How to write perfect poems

Writing poem analysis: structure, examples and the best tips

Poetry is characterized by the fact that the language in it is shaped differently than everyday language using a wide variety of artifacts. In poetry analysis it is important to find and describe these formal characteristics. In addition, one can approach a possible statement of the poem by analyzing the linguistic means. The "only correct" meaning does not have to exist. But as long as you can prove your interpretation on the text in the poem analysis, you are on the safe side.

The analysis can take the following form. If you were given a different one in your course, stick to it.

The following poem serves as an analysis example. Case studies related to the poem are in the following text italic held.

You hang them on the bar,
the carpets small and large,
they hit, they hit in the spirit
on their rule.

With a wild relish
with true berserk rage,
for a week full of plagues
cool your courage.

They hit with splintering pipes
in an infernal rhythm.
The anterior ears
do not take act of it.

But whining behind, torn
in the deepest, from blows and blows,
the runners, the Persian pillows
and the thick German plumeaus.

Maids on Saturday (Christian Morgenstern)

Preparation for poetry analysis

Before analyzing the poem, there is several active reading

Before analyzing the poem, get to know the poem well by reading it several times. Number the lines. Write down the meanings of unknown words - historical dictionaries can be found in libraries, but there are also online offers that are operated by universities. There are also connotations that the word sometimes had at different times. Make note of your first impressions as you read.

Only then does the systematic analysis begin, which is divided into introduction, main part and conclusion.

Initiation of poetry analysis

Check the paratext

The paratext is everything that directly surrounds the poem but is not part of it. Is there an explicit reference to the type of poem, as a heading, as a genre designation of the collection to which the poem belongs or due to formal features of the structure? Take a look at typical poem forms and compare the present one with it.

Name and justify possible matches with one of these forms in your poem analysis. Is it perhaps intentionally playing with the underlying typical form and deviating from it based on this? This information belongs in the introduction, together with the author's name, title, subject matter, date and place of origin, as well as the assignment to an epoch. If the poem is spoken in the first person, it is the lyric self.

The poem “Maids on Saturday” by Christian Morgenstern (1871-1914) was published as part of the poetry book “Alle Galgenlieder” published posthumously in 1932. Here it was assigned to the "Zeitgedichte (s)". In the context of other publications, it was also called "Berlin maids on Saturday". In literary history, Morgenstern is classified in the "Poetry around 1900". Here he is more of an outsider in relation to the poets of Impressionism.

Notice and describe whether there are any references in the poem to the spatiotemporal coordinates in which the poem is uttered. These can be references to the environment, but also references to something that happened in the past.

The title “(Berlin) Maids on Saturday” gives the reader two pragmatic indications. The fact that the maidservant scene is supposed to take place on Saturday in Berlin, as the sometimes modified title suggests, underscores the local division of the event represented in the poem due to the frequent Berlin block division into the front building and the back yard.

Creation of an interpretation hypothesis

You can also put forward a general interpretation hypothesis: What do you think the poem says? You can confirm or refute this in the interpretation part and return to it explicitly at the end.

In the poem, two social classes are juxtaposed. For this, Morgenstern uses the work of maids who do the housework for higher-ranking families. The rudeness with which the maids do their work in the courtyard is reminiscent of the violence in the class struggle of the French Revolution. This, however, is ridiculed, as the “revolutionary energy” “cools down” when the carpets are hit and therefore the act relevant to the files does not take place. Nevertheless, the differentiation between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in the cities as a result of industrialization and urbanization is problematized.

Main part of the poem analysis

1. Formal analysis

First, describe the general form of the poem. Is it divided into stanzas? If so, how many verses do they have?

The poem "Maids on Saturday" consists of four stanzas, which are composed of four lines.

2. Sound level

Rhyme scheme

Observe the structure of the sound: are there end rhymes at the end of the lines? Are there so-called internal rhymes within a line? Do they represent a regular rhyme scheme in relation to the verse or the entire poem? To find out, it helps to assign a letter to the various ending rhymes.

You hang them on the bar, A
the carpets small and large, B
they hit, they hit in the spirit A
on their rule. B.

With a wild relish, C.
with true berserk rage, D
for a week of plagues C
cool your courage. D.

In our poem, the verses form the rhyme scheme ABAB, CDCD, EFEF, GHGH. So every stanza is a cross rhyme.

Assonances are called parallel sequences of sounds, for example at the beginning and at the end of a line, but also at the end of lines. In Morgenstern there is an assonance between lines 13 and 14: In “torn in the deepest” i and e are repeated in the last two syllables of the first and last word.
Alliteration, the harmony at the beginning of words, is a means that a poet can use to shape the structure of the sound.

In verse two of “Maids on Saturday”, two alliterations that connect two verses stand out: In “wild comfort” and “true berserker's rage”, adjectives and nouns each begin with the same letter. This syntactic parallelism, which is amplified aloud, marks a reversal of adjectives and subjects: Wild berserker rage and true pleasure could be put together, since they once have the characteristic “animalistic” in common, the latter expression the characteristics “civilized, virtuous” as a connection Has.

We find a direct alliteration in the last line: "thick German plumeaus". This connects the adjective combination “thick German” and detaches something from the subject “Plumeaus” that they actually specify. This once again makes it clear that household textiles stand for the possibly equally well-nourished "gentlemen" at whom the maids are angry.

Rhythm structure

The rhythm tells how the stresses are distributed within a poem.
Stressed (called elevations, noted as ´x or as a small arc, similar to a “u”) and unstressed syllables (lowering, noted as x or _) alternate. This is called a meter or meter. Determine the rhythm by reading the poem out loud. In the tradition of lyric poetry there are forms that are characterized by certain rhythmic characteristics. They can be applied consistently or interpreted more freely. The ends of the verses are called "cadences". Female cadences end on an unstressed syllable, male on a stressed syllable.

Make the meter visible to you using the notation described above. If there are agreements with classical meter measures, state them in your poem analysis.

Determine whether the (internal) rhymes, cadences, beginnings and ends of stanzas as well as matching meters also have the same meanings.

Morgenstern's poem has the shape of a folk song due to the four-line stanzas with alternating female and male cadences on the post. It is a three-part verse that begins with iambics except for three lines (8, 12 and 16). The folk shape thus supports the rustic origin and rhythmic nature of the maids with whom they “care” for the fine home textiles.

3. Syntactic level

Metrics and syntax can interact or counteract each other. Rhythm can also be created by a series of sentences that start in a similar way.

In “Maids on Saturday” we find syntactically identical verses in the first stanza: The beginnings of sentences “They hang” (1) and “they hit” (3), the latter even occurring repeatedly after the comma, allow the maids to appear several times as active subjects . Meanwhile, “carpets” and “gentlemen” in lines three and four are suffering objects.

There are also rhetorical figures that act on the sentence level.

At the beginning of the first two lines of verse two we find the word "with". This parallel supports the above-mentioned constructions "wild comfort" and "true berserker rage".

4. Meaning level / semantic level

Describe the overall storyline. Are the words abstract terms or are specific things named? Are sensory impressions conveyed through the words?

On Saturday the maids knock out carpets and bedding in the backyard of the households whose owners they are employed by. They take out their annoyance about the "plagues" of work on the home textiles. However, they do not convey their displeasure to their “rulers”, nor do they notice anything about it. In the end, those who suffer are only pillows and runners.

What do the words (denotation) denote and which connotations resonate? Here one could also list the words looked up at the beginning and their various meanings.

Find isotopic planes

You can use this approach to identify different levels of meaning in poetry. If a certain characteristic is continuously activated by the words in the poem, a homogeneous isotopic level is formed, which can be dubbed by a dominant semantic characteristic such as a heading (class). Two opposing levels can also form.
To determine an isotope level, you can mark the words that belong to a certain class in a color. If you notice another one, mark it with a different pen. This is how you can see how the isotopes are distributed throughout the poem. If words can be assigned to different isotopes at the same time, ambiguity arises.

In Morgenstern, opposing classes are “human” (small and large, domination, ears, whine, deeply, Persian, thick, German) and “representational” (carpets, foreground, runners, torn, pillows, plumeaus). The frequent joining of these words with different connotations (carpets small and large; torn in the deepest; Persian pillows; thick German plumeaus) creates the personification of the objects.

As the dominant opposition, however, comfort / berserker rage could be seen, because these words are emphasized by some formal means. The two social strata, workers versus bourgeoisie, which can be associated with “violence” and “domestic coziness”, which runs through the whole poem, can also be equated with them. Words connoted with “violence” are: hang, hit (2x), wild, courage, splintering, pipes, infernal, tact, whining, torn, blow, push. The words mentioned above under “objective” are also to be understood under domestic cosiness.

The rhetorical figures are also located on the level of meaning of the poem. For your poem analysis, try to find out if you can recognize types of characters.

The expression “ears in front of the house” is a metonymy, because instead of the people actually meant, their ears are named, as well as the place of residence of the middle-class families, the front building.

Stylistically, the expression “taking nudes” in line twelve differs from the rest of the poem. While it is about the private sphere of a family and their domestic workers, an official connotation is inserted through the "files". Together with the legal dimension of the word “courage” in the sense of willfulness and in the context of the aggression that is exercised on household items, the threat of punishment is also addressed in the event that violence breaks out.

Conclusion / conclusion of the poem analysis

At the end of your poem analysis, you take up your analysis hypothesis again and justify or refute it on the basis of the sub-points or levels you have worked on. You will briefly summarize what you found out in the main part.

Morgenstern uses various formal and semantic means to intensify the friction between the bourgeoisie and the working class. Through the culmination of the suffering of the pillows and runners in the last stanza, he points to the recent primacy of the bourgeoisie over the working class: if the material well-being of the bourgeoisie did not exist, there would be no difference between them and their employees.

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