What associations would the Victorian reader have had with the theme of the nightingale? Which poets had previously used the motif?
How do the stanza form and rhythm affect our reception of this poem?
What are some elements of humor in the poem? Are these successful in conveying its themes? Do they undercut its seriousness?
What point does the poet make in the last stanza? What seems to be her opinion of the circumstances of authorship?
“Song of the Ugly Maiden”
What are the poem’s rhyme, stanza form and meter? What do these contribute to the poem?
What advantage is gained by casting this poem as a dramatic monologue by an “ugly maiden”?
How is the “ugly woman” described?
Does the poem suggest any forms of social criticism?
Why may such poems as this have been popular with Victorian audiences? How does such “popular” poetry differ from such poems as Aurora Leigh, designed for a more educated audience?
What types of popular art does Cook praise?
By implication, what purpose is art expected to serve?
What is added to the poem by its rhythms and stanza form?
Of which forms of present-day popular or widely available art do you think Cook would approve?
“Song of the Imprisoned Bird”
Why does Cook use the metaphor of the imprisoned bird?
What is added by the fact that the poem is spoken in the bird’s voice?
According to the bird, which aspects of society constrain human beings? Of their own natures?
Is there a sequence to the bird’s indictments?
Is the bird convincing in its claim that humans are more imprisoned than s/he? Or do they suffer from different forms of imprisonment?
“They All Belong to Me”
How would you describe the tone of this poem? The cumulative effect of its rhythms and assertions?
Why might these sentiments have appealed to Eliza Cook’s audience?
Would the poem have lost some of its effect if shortened?
“The Surgeon’s Knife”
Is this poem’s topic unusual?
What points are made by this poem? Are its statements hyperbolic, and if so, do these add or detract from its intentions?
What do you see as merits and demerits of the kind of poetry written by Eliza Cook?
Does she use her authorial persona to good effect?
If the poems are prolix, may this quality have served a function in some contexts?
To what kind of audiences do you think her work appealed?