Results 1 to 4 of 4
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Czech
      • Home Country:
      • Czech Republic
      • Current Location:
      • Czech Republic

    • Join Date: Oct 2014
    • Posts: 801
    #1

    Sunny wiles

    Hello,

    The text I need to help with is:

    LET dew the flowers fill;
    No need of fell despair,
    Though to the grave you bear
    One still of soul-but now too still,
    One fair-but now too fair.
    For, beneath your feet, the mound,
    And the waves, that play around,
    Have meaning in their grassy, and their watery, smiles;
    And, with a thousand sunny wiles,
    Each says, as he reproves,
    Death's arrow oft is Love's.

    T.L.Beddoes, 1845

    I would like to ask somebody to help me in understanding what the sunny wiles mean. Also I am not sure if I comprehend the last two sentences (do they mean the girl committed suicide beceause of unhappy love?)

    Thank you very much

  1. Eckaslike's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • Wales

    • Join Date: Jul 2015
    • Posts: 574
    #2

    Re: Sunny wiles

    Hello Johny,

    You've chosen another interesting piece to read.

    (I love the fact that you are so interested in English that you extend your knowledge of our culture and language by reading works such as these).

    And so to work!

    Sunny wiles:
    a. Sunny has several implied meanings beyond the basic meaning of sunshine. For example, "sunny smiles", where it can mean "happy" or "bright" smiles. Here "sunny" is being used as in meaning 1.2 http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us..._english/sunny

    By saying that the grassy mounds possess a "thousand sunny wiles", he is personifying them.

    b. Wiles. A "wile" is a stratagem, a trick, a cunning procedure, used to lure or entice you to do whatever the person wants. The common phrase wily fox sums this up, where in that instance it simply means that the animal is "crafty", "cunning" or "clever". However, it can be used in other phrases such as "feminine wiles", where a woman uses all the charm at her disposal to persuade someone to do something. However, underneath there is still the element of cunning, or trickery, as they are getting that person to do what they want. The term is often used with grudging admiration - you don't like what they do, but you admire them for having the skill and brains to be able to do it - such as the fox.
    http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us...n_english/wile

    Sunny wiles: The two words together provide contrast and a new meaning: on the surface something appears bright and happy, but underneath a crafty trick of deceit is cunningly concealed.

    This is backed up in the earlier lines by the mounds' "watery smiles". A watery smile can be read poetically, in that the mounds had shiny dew on them making them appear bright and pleasant, or it can be read another way. Watery means weak, and if a person has a watery smile it implies it is one that is false, or put on. So, again something which on the surface seems happy and positive, but the fact that the smiles are weak betray their real feelings.
    http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us...english/watery

    It is also supported by the fact that the grassy mounds finally give away their true feelings by offering their reproval (disapproval/criticism of someone because of their behaviour or actions) by expressing "Death's arrow oft is Love's".

    It is unclear why they disapprove of someone's actions. Is it because the maiden died of suicide, because of unrequited love, or simply died of a broken heart because of him, or is it even his heart that has been broken and lies buried? (See my explanation below as to why this final version might be the case).


    "Also I am not sure if I comprehend the last two sentences (do they mean the girl committed suicide beceause of unhappy love?)"
    I think the meaning is deliberately unclear. That is the wonder of interpretation.

    Part of how you comprehend it is determined by whether you look at this poem in isolation, or whether you see it as part a group by including the poem before it and after it. In this case there is a logic, in the titles, which flows: "A Lament", "Dirge" and "Epitaph". It may be that an editor put the three together because there is a logic in doing so, even though the three pieces can stand alone. I don't know if that was the writer's original intention. As he was obsessed by death he could have written any of them at different times as separate poems, or he could have intended them to form a set. I don't know what the writer intended, and of course we can't ask him.

    If you look at it as one in a group of three poems, then this one ,"Dirge", is also about the maiden who has died in the previous poem "A Lament". However, if you see them as stand alone pieces, in this poem "Dirge" you have the problem of who "you" and "your" relate to in the poem. They could mean "you" in a general sense where you are the reader reading of events to which you personally are not connected, or it could mean "you" directly as the reader as if you are involved and you are the one carrying out the actions. The final meaning could be "you" in the sense of his beloved, and it is his heart that has been broken and has been buried. But as I said for these multiple interpretations to work the poem has to be a stand alone one.

    There is nothing in the poem to suggest that the maiden committed suicide, or even from the previous poem. But there is also nothing to say that she hasn't. You could take it that she has simply died of a broken heart (as a true Romantic!), or as you suggest from suicide. As I said previously, in this poem it could be his heart that was broken and is buried. It is one of those pieces where you have to decide what you feel or think about it, and your interpretation will be as valid as mine.

    I would be interested to know your thoughts on this work.
    Last edited by Eckaslike; 19-Sep-2015 at 11:29.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Czech
      • Home Country:
      • Czech Republic
      • Current Location:
      • Czech Republic

    • Join Date: Oct 2014
    • Posts: 801
    #3

    Re: Sunny wiles

    Thank you very much for the marvellous explanation! It makes me see things about the poem I never thought of before and it also makes me realize I have a lot to learn. (I must admit it is a little bit depressing if you think too high of your English and then you encounter an English text which takes your self-confidence down a peg or two)
    I have always considered the poem to be just a poetic piece to describe an old fashioned funeral; several undertakers bearing a coffin with a quiet and fair maiden inside to its grave, there is the mound and the long wet grass waving in the wind and there is the sun shining down on the scene. But after reading your magnificent analysis of the ambiguous meanings I can clearly see there is much more than meets the eye (of a poor Czech guy) ...
    Last edited by Johnyxxx; 19-Sep-2015 at 12:36.

  2. Eckaslike's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • Wales

    • Join Date: Jul 2015
    • Posts: 574
    #4

    Re: Sunny wiles

    Firstly, thank you very much for the compliment, and I'm glad you found the thoughts of use.

    Secondly, you mustn't downplay your skills at English which are very good. If it makes you feel any better I had to think about that poem over night before replying. It can be read in a straightforward way, which is a perfectly reasonable way of interpreting it, and in fact that is probably the way many English speakers would read it. However, where there is ambiguity interpretation has to fill the gap, which is why when you start pondering over lines, words and phrases, other often hidden or subtle meanings become apparent. We will never know whether he meant his poem to be read in the way you interpreted it, or in the way I understood it. To my mind both are perfectly valid interpretations, because they make sense. But that is the value of poetry, it can be enjoyed on various levels: rhythm, structure, beauty of word combinations, grammatical analysis and of course meaning.

    That is why I believe your questions are of huge value to more advanced learners, because they force you to think about the different meanings of words and phrases and chose a combination which makes sense, rather than just always using the most common (or safest) meaning for those items. By doing so you are continually stretching your knowledge and increasing your abilities in the language, in a way that you don't necessarily obtain by reading a newspaper, which usually provides information in a more straightforward manner.

    Perhaps, as practice, you could have a go at looking at another of your favourite poems to see if you can derive anything else from it beyond your initial, or current, interpretation. You can obviously ask, if you want to bounce a few ideas around or confirm that your additional interpretation works.

    Thank you again for your kind words.

Similar Threads

  1. Today is hot/sunny.
    By tzfujimino in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 18-Aug-2014, 13:33
  2. Sunny-Side Up, Sunny-Side Down
    By Williamyh in forum General Language Discussions
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 24-Feb-2010, 10:02
  3. sunny side up or down
    By wml in forum General Language Discussions
    Replies: 10
    Last Post: 02-Jun-2006, 20:28

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •