Understanding Poems: A Guided Close Reading of Sonnet IV: To the Moon by Charlotte Smith | Tasha Swinney | Skillshare

Understanding Poems: A Guided Close Reading of Sonnet IV: To the Moon by Charlotte Smith

Tasha Swinney

Understanding Poems: A Guided Close Reading of Sonnet IV: To the Moon by Charlotte Smith

Tasha Swinney

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7 Lessons (25m)
    • 1. Introduction & Initial Reading of Sonnet IV by Charlotte Smith

    • 2. Necessary Tools & Identifying Themes mm

    • 3. Personification of the Moon

    • 4. Form & Meter

    • 5. Themes of Christianity & Greek Mythology

    • 6. Analyzing Tone & Smith's influence on John Keats

    • 7. About your Teacher and Closing Remarks

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About This Class

This class will lead the student through a brief, simplified close reading of an early sonnet by Romantic poet, Charlotte Smith. Ms. Smith, while not as well known as the Romantic poets Wordsworth, Byron or Keats, was quite famous in her own time and credited for repopularizing the sonnet form. 

This guided close-reading is meant to demystify the process of poetry analysis for the student by slowing things down and using everyday language to closely examine this poem. 

Meet Your Teacher

My name is Tasha and I am obsessed with literature and stories. I finished my BA in English literature in 2013 and went on to study for an MA in English literature and literary theory, completed in June 2020. My thesis was written on postcolonial theory, culture contact theory, and travel narratives by women. I spent three years teaching at a rural university in Guangzhou, China where I taught classes in British and American literature, novels and prose, and literature by women. 

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1. Introduction & Initial Reading of Sonnet IV by Charlotte Smith: So a lot of times what you have with readers who are trying to close read poetry is that in the beginning you just want to rush. You feel anxious, like there's anxiety about not understanding what's going on. So it's really easy to rush the initial process. But that first reading, even a second reading, is really critical and nobody understands a poem the first time they read it. And to start out slowly and read it intentionally is super crucial to any close reading of poetry. So the first thing we're gonna do is go through a quick reading to the moon. Charlotte Smith, clean of the silver bow by that pale beam alone and pensive, I delight to stray and watch the shadow trembling in the stream or mark the floating clouds that cross the highway. And well, I gaze di mild and classic light, sheds a soft upon my troubled breast. And off I think fair planet of the night that invite orb, the wretched may have rest. The sufferers of the earth perhaps may go released by death to die. That net-net sphere. And the sad children of despair and well, forget and be their cup of sorrow here. O that I soon may reach di world serene. Poor. We read Pilgrim's in this toiling scene. So that's to the moon. Charlotte Smith and has shown rating. 2. Necessary Tools & Identifying Themes mm : So when you close read a poem, what you need, definitely non-negotiables are UPENN any kind of pen. You don't have to color code this or have highlighters. And the poem printed, right? Because you're gonna make a mass side of it. It's going to look different when you're finished. Hopefully it's going to look something like this. This is John Keats when I have fears that I may cease to be. But you're gonna mark it up a lot. And that's good for your brain and the way things work, it really helps to have a printed version. So we're going to begin here with the first two lines. We have Queen of the silver bone by thy pale being alone and pensive, I delight to stray. So here we have just within these first few lines, there's a lot going on clean of the silver bow. This is called, in poetic terms, an apostrophe. Apostrophe is when the writer is addressing somebody that's not there, right? It could be an idea or a part of nature personified, right? We've got o to the west wind is very, very famous example of apostrophe. But in this sense, we've got Queen of the silver bow, Queen of the silver bow tie, pale beam. So we know that she's talking about the moon. We'll be talking about Diana, who's the Greek goddess of the moon. We're going to see later that there is a case for that, that she is addressing Diana, who is the Greek goddess of the moon. Right? So clean up the silver vo, by vi pale being alone and pensive, I delight to stray. So here we have feelings, right? Anyone can see that these are feelings alone and pensive. And we've got a, a juxtaposition of feelings here. Because when we say alone, some of the, the, the idea or the mood Ri, is not exactly jolly or celebratory, but we've got the word, I delight to stray. So this celebration of melancholy, or this celebration of what we talk a lot about in romantic poetry. Solitude, of celebration of solitude. And where, where is the speaker celebrating their solitude in nature? So those are two huge, huge romantic poetry themes to huge themes of romantic poetry is solitude in nature. When you think of poems like mom, blog, and tin turn Abby, Those are both poems that celebrate solitude in nature, right? So alone and pensive, I delight to stray. 3. Personification of the Moon: So the next two lines we've got, and watching my shadow trembling in the stream. Watching by shadow trembling in stream. Shallow. It's the mood shadow, right? That you, the moon. So this is personification. Personification is when you take human attributes and you attribute them to something that's not a human, right? A dog, a cat, in this case the moon, by struggling in the stream. So she's watching the shadow of the moon, trembling, moving, flickering in the stream. It's not really flickering. It's because is hitting water in the string, right? But without that personification there, or mark the floating clouds that cross the highway. And again, this is personification of the clouds. The idea that the clouds are purposefully crossing the way of the mode, right? So we know now that nature is a huge part of this. If we didn't know from the title, if we didn't figure it out right from the title to the Moon, Sun it forward to the moon. We know already in the first four lines, nature is big, right? And in this poem, unlike poems like Rime of the Ancient Mariner, or poems where nature is so awe-inspiring, sublime that it's almost scary. Nature in this sense is kind of a comb personified that even nature, even the moon would tremble, floating clouds that cross Di Wei shouts Smith is making nature into almost another person S, S, as we'll see further on. And while I gaze di mild and placid life sheds a soft calling upon my initial goal breast. There. We've done di, mild and placid might. It's a soft cone upon I travel. The idea that there is a restoration, a healing power. Power in nature, which was a huge theme in romantic poetry. And the speaker finds restoration from her worldly cares, from her troubled breast, a soft calm upon my troubled breast. And here we have. This could be considered the voltage, but we'll talk about that at another time. And off, I think, fair planet of the night, the enzyme or the wretched may have rest. The sufferers of the earth perhaps may go released to death, to the sphere. And the sad children of despair and world forget the, their cup of sorrow here, will not. Their cup of sorrow here. O that I soon may reach the world's serene pore where he'd pilgrim in this toiling seen fan. 4. Form & Meter: One important thing to know at this point in our poem is that we know we are working with a sonnets. And we want to take a look really quick of the rhyme scheme, which is going to be easy to figure out. We've got been stream stray way, right? So already we've gotten a, B, a, B, light night, breast rest, right? C, C, D, D. So you've gotta CDCD. Go, whoa, sphere here, right? Though in World War II. And E, sphere here, F and F, serene and seen the g. So this is a classic Shakespearean sonnet that ends with the rhyming couplet at the end, right? In our case, we've got serene and seen very easy to recognize a sonnet because of the length of lines is usually, let's double check 1234567891011121314. If you've got a 14 line poem, and it's written in iambic pentameter, which this is, but you don't have to worry too much about it now. Especially if you've got an a, B, a B, C, D, C, D, you know, it's a Shakespearean sonnet, right? Well, you know, it's a sonic. And then you can figure out later if it's an Italian or a Shakespearean sonnet, and we'll talk about that in other, other readings. So we've got this sonnet To The Moon, Charlotte Smith. And we can see some of the basics. If you don't have anything to say to anyone about a poem, being able to say, this is a Shakespearean sonnet. It is an a, B, C, D rhyme scheme, and we've got the couplet at the end. That's good. That's nice. That's like very good. If you're able to point out apostrophe, right? And the apostrophe, her speaking to an unnamed speaker. It continues, continues throughout the poem, right? So we've got the indict orb, the wretched may have rest, right? And often, I think, fair planning of the night, who she talking about? She's talking about the moon, right? To the moon. So Charlotte Smith is addressing the moon in the same way that maybe Keats would address his love. And in fact, we're going to compare this poem to a Keats poem in a moment. 5. Themes of Christianity & Greek Mythology : Well, one thing we really want to look at here is the imagery in this poem, right? The imagery we've got Pale beam trembling in the stream. We've got clouds and placid light, right? This idea of a twilight, a very calm, right? We've got fair planet in orb. You've got a lot of circle imagery here. Because we've got sphere 4b, right? She doesn't have to say the moon, right? Because the only planet that we can see at night, That is a fair planet that we can see from Earth is the moon, okay? If you didn't know it was the moon earlier, you know, it's the moon now fair planet of the night, that night or the wretched may have rest. Now, here is about halfway through the poem. And in Italian poems sometimes there's what we call Valta here. Here it's at the end. But actually, she's got a little bit of a shift, right? Because from here forward she's talking about nature and the good things that nature does for her. And then here it kind of turns and off, I think, fair planet of the night. And she starts bringing it home by talking about the people who are benefiting from looking at the moon. The wretched may have rest and we've got words like, redshifts, sufferers of the earth, right? Said Children. And when we really know, we've got the religious Christian imagery is poor, worried Pilgrim. First of all, we've got the alliteration of poor and Pilgrim. And then anytime we've got pilgrims from a Christian writer, right? Somebody in the Romantic Period who was in England at the time, poor reread pilgrim, then we've got Christianity. You know? So what Charlotte Smith is doing here is she's marrying Greek mythology. With Christianity. The idea of addressing the moon. Queen of the silver bow, right? That's addressing Diana. And then she mixes this mythology and Christianity. And it's important to know that this happens a lot in literature and poetry. People don't just choose one thing. They don't just choose to write on Greek mythology or Christianity. They can intermix these themes in symbols on made a composite to make an even stronger point, right? In our lives, we don't just come across one theory or one way to read things, right? So Charlotte Smith is mixing Greek mythology here and Christianity. This idea that the suffers of the earth perhaps may go released by death to thy ordinance fear today, but this means harmless. Or somebody who's kind, generous, released by death to your kind and generous sphere, right? Whether she means to this outer realm, this is, now we're getting very, very, very, very mystical, spiritual in this poem. The idea that suffers of the earth are released by death, right? And the sad children of despair and whoa, forget in the, their cup of sorrow here this is a blatant, blatant reference to the New Testament cup of sorrow, right? Oh, that I may soon reach guy world serene pore. We read pilgrim in this toiling scene. It's unclear whether she's the poor weary pilgrim or the moon is. That wouldn't make sense though. It's normal to have a jumbled mix of, of pictures and of themes here. 6. Analyzing Tone & Smith's influence on John Keats: Oh, and the last part, this rhyming couplet O that I may soon reach the world, die world serene, poor, we are IID pilgrim in this toiling scene. In this part of the poem. Charlotte Smith brings you back to seeing that she's, she's in the story or that I may soon reach by world serine. At first we were talking about other suffers, the sufferers of the earth, the sad children of despair and wool, forgetting the, their cup of sorrow here. But now we know, oh, that I soon may reach their world serene, poor wherein pilgrim in this toilet scene, she's, she's writing about herself, right? And she's writing about her own end of suffering. So Charlotte Smith goes to look at the moon. She delights to stray, right? She delights to stay alone and pensive alone on her own, to watch di shadow trembling in the stream. And well, I gaze by mild and placid light, sheds a soft com, upon my troubled breast. So I sort of think that it's important to note that in this poem, this line, I delight to stray. The highest we'd get emotionally. It's the happiest Charlotte gets in this form. Alone in pensive, I delight to stray and watch my shadow trembling in the string, right? She can get happier at the end. At the end, she's got sweet death. That is, that I may soon reach that world serene, poor, weary pilgrim in this toiling scene. So the last bit of imagery here is not positive imagery, right? We've got poor, we read pilgrim in this toiling, seen this idea that like the sufferers of the earth may go release by death to your sphere. But not that death is any better than life, right? Not there. It's a salvation, but rather that nature. Nature in the midst, taking solitude, taking comfort in nature in the midst of earthly troubles is where you find the or you find the delight here. That's where the light is. That's important to note. Is biblical allusions. Suffers of the Earth. Children of this bear, most notably their coupled sorrow. Jesus talks a lot about a couple of sorrow. The last sort of bonus thing I want to talk about with this sonnet is I want to compare it to a sonnet by Keith's. And the reason why is because I was studying these at the same time. From my to finish my master's studies. And I knew the kids had studied or had read Charlotte Smith. They came at very different times. Charlotte Smith was the beginning of the Romantic poetry movement and keeps came at the end. And of course Keith's comes out fairs a lot better. He is much more famous. But I want to look at this line and it occurs 12345677 lines in first Charlotte Smith and 123456789 lines in four key. So with kids, we have well, we're going to begin with Charlotte. And off I think, fair planet of the night. And this is where the poem kind of turns. You've kind of got it. Turning its attention away from what the moon does and how the moon is healing to what we need to be healed from that indict orb. The rich may have rest, but we've gotten off, I think, fair planet of the night where he is addressing the moon. She is addressing the moon, sir, sorry Charlotte Smith. And offer think fair planet and of the night she's addressing the moon. We've got the apostrophe and in Keats we have. And when I fear, feel fair creature of an hour. Dc. The borrowing that Keats does here keeps, borrows almost this turn of phrase we've got. And off, I think fair plan in the night. Fair remains. Fair is the one thing the word in the middle of the sentence that kids forgot to delete, he's giving up his secrets here. And when I feel fair creature of an hour and off, I think fair planning of the night, right? And in Keats's poem, and when I feel fair creature of an hour that I may never look upon the Mohr never have relishing that very power of unreflected love than on the shore of the wide world. I stand alone and think till Love in Vain to nothingness through sink. You've got kind of a happier ending in kids his poem. Whereas here she's saying enough off I think fair plan in the night, that night orb, the wretched may have rest, the sufferers of the earth perhaps may go basically that we are not going to survive or that we're not going to find peace until we die. Charlotte Smith was a little bit more of a pessimists. Whereas for keeps, he's coming a little bit further along in the Romantic Movement era. And he is saying that on the wide world I stand alone and think, tell fame and to love and fame to nothingness do sink so that these things are but ideas, right? In both poems, solitude and nature are a source of comfort to both writers. 7. About your Teacher and Closing Remarks: My name is Tasha Sweeney. I and I have a BA in English and a master's degree in MA in English literature and literary ferry. So some of the poems that I'm gonna be doing for my classes on skill share our poems which I chose from the romantic period, and which I carefully analyzed for a final exam for my master's degree. Over in Freiburg, Germany, I went to the University of Freiburg. So these poems are ones that I'm quite familiar with. Charlotte Smith's elegant. It is what kind of catapulted her into fame. She's credited with repopulate arising the sonnet form. So elegant acts on its was published around 1784. But then on subsequent publishing she would add more and more poems to it. It said that John Keats is really indebted to Charlotte Smith's work with, to look at to the moon. You don't have to know the whole history of a writer or a poet's career to understand their poems. Although it does often shed light on what you're reading. Charlotte Smith, for example, was born into a difficult situation. She's, she wrote a lot in prison and she died actually very, very poor. So her poems have this sense of melancholy. The theme of nature is also a huge theme that runs through her work. Foreign to note that in these readings there just designed to sort of demystify close reading poetry. They're not going to go into the real nitty-gritty line by line. Every word mechanics. Close reading these poems, I'm trying to leave things and every poem for my students to find sort of like an Easter egg hunt. But also because to do an exhaustive reading of a poem would take hours in some cases, and this sort of medium is not designed for that. The goal is really that readers and students good and understanding that poetry is something that's meant to be unlocked over time, but also that it's written for common people, by common people. So the medium of poetry a lot of time has been relegated to this high literary art form where, where it feels unapproachable by the average reader. And hopefully by going through these readings, my students will be able to see how it's not an education or a master's degree that allows you to really understand poetry. But that it's taking a closer look at the language.