“His Shield” is a thirty-three-line poem in five stanzas, with an end-line rhyming scheme. Moore chose the title “His Shield” (originally “The Magic Shield”) in an attempt to explain the life of Presbyter John, a legendary Christian of medieval times from Asia or Africa who was said to wear a salamander’s skin for protection, thus shielding him from heat, fire, and other natural phenomena. Making the name “John” doubly interesting is the fact that her own father was named John, as was her grandfather, who was himself a “Presbyter”: He was a Presbyterian minister in St. Louis, Missouri, where Moore was born in 1887.
Moore’s poetry has been compared to the poetry of John Donne and, like Donne’s poetry, is often called “metaphysical” because she uses images from nature and expands them by using metaphors. The central metaphor of nature’s protective devices is used throughout “His Shield.” In the first stanza Moore immediately mentions a number of animals, including the hedgehog, porcupine, and rhinoceros, that wear some sort of protection on their bodies. Her point is that many animals are prepared for life as they might be prepared for war; life is so dangerous that animals must evolve shields to battle the elements, as well as other animals, every day: “everything is battle-dressed.”
In the second stanza Moore recognizes that human beings have very little protection in life, and she turns to the legendary...
(The entire section is 578 words.)