Fenc’d by these rebel pow’rs that thee array,
Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth,
Why so large cost, having so short a lease,
Dost thou upon thy fading mansion spend?
Shall worms, inheritors of this excess,
Eat up thy charge? Is this thy body’s end?
And let that pine to aggravate thy store;
Buy terms divine in selling hours of dross;
Within be fed, without be rich no more:
So shalt thou feed on Death, that feeds on men,
And Death once dead, there’s no more dying then.
Select an Answer
The dramatic situation in the poem is that of
a youth speaking to a lover
a priest speaking to a sinner
a reformer addressing an impoverished person
God addressing any human soul
an individual addressing his or her own soul
Choice (E) is correct. Beginning in line 1, the speaker directly addresses his or her soul: “Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth” (“earth” means “body,” as the following lines make clear). Throughout the rest of the poem, the speaker discusses the relationship between his or her soul and physical body. When the speaker refers to “thy outward walls,” “thy fading mansion,” “thy charge,” and so on, he or she is referring to the body, which will ultimately die and be eaten by worms (“Shall worms, inheritors of this excess/Eat up thy charge? Is this thy body’s end?”). The message of the poem is that the (inner) soul should stop worrying about the (outer) body and should essentially let the body wither and die, knowing that the soul is all that matters in the afterlife (“Then, soul, live thou upon thy servant’s loss”). The dramatic situation of the poem is that of an individual—the speaker—addressing his or her own soul.