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Circe's Power

Circe's Power

by Louise Glück

Stanza VII Summary

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

Line 19

A few tears upset me? My friend,

  • Circe asks Odysseus the only question of the poem. She asks him if he thinks that a few tears upset her.
  • We'd like to know whose tears she is talking about: her own tears, Odysseus' tears, Odysseus' men's tears?
  • In any case, we've returned to the tricky poetry stuff, and line 19 is split into two fragments, with a question mark separating them both.
  • We feel Circe changing direction and changing moods once again in this moment – it's as if she's returning to the powerful sorceress persona. It's as if she's fronting, just a little bit, in order to keep Odysseus from seeing just how hurt she is. But you may disagree with us completely on this one.
  • She delivers the kiss of death at the end of line 19 when she says, "my friend." Ouch, Odysseus. You just got demoted to friend status. Where once you were the love of her life, now you are just a plain and simple friend. That should cut you deep, real deep.

Lines 20-22

Every sorceress is

A pragmatist at heart; nobody sees essence who can't
Face limitation. If I wanted only to hold you

  • With line 20, Circe seems to say, "don't forget, Odysseus, I'm a SORCERESS" (cue the lighting bolt).
  • This line contains only three words, and through them, Circe actually calls herself a sorceress for the first time (instead of letting other people make accusations about her witchy ways) and prepares to deliver a great truth about sorceresses.
  • This line ends with enjambment, and we are dying to know what "every sorceress is" (20).
  • Line 21 satisfies our curiosity, telling us that every sorceress is "a pragmatist at heart" (22), meaning that sorceresses don't get weepy and emotional over boyfriends who decide to return to their wives after a year.
  • Then Circe delivers her deepest and most philosophical jargon of the entire poem: "no one sees essence who can't/ Face limitation" (21-22).
  • Interpret how you will, Shmoopsters. We think this is one many-layered, parfait of a statement, but it might mean "Once you see how things really are – as I can – you realize you can't always get what you want."
  • At the end of line 22, Circe says, "If I wanted only to hold you," breaking off right before delivering the goods. It's as though she's briefly returning to the sugary sweet tone of treating Odysseus like a lover.
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