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Sestina by Elizabeth Bishop: A Poetic Analysis of Loss and Memory



Sestina by Elizabeth Bishop PDF Free




If you are looking for a free PDF version of Sestina by Elizabeth Bishop, you have come to the right place. In this article, we will explore everything you need to know about this remarkable poem, from its history and structure to its themes and symbols. We will also analyze its style and tone, as well as its significance and influence in the world of poetry. By the end of this article, you will have a deeper appreciation of Sestina by Elizabeth Bishop, one of the most celebrated poems of the 20th century.




Sestina By Elizabeth Bishop Pdf Free



The History and Structure of the Sestina




Before we dive into the poem itself, let's first understand what a sestina is and where it came from. A sestina is a type of fixed verse form that consists of six stanzas of six lines each, followed by a three-line envoy. The end words of each line are repeated in a fixed pattern throughout the poem, creating a complex rhyme scheme. The sestina was invented by a 12th-century French troubadour named Arnaut Daniel, who was praised by Dante Alighieri as "the best smith of words". Dante himself wrote several sestinas in his native Italian, as did his friend Francesco Petrarch. The sestina was later adopted by English poets such as Edmund Spenser, John Donne, and Philip Sidney, who experimented with different variations of the form.


The Themes and Symbols of Sestina by Elizabeth Bishop




Sestina by Elizabeth Bishop was first published in 1956, in her second collection of poems titled A Cold Spring. The poem is set in a farmhouse kitchen on a rainy September afternoon, where a grandmother and a child are making tea and drawing pictures. The poem is divided into six sestets and a tercet, following the sestina form. The six end words that are repeated throughout the poem are: house, grandmother, child, almanac, stove, and tears. These words are not only rhymes, but also symbols that convey the main themes of the poem: loss, memory, time, and fate.


The Grandmother and the Child




The two main characters of the poem are the grandmother and the child, who are never named or gendered. They are both lonely and sad, as they have lost their family and home. The grandmother has lost her husband and her son, who is the child's father. The child has lost his or her mother, who is implied to have died in childbirth. The grandmother tries to comfort the child by making tea and telling stories, but she also cries secretly behind her glasses. The child tries to draw a picture of the house and the family, but he or she also senses the grandmother's sorrow and hides his or her tears.


The Almanac and the Stove




The two objects that dominate the scene are the almanac and the stove, which represent the past and the future in the poem. The almanac is a book that contains information about the weather, the seasons, the moon phases, and other natural phenomena. It also has predictions and advice for farmers and householders. The almanac is a symbol of the past, as it reminds the grandmother of her life on the farm and her husband's death. It also symbolizes fate, as it tells what will happen in the future according to a fixed pattern. The stove is a metal device that produces heat and fire for cooking and warming. It also has a clock that measures time. The stove is a symbol of the future, as it shows the progress of technology and civilization. It also symbolizes hope, as it provides warmth and comfort for the grandmother and the child.


The House and the Rain




The two elements that surround the characters are the house and the rain, which create a sense of isolation and sadness in the poem. The house is a wooden structure that shelters the grandmother and the child from the outside world. It also contains their memories and belongings, such as pictures, books, cups, and curtains. The house is a symbol of home, as it represents their family and identity. It also symbolizes nostalgia, as it reflects their longing for what they have lost. The rain is a natural phenomenon that falls from the sky and covers everything with water. It also makes noise and creates patterns on the windows. The rain is a symbol of nature, as it represents the cycle of life and death. It also symbolizes sorrow, as it mirrors their tears and emotions.


The Style and Tone of Sestina by Elizabeth Bishop




Now that we have discussed the themes and symbols of Sestina by Elizabeth Bishop, let's examine how the poet uses language and imagery to convey her message. The style and tone of Sestina by Elizabeth Bishop are characterized by three main features: the repetition and variation of end words, the use of enjambment and punctuation, and the choice of diction and syntax.


The Repetition and Variation of End Words




The most obvious feature of Sestina by Elizabeth Bishop is the repetition and variation of end words: house, grandmother, child, almanac, stove, and tears. These words are repeated 43 times in total throughout the poem (seven times each for house, grandmother, child, almanac; six times each for stove; five times for tears). However, they are not repeated exactly in each stanza; rather they are varied by changing their grammatical function (noun or adjective), number (singular or plural), or meaning (literal or figurative). For example:



  • House: noun (the house), adjective (house faces), plural (little moons fall all over /the house)



  • Grandmother: noun (the grandmother), adjective (grandmother's glasses), plural (grandmothers)



  • Child: noun (the child), adjective (childish), plural (children)



  • Stove: noun (the stove), adjective (stove-length), plural (stoves)



  • Tears: noun (tears), verb (tears), plural (tears)



The repetition and variation of end words create a musical and meaningful effect in the poem. On one hand, they create a sense of harmony and continuity, as they link the stanzas and the lines together. On the other hand, they create a sense of contrast and change, as they shift their roles and meanings in different contexts. The repetition and variation of end words also reflect the themes and symbols of the poem, such as loss, memory, time, and fate. They show how the grandmother and the child are trapped in a cycle of grief and nostalgia, but also how they try to cope and adapt to their situation.


The Use of Enjambment and Punctuation




Another feature of Sestina by Elizabeth Bishop is the use of enjambment and punctuation. Enjambment is a poetic device that occurs when a line breaks before completing a grammatical unit, such as a phrase, a clause, or a sentence. Punctuation is a set of marks that indicate the structure and intonation of a text, such as commas, periods, colons, semicolons, dashes, parentheses, etc. Sestina by Elizabeth Bishop uses both enjambment and punctuation to create rhythm and emphasis in the poem. For example:


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.


In this stanza, every line except the last one is enjambed, meaning that it does not end with a punctuation mark. This creates a sense of continuity and fluidity, as the lines flow into each other without interruption. However, the last line ends with a period, which creates a sense of finality and closure. This also creates an emphasis on the word "tears", which reveals the grandmother's true emotion behind her laughter and talk. The use of enjambment and punctuation also reflects the themes and symbols of the poem, such as isolation and sadness. They show how the grandmother and the child are separated from the outside world by the rain and the house, but also how they try to communicate and connect with each other through jokes and stories.


The Choice of Diction and Syntax




The third feature of Sestina by Elizabeth Bishop is the choice of diction and syntax. Diction is the choice of words that a writer uses to convey his or her meaning. Syntax is the arrangement of words into sentences that follow grammatical rules. Sestina by Elizabeth Bishop uses simple words and complex sentences to create contrast and irony in the poem. For example:


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


In this stanza, every word is monosyllabic (one syllable) except for "almanac", "grandmother", "marvelous", and "inscrutable". This creates a sense of simplicity and clarity, as the words are easy to understand and pronounce. However, every sentence is complex (more than one clause) except for "Time to plant tears". This creates a sense of complexity and ambiguity, as the sentences are long and intricate. The choice of diction and syntax also creates contrast and irony in the poem, such as between "plant" and "tears", "sings" and "marvelous", "draws" and "inscrutable". These pairs of words suggest opposite or contradictory meanings, such as growth and decay, joy and sorrow, expression and mystery. The choice of diction and syntax also reflects the themes and symbols of the poem, such as memory and fate. They show how the grandmother and the child are influenced by their past experiences and future expectations, but also how they try to make sense of their present reality.


The Significance and Influence of Sestina by Elizabeth Bishop




After analyzing the themes and symbols, as well as the style and tone of Sestina by Elizabeth Bishop, let's now explore why this poem is important and how it has inspired other poets. The significance and influence of Sestina by Elizabeth Bishop are evident in two aspects: the personal and historical context of the poem, and the comparison and contrast with other sestinas.


The Personal and Historical Context of Sestina by Elizabeth Bishop




Sestina by Elizabeth Bishop is not only a masterpiece of poetry, but also a reflection of the poet's life and the time she lived in. The personal and historical context of Sestina by Elizabeth Bishop can be seen in three aspects: the loss of family and home, the experience of traveling and writing, and the recognition and appreciation of her work.


The Loss of Family and Home




Sestina by Elizabeth Bishop expresses the poet's grief and nostalgia for her childhood, which was marked by the loss of her family and home. Elizabeth Bishop was born in 1911 in Worcester, Massachusetts, to a wealthy and prominent family. However, when she was only eight months old, her father died of Bright's disease, a kidney disorder. Her mother, who suffered from mental illness, was institutionalized when Bishop was five years old, and died in 1934. Bishop never saw her mother again after she was taken away. Bishop was then raised by her maternal grandparents in Nova Scotia, Canada, where she spent most of her childhood. She loved the rural landscape and the simple lifestyle of Nova Scotia, which inspired many of her poems. However, when she was six years old, her paternal grandparents took her back to Worcester, where she felt unhappy and alienated. She later moved to Boston, where she attended the Walnut Hill School for Girls and met her lifelong friend Marianne Moore, who encouraged her to pursue poetry.


The Experience of Traveling and Writing




Sestina by Elizabeth Bishop shows the poet's curiosity and creativity as a traveler and a writer, which shaped her career and personality. Elizabeth Bishop was an avid traveler who visited many places around the world, such as Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America. She lived in New York, where she met other influential poets such as Robert Lowell, Randall Jarrell, and John Berryman. She also lived in Key West, Florida, where she wrote some of her best poems. She had a long-term relationship with Lota de Macedo Soares, a Brazilian architect and socialite, who invited her to live with her in Rio de Janeiro. Bishop stayed in Brazil for 15 years, from 1951 to 1966, where she wrote Sestina by Elizabeth Bishop and other poems that reflected her admiration and affection for the country and its culture. She also taught at several universities in the United States, such as Harvard, New York University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


The Recognition and Appreciation of Her Work




Sestina by Elizabeth Bishop helped the poet gain fame and respect in the literary world, as well as among readers and critics. Elizabeth Bishop was a modest and meticulous poet who published only four collections of poems during her lifetime: North & South (1946), A Cold Spring (1956), Questions of Travel (1965), and Geography III (1976). She also published a book of prose titled The Collected Prose (1984), which included stories, essays, memoirs, and letters. She won many awards and honors for her wo