Study Guide

Barter Man and the Natural World

By Sara Teasdale

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Man and the Natural World

All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff. (2-3)

This is the first image in the poem and it is a dramatic one. This first image sets the tone and let's us know that Teasdale is going to look to the natural world for examples of "beautiful and splendid things." Consider how different this poem would be if it started out with a more material example of splendor.

Soaring fire that sways and sings. (4)

Next we've got some fire, but it is swaying and singing (remember that personification thing we talked about back in the summary?).

What happens when we give human qualities to a natural element like fire? Well, it makes it a lot easier to connect with the non-human thing. You can think about it like this: what's easier to relate to: zombies or vampires? Vampires, without a doubt, right? While zombies are only about moaning and feasting on human flesh, vampires still like the finer things in life—a good song, a sweet ride, a nice apartment. We might not share their culinary tendencies or sleeping habits, but they retain way more human traits than zombies do. Bella would never have wanted to follow Edward into zombie-hood—but she just couldn't wait to become a vampire. Think about it.

Yes, Shmoop got off track. Sorry. Here's the point. Teasdale wants us to make a connection between our lives, the enjoyment of our lives, and the natural world. Making fire dance and sing helps to do that because it makes it easier for us to connect with that natural element.

Scent of pine trees in the rain. (9)

This is another good example of how Teasdale is trying to get us to really connect with nature in this poem.

She could have just given us the simple image of pine trees, but that wasn't enough for our girl Sara. She wanted to up the volume. She adds rain and the word scent. By including rain, Teasdale adds the sense of sound to the image. We can almost hear the pitter-patter of the rain through the branches. She also adds the sense of smell by drawing our attention to the scent of the pine trees.

Teasdale gets a lot of bang for her imagistic buck, and it helps us to make a strong connection between the pleasures of being alive and the sensations available to us in nature.

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