"Barter" is a lyric poem written by American poet Sara Teasdale that serves as a potent meditation on the true value of beauty in life. The poem's title, "Barter," refers to the concept of trade, implying that life offers beautiful things in exchange for something else.
The poem starts by presenting a catalogue of "loveliness" that life has to offer. This includes natural wonders like "blue waves whitened on a cliff" and "soaring fire that sways and sings," as well as the innocent wonder found on children's faces. These elements encapsulate the breathtaking, sublime beauty present in everyday experiences.
In the second stanza, Teasdale continues to list elements of beauty, moving from natural to more personal and spiritual dimensions. She mentions "music like a curve of gold," the scent of pine trees in the rain, the comfort of loving eyes and embracing arms, and the delight of holy thoughts that metaphorically "star" or illuminate the night. The imagery used here demonstrates the wide variety of beauty, both sensory and emotional, that life can offer.
The concluding section of the poem is a passionate call to action. The speaker advises the reader to spend all they have for loveliness, to buy it regardless of the cost. Teasdale implies that the pursuit of beauty, even at the cost of personal sacrifice or hardship, is worth the price. The notion of a "white singing hour of peace" being worth "many a year of strife" suggests that moments of pure joy and beauty can outweigh years of struggle. The final line, which exhorts the reader to give all they can be for a breath of ecstasy, underscores the immeasurable worth of transcendent moments of beauty.
Through "Barter," Sara Teasdale communicates the transformative power of beauty and encourages readers to value and seek out such experiences in life, emphasizing their worth over material gain or worldly success.