What is the extended metaphor in the poem "Barter" by Sarah Teasdale?


Sara Teasdale

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The extended metaphor in the poem "Barter" by Sarah Teasdale presents life as a merchant of beauties and delights, from whom treasures both mundane and sacred can be obtained by those who are willing to pay the price:

Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things....

Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold....
And for your spirit's still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

The metaphor is addressed to those who might think that what can be gained by the struggles of life will not be worth the cost and effort. The heights of spiritual and aesthetic pleasure are worth almost any expenditure, the poet asserts, continuing with the mercantile metaphor; even if the experiences purchased in this market of life are very brief, their quality makes it fitting to "spend" long years, or even one's whole past, present, and future, in exchange for a peak experience that may last only a moment:

Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
....for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.


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