Sympathy by Edith Franklin Wyatt

‘Sympathy’ by Edith Franklin Wyatt is a thirty-seven line poem which does not follow one particular rhyme scheme from beginning to end. The repetition of rhyme spans a variety of patterns and sounds. The first section of the poem includes a great number of words ending with the sounds, “-ower” and “-own,” while the second gives the reader “-ay,” “-ee” and “-ain.” The repetition does imbue the poem with a sing-song-like pattern which helps the poem read like a fable or fairytale.

One should also note the purposeful line indentations which are utilized in every other line. This makes the poem more interesting to look at on the page, as well as forcing the reader to read in a particular way. One’s eyes are constantly flashing back and forth across the lines.

Sympathy by Edith Franklin Wyatt 

Summary of Sympathy 

‘Sympathy’ by Edith Franklin Wyatt describes a speaker’s expanding, but a romanticized view of the world and how a new ability to see has brought her closer to others.

In the first lines, the poet describes how her narrator lives her life. She goes into detail about how alone she feels in her world, and how she sees no possible change in her future. Before long a change miraculously does occur and her outlook on her future expands. She can suddenly see into the distance in a way she never could before. She sees homes, hills, mountains, and dense forests. The speaker is able to gain a greater understanding of how the rest of the world lives, while she still resides alone. 

In the final lines, she states that this new sight has empowered her with a new closeness. She feels ownership over the lands, sea, and by the last two lines, the whole world. 

 

Analysis of Sympathy

Lines 1-10

As one within a moated tower,

    I lived my life alone;

And dreamed not other granges’ dower,

    Nor ways unlike mine own.

I thought I loved. But all alone

    As one within a moated tower

I lived. Nor truly knew

    One other mortal fortune’s hour.

As one within a moated tower,

    One fate alone I knew.

The poet begins ‘Sympathy’ with a section of lines that speak to the way her narrator lives her life. She goes into detail about how alone she feels in her world, and how she sees no possible change in her future. 

The first lines describe the world the speaker lives in as being contained within a “moated tower.” She is separated from the rest of humanity and put behind barriers to keep her in, and others out. The speaker spends all of her days in this place completely alone. It is clear from these first lines that it is the poet’s goal to provoke a feeling of sympathy for the speaker. One should sympathize with her plight and pity the life she lives. 

In the next lines, she speaks on the sad fact that because she is completely confined to the tower she does not have any other life to dream about. She does not think of what other places could give her, or of ways that are “unlike [her] own.” At one point, she says that she thought she “loved” but she has no way of knowing if this is really the case.

The next lines reiterate what was stated previously, by repeating that she is living all alone in a moated tower. These repeating phrases help the poem retain its song-like rhythm. She adds that she can never “truly” know what another person’s life is like, or what it would be like for her to live an hour outside of her confines. 

 

Lines 11-17

Who hears afar the break of day

    Before the silvered air

Reveals her hooded presence gray,

    And she, herself, is there?

I know not how, but now I see

    The road, the plain, the pluming tree,

The carter on the wain.

In the second set of lines, the speaker experiences an important change in her life and outlook on her future. She is awake early in the morning and manages to hear the rising of the sun, “the break of day,” before the sun appears in the sky. The narrator has become so attuned to the world she is living in that she is able to predict precisely when things are going to happen. 

The speaker knows what occurs outside her home without seeing it first, and feels the sun rising before “her hooded presence” is revealed. This leads her down a path of predictions and imaginations. 

In the next lines, she states that she is now able to see more than she ever did before. It is like her vision miraculously cleared and she can see and understand what is happening outside of her tower. From her home, she can see the “road, the plain, the pluming tree” as well as “The  carter on the wain.” She sees the fields in the distance and the “carter” who is riding in the “wain,” or cart. For the first time, she sees and gains some understanding of someone else’s life. 

 

Lines 18-25

    On my horizon wakes a star.

The distant hillsides wrinkled far

    Fold many hearts’ domain.

On one the fire-worn forests sweep,

    Above a purple mountain-keep

And soar to domes of snow.

    One heart has swarded fountains deep

Where water-lilies blow:

In the next set of lines of ‘Sympathy’, the speaker describes seeing a waking star on her horizon. This is representative of the newfound sight she has gained. It is also used as a way of showing off her new abilities, she can see so far into the distance that “hillsides wrinkled far” are clear to her and she can see those who live within them. They hold within them, “many hearts’ domain.” 

The next lines go through the different types of hills she can see, and the variety of lives they hold. There are those which contain “fire-worn forests” as well as a “purple mountain-keep.” The hills rise high into mountains and are capped with “domes of snow.” 

She sees these new places in the distances as representing the hearts of different people living among them. There are grass-covered, or “swarded,” portions of water in which “water-lilies blow.” 

 

Lines 26-33

    And one, a cheerful house and yard,

With curtains at the pane,

    Board-walks down lawns all clover-starred,

And full-fold fields of grain.

    As one within a moated tower

I lived my life alone;

    And dreamed not other granges’ dower

Nor ways unlike mine own.

She continues her description into the next lines when she describes in greater detail the homes of the people in the distances. The speaker is able to see and compare her life to the lives of those who do not live in moated towers. There is a “cheerful house” which has a yard and curtains. There are also “lawns” covered in clover over which boards have been laid so one might pass over the ground.

 The speaker concludes her in-depth description with the “fields of grain” that provide the houses their sustenance and income. It is important to note that her depictions of this other way of living are very much romanticized. She cannot see the troubles that surely visit the lives of those living in the hills. 

 

Lines 34-37

    But now the salt-chased seas uncurled

And mountains trooped with pine

    Are mine. I look on all the world

And all the world is mine.

In the final lines of ‘Sympathy’, the speaker pulls back to take in a larger view of the new lands she is seeing.

She understands that now she has this new ability to see beyond her own life, that in a way the “salt-chased seas” which are “uncurl[ing]” are hers. The speaker feels new ownership over the pine-covered mountains. She is newly empowered and no longer the timid person she appeared to be in the first lines. She lays claim over “all the world.” 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

What's your thoughts? Join the conversation by commenting
We make sure to reply to every comment submitted, so feel free to join the community and let us know by commenting below.

Get more Poetry Analysis like this in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list and get new poetry analysis updates straight to your inbox.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
>
Scroll Up