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Analysis and comments on The Captured Goddess by Amy Lowell

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Comment 3 of 251, added on April 26th, 2009 at 10:38 AM.

Amy Lowell’s poetry can be read and understood on a simply visual level,
or, by studying her use of color, temperature, movement, and other sensory
details, one can gain insight into the larger implications, the stories, of
her images. Lowell accomplishes this with “The Captured Goddess” where the
Goddess’ beautiful and humble presence translates itself visually and
leaves the speaker with a sense of awe. This contrasts with the image of
greedy men bartering for the Goddess who has been bound naked in the
street. The images of the poem, and the way they are structured, creates a
moral narrative based on imagery in which the reader undergoes the same
series of emotions as the narrator.

The Goddess is associated with color and a sense of spontaneity
that resides just beyond the distinct edges of the city. “Over the
housetops, / Above the rotating chimney-pots, / I have seen a shiver of
amethyst, / And blue and cinnamon have flickered / A moment, / At the far
end of a dusty street” (Lowell 1085). She changes the atmosphere of the
city, but she’s not a finite presence within the city; in the first stanza
she’s something intangible and infinite beyond the city’s grasp. The
colors appear as quick flashes that “flickered / A moment” (Lowell 1085).
“A moment” is the shortest line of the stanza; the quickness with which it
reads matches its meaning – it stands out. The stanza revolves around the
momentary vivacity and beauty the Goddess brings to the city even though
she is separated from it.

The second stanza builds upon the supremacy of the Goddess,
still without identifying her, by showing her bringing beauty into nature.
This stanza strengthens her worthiness of the title “Goddess” by describing
her power to send crimson through sheets of rain and change the color of
moonlight to a pale green. She can manipulate nature, but she does it as a
Goddess would – modestly. The Goddess does not try to dominate nature, the
creation of God, but only adds to the beauty already there. She sends “a
lustre of crimson” through the “sheeted rain” instead of bombarding the
rain with an overpowering crimson; she “hushed” “moonbeams” “by a film of
palest green” instead of drowning out the moonlight with bright green. The
Goddess, in the abstract, has been established as a powerful supernatural
presence, but also as humble and subdued.

The finite dimension of the Goddess enters the poem in the
third stanza allowing the reader to connect her image and existence.
Lowell emphasizes her title as “Goddess” by giving the word its own line
and following it with an explanation mark. There is no question that the
color sprinkled around the city and through nature comes from the Goddess’
wings. “It was her wings, / Goddess! / Who stepped over the clouds, / And
laid her rainbow feathers / Aslant on the currents of the air.” Here the
reader identifies with the Goddess in a more finite form, but with the same
humble gentleness. She is seen stepping over clouds, not harming them, and
laying her feathers on currents of air – she seems weightless.

Now, after the Goddess has been described, the focus of the
poem changes from the Goddess to the speaker, who is willing to follow her
anywhere to see the magnificent colors flashing in her wings. The speaker
compares the various colors to precious stones and flowers. Everything
connected with the Goddess is sparkling, alive, and dazzling to the human
eye. The speaker assumes the Goddess can bring beauty to any location. “I
followed her for long, / With gazing eyes and stumbling feet. / I cared not
where she led me” (Lowell 1086). The Goddess completely mesmerizes the
speaker, and the reader too, with her natural grace and beauty.

The fifth stanza dramatically changes the tone of the poem from
one of heavenly grace and human awe to a disturbing tone of greed and
sorrow. The image the speaker encounters contradicts all of the previous
expectations. “In the city I found her, / The narrow-streeted city. / In
the market-place I came upon her, / Bound and trembling. / Her fluted wings
were fastened to her sides with cords, / She was naked and cold, / For that
day the wind blew / Without sunshine” (Lowell 1086). Instead of residing
above or beyond the city she is now in the city. Her wings cannot send
their sparkling colors into the world around her because they are tied to
her sides. Her freedom has been taken from her, and so has her power.
Instead of resting her beautiful wings across the “currents of the air” she
suffers from a cold wind without any warmth from the sun. She has been
trapped in the world of man, and all of her beauty is restricted and

Men in the market place want to buy the Goddess. “They
bargained in silver and gold, / In copper, in wheat, / And called their
bids across the market-place” (Lowell 1086). The men in market want to own
the Goddess. They think that they can own what she represents, what she
offers. They trade finite goods for an infinite beauty. They trade in the
few colors in which currency comes – copper, silver, and gold – thinking
that these can buy all the colors of her wings. These heavy, insignificant
coins could never match the weightless grace of the Goddess and her wings.
And wheat, a mixture of all those colors of currency, a silvery bronze,
gold in the sunlight, does not buy a bit of her. The speaker uses precious
stones and flowers of all sorts of bright, vibrant, dazzling colors to
describe some of the Goddess’ beauty, but the men and the market do not
understand the all-encompassing aspect of her beauty that cannot be bought
and sold. She cannot belong to someone; she cannot remain in the city; her
beauty lies out of man’s reach.

Lowell’s shortest stanza is one sentence reading, “The Goddess
wept” (Lowell 1086). The Goddess cries because men try to buy and sell
her; she cries because she is bound and cold, she cries because she
understands that men do not understand. She can only bring beauty into
this world as a free creature. Wings are meant to fly, and so is she. She
is supposed to look down upon man, and man look up to her. She should give
them hope, something to live for, love, and respect. Men should not own
her; they should be humble. Man’s greed disrupts the order-of-being.

The speaker realizes that this treatment of the Goddess reeks
of shame. “Hiding my face I fled, / And the grey wind hissed behind me, /
Along the narrow streets” (Lowell 1086). This last stanza shows the
speaker’s shame and sorrow for man’s treatment of the Goddess. The speaker
has seen the Goddess’ beauty, her gift, and now the Goddess is being bound
and sold like a slave. The speaker does not know what to do, except to run
away. Behind the speaker the wind is a colorless grey; it does not flash
or sparkle, but hisses along the streets that are narrow without a glimmer
of light at the end. Suddenly the city that the Goddess once breathed life
and color into has become dreary and depressing. Where will the speaker
run? Nothing seems beautiful anymore. What once was beautiful men have
tied down, packaged up, and sold in the market – and in the process they
destroyed it. The speaker flees, sorry for the Goddess…and the men. By
greedily trying to own her they have ultimately lost her, and the infinite
hope she could offer them. Do they not see their own selfishness or her
suffering? Either these men are ignorant or they do not care…which is
worse? Either one is sad.
Lowell never mentions beauty, freedom, humility, awe, shame,
fear, or sorrow, but the reader recognizes each one of these as the speaker
provides various images of the Goddess. Only the last stanza does not
include a description of some aspect of the Goddess. Here, she has been
lost to man’s greed, and, therefore, this image serves as a contrast to
earlier images. The sensory details, especially sights, have certain
connotations that build a simulation of a first-hand experience. This
attempt to remove some of the limitations of mediation makes the reader
feel closer to the events, closer to the Goddess, and closer to Lowell’s
message. The reader feels the speaker’s humility, awe, shame, and sorrow.

John hunter from United States
Comment 2 of 251, added on December 18th, 2007 at 10:38 PM.

i Believe that Amy Lowell is trying to portray the female struggle of
sbserviance in the 1800's and earlt 1900's. The era was littered with such
instances. the feelings of this are portrayed through Amy's feelingon
entraptment due to her own short comings. As a child she was not allowed to
attend collage, so i feel this is almost her own internal struggle against

Leia from United States

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Information about The Captured Goddess

Poet: Amy Lowell
Poem: 1. The Captured Goddess
Volume: Sword Blades & Poppy Seed
- Sword Blades
Added: Feb 1 2004
Viewed: 10331 times

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