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Barter

Barter

by Sara Teasdale

Stanza 2 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Line 7

Life has loveliness to sell,

  • No. You didn't nod off and skip back to the first line of the poem. And no. It's not a wicked case of déjà vu. Line 7 is exactly the same as line one.
  • The second stanza starts off the same way as the first stanza. This refrain acts kind of like the chorus in a song—the catchy part.
  • The repetition reinforces that sense of song or nursery rhyme. It also feels a lot like a repeated sales-pitch.

Lines 8-12

Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit's still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

  • The second stanza continues the catalog of life's loveliness.
  • Teasdale starts with music. Shmoop totally agrees that music is part of what makes life worth living.
  • Teasdale uses a simile to describe music: it's "like a curve of gold."
  • This little simile does a lot of work. We get the bright color of gold, we get the sense of something that is very valuable, we get the smooth texture, and we also get the sense of a ring from the word curve in the description.
  • What's missing from this description of music? Anyone? Anyone? You got it. Sound. Teasdale uses other, more unexpected sensory details to describe music.
  • We would expect her to use sound to describe music, but she gives us a visual and tactile description instead (you can almost feel that smooth curve of gold under your fingertips—we'll, Shmoop can anyway).
  • When you think about it, this is really a very fitting way to describe music. Sure—we listen to music. But much of the joy of listening to music comes from the way it feels. The feel of the bass, the way the song makes us feel (happy, sad, etc.). It's about sound, but it's even more about how the sound feels.
  • You might be thinking (always a good thing) that the descriptions of loveliness in lines 9 and 10 (scent of pine trees in the rain, and the eyes and arms of a loved one) are kind common, cliché examples—almost greeting card-ish, right? Well, compared to the curve of gold that describes music, you're right.
  • It's pretty obvious that Teasdale is capable of precise, surprising descriptions. Chances are, she didn't just get lazy or run into a killer case of writers' block.
  • So, she must have had a reason for lowering the bar a bit on these two descriptions.
  • These lines are still quite sensory (especially that scent of pine) and, perhaps more importantly, they also set up the stanza's last two lines. Line 10 also introduces a "you," someone the speaker is talking to.
  • Because we get no other information to make this you a specific person, we feel like the speaker is talking to US. This really pulls the reader into the poem.
  • By making the descriptions in lines 9 and 10 very simple and worldly, it heightens the sense of contrast with the more spiritual, ethereal descriptions in lines 11 and 12.
  • In lines 11 and 12, Teasdale gives us an example of the psychological and philosophical loveliness life has to offer. The scent of pine, the crashing waves, a lover's arms, these things are for the delight of the senses, the delight of the body. The "holy thoughts that star the night," are for the "spirit's" delight.
  • Teasdale uses a metaphor here, making thoughts or ideas into stars in the night sky. Nice, right?
  • Spirit makes us think of things like the soul, something we can't see or touch. The word holy brings to mind the sacred and even religion.
  • So, it is pretty clear that Teasdale wants us considering the loveliness of the mind and spirit in this stanza's last two lines, as opposed to the more worldly loveliness in the preceding lines.

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