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Analysis

The Body

Symbol Analysis

"Helen" is all about Helen. Well, really it's all about Helen's body. Because it's a blazon (see "Form and Meter" for more on that), the poem catalogs the features of Helen's form. Unfortunately that means we actually know diddlysquat about Helen's heart and mind though. Frankly, this isn't so surprising; Helen, after all, is known as the most beautiful woman ever to grace this earth. She's "the face that launched a thousand ships." No wonder no one cares about her brains.

  • Lines 1-5: In our intro to Helen, we hear about her "still eyes," "white face," and "white hands." No mention of what lies beneath. It's her body that's the object of Greece's hatred. 
  • Lines 6-11: Here Helen is described as "wan and white." Her sad smile tells the truth of her troubled past—and everything about her is "reviled." She seems almost like a marble statue of a woman—not a woman herself. 
  • Lines 12-18: Again the poem enumerates Helen's body parts, as we move down to her feet and knees. And then, we get the ultimate dark view of her body; the poem anticipates Helen's death. Instead of white stone, she finally becomes white ash. Intense.
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