A Crowned Poet by Anne Reeve Aldrich

‘A Crowned Poet’ by Anne Reeve Aldrich is a four stanza poem that is separated into sets of four lines, or quatrains. Each of these sets of lines follows a structured rhyme scheme. They all conform to the pattern of abcb; all that is aside from stanza five which rhymes, abab. Also important to take note of is the refrain used at the end of each stanza. This line speaks to the title of the poem and the general theme, that one who can sing, such as a poet, is equal to a king. 

Aldrich makes use of a great deal of repetition in the piece, aside from the refrain. The word “king” is used three times in the short text and the theme of what constitutes true happiness is alluded to in each set of lines. 

 

Summary of A Crowned Poet 

‘A Crowned Poet’ by Anne Reeve Aldrich describes the differences between the happiness of kings and that of poets and writers with the God given ability to sing. 

Th poem begins with the speaker describing the passing of an important “coach of state.” Within this coach, or carriage, there is the king of the surrounding lands. This person is referred to as “O King” as if in reverence. That is not the case though. 

The speaker does not feel as if the king is superior to them in any way. In fact, they explicitly state that they feel “no envy” for the position the king is in. This is due to the fact that God gave poets the ability to write. It is the song, or poetry, that elevates a writer to the level of a king. 

In the following stanzas the speaker describes how they too are able to laugh at want, just as the king is. There is barely anything separating the two, aside from their name. The rank the king has and the “pomp” that goes along with it, are meaningless. The speaker finds no pleasure in frivolous objects. The poem concludes with the speaker asking the king to compare lives with any poet and see how they too are kings. 

 

Analysis of A Crowned Poet 

Stanza One 

In thy coach of state

Pass, O King, along:

He no envy feels

To whom God giveth song.

In the first stanza of this piece the speaker begins by describing the passing of an important “coach of state.” In this context the word “coach” refers to a carriage and in this case, one of “state.” It belongs to someone who is of the governing body of the land. A reader will immediately understands that the person who is riding in this coach is important. That is further supported by the title which seeks to crown a poet as a king. This person, who is in fact the “King” is passing in front of the speaker. They are among the crowd who likely gathers to see their monarch driven through the streets. 

Although the speaker refers to the king as “O King,” as if in reverence of him, the following lines step that back. The speaker’s statement was made facetiously as he does not have anything to “envy” in the king’s position. While the speaker might be narrating the text in third person at times, the statements are also self-referential This makes for an interesting contrast considering that the writer is both a poet and a woman. Although she is using “He” as the third person pronoun, it is likely she is thinking of her own position while writing. 

The final line of the quatrain provides an explanation for why the type of person the speaker is referring to does not feel envy. It is due to the fact that God gave “him” “song.” Here, the word song is being used as one would use poetry today. “He” is able to write poetry and is therefore at the same level as the king. 

 

Stanza Two 

Starving, still I smile, 

Laugh at want and wrong:

He is fed and crowned

To whom God giveth song.

In the second stanza the perspective moves to first person. The speaker states that they are “Starving” but are still able to smile. This should increase the distance between the speaker, the poets being referred to, and the king. That is not the case though. This person is still able to “Laugh” as the king would “at want.” They are able to disregard the basic needs of life and the more frivolous needs and privileges of the wealthy. This person’s social standing might rest at a very low level, or drop even further but that means nothing.

The speaker is always able to fall back on the fact that they are “fed and crowned” by God who “giveth song.” The refrains repeats again in the last line of the second stanza. Reminding the reader that the speaker and their fellow writers have something a king does not. It is a talent and love that comes from God. 

 

Stanza Three 

Better than all pomps

That to rank belong,— 

One such dream as his

To whom God giveth song.

In the third stanza the speaker expands on the fact that God gave poets something that he did not give kings. They have the ability to sing the songs of poetry and create great joy within themselves and in others by their sheer talent. Their happiness, it might be argued, is truer than that of the king. The source of a poet’s joy comes from the inside rather than from the out. It is clear the speaker does not see the pleasure in the “pomp” that surrounds the king. These are the trappings of “rank” and speak nothing of true happiness of God given song. 

In the last two lines the speaker states that “pomp” and “rank” have nothing on the “dream of his / To whom God giveth song.” A poet’s internal life is much more satisfying than a king’s. 

 

Stanza Four 

Let us greet, O King,

As we pass along:

He, too, is a king 

To whom God giveth song.

In the final stanza the speaker addresses the king. They ask for the opportunity to meet and exchange qualities of life. This can be done on the poet’s side as the king passes along the street. The speaker knows without reservation that their life is as satisfying, if not more so than the much revered “King.” 

The final lines do a good job summarizing the sentiment consistently presented in the preceding lines. The speaker knows that all those who have been given the power of song are kings as well. 

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