Heart and Mind – Dame Edith Sitwell

Background

Dame Edith Sitwell and her brothers Osbert and Sacheverell well known for their eccentricities were great attractions in Victorian society. Edith Sitwell wrote poetry in a dramatic mock nursery rhyme style. She is famous for war poetry that mourns the death of an entire generation of young men and wasted swathes of country side in Europe.

Metaphorical Inference

Written in mock nursery rhyme style with a dramatic opening, the poem has the lion telling the lioness to remember the glory of their physical existence even when death has overtaken them. The lion says that the heart and the body are the same.
The second stanza has the skeleton saying that the Sun is more powerful than the lion and greater than all the gold in the world. Hercules and Samson were the strong men of history but they came to naught as they were defeated by the affairs of the heart. Their minds were as powerless as a weak wind.
The sun tells the moon that the heart and the mind are always separate and the twain shall never meet.

Summary

The poem extends the argument that the heart and the mind are irrevocably different. The first stanza has a conversation between a lion and a lioness. The lion tells the lioness that the glory of their existence should be remembered even when they are dead. The heart and the body are one and the same according to the lion. The sun is stronger than all the gold. The heart is also strong. Heroes like Hercules and Samson were brought to dust by the heart and its affairs. The sun tells the moon that even till the end of time the heart and the mind will be separate.

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Analysis

Sitwell was known for poems that had a dramatic opening. This poem elaborates the argument that the mind and the heart are very different. The lion wants the lioness to remember the strength of their bodies even after they are dead. The lion does not see any difference between the heart and the body. According to a skeleton the sun is most powerful thing in the universe as it is the font of all life. In the conversation between the sun and the moon it is said that the heart and the mind or emotions and intellect will always be different.

Overall Impression

Edith Sitwell was well known for eccentricities of dressing and her poetry is often a reflection of her thought. She belonged to a group of radical thinkers who lived in Victorian England. Her soirees were sought after happenings. This poem expounds the belief that a wide chasm separated emotions and intellect. They are both important for man but the twain can never meet. The heart is more powerful and the mind can only be an observer in affairs of the heart.