Nameless Pain

Nameless Pain

By Elizabeth Drew Barstow Stoddard

I should be happy with my lot:
A wife and mother – is it not
Enough for me to be content?
What other blessing could be sent?

A quiet house, and homely ways,
That make each day like other days;
I only see Time’s shadow now
Darken the hair on baby’s brow!

No world’s work ever comes to me,
No beggar brings his misery;
I have no power, no healing art
With bruised soul or broken heart.

I read the poets of the age,
‘Tis lotus-eating in a cage;
I study Art, but Art is dead
To one who clamors to be fed

With milk from Nature’s rugged breast,
Who longs for Labor’s lusty rest.
O foolish wish! I still should pine
If any other lot were mine.

Summary of Nameless Pain

  • Popularity of “Nameless Pain”: Written by Elizabeth Drew Barstow Stoddard, an American novelist and poet, “Nameless Pain” is a poignant and introspective poem. It first appeared in 1859 in her volume of poems having the same title. Despite being relatively lesser-known in contemporary times, during its publication, it won her recognition as well as a name. The simplicity of language, juxtaposed with the thematic strands of complexities that confront human nature, has made this poem popular among people and students alike.
  • “Nameless Pain” As a Representative of Introspection: “Nameless Pain” is a representative work of introspective and emotional poetry. Published during a time when social expectations limited women’s voices, Stoddard’s poem defied conventions, showing women’s personal anguish and unexpressed desires. Through her simple language and domestic imagery, Stoddard explores the complexities of human emotions, particularly the experience of nameless pain that often goes unrecognized and silent. As a representative work, “Nameless Pain” highlights Stoddard’s ability to give voice to suppressed emotions and inner turmoil, challenging the norms of her time.
  • Major Themes in “Nameless Pain”: “Nameless Pain” shows the themes of social expectations, isolation, and intellectual stagnation. The poem explores the speaker’s discontentment when he says that he should be ‘happy with my lot’ demonstrating an active desire on her part to have a purpose in life, crossing the boundaries of social norms. The theme of isolation is also apparent when she says that ‘I only see Time’s shadow now’, illustrating her disinterestedness as well as yearning. The theme of intellectual stagnation emerges when Stoddard asserts her wider reading about poets and arts, demonstrating her frustration with the limited inspiration derived from artistic pursuits. With these interconnected themes, “Nameless Pain” offers a poignant exploration of the speaker’s emotions and her search for a meaningful existence.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in Nameless Pain

Elizabeth Drew Barstow Stoddard’s use of various literary devices to enhance the intended impact of her poem is highly effective here. Some of the major literary devices are as follows.

  1. Alliteration: It is the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words in close proximity. For example, the phrases “baby’s brow” (line 8), “world’s work” (line 9), and “beggar brings” (line 10) show the repetition of the /b/ and /w/ sounds, creating alliteration and adding a musical quality to the lines.
  2. Allusion: It is a reference to a well-known person, event, or literary work. For example, “I read the poets of the age” (line 13) shows the poet alluding to reading the works of contemporary poets, implying her appreciation of literature.
  3. Anaphora: It is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses. For example, “No…” in lines 9 and 10 shows the repetition of the word “no,” emphasizing the speaker’s contemplation.
  1. Apostrophe: It is the direct address to an absent or imaginary person or entity. For example, “foolish wish! I still should pine” (line 18) shows the speaker addresses an abstract concept.
  2. Assonance: It is the repetition of vowel sounds in nearby words. For example, “No world’s work ever comes to me” (line 9) shows the repetition of the long /o/ sound in “No,” “world’s,” and “comes” creating assonance.
  3. Enjambment: It is the continuation of a sentence or clause without a pause beyond the end of a line or stanza. For example, “I have no power, no healing art / With bruised soul or broken heart” (lines 11-12) shows the sentence flowing seamlessly.
  4. Hyperbole: It means exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally. For example, “I study Art, but Art is dead” (line 15) shows the speaker using hyperbole to express her disillusionment with art.
  5. Irony: It is the use of words to convey a meaning opposite to their literal sense or an outcome contrary to what is expected. For example, “That make each day like other days” (line 6) shows the speaker presenting the repetition of days as a comforting aspect of her life.
  6. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech that compares two different things by stating that one thing is another. For example, “With milk from Nature’s rugged breast” (line 17) shows the speaker metaphorically describing Nature’s resources as nourishment.
  7. Personification: It is the attribution of human characteristics to inanimate objects or abstract concepts. For example, “I only see Time’s shadow now” (line 7) shows the speaker personifying Time, giving it the ability to cast shadows.
  8. Symbolism: It means using common things to imply something else, such as a house, time, hair, baby, and the beggar symbolizing domesticity.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in Nameless Pain

Poetic devices differ from literary devices in functions as well as in nature. However, their main function is to give good shape, form, and structure to the poem. The analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem shows it.

  1. Diction: The choice and use of words and phrases in a literary work. The poet’s choice of the words “study,” “Art,” and “dead” shows her domesticity as well as her longing.
  2. End Rhyme: The repetition of similar sounds at the end of lines in poetry. For example, “sent” (line 4) and “content” (line 3) shows the words rhyming with each other and providing a sense of harmony and musicality to the poem.
  3. Meter: It is the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line of poetry. The poem follows a primarily iambic meter, alternating stressed and unstressed syllables.
  4. Rhyme Scheme: The pattern of rhyming words at the end of each line in a poem. The rhyme scheme of the poem is AABB in all of its quatrains. It creates a sense of symmetry and order, with each pair of consecutive lines ending in a rhyming word.
  5. Poem: It is the category or form of a poem. “Nameless Pain” is a lyric poem as it shows the poet expressing the thoughts and emotions of her personal experiences and feelings.
  6. Stanza: It is a division or group of lines in a poem. The poem consists of five quatrains, each containing four lines.
  7. Tone: The attitude or mood conveyed by the author in a literary work. The tone of the poem is melancholic or despondent, showing the speaker’s dissatisfaction, longing, and resignation.

Quotes to be Used

This quote is suitable to be used when reflecting on one’s current situation and contemplating whether one should be satisfied or content with what they have.

I should be happy with my lot.