The Mind Is an Enchanting Thing
by Marianne Moore
Stanza 2 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
like the apteryx-awl
as a beak, or the
- An apteryx is a flightless bird from New Zealand, with a long neck, long beak, and stout legs.
- An awl is a pointed tool used for poking holes, usually in leather.
- In a very sophisticated (read, complex) way, Moore is comparing this bird's beak to an awl because they look similar. In other words, they're sharp and pointy, and she's using a simile to compare the way those objects look to the mind itself.
- We'll have to wait to see how the bird's beak is related to the mind. It looks like Moore is winding up for another example, and we just have to read on to unravel it.
of haired feathers, the mind
- The simile continues; now it's taking up four lines. The hog.
- Kiwi as in bird, not as in fruit. Kiwi birds are actually members of the apteryx family, and they're native to New Zealand, too. (In fact, people from New Zealand are often referred to as kiwis.)
- She describes the long feathers on the bird like a shawl that protects it from rain.
- But the syntax is getting a bit tricky here, so we'll have to keep reading to see just how this relates to the mind.
- And since line 11 ends with the enjambment of "the mind," just hanging there, we're betting the answer's coming soon.
feeling its way as though blind,
walks along with its eyes on the ground.
- Ah, here's the answer we've been looking for—the other half of the simile. The mind acts like the bird.
- How so? Well, just like the apteryx/kiwi, the mind moves along instinctively. The bird walks with its eyes on the ground as though blind, but it isn't blind at all. It's just following its instincts, presumably toward food. It's using the beak to find that food, and using its feathers to protect itself from the elements. It's an evolutionary marvel—kind of like the mind.
- Let's review how many comparisons we have so far, and what they mean in a nutshell:
- We have the bright and multitudinous mind that's like the image of the shiny bird's wing broken up into a zillion pieces. We have the ultra-creative mind of the famous musicians. And we have instinctive mind of the bird.
- And we have two stanzas that have the same structure of indentations and rhymes.
- Moving right along, then.