Analysis Pages

Vocabulary in The Moon

Vocabulary Examples in The Moon:

Text of the Poem

🔒 7

"lean..."   (Text of the Poem)

The word “lean” operates in a couple of different ways here. The clearest use of the word is in its adjectival form, “lean” meaning “slender.” The moon, which reveals itself to be the subject of this sentence, is similarly “lean” in its crescent shape. The word “lean” is also subtly used in its verb form. This use conveys a physical sense of the woman leaning precariously, an image underscored in the next line with the phrase “totters forth.”

"And..."   (Text of the Poem)

Shelley begins the poem with “and” to produce an unsettling effect. The word suggests that the moonrise is following some other, unspoken event. “And” conveys a sense of repetition and continuity as well: the moonrise described here is, after all, a nightly occurrence.

"veil..."   (Text of the Poem)

The noun “veil” refers to a piece of cloth made of a sheer material that covers the head and shoulders. Generally, women wear them as brides or when they are in mourning. The deathly imagery and “gauzy” nature of this veil suggests that this woman is in mourning. However, the marital connotations of veil also suggest that this mourning may have something to do with a thwarted wedding.

"constancy..."   (Text of the Poem)

The noun “constancy” means the state or quality of being steadfast and unmoving. The speaker notices the revolving moon and characterizes the moon’s movement, presumably its orbit around the Earth, as a sign of fickleness: it does not stay in one place because it does not deem anything “worth” standing still. Since “worth” carries connotations of having high standards, this final line shows that the moon believes nothing is good enough for it. Ironically, these high standards cause it to be forever alone.

"murky..."   (Text of the Poem)

The adjective “murky” means gloomy, dark, or cloudy. This adjective is mostly likely used to describe the stormy atmosphere of the night that accompanies the moon. This adjective emphasizes the melancholic tone of the poem.

"gauzy..."   (Text of the Poem)

The adjective “gauzy” describes something as resembling gauze: a thin, transparent fabric generally made of silk or linen. In putting this tottering woman in a “gauzy” veil, the speaker creates an image of a frail, damaged woman in gossamer clothing and once again invokes the gothic.

"totters..."   (Text of the Poem)

The verb “to totter” means to walk or move with unsteady steps, or to shake feebly. It was also used to describe the back and forth motion of a body swinging from the end of a rope when a person was hanged. These two meanings of the word communicate the woman’s instability while simultaneously conjuring images of death.

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