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The title of the Sara Teasdale poem hints to its true meaning. The word "barter" means to trade one thing for another. Teasdale's poem illustrates the belief that the good things in life do not come for free; they must be purchased or bartered by giving up other aspects of a person's nature. The first two stanzas contain a positive statement of things worth living for: blue waves, children's faces, the scent of pine trees, arms that hold. But the final stanza offers a warning about the consequences of giving up too much "for a breath of ecstasy."
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