The Mind Is an Enchanting Thing
by Marianne Moore
Stanza 1 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
is an enchanted thing
- First of all, we should probably figure out what the word enchant means in the first place. To enchant is to captivate, charm, enthrall, delight, enrapture, fascinate, mesmerize, transfix, etc., etc.
- It's safe to say one of the main subjects of the poem is going to be the mind. It's already in the title and first line.
- The first line acts like a continuation of the title. It's just a fragment of a sentence, so we're forced to look for where the sentence starts, and the only logical place is the title.
- The title and the first line are very similar, but not quite the same. In the title the mind is described as enchanting. But in the first line the mind is enchanted. What gives?
like the glaze on a
- Simile Alert! Moore is making a comparison to describe what the enchanted mind is like. In this case, she says it's like a katydid's wing.
- By the way, a katydid is kind of like a grasshopper. It's long and green and its wings are shiny, hence the "glaze" in line 2.
- So if mind = shiny katydid wing, what does that mean? That the mind is bright? Maybe that it has many colors, or is different and changing?
- That's a good start. Moore's going to give us more comparisons to work with, so let's keep reading.
- But before we do that, we have just one more thing to point out. Did you notice the rhyme? It's subtle, what with all the indentations and enjambment, but there's a rhyme here. Wing, from line 3, rhymes with thing from line 1. Keep your eye out for more.
subdivided by the sun
till the nettings are legion.
- Line 4 is still part of the katydid sentence, so it's continuing that simile. So think of the shine on the wing broken up into a bunch of different shiny pieces until there's this huge sparkling web, or netting. That's the image Moore is getting at, more or less.
- Vocab alert: legion means great in number. In this case it means all those shiny things, first separated ("subdivided") but all in the same place.
- If we apply this crazy image to making sense of the mind, it could mean that the mind has a bunch of different pieces that make up a whole, splendid thing.
- Aha! And another rhyme is afoot. They may not look alike, but sun and legion totally match.
Like Gieseking playing Scarlatti;
- Um… who playing what? Walter Gieseking was a German pianist from the early 20th century. Think of him as the Lebron James of the piano world.
- And Scarlatti? That's Domenico Scarlatti, an Italian composer from the 17th century. Also quite the talent.
- If you put them together, you'll find someone incredibly talented playing the music of someone else incredibly talented. In other words: musical magic.
- But what does the mind have to do with all of this? It's hard to say exactly, but it could mean something about the unlimited creative resources of a great mind. Where do creative juices come from, anyway?
- This line doesn't seem to rhyme with anything so far, but now that we've read the whole stanza, we can come up with a rhyme scheme: ABACCD. Let's see if that pattern repeats in any of the future stanzas.
- For more on this formal stuff, check out our "Form and Meter" section, and then head on back here to the summary.