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The Body

Symbol Analysis

The body is the way that we get to know the beloved and the speaker, it's the basis for a lot of the metaphors the poem uses, and, in the end, and it's the way that the speaker finally finds some redemption. Keep in mind, when we say body we mean all the body parts—try to see if you can find some patterns for the way the poet uses eyes, the face, the belly, and other body parts.

  • Lines 25-31: Here the body is described as being made of light and time, as making the world visible. Sounds important, right?
  • Line 39-48: The speaker compares the body to the world and a city in an extended metaphor that likens body parts to different areas of the city. 
  • Line 49-56: A series of metaphors compares the different body parts to water features, like the sea, a place where tigers drink, and to celestial images like the moon and the clouds. 
  • Lines 60-64: Now it's the speaker's body being portrayed, and he is being literally opened up by the rain of his beloved. 
  • Lines 76-79: The body has been forgotten, and so it is a crumbling, decaying memory. 
  • Lines 82-85: This is an example of synecdoche, where the speaker uses a part (the face) to talk about the whole (a person, and in fact the whole memory of that person). 
  • Line 111: Because the speaker has forgotten most of the details of his lover, he likens her face to all other faces, and no other face, making her universal. 
  • Lines 159-161: The body decays in these lines, and the different effects of age on the body parts show the passage of time. 
  • Lines 190-196: The body in these lines is made of stone, and tastes like dust and a sealed well—these descriptions all point to death and decay, a very different image than the one where the body is made of light or rain.
  • Lines 203-205: The chest is used to represent the place where the speaker's memories are contained, and from which they are stolen. 
  • Lines 223 and 227: Earlier in the poem the body (the beloved's body) is related to life; here the body shows signs of aging. 
  • Lines 229-230: The eyes stand in for the girl in this synecdoche.
  • Lines 231-240: These lines focus on the eyes too, but this time it is about the power and timelessness of the "glance."
  • Lines 251-252: The sparrows in these lines transform Phyllis' dimples into birdfeeders of light, a very romantic image
  • Line 280: The houses are personified as though they were suffering humans during the destruction of war. 
  • Lines 455-458: The body parts are used in a combination of synecdoche to represent the whole body and metaphor comparing them to flames as the body is burned up, dying. 
  • Lines 514-521: These lines use the face to represent the true self, in contrast to a mask and a false self.

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