Monday, September 20, 2021

Study Questions on "The Steeple-Jack" by Marianne Moore

The Steeple-Jack

 1. What connection between the steeplejack and the speaker do you find in Marianne Moore's The Steeple-Jack? 

 2. What is the setting of the poem Steeple-Jack? 

 3. What use of lists or catalogues do you find in The Steeple-Jack? 

 4. How does the poet handle the use of syllabic lines in The Steeple-Jack? 

 5. What pictures of chaos and order do you find in The Steeple-Jack?

The Steeple-Jack


 Dürer would have seen a reason for living

   in a town like this, with eight stranded whales

 to look at; with the sweet sea air coming into your house

 on a fine day, from water etched

   with waves as formal as the scales

 on a fish.


 One by one in two's and three's, the seagulls keep

   flying back and forth over the town clock,

 or sailing around the lighthouse without moving their wings --

 rising steadily with a slight

   quiver of the body -- or flock

 mewing where


 a sea the purple of the peacock's neck is

   paled to greenish azure as Dürer changed

 the pine green of the Tyrol to peacock blue and guinea

 gray. You can see a twenty-five-

   pound lobster; and fish nets arranged

 to dry. The


 whirlwind fife-and-drum of the storm bends the salt

   marsh grass, disturbs stars in the sky and the

 star on the steeple; it is a privilege to see so

 much confusion. Disguised by what

   might seem the opposite, the sea-

 side flowers and


 trees are favored by the fog so that you have

   the tropics first hand: the trumpet-vine,

 fox-glove, giant snap-dragon, a salpiglossis that has

 spots and stripes; morning-glories, gourds,

   or moon-vines trained on fishing-twine

 at the back door;


 cat-tails, flags, blueberries and spiderwort,

   striped grass, lichens, sunflowers, asters, daisies --

 yellow and crab-claw ragged sailors with green bracts -- toad-plant,

 petunias, ferns; pink lilies, blue

   ones, tigers; poppies; black sweet-peas.

 The climate


 is not right for the banyan, frangipani, or

   jack-fruit trees; or for exotic serpent

 life. Ring lizard and snake-skin for the foot, if you see fit;

 but here they've cats, not cobras, to

   keep down the rats. The diffident

 little newt


 with white pin-dots on black horizontal spaced-

   out bands lives here; yet there is nothing that

 ambition can buy or take away. The college student

 named Ambrose sits on the hillside

   with his not-native books and hat

 and sees boats


 at sea progress white and rigid as if in

   a groove. Liking an elegance of which

 the sourch is not bravado, he knows by heart the antique

 sugar-bowl shaped summer-house of

   interlacing slats, and the pitch

 of the church


 spire, not true, from which a man in scarlet lets

   down a rope as a spider spins a thread;

 he might be part of a novel, but on the sidewalk a

 sign says C. J. Poole, Steeple Jack,

   in black and white; and one in red

 and white says


 Danger. The church portico has four fluted

   columns, each a single piece of stone, made

 modester by white-wash. Theis would be a fit haven for

 waifs, children, animals, prisoners,

   and presidents who have repaid



 senators by not thinking about them. The

   place has a school-house, a post-office in a

 store, fish-houses, hen-houses, a three-masted schooner on

 the stocks. The hero, the student,

   the steeple-jack, each in his way,

 is at home.


 It could not be dangerous to be living

   in a town like this, of simple people,

 who have a steeple-jack placing danger signs by the church

 while he is gilding the solid-

   pointed star, which on a steeple

 stands for hope.