Related Analysis Pages
Vocabulary in Patterns
Vocabulary Examples in Patterns :
"Christ..." See in text (Patterns)
Rather than offering a sincere prayer to a deity over the soul of her loved one, the speaker uses “Christ” as an expletive and expression of her frustration. This demonstrates a breakdown of conventional morality within this poem.
"Boned and stayed...." See in text (Patterns)
The adjective “stayed” means halted movement, ceasing to move forward or progress. The adjective “boned” refers back to the whale-bone corset that the speaker wears underneath her oppressive gown. In this line, she relates her inability to move and progress to the corset, a symbol of the social expectations that dictate her life. The speaker recognizes that because of the expectations of the society in which she lives, the death of her lover is also the end of her own life.
"whim..." See in text (Patterns)
A “whim” is a fanciful or fantastic creation, an invention or idea. In these lines, the speaker remembers that her loved used to believe that “sunlight carried blessing.” At the time he said this, the speaker agreed with him. However, now that he is dead and she still stands in the bright, sunlight garden the speaker sees irony in this belief: sunlight has not brought her blessings.
"sen’night..." See in text (Patterns)
Now an archaic term that has fallen out of use, a “sennight” is a period of seven days and nights (a week). Lord Hartwell is presumably the speaker’s lover and this letter informs her that he has died on the battlefield.
"swoon..." See in text (Patterns)
By “swoon” the speaker means she might faint. Swooning has typically been associated with women and was attributed to their having “weak nerves” and “delicate sensibilities.” Women in the 18th and 19th centuries often fainted because they were wearing whale-bone corsets that restricted their ability to breathe and decreased the oxygen supply to their brains. While this fainting quality furthered the social perception that women were weak, this weakness was actually the result of the societal expectations placed upon them by fashion.
"Bewildered..." See in text (Patterns)
The verb “bewilder” means to confuse, perplex, or mystify. It connotes a type of fascination or enchantment with something. In using this verb, the speaker paints this scene with her lover in a fantasy realm that is almost supernatural or mythological. Like the naked woman in the fountain, like a nymph, she imagines herself to be captivating and enticing.
"crumpled..." See in text (Patterns)
The adjective “crumpled” means crushed or wrinkled. Since the gown has been described as the stiff and unmoving thing that has given shape to her body throughout the poem, crumpling it is the perfect way to destroy it: without its shape it has no power over her life.
"As they please...." See in text (Patterns)
In addition to the phrase “as they please,” the verb “flutter” completes this image of the daffodils and squills living lives that are unfettered from rigid social patterns. This verb indicates motion that does not follow a prescribed path, which operates on a metaphorical level that contrasts with the sharply prescribed life of the speaker.
"stain..." See in text (Patterns)
The verb “to stain” generally means to damage or alter the appearance of something by transferring the color of one thing onto another. It can also mean to deprive something of lustre or color. The train’s ability to “stain” the gravel suggests that it is so heavy and full of color that it could seep into the ground. This paints the dress’s excess as something dangerous that can alter the natural world and deprive it of its beauty.
"I sink..." See in text (Patterns)
The verb “to sink” indicates downward motion, typically in a medium such as water, that can result from external force moving something down, such as weight or pressure. On a figurative level, grief and despair can cause a loss of bodily function, resulting in someone losing the ability to remain standing. Here, then, the speaker sinks instead of sits to suggest that the action is performed without her intent. She lacks the power to perform this conscious action because something else has robbed her of her willpower.
"train..." See in text (Patterns)
In this context, a “train” is a long piece of material attached to the back of a formal dress that trails behind it on the ground. Trains were popular on the dresses of rich women throughout the 19th century and still appear on many formal gowns today. Notice that the description of this dress emphasizes its excessive ornamentation.
"powdered hair..." See in text (Patterns)
In the 18th century, powdering one’s hair was a fashion statement used by the aristocracy as a sign of wealth and status. Men would wear powdered wigs, long curly hair covered in bright white powder. Women would not wear wigs but would powder their hair grey, or blue-grey. The speaker’s powdered hair suggests that she is of the upper-class and sets the story in the 18th century when such a fashion trend was popular.
"softness..." See in text (Patterns)
If nothing around the speaker is soft, then that means everything is hard, rigid, and, by extension, structured. This suggests that the noun “softness” indicates a lack of structure, of freedom. Since our speaker sees no softness around her, we can see how this likely represents her desire to be individual, sensual, and free from the structures that have been imposed on her and that hold her in place.
"brocaded..." See in text (Patterns)
A “brocade” is a type of elaborately patterned fabric that generally has raised figures and designs stitched in gold and silver. The excessive pattern of the fabric of her dress underscores the rigid patterns within this speaker’s life.
"daffodils..." See in text (Patterns)
Daffodils are bright, yellow flowers with a long trumpet-shaped center. The presence of daffodils creates a bright, spring setting for the poem. These first lines suggest that the poem will celebrate the experience of spring’s beauty, and that this illusion will shortly be dispelled.
"thrift..." See in text (Patterns)
The noun “thrift” has myriad meanings, but considering the context of the garden, here it most likely refers to a specific species of plant. For example the plantain thrift, lavender thrift, and the prickly thrift are all plants that could appear in a well kept garden. The acantholimon glumaceum in particular is a pretty garden rock plant that can be used to create borders and boundaries.
"figured..." See in text (Patterns)
If something has been “figured,” it has been adorned with ornamental designs and patterns. The adverb “richly” emphasizes how intricate these designs and patterns are. Like the patterned garden, the speaker herself is also a patterned figure, moving through the various structures and patterns in her garden, and, by extension, in her life.