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The Naked and the Nude

The Naked and the Nude


by Robert Graves

Stanza 4 Summary

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

Line 19-20

The naked, therefore, who compete
Against the nude may know defeat;

  • The evidence has all been brought out. It's time for the verdict. And the winner is….
  • Well, it seems to be the nude. It's okay. Take a minute for a collective sigh. Injustice. The world is unfair. 
  • Once again, Graves uses the first two lines of the stanza to announce its theme. It's a very systematic way of breaking down a theoretical concept like, say, distinctions in meanings of similar words.

Lines 21-24

Yet when they both together tread
The briary pastures of the dead,
By Gorgons with long whips pursued,
How naked go the sometime nude!

  • But wait! All is not lost. Just when you think that the sneaky, tricky, mean-girl-like nude has won the day, Graves pulls out a stunning reversal. 
  • You may think that the nude wins, but no. When everyone is dead, all bodies are treated the same. There. Aren't you happy now? We're all naked.
  • It's quite a weird victory for the naked, right? After all, we here at Shmoop would generally rather be alive than dead. But then again, this might just be Graves' take on the old "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust" line. We're all just sacks of bones—or very complicated biological mechanisms. Whatever. You get the general idea. 
  • Whatever you call our bodies, they are all mortal. Even the most arty, pretty nude will decompose in a coffin somewhere. So there. 
  • By the way, we're pretty thrilled that his version of death is so exciting. Whipped by Gorgons? That's quite an action-packed afterlife. 
  • Want to know more about these Gorgons? Check out our "Symbols, Imagery, Wordplay" section. Let's just say this for now: Medusa was a Gorgon. Medusa turns people into stone. And what often comes in stone? Statues, just like the nudes. See? It all comes together in the end.

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