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MULBERRIES, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography

"Mulberries" by Jane Hirshfield is a brief the the visceral with the divine, exploring a nuanced landscape of desire, fulfillment, and the inherent hierarchies of what is considered precious or mundane. The poem's opening lines set a visual and tonal context, depicting a moment where "the low branches / riped the pigeons are fat, / and can be generous." This tableau presents nature in a cycle of abundance, showing that when one part of an ecosystem is enriched, it has the capacity for generosity.

The choice of the word "generous" in describing pigeons-a bird that's often considered a pest-calls for a reevaluation of the perceived hierarchy of beings and things. It prepares us for the poem's subsequent shift into the realm of the divine, asking us to entertain a similar fluidity in our understanding of gods and their desires.

The poem then takes a surprising turn with "Just so, let / the gods take what they want / of this world and its high nectars." This invocation of divine will sets up an immediate contrast between the mortal world and the celestial, and brings in the notion of "high nectars"-that which is most valuable and desired. The concept implies that gods, much like humans, have their preferences, and that there are substances or experiences in our world that are elevated enough to attract divine attention.

Despite this divine intervention, Hirshfield reassures us that the gods will leave behind "the stews and the nipple's erectness, / the unguarded, late-sweetening / pleasures." The divine, too, can be "generous" by not taking everything. Here, the poem makes a value judgment: while gods may partake in the "high nectars," they do not consume or commandeer all of life's experiences. The physical and the sensual-encapsulated by "stews" and "the nipple's erectness"-are left to us, not as mere leftovers but as valid and valuable forms of enjoyment.

Interestingly, the poem itself is structured without a rhyme scheme or meter, but its lines are economical, terse. This brevity mirrors the unadorned "stews" or "late-sweetening pleasures" that may be overlooked but are nevertheless fulfilling. Each word, like each pleasure, is crucial, holding its weight in the grander scheme of things.

In the span of its few lines, "Mulberries" crafts an intricate balance between the terrestrial and the celestial, calling into question what we deem precious or worthy of desire. It asks us to appreciate the simpler joys as not just incidental, but intrinsically valuable. The poem posits that divinity does not negate the beauty of the mundane; rather, it makes it all the more precious. As readers, we are left with a deeper appreciation for the "unguarded, late-sweetening pleasures," the simple yet profound joys that enrich our earthly existence.


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