The Feminine Gospels by Carol Ann Duffy: A Dreaming Week - Poetry Analysis

Updated on November 6, 2016

Day One - Stanza 1

The poem begins in a conversational style, "Not tonight" as the speaker has presumbaly rejected her lover for someone or something else, at this point we are unsure of whom or what this superior connection is, but it is certainly greater than the human the explicit "Not" is directed at. The stanza continues through enjambent as the speaker is "[I'm] dreaming / in the heart of the honeyed dark". The 'woman' in question finds dreaming as a more fulfiling activity than her presumed romantic (or sexual) activity with the other significant other. Yet, in the second line, we notice the calm and fluent 'texture' of the word "honeyed" - a word denoting a romantic atmosphere in the "dark".

The speaker appears to be transcending into a dream, with the smooth transition of syllables in "hon-ey-ed" taking the speaker into a deep sleep "in a boat of a bed" - denoting a journey, in which we witness an ever widening spectrum of vision (with the focus of the "heart" in contrast with the "park"). Such imagery is followed by a "big old tree", perhaps denoting the Tree of Life, symbolising the passage of time and the accumulation of knowledge. As the speaker continues her dream, she witnesses a "creak[ing]" "ark", alluding to Noah's Ark which has supposedly berthed on the summit of Mount Ararat, brining about the notion of unstability as the ark "creaks".

Could this denote the speaker's psyche?

Day Two - Stanza 2

The second stanza reopens with a repeated rejection of the significant other, as the speaker continues to dream "till dusk turns into dawn". Looking at the second and third line of the second stanza we notice italicised words, starting with "dust", and followed by words of a prolonged "m-" sound, closed by "down". Perhaps, the sequential alliteration denotes the passage of the speaker's dream, or the poem itself (note its seven stanzas mirrowing a "Week"). Another thought could lead us to Luce Irigaray's (a Belgian psycholinguist, philosopher and feminist) idea of "word-lust", by which the prolonged and emphasised "m-" are that of sexual moans. Such interpretation opens up the idea of the speaker's desire for dreaming and poetry, which she holds a true passion for.


The proceeding line illustrates an "open book", opened so as "a bird that's never flown" - the imagery of which showcases the speaker's attitude to reading books, as she falls asleep with the book opened in her hand, or perhaps distracted by the "birdsong of [a] telephone" in the background.

Source

Day Three - Stanza 3

The speaker appears to have a one-sided perception of life, which she witnesses through a "monocle" and the grandeur celestial body "of the moon". The aforesaid imagery alludes to the freedom the speaker experiences, as her imagination has lifted off, past the blanket of the skies - alluding to the separation of the body from the soul - a prodigious experience illustrating the power of imagination, allowing human beings to venture into the unknown.

The sibilance in "a sleeping S" denotes a continous breathing sound through a poetic technique, the use of which in context to the leitmotif of the poem takes the art of poetry as a vitality to the speaker - without which she would cease to exist, affirmed by the dualist theorem above. Is poetry keeping the speaker's heart beating, just as the rhythmic alliteration of "must, / most, moot, moon, mown," - with the stricking sound of the "dust" kickstarting the heartbeat, and the deep, cold and monotone sound of "down - " causing its conclusion - death.

Day Four - Stanza 4

The fourth stanza denotes a plateau of celestial imagery in the form of "stars" and "blue" - the latter being a colour symbolising emptiness and a lack of emotion, followed by "printing the news of their old light". The "old light" could allude to the the Word of God - God is believed to be settled in the Heavens, transcending his message down through the power of scriptures and print.

The imagery of the "black silk" appears to be intimate and sensual - with silk being a symbol of luxury. However, the fine material could also allude to lust - the physical touch of the significant other, or perhaps reconnecting back to Igararay's 'word-lust'. Withal, the smooth and fluent sounds of the words and rhyme extends the notion of a deep-sleep, inhibited throughout the poem.

Source

Day Five - Stanza 5

"Like a lover held by another" in the fifth stanza shifts away from the celestial imagery of outer space, into an intimate environment with the reader. Pehaps, Duffy's poems in 'Feminine Gospels' aim to establish a level of intimacy with the reader - most likely a woman who is able to gather a sense of unity with the poet, knowing she is not alone in the struggles of life. The idea of the "child stilled by a mother" acts as a sanctuary for the reader who feels that she (or he) is safe, surrounded by the "midnight's arm" of their mother.

The "golden bells" may allude to the Biblical imagery of Exodus 28:33: A golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe round about. (King James Bible). By which the "bells" symbolise the constant communication that we have with God (or in this case our mother) through prayer, to avoid "spiritual death" - denoted in Exodus 28:33 (King James Bible):

33 And beneath upon the hem of it thou shalt make pomegranates of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, round about the hem thereof; and bells of gold between them round about:

34 A golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe round about.

35 And it shall be upon Aaron to minister: and his sound shall be heard when he goeth in unto the holy place before the Lord, and when he cometh out, that he die not.

Day Six - Stanza 6

The sixth stanza continues as if a berceuse, with the "sighing over the frowning sound, / the whale's lonely song" lines' sibilance providing a gentle lullaby for the reader, as the sound of the stanza's lines insinuate the infinite movement of sea waves along the sea shore (note the 's' sound). There are no abrupt pauses in the poem, which acts as a fairytale - a never ending story lurring the reader into a deep sleep.

Duffy provides a sanctuary for its readers, who are able to line-by-line submerge themselves into an unknown world, isolated from the harsh reality of everyday life - with such imagery, the reader can feel safe. Cherished.

Day Seven - Stanza 7

The final stanza of the poem in which the speaker is "dreaming / under the stuttering clock". Note the use of the definitive article "the", signifying this isn't any "stuttering clock", and therefore, could symbolise the speaker approaching her death. The repetition of the word "under" three times could connote the lowering of a coffin, lower and further - "under[neath]" the ground, as "Time's winged chariot [is] hurrying near" (Andrew Marvell's 'To His Coy Mistress') - purporting how time will always catch up to you, no matter if you dream and live your life with complete devotion to God. Just as the alliteration in the second stanza of the poem of the "m-" sound, the conclusive and ultimate sound is a deep "d-" sound, as the now cold (not "soft and warm") body of the speaker is being lowered into the ground.

Now the speaker can dream forever, surrounded by the "glamourous dark" and be interrupted by no other human being. Her soul has transcended from her body, and can keep on writing "with the ink of space".

Conclusion

In conclusion, Duffy's poem 'A Dreaming Week' embodies her 'word-lust' for words, her motherly love and her ability to cherish life to its very last moment. However, not even the emotion of love cannot escape the essence of 'living life to its fullest' - as each individual's life is finite, and as each individual chases her or his dream, they must strive for what they seek most in life.

What do you think is the essence of life, and what do you think is the true message of this benign and benevolent poem?

© 2016 Oliwier Brzezinski

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)