Study Guide

One Art Transience

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so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster. (1.2-3)

The implication here is that many things are destined to be lost, and even actively will their own loss; the speaker isn’t in control of what comes and goes in her life.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent. (2.4-5)

This odd command suggests that loss is a permanent state of unsettledness, and that only by accepting its inevitability can we learn to cope with it.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster (3.7)

The expansion of this idea of the "art of losing" into the abstract begins in this line. The poem gains momentum as the poet loses things of greater and greater value, increasing our sense of instability and change.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent. (5.13-14)

The idea of losing concrete geographical points further destabilizes our view of the poet’s world; her map is actually changing as she loses more and more.

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