'Pity of It, The' by Katharine Lee Bates

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I. In South Africa

Over the lonesome African plain
The stars look down, like eyes of the slain.

A bumping ride across gullies and ruts,
Now a grumble and now a jest,
A bit of profanity jolted out,
Into a hornet's nest!
Curse on the scout!
Long-bearded Boers rising out of the rocks,
Rocks that already are crimson-splashed,
Ping-ping of bullets, stabbings and cuts,
As if hell hurtled and hissed,
--Then, muffling the shocks,
A sting in the breast,
A mist,
A woman's face down the darkness flashed,

All as before, save for still forms spread
Under the boulders dripping red.

Over the lonesome African plain
The stars look down, like eyes of the slain.

II. In the Philippines

Silvery rice-fields whisper wide
How for home and freedom their owners died.

We've set the torch to their bamboo town,
And out they come in a scampering rush,
Little brown men with spears.
Down they go in a crush,
Sickening smears,
Hideous writhing huddles and heaps
Under the palms and the mango-trees.
More, still more! Shoot 'em down
Like brown jack-rabbits that scoot
With comical leaps
Out of the brush.
No loot?
No prisoners, then. As for these --

The flag that dreamed of delivering
Shudders and droops like a broken wing.

Silvery rice-felds whisper wide
How for home and freedom their owners died.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry, Pity of It, The: Exploring the Depths of Sorrow and Inspiration

Katharine Lee Bates is one of the most celebrated poets of her time, and her legacy continues to inspire generations of writers and readers alike. Her work is known for its lyrical beauty, emotional depth, and profound insights into the human condition. Among her many works, one poem stands out as a masterpiece of poetic expression: "Poetry, Pity of It, The." In this powerful piece, Bates explores the nature of poetry, its relationship to suffering, and its potential to inspire and uplift the human spirit. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will examine the themes, symbolism, and imagery of this remarkable poem, and explore its enduring relevance and meaning.

Setting the Scene: The Poem in Context

"Poetry, Pity of It, The" was first published in Bates' collection, "America the Beautiful, and Other Poems," in 1911. At the time, Bates was a highly respected poet and professor of English literature at Wellesley College, Massachusetts. The poem was written in the wake of personal tragedy: the death of Bates' partner of over twenty years, Katharine Coman, in 1915. This loss, coupled with the upheavals of World War I, deeply affected Bates and contributed to the profound sense of sorrow and yearning in her poetry.

Despite its origins in grief and suffering, "Poetry, Pity of It, The" is not a despairing or nihilistic work. Instead, it is a testament to the enduring power of art and beauty to transcend even the darkest moments of human experience. Through its evocative language and rich imagery, the poem captures the essence of poetry as a means of expressing and transcending human suffering, and a source of hope and inspiration in even the bleakest of times.

Themes and Motifs: Exploring the Depths of Sorrow

At its core, "Poetry, Pity of It, The" is a meditation on the relationship between poetry and suffering. The poem opens with a striking declaration: "The pity of it, Iago! O the pity of it!" The allusion to Shakespeare's "Othello" immediately sets the tone of anguish and despair that permeates the poem. Bates goes on to describe the beauty and power of poetry, as well as its close connection to sorrow and pain.

One of the key motifs in the poem is the image of the "wound." Bates writes, "the heart's wound only throbs for poetry," suggesting that poetry is born out of the deepest wounds of the human heart. This theme is reinforced by the repeated use of images of blood and tears throughout the poem, which serve to underscore the idea that poetry is a means of expressing and healing the deepest wounds of the human soul.

Another important motif in the poem is the image of the "tide." Bates writes, "Out of the bosom of the Air, / Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken, / Over the woodlands brown and bare, / Over the harvest-fields forsaken, / Silent, and soft, and slow / Descends the snow." The imagery here is both beautiful and haunting, evoking a sense of the relentless, unstoppable nature of time and change. The tide, in Bates' vision, is a metaphor for the flow of human emotion and experience, and the way that poetry can both reflect and shape that flow.

Symbolism and Imagery: Discovering Hidden Meanings

One of the most striking features of "Poetry, Pity of It, The" is its rich and evocative imagery. Bates employs a range of symbols and metaphors to convey the complex emotional landscape of the poem. In addition to the motifs of the "wound" and the "tide," several other images stand out as particularly significant.

One of these is the image of the "night." Bates writes, "The night is darkening round me, / The wild winds coldly blow." This image conveys a sense of isolation and despair, as the speaker feels cut off from the warmth and light of the world. However, it also suggests a potential for renewal and transformation, as the night can be a time of rest and reflection that prepares the way for new beginnings.

Another powerful image in the poem is that of the "rose." Bates writes, "Only a rose, only a rose, / Only a purple rose to-day, / Only a little sorrowful rose / Of all the roses in the world to-day." The rose here serves as a symbol of both beauty and fragility, representing the fleeting nature of human life and the inevitability of loss. At the same time, it also represents the potential for renewal and growth, as new roses will bloom even after the old ones have withered and died.

Conclusion: The Enduring Power of Poetry

"Poetry, Pity of It, The" is a profound and deeply moving work of art. Through its intricate imagery, evocative language, and powerful themes, it captures the essence of poetry as a means of expressing and transcending human suffering. Bates' vision of poetry is not one of escape or denial, but of engagement and transformation. In her view, poetry has the power to heal the deepest wounds of the human heart, and to inspire us to create a better world.

As we reflect on this remarkable poem, we are reminded of the enduring relevance and importance of poetry in our lives. In a world that often seems dark and uncertain, poetry offers us a way to connect with our deepest emotions, to find meaning in our suffering, and to glimpse the transcendent beauty of the human experience. As Bates herself wrote, "There is no joy but calm. / Peace is the rainbow's daughter. / The soul climbs up on golden wings, / And dwells in great altitudes." With "Poetry, Pity of It, The," Bates has given us a glimpse of those "great altitudes," and an invitation to join her there through the power of poetry.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The world of poetry is a vast and beautiful one, filled with countless masterpieces that have stood the test of time. Among these, one poem that stands out is "The Pity of It" by Katharine Lee Bates. This stunning piece of literature is a true gem, filled with powerful imagery and a deep sense of emotion that is sure to leave a lasting impression on anyone who reads it.

At its core, "The Pity of It" is a poem about the struggles of life and the pain that we all must endure. It speaks to the universal human experience of suffering and the ways in which we cope with it. The poem begins with the lines, "The pity of it, the pity of it, / This life that we lead, / With its burdens and sorrows, / Its joys that recede."

These opening lines set the tone for the rest of the poem, establishing a sense of melancholy and sadness that permeates throughout. The use of repetition in the phrase "the pity of it" emphasizes the weight of the struggles we face in life, and the fact that they are universal and unavoidable.

As the poem continues, Bates explores the different ways in which we try to cope with the difficulties of life. She writes, "We laugh and we weep, / We work and we play, / We strive and we rest, / We hope and we pray." These lines highlight the many different ways in which we try to find meaning and purpose in our lives, even in the face of adversity.

However, despite our best efforts, the poem acknowledges that there are some struggles that we simply cannot overcome. Bates writes, "But the burden is heavy, / And the way is steep, / And the heart grows weary, / And the eyes grow dim." These lines speak to the exhaustion and weariness that can come from a life filled with hardship and pain.

Despite the sadness and despair that permeates throughout the poem, there is also a sense of hope and resilience that shines through. Bates writes, "Yet we struggle and strive, / And we do not despair, / For we know that beyond / There is rest for the care." These lines remind us that even in the darkest moments of our lives, there is always the possibility of hope and redemption.

One of the most striking aspects of "The Pity of It" is the vivid imagery that Bates uses to convey her message. Throughout the poem, she paints a picture of a world filled with both beauty and pain. She writes of "the sunshine and shadow, / The flowers and thorns, / The laughter and weeping, / The joys and the mourns." These images serve to remind us that life is a complex and multifaceted experience, filled with both joy and sorrow.

Overall, "The Pity of It" is a stunning work of poetry that speaks to the universal human experience of suffering and the ways in which we cope with it. Through its powerful imagery and poignant message, it reminds us that even in the darkest moments of our lives, there is always the possibility of hope and redemption. It is a true masterpiece of literature that is sure to leave a lasting impression on anyone who reads it.

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