[ilds] Tree of Idleness -- ding an siche

william godshalk godshawl at email.uc.edu
Sat Jul 21 19:49:03 PDT 2007

Okay, I'll confess. I am an old New Critic. I believe that a poem has 
a meaning -- even if we do not know the biographical background.

I think we can explain this poem by concentrating on the poem itself 
and its imagery. For me I find the poem is finally becoming clearer 
-- perhaps because we are discussing it. I do not believe that this 
poem is indecipherable as it stands. I try to teach students to 
decipher the apparently indecipherable every class period. 
Deciphering takes time and effort, perhaps more of these than we may 
wish to invest in a tough little poem.

And, you will all, please, forgive me when I say that I find almost 
nothing of a little girl in this poem. Sure, kids put flowers in a 
jam jar. I have also, and I have known women who do the same. I don't 
find this to be gendered.

Tanned skin became popular when Coco Chanel in the 1920s came back to 
Paris with a tan -- or so the story goes. I have suggested that 
melanin or darkness may account for the brown fingers. I'll also 
accept the sun.

And I don't immediately think of Sappho of Lesbos when I read this 
poem. I have read and taught her poetry -- in English, unfortunately. 
You may be able to convince me if you point to passages in Sappho 
that are comparable to Durrell's lines.

W. L. Godshalk		*
Department of English         *
University of Cincinnati            Stellar disorder  *
Cincinnati OH 45221-0069      *

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