nectarhoff: Three Things

Three Things

Three Things
by Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966)

Three things enchanted him:
White peacocks, evensong,
And faded maps of America,
He couldn’t stand bawling brats,
Or raspberry jam with his tea,
Or womanish hysteria.
...And he was tied to me.

This poem takes the form of a catalogue, and in the first line Akhmatova states that “Three things enchanted him.” She then lists those items before moving onto the things that “He couldn’t stand." Afterward comes the kick, “… And he was tied to me.” The raw emotion of this poem is coiled up in its structure. The colon after the first line prepares the reader for listlessness (pun intended) and boredom. While the list at first seems rather innocuous, it contains the pain of a woman that feels scorned and neglected. The key of the poem is the ellipsis in the final line, as it marks a break from the pattern set by the piece’s first portion, and it prepares the scene for the punchline. By setting the stage so impersonally and monotonously, Akhmatova sets an immense weight on the final sentence, which alone carries the torment of the speaker. 

But “Three Things" doesn’t end after that final sentence; instead, each word in the poem takes on a new meaning soaked in the speaker’s  guilt. Her partner is enchanted by “faded” maps of America, as he presumably longs for a new life, and yet she holds him back. The speaker resents her “womanish hysteria” and their “bawling brats.” Perhaps the piece is a commentary on the liberation of woman? I can’t say, and that doesn’t matter to me. What strikes me is the severity of the speaker’s passion and how it is conveyed -- so simply, so delicately, that she doesn’t even seem aware of how deeply rooted her insecurity is.

- 5/9/14


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