When we shop we make choices: brands, styles, price. In "Barter," Teasdale is asking the reader to choose loveliness. She wants us to buy what life is selling. She offers examples of loveliness to try to influence the reader's decision. She makes a pretty good sales pitch, but ultimately it is up to each of us whether or not to choose loveliness.
Teasdale should stick to poetry, because she is the worst salesperson ever. The world is filled with so many wonderful sights, sounds, smells, and tastes and yet all she could come up with was waves and the smell of wet trees? Weak effort.
"Barter" is a great deal for readers because, by using simple, universal, beautiful images, she reminds us that loveliness is right in front of us all the time.
There is a sense of impermanence in "Barter." Many of the images that Teasdale uses as examples of life's loveliness are fleeting things—here one minute and gone the next. We definitely get the feeling that the loveliness for sale is a limited time offer.
We should take "Barter" at face value and stop trying to make everything so emo. Teasdale isn't trying to show us impermanence or the fleeting nature of beauty; she's just trying to get us to appreciate the world around us. This is a simple poem with a simple message: appreciate life.
The combination of sweetness and urgency makes this a great poem. It's like dipping a salty fry into a vanilla shake—the sweet and salty balancing each other into perfect blended flavor. In fact, without that secondary saltiness of urgency, this poem might be too sweet to stomach.
Teasdale doesn't mention happiness directly in "Barter," but we can certainly see it's meant to be a byproduct of the loveliness that she's peddling: Buy some loveliness, and we'll throw in jumbo-sized happiness absolutely free! Let's take a closer look at how that sales pitch works in the context of the poem.
If "Barter" doesn't make you happy, you should seek help. Something might be broken.
Barter is a much more complex poem than it appears at first glance. It isn't just a cute little poem about pretty things.
In "Barter," Teasdale uses primarily natural images as examples of loveliness. She shows us that loveliness is all around. With all those natural images as examples, we get the sense that living life in appreciation of loveliness and beauty is the right, the natural, way to live. Shmoop suddenly wants to go camping—anyone up for s'mores?
Teasdale uses nature imagery because there is an underlying sense of danger in nature and this makes the poem more complex and interesting. For example, Teasdale's image of the waves against the cliffs is beautiful, but you wouldn't want to be in that ocean. You surfers in the crowd know that big waves and rocks can be a nasty combo.
Teasdale uses nature imagery because it is extremely accessible for the average reader. All of her nature images evoke sensory, positive responses in the reader, helping her convey her message that life is lovely.