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Themes

In "A Song of Despair," the woman, who the speaker used to love, is compared to the treacherous sea, which swallows up pirates, sailors and sunglasses alike. The man who was foolish enough to fall in love with her is kind of like those sailors who used to sail over the horizon before they knew the world was round. In other words: a big, old silly-britches.

Questions About Foolishness and Folly

  1. How does the sea figure into this whole foolishness and folly theme in the poem?
  2. Who do you think was more foolish: the speaker or the woman? Why?
  3. Was the woman the reason the man was doomed? Or is he complicit in his own folly? Why do you think so?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The poem sets up woman as the sea and man as the seafarer, and his foolish attempt to navigate her is his folly. Way to go, man.

The poem makes the argument that all romantic relationships are doomed, and are therefore all follies. Yeah, good luck with that.

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