Response Paper Model

A response paper, such as the one you'll write for your 2-3 page assignment, should do for your reader a number of things.  It should offer an interpretation of the poem's overall meaning; it should analyze the language, images, and rhythm or meter; it should evaluate its effectiveness on you as reader; and it should make clear what I call the "human" element.  This last element simply means what overall statement the poem is making about humans, or what it means to be human.  One way of showing the human element is to show how the poem's ideas apply your your life and experiences.

Here's an overall checklist of strategies that will help you write critical papers:
          *  Do you use examples from the text to convincingly support the claims you're making?
          *  When quoting extensively, do you take time to explain the specific parts in the long quote that prove your point?
          *  Have you managed to avoid simply offering a summary or reading of each separate line?
          *  Do you refer to specific moments in the poem that clarify your idea/s for the reader, and have you offered line or stanza numbers?
          *  Do you use the present tense when describing or discussing  events in the poem?  In literary criticism--which is what you're writing--the convention is to use the present tense throughout.  The idea is that the poet is communicating thoughts to you in the present--so that's why the convention is to use the present tense.
          *  Have you correctly spelled all author's names and titles?  Have you remembered to put the name of the poem in double-quotation marks?  When referring to the author, have you written out his/her full name?  HINT:  When referring later on in the poem, only use the author's last name . . . 
          *  Did you remember to put quotation marks at the beginning and end of each quoted part?  Did you include the line number/s in parentheses after the quotation?   Did you include the slant to indicate the beginning of a new line when you write the lines in sentences within your paragraph?

      ex:  "I am sick, I must die./ Lord, have mercy on us" (6-7).

Remember, when quoting 4 or more lines, indent them and copy them as separate lines the way the text does:

       ex:  Haste, therefore, each degree,
             To welcome destiny!
             Heaven is our heritage,
             Earth's but a player's stage;  (36-9)

The following essays are intended as a models for you to consider when writing your 2-3 page paper (10% of your course grade).  You'll notice that I talk about the poem's content, giving my interpretation of it, in the first half of the essay.  In the second part of the essay I explore issues of stress and meter.  I actually link English stress with important words at the end of the poem.

In short, I cover the poem's meaning and how it gets that across to the reader.  I constantly refer to the poem, so that when I make a claim I also back it up with a word, phrase, or lines from the poem.

Response to "His Coy Mistress"
by Stephanie Ridge

Andrew Marvell’s "To His Coy Mistress" is the charming depiction of a man who has seemingly been working very hard at seducing his mistress. Owing to Marvell’s use of the word "coy," we have a clear picture of the kind of woman his mistress is. She has been encouraging his advances to a certain point, but then when he gets too close, she backs off, and resists those same advances. Evidently, this has been going on for quite some time, as Marvell now feels it necessary to broach the topic in this poem.

He begins in the first stanza by gently explaining that his mistress’s coyness would not be a "crime" if there were "world enough, and time…" (l.2). He compares his love to a "vegetable," which means that it would not stray, but would grow "vaster than empires," and would do so more slowly (ll. 11-12). He claims that he would happily spend a hundred years praising her eyes, and gazing at her forehead. When that is over, he would spend two hundred years on each breast, and spend "thirty thousand to the rest" (l. 16). He then crowns this romantic hyperbole with the statement, "[f]or, lady, you deserve this state, /Nor would I love at a lower rate" (ll. 19-20). These statements serve to support one of the major themes of the poem: flattery with an aim toward seduction. He uses such grandiose statements to help his mistress understand that he truly cares for her enough to spend hundreds of years simply gazing at her. However, this leads to a problem, as there is simply not the time available.

This causes Marvell in the second stanza to remind his mistress that always her hears at his back "[t]ime’s wing’ed chariot hurrying near" (ll. 21-22). This lets her know gently, but in no uncertain terms that time does have a way of marching on. The remainder of the second stanza uses vivid imagery. We are left with no doubt as to what the fate of the lovers will be, as well as the state of his own feelings for her:

                                                       …then worms shall try

                                                      That long preserved virginity,

                                                     And your quaint honor turn to dust,

                                                    And into ashes all my lust (ll. 26-30).

These lines seem a bit morbid, but I also sense the use of horror, on Marvell’s part, to further convince his mistress to succumb to his affections. He is basically telling her that if she continues to resist him, it will be the worms that remove her virginity from her, as opposed to someone who really cares about her, namely him. He also reminds her that the honor that she is clinging to so tightly to will mean nothing when worms know her intimately. Further, his feelings for her will be utterly gone.

The second stanza ends with these lines, my favorite: "The grave’s a fine and private place, / But none I think do there embrace." This ironic statement provides the crowning argument: Marvell has just described a love that would be timeless if such a thing were allowed. With a love such as this how can they let time slip through their fingers, and justify it? This also provides the second, and perhaps more important theme in the poem. The message is that the lovers, and consequently we who read the poem, should use the time we have been given to the best of our advantage. In the case of Marvell and his mistress, they should use the time to clutch at the love that is there in front of them. We, the reader, may be inspired in regards to something in our own life. I am reminded of the poem by Robert Herrick, which provides the admonition, "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may:/Old time is still a-flying…" (ll. 1-2).

The final stanza provides further evidence of this theme. Marvell asks his mistress to join with him, "…while the youthful hue/Sits on {her} skin like morning dew" (ll. 33-34). Further, in an interesting simile, Marvell compares himself and his mistress to "am’rous birds of prey," whose duty it is to "devour" time. Marvell continues with amazing imagery with this statement:

                                                   Let us roll all our strength and all

                                                   Our sweetness up into one ball,

                                                   And tear our pleasures with rough strife

                                                   Through the iron gates of life (ll. 41-44).

I feel like this is the most beautiful image in the entire poem. It evokes a sense of unity between the lovers, as well as furthering the theme of making the most of our time. Marvell wishes his mistress to be with him when he seeks to break out of the confines of life. Marvell ends with the thought: "Thus, though we cannot make our sun/Stand still, yet we will make him run" (ll. 45-46). If his mistress will but allow him to be with her, he will not only love her exquisitely, but also, they will have such a life that the sun will find it difficult to keep up with them. While the poem starts out with the aim of seduction, it ends with a life statement. And to Marvell, if the seduction works, and they have an amazing life together, both would be a bonus.

"To His Coy Mistress" is written almost entirely in iambs, which gives the poem an easy, conversational feel. The natural flow of a conversation follows most closely the measure of an iamb. It seems an obvious choice for Marvell to use this foot, as the poem represents a conversation. The easy flow of the iamb also helps to make the poem seem more real, more believable, because we don’t have to stretch or sound strained while reading it. There is a slight change in the foot pattern in line 33. Marvell begins the line with the word "now" and places a stress on this syllable. This helps signify that there is a transition in the conversation, as well as serving to provide a more forceful conclusion to the poem. Beginning the third stanza with a stressed syllable gives the entire stanza a feel of more power, even as it flows back into the easy rhythm of iambs. Iambs also fit with the tone of the poem, which is one of earnestness, but not anger, or even frustration. Marvell’s tone is one of calm persuasion.

Ultimately, this poem provides a wonderful pattern for living life.

Response to Nashe’s "Adieu, Farewell Earth’s Bliss, #2

By Dr V Ramirez

       Thomas Nashe’s poem really struck a chord with me, partly because I understood what he was saying, and because I agree with his ideas. The poem’s title really says it all, and a reader could get from it that the topic is gloomy and unappealing. After all, who wants to think that they have to say goodbye to all the wonderful things that make our lives worth living? But on closer examination we learn that Nashe is speaking about the joys of this world versus the joy everlasting that we feel when we die and join god in Heaven.

       I think the poem is speaking about how one gets to Heaven–or maybe, how one doesn’t get there. First, Nashe establishes that life is uncertain, which I take to mean that no one knows the time of their death. So, each of us had better be leading a moral life at all times, or we may get taken unprepared to meet our Maker. Beyond that idea, the early stanzas develop the idea that we shouldn’t be too attached to the pleasures of this world, especially if they run counter to leading a moral life. He says: "Fond are life’s lustful joys:/ Death proves them all but toys"(ll.3-4).

       Nashe gets across the idea that as soon as we are born, we begin our mortal journey towards death in his refrain "I am sick, I must die./Lord, have mercy on us" (ll. 6-7). This warning is necessary because it’s easy to let worldly wealth and power make us feel invincible. To counter such misconception of the reality awaiting us all, Nashe warns, "Rich men, trust not in wealth;/Gold cannot buy you health" (ll.8-9). Nor can a doctor, who has the knowledge of how to cure illness, avoid what is before him: Physic himself must fade./ All things to the end are made" (10-11).

       Beauty, which entrances us in life, and may seduce us into ungodly actions, is next on Nashe’s list of worldly "toys" or temptations. He reminds us of what we know only too well, but may care not to remember: beauty, like all of life, fades like a flower that "wrinkles will devour" (l. 16). At this point he brings in Helen of Troy, who thousands of years later we know as the most beautiful of women, and who was the cause of the Trojan War. As beautiful as she was, "Dust hath closed Helen’s eye" (1. 19).

       If women are to heed Nashe’s warning regarding Helen of Troy, men had better listen to what he says about Hector, another figure from the Trojan War. Hector has been a symbol of manly power, strength, and valor through the ages. But Nashe lets us know that regardless of your physical strength, sooner or later you’ll die, just as "Worms feed on Hector brave;/ Swords may not fight with fate" (ll 22-3).

       Finally, Nashe aims at "wit," which is cleverness or intelligence. Sometimes those who are intelligent, educated, and therefore, powerful, believe that they are all-mighty, when there’s really only one Almighty. Nashe stresses that the witty, who have a remark or response for every situation, will go unheeded when it comes to "Hell’s executioner" (l. 31). Here Nashe seems to be saying that those who through their intellect believe they can get around the dictates of God–like Satan, himself–will be condemned to eternal damnation.

       In contrast to this list of ways we are all doomed, Nashe saves for the final stanza the consolation in store for those who heed his words.


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