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The Naked and the Nude

The Naked and the Nude


by Robert Graves

Stanza 3 Summary

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

Lines 13-14

The nude are bold, the nude are sly
To hold each treasonable eye.

  • And now the tables turn. We were thinking about naked people, but now we're in a new stanza. We're moving on. It's the nude's turn to take the stand. 
  • And oh, what a bad turn it is. Sly? That doesn't sound like such a great trait. 
  • The hits keep on coming. Instead of paying attention to the sort of people who are observing the nude (like we do the naked body), we notice how the nude seems to "hold" or captivate us. It's sorta like the sirens in The Odyssey. They just suck you in.
  • We've just got to make one little technical point (hey, that's why you love us). Remember how there's a comma after "The nude are bold"? Well, Graves reinforces the separation in the line by introducing a hidden couplet: line 14 includes the word "hold." Hold and bold rhyme. Cool, huh?
  • Plus, treason is a pretty strong offensive. It's when a part (like, say, an eye) turns against a whole (like, say, the soul or the rest of the person). Think Benedict Arnold. And, hey. If you noticed that Graves is using metonymy again in describing eyes, pat yourself on the back. You're a quick study.

Lines 15-18

While draping by a showman's trick
Their dishabille in rhetoric,
They grin a mock-religious grin
Of scorn at those of naked skin

  • This stanza is all about performing its own trickiness. "Dishabille" is a fancy word for being undressed. In other words, it's a bunch of rhetoric. And that's pretty much what our speaker is arguing. By calling something a "nude," we're trying to make is all arty and culture-y and, well, not naked. 
  • And even more importantly, if being naked is slightly pagan (think about the "Goddess" from the last stanza), then calling something a nude is, in the speaker's mind, a judgmental way of saying that there are good and bad naked bodies. It's like the mean girls in, say, Mean Girls—the ones who snicker whenever something's not quite cool enough.
  • Come to think about it, "nude" sounds sorta like a mean girl.

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