ONE ART – (Elizabeth Bishop)
CRITICAL APPRECIATION OF THE POEM
Is this poem a true philosophy of life?
‘One Art’ is a lightly satirical poem, expressing an important idea in a humorous manner. The poetess has discussed the question of peace and happiness in human life and need healthy attitude to attain it. She suggests that it is a loss of things which disturbs us. We should not feel sad at this. We should bear the loss costly as well as ordinary things with a brave heart. There are several things which have a tendency to get lost or misplaced. Their disappearance should not perturb us. In order to be skillful in the art of losing, we must lose something daily. ‘Lose something every day’, is a sane advice on the part of poetess. We should not feel restless at the loss or door keys or the loss of time ‘badly spent’. These small losses will prepare us to face the heavy disasters of life. The tone of the poetess is here humorous but it contains a word of wisdom of us.
The poetess suggests that we should go on losing things faster and rapidly. ‘Then practice losing faster’ can make us perfect in the art of losing. We must try to forget the name of places and people we have seen. This will dispel our fear of facing losses. The poetess happens to lose her mother’s watch. She forgets the name of three houses where she has stayed and lived. She makes the names of a continent slip out of her memory. The forgetfulness of such important things does not bring ruin to her.
She is not perturbed about the loss of her love, loving voices and happy gestures. She bears all these losses with courage because she has become skillful in the art of losing things.
This poem is written in a mocking and half humorous manner. The poetess treats a serious subject in a non-serious and frivolous manner. But the message of the poem is clear. Man should not lose heart of face of hardships. He should produce in him a spirit of acceptance and resignation. The loss of door keys or loss of an empire should be accepted with smile on our face. It is only in this way that the defeat loses its bitterness and we form a healthy attitude to fact he odds of life. The ordinary tragic incident and the greatest disaster should be faced with out any fears. The art of losing means to live life with out making complains. It means to live life hoping for the best and to be ready to face the worst.
The poetess has used the elements of satire, humor and irony. How are they combined?
Satire is a work of literature, theater and speaking etc. intended to show the selfishness or evil of some establishment of practice in an amusing manner. The poem is a satire on the selfishness of those people who consider themselves wise not to lose anything. The poetess points out that every one of us loses his time, friend, money and precious things but does not admit it. He considers other people fool for losing such things but does not hold enough to confess this.
Humor is the ability to amuse other. The aim of the humorist is to delight the people by pointing out the follies of others. When we learn that the poetess has lost many things, we cannot but smile at it. She describes in an amusing manner the things she has lost in her life. She remarks in a funny manner that she lost her mother watch. Then she lost a house. She remark in a funny manner that she does not remember whether it was her second or third house, which she lost. Then she goes on to say that she lost two cities both of which were beautiful. We can simply laugh at such a person who learns the art of losing things by practice.
Irony is a mode of speech in which the meaning is contrary to the word. The poetess points out in the poem ‘the art of losing is not hard to master’. By these words she means to say that the art of losing things is very difficult. It is very difficult to remain contented and resigned to fate. It is not easy to lose one’s friend, one’s beloved, and one’s kingdom with out feeling undisturbed. But in an ironic manner the poetess tells us that the art of losing things is not difficult.
1. Which of the list of lost things in the poem is most difficult to lose and why? Write in 60 words.
2. Do you find any element of fear in the poem? Write you own assessment in 60 words.
Quotations and references for this poem
1) Life is not a bed or roses.
2) Failures are the pillar of success.
3) Do not yield to misfortunes, but met them with fortitude.