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Poetry explication: Thou Blind Man’s Mark–Sir Philip Sidney

In the short poem, poet Sir Philip Sidney wields his literary talent and uses extensive poetic devices to tell a story of recognizing, facing, and trying to combat one’s desires.

              Throughout the first four lines of the poem, Sidney begins by directly addressing desire with second-person pronouns “thou,” adding a dose of intimacy and connection to the originally abstract concept of desire. At the same time, Sidney fills the first four lines with abundant metaphors, implicitly comparing his hidden desires as “bands of evils” and “cradle of causeless care,” which perfectly characterize the spontaneous and irresistible nature of those desires. From the first four lines, the poet has begun to include extensive alliterations, which is a common pattern that would continue throughout the course of the poem. From “fond fancy’s scum,” “self-chosen snare,” to “cradle of causeless care,” the poet not only compares desires to many different things but also added a shared rhyme to the lines. Finally, in the fourth line, the poet again uses alliteration, compares desires to a “web of will,” and characterizes the “web of will” as something boundless. By comparing desire to “blind man’s mark” and “fool’s self-chosen snare,” the poet recognizes the “evils” of desire and its other characteristics, including its endless, tempting, and uncontrollable nature—which all shined through with the use of metaphors in the first four lines.

              In the next line, the poet again directly addresses his subject—desires—through calling its name twice and using an exclamation mark to express his dissatisfaction and outrage towards his own desire. The poet then uses first-person narrative, combined with alliteration, to denounce desire as “worthless ware.” In the next line, the poet repeats the phrase “too long” twice to convey a sense of indignation towards desire—something that has caused the suffering of the poet. By asking a rhetorical question—“who should my mind to higher things prepare”—the poet reveals his own conflict with desire as he interacts with it.

              The poem soon reaches its climax when the poet begins line 10 and 12 with “in vain” and follows a consistent format in the two lines, creating an image of desire and its “smoky fire” turning the poet’s aspirations into greed and lust—and this is achieved by personifying desire.

              In the subsequent and final three lines, however, the poem soon rescinds into a more reflective tone, with the poet practicing metacognition and realizing that desire has taught him “how to kill desire.”

              Throughout the poem, Sidney uses metaphor and personification to establish desire as “someone” who triggers complex emotions and reflection of the poet’s consciousness; meanwhile, the use of alliteration, repetition, and consonance throughout the poem added an atheistic nature to the poem by making it more lyrical, with a pleasing sound effect that flowed throughout the poem. Addressing desire with second-person pronouns helped the poet directly release his feelings by speaking to the character, and it also made possible that the poet could shift from feeling enraged to finding the determination to eventually conquer his desires.


Published by Sunny

I am a high school rising sophomore and I love to read and write.

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