“Auspice of Jewels” is a poem in free verse that is divided into eight sections of irregular length. Although the title alludes to jewelry, the poem actually concerns the source of power, of luminescence, for women. In fact, the language of the poem is charged by the metaphor of light.
There are two groups of personae in the poem: “us” and “them,” women and men. Laura Riding contrasts the two. Men believe they give significance to women by giving them objects of value. Actually, the significance of women is repressed or obscured by the gifts. In abandoning gifts, women become active rather than passive: “We have passed from plaintive visibility/ Into total rareness.”
The poem begins with the assertion that men have weakened women through subterfuge: “They have connived at those jewelled fascinations.” With constant shifting from “they” to “us,” the poem leads the reader to realize that the speaker of the poem assumes an adversarial role as she comes to realize the extent to which she, as representative of women, has been repressed, compromised by the attention of men. This attitude is similar to that of Virginia Woolf, who classified a type of woman as “the angel in the house” in her essay “A Room of One’s Own.” Both writers contend that men, probably consciously, have belittled women by treating them as decorative objects rather than as human beings who, in their own right, possess intelligence and...
(The entire section is 468 words.)