Charlotte Gilman Hates Nevada: How “A Nevada Desert” Reflected Her Inner Turmoil: By Liana Herzog

A Nevada Desert, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

An aching, blinding, barren, endless plain,
Corpse-colored with white mould of alkali,
Hairy with sage-brush, slimy after rain,
Burnt with the sky’s hot scorn, and still again
Sullenly burning back against the sky.

Dull green, dull brown, dull purple, and dull gray,
The hard earth white with ages of despair,
Slow-crawling, turbid streams where dead reeds sway,
Low wall of sombre mountains far away,
And sickly steam of geysers on the air.

TW: suicidal ideation, depression.
As you approach a poem like Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s A Nevada Desert, you may expect to find an ode to America’s vast and diverse landscape. Instead, one is brought to a dull and drab, sticky landscape situated beneath a scorching sun. Immediately it is apparent that Gilman would rather be anywhere else besides Nevada.

Burnt with the sky’s hot scorn, and still again
Sullenly burning back against the sky.

I was taken back to a day about ten years ago when I’d found myself in a similar

situation. When I was ten years old my family took a road trip through the United States. During our drive through the deserts of Nevada, we had missed a gas station and were running on empty with no sign of civilization for miles. As we chugged along on empty, our car began to sputter and threatened to leave us stranded in the blistering heat. Early on in our trip, I was mesmerized by the variety of colors in the rocks, the deep purples and blues starkly contrasting the bright yellows and oranges. But with our AC shut off and our car giving out, I remember staring out at the vast desert, and that awe was replaced with fear.

When reading A Nevada Desert, I questioned if Charlotte Gilman’s hatred

was perhaps misplaced anxiety or anger that had been taken out on the scenery before her, scenery she may have considered beautiful, like I had, under different circumstances. I imagined a worn-out Gilman, weary from days on the road, scribbling in the back of a coach as it slowly made its way through the barren land. Maybe like me, she was imagining her life stranded in the desert, with only a few goats and the occasional puff of steam to keep her company as she slowly succumbed to the heat. The sun in the Nevada Desert can reach blisteringly hot temperatures of over 115


Fahrenheit, and as she herself became stickier with sweat,

she likely began to feel disdain towards the even stickier, steaming alkali springs that decorated the landscape.

Slow-crawling, turbid streams where dead reeds sway,
Low wall of sombre mountains far away,
And sickly steam of geysers on the air.

But perhaps Gilman’s pain was not caused by the desert but rather exacerbated by it. A Nevada Desert is a part of the The World section of Gilman’s poetry

book, In This Our World. Her revolting description of a drab and scorched desert starkly contrasts her language in other poems in the same section, in which she depicts beautiful and lush forests and meadows with great fondness. Poems such as Nature’s Response are far more similar to other works of poetry at the time, which often romanticized the natural landscape of the newly acquired West. As a result, A Nevada Desert greatly stands out for her passionate hatred for vast and isolated world before her.

Gilman was all too familiar with isolation. Her most famous work, The Yellow Wallpaper, told the story of a woman’s battle with mental illness after being forced to live in a closet-like room for three months. This story was a reflection of Charlotte’s own life, as she had suffered from severe depression and suicidal ideation following Rest Cure treatment. Rest Cure was a controversial treatment in the late 19th century for women suffering from anxiety and depression, and was prescribed to Gilman in an effort to relieve post-partum depression. Gilman was instructed to avoid intellectual or creative activity and to spend much of her time resting. Her experience in isolation contributed to severe mental instability. As she slowly lost her grip, Her depressive episodes cost her her marriage, and later in life, she would calculate that over 27 years of her time had been lost to these episodes.

The Nevada desert, full of muted colors and drab planes that may once have been vibrant and colorful, may serve to represent Gilman’s experiences trapped within her own thoughts as her isolation slowly dullened them. Gilman spent 90 days in relative isolation, and with little to no mental or emotional stimulation. She may have felt threatened by large stretches of nothingness, her despair more so directed at the thoughts she was now trapped with, rather than the desert itself.

Dull green, dull brown, dull purple, and dull gray,

The hard earth white with ages of despair,

Whether Charlotte Gilman was struggling with her own mind, or simply hated Nevada, this poem’s detailed and grimy descriptions effectively place the reader into her perspective. We feel the sun scorching her back, we smell the raw sewage scent of the Alkali flats. In reading, we are transported to this desert with Gilman and thus share in her pain.
Gilman uses particularly disgusting imagery to describe the scene before her, describing the sagebrush as “hairy” and the alkali flats, a staple of the Nevada Desert, as “corpse-colored”.

Corpse-colored with white mould of alkali,

Hairy with sage-brush, slimy after rain,

She uses words such as “aching”, “blinding”, “barren”, “sickly”, and “despair” to paint a picture of an undesirable and ugly scene. A combination of unpleasant sights, smells, and textures that fully immerse every sense in the unpleasantry. While never explicitly stated, her disgust is clear, and in reading her work, we are made to share in her anguish.

An aching, blinding, barren, endless plain, (…)

The hard earth white with ages of despair,

Each year, over a million people travel to Death Valley to see the very same corpse-colored flats and endless plains Gilman carried so much hatred for. Many poets sing the praises of its multicolored planes and diverse scenery. What inspired Gilman’s view of this landscape will never be known for sure, but one’s view of the world is often a reflection of one’s inner peace. When I was a child, that landscape had turned ugly as I (rather unrealistically) became terrified of the possibility of being lost in the desert. Perhaps, like me, Charlotte Perkins Gilman hated the desert because she too was scared to be lost once more.


Works Cited:

“Charlotte Perkins Gilman.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., March 6, 2024.
Foster, Alyson. “Charlotte Perkins Gilman Did More Than Write One Classic Short Story: Beyond ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’.” HUMANITIES, vol. 43, no. 4, Fall 2022.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. In This Our World. Boston, Small, Maynard & Company Publishers, 1914.
Kessler, R. C., et al. “Prevalence, Severity, and Comorbidity of 12-Month DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication.” American Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 164, no. 5, 2007, pp. 737-744.
Martin. Charlotte Perkins Gilman and “The Yellow Wallpaper”. American Journal of Psychiatry, Https://, vol. 164, no. 5, American Psychiatric Publishing, May 2007, pp. 736–736, doi:10.1176/ajp.2007.164.5.736. May, 2007.
“Visitation in Death Valley National Park Increases in 2023.” National Park Service. February 27, 2024.
Handal, Nathalie. “Accepting Heaven at Great Basin.” Poem A Day, King Features Syndicate, 2016.

Lead: The Civil War’s Deadliest Metal by Micah Harrington

“Lead” by Ambrose Bierce

Ambrose Bierce was a pioneer writer of realist fiction, one of the most influential journalists in the United States, a horror author ranked among Lovecraft and Poe, one of the greatest American satirists, a fabulist and a poet, a feared literary critic, and a Civil War veteran. It is thanks to his parents, poor but literary, that he grew up with a deep love for books and writing. 


His poem “Lead” is about the metal, which was the material that bullets were made out of in the Civil War. In the first lines of the poem, he hails Lead like a god:

“Hail, holy Lead!—of human feuds the great

And universal arbiter; endowed

With penetration to pierce any cloud”

Lead did allow people to play God in a way humans were never meant to. It is the great and universal arbiter of human feuds, for there is no way to end a feud that is more final than to kill your opposition. 

“Fogging the field of controversial hate,

And with swift, inevitable, straight,

Searching precision find the unavowed

But vital point. Thy judgment, when allowed

By the chirurgeon, settles the debate.”

In these lines he describes how bullets find the “unavowed / But vital point,” where it hits you and you bleed out. The debate is settled by death, as noted in those last two lines, a chirurgeon being an old word for a surgeon. Bierce notes that if it weren’t for lead bullets, humans would fight by hand:

“O useful metal!—were it not for thee

We’d grapple one another’s ears away”

But when humans hear bullets, they flee:

“But when we hear thee buzzing like a bee

We, like old Muhlenberg, ‘care not to stay.’”

What really stands out to me in this poem are the last two lines. While the rest of the poem is in iambic pentameter, the last two lines have one extra syllable each and they rhyme, forming a final couplet. The poem is organized into a sonnet, though it doesn’t have the typical “ABAB” structure of a Shakespearean sonnet; instead, its rhyme scheme goes: ABBA ABBA CDCD EE. But it’s not just the formatting that makes the last two lines stand out, it’s that they introduce a character, Satan, who changes the direction of the poem from a satirical war poem to something, in my opinion, much darker.

“And when the quick have run away like pullets

Jack Satan smelts the dead to make new bullets.”

Note that quick, in this instance, means “living,” and pullets are young chickens. This is an interesting visual of Satan smelting corpses into new bullets, and also an interesting message that as we kill so many people with guns we continue to make more bullets to kill even more people. It seems to me that Satan in this line represents mankind. Since Satan is the foil to God, Bierce is implying that humans are the foil to God. 

.58 caliber Minie balls from the American Civil War

“Lead” is part of a larger work, Bierce’s most famous, called The Devil’s Dictionary, which was a series of installments published in newspapers from 1881 to 1906. The dictionary contains common words with humorous and satirical definitions, some of which are complete with poems, but some are just definitions. 


Bierce defines Lead as: “A heavy blue-gray metal much used in giving stability to light lovers—particularly to those who love not wisely but other men’s wives. Lead is also of great service as a counterpoise to an argument of such weight that it turns the scale of debate the wrong way. An interesting fact in the chemistry of international controversy is that at the point of contact of two patriotisms lead is precipitated in great quantities,” followed by the poem.


The line “Lead is also of great service as a counterpoise to an argument of such weight that it turns the scale of debate the wrong way” seems to reflect the content of the poem best. Part of the first line, “particularly to those who love not wisely but other men’s wives,” mirrors Bierce’s own life, as he separated from his wife in 1888 when he found compromising letters to her from an admirer, and they divorced in 1904. 

Why I Don’t Kill Spiders

by Adriana Uldrick

I watch her in the corner there,
As, restless, bold, and unafraid,
She slips and floats along the air
Till all her subtile house is made.

Her home, her bed, her daily food
All from that hidden store she draws;
She fashions it and knows it good,
By instinct’s strong and sacred laws.

The poem opens without betraying the species of the female subject, relying only on the title to convey that “she” is a spider. In the same way, the poem is equally as secretive about the speaker of the poem who is only “I”. Despite this intense ambiguity, the first two stanzas interestingly and impressively create a fairly clear image of the scene.

No tenuous threads to weave her nest,
She seeks and gathers there or here;
But spins it from her faithful breast,
Renewing still, till leaves are sere.

The third stanza makes it a little more obvious that the subject is a spider by saying that she spins “her nest…from her faithful breast”. Even still, before the point of the poem is actually revealed, we can see how the speaker could be referring to either a spider or a woman. This possibility comes from the (kind of funny) inaccuracy of spiders spinning webs from their breast, which I think could cause the line to be interpreted as a human understanding of the fruits of one’s passionate labor.

Then, worn with toil, and tired of life,
In vain her shining traps are set.
Her frost hath hushed the insect strife
And gilded flies her charm forget.

But swinging in the snares she spun,
She sways to every winter wind:
Her joy, her toil, her errand done,
Her corse the sport of storms unkind.

The fourth and fifth stanzas pivot the poem in one of my favorite ways, using “then” and “but”. When poems start stanzas like this, I always read with extra emphasis and suspense like “….THEN!” and “…BUT!” even if the punctuation doesn’t necessarily suggest this reading. Either way, these two stanzas make good use of the words to indicate a stark time and mood change.

I also appreciate the use of poetic inversion which really doubles down on the new tone of the poem, serious and retrospective. Further, the persistent abab rhyme scheme is interrupted in the stanza, or at least stretched farther than it is in any other stanza with the rhyme of wind and unkind. When read aloud, the epic feel of the poem created by the rhyme scheme is made to be awkward and uncomfortable in this moment.

Poor sister of the spinster clan!
I too from out my store within
My daily life and living plan,
My home, my rest, my pleasure spin.I know thy heart when heartless hands
Sweep all that hard-earned web away:
Destroy its pearled and glittering bands,
And leave thee homeless by the way.

I know thy peace when all is done.
Each anchored thread, each tiny knot,
Soft shining in the autumn sun;
A sheltered, silent, tranquil lot.

I know what thou hast never known,
—Sad presage to a soul allowed;—
That not for life I spin, alone.
But day by day I spin my shroud.

Returning to the speaker’s relationship with the subject, we finally are let in to the purpose of knowing this spider. Our speaker sees herself in this spider, resonating with the loss and grief. The speaker says she spins her shroud, connecting with the poem’s namesake who in her hubris challenged a goddess and payed the price.
The connection with a spider and the further recognition that despite this connection, her human status gives her knowledge that the spider couldn’t know is a very powerful thing to acknowledge. I chose to adopt this poem not only because of the appealing rhyme and vocabulary, but because of the attitude I’ve adopted to the spiders that coexist with me in my house. In the same way that the speaker of this poem realizes the parallel struggles between her and the spider, I recognize the intrinsic value of my spiders’ lives just as I realize my own and I appreciate that we are all subject to the same fate. Who was Arachne to challenge Athena? Who am I to decide what lives or dies? I realize that it is an act of hubris to indiscriminately squash a spider simply because I can, when I curse forces larger than myself that may squash me despite my best efforts.
Cooke, Rose T. “Arachne”. All Poetry.

To Tell or Not Tell The Bees

By Isabella Gandy

When deciding which poem, I should adopt I gravitated heavily toward Lizette Woodworth Reese’s “Telling the Bees “because the title was intriguing to me. Before reading over the poem, I had no idea if it was going to be a simple poem about nature that described bees or something completely unrelated to bees. To my surprise, this poem sheds light on a tradition that is practiced by different cultures. The tradition varies slightly from place to place but always involves the concept of notifying the bees of death or departure in the person’s life.

Reese makes it clear that the information that is about to be provided in the poem is a tradition by giving the poem the subheading, “A Colonial Custom”. Throughout the nineteenth century, this tradition of alerting the bees was significant as it was believed that if the bees were not made aware of the loss then bad things would happen. Some of the places where people practiced this ritual were in the United States, Europe, as well as England.

Prior to reading this poem I had never heard of the idea of telling the bees information, especially about a loss. One of my mom’s best friends is from England so I decided to ask her about this old tradition. Surprisingly she admitted that she had heard this old myth of “telling the bees” from older members of her family while she was growing up. It was like an old story being told to her about this strange custom that used to be carried out. Growing up my family introduced me to certain customs and superstitions which I was reminded of with this poem. Two of the most important ones that my family believed and practiced were knocking on wood three times to ensure good luck instead of bad about anything said or done as well as not sweeping over someone’s feet as that is supposed to bring bad luck even if it is done accidentally.

The poem starts with the image of someone named Bathsheba whom the speaker is close with running from the house with tears in their eyes. The speaker runs after them and listens as Bathsheba tells the bees about the loss. The person who has passed away is the speaker’s mother and instead of hearing directly from Bathsheba, the speaker learns the information at the same time the bees do.

In the first stanza, it depicts Bathsheba running outside to the family’s cherry- trees where she is crying, “standing in the sun, telling the bees”. The first thing that Bathsheba did after learning the news of her loved one passing was running to the bees which illustrates how aware she must have been about this custom. The importance of telling the bees is depicted as Bathsheba didn’t even tell the speaker before running out to the trees to let the bees know.

The third stanza is important as it illustrates how somber this experience was for the speaker as they can still recall it so clearly. She has this profound memory of Bathsheba running to tell the bees as the speaker expresses how “her look I never can forget”. This tragedy has become a significant event that is engraved in her memory. The repetition of the statement, “telling the bees” at the end of all three stanzas is notable as it further signifies the idea of the speaker never forgetting her experience finding out about her mother’s death.

“Telling the Bees” has allowed me to gain a new perspective on how much a tradition can affect you even if it doesn’t make the most sense. Observing how Bathsheba and the speaker both reacted in this unfortunate situation is intense as the speaker is finding out information that is not only disheartening but also life-altering. It’s the moment where the speaker realizes that their mom wouldn’t be there for another birthday or holiday or say another sentence to them. The speaker goes through this moment filled with emotion and realizations all while their relative is relaying the news to yellow and black insects. I feel that the way the speaker found out about their mother passing through Bathsheba acting out this custom is what makes this moment so profound in the speaker’s memory. It is a memory that will always be clear as day for the speaker for the rest of their life.

Bathsheba came out to the sun,
Out to our wallèd cherry-trees;
The tears adown her cheek did run,
Bathsheba standing in the sun,
Telling the bees.
My mother had that moment died;
Unknowing, sped I to the trees,
And plucked Bathsheba’s hand aside;
Then caught the name that there she cried
Telling the bees.
Her look I never can forget,
I that held sobbing to her knees;
The cherry-boughs above us met;
I think I see Bathsheba yet
Telling the bees.

works cited:

A bee in the natural world.

Is it Forever “A Dream” By Haley Curtis

A Dream by Sophie Jewett 


Last night, what time dreams wander east and west,

What time a dream may linger, I lay dead,

With flare of tapers pale above my head,

With weight of drifted roses on my breast;

And they, who noiseless came to watch my rest,

Looked kindly down and gentle sentence said.


One sighed ” She was but young to go to-day; “

And one ” How fiercely life with death had striven

Ere God set free her spirit, sorrow-shriven! “

One said ” The children grieve for her at play; “

And one, who bent to take a rose away,

Whispered ” Dear love, would that we had forgiven.


Some sources state that the poem is the bittersweet feeling of a dream. When we are in a dream we wish to stay there forever and never go back to our reality. While in a dream it feels amazing “like weight of drifted roses on my breast” could mean a feeling of ease shown in the first stanza. Then in the second stanza the narrator creates dialog between those who aren’t dreaming “children grieve for her at play”  and “she was but young to go to-day” shows a disconnect that they are not at her spiritual level. They are longing for her since she is still in a dream.  This could just show how she cannot see the world as a home and feels more comforted while dreaming. The feeling of comfort is  shown all throughout the first stanza. It comes across  to me that they are grieving for her rather than just watching a child dream. Sophie dealt with a lot of loss in her childhood. She had to watch her mother die in the middle of the night. It feels like this poem is Sophie trying to place herself into her mothers shoes. She states “what time a dream may linger, I lay dead” showcasing either she died in her sleep, like her mother, or she feels like she is in the other dimension. It gives a dark energy rather than a light happy dream poem through diction like “tapers pale” “noiseless” and “sorrow-striven.” She and her family are those who “looked Kindly down” at her mother’s body. What sticks out to me is “dear love, would that we had forgiven.” It’s a play on the Lord’s Prayer “as we have forgiven” meaning we forgive those who hurt us. She is expressing hurt from her mom due to her dying so young and it feels through this poem she is trying to heal through appearing prayer-like. Though she might not have been religious it appears through speaking of “God” “death” and “forgiven” she is creating her own prayer for her mother to hopefully hear. That she has forgiven her mom now realizing all she did was pass in her sleep and did not realize who she was leaving behind, her daughter. The title of her prayer could be “To Love” since it could create a broad prayer for everyone to say. I chose this poem thinking it was about dreaming because I think dreams do represent a goal, fears or even just your brain interpreting what happened the day prior. If it was about feeling disconnected from the real world in her dream, I can relate. I used to tell my brother about my dreams and he would be jealous because he could never remember one. If the first interpretation of the poem is right then most people can relate a dream can be such a happy feeling and then you’re woken up to a blaring alarm clock. Leading to a stressful feeling to start the day. I have wanted a dream to be real but wishing for a dream can just cause your reality to feel tainted. I have woken up in sleep paralysis before where my body isn’t awake but my brain is and through the symbolism of dreaming and the eerie feeling this poem reminds me of it.  Some sources agree with my initial idea of the poem but when I read it all I think about is death, which is very depressing. It reminds me of a wake or an open casket. The poem through the first stanza shows a soul at peace and happy. Then in the second stanza shows those who are still on earth having to see the body. The “kind eyes” feel sad for them for going too soon. We all have been present for someone we love at a funeral but we never celebrate their life because we are obviously mourning. It’s extremely hard to understand if it was too soon. Yet I’ve never thought of the first stanza when I am present at a funeral. It’s the feeling of the good that can happen since the bad already did. The person at the funeral should be in a better place and all those people at the funeral’s lives have been changed by the life they lived. Now they will do better in life and be kinder through the impact of someone they loved dying unknowingly. We always try to be more accommodating to others’ lives and more understanding since for the time we are mourning we realize how little we know others are suffering. Everyone always says they are in a better place but Sophie expresses collateral beauty perfectly.



“What is the meaning of “A Dream” by Sophie Jewett” prompt. ChatGPT, 13 Feb. version, OpenAI, 23 April. 2023,

a, n. “Sophie Jewett.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, Accessed 23 Apr. 2024.

a, n. “The Poems of Sophie Jewett.” Poems of Sophie Jewett, Accessed 24 Apr. 2024.

The Dual Edge of Duty: Reflecting on “Do Not Weep, Maiden, for War is Kind”

By Frederick MacNeil

Do not weep, maiden, for war is kind.
Because your lover threw wild hands toward the sky
And the affrighted steed ran on alone,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

Hoarse, booming drums of the regiment,
Little souls who thirst for fight,
These men were born to drill and die.
The unexplained glory flies above them,
Great is the battle-god, great, and his kingdom—
A field where a thousand corpses lie.

Do not weep, babe, for war is kind.
Because your father tumbled in the yellow trenches,
Raged at his breast, gulped and died,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

Swift, blazing flag of the regiment,
Eagle with crest of red and gold,
These men were born to drill and die.
Point for them the virtue of slaughter,
Make plain to them the excellence of killing
And a field where a thousand corpses lie.

Mother whose heart hung humble as a button
On the bright splendid shroud of your son,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

Palmetto Battalion AROTC

Growing up with a father serving as a LCDR in the Navy reserve and merchant marine, the concept of duty and the sacrifices involved in service were instilled in me from a young age. My father’s long absences while delivering supplies during the war in Iraq shaped much of my early childhood. I distinctly remember the long days staring out to sea, awaiting the gray smokestacks of his ship on the horizon with as steeled a resolve as a young boy could muster. But now, as I pursue my own career of service in Army ROTC, I often find myself reflecting on these same memories, facing the same challenges, but with the roles reversed. These personal experiences, in conjunction with a sense of conciliatory duty to those closest to me, drew me like a moth to flame to Stephen Crane’s “Do Not Weep, Maiden, for War is Kind.”

Written in 1899, a period rife with conflict and shifting perceptions of war. The poem’s title seems to contradict its own contents, plastering the harsh realities of war against a refrain that insists, without fail, that “war is kind. This duality mirrors the contradictions I have encountered in my own life, where the urge to serve often conflicts with the personal toll it exacts. A toll where the comforts I attempt to afford to my loved ones struggle to find their footing against reality. I often feel my words of goodwill are as disingenuous as Crane’s, despite my own continual assertion that “war is kind.”

The poem’s structure is deceptively simple and almost prayer-like, with five stanzas that alternate between subjects, addressing different figures affected by war indirectly—the maiden, the babe, and the mother. Each stanza is unwavering in its sentiment that “war is kind despite the clear contradicting evidence. The maiden is told not to weep over her lover’s death because he died nobly, while the babe is instructed not to cry over his father’s fate for the same reasons, and finally, the mother, though a combination of both maiden and babe, is afforded little more comfort in the soldiers shrouded body. Through this central conflict, the maiden, the babe, and the mother become unwitting casualties of war themselves, thrust into a terrible prophecy due to the nature of the men they hold dear.

 It’s at this point of the poem I find myself asking, have I, like my father and his father before him, cursed my loved ones unknowingly? A soldier himself is not the only causality in this poem or reality. Rather, each person touched by those who carry the mantle of service also carries the weight of their loss and sacrifice, binding them into a cycle that seems both equally inevitable and cruel. The very rhythm of the poem, bouncing from the home-front to the battlefield and back, ironically underlines the unkindness of war’s reality, mocking the idealization of conflict and challenging the glorification that can often obscure the “unkind realities faced by those left to mourn and rebuild. The repetitive invocation of “kindness acts almost like a dirge to service, a lament that becomes more painful with each iteration of its central claim.

From a literary standpoint, this use of irony in Crane’s poem clearly critiques the romanticization of war that was prevalent in much of 19th-century literature. Unlike the patriotic fervor often found in the works of earlier poets, Crane’s approach is stark and unflinching, much akin to Walt Whittman’s in his Civil War anthology “Drum-Taps.” The harsh sounds and blunt imagery used in the poem, such as soldiers falling “like wheat beneath the sickle and the stark, direct call to “Point for them the virtue of slaughter,” deliver an auditory and visual impact that conveys war’s brutal reality, one often overlooked by propagandists and idealists. This technique marks a departure from the flowery language typical of earlier romantic and heroic portrayals, reflecting the cultural shift towards realism in literature at the time.

With its critical perspective on war, Crane’s work resonates with me deeply. I often find myself discussing the risks and realities of my future military service with my significant other when any talk of the future comes up. Not unlike Crane, I find myself dispelling romanticized myths and confronting the reality of war to prepare those I love. As Crane shows, hollow promises do not offer consolation, no matter how pretty they may sound.

In ROTC, we’re taught the value of honor, courage, and the importance of duty, but Crane’s poem adds another layer to this education. It asks those who wish to hold the mantle of service to evaluate further, pushing us to think not just about the success of strategies and missions but also about the hearts and lives intertwined within our own. The true challenge, then, is not only to prepare physically and strategically for a life of service, but also to ready oneself and those they love for the soldier’s true enemy, war itself. Each day, as I move closer to becoming an officer, these reflections shape my understanding of what it truly means to lead and to serve, “Do not weep stands as a reminder to me that the strength of a soldier is not just in the ability to fight, but also in the wisdom to understand the depths of what each battle costs.

Works Cited

“War is Kind Poem Summary and Analysis | LitCharts.” LitCharts,

The Feeling of One’s “Raven Days” By Madden Tolley

“The Raven Days” By Sidney Lanier

Our hearths are gone out and our hearts are broken,

And but the ghosts of homes to us remain,

And ghastly eyes and hollow sighs give token

From friend to friend of an unspoken pain.


O Raven days, dark Raven days of sorrow,

Bring to us in your whetted ivory beaks

Some sign out of the far land of To-morrow,

Some strip of sea-green dawn, some orange streaks.


Ye float in dusky files, forever croaking.

Ye chill our manhood with your dreary shade.

Dumb in the dark, not even God invoking,

We lie in chains, too weak to be afraid.


O Raven days, dark Raven days of sorrow,

Will ever any warm light come again?

Will ever the lit mountains of To-morrow

Begin to gleam athwart the mournful plain?


The poem “The Raven Days” by Sidney Lanier has a haunting and mournful tone. The overall mood of this poem immediately made me think of a quote I heard once (the source I have no memory of unfortunately) that says something to the notion that everyone is drowning, but there’s an unspoken understanding that we’re all drowning together. The line in this poem states “From friend to friend of an unspoken pain.” (line 4), which is what made me think that although this poem is very somber, remarking on a time in which struggle is all around and unescapable, the idea that everyone is suffering through this together brings an ounce of warmth to this very cold idea. I’ve never read anything by this author, so I was curious to see how his poems compared in overall mood and tone to each other. Surprisingly, Lanier has several more uplifting poems. Uplifting may be a strong word, but Lanier’s poetry tends to comment on the complexity and beauty of human emotion– whether that be extreme sorrow or adoration of humanity and nature. In his poem titled “The Song Of The Chattahoochee”, he remarks on the importance of human appreciation with nature, portraying the speaker in awe of the world around him: “I hurry amain to reach the plain, / Run the rapid and leap the fall,” (lines 3-4). 

With my adopted poem, however, the excitement remains marked on a foreseeable future where the speaker and those in the same situation are no longer facing such sorrow: “Will ever the lit mountains of To-morrow / Begin to gleam athwart the mournful plain?” (lines 15-16). The end of this poem shows a possibility of a better tomorrow, a tomorrow where the “dark Raven days” eventually thaw and warm up into a future where people are no longer so used to this life of sorrow that they are “too weak to be afraid” (line 12). In this poem, the rhyme scheme remains unmoving, continuing in an ABAB CDCD etc. meter. I think this rhyme scheme was put in place to not only allow the reader to speak the poem aloud, putting emphasis on the rhyming words that adhere to the mood (sorrow, pain, afraid, etc), but to also show that the struggle of human nature is repeating, although changing. In other words, the rhyme scheme stays concrete, in the same way that struggle is inevitable and for some, consistent. The changing of the rhyming sounds, however, shows that life is fluctuating from despair to hope, as Lanier shows in the poem: “Some sight out of the far land of To-morrow,” (line 7). 

My relationship with poetry I feel aligns with my earlier statement regarding Lanier’s work– the poems I enjoy the most are two sides of the extreme. I like to read about either soul crushing, world ending, gut wrenching sorrow and pain (spoken in the most beautiful way, of course), or I like to read poems that make me feel like I’m walking on clouds afterwards, like I immediately have a new brief appreciation for each and every soul I encounter that day because the poem I read two minutes prior talked about how beautiful life is. Lanier writes about extreme human emotion, which one could argue is necessary for every poet to acknowledge, but expresses it in a way (specifically in “The Raven Days”) that allows the reader room to interpret the speaker’s specific position in their community. The line that personally read somewhat ambiguous and open-ended is lines 6 and 7 where the speaker states: “Bring to us in your whetted ivory beaks…” (line 6). The overwhelming “us” in line 6 could mean that the speaker is a part of any community that was then facing struggle or oppression of some capacity. As stated above, the tone of this poem is very somber, but there are notes of community throughout the poem. Communal struggle tends to bring up a sense of human understanding that we will get through this together. This poem was written in 1868, following the American Civil War. Lanier writes this poem to show the overwhelming destruction of the south– both of land and people. The poem remarks on the ruin left after the American Civil War, and its repercussions on the struggling land and inhabitants of said land. Sidney Lanier served as a Confederate States Army private, giving this poem more context to his personal relationship with the war. He writes about a devastation that he was somewhat a part of, which adds layers to his writing and motivation for his poetry.

Works Cited

Sidney Lanier – Wikisource, the Free Online Library. Wikisource, 2024, Accessed 20 Apr. 2024. 

The Big Sinful Apple

By Meghan Merlino


Before Dawn 

Time has no spectacle more stern and strange; 

Life has no sleep so dense as that which lies 

On walls and windows, blank as sightless eyes, 

On court and prison, warehouse and exchange. 

Earth has no silence such as fills the range 

Of streets left bare beneath the haughty skies: — 

Of unremembered human miseries 

Churned without purpose in the trough of change. 

For here where day by day the tide-race rolls 

Of sordid greed and passions mean and blind, 

Here is a vast necropolis of souls! 

And life, that waits as with suspended breath, 

Weary and still, here seems more dead than death, 

Aimless and empty as an idiot’s mind. 


At Dawn 

Here is the dawn a hopeless thing to see: 

Sordid and pale as is the face of one 

Who sinks exhausted in oblivion 

After a night of deep debauchery. 

Here, as the light reveals relentlessly 

All that the soul has lost and greed has won, 

Scarce we believe that somewhere now the sun 

Dawns overseas in stainless majesty. 

Yet the day comes! — ghastly and harsh and thin 

Down the cold street; and now, from far away, 

We hear a vast and sullen rumor run, 

As of the tides of ocean turning in . . . 

And know, for yet another human day, 

The world’s dull, dreadful labor is begun!

George Cabot Lodge was a widely prominent figure in the 19th and 20th centuries. He came from a long line of U.S. senators, including his father, who he worked for as a secretary for quite some time. This social status led him to befriend other politicians, most importantly Theodore Roosevelt. Interestingly, they became close friends over time and T.R. wrote an introduction in the 1911 collection Poems and Dramas of George Cabot Lodge. 

The political environment involved a lot travel for Lodge and although he was raised in Massachusetts, him and his family frequented New York often. This probably influenced Lodge to write the poem “Lower New York”. The poem reveals how observant Lodge is, describing the  activity within the city. If you’ve ever been to New York City it is truly “the city that never sleeps”. I can attest to this. I grew up in New York, a city called Wappingers Falls which is a short 90 minutes from Manhattan- so I visited quite a bit. Part II of the poem supports this as it talks of the debauchery taken place well into the night, as well as work during the day. The poem makes me sad honestly. It feels grim as Lodge is talking about the rat race that is New York City. With a metropolis this big, so many individuals sell their souls to their jobs, and sometimes in careers such as stock broking and law, etc. you do dishonorable things to succeed at that job. People work and run themselves into the ground for money, which Lodge notes of when he mentions greed. But these lives a lot of the time end up being meaningless- to society and to the person. In order to be remembered in New York you have to work your butt off, and sometimes sacrifice love, family, and happiness. New York is one of the biggest culinary cities in the U.S. too, being one of the few cities that have Michelin restaurants, another industry that requires blood, sweat, and tears. 

February 20, 2016

“And life, that waits as with suspended breath, 

Weary and still, here seems more dead than death, 

Aimless and empty as an idiot’s mind.”

I think what Lodge is saying here is that these people forget what their real purpose in life is, drowning in long work days and big salaries, “the trough of change”. To make these days tolerable, they go out and party and do ungodly things, all to  make themselves more exhausted and do it all again. In part II, it would make sense that you don’t see the sun because the high-rises make it almost impossible but I think the sun here also represents happiness, which the city residents don’t have.  As someone who lived in New York for 24 years before moving to Charleston, I believe Lodge did a pretty phenomenal job at depicting Manhattan. Many people love it there, but as I said this poem makes me sad because it’s true- New York is a place for dreams to die more than it is for dreams to manifest in my opinion. It is way harder for events to transpire in one’s favor. With that said, I also have an appreciation for the souls that work their life away in order to pursue their dreams. It’s just a shame that it comes at such a large cost. 

Unfortunately, George Cabot Lodge died at the very young age of 35 due to heart failure. However, two out of three children continued on to be major politicians, and surround themselves with city life. 

Baltimore’s Sunlit Poet


By Lizette Woodworth Reese

The east is yellow as a daffodil.
Three steeples — three stark swarthy arms — are thrust
Up from the town. The gnarled poplars thrill
Down the long street in some keen salty gust —
Straight from the sea and all the sailing ships —
Turn white, black, white again, with noises sweet
And swift. Back to the night the last star slips.
High up the air is motionless, a sheet
Of light. The east grows yellower apace,
And trembles: then, once more, and suddenly,
The salt wind blows, and in that moment’s space
Flame roofs, and poplar-tops, and steeples three;
From out the mist that wraps the river-ways,
The little boats, like torches, start ablaze.

I decided to adopt the poem “Sunrise” by Lizette Woodworth Reese simply because of the title. Watching the sunrise is genuinely one of my favorite parts of the day. I enjoy being awake and at peace with the world before the day’s chaos truly begins. I had never read this poem before, so I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading and analyzing the text.

Before learning about the author, I did not know much about her. I found myself in complete awe of this gifted woman and believe she deserves to be shared. Lizette Woodworth Reese (1856–1935) was an American poet known for her evocative verse and keen observation of nature. Born in Maryland, Reese spent most of her life in Baltimore, where she taught English in public schools for over fifty years. Despite her dedication to teaching, Reese found time to pursue her passion for poetry, publishing numerous collections of verse throughout her lifetime.

Reese’s poetry often explores themes of nature, love, loss, and the passage of time. Her work is characterized by its lyrical beauty, vivid imagery, and sensitivity to the distinctions of everyday life. While she never achieved widespread fame during her lifetime, Reese’s poetry has since gained recognition for its depth and emotional resonance.

In addition to her writing, Reese was actively involved in literary circles in Baltimore. One of my favorite details about her was that she was a member of the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore and served as its honorary president from 1922 until her death. Reese also co-founded and performed as the poetry chair for Baltimore’s Women’s Literary Club, where she contributed to the city’s vibrant cultural life.

Despite facing personal tragedies and setbacks, including the loss of her husband and several children, Reese continued to write poetry with resolute dedication. She was an impressive woman whose enduring legacy lies in her ability to capture the beauty and complexity of life through her words, leaving behind a body of work that continues to inspire readers today.

Reese’s poem “Sunrise” was published in her book “A Branch of May” in 1887. The poem paints a vivid picture of dawn breaking over a town. It begins with a vibrant image of the eastern sky, likened to the color of a daffodil, a flower often associated with joy, renewal, and the arrival of spring. This immediate comparison sets a tone of optimism and vitality, suggesting that the sunrise brings a sense of rejuvenation and beauty. The mention of three steeples rising from the town’s skyline are described as stark and swarthy, adding a sense of solidity and permanence to the scene. I believe this also symbolizes spiritual aspiration and human endeavor to reach the heavens.

A beautiful Charleston sunrise, “The east is yellow as a daffodil.”

Reese’s inclusion of sensory details enhances the reader’s immersion in the scene. She shifts focus to the natural elements, describing the poplar trees as “gnarled” and “thrilling” down the long street as they sway from a salty gust. This is likely indicative of the town’s proximity to the sea. The imagery of sailing ships creates a sense of movement, while the image of the poplars turning white, black, and white again in the changing light further emphasizes the dynamic nature of the sunrise and its transformative effect on the landscape.

The last star slips from view as the night fades away, and the air becomes still, draped in a light sheet. The gradual intensification of the eastern sky is described as it turns increasingly yellow, building anticipation for the sunrise. Throughout the poem, Reese precisely captures the gradual transition from night to today. The fading of the last star and the motionlessness of the air create a moment of suspended anticipation before dawn, heightening the sense of expectation and wonder.

The poem’s climax occurs with a sudden burst of energy from the salty wind as the east grows yellower and trembles with anticipation. This culminates in the dramatic imagery of flame roofs, poplar tops, and steeples illuminated by the rising sun. This moment of revelation symbolizes the awakening of the town and the transformative power of light to bring about renewal and vitality.

Reese concludes with the evocative image of a mist-wrapped river coming to life as the little boats, described as “torches,” are ignited by the sun’s rays. This image adds warmth and activity to the serene morning scene, reinforces the theme of illumination, and suggests a sense of interconnectedness between the natural world and human activity.

“Sunrise” is a masterful exploration of the beauty and symbolism of a coastal town awakening to the dawn. Reese’s use of vivid imagery and sensory details invites readers to contemplate the profound significance of light and renewal in the natural world.

“Lizette Woodworth Reese.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation,

Speaking the Unspoken: A Queer Reading of Sophie Jewett’s “I Speak Your Name”

by Elli Batchelor

When scouring the list of potential poems for this assignment, I felt an instant connection to Sophie Jewett’s “I Speak Your Name” and knew I had to explore it in more detail. There is little to no scholarship about this poem, even though Sophie Jewett does have some biographical information available on the Internet as well as some other entries on the Poetry Foundation website. The lack of information about this specific poem is disappointing because I found myself absolutely captivated by it, despite its apparent simplicity. What drew me to this poem, in particular, is its queerness.

As a queer person myself, I interpreted “I Speak Your Name” as a tender account of a woman’s private love for her female friend and it evokes many personal feelings about discovering my own sexuality. It has been a rather common joke that most queer people undergo some sort of intense homoerotic friendship in their younger years, something that does not quite resemble platonic companionship or a concrete romantic relationship but a mystifying connection that exists somewhere in the middle. This poem speaks to this experience of liminality and threads a metaphorical balance between distance and closeness throughout.

The first line of the poem “I speak your name in alien ways” implies both the speaker’s familiarity with the poem’s subject, who we later learn is named Margaret, as well as introducing the idea that something about this action feels foreign to the speaker (Jewett 1). Perhaps this refers to a confession of sorts, so it’s the first time that the speaker addresses any feelings out loud and it feels alien to her, or it could be implied that the subject is now married and her name is thus literally different. The first stanza continues to carry a bittersweet tone, as Jewett refers to November smiling and crying simultaneously. She references seasons and nature quite a bit in this stanza and the next, which could be a testament to her unwavering love for her friend no matter the conditions or how much time has passed. She mentions November and autumn the most, along with accompanying imagery. While there is no real backing to this, fall has become associated with gay women in modern pop culture. There are jokes about how queer women always pick autumn as their favorite season, and there is also the massively popular song “We Fell in Love in October” by girl in red, which became a sort of mainstream gay pop culture staple in recent years and always resurfaces at that time of year. While obviously there is no substantial connection between autumn and “being gay”, it is interesting that the autumnal imagery is so consistent throughout a 19th-century poem that deals with forbidden queer yearning.

The last stanza is probably my favorite and what really sold me on this queer interpretation. It’s tinged with religious guilt and trauma, which I know a lot of queer people relate to very intimately. She asserts that because of her love, “God set / His sea between our eyes” (Jewett 10-11). She may view their distance as a punishment from God, which her desire brought about. However, she notes that she is not worried by this. She believes Margaret’s “soul’s truth” will meet her “soul’s demand”, which is “more near than hand in hand” (Jewett 12-13). Here again, we see this balance between physical and metaphorical distance and the idea that their relationship functions on a liminal plane. The last two lines are by far my favorite, as she writes, “And low to God, who listens, Margaret, / I speak your name” (Jewett 14-15). The act of speaking Margaret’s name mirrors an act of love, in the way that Jewett repeatedly calls upon it throughout the poem. The use of her real name here has a strong emotional effect since we finally get to know the name that is spoken so often. The commas offsetting it also make these words feel like a whisper uttered on a pillow before bed, like a private act that only the two of them know about. I can’t decide how exactly I want to take these two lines, however, both of my interpretations are equally devastating. She could be quietly praying to God for her lover, in the face of a society that does not accept her desire. Or perhaps she is speaking her lover’s name quietly so God will not hear, as she believes He will condemn her love. Either way, this queer desire is something that cannot exist freely, even though it appears to be reciprocated. I cannot help but see myself in this poem, as I remember moments when I too felt such intense desire mixed in with a sense of impossibility. I had to experience everything in secret, struggling to name what exactly I was feeling. This sense of complicated yearning is reflected in this poem and I foresee myself returning to this poem in the future, as both a queer person and lover of 19th-century poetry with distinctly queer undertones (thank you, Emily Dickinson). I am thankful for the introduction to a new poet!

The poem in its entirety:

I SPEAK your name in alien ways, while yet
November smiles from under lashes wet.
In the November light I see you stand
Who love the fading woods and withered land,
Where Peace may walk, and Death, but not Regret.

The year is slow to alter or forget;
June’s glow and autumn’s tenderness are met.
Across the months by this swift sunlight spanned,
I speak your name.

Because I loved your golden hair, God set
His sea between our eyes. I may not fret,
For, sure and strong, to meet my soul’s demand,
Comes your soul’s truth, more near than hand in hand;
And low to God, who listens, Margaret,
I speak your name.


Works Cited:

Jewett, Sophie. “I Speak Your Name.” Poetry Nook.

“We Fell in Love in October.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 26 Mar. 2024,