One Art
One Art
by Elizabeth Bishop

Stanza V Summary

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

Lines 13-15

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster
.

  • Interesting…very interesting. The losses described here are a little more esoteric (mysterious and difficult to understand) – after all, how can you own a realm, much less lose it?
  • There’s something oddly old-timey about this phrase; the word "realm" is just a fancy, antiquated way of saying country or land. It brings to mind images of an earlier time, as though she was the queen of this mysterious place, but now has lost her power.
  • Now, what about the river? Two cities? A continent? What does this mean? We begin to wonder what exactly the speaker is talking about here.
  • What makes the river so special to her? Did she live in the two cities and leave them behind? How could she lose a whole continent? Maybe this place represents a certain phase of her life that’s now in the distant past.
  • Perhaps what she means is that these places have lost their significance to her, but if so, why?
  • We aren’t given the answers, but we are free to speculate. Maybe she had friends or family there who are gone now, or maybe these places were the sites of past homes that she doesn’t live in anymore…we can’t be certain.
  • We do get the feeling that, by cramming all of these significant and mysterious concepts into one stanza, Bishop wants us to wonder.

Next Page: Stanza VI
Previous Page: Stanza IV

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