The Women of Marblehead: Analysis of John Greenleaf Whittier's 'Skipper Ireson's Ride'
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John Greenleaf Whittier's "Skipper Ireson's Ride"
The Women of Marblehead
In the opening stanza of John Greenleaf Whittier's poem, "Skipper Ireson's Ride," we learn of the "strangest ride that was ever sped." The ride was taken by Floyd Ireson, we are told, and it was not a pleasant one, for he was "Tarred and feathered and carried in a cart." The people who were in charge of the cart, we learn at the end of the first stanza, are "the women of Marblehead."
The women of Marblehead in Whittier's poem, we learn in the second stanza, are "old and young,/Strong of muscle, and glib of tongue." Furthermore, we are told that that as they carry Skipper Ireson along, they are also "Shouting and singing" a "shrill refrain." Thus what we learn from these lines is that this is a boisterous group of women of all ages. They are sturdy, and apparently strong and energetic, for they manage to sing and shout while they drag the skipper down a road that is described as "rocky."
The third stanza contains more colorful descriptions of the women of Marblehead, but the general impression is the same. They come in a range of ages. There are old and worn women, "Wrinkled scolds with hands on hips." There are also younger, fresh-faced women, "Girls in bloom of cheek and lips." Their behavior is very much out of control; they are described as "Wild-eyed" and "free-limbed." They are compared to the women who in ancient Greek times chased the God of Wine, Bacchus, "round some antique vase."