What are the literary devices in this poem. What is the versificacion and rythm?You want me white You want me to be the dawnYou want me made of seasprayMade of mother-of-pearlThat I be a lilyChaste...

What are the literary devices in this poem. What is the versificacion and rythm?

You want me white

You want me to be the dawn
You want me made of seaspray
Made of mother-of-pearl
That I be a lily
Chaste above all others
Of tenuous perfume
A blossom closed

That not even a moonbeam
Might have touched me
Nor a daisy
Call herself my sister
You want me like snow
You want me white
You want me to be the dawn

You who had all
The cups before you
Of fruit and honey
Lips dyed purple
You who in the banquet
Covered in grapevines
Let go of your flesh
Celebrating Bacchus
You who in the dark
Gardens of Deceit
Dressed in red
Ran towards Destruction

You who maintain
Your bones intact
Only by some miracle
Of which I know not
You ask that I be white
(May God forgive you)
You ask that I be chaste
(May God forgive you)
You ask that I be the dawn!

Flee towards the forest
Go to the mountains
Clean your mouth
Live in a hut
Touch with your hands
The damp earth
Feed yourself
With bitter roots
Drink from the rocks
Sleep on the frost
Clean your clothes
With saltpeter and water
Talk with the birds
And set sail at dawn
And when your flesh
Has returned to you
And when you have put
Into it the soul
That through the bedrooms
Became entangled
Then, good man,
Ask that I be white
Ask that I be like snow
Ask that I be chaste


Expert Answers
wordprof eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This poem is free verse, relying on neither rhyme nor meter to give its haunting effects.  The main devices are repetition and syntactic variation.  The rhythms are those of clipped, terse, almost accusatory human speech – not a dialogue, but a rant, an angry tirade to expose a hypocrisy. There are two poetic “characters” here, the Narrator and the Listener.  The repeated element is the summary of the Listener’s requirements for the Narrator, all variations of purity and chastity – “white,” “lily,” “snow” – and some subtler ones – seaspray, dawn, etc.  The narrator turns the conceits upon the Listener by enumerating his life experiences – “cups before you,” “celebrating Bacchus,” etc.  She then lists her experiences (steeped in beautiful earth metaphors such as "Drink from the rocks/Sleep on the frost") and challenges the Listener to claim “purity” and “whiteness” after undergoing those same experiences.  The total effect is one of challenging the uneven “standards” for male and female behavior to be considered “pure” or love-worthy – the challenge comes from the Narrator’s crisp, succinct listing of the unevenness.  The reader is reminded of the teenage fear of all boys that their eventual mate will be “tarnished” – this despite the boy’s cavalier attitude about seducing and deflowering his teen female companions.

  In addition to the sexual/romantic subtext, there is a subtler but more lasting allusion to the artistic life – the experiences that make up the poetic temperament.  Can an artist be expected to avoid life’s experiences and still produce good art?