Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Outwardly, “Appraisal” appears to be a mature variation on a theme introduced in one of Teasdale’s earliest poems. “Faults” begins with the line “They came to tell your faults to me” and ends with these lines: “Oh, they were blind, too blind to see/ Your faults had made me love you more.” “Appraisal” seems to reflect the similar but more mature viewpoint of long-married lovers who have grown to know each other’s weaknesses without losing sight of their strengths.

While none of Teasdale’s poems depends on knowledge of her life for their understanding, such knowledge gives added dimension to many. “Appraisal” ranks among these. In her youth, Teasdale had the habit of speaking about herself in the third person. While it is common enough for poets to write of themselves from behind the guise of the third person, with Teasdale the practice was apparently a commonplace. Readers acquainted with this fact might tend to read her line in “Those Who Love” about “a woman I used to know,” for instance, as referring to herself. One might approach “Appraisal” in much the same way.

The poem itself appeared in Teasdale’s 1926 collection Dark of the Moon in a section entitled “Portraits.” Alongside “Appraisal” are “Those Who Love,” which portrays an unrequited but intensely felt love, and “The Wise Woman,” which paints a similar picture of a woman contemplating an affair that never occurred....

(The entire section is 457 words.)