Study Guide

Epitaph for an Old Woman Form and Meter

By Octavio Paz

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Form and Meter


As the title lets us know, this poem is an epitaph. An epitaph is a short text either printed on a gravestone or written in honor of someone who is dead.

There is no specific meter to this poem, which means that there's no pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables. There's also no rhyme scheme, though, as we will talk about in the "Sound Check" section, there's definitely a cohesive sound to the poem.

Though the form of this poem is simple on the surface, there are some interesting elements to it. Paz likes to play around with the arrangement of words on the page, and this poem is no exception.

Note the fourth line of the poem. It's only one word, and it's indented all the way to the right, which makes it really stick out. This makes it so that there is a jump between the lines, but it is not as dramatic as it would have been if the line were all the way on the left. In fact, all that is needed here is a slight downwards... tremble... of the eye.

The fourth line isn't the only place where Paz fiddles with the spacing. The last line is spaced so that it begins right below the end of the second-to-last line, making it stand out just like the fourth line did. However, it also in a way connects the last line to the line before, and the line break becomes less significant, suggesting merely a parallel (in this case, the opposite idea) to the line above it.

This tiny little six-line poem may be small, but it is mighty. Even if it's not actually written on anyone's gravestone, it will, if it hits you like it hit us, be written in stone in your mind.

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