Structure - This is a carefully structured poem of six stanzas, each containing four lines. Lines are made of ten syllables, though some are hypermetric (an additional syllable), usually to stress a key word (e.g. "her" at the end of the first stanza).
Rhyme - The poem doesn’t have a rhyming pattern. This may suggest that the speaker doesn’t feel there is harmony in her way of life.
Diction - Some of the sentences are short, with words left out. This may suggest the maid’s anger. The language is simple. Many sentences contain lists of verbs, like the second sentence: ‘bids’, ‘wear’, ‘warm’ and ‘brush’.
Full Stops and Commas - A run on line connects stanza one with stanza two and stanza five with stanza six. Full stops are placed at various points of the poem, only four of them at the end of a line. There are ten other full stops or question marks at various points of lines. This is unusual for a poem. The punctuation suggests that the speaker’s life is not under her own control.
Comparison - The speaker cleverly compares the pearls to a rope. When she wears them they are like a rope. This is a metaphor in which the servant suggests that she is like a slave held by a rope. The rope represents power. It also represents that in a certain way the mistress hangs herself by wearing pearls that carry the maid’s body odour.
Imagery - The speaker provides various images of her working day. She gives us images of her fashionable mistress. She imagines pictures of handsome men dancing with her mistress. There are many sensual images, especially of touch. The central image of wearing the cool pearls on a throat appeals to our sense of touch, like the powder dusting on the shoulders. There is also a strong appeal to the sense of smell with the French perfume and the servant’s persistent scent carried in the pearls. The description of rooms and dresses, the use of the colours yellow, white, blush and red all appeal to our eyes. The images are therefore very sensual.
Contrast (difference) - The speaker contrasts the warm pearls to her mistress’ cool throat. The speaker contrasts her own working day with her mistress’ idle day, in the second stanza.
Mood/ Atmosphere - The atmosphere is mainly one of luxury, with descriptions of fine clothes, perfume, fine rooms and evening balls.
Hyperbole (Exaggeration) - The speaker exaggerates somewhat by comparing the necklace to a rope. She exaggerates her feelings at the end by comparing how she feels to burning.
Tone - The tone is very ironical. The rich mistress gains the opposite effect from the pearls to the one she intends. The speaker is fully aware that the task she performs everyday for her mistress defeats its purpose. During the day, the pearls absorb her body odour. The mistress is beautiful and probably doesn’t need to wear the warmed up pearls. Men who dance with the mistress get the maid’s ‘persistent scent’ or body odour from the pearls and feel confused. The mysterious scent of the maid puzzles them and obviously puts them off relating to the beautiful lady who believes she can seduce them with her pearls. Unknown to the mistress, she is lonely due to the consequences of bidding her servant to warm her pearls. Thus the overall tone of the poem is very ironical. Another tone is evident in the last line. The tone of the maid in the final line is one of anger as she burns with hidden feelings.
Assonance (similar vowel sound repetition) - The repeating ‘e’ sound in the first three lines creates a musical effect. Note how the poet uses many words with an ‘e’ sound to keep up this musical effect throughout the poem.
Alliteration (repetition of consonant sounds at the start of nearby words) - The way ‘p’ connects ‘puzzled’ and ‘persistent’ and gives emphasis to the body odour and the way it puts the handsome men off the posh lady. The ‘w’ in ‘whilst I work willingly’ emphasises the maid’s positive attitude to doing work as opposed to idly fanning herself like the mistress.
Sibilance (repetition of ‘s’ sound) - Note how the thirteen ‘s’ sounds in the fourth stanza emphasise the luxurious and lazy life of the posh mistress.