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Thread: I need somone to help me understanding this kind of poems!

  1. #1
    Registered User Abir's Avatar
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    Question I need somone to help me understanding this kind of poems!

    A Fairy Song

    Over hill, over dale,
    Thorough bush, thorough brier,
    Over park, over pale,
    Thorough flood, thorough fire!
    I do wander everywhere,
    Swifter than the moon's sphere;
    And I serve the Fairy Queen,
    To dew her orbs upon the green;
    The cowslips tall her pensioners be;
    In their gold coats spots you see;
    Those be rubies, fairy favours;
    In those freckles live their savours;
    I must go seek some dewdrops here,
    And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear.
    Don't juje any person before jujing yourself!

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    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    What exactly don't you understand... or perhaps better still... tell us how you interpret it (and where you are having difficulties) so we can offer a better response.
    Beware of the man with just one book. -Ovid
    The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.- Mark Twain
    My Blog: Of Delicious Recoil
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    Dance Magic Dance OrphanPip's Avatar
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    I'm guessing English isn't the OP's first language, so it's likely a matter of understanding Shakespeare's language.

    Also, it helps if you're aware of the context from A Midsummer's Night Dream.

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    An extract in a sonnet form from Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" Act 2 Scene 1 spoken by Fairy (where there is no title). It encapsulates the musical innocence that pervades this play.

    The fairy's job is to work for the fairy queen and set a dewdrop upon every cowslip (a common wild flower). She accomplishes this by wandering at a swift pace (an oxymoron) through the night and dropping dew upon the flowers.

    The first four lines are strictly syllabic and use alliteration.
    "Dale" means valley or, at least, extensive flat land contrasting with "hill" thereby implying that no part of the land is excluded from her attentions.
    "Brier" is a thorned wild shrub, eg rose shrub, blackberry, blackthorn, contrasting with "bush", ie shrubs without thorns.
    "Pale" is poetic for a fence or a fenced plot of land whereas a park is a plot of land with decorative trees.
    "Thorough" is an old spelling of "through" (now outdated)
    "Flood" (poetic for water) contrasts with "Fire" in order to impart the sense of everywhere without exclusion.

    "do wander" emphatic verb form (now largely outdated) but, here, also adds another syllable for rhythmic purposes.

    "Swifter than the moon's sphere". She travels faster than the moon can traverse the earth. "Sphere" adds nothing but poetry to our knowledge already that the moon is a sphere. Shakespeare uses the comparative adjectival form of "swift" (more poetic than "fast"). It should really be "more swiftly" because it is an adverb governed by the verb "do wander".

    "The Fairy Queen" is Titania.

    "To dew her orbs upon the green". Shakespeare uses the noun "dew" as a verb. It means to place drops of dew into Titania's flowers (she presumably owns all wild flowers). "orb" is a globe shaped object but here means a flower head. "The green" is poetic for "grass".

    "The cowslips tall her pensioners be" is a poetic inversion of adjective and verb. Otherwise, the prose would be "The tall cowslips be her pensioners". "to be" is probably the most irregular verb in the language. Shakespeare uses the infinitive for poetic reasons and to rhyme with "see". The modern conjugation would be "are". "pensioners" means her dependants, servants or followers.

    "In their gold coats spots you see". Poetic inversion of subject and verb (you see) which would normally occur first in a prose statement thus, "you see spots in their gold coats". Shakespeare suggests that all the flower heads are ennobled by having gold coats such as pensioners might wear when serving their queen. Cowslips do not have gold flowers but "gold" is used here as an honorific for all colours. The spots in the flower heads are gemstones placed there by fairies as a favour (gift). Again, "to be" is used instead of the more prosaic "are". The spots are then called freckles, thereby comparing them to attractive spots on the face.

    "Savours" has several meanings. Here, probably aroma.

    "I must go seek some dewdrops here". "go seek" is an abbreviation of "go to (or, and) seek"
    Fairy must set out with a supply of dewdrops so that she can hang (poetic for "set") a pearl (poetic for dewdrop derived from the clear colour of a pearl) in every ear (poetic for flower deriving from ladies earrings often being made of pearl).

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    Maybe YesNo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Albion View Post
    An extract in a sonnet form from Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" Act 2 Scene 1 spoken by Fairy
    Very complete explanation of the poem, Albion. I'm amazed.

    I wouldn't call it a "sonnet", but maybe "sonnet form" could include this since it does have 14 lines.

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    You are right to question whether this is a sonnet. It does not conform in all respects to any strict definition but there are several sonnet forms. This one consists of 14 lines, which seems to be the only unvarying attribute demanded throughout all forms but that does not alone make it a sonnet.
    However, it complies with the Shakespearean (of course) format of 3 rhyming quatrains plus a concluding rhyming couplet. Furthermore, it has a turn (volta) in the third quatrain breaking from the speaker's description of her duties in order to explain the appearance of the flowers; and the couplet provides the conventional resolution.

    The quatrains, being rhymed ACBD, ABCD, ABCD, do not conform strictly to the convention but the couplet is conventionally rhymed AB. The speech also lacks the strict iamb, pentameter, count of 10 syllables; and the first quatrain is monosyllabic thereby being fairly staccato as a result.
    That is why I described it as having sonnet form rather than as a sonnet; but, given the disciplined construction, I think it very nearly qualifies.

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    Dance Magic Dance OrphanPip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Albion View Post
    The quatrains, being rhymed ACBD, ABCD, ABCD, do not conform strictly to the convention but the couplet is conventionally rhymed AB. The speech also lacks the strict iamb, pentameter, count of 10 syllables; and the first quatrain is monosyllabic thereby being fairly staccato as a result.
    The first quatrain is in iambic trimeter, characteristic of lullabies, ballads, and children's rhymes. It builds up to the iambic pentameter characteristic of dramatic speech. Shakespeare is just playing with the meter in those lines. The first quatrain establishes a sort of innocent quality to the fairy's speech, but he eventually builds right back into the standard iambic pentameter that Puck uses immediately after.
    Last edited by OrphanPip; 11-07-2010 at 02:47 PM.

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    This was posted a long time ago, but I thought it worth responding because we often don't know what Shakespeare meant and it is sometimes worth exploring beyond what appears to be obvious.

    In this case, I would question the interpretation of "dew her orbs" if only because I can find no reason to believe he was simply alluding to flowers here. Our current use of "orb" is indeed sphere. However, the etymology places the word in the 15th century and includes something circular as well (from the Lating "orbem = circle, disk, ring...). Which led me to the idea that he may have been referring to fairy rings.

    Fairy rings are circular formations of mushrooms and according to one version of English folklore are were where fairies came to dance and celebrate, the mushrooms of the rings were used as stools for the fairies to recuperate during the evenings festivities. While flower is perhaps easier to contemplate, fairy rings is a much better visual and more consistent with the circumstances.

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