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The woodspurge
The woodspurge
The woodspurge
The woodspurge
The woodspurge
The woodspurge
The woodspurge
The woodspurge
The woodspurge
The woodspurge
The woodspurge
The woodspurge
The woodspurge
The woodspurge
The woodspurge
The woodspurge
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The woodspurge

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  • 1. Dante Gabriel Rossetti
  • 2. About the poet... • Born in London on May 12, 1828 to an English mother and Italian father. •Rossetti demonstrated literary and artistic talent and aspirations. One family legend has it that in 1834 a local milkman was amazed as he watched six-year old Gabriel creating a drawing of a rocking horse. In 1841, Rossetti entered the Sass's Academy art school, a preparatory school for the art academy. •His growing interest in and talent for poetry sometimes left him indecisive over which path to follow -- was he mainly a poet or a painter?
  • 3. Brief Introduction Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s “The Woodspurge” is a sixteen-line poem divided into four-line stanzas of iambic tetrameter that describe an unidentified grief- stricken narrator in an outdoor setting. Why do you think the narrator is grief-stricken? In his depressed state, the narrator undergoes an unforeseen, but clear and intense, visual experience of the woodspurge, a species of weed that has a three-part blossom.
  • 4. Although the cause of the narrator’s sorrow is never specified, the poem was written in the spring of 1856 when Rossetti was in an anguished state. He was experiencing intense strife with Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) Siddal, the chief model he had used for many of his paintings since 1850, over the issue of her desire for marriage. (He eventually married her in 1860.) Rossetti was also tormented at that time about relationships with other women and with what he perceived as lost artistic opportunities. However, nothing in the poem points to these specific issues.
  • 5. Stanza 1 • The poem’s first stanza presents a countryside that is geographically unspecified—an area of trees and hills—and begins to suggest the narrator’s state of mind. • The narrator is not walking toward a specific destination; he moves in the direction the wind is blowing, and, once the wind ceases, he stops and sits in the grass. • The fact that his walking and stopping are guided merely by the wind indicates aimlessness, passivity, and apathy.
  • 6. Stanza 2 • The narrator’s posture in the second stanza indicates that he feels exceedingly depressed, although there is no explanation given for his emotional state. Sitting on the grass he is hunched over with his head between his knees. His depression is so severe that he cannot even groan aloud or speak a word of grief. What quote can be used to justify this point? • His head is cast down, as is his soul—so much so that his hair is touching the grass. His physical state reflects his psychic paralysis as he remains motionless in this position for an unspecified length of time, but long enough so that he “hear*s+ the day pass.”
  • 7. Stanza 3 • Although he is not trying to look around and seems oblivious to the country setting as a whole, the narrator remarks in the third stanza that his eyes are “wide open,” and this important fact becomes the inadvertent cause for his ensuing visual experience. • From his seated position, he says there are “ten weeds” that his eyes can “fix upon.” Out of that group, a flowering woodspurge captures his complete attention, and he is dramatically impressed by the detail that it flowers as “three cups in one.”
  • 8. Final Stanza • The narrator attributes his depressed state to “perfect grief” in the final stanza, but there is still no elaboration as to its cause. • He then comments, first, that grief may not function to bring wisdom or insight and may not even be remembered, and, second, implies that he himself learned nothing from his grief that day and can no longer remember its cause. • However, “One thing then learnt remains”: He had been visually overwhelmed by the shape of the woodspurge, and, consequently, its image and the fact that “The woodspurge has a cup of three” have been vividly burned into his memory forever.
  • 9. Brainstorm as many techniques you can find within this poem with evidence! You have 5 minutes, the highest scorer will gain 5 merits!
  • 10. Imagery The tree, hill, grass, weeds, and sun. The images are simple with very little description. It is only when the narrator accidentally fixes his gaze upon the woodspurge that any specific details come forth. Theme Nature Rossetti’s unadorned presentation of nature mutes the setting, forcing it into the background, and causes the narrator’s mental and emotional state to emerge as the central focus. Connotation/Tone Negative His reference in the first stanza to the wind having been “Shaken out dead from tree and hill” introduces the thought of death, establishing a negative tone that suggests that the narrator’s internal state is negative. Tone Negative His reference in the first stanza to the wind having been “Shaken out dead from tree and hill” introduces the thought of death, establishing a negative tone that suggests that the narrator’s internal state is negative. Repetition “Wind,” “Still” This deliberate repetition of words and of simple rhymes also functions to maintain the simplicity of the poem and is consistent with its simple imagery and vocabulary. Rhythm Monosyllables functions to express sadness or sorrow. All but one word in the first stanza are monosyllables, causing the movement to be slowed. This consistently slowed rhythm mirrors the narrator’s mood.
  • 11. Individually or working in pairs, look for 3 different images and describe them in 5 lines each.
  • 12. • Nature Although “The Woodspurge” has a plant’s name as its title, the poem does not have nature, or even the woodspurge itself, as its subject. Nature does play an indirect role in the poem, but it is not the focus here or in other works by Rossetti. Both in his painting and in his poetry, the function of nature is to act as a background for the presentation of human action and emotion. The depiction of details from nature, although precise and accurate, is not meant to draw attention to nature itself but to mirror a psychic state or inner experience.
  • 13. • Sense Perception • Rossetti’s unadorned presentation of nature mutes the setting, forcing it into the background, and causes the narrator’s mental and emotional state to emerge as the central focus. • The bare minimum of description functions to signal to the reader that the narrator himself is oblivious to the details of his surroundings because his mind is focused elsewhere. • The only record of his awareness of his environment, before his dramatic visual experience of the woodspurge, is that he walked when the wind was blowing and that he sat when that external impetus ceased. His reference in the first stanza to the wind having been “Shaken out dead from tree and hill” introduces the thought of death, establishing a negative tone that suggests that the narrator’s internal state is negative.
  • 14. • Artistic Task • In pairs, pick one image from the poem and create an artistic illustration on A3 paper. • You will present your work, highlighting what you found interesting in it. • I will be assessing your understanding of the poem.

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