Study Guide

Women Stanza 4

By Louise Bogan

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Stanza 4

Lines 13-14

They cannot think of so many crops to a field
Or of clean wood cleft by an axe. 

  • So, let's get this straight. Back in the second stanza, we learned all about how women couldn't see or hear. And now…it looks like they can't even think. This is some pretty harsh stuff.
  • Well, perhaps they can think, but our speaker says that there are definitely some things that they can't wrap their brains around, like crops or chopping wood. (Wood that's "cleft" has been split by an axe.)
  • Farming and wood-chopping are stereotypically thought of as men's work, so it seems like our speaker is taking a pretty old-fashioned view of what women are capable of doing. Of course, this poem did come out in 1923.
  • We're left wondering: is there anything that women do well?

Lines 15-16

Their love is an eager meaninglessness
Too tense, or too lax. 

  • Well, now women can't even love right. The speaker describes their love as eager, but meaningless. Just like "They stiffen when they should bend" (10), women's love is either "Too tense, or too lax." In other words, they're too over-the-top and worked up about their love ("tense"), or they're too laid back ("lax") in the way they love.
  • It seems like women just can't find a happy medium in our speaker's eyes.
  • We wonder if they're going to get any kind of love from this cranky speaker in the final stanza…

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