Friday, August 23, 2013

Poetry Friday: In an Artist's Studio

I read this poem with my eighth graders every year and we speculate on the story behind it.  I love it because there is just the right level of mystery.  The kids always say, "Obsession!" when they get the picture of the studio filled with countless paintings of the same woman.  Yet it's an obsession with the artist's idea of the model, "not as she is, but as she fills his dream."

I found this wonderful analysis of the poem.

In an Artist's Studio

One face looks out from all his canvases,
One selfsame figure sits or walks or leans:
We found her hidden just behind those screens,
That mirror gave back all her loveliness.
A queen in opal or in ruby dress,
A nameless girl in freshest summer-greens,
A saint, an angel—every canvas means
The same one meaning, neither more nor less.
He feeds upon her face by day and night,
And she with true kind eyes looks back on him,
Fair as the moon and joyful as the light:
Not wan with waiting, not with sorrow dim;
Not as she is, but was when hope shone bright;
Not as she is, but as she fills his dream.

Christina Rossetti

The Poetry Friday roundup is here today.


jama said...

What a lovely poem -- I'd never seen it before. :)

I can see why your students enjoy it. Definitely a great discussion starter.o

Liz Steinglass said...

I don't know it either. I'm so intrigued that it was written by a woman. For me that adds another layer of interest.

BJ Lee said...

this is lovely. I'm going to come back and study it!

LInda Baie said...

Ruth, this is amazing that it is your sharing for your 8th graders. I would love to do that too, am intrigued by it, but alas, am no longer in the classroom. I'll share with those who are teaching the older students. Thanks for the link to the analysis. I learned quite a bit. Thanks for all & hope the year begins smoothly!

Myra Garces-Bacsal from GatheringBooks said...

Your students' reaction of 'obsession' made me smile. Seems like they're pretty used to the 'stalker' mode (probably because of social networking websites) which could make them more wary/suspicious. The poem though made me sad. About things sometimes being better than they seem than they actually are. :)

Tabatha said...

I like that you encourage your students to ponder something mysterious! Thanks for sharing this poem. I shared a Rossetti poem last week :-)

Mary Lee said...

Great conversation-starter! Love that a poem can be a talk-prompt.

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

What a poem! I can understand your students' POV what with all of today's obsessive social media... it does make the poem somewhat creepy in that light: "He feeds upon her face by day and night/And she with true kind eyes looks back on him." But I think that's just another fascinating layer of interpretation.