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RonranGlee Literary Scholarship

Funded by
5 winners, $2,000 each
Application Deadline
Apr 22, 2024
Winners Announced
May 22, 2024
Education Level
High School, Undergraduate
Recent scholarship winners
Eligibility Requirements
Education Level:
High school senior or two or four-year undergraduate student

Close reading is an underappreciated, wonderful skill that offers unique insights into the world.

Close reading is a very important tool for extracting the most out of one's college learning experience by being able to interpret the underlying meanings of texts. Looking beyond the surface and taking the time and energy to dive deeper is crucial in maximizing one's knowledge.

This scholarship aims to support students who are pursuing higher education and making the most of their time through close reading.

Any high school senior or two or four-year undergraduate student may apply for this scholarship.

To apply, share a paragraph with us and write a short essay sharing your understanding of the underlying meaning.

Selection Criteria:
Ambition, Drive, Impact
Published September 5, 2023
Essay Topic

Please select a paragraph of your choosing (provide a copy of the paragraph in your response), preferably from an ancient literature or philosophy book, and write a short essay expounding your understanding of the writer's underlying meaning of the text. Avoid summarizations and vague language that wanders from your central thesis that should be stated at the beginning of your essay.

600–2000 words

Winners and Finalists

May 2024

Alyna Camby
Derek Martinez
Jason Walczak
ben jones
Gabriel Beno
Lydia Shaarda
Meagan Harmon
Clayton George
Michelle Barrow
Samantha Highlands
Addison Goethe
Riley Peck
Kelly Ngo
Malia Washington
Bernice Hung
Bonny Bruzos
Noelle Iglesias
Shae DeBoer
Alyssia Gaston
Ilyanna Sanchez
Madinah Bazzi
Kenan Tica
Blaise Campbell
Anna-Eve Stokes
Trey Gaston
Melaina Lawrence
liannette ortiz
Matthew Velazquez
Averie AuBuchon
Lily Jin
Youssef Mounir El-Mankabady
Camila Cardriche
Emmanuel Davis
Benjamin Hemingway
Carter Coffman
Ryan Funakoshi
heba dibas
Kyle Welsh
Ava Culver
Bryan Vieyra Villanueva
paul frownfelter
Anushka Segar
Zoe Shack
Macy Hudgins
Emma Barnes
Davin Willis
Emily Gonzalez
Sydney Stepp
Emerson Naylor
Gelena Rogers
Levell Kensey
Cadence Yamaguchi
Samantha Wolf
Rhett Maybin
Katelyn McCurdy
Zeniyah Motley
Sylvie Snow
Carter Johnson
jiselle Burdett
Jacob Oelmann
Hayley Hughes
Abhi Polaki
Avery Wren
Samuel Falkowski
sarah hardman
Caden Ketchman
Emma King
Tarini Panidepu
Abby Bruns
Adam Traore
Farzad Hussain
Anyia Brooks-Manning
Gill Noffert
Ruby Shepperd
Ezra Phillips
Addison Morris
Caitlin Moroney
Josue Toribio M
Zekiah Strickland
Emily Ward
Liam Kinnett
Madeline Miller
Tai Nakamura
Vivien Henry
Ellie Nam
Rosie Greer
Olivia McMahon
Tess Humphrey
Krisalyn Higerd
Ngoc Hoang
Alexander Kang
Rebekah Hartsuch
Kayla Kelly
ryan Miller
Ana Hull
hannah rosales
Katie Henry
Ella Smalley
Jiaming Lou
Shelby Swander
Savio Xavier
Eva-Angeline Ellis-Geter
Bennett Siwinski
Nigel Tatem
Sylvia Woodbury
Olivia Liguori
Abigail Brantley
Armani Mensah
Gavin Gifford
Michelle Villalobos
Timothy Bevens
Alisha Gupta

Winning Applications

Zoe Frost
Yale UniversityNEW YORK, NY
Sarah Ray
Tulsa Community CollegeTULSA, OK
An Interpretation of “Wulf and Eadwacer” By Sarah Ray It is as though my people have been given A present. They wish to capture him If he comes with a troop. We are apart. Wulf is on one isle, I am on another. Fast is that island set among the fens. Murderous are the people who inhabit That island. They will wish to capture him If he comes with a troop. We are apart. Grieved have I for my Wulf with distant longings. Then was it rainy weather, and I sad, When the bold warrior laid his arms about me. I took delight in that and also pain. O Wulf, my Wulf, my longing for your coming Has made me ill, the rareness of your visits, My grieving spirit, not the lack of food. Eadwacer, do you hear me? For a wolf Shall carry to the woods our wretched whelp. Men very easily may put asunder That which was never joined, our song together. Lēodum is mīnum swylce him mon lāc gife; willað hȳ hine āþecgan gif hē on þrēat cymeð. Ungelīc is ūs. Wulf is on īege, ic on ōþerre. 5Fæst is þæt ēglond, fenne biworpen. Sindon wælrēowe weras þǣr on īge; willað hȳ hine āþecgan gif hē on þrēat cymeð. Ungelīce is ūs. Wulfes ic mīnes wīdlāstum wēnum hogode, 10þonne hit wæs rēnig weder ond ic rēotugu sæt, þonne mec se beaducāfa bōgum bilegde, wæs mē wyn tō þon, wæs mē hwæþre ēac lāð. Wulf, mīn Wulf! wēna mē þīne sēoce gedydon, þīne seldcymas, 15murnende mōd, nales metelīste. Gehȳrest þū, Ēadwacer? Uncerne eargne hwelp bireð wulf tō wuda. Þæt mon ēaþe tōslīteð þætte nǣfre gesomnad wæs, uncer giedd geador. The Modern English translation is by Richard Hamer, A Choice of Anglo-Saxon Verse (1970). The Old English version is from The Exeter Book of Old English Poetry, published in 1933 with some introductory chapters by R. W. Chambers. The screenshot was taken from Peter S. Baker’s peer-reviewed article, “The Ambiguitiy of ‘Wulf and Eadwacer’” (1981). The word “wulf” in line 16 was highlighted by me. Ancient texts can be confusing due to their lack of context, and the Old English poem “Wulf and Eadwacer” is no different. It is an intriguing poem precisely because very little is known about exactly when it was written (it is found in the Exeter Book from about 975 A.D., but could have been penned prior to that), who wrote it, and what story is being told within it. But from the cryptic verse, the thin line of a story can be drawn. The story I propose is this: Wulf and the female narrator were lovers from warring tribes before he had to go into his current hiding place, on an island separate from her and her people who want to kill him. Then she had to marry Eadwacer, and the wolf referred to at the end of the poem is actually the man Wulf, who has come and stolen away the child of the narrator and Eadwacer. One of the first facts of the poem that can be discovered is that the narrator is a woman. We can tell this because, aside from the narrator’s relationships with men, the Old English word reotugu has an adjectival ending that denotes the gender of the speaker as female. This fact is mentioned in the poem’s preface in The Norton Anthology of English Literature (2018), where I first read Hamer’s translation. As this detail, crucial to understanding an already complex poem, is hidden from the reader until line 10, the poem must be read several times and examined as a whole in order to get the fullest meaning possible. (This is a work that especially merits rereading!) While the female narrator is not named, there are two male names in the poem: Wulf and Eadwacer. As the narrator has different reactions towards both of the names (grieving for Wulf, and making sure Eadwacer can hear her before saying that their child will be taken away), it makes the most sense that these names refer to two separate men. The first nine lines, when taken together, indicate that Wulf and the female narrator were lovers from enemy tribes. Phrases in the poem, from the narrator’s people “wish[ing] to capture” Wulf, to the mention that they “are apart”, to the female narrator’s admission that she has “grieved… for… Wulf with distant longings” all support the idea that they were together at one point, and want to be now, but can’t (lines 2, 3, and 9, respectively). These two groups the narrator belongs to – the tribe she is a part of and the couple she and Wulf are (or were) together – represent a pull between the often-opposing forces of duty and love. But duty seems to win out, as the next part of the poem focuses on her relationship, and possibly marriage, with a “bold warrior” (line 11). This line makes the most sense in reference to Eadwacer, even though he is not mentioned by name until line 16. The bold warrior is definitely someone other than lone Wulf, because the narrator was sad that Wulf was gone when “the bold warrior laid his arms about [her]” (line 11). And the only other man named in the poem is Eadwacer. His name also literally means “property watcher” (both his and Wulf’s name meanings are given in the poem’s Norton Anthology preface). After Wulf left or had to go into hiding from the narrator’s tribe, the narrator must have had to marry Eadwacer, someone acceptable in her own tribe. And wouldn’t a property-watcher, like a shepherd, try and keep dangerous “wolves” away from the property, perhaps including his wife? I posit that the wolf referred to in line 16 of the poem is actually Wulf, the man that the female narrator longs for who has been referred to throughout the poem. After all, the Old English version of the poem has “wulf”, spelled the same as the man’s name, written for what is translated in Hamer’s version as “wolf” So the fact that his name is quite literally the word for a wolf , which was often a symbol of an outlaw, supports the idea that Wulf is the one referred to in line 16 and that he is in hiding from the woman’s tribe or clan. Since the wolf is carrying the child away, it makes sense to call the child a whelp, especially since it denotes a sort of helpless state. And if the narrator seems to not care as deeply for Eadwacer as she does for her former lover or her child, that makes sense, if she did not want to marry Eadwacer in the first place, as evidenced by the mixed feelings of “delight… and also pain” she has in regards to him (line 12). The mention of a child also brings up the question of whether the “whelp” is the offspring of the narrator and Wulf or of her and Eadwacer. But the idea that the child is Eadwacer’s makes the most sense with the (albeit muddled) timeline in the poem, for if the child was conceived when the bold warrior “laid his arms about [the female narrator]” that would have been when Wulf was already gone, as has been previously established. And if it is Eadwacer’s child, it makes even more sense that a jealous Wulf would come to steal, and perhaps kill, it, for a disastrous end seems to be spelled for the whelp, and it is unlikely that Wulf would want to inflict that on his own child. So if we take “wolf” in line 16 to mean Wulf the man, then we must also take the “wolf coming to steal the child” part as the more logical idea that Wulf is coming to get his revenge on Eadwacer, and, perhaps, the female narrator too. The last lines of the poem have the narrator stating that “Men very easily may put asunder / That which was never joined, our song together” (lines 18 – 19). This could potentially refer to Wulf or Eadwacer. Does the narrator mean her relationship with Wulf, which was (we can assume) not joined in marriage, or the relationship with Eadwacer, which wasn’t joined by mutual love or an emotional connection? It could be argued that Hamer’s translation invites more confusion than is actually there, as it translates wulf in line 16 as “wolf”, which some people (including the writers of the poem’s Norton Anthology preface) take to mean a literal wolf. Of course there is not a good way in Modern English to represent the symbolism present in the Old English with Wulf’s name being spelled the same as that of the animal, but it could at least be written as wolf/ Wulf in the translation, so as to show the possibilities of the word’s meaning. Thanks to the Old English version of the poem, it can be deduced that the wolf referred to in line 16 is actually Wulf. Further examination of the text leads to the notion that Wulf and the female narrator were lovers from opposing tribes, that Wulf went into hiding, the narrator had to marry Eadwacer, and that at the end of the poem Wulf comes to carry the child of the narrator and Eadwacer to the woods. However, none of this is clear or readily apparent from a surface-level reading of the text. It still isn’t perfectly clear after hundreds of years of scholars researching and studying old writings. These ambiguities of the poem, which act as signposts that point the reader in various directions but do not clear the fog in order to get there, are what makes it such an interesting poem to discuss from a literary standpoint.
Lynnashia Brooks
“Sonnet 141” In faith, I do not love thee with mine eyes, For they in thee a thousand errors note; But ‘tis my heart that loves what they despise, Who, in despite of view, is pleased to dote; Nor are mine ears with thy tongue’s tune delighted, Nor tender feeling, to base touches prone, Nor taste, nor smell, desire to be invited To any sensual feast with thee alone: But my five wits nor my five senses can Dissuade one foolish heart from serving thee, Who leaves unswayed the likeness of a man, Thy proud heart’s slave and vassal wretch to be. Only my plague thus far I count my gain, That she that makes me sin awards me pain. The Elizabethan era, marked by many social, political, and cultural changes, which shaped Shakespeare's perspectives on love, relationships, and societal norms with its revival of classical learning and emphasis on humanism. “Sonnet 141,” written by English playwright and poet, William Shakespeare, reveals the intricacies of emotions and insights in relation to the complexities of love. Mostly known for composing plays, Shakespeare had also crafted 154 sonnets. This particular composition uses devices such as paradox, metaphor, and personification to convey the narrator’s revelation of conflicted love. Shakespeare’s poetic narrative invites readers to understand the internal struggle of loving someone, despite knowing all their flaws and dishonesty, and the conscious mind versus the unthinking heart. The central figure for “Sonnet 141” and sonnets 127 through 152 has been speculated to be someone previous literary experts have called “The Dark Lady.” With her identity unknown, there have been many rising questions about her that will remain unsolved, although many have theories. Three main hypothesized women have come up repeatedly throughout the studying of the Dark Lady sonnets. Some have thought her to be Sir Philip Sydney’s sister, the Countess of Pembroke; while George Bernard Shaw believed she was Mary Fitton, one of Queen Elizabeth I’s ladies in waiting. Another speculation is that she was the mother of his supposed illegitimate child named Henry Davenant. Through personification, Shakespeare illustrates how the narrator feels so deeply for someone he has deemed detestable. The third quatrain underscores this, as the narrator acknowledges, “But my five wits not my five senses can/ Dissuade one foolish heart from serving thee” (Shakespeare lns. 9-10). Is it the heart that is foolish, or rather the holder who is foolish? It was written this way to portray that the narrator did not have control over what he feels for her, therefore, he is of no blame for falling under her spell. The narrator not being able to hold himself accountable also means that his mind is weak and inferior to the strength in love he feels in his heart. According to the narrator in “Sonnet 140,” it is seen that his love for her is based on an intense fixation when the narrator expresses, “For if I should despair I should grow mad,/And in my madness might speak ill of thee;” (Shakespeare lns. 9-10) he highlights the profound depth of his feelings. The narrator’s love for the Dark Lady seems to almost drive him mad with obsessiveness and insanity as she seems to not reciprocate his feelings. This further implies how he still is battling with his heart over the lack of control of his mind and emotions. Paradox, a key factor for many Shakespearean pieces, plays out in this writing as well; when the narrator states, “In faith, I do not love thee with mine eyes,” and later contradicts his statement by saying, “But tis my heart that loves what they despise,” (Shakespeare lns. 1, 3). In the next few lines, the narrator goes on to express all of the Dark Lady’s distasteful flaws and his feeling of offense in her presence, attributing it to the interaction of his five wits (imagination, common sense, instincts, fantasy, and memory) and five senses (taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing). All of his senses are pointedly telling him that she is detrimental to his life, yet he cannot leave her be because wherever she goes, his heart will follow. Another contradictory pair would be in the couplet towards the end of the fourteen-lined set where the narrator expresses his dilemma, “Only my plague thus far I count my gain,/That she that makes me sin awards me pain” (lns. 13-14). As per Helen Vendler, author of The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, this couplet is a reference to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, where Eve encounters sin and subsequently leads Adam to follow. The narrator employs this to align with his toxic longing for the woman he loves, illustrating how she entices him towards sin and furthering the concept of conflicted love. Although, during the 16th century it was seen as weak for a man to feel vulnerability because it was a sign of femininity. Shakespeare metaphorically articulates the narrator’s sentiments by declaring, “Nor are mine ears with thy tongue’s tune delighted,”(ln. 5) by painting a vivid picture of the narrator’s displeasure with the Dark Lady’s voice and the words she speaks. This metaphor emphasizes not just a physical revulsion but also a profound emotional tension between the narrator and the Dark Lady. The portrayal of ears being “not delighted “ suggests that the communication with the Dark Lady fails to bring any joy or satisfaction to the narrator. Examining Shakespearean sonnets reveals that this sonnet almost entirely follows the same pattern as per most of his works, utilizing iambic pentameter and the rhyme scheme of “abab cdcd efef gg.” However, the difference in “Sonnet 141” are the instances where the lines diverge from the norm of iambic pentameter. “Nor are mine ears with the tongue’s tune delighted, / Nor taste, nor smell, desire to be invited” (lines 5,7), where the narrator shows is taste with her words. This intentional deflection disrupts the established rhythm, mirroring the internal, emotional chaos. Analyzing the significance of “Sonnet 141,” it becomes apparent that Shakespeare searches into the intricate dynamics of conflicted love, reflecting the poet’s exploration of emotions within the Elizabethan era’s societal transformations. The sonnet captures the struggle between reason and passion, encapsulating the narrator’s inability to control his intense feelings for the Dark Lady. The identity of the Dark Lady adds an air of mystery to the narrative, with various speculations regarding her, reinforcing the timeless curiosity surrounding Shakespeare’s sonnets. The utilization of paradox, metaphor, and personification enhances the portrayal of the narrator’s internal conflict, showing the enduring power of love despite the acknowledgment of its flaws. The couplet’s allusion to Adam and Eve adds a biblical layer, suggesting that the narrator’s love, although leading him to sin, becomes a source for illness and reward. Through these literary devices, Shakespeare invites readers to delve into the complexities of love, making “Sonnet 141” a moving reflection of the enduring human experience.
Lucy Yao
Mission San Jose High SchoolFREMONT, CA
The Iliad: “Now you cannot bring yourselves to save him, though he is only / a corpse, for his wife to look upon, his child and his mother / and Priam his father, and his people, who presently thereafter / would burn his body in the fire and give him his rites of burial. / No, you gods; your desire is to help this cursed Achilles / within whose breast there are no feelings of justice, nor can / his mind be bent, but his purposes are fierce, like a lion / who when he has given way to his own great strength and his haughty / spirit, goes among the flocks of men, to devour them. / so Achilles has destroyed pity, and there is not in him / any shame; which does much harm to men but profits them all. / For a man must some day lose one who was even closer / than this; a brother from the same womb, or a son. And yet / he weeps for him and sorrows for him, and then it is over, / for the Destinies put in mortal men the heart of endurance. / But this man, now he has torn the heart of life from great Hector; ties him to his horses and drags him around his beloved companion’s / tomb; and nothing is gained thereby for his good, or his honor. / Great as he is, let him take care not to make us angry; / for see, he does dishonor to the dumb earth in his fury.” (Homer 498, 35-54) The Resolution of Achilles’ Menis Homer has begun the epic of the Iliad with the theme of anger. Even deeper than anger though, this epic is a tale of Achilles’ menis, a destructive wrath comparable to that of a god. From his anger with Agamemnon and his poor leadership, to his rivalry with Hektor, and finally to the death of his beloved Patroclus, it all culminates into a beautiful show of aristeia, the display of a warrior’s excellence. And according to every other instance of aristeia in this tale, this should be enough to end menis. However, in this selected paragraph, it begs the question: why does Achilles’ aristeia never fully satisfy his menis? Homer chooses instead, for Achilles to keep parading Hektor’s body, and to host games to display his prowess, only for Priam’s visit to Achilles to finally end the tale of his anger. Within this paragraph though, the gods state themselves that Achilles’ path is not one of a typical hero. Achilles’ menis is because he has attempted to become a god, an immortal himself as a mortal, and in doing so, can only have his menis satiated by a touch of humanity. The entire epic stems from the consequences of Achilles attempting to act as an immortal as a mortal. The beginning opens with Achilles’ attempting to prove he’s greater than Agamemnon’s ruling. Because Agamemnon is the leader though, the only role higher than that that Achilles sees fit is that of a god. Part of this is a result of his hamartia, or fatal flaw being hubris, or excessive pride. Achilles refused to let Agamemnon be seen as a clear victor, and relented that “never now would he go to assemblies where men win glory, never more into battle … though he longed always for the clamor and fighting” (Homer 88, 490-493). However, this obsession with becoming a god eventually manifests itself so much so that by the end he is attempting to overcome an entire River God himself without understanding the very concept of mortality. He no longer wants to understand the concept of humanity, and that is his very own downfall. This epic follows the format of Aristotle’s tragedy. As stated in chapter six of his book, Poetics, “Tragedy … is an imitation of an action that is serious, completely, and of a certain magnitude … in the form of action, not of narrative.” In this definition, the “certain magnitude” he is referring to is always death, which can be seen in the Iliad as Patroclus’s. Additionally, Aristotle has also provided an order of plot actions, entitled the Main Action, Reversal and Recognition, and then Reversal Action. Here, the Main Action is the original, “good” intent of the main character. Within the Iliad, this would refer to Achilles’ original intent to surpass Agamennon’s rule to save his people from the famine and war. He even goes so far as to request his mother, Thetis, wish to Zeus that “ if perhaps he might be willing to help the Trojans, and pin the Achaians back against the ships and the water, dying, so … that Atreus’ son wide-ruling Agamemnon may recognize his madness, that he did no honor to the best of the Achaians'' (Homer 80, 408-412). However, this promise comes to turn against him in the form of Reversal and Recognition which is “a change by which the action veers round to its opposite” (Aristotle) and a change from ignorance to knowledge” (Aristotle) respectively. What’s important to note is that this change must be brought by the character’s own error of their hamartia. For Achilles’ — although brought by his intentions to become a god — specifically manifests itself during the height of battle between the Achaians and Trojans, when instead of going out himself, chooses to act as a god. Just as Athena sent out Diomedes in chapter give, he sends out Patroclus in his armor, his blessing, to exact his agenda. Not only does Zeus refuse “to let [Patroclus] come back safe out of the fighting” (Homer 358, 252), but Apollo is sent out to specifically disarm Achilles’ armor, which is nowhere near the power of a real god, before granting it to Hektor. What ultimately causes the recognition paired with the reversal of Patroclus’s death is that Achilles himself was what caused Patroclus to get killed. The very promise he made to his mother meant that by abandoning the Achaians, Zeus had no choice but to kill Patroclus to make Agamanenon recognize his madness. By sending out Patroclus and acting like a god, he disrupted the very fate imbalance and forced these consequences onto Patroclus with no ways to protect him. Therefore, once this rears round to the Reversal Action, Achilles’ menis is redirected towards the Trojans instead. He must return to gain back his armor, his godliness to avenge Patroclus. In doing so, he has lost all sense of humanity — “Achilles has destroyed pity, and there is not in him any shame; which does much harm to men but profits them all” (Homer 498, 44-45). Achilles believes that the only form of godly grief is anger and revenge, for only that will bring Patroclus back. Unfortunately, as seen from this excerpt, even the gods themselves are helpless to fix it. However, the reason why his aristeia, his revenge is not enough to satiate his menis is because this is not actually a full aristeia. Homer presents the first example of an aristeia as Diomedes’ flurry of violence on the battlefield in Chapter Five. Although it is clear that this was a display of a warrior’s excellence, what Achilles’ fails to understand is that this was only brought by a blessing from Athena — a fusion of god and mortal. In fact, this fusion is so powerful that it was even enough to overcome Ares himself, as “Diomedes of the great war cry drove forward with the broken spear; and Pallas Athena, leaning in on it, drove it into the depth of the belly where the war belt girt him” (Homer 169, 855-858). This has been seen time and time again with others’ aristeia, for only with this blessing does the hero have enough power to overcome all the soldiers. Achilles’ on the other hand, lacks a piece of this. It can be argued that Achilles is lacking a god’s blessing, but moreso Achilles is actually lacking humanity. Because Achilles has proceeded with the belief that he is equivalent to a god, that is all he is in this moment of aristeia. What makes it different though is that the gods have designed for humans to deal with grief through resilience, not by exacting revenge. Achilles, like it or not, is ultimately human. As stated by Priam in the final moments of the epic, “such is the way the gods spun life for unfortunate mortals, that we live in unhappiness, but the gods themselves have no sorrows” (Homer 511, 525-526). However, Achilles, because he believes he can be an immortal, does what gods do and unleashes this aristeia in hopes that it will bring Patroclus back. Instead of satiating his menis though, it only adds to it. What he really needs is human resilience and acceptance rather than utter rage. That is what’s missing from resolving his menis, and why it is Priam’s connection of father to killer, human to human that satisfies his grief. Achilles is not the hero of this story. Achilles is the tragedy of gods’ devastation manifesting into a human mind. From his beginning request to the gods, to that very result cultivating in the death of his most beloved, to his shattering truth that he has invoked this and does not have the power to return him, Achilles’ hamartia is the centerpiece of this tragedy. The selected excerpt illustrates the very aftermath of his aristeia and the gods’ reactions. However, when looking deeper into why this rage continues, Achilles is no longer even mortal. His menis is, and has surpassed even godly tidings, and just exacting revenge on Hektor is not enough. Homer shows that the catharsis from this tragedy is not from Achilles’ self-inflicted downfall. Instead, it is that the tale of men becoming god, and men’s hamartia, can only be soothed by humanity’s touch itself.
ashe bilder
Lancaster Country Day SchoolHELLAM, PA
Thou Blind Man's Mark By Sir Philip Sidney Thou blind man's mark, thou fool's self-chosen snare,Fond fancy's scum, and dregs of scattered thought ;Band of all evils, cradle of causeless care ;Thou web of will, whose end is never wrought ; Desire, desire ! I have too dearly bought,With price of mangled mind, thy worthless ware ;Too long, too long, asleep thou hast me brought,Who shouldst my mind to higher things prepare. But yet in vain thou hast my ruin sought ;In vain thou madest me to vain things aspire ;In vain thou kindlest all thy smoky fire ; For virtue hath this better lesson taught,—Within myself to seek my only hire,Desiring nought but how to kill desire." From the first line of the Thou Blind Man’s Mark, the poet establishes an interesting yet ambivalent view of desire. He speaks from personal experience in this poem of warning, explaining the dangers of seeking desire based on his experiences pursuing love.While he appreciates the enjoyment of being in love and pursuing desire, he also scorns desire as a malicious entity that preys on the minds and hearts of fools. He argues that anyone that allows themself to fall into the trap of desire is a fool, who will pay for desire’s ware with his sanity. His opinion of desire is quite interesting due to its moderately contradictory nature; his views of desire contradict each other, creating the complex point of view illustrated in the poem. The poem follows the blueprint of the Shakespearean sonnet pretty closely, using a quatrain-quatrain-quatrain-couplet stanza structure and an ABAB BABA BCCB CC rhyme scheme, which is unusual given the type of sonnet it is. The sonnet form also makes sense due to the basic situation of the poem, which quickly becomes clear. The poet establishes his poet and addressee in the first line of the poem: the addressee is “thou,” which is directly addressing desire personified, and the speaker is likely a man who has experienced the scorn of desire and warns readers against it. Desire is personified into a living entity, becoming the object of the poem. This personification of desire allows the poet to characterize desire as the sinister force he does. It also allows the metaphors used to seem more realistic and understandable when applied to desire as an entity rather than an abstract idea. Without the personification of desire, the meaning of the poem would be shallow and less clear. This initial instance of personification allows the rest of the figurative language and meaning of the poem to be illustrated excellently and for the imagery to be vivid. Several times throughout the poem, the speaker describes desire as a trap: “thou fool’s self-chosen snare” and “thou web of will.” These descriptions evoke imagery of a trap and a spider web, both of which imprison prey, much like the poet argues that desire imprisons fools and bring them madness. The spiderweb specifically evokes an image of a spider waiting to consume its prey which is trapped in its web. In this case the spider is desire and the prey is a fool who has succumbed to desire’s seduction, allowing himself to lose his mind in pursuit of love. This poem, however, describes the snare and web as self-chosen, meaning that the fool who fell into it, whether knowing the risks or not, chose his own fate of imprisonment. In the pursuit of desire, fools will pay “with price of mangled mind” for desire’s “worthless ware,” Meaning that those who pursue desire will lose their mind in search of its “worthless ware” which is likely love. The poet argues that those who fall prey to desire’s traps do it foolishly but knowingly, as if they are aware of the consequences but too foolish to preserve their own sanity rather than seek love, which, itself, is apparently worthless. Like many traditional poems, this one has a shift, which comes after line 8. Before the shift, the poet describes a variety of things, including the personification of desire and the extended metaphor of fools and traps. Before the shift, the poet talks about the effects of desire on others and the consequences of pursuing it. After the shift, however, he describes his own experiences seeking desire as vain and dangerous. He describes the vanity of desire’s “worthless ware,” as well as his ruin which desire sought to bring about. This is similar to the line regarding paying for love with one’s sanity: the poet was almost ruined by his pursuit of desire. In addition, the choice of the word “vain” is in itself quite complex. While the obvious use of the word is to reinforce the idea that the ware desire peddles is useless, which was stated in no uncertain terms earlier in the poem. However, the use of the word vain could have a second meaning: that desire itself is vain and the pursuit of love is to polish one’s image, which contributes to the foolishness of falling into desire’s trap. Not only is love worthless, but it also exists only to improve a person’s image. This sudden switch to anecdotal evidence gives the argument of the poem credibility. The poet probably pursued love himself and was scorned only to later cope with this by arguing that love is worthless and costs one’s sanity, in order to come to terms with the fact that he was unable to achieve it. After the shift, he abandons “objective” logical argument in favor of anecdotal evidence, which makes his opinions credible and believable. The poem’s base structure contributes to the complexity of the poet’s view of desire. The poem is written as a Shakespearean sonnet, with a quatrain-quatrain-quatrain-couplet structure. It has some variation from the traditional shakespearean sonnet, but the goal of using the sonnet structure is clear. The fact that the poem is a sonnet is ironic because of the poem’s meaning. Sonnets are usually written as love poems for a specific individual that the poet has intense feelings for. However, this poem has quite the opposite meaning: the poet is scorning desire as a malicious creature and the ware it offers, which is love, as useless. This is of course ironic because the meaning of the poem completely contradicts the expectations of someone reading a sonnet, because a poem that seems to be meant to illustrate the poet’s love for someone is instead being used to illustrate his disdain for love in general. In addition, the addressee of the poem is ironic for its structure. The poem is addressed directly to desire, which itself is an example of an apostrophe because it directly addresses an abstract idea. Instead of addressing the object of the poet’s desire, the poem addresses desire itself. Instead of conveying the love the poet has for the addressee, this poem conveys the deep resentment he feels toward the idea of love because of his experiences. Again, he uses the sonnet to warn others about the sinister nature of desire because he himself has likely experienced scorn from a lover, which made him think that desire as a whole was a flawed concept. The message of this poem, and, by extension, the poet’s ambivalent opinion of desire, is incredibly complicated. He has two conflicting views of desire that combine to form this complex opinion. On one hand, he understands the allure of desire and how it may seduce people into pursuing it. On the other hand, he scorns desire and argues that the love it offers is worthless, as it is both vain and costs one’s sanity. Simultaneously, he believes that those who pursue desire are fools for knowingly allowing themselves to be ruined by desire. The poet personifies love as a predator, which traps fools and feasts on their sanity, despite the aforementioned fools knowingly allowing themselves to fall into these traps. Despite his opinion of desire, the poet’s hatred likely stems from personal experience, meaning that he scorns desire so much because he himself was once scorned by it.


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The application deadline is Apr 22, 2024. Winners will be announced on May 22, 2024.

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