“A Portrait”

What is traditional about this subject? What is unconventional or arresting about the choice of this particular portrait?

What are features of the poem’s stanza form, rhymes, and imagery?

What forms of allegory are read into the portrait?

What role does the model take in creating the final result? The painter? What emotions are ascribed to her?

How do the authors evoke sympathy for the model? What have been features of her past life?

What is meant by the line, “And gave to art a fair, blank form, unverified by life”? Does this represent an artistic ideal?

In what sense has she “conquered death”? What does this add to the conventional claim for art’s durability?

How does this poem resemble or differ from “Fra Lippo Lippi,” “The Castaway,” “Xantippe” or other poems on art and socially depreciated characters we have read? What is distinctive about it?

How may this poem embody the ideals of turn-of-the-century aestheticism?

“Your Rose is Dead”

What are features of this poem’s form, rhythm and word choice?

What imagery is associated with the rose? Within/against what tradition does this poem take its place?

What kind of rose is the "Grand Mogul"? If you didn't know this otherwise, what might you infer about the qualities of this variety of rose from the poem?

What may be some personal references within the poem? What wider topics does it suggest?

Which aspects of the decaying rose does the poet celebrate? What is unusual about blending the image of the rose with “hints of tobacco, leather, brass”?

What does the poet wish for the rose to do? Does this seem an unusual request, and how does it affect the ending of the poem?

Does the imagery of this poem suggest that of any other poet(s) of the period? How does it compare or contrast with that of other Michael Field poems?

Would you describe the imagery of this poem as “aesthetic,” “decadent”? “symbolist”?

What are the poem’s merits?

What are difficult passages, and how do you interpret them?

In what ways is this poem unusual? Do you find it effective?

“Trinity”

What are features of the poem’s form? What is its meaning?

The poem was written about Bradley and Cooper’s chow dog, who had just died. How does knowing this fact affect your interpretation of the poem, and its tone?

With what supernatural being is the dog contrasted? What religious metaphors underlie the poem?

What role is ascribed to the little dog?

What seems original about this poem? Audacious?

“[It was deep April, and the morn]”

What agreement is recorded in the poem? Why is it important that their union began in April?

What is the significance of the reference to Shakespeare’s birth? (traditionally celebrated on April 23rd) Why Shakespeare rather than another revered poet, such as Milton or Spenser?

What is added to the poem by its rhythms and varied line lengths?

What promises are made by the “poets and lovers”? What does it mean “to sing to Charon in his boat, Heartening the timid souls afloat”?

Why do they speed to “those fast-locked souls . . . Who never from Apollo sped”? What is symbolized by Apollo?

What does it mean in this context for the poets to be “indifferent to heaven and hell”?

“The Mummy Invokes His Soul”

What relationship seems to be celebrated in this poem? Why has the mummy been separated from his/her soul?

What is the effect of placing these sentiments in sonnet form? How does the subject matter resemble or differ from that of earlier, traditional sonnets?

In addition to evoking Egyptian funerary customs and beliefs, are there possible interpretations of the poem as expressive of human sentiments of a later time?

How are word choice, alliteration and assonance, and the divisions of the sonnet used to intensify the poem’s meaning?

Does this poem record the attainment of an integrated identity or fulfillment in love? What seems to be its final message about the nature and prospects of a love relationship?

What is the mummy’s final state? The poem’s final tone and message?

“To Christina Rossetti”

Why do the Fields choose the sonnet form in which to address the memory of Christina Rossetti?

Of what do they accuse her? What had motivated her poetic “moan”? What would have happened had she written on different poetic themes?

What purpose is served by the allusions to Beatrice, Mathilda, Syrinx and Daphne? What had they managed to do that, in their view, Christina Rossetti should have done?

What does it mean to say that Rossetti had the “poet’s right/ To slip into the universe”? Why (allegedly) had she not done so?

What use does this poem make of the potential of the sonnet structure? Of diction and imagery?

Are there unusual or unconventional features of this poem? What does it indicate about the poets’ values?

“A Palimpsest”

What is expressed by the metaphor of the palimpsest, and how is this used to draw out the poem’s meaning?
What is the relationship between this subject matter and form of this poem?

What is added by the shifts between the three stanzas and the changing line lengths?

Is the poem’s use of repetition effective? What does the poet believe about the past, and hope for the future?

According to the poem, what seems to be the nature of the deepest experience? What metaphors does the speaker use to express these? Are these effective?

Is the poem’s tone celebratory or melancholy? Will the writing on the palimpsest conceal the past, or reveal it? Why must it be written over once again?

Choose at least four other poems by Michael Field, e. g. “Fellowship,” “As Two Fair Vessels,” "The Sleeping Venus," "After Soufriere," "Circe at Circaeum," “Cyclamens,”“She is singing to thee, Domine!” “Lo My Loved One is Dying.”

For each, note the poem’s stanza forms, sounds, imagery, verbal patterning and meaning. What is the poem’s theme?
May there be autobiographical biographical references?
What are difficult passages, and how do you interpret them?

Do you find the poem effective?

How would you compare the Fields to other Victorian poets you have read, such as Browning, Rossetti, Swinburne, or Wilde?

Whym Chow, Flame of Love (1914)--see separate portal