The phrase ‘to lose’ is a common verb that is experienced by everybody. Whether it is losing an object, a game, a person, or even an immaterial idea, such as hope, people will come across this rather unfortunate event at many times in their lives. They can either accept it, or let it bother them endlessly. In Elizabeth Bishop’s poem One Art, the idea of losing something allows readers to agree or disagree with the claim that one should get used to the idea of losing.
Due to the fact that it can happen frequently, a person must be able to eventually master the art of loss. It seems like a good idea since life is full of it. Whether it has a big or little impact on a person, it still leaves a part of them damaged, left to heal.
Although the speaker claims that one should become skillful at this, he or she is also torn themselves because it is difficult to cope with the feeling of no longer having something.
However, the more a person loses, the easier it will be to grief, no matter the kind of loss. Bishop uses rhyme and repetition to get the message across that people become accustomed to losing. She also gives examples of things that people lose- from keys and watches, to greater spectrums, such as family members. This poem is meant to be relatable to a lot of readers.
This poem is a villanelle. The first and third lines of each stanza rhyme, and are written in iambic parameter.
The pace of the poem fits well for the theme because it is not supposed to be fast. The concept of loss is sad, which is typically correlated to slow. When someone loses something such as a family member, they may feel slow and dull. In addition, repetition is portrayed in order to get the point of adjustment across, such as how “The art of losing isn’t hard to master;” (1). The words “master” and “disaster” are the two most repeated words throughout this poem because it stresses the fact that people get used to losing things, and that it eventually may not seem like a huge disaster because of how often it can happen to people. The speaker is saying that it will start to become a natural thing, and it is a part of life.
The mood of the poem is slightly sad and shallow. The idea of loss can be very tragic; therefore, it would not make sense for this poem to be happy. As the poem continues, the speaker reflects on the losses that were more difficult, remembering “I lost two cities, lovely ones. / And, vaster, some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.” (Lines 13-14). The speaker has moved a few times and has been to different cities they grew to love. However, they had to move and leave behind something that impacted them for a lifetime.
One cannot go back in time; therefore, they must make the most of a situation and appreciate what they have before they lose it. Time is precious, and this is portrayed in the last stanza. Throughout the rest of the poem, the speaker says that once someone gets used to losing something, it no longer seems like a disaster. However, the loss of a person whom one is close with changes the belief of the speaker. They try to make it sound as if it is not very difficult, yet the last line shows the struggle of how “the art of losing’s not too hard to master/ though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.” (18-19). The last line is significant to the poem because it is showing how the reader cannot even take their own advice about accepting loss. They struggle to write the last line of how it may not be a disaster. The parenthesis show that they are forcing themselves to write the last few words because the loss that they experienced was tough for them, and sometimes one cannot just accept it and move it. It lingers in the back of their thoughts, and the author is telling readers that although it is a normal thing to face, it is okay to grief sometimes.
Another message that is easy to get across in poetry is not to judge a book by its cover. Although it is a simple lesson, it is very common. Whether they are positive or negative, assumptions are made every day due to the fact that people do not know everything about another person. Often times people pretend to be someone that they are not. This is because they do not want others to see their flaws, and they want them to assume good things about them. A frequent example of “putting on a face” would be with people who suffer with themselves mentally or physically. A sad reality is that people will commit suicide after being dissatisfied with themselves.
One poem that demonstrates this topic is a by Edwin Arlington Robinson. In this poem, the speaker is one who watches Richard Cory, who seems to carry himself as a normal person. The speaker describes him as being “rich-yes, richer than a king-/ An admirably schooled in every grace:” (9-10). Richard Cory is a man of wealth. However, he is humble about it because the speaker talks highly of him. He is also a polite man, and the speaker along with the rest of the poorer crowd wished that they could be him. However, at the end of the poem, the readers find out that he killed himself. It was unexpected because people thought they he had it all, yet nobody knew that he was suffering. This is common in the real world because if people do not talk about their problems, it could turn into something worse. Not only is the message, not to judge a book by its cover, but it also is telling people to go to someone if they need help. Richard Cory could have been suffering from mental health, such as depression, and maybe did not want to open up to anybody. By talking to someone, a person can receive advice and steps to take to prevent suicide. The author wants his readers to know that they can go to anyone for help.
Another message is that being rich does not always make a person happy. The speaker uses the word ‘we’, referring to the rest of the people in the area. Readers can infer that they are poor, because they live on the pavement and they think that Richard Cory has everything. They wish that they could be like him. However, money and happiness do not necessarily have a correlation.
Aside from themes, there are also literary devices that Robinson incorporates that emphasize the poem. Alliteration is used when the speaker refers to themselves as “our people on the pavement” (2). The letter ‘p’ reoccurs, which focuses on the people. They are poor and wish to be like Richard Cory. This helps to identify that people should be happy with who they are, not wishing to be like others. In the end, Richard Cory appeared not to be happy since he killed himself. Therefore, the people on the pavement should not think as highly of Richard as they have before. Another device that is evident in this poem is the rhyme scheme. It is an AB scheme, and the rhyme helps with the flow and tone of the poem. It is light and simple, as the messages that come from this.
Depicting themes from poems helps readers have a better understanding of the poems themselves, and helps to understand the authors’ choices of literary devices and ways of writing. Each author has a different style, yet all of their poems are very meaningful. One Art portrays the essence of loss, while Richard Cory shows how one cannot assume another information about another person. Evidently, they both share the idea of death. It has an impact on people, and if a poet has experienced a tragic loss in their life, then sometimes they are able to create a poem that brings them back to an actual event that is significant in their life. By doing so, readers are able to interpret lessons and meanings which can be informative.