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Frost on Design

            This is a poem of finding evil in innocence, a song of experience, though the voice is hardly that of Blake's child-like singer. At first we hear the cheerfully observant walker on back-country roads: I found a dimpled . . . The iambic lilt adds a tone of pleasant surprise: I found a dimpled darling' " Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet!' But in spider' the voice betrays itself, and in fat' and white' the dimpled creature appears less charming. On a small scale the first line, like the whole poem, builds up a joke in tone, rhythm, and image that grows into a joke' of another sort.
             In the octet the joking discovery develops gradually through a series of contradictory pictures. A white heal-all' suggests purity and safety, though the color echoes the white of the swollen spider. A satin-white moth has its charm, too, a party-going creature poised like Wordsworth's butterfly on its flower; but rigid' is too frozen, too easily reminiscent of rigor mortis or the stiff shining satin of a coffin. In the aside of the next three lines, the speaker gives away his joke, but he does it jokingly, again partly by tricks of rhythm. First there is the very correct iambic on line 4,.
             Assorted characters of death and blight . . . .
             in exactly ten syllables, every other one of which must be stressed, a little as in doggerel. The plain truth of the statement takes on a cheerful sing-song quality, an effect increased in the next line by reversing the stress and omitting the short in Mixed ready. The tone now becomes quite jaunty, but right' hovers on a pun for rite, as the poet mixes a brew worthy of the Weird Sisters, Shakespeare's most evil images of evil. The adding of unstressed syllables speeds up and lightens the next line to soften the ugliness of what is being said:.
             Like the ingredients of a witches' broth . . .
             And with.
             A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,.
             more oblique joking is resumed in images of springtime freshness ( snow drop, flower-like, we hear).

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