Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
Swift fire spread through her veins, knock'd at her heart,
Met the fire smouldering there
And overbore its lesser flame;
She gorged on bitterness without a name:
Ah! fool, to choose such part
Of soul-consuming care!
- Now Laura's healing can begin. A fire spreads through her body from goblin fruit juice on Lizzie's skin, and overpowers the "lesser flame" that was burning in her heart.
- (No, we can't explain how this works, medically. Just go with it.)
- She "gorged," or feasted, on unspeakable bitterness.
- The poet pulls back here and addresses Laura directly, as "fool," and shakes her finger at her for making bad decisions.
- And eating goblin fruit, clearly, is a bad decision – it's "soul-consuming care."
Sense fail'd in the mortal strife:
Like the watch-tower of a town
Which an earthquake shatters down,
Like a lightning-stricken mast,
Like a wind-uprooted tree
Like a foam-topp'd waterspout
Cast down headlong in the sea,
She fell at last;
Pleasure past and anguish past,
Is it death or is it life?
- Laura loses consciousness as her body battles for life (the "mortal strife" is the struggle for life).
- Here's another string of similes!.
- Laura faints just like a "watch-tower" of a town that collapses in an earthquake.
- Or, she's like the "mast" of a ship that gets struck by "lightning."
- She's also like a tree that gets "uprooted" and "spun about" by a strong wind or tornado.
- Notice how short line 518 is? It's as though even the line of the poem is getting "spun about," or confused, by Laura losing consciousness.
- Laura is also compared to a "waterspout" that falls into the sea.
- So, she collapses. she's unconscious, and beyond both "pleasure" and "anguish."
- The stanza ends with a question: is she alive or dead?