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"Happiness" by Jane Kenyon

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Tyler Hatch

on 5 December 2013

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Transcript of "Happiness" by Jane Kenyon

Tyler Hatch
"Happiness" by Jane Kenyon
1st Stanza
There’s just no accounting for happiness, or the way it turns up like a prodigal who comes back to the dust at your feet having squandered a fortune far away.
You never know why, when, or how happiness will come.
2nd Stanza
And how can you not forgive? You make a feast in honor of what was lost, and take from its place the finest garment, which you saved for an occasion you could not imagine, and you weep night and day to know that you were not abandoned, that happiness saved its most extreme form for you alone.
Happiness can come in very hard times of our lives and help us get through them.
3rd Stanza
No, happiness is the uncle you never knew about, who flies a single-engine plane onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes into town, and inquires at every door until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful hours of your despair.

Happiness can come at the times when you least expect it to.
4th Stanza
It comes to the monk in his cell. It comes to the woman sweeping the street with a birch broom, to the child whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing a sock, to the pusher, to the basketmaker, and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots in the night.
Happiness comes to everyone.
5th Stanza
It even comes to the boulder in the perpetual shade of pine barrens, to rain falling on the open sea, to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

Happiness even comes to the people you would not expect it to.
Theme
Happiness is unpredictable and unforeseeable.
You don't know why, when, or how it comes or leaves. It can come and leave when you least expect it to.
The speaker really appreciates this.
"... and inquires at every door until he finds you asleep midafternoon as you so often are during the unmerciful hours of your despair."
Chart
Poem: "Happiness" by Jane Kenyon
Form: 5 stanzas; 31 lines
Rhyme Scheme: Free Verse
Repetition: "It comes to..." in the last 2 stanzas (parallelism)
Imagery: "It comes to the boulder in the perpetual shade of the pine barrens.", "No...who flies a single-engine plane onto a grassy landing strip..."
Figurative Language: Rhetorical question-"And how can you not forgive?", metaphor-"...happiness is the uncle...", and personification-"...who flies a single-engine plane onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes into town, and inquires at every door until he finds you asleep..."
Chart continued...
Speakers/Characters: 2nd person point of view. The speaker is possibly the author.
Tone: Flattering and passionate
Theme: The author is very appreciative and grateful for the unexpectedness of happiness and how you do not know how, when, or why it comes and goes.
I think that imagery and literary devises, such as parallelism and rhetorical questions, are most important and contribute to the theme of the poem.
Born on May 23, 1947
Died on April 22, 1995(Leukemia)
Raised in the Midwest
Moved to New Hampshire after she got married
Kenyon was New Hampshire's poet laureate when she died
Fun Fact: Her husband, Donald Hall, was 19 years older than her
Author Information
Full transcript