by Louise Glück
Stanza I Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
I never turned anyone into a pig.
- If you were to poll random people on the street and ask them what comes to mind when they hear the word, "Circe," we bet you nine times out of ten you will hear words like "pigs," "witch," "the Odyssey," "dangerous," and "seduction."
- Because Homer's The Odyssey has been around for so darn long, "Circe" is kind of a household name and is often a synonym for a temptress.
- In line 1 of this poem, however, we hear Circe defending herself and setting the record straight. An entire declarative sentence is contained within this first line, meaning that our eyes are not forced to continue onto the next line in order to get its full meaning.
- Circe's voice is clear and forceful as she seeks to undo years and years of misinformation about her pig-transforming past.
Some people are pigs; I make them
Look like pigs.
- Circe furthers her defense here by clarifying exactly what she means when she says "I never turned anyone into a pig." She says that some people are, by nature, pigs.
- At this point, we know she's being clever and maybe just a little bit of a smart aleck. When you tell your little brother that he is a pig, you are probably referring to the fact that his room smells like sweaty socks. In this way, Circe is telling us that she didn't turn anyone into a pig who wasn't behaving like a pig already.
- Let's say you went away to Hogwarts and mastered the art of transfiguration. You come home one summer to find that your brother has not changed his smelly-sock ways. Not only that, but his smelly socks have invaded your room. To teach him a lesson, you wave your wand, and, suddenly, a pig appears. How can you have turned him into a pig when he was a pig to begin with? This is exactly the point Circe is making in her defense.
- Notice the verbs in these lines. Instead of turning men into pigs, she makes them look like pigs. To turn something into to something else makes us think that some serious magical powers are involved. To make something look like something else seems more like the work of Project Runway designer.
- Could it be Circe is trying to downplay her magical ways?