Practical Criticism

They flee from me, that sometime did me seek
With naked foot, stalking in my chamber.
I have seen them gentle, tame, and meek,
That now are wild, and do not remember
That sometime they put themselves in danger,
To take bread at my hand; and now they range,
Busily seeking with a continual change.

Thanked be fortune it hath been otherwise
Twenty times better; but once, in special,
In thin array, after a pleasant guise,
When her loose gown from her shoulders did fall,
And she me caught in her arms long and small,
Therwith all sweetly did me kiss,
And softly said: ‘Dear heart, how like you this?’

It was no dream: I lay broad waking.
But all is turned, thorough my gentleness,
Into a strange fashion of forsaking;
And I have leave to go of her goodness,
And she also to use newfangleness.
But since that I so kindly am served:
I would fain know what she hath deserved

Have a go!

Read the poem below carefully several times; listen to it too if you want:

Now you should write notes and comments on a piece of paper with a pencil.

With ‘practical criticism’ it helps to confront your uncertainties. Don’t ignore them. By confronting them directly it should ultimately lead you to a fuller understanding of the given poem. Consider the following:

What is the poem’s form?
What is the poem’s metre and, is it the same throughout the poem?
Are there any words in it which you do not understand, or which are used in an unusual way?<
Do you feel that you understand what it is about?