works, published in 1860, shortly before her death in 1861. There are two ways we can read this poem, and one is as a critique and analysis of art and human nature itself, and the other is as an allegory of the feminist movement at this time.
The poem is a critique and analysis of art and human nature because it exposes the dual nature of it. Pan, is the Greek God of pastures which could be associated with pastoral peace but he is also associated with panic in Greek mythology. He is the rustic God of the wild, shepherds, pastures and rustic music. In Greek mythology and art, Pan is often noted for his sexuality and is often depicted with a phallus.
The poem is a retelling of the Greek myth of Pan and the nymph, Syrinx. Syrinx is a beautiful nymph who catches Pan's eye, but resists his courting. She runs away from him to a river where her sisters turn her into a reed. Pan cannot seem to find her among the reeds in the river, so he seizes a bunch of reeds and cuts them and shapes them into a musical instrument of hollowed out reeds placed side to side in descending order or size. Pan is rarely seen without this musical instrument.
The poem has a thrilling speed and tone, and even more than it's imagery, the sound and speed of the poem speak for it.
The calm and serene scene of the river is contrasted with abrupt and sharp words such as "spreading ruin and scattering ban", "splashing and paddling with hoofs of a goat", and destroying lilies and chasing away fireflies. Note the clever oxymoron -- "turbidly ran the limpid river" -- which perfectly depicts the conflicting imagery that Browning is trying to evoke within the reader.
The next significant event in the chronology of the poem is when Pan speaks and says that this is the way since Gods began, the only way to create sweet music. He is trying to say that it is only through destruction and possibly, suffrage, that art is born, an example being the lives of poets like John Keats and Sylvia Path whose fractured lives produced timeless verses. He then puts his mouth to the holes of the flute and blows hard, creating "piercing sweet" and "blinding sweet" music. This apparently contradicting imagery again is a commentary on the duality of art and humanity.
The next verse sums Brownings' point up well, as she emphasizes on the literal duality of the situation -- Pan is both a God and a beast, and this beast of destruction and God of creation lurks within every artist and man. When Pan plays the flute, the lilies are born again and the fireflies return, it is only the true Gods who listen to the words beyond the art, and cry for the true suffering that led to it.
The feminist angle of the poem, is reading it as an allegory for the feminist movement in Britain in the Victorian era. The poem is thrilling and speaks of destruction of the currently peaceful and stagnant scenery. This is what female Victorian writers were doing when they entered the "public sphere". But also, with them gradually revealing their identities and being accepted into the society or perhaps the possibility of their acceptance leads to the lilies growing back and the dragonfly returning. This, in my opinion, was not Brownings' intended interpretation of the poem but merely reading it (as everything should be, at a certain level) as the allegory of her state of mind and the state of the nation.

| Posted on 2014-02-13 | by a guest

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The poem is about a half God Pan, from Greek mythology, who was the God of the wild, shepherds and flocks, nature, of mountain wilds, hunting and rustic music, and companion of the nymphs, and was linked to fertility and spring. The poem tells the story of Pan and how he made his Pan Pipes. The story goes that Pan chased after a Nymph (Syrinx) who was still a virgin. She appealed to her father God of the Rivers and Waterways to save her, so he turned her into a reed. Pan, seeking revenge for this, destroyed the river and cut the read. There is a chance here that stanza 2 and 3 are euphemisms about Pan raping Syrinx, though this is up to interpretation. Pan then made the pipes to console his loss and the sweet music he makes restores the river, but the reeds remain dead/changed forever.

| Posted on 2013-01-05 | by a guest

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Pan represents the dual nature of our being. Suffering beast, and ecstatic god.

| Posted on 2012-06-11 | by a guest

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Pan represents the dual nature of our being. Suffering beast, and ecstatic god.

| Posted on 2012-06-11 | by a guest

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This was one of Elizabeth Barret Browning\'s last pieces, so its nice to see what she had to say before her detah in 1861

| Posted on 2012-03-10 | by a guest

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The poem as a whole describes the destructive nature of poetry. The reeds represent humanity, the reed Pan picks out represents a poet and the poet (reed) must destroy themselves in the process of finding inspiration for their poems.

| Posted on 2011-05-19 | by a guest

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I Love this poem so much. I frequently read before bed.
I places me in a deep slumber where i can escape to another world of love and music

| Posted on 2010-03-11 | by a guest

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Nothing worthwhile comes into being without perseverance but creative effort is a joy in itself!ELIZABETH BARRET BROWNING was the wife of robert browning.
her works include -aurora LEIGH & sonnets from the portuguese!

| Posted on 2010-03-09 | by a guest

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omg!dis is surely helping me undrstand d gravity n d ... woww beauty n coolll thing of d poem it rocks!

| Posted on 2010-03-09 | by a guest

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Browning is discussing the destructive side of poetry. The reed symbolizes a poet which must be dug into in order to find the inspiration to create art.

| Posted on 2010-03-08 | by a guest

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