The “life” of a mirror owned by a woman recapping what it is seeing and what he has seen. The monotony of the day to day occurrences set the scene for the poem and the plain and sagacious way of speaking because of this we see that the mirror seems to be quite old. It recalls the woman who seems to be the owner searching the mirror to find herself as she is now an old woman who has spent time in the mirror since she was a young woman and now seems to be going through a crisis trying to accept the image of herself in the mirror as she is now. She finds alternative ways to view herself but she is unable to come to terms with aging is trying to grasp at her youth as her perception of her now old self causes her grief.
Stanza by stanza analysis
The poem begins with the mirror explaining what he is and sets the scene for it being a truthful and reliable albeit monochromatic character. The first stanza is very slow-paced and calm as we go through the day to day “life” of the mirror as it is a personified thing.
“I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions. Whatever I see I swallow immediately” the mirror gives no judgment but instead shows exactly what it sees. “I am not cruel, only truthful ‚//The eye of a little god, four-cornered.” This sets up for the second stanza reinforcing the statement that the mirror only reflects what is in front of it and does not form its own judgment. The mirror refers to itself as a little god, a god is seen as the amplification of truth in the realm of humans and what is said or shown by a god is considered to be the only truth.
The mirror continues to speak of the monotony of its existence as it sits facing the opposite wall ” pink with speckles”, “I have looked at it so long I think it is part of my heart.” The mirror has faced this wall so long it seems to be a part of it as it would only reflect that surface. The fact that the mirror is pink and has been pink so long even into the old age of the woman could this be an attempt by the woman to latch on to something of the past and a semblance of her youth by keeping the wall in the room that colour. Also seeing that the colour pink is a vibrant colour associated with youth.
“But it flickers.//Faces and darkness separate us over and over.” The flickering could be a reference to time moving, darkness then light over and over again as each day passes. These last two lines set up stanza two. Which faces are seen in the mirror?
“Now I am a lake”. They say that water has memories, the mirror referring to itself as a lake, a large body of water that if looked on is usually reflective, it could hold memories, the memories that this woman holds of the past. “A woman bends over me,//Searching my reaches for what she really is.” The woman is unable to come to terms with the fact that she is now old , searching for her youth, but the mirror only reflects what is in front of it and what it sees is an old lady.
She looks to other things to show a different image “Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.” The candle and the moon can only shed light on what is there and cannot reflect they only show shadows which are not the actual image which may be why the mirror calls them liars.
We see that the woman is not satisfied with the image that is shown by the mirror , we get the feeling of melancholy from this stanza. She hates the image she now sees “I see her back, and reflect it faithfully. //She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.” Seeing her image and her trying it distort the image or rather her trying desperately to change what she sees.
“I am important to her. She comes and goes.//Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness” even though the woman hates the image she sees in the mirror she seems reliant on it compelled to look each day. The mirror has seen her face every day since she was a young woman aging until she now she is an old woman and now her reflection seems to be something of a crisis or point of hurt for the woman .”In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman//Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.”
- “In me she has drowned a young girl,”- the woman, she has been looking at the mirror since she was a young woman now her youth has passed and she is now old
- “I think it is part of my heart”- the mirror has been reflecting the wall for so long is has become a standard part of its existence as it always there
- “Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.” – making a comparison to the woman’s reflection and her perception of herself as a terrible fish showing how much she disdains her reflection.
- “Now I am a lake”-
- “I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.” – the mirror is personified throughout the poem as it is the narrator it now gives itself more human qualities and referring to itself as a being.
- “It is pink, with speckles.”- the description of the wall allowing us to imagine the wall
- “But it flickers.
- Faces and darkness separate us over and over.” we can imagine the moving of faces, the darkness and the light which give the impression of time moving
- Loss of youth
- Woman vs aging