Study Guide

Barter Time

By Sara Teasdale

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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.

Questions About Time

  1. Did you feel a sense of urgency when reading this poem? If you did, what created that feeling? (Note: we're talking about feelings of urgency created by the poem—not by the 5 Diet Cokes you drank trying to stay awake.)
  2. Which image in the first stanza (waves against the cliff, fire, childhood) gives you the greatest sense of impermanence? Why?
  3. Why do you think Teasdale chose to focus on the imagery of impermanence in this poem? Was it a good choice? Why or why not?

Chew on This

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.

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