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I need help 911
Posted by: Tina21 (
Date: April 24, 2003 12:03PM

My teacher told, "analyze the language, including figurative language, in a poem written by....

So I chose one of Frances E. W. Harper's poem:

Bury Me in a Free Land

MAKE me a grave where'er you will,
In a lowly plain, or a lofty hill;
Make it among earth's humblest graves,
But not in a land where men are slaves.

I could not rest if around my grave
I heard the steps of a trembling slave;
His shadow above my silent tomb
Would make it a place of fearful gloom.

I could not rest if I heard the tread
Of a coffle gang to the shambles led,
And the mother's shriek of wild despair
Rise like a curse on the trembling air.

I could not sleep if I saw the lash
Drinking her blood at each fearful gash,
And I saw her babes torn from her breast,
Like trembling doves from their parent nest.

I'd shudder and start if I heard the bay
Of bloodhounds seizing their human prey,
And I heard the captive plead in vain
As they bound afresh his galling chain.

If I saw young girls from their mother's arms
Bartered and sold for their youthful charms,
My eye would flash with a mournful flame,
My death-paled cheek grow red with shame.

I would sleep, dear friends, where bloated might
Can rob no man of his dearest right;
My rest shall be calm in any grave
Where none can call his brother a slave.

I ask no monument, proud and high,
To arrest the gaze of the passers-by;
All that my yearning spirit craves,
Is bury me not in a land of slaves.

This paper need to turn in on Monday, but today I still have no clue about analyzing the language of this poem. Is there anyone help me how to start or what should I do in order to write a brief essay? I already got a "D" for the last paper, so I am trying my best to do this. In addition, English is my second language, so I am more difficulty to understand the poem. I don't know what do do, please help 911. Thank you ver much.


Re: I need help 911
Posted by: Marian-NYC (
Date: April 24, 2003 02:01PM

First of all: Don't let the word ANALYZE frighten you. Write an essay about WHAT MAKES THIS POEM SPECIAL.

Here's my advise for beginners.

FIRST, write down what the poem says, in simple straightforward sentences, in your own words.

Then look at the poem and think about why the author wrote it that way, instead of in straightforward sentences. Focus especially on any word or phrase that YOU LIKE, and think about why you like it.

Why one word instead of another?* Especially focus on metaphors and any word that is not used literally. For example, why "bloated"? In the last stanza, why "arrest"? If anything is repeated, why?

If you can't think of WHY THE POET DID IT, then think about WHAT EFFECT IT HAS on you.

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