The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“The Mind Is an Enchanting Thing” is a poem of six six-line stanzas. As in most of Marianne Moore’s verse, the line length varies in a regular pattern repeated in each stanza. Here the syllable counts vary as follows: 6, 5, 4, 6, 7, 9. That is, the first line of each stanza is six syllables, the second five, and so forth. A subtle rhyme scheme typical of Moore is also repeated in each stanza: abaccd. Moore’s use of indentation further gives this poem a distinctive shape on the page. Lines 1, 3, and 6 of each stanza appear flush left; line 2 is indented somewhat, and lines 4 and 5 are indented equally but a bit more than line 2. In spite of these typographic variations, the poem is composed of eight complete and grammatical sentences (with Moore using the capital letter only at the beginning of a sentence).

As the title announces, this brief poem is an exploration of the mind, perhaps an attempt at definition. The poem presents a variety of similes and metaphors for the mind and its functions of observation, memory, and emotional balance. Forms of the title word “enchantment” appear three times, revealing different senses in which Moore relates the mind to magical attraction and delight. In the title, the mind itself is “enchanting,” that is, capable of enchanting others. In the opening line of the poem, however, the mind has become “an enchanted thing,” a subtle shift that indicates the mind’s susceptibility to the powers of things outside it that it observes. In the fourth stanza, the...

(The entire section is 626 words.)