What is an in-depth analysis of "The Zebras" by Roy Campbell?  

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kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this poem, Roy Campbell celebrates the natural world through a vivid portrayal of a group of zebras. Looking first at imagery, Campbell uses a combination of sensory images to bring the zebras to life. There is an auditory image in the first line, for example, with the phrase "fallen showers" and, later, through "dove-like voices." Visual images are also abundant in this poem: the zebras wade in "scarlet flowers," for instance, and the light "flashes" between their bodies as they move.

To really bring this scene to life, Campbell also uses personification. In the first line, for example, he imagines the woods as a living and breathing entity. In the third line, the rays of sunlight are described as being in "ranks," which suggests that they are like soldiers.

Notice how Campbell uses an extended metaphor to compare the zebras to an electrical current. This metaphor is created through descriptive words and phrases like "harnessed," "electric tremors," and "volted." In doing this, Campbell emphasizes the energy of nature and encourages the reader to appreciate the power and strength of the natural world.

James Kelley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I just reread the poem in order to be able to give you a more solid answer, and in this rereading what struck me most were two things:

1. The form of the poem: It's a sonnet, obviously, and it's clearly more an Italian sonnet than it is an English sonnet. In teaching the poem, you could show students how to scan lines and how to label the end rhyme in order to fully appreciate the poem's structure. Simply talking about form, though, can be dull, so I'd suggest maybe explaining that sonnets tend to be love poems and then asking if this poem isn't also a sort of love poem (or a sex poem, perhaps more accurately).

2. The imagery of the poem: The images in "The Zebras" are beautiful. Depending on your group of students, you could ask them to identify specfic types of images (e.g. the constant play in the on light versus darkness, which echoes the very patterns on the zebras).

I hope that these suggestions are helpful. Send me a message if you want to talk more.

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