Marianne Moore’s Bryn Mawr Poetry


Through an exchange with her mother, we are allowed access to the expectations with which Marianne Moore  entered into the community of academic women. Mrs. Moore creates a system of value for Moore which prizes knowledge above all. Intelligence provides the ability to become boundless.

When Moore passed them all [the entrance exams], Mrs. Moore wrote exuberantly to ‘Uncle Fangs’ (Marianne Moore) , ‘I am rich–oh so rich no one can estimate the amount of our riches!’ As had Moore in her letter to Bryher, Mrs. Moore equates intellect with ‘wealth.’ Moore experienced this kind of self-affirming and exuberant support for academic achievement from women on all sides (Hicok 486).

Though Moore’s mother a had always been a strong figure for her as an intelligent woman, this “witch” in the poems culminates a more intense version of the academic woman. Through this poem Moore acknowledges that should she choose to employ this “vestment,” she will have the ability to do so because of her education at Bryn Mawr.  Like the vestment, Moore’s language and knowledge is rich, but in order to fully understand, the reader must be able to “see” and to question. Moore equated the adjective “rich” with academic success. In the poem, “rich” is used to describe the “vestment.” Vestment comes from the Latin word, “vestire” meaning to clothe. (”Vestiment” 1a). The “witch” in the poem in a sense is being clothed by knowledge. The woman in the poem represents the female intellectual.This figure foreshadows the poet that Moore becomes. She is known for her use of “armor” in her later poetry. Critics and readers often used the medieval metaphor to refer to language that they believed to be obscure or convoluted. Here, we see that first  Moore self-described “armor” as a “vestment.”