Study Guide

Bearded Oaks Stanza 2

By Robert Penn Warren

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Stanza 2

Lines 5-8

So, waiting, we in the grass now lie
Beneath the languorous tread of light;
The grassed, kelp-like, satisfy
The nameless motions of the air.

  • Like the scene, so too do "we" wait, lying in the grass, under the shifting light. Hold up—who's "we"? We can't be sure, and we don't want to be part of any gossip factory, but if they're lying together in the grass, it might just mean that these two know each other… let's say, intimately. 
  • Look out for when a poet uses the word "lie." It's hard not to see that a description not just of position (to lie down) but of a lack of truth (to tell a bold-faced lie)—just saying. It doesn't help matters that there's a mention of "grass." What do they say about a snake in the grass? It's not exactly something to be trusted. 
  • Above them the light is described as "languorous," that is, dreamy or lazy, which reflects on the lovers lying beneath them. It sounds more and more like some kind of afterglow going on in the grass.
  • "Tread of light"? What's up with that phrase? Well, to start with, we can say point to some personification for you. The light is given human qualities—in this case, a slow, languorous, even sexy stride. 
  • And now, enter the mighty semicolon, one of the funniest of the punctuation mark names (only the colon is funnier). What could Warren want this little guy? Whatever it's supposed to do, the semicolon is a "go-to" punctuation mark for Warren. It isn't a period, which would stop things with complete finality, but it does hit the brakes. Maybe it acts as a kind of central pivot, like the post of a seesaw. On one side of the colon, we have the lovers with the light making its sexy passage above them, on the other we get the tall, kelp-like (there's that marine imagery again) grasses that seem to "satisfy" (another subliminally sexy word) the wind's movement ("nameless motions of the air"). That's an odd thing to note, but if stretch our imagination, we could see where the wind would have a hard time being satisfied without something to push around (trees, grasses, kites, little old ladies—you get the idea). 
  • Notice that the poem describes these movements as "nameless." When did things get named? In Eden, right? So maybe there's something pre-Eden about this place: just two lovers in love, before the fall. In any case, they exist without human definition. 
  • Hey, wait, who turned out the rhyme? Sure, "lie" and "satisfy" rhyme, but what about "light" and "air"? No soup. It's not that Mr. Three-Time-Pulitzer couldn't come up with a word that would go with either of these. It's not like he's looking for a rhyme for "orange" or something. So, why set up a rhyme scheme in the first stanza if he's going to drop it in the second stanza? Check out "Form and Meter" for our thoughts on that.

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