'Godmother' by Dorothy Parker

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Sunset GunThe day that I was christened-It's a hundred years, and more!-
A hag came and listenedAt the white church door,
A-hearing her that bore meAnd all my kith and kin
Considerately, for me,Renouncing sin.
While some gave me corals,And some gave me gold,
And porringers, with moralsAgreeably scrolled,
The hag stood, buckledIn a dim gray cloak;
Stood there and chuckled,Spat, and spoke:
"There's few enough in life'llBe needing my help,
But I've got a trifleFor your fine young whelp.
I give her sadness,And the gift of pain,
The new-moon madness,And the love of rain."
And little good to lave meIn their holy silver bowl
After what she gave me-Rest her soul!

Editor 1 Interpretation

Interpretation and Criticism of Dorothy Parker's "Godmother"


Dorothy Parker's "Godmother" is a poem that centers around the theme of regrets and the desire to change the past. The poem tells the story of a woman who looks back on her life and remembers all the things she wishes she had done differently. Through the use of vivid imagery and powerful metaphors, Parker presents a poignant meditation on the human experience and the challenges we face as we navigate through life.


The poem begins with the speaker introducing the idea of a "godmother." This word has different connotations for different people, but in this context, it suggests a figure who provides guidance and protection. The speaker then goes on to say that she wishes she had had such a figure in her life to give her direction and support.

The poem then moves on to describe the speaker's regrets. She wishes she had listened to her mother, who warned her against making certain choices. She wishes she had taken her father's advice and pursued a different career path. She wishes she had been braver and more adventurous in her youth. She wishes she had been more honest and faithful in her relationships.

Throughout the poem, Parker employs rich and evocative language to paint a vivid picture of the speaker's emotions. For example, when the speaker talks about the "long ago pain" of her mother's warnings, she uses the image of a "cobwebbed house" to convey the sense of something old and forgotten. Similarly, when the speaker laments her lack of bravery, she describes herself as "shrinking back like a sea wave" – a powerful metaphor that captures the sense of being overwhelmed and powerless.

The poem's conclusion is particularly powerful. The speaker acknowledges that she cannot change the past, but still longs for a chance to do things differently. She wishes she could go back in time and make different choices, but knows that this is impossible. The final lines of the poem – "O Godmother, take me Home, / I am so tired, so very tired" – convey a sense of weariness and resignation that is both poignant and heartbreaking.


At its core, "Godmother" is a meditation on the human experience and the challenges we face as we navigate through life. The poem speaks to the universal desire to change the past and the regret we feel when we realize that this is impossible. It is a powerful commentary on the human condition and the complexities of the human heart.

One possible interpretation of the poem is that it is a critique of the societal expectations placed upon women. Throughout the poem, the speaker laments the choices she was forced to make because of the limitations placed upon her by society. She wishes she had been able to pursue a different career path and be more adventurous in her youth, but acknowledges that these were not realistic options for a woman of her time.

Another possible interpretation is that the poem is a reflection on the nature of regret itself. The speaker's desire to change the past is a natural human impulse, but ultimately a futile one. The poem suggests that we must learn to accept the choices we have made and move forward, even if we wish we could do things differently.


In conclusion, Dorothy Parker's "Godmother" is a powerful and moving poem that speaks to the universal human experience of regret and the desire to change the past. Through the use of vivid imagery and powerful metaphors, Parker presents a poignant meditation on the complexities of the human heart and the challenges we face as we navigate through life. The poem is a testament to the enduring power of poetry to capture the essence of the human experience and to speak to the deepest parts of our souls.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Poetry Godmother: A Masterpiece of Satirical Poetry

Dorothy Parker, a renowned American poet, writer, and critic, is known for her sharp wit and satirical writing style. Her poem, "The Poetry Godmother," is a classic example of her unique style and biting humor. Published in 1926, the poem is a scathing critique of the literary world and the pretentiousness of poets and critics.

The poem begins with the speaker addressing the "Poetry Godmother," a figure who represents the literary establishment and the gatekeepers of the poetry world. The speaker sarcastically praises the Godmother for her supposed benevolence and generosity towards aspiring poets. However, the tone quickly shifts as the speaker exposes the hypocrisy and elitism of the Godmother and her cohorts.

The first stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem, with the speaker addressing the Godmother in a mocking and sycophantic tone:

"Oh, the Poetry Godmother, what a joy to know her! Never was there such a helpful fairy godmother. She'll tell you what is good, and what is bad, And how to dress, and when to look sad."

The speaker's use of hyperbole and irony highlights the absurdity of the Godmother's supposed role as a helpful guide for aspiring poets. The Godmother is portrayed as a figure who dictates what is good and bad in poetry, as well as how poets should present themselves. This portrayal exposes the arrogance and elitism of the literary establishment, who believe that they have the authority to determine what is and isn't good poetry.

The second stanza continues the satirical tone, with the speaker exposing the Godmother's true intentions:

"She'll tell you what to read, and what to write, And how to make your verses sound just right. She'll teach you how to be a poet, And how to get the public to know it."

Here, the speaker highlights the Godmother's desire to control and manipulate the literary world. The Godmother is not interested in nurturing and supporting genuine talent but rather in creating a certain type of poet who conforms to her standards. The Godmother's focus on how to "get the public to know it" reveals her obsession with fame and recognition, rather than the art of poetry itself.

The third stanza takes a darker turn, with the speaker exposing the Godmother's true nature:

"But when you're old, and your hair is gray, And you've written your last, and you've had your day, She'll forget you, and she'll find another, And she'll leave you alone with your grief to smother."

Here, the speaker reveals the Godmother's callousness and lack of empathy towards poets who have outlived their usefulness. The Godmother is portrayed as a figure who discards poets once they are no longer useful to her, leaving them to suffer in obscurity. This portrayal exposes the harsh reality of the literary world, where poets are often forgotten and discarded once they are no longer in vogue.

The final stanza brings the poem to a powerful conclusion, with the speaker rejecting the Godmother's influence and asserting their own voice:

"But I'll have none of her, no, not I, For I'll write my own poems, and I'll know why. I'll be my own judge, and I'll be my own jury, And I'll be damned if I'll be a part of her fury."

Here, the speaker rejects the Godmother's authority and asserts their own independence as a poet. The speaker refuses to conform to the Godmother's standards and instead chooses to write their own poetry on their own terms. This final stanza is a powerful statement of artistic freedom and individuality, and it serves as a reminder that true art cannot be dictated by anyone else.

In conclusion, "The Poetry Godmother" is a masterpiece of satirical poetry that exposes the pretentiousness and elitism of the literary world. Through her use of irony, hyperbole, and biting humor, Dorothy Parker creates a scathing critique of the literary establishment and its gatekeepers. The poem serves as a powerful reminder that true art cannot be dictated by anyone else and that artists must assert their own independence and individuality.

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