‘Alone’ by Sara Teasdale is a three-stanza poem that is separated into sets of four lines, or quatrains. Teasdale has chosen to conform this piece to a structured rhyme scheme of abcb. The pattern alternates as she saw fit from stanza to stanza.
A reader will also notice upon an initial look at this text that there is a great deal of repetition at the start of each line. In the first stanza, the poet uses the phrase “In spite of all” twice. Then, in the second stanza, she uses “About me” and “Above me” back to back. The lines themselves are also quite similar. They all, aside from the second line of the second stanza, contain eight syllables. This means they are structured in tetrameter. Although the meter is not standard, the similarly worded lines make the text feel unified.
Summary of Alone
In the first section of this piece, the speaker begins by restating the title of the poem. She will do this once more in the second stanza. Teasdale does not want the reader, or the intended listener, to forget this is the underlying problem. She goes on to state that no matter what love she gets from the listener, it is not enough to improve her depression. The speaker often wishes that she was not living.
She continues on to describes her situation as similar to being stranded on the tallest peak of the grey world. There she does not have access to the earth or heaven. Everything is dark, cold, and without color. The poem concludes with the speaker saying she sees death as being the only way she is ever going to find peace. Even this is not possible for her though. Her “spirit” is too proud to allow her to die.
Analysis of Alone
I am alone, in spite of love,
In spite of all I take and give—
In spite of all your tenderness,
Sometimes I am not glad to live.
In the first stanza of this piece the speaker begins by restating the title of the poem, “I am alone.” A reader should return to this line throughout the text. It is the basis around which the following metaphors and emotional confessions are based. Teasdale’s reputation as a poet is based on this particular style of writing in which she utilizes her own emotions to craft verse. This is known as “confessional poetry.”
The speaker is determined to make her listener understand that her emotions are not based on one’s exterior perspective of her life. Although she has “love” this does not make her feel any better. The loneliness persists.
In the next two lines, the speaker uses the phrase “In spited of all” twice. This has been done in an effort to emphasize the fact that there is nothing she can do to improve her emotions. She knows she is lucky to have all of her listener’s “tenderness” and the ability to “take and give.” The speaker is recognizing and validating these elements of her relationship. They are there, but they do not help.
The final line is quite dark. Here, Teasdale’s speaker, who is more than likely Teasdale herself, states that sometimes she wishes she wasn’t alive. This shows the true extent of her depression and deep feelings of solitude. ‘Alone’ can be read as a plea for help from the listener. She is reaching out, attempting to make her listener (someone who presumably loves her) understand.
I am alone, as though I stood
On the highest peak of the tired gray world,
About me only swirling snow,
Above me, endless space unfurled;
In the second quatrain, she repeats the title again. This phrase has now appeared three times. It is also present in every line she speaks. Her emotions permeate everything she is saying; making sure no one can forget how she feels.
Her loneliness is with her no matter what she does to try to shake it off. The following lines contain a poignant metaphor in regards to what this loneliness feels like. Teasdale’s speaker is so separate from the world it is as if she is standing “On the highest peak.” The entire “tired gray world” is below her while “About” her is “only swirling snow.”
Within this landscape she has crafted she is physically separate from the rest of the planet. She sees herself as residing here throughout every day of her life, no matter where she actually is. The weather is incredibly bleak and the planet “grey.” Even if she was down below with the rest of humanity there would be nothing for her. Everything is worn out, “tired” and dark.
In the last line, she states that above her there is “endless space.” There is no heaven, no shining sunlight or hope to reach for. The expanse is terrifyingly endless.
With earth hidden and heaven hidden,
And only my own spirit’s pride
To keep me from the peace of those
Who are not lonely, having died.
In the final lines of this piece the speaker once more alludes to her death and the pleasure, it would bring her. From her position on earth, pleasures are “hidden.” The same goes for heaven and the peace she might find in religion. Neither direction, up or down, holds any promise.
She goes on to explain the only thing keeping her alive is her “own spirit’s pride.” There is some deep-seated desire in her soul to remain alive, even when her mind does not want to. It is likely that death feels like a failure to her, although an attractive one. It is this impulse to last out the days of her life that keeps her from knowing the “peace of those” who have died.
The speaker sees the dead as lucky in their position. They do not feel the penetrating and constant loneliness that haunts her. She knows death is the only escape from the peak of the grey world she has found herself in.