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Poetry - My Heart is Like a Withered Nut
My Heart is Like a Withered Nut.

Poetry - My Heart is Like a Withered Nut

Caroline Norton was a nineteenth-century poet, writer and political activist. Although extremely talented and well-connected, she led a life marked by disappointment, sorrow and scandal. These experiences fed into much of her writing, such as this poem, 'My Heart is Like a Withered Nut'.

Read the poem and then test your ability to analyse previously unseen poetry by trying the quiz.

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My Heart is Like a Withered Nut

 

My heart is like a withered nut,
Rattling within its hollow shell;
You cannot ope my breast, and put
Any thing fresh with it to dwell.
The hopes and dreams that filled it when
Life's spring of glory met my view,
Are gone! and ne'er with joy or pain
That shrunken heart shall swell anew.

My heart is like a withered nut;
Once it was soft to every touch,
But now 'tis stern and closely shut;--
I would not have to plead with such.
Each light-toned voice once cleared my brow,
Each gentle breeze once shook the tree
Where hung the sun-lit fruit, which now
Lies cold, and stiff, and sad, like me!

My heart is like a withered nut--
It once was comely to the view;
But since misfortune's blast hath cut,
It hath a dark and mournful hue.
The freshness of its verdant youth
Nought to that fruit can now restore;
And my poor heart, I feel in truth,
Nor sun, nor smile shall light it more!


Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton 

1.
Which of the following words does NOT describe the mood of this poem?
Regretful
Hopeful
Sorrowful
Resigned
2.
Although the first line of each stanza is a simile, the entire poem is an example of...
personification
alliteration
an extended metaphor
iambic pentameter
The poem is an example of an extended metaphor - although the poet's heart is like a withered nut, the rest of the poem talks of the heart as though it is a withered nut ('it was soft to every touch', 'now lies cold, and stiff, and sad')
3.
What is the narrator in this poem mourning?
A recent disappointment in life
The loss of her friends and youthful acquaintances
The loss of her home and family
The loss of youthful hopes and dreams; the ability to respond emotionally
The narrator does not elaborate on 'misfortune's blast' - we, as readers, do not know for certain what that misfortune was, but she is very clear that it has destroyed her emotional interaction with others along with all her hopes and dreams
4.
'Once it was soft to every touch' - what is meant by this line?
The narrator knew how to stand up for herself in the past
The narrator was sensitive and responsive to other people
The narrator did not really love anyone when she was younger
The narrator's heart was physically healthy when she was younger
5.
Which line supports the point made in the answer to question 4?
'But now 'tis stern and closely shut'
'I would not have to plead with such'
'Each light-toned voice once cleared my brow'
'But since misfortune's blast hath cut'
6.
'The hopes and dreams that filled it when / Life's spring of glory met my view, / Are gone!' What effect do enjambment and caesura achieve in these lines?
It emphasises the surprising shortness of the phrase 'Are gone!'
It reproduces the suddenness with which the narrator was robbed of her hopes and dreams
It illustrates the way the narrator's dreamy youth gave way sharply to the reality of adulthood
All of the above
7.
'Where hung the sun-lit fruit, which now / Lies cold, and stiff, and sad, like me!' - What does the poet imply with the words 'cold' and 'stiff'?
She is reminding the reader of her heart's withered nature
It is as if she were dead
She demonstrates that she does not care what others think
She cannot afford to heat her house
Here, the poet expands the meaning of the metaphor from her heart to herself - she is the withered nut
8.
In the first stanza, what language choice provides a contrast to 'withered'?
Fresh, spring, swell
Shell, breast, joy
Rattling, hollow, shrunken
Put, dwell, view
These are not the only words which provide a contrast - the entire first stanza contrast the poet's fresh heart of youth with the shrivelled and withered heart life has given her
9.
'You cannot ope my breast...' - this line expresses the narrator's resignation to her state. Which other line reinforces this acceptance of the way life will be for her in future?
'Nought to that fruit can now restore'
'But since misfortune's blast hath cut'
'It hath a dark and mournful hue'
'It once was comely to the view'
The narrator appears to have given up - she is resigned to her fate
10.
The movement of the poem is between past and present - what effect do the last two lines have?
The narrator looks forward in hope to her life and joy being restored
The poet appears to have made a mistake with the tenses
The last two lines look ahead to a weary, unchanging future
The narrator will remain looking back to the past
This effect is achieved by the use of the future tense in the final line
Author:  Sheri Smith

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