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This is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign,
Sails the unshadowed main,
The venturous bark that flings On the sweet summer wind its purple wings In gulfs enchanted, where the siren sings, 5
And coral reefs lie bare, Where the cold sea maids rise to sun their
Where its dim dreaming life was wont to dwell,
Before thee lies revealed, -
Year after year beheld the silent toil
That spread his lustrous coil ;
Still, as the spiral grew,
Built up its idle door,
Thanks for the heavenly message brought by thee,
Child of the wandering sea,
Cast from her lap, forlorn.
While on mine ear it rings,
Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll !
Leave thy low-vaulted past !
Till thou at length art free,
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES.
Examine the drawings of the pearly nautilus in the dictionary or encyclopedia, and explain the use of the word “chambered” in the title. State what you consider the principal thought of the poem.
How does the method of illustrating and emphasizing the principal moral idea differ from that of Hawthorne in “ Feathertop”?
1. Who speaks these words ? Where? To whom? What sort of scenery would you consider a proper setting for the thoughts expressed in this poem? Show the fitness of the comparison suggested by the words "ship of pearl”? What is the meaning of “poets feign"? 2. What word must be understood after “main” in order to explain its meaning here? Why speak of it as “unshadowed”? 3. Give the meaning and syntax of “ The venturous bark.” 4. What is the meaning of “ purpled wings” as applied to the nautilus? Numerous arms are attached to the head of the living nautilus. These are of beautiful purple shades in color, and they can be protruded and drawn back into the shell at will. There was once a story that when the animal rose to the surface of the sea, it spread a sail of thin, living tissues, which carried the shell along. 5. What is the peculiar fitness of the word “enchanted”? 6. The sirens were sea nymphs who had the power of charming, by their sweet singing, all who heard them; so that mariners were irresistibly impelled to cast themselves into the sea to their destruction. Once a famous Greek hero (Ulysses) was warned not to listen to the song of the sirens, but he was then only the more anxious to hear it. So he filled the ears of his sailors with wax; then he ordered them to bind him to the mast of the ship, and that they should not unbind him until he gave a certain signal. When they came near the home of the sirens the sea was calm, and over the waves came the notes of music so sweet and delightful that Ulysses struggled to get loose, and by signs and cries begged to be released. But the sailors, obeying his previous orders, bound him the more firmly. The sailors kept the ship in its course, and the music gradually grew fainter until it ceased to be heard. Then Ulysses gave his companions the signal to unseal their ears, and to release him. (See Clarke's “Story of Ulysses,” Ch. XIV.) 7. What is meant here by “sea maids”? What natural phenomenon do they personify? Why speak of them as “cold”? What is their “streaming hair ”?
INTROD, LESS. IN ENG. LIT.
Note the alliteration in this line, and recite other lines of the poem that have a similar effect.
How do the lines rhyme in this stanza ? Why are they not all of the saine length ? In reading the stanza aloud what words should be emphasized? Why? Where should pauses be made ? What determines whether the reading should be ow, moderate, or rapid, and where the voice should have rising, falling, or sustained slides?
Give several reasons why the way of speaking of the nautilus that is used in this stanza is more pleasing than if we should say something like this: “ This is the shell of an animal that has arms or feet attached to its head, and swims near the surface of the sea,” etc.
8. What is meant by “living gauze”? Why is the word “webs” appropriate? 9. Why is the ship of pearl “ wrecked”? 11. What is the fitness of the words “dim” and “dreaming”? 12. Explain the word “tenant” as used here. Why say “ growing ” shell? 13. What is the subject of “ lies”? What is the special significance of the word “crypt ”? Why had it been “supless”? How had it been 66 sealed ” ? Study emphasis of words, pauses, and slides of the voice in oral reading so as to express in that way your idea of the thought and beauty of the stanza. Do this in all your study of poetry and lofty prose.
15. What is the figure of speech in this line? Why say “silent” toil? 16. Why not use some such word as “ formed " instead of “spread”? Is it necessary to be so very careful in selecting words to express thought? 19. Why say “stole,” and “with soft step”? 21. Explain the fact suggested by this line. What is the application of this fact to human life?
22. How can one speak of the shell as bringing a message? Where do we find a definite and full statement of the “heavenly message"? In what respects is the message “heavenly”? 23. What two figures in this line? 24. What does “Cast from her lap” modify? 25. Why are the lips of the shell “ dead”? What kind of “note” is meant? What is the relation of this line to our main idea ? 26. Tri. ton was the trumpeter of Neptune, god of the sea. The upper part of his body is represented as that of a man; the lower part, that of a fish. His trumpet was a seashell. Compare Wordsworth's sonnet;
6. The world is too much with us : late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers :
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
suckled in a creed outworn :
27. Is any particular action or position thought of as you read this line? 28. Explain the words “caves,” “voice,” and “sings” as used in this line.
29-35. To whom is this stanza addressed ? Who utters it? May any one repeat it as his own? 29. The use of the word “mansions refers to what fact about the shell ? It means what in regard to life? How does the adjective “ stately” add to the thought ? 30. Give one word that would mean the same as “swift seasons." Why is the poet's expression better than that one word ? 31. Do people usually think of their past as “low-vaulted ”? 32. What is meant by a “new temple ” of the soul ? 33. “Dome” refers to what fact about the shell ? What surrounded the shell while the nautilus still lived ? How large was the shell in comparison with its surroundings? What is the meaning of “Shut as used here? Try to give a full explanation of the implied comparison in this line. 34. When is the soul “free"? 35. What is the “outgrown shell of the soul? In what respects is life like the sea ? Commit this stanza to memory.
Do you think the author did wisely in plainly stating the moral of the poem
for us, as he has done in this last stanza ? Give reasons for thinking as you do. What else might he have done?
In reading this poem aloud, do not be content with merely pronouncing the words; try to express with your voice the thought as you now understand it and the spirit of the poem as you now feel it. The best test of your conception of the author's thought or emotion is the way you read his words. The great thing is true expression of what one has gained from careful study of the selection.