Sunday, January 4, 2009

External Structure

In an Artist's Studio

Christina Rossetti

(pg. 1029)

One face looks out from all his canvasses,

One selfsame figure sits or walks or leans;

We found her hidden just behind those screens,

That mirror gave back all her loveliness.

A queen in opal or in ruby dress,

A nameless girl in freshest summer greens,

A saint, an angel; -- every canvass means

The same one meaning, neither more nor less.

He feeds upon her face by day and night,

And she with true kind eyes looks back on him

Fair as the moon and joyful as the light;

Not wan with waiting, not with sorrow dim;

Not as she is, but was when hope shone bright;

Not as she is, but as she fills his dream.

This Sonnet follows the English pattern of 4-4-4-2. In this pattern of sonnet the three sets of 4 generally state different ideas, and the last 2 lines wrap up the entire poem. The rhyme pattern in this poem follows a pattern, that i didn't find in the book, but i think the pattern is abba abba cdcd ce. Christina Rossetti's poem discusses a familiar face found in all of an artists paintings. The face is seen in different types of positions "...walks or leans, hidden just beyond those screens", but is seen in all of the paintings. The 4-4-4 part of the poem is used to describe the different forms the face takes, she is a "queen, and a nameless girl". In the last two stanzas the narrator describes the girl being drawn as she was in the past, or how the painter wants to perceives her as, (in his dreams). So, to wrap up the sonnet, i think that Rossetti is stating that the artists paintings don't depict reality, but depicts life and people how he wants or wishes it could be.


Chris said...

I agree with the pattern and the rhyme scheme as well. As for the poem, I also think that it is a fantasy life that Roseetti depicts in his sonnet. He describes this girl as almost perfect. She is flawless, and she is describing the world, and his hope for a better future.

Olympia said...

My interpretaton of the poem is of a painter who has many "canvases" of a "nameless girl". She is possibly a girl in which the panter dreams of and creates to define his expectations of perfection. The couplet summerizes the illusion of perfection and fantasy by begining with "not as she is, but..." for the concluding two lines. the girl could even be a metaphor in some senses for reality, in which Roseetti "hopes" for.

Jaxon said...

I believe that the line "We found her hidden just behind those screens," is important because this girl was apparently important when she was painted, or she had some significance. So I think that this painter certainly paints what is a stretch of reality instead of capturing what is there. The comparisons to "saints" and "angels" also shows how this is kind of surreal and not accurate.

so maybe this painter is obsessed with finding perfection? but it all comes out the same? What do you guys think?

Michaela said...

First, I'm not sure about this but I think that "dream" in the last line could be read to rhyme with "him" and "dim." I don't know for sure, but it might explain the seemingly random addition of a non-rhyming ending.

I didn't necessarily think that the girl in the paintings was a fantasy that the painter dreamed up. I think this girl is real, someone that the painter loves deeply, but does not know (hence, she is a "nameless girl"). She is a beautiful stranger that he finds himself enamored with. Because he is so in love, he thinks of her as perfect and sees past her everyday flaws, such as when her face turns "wan with waiting." So, in a way, I guess you could actually say she is a fantasy.

nabeel said...

I agree with Ashleigh in that I think that the poem is about how artists use their art as a method to depict what they wish life were like. I think that Rossetti is trying to do something similar in her poems structure. She does not follow any conventional rhyme scheme as she is using the rhyme scheme to display what she wants it to display. She doesn't want to be bound by the rhyme scheme in the same way an artist is bound by reality, so she deviates from the norm and creates her own to fit what she believes a sonnet's rhyme scheme should be. Her general point is that art has no structure, as it depicts the meaning it is intended to. Any structure merely confines and constricts the meaning of a poem, making it less than what it could be.

Lauren said...

This poem reminded me of a portait of Gertrude Stein that Picasso did. When someone saw the painting she said that it didn't look anything like Gerturde. Picasso simply replied "She will." His response showed that maybe the way he dipicted her was not the way she actually looked but it is the way she will be remembered. In many cases art is about capturing the essence of the subject rather than a perfect replication of it. I think this is what Rossetti's poem is talking about. The repetition of "Not as she is" shows that the painting is not of reality but as she "was when hope shone bright." I think it's important to note as Picasso and Rossetti did that art is realitive to the perspective of the artist.

Lisa Bourgeois said...

I agree with Michaela in that the painting is not actually a fantasy, but a real girl that the painter knows of. It seems as if he paints her actual looks which is why everyone sees her as the same woman with the same face no matter what setting she is in. However, the painter, when looking at her sees the personality that he wishes she had.

kerrym7 said...

I understood the poem to mean that everyone the artist paints is alike in some way. The "one face that looks out from all the canvases" takes many forms, including a "queen", a "nameless girl", and a "saint, an angel". Each canvas and the people in them depict "the same one meaning." He is in love with a woman and everything he paints reminds him of her.

Kasey said...

I agree with Michaela's comment in a way. However, I think that the "nameless girl" represents both real life and fantasy. She is a real person who represents something greater for the speaker. He sees this girl as the perfect woman for him and therefore sees her in every woman he sees, just as Kerry said.

Charlie said...

Seems very much like a poem about love. A artist is so deeply in love with a woman that he dreams of her every night and feeds upon her face, day and night. If you account for the author, then the poem can take a feminist turn. Rossetti was known to include feminist themes within her poetry. If we look at it at that angle, we can interpret the poem as an attack on the objectification of women by men. Much like how this artist objectifies the woman on his canvas.

tommy said...

The ambiguity of this sonnet allows many different interpretations. However I agree with Charlie’s feelings on the feminist turn of this poem. It seems that his love for her is shown purely in the way he sees her. He never paints her in her actual form, which is seen later in the poem. In other words, the reader sees through the man’s eyes.

Gaby said...

The poems speaker is observing "In an Artist's Studio", paintings all with the same type of girl in them. The typical fresh, beauty. Not yet tainted by life and its worries. "Not as she is, but as she fills his dreams" The last sentence sums up the feeling the painter creates by painting these girls in his pictures. He only dreams and paints these girls because they do not/cannot really exist in life.