Study Guide

Bearded Oaks Passivity

By Robert Penn Warren

Passivity

If you'll pardon the pun, you could call "Bearded Oaks" an idle idyll. Take a scene from nature, add two lethargic, blissed-out lovers, let them lie there for an hour not talking or moving or doing anything much but watch the evening come down around them, and there you have it: a portrait in passivity. Call it practicing for eternity, but, you know, their mothers might just call them lazy.

Questions About Passivity

  1. Can waiting be active or is it always passive? How might the speaker answer that question? 
  2. The poem contrasts this moment with a more active time. What is the effect of this comparison?
  3. What gives this present moment its power and why? 
  4. Why is the extended marine metaphor so effective in capturing this feeling of passivity?

Chew on This

Reverie—that peaceful, reflective state of mind—is not passive at all. It's a form of activity.

Nope, sorry. Reverie—just lying around and being all blissed out—is a form of passivity. Get off the couch, yo.

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