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In "The Rhodora," how is the word "pierced" used in the first line of the poem? What...

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casablanca | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 28, 2009 at 11:50 AM via web

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In "The Rhodora," how is the word "pierced" used in the first line of the poem? What does it suggest about the sea wind?

 

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epollock | Valedictorian

Posted May 28, 2009 at 2:08 PM (Answer #1)

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Ralph Waldo Emerson's "The Rhodora," 1847, is a wonderful poem concerning the Rhodoendrum flower, a popularly grown flower in New England. The poem's lines are:

In May, when sea-winds pierced our solitudes,
I found the fresh Rhodora in the woods,
Spreading its leafless blooms in a damp nook,
To please the desert and the sluggish brook.
The purple petals fallen in the pool
Made the black water with their beauty gay;
Here might the red-bird come his plumes to cool,
And court the flower that cheapens his array.
Rhodora! if the sages ask thee why
This charm is wasted on the earth and sky,
Tell them, dear, that, if eyes were made for seeing,
Then beauty is its own excuse for Being;
Why thou wert there, O rival of the rose!
I never thought to ask; I never knew;
But in my simple ignorance suppose
The self-same power that brought me there, brought you.

The poem is in answer to the question of where the origin of the flower comes from and in the poem Emerson sates that it is the "rival of the rose" (13), but that he "never thought to ask" (14), where the flower came from. The poem is about not necessarily knowing, but in appreciating something for its very existence.

The word "pierced" (1), used as the past tense verb form of pierce, indicates that the sea-winds, in May, violently disturbed his (or his companion or companions--solitudes) peace, and initiated him into the Spring. The sea-winds must have been powerful enough to either wake him or obviously jolt him.

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 28, 2009 at 2:47 PM (Answer #2)

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In another interpretation, the phrase "pierced our solitudes" emphasizes the arrival of spring. During the harsh winters, New Englanders would stay indoors for warmth and shelter. The coming of spring would draw them out of their homes where they had lived in "solitude" throughout the winter. When I read this passage, I think of how one can actually smell the arrival of spring. The winds coming off the sea announce that spring is in the air, and the narrator leaves his home after a long winter to go for a walk in the woods. 

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