by Anne Sexton
Stanza 2 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
Or the nursemaid,
some luscious sweet from Denmark,
who captures the oldest son's heart.
From diapers to Dior.
- We get the same idea here, just with a different example and slightly different implications.
- First things first: the term "nursemaid" here doesn't refer to a hospital employee. A nursemaid is a woman who does double-duty, both as a nanny for infants and small children—that's where the "nurse" part comes from—and also as a maid who does basic household cleaning and upkeep. These maids are not cheap, and usually only wealthy households can afford them.
- Often these nanny/maids were from other countries (which remains true today with au pairs). In this case, the "Denmark" not only evokes a certain kind of woman (probably white, maybe blonde, definitely pretty and desirable—hence the metaphor of the woman as a "luscious sweet"), but also a sense of the exotic. (After all, how much does the average person know about the Danish?)
- Now, notice the difference in the kind of luck between this situation and the plumber's.
- The plumber just had to pick the right number. It was almost totally random. The nursemaid, on the other hand, is a "luscious sweet" who "captures the oldest son's heart." She uses her beauty to get ahead. By winning her way into the wealthy family, she moves from "diapers" (a reference to her job tending infants) to "Dior" (an extremely expensive fashion house).
- Again we end the stanza with the line "that story." You might not know anyone to whom this has happened (after all, how many nursemaids working for wealthy families with handsome older sons do you know?), but it's a kind of story that stirs within us some common memory. That is, it's a Cinderella story.
- It reads like a fairy tale. It's "that story."