Here is the extract from a poem "Aunt Jennifer's tigers" by Adrienne Rich-

Aunt Jennifer's tigers prance across a screen
bright topaz denizens of a world of green.
They do not fear the men beneath the tree.

In the above extract what does the sentence- "bright topaz denizens of a world of green" mean,
I did not find any relation between the words 'topaz' and 'denizens'.
Please Help!

  • thefreedictionary.com/denizen (inhabitant). thefreedictionary.com/topaz (a gem stone that comes in many colours, but is often yellowish-orange). – Frank Mar 1 '15 at 7:42
  • @Frank As I've mentioned in the details, I am aware of those meanings, but can you please explain what the sentence means? I don't find any link between those two words... – jNerd Mar 1 '15 at 9:27
  • There's no link really - it's just a description of tigers: bright topaz being the colour of their fur and denizen indicating they live in the world of green (presumably a jungle). She could have written orange residents of the jungle but that is not very poetic. – Frank Mar 1 '15 at 9:29
  • I think I see what you mean now - are you reading it as bright topaz-denizens rather than bright-topaz denizens? – Frank Mar 1 '15 at 9:31
  • 2
    Part of the reason the poet uses those words is for the duplicated z sound. Also, topaz denizen is exotic and exciting, like the tigers, and in contrast to Aunt Jennifer's unfulfilling life. – anongoodnurse Mar 1 '15 at 9:43

Topaz is a gemstone. I had thought it was usually Blue, but some research shows that it can be various shades of orange and brown as well. Wikipedia says:

Orange topaz, also known as precious topaz, is the traditional November birthstone, the symbol of friendship

So we have beautiful, hard, crystalline, light refracting, light reflecting orange tigers living in (denizens of) a world of green ... I think of forests ...

Compare with William Blake's

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry

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Wonderful reference site for poem analysis: http://www.shmoop.com/aunt-jennifers-tigers/

Specific link here; read the explanation, - http://www.shmoop.com/aunt-jennifers-tigers/stanza-1-summary.html

Quote: A few vocab words are in order here. First: a topaz is a shiny crystal, and denizen means an inhabitant. So, to rephrase the poem a bit: the tigers are bright, crystalline animals that prance around their "world of green." What world might this be? We're guessing it's a forest, where tigers like to do their tiger-ly thing. Though they only appear on some screen, these tigers seem pretty alive to us. They are bright and crystal-like, and they prance. Rich's colorful imagery is really vivid here.

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  • I've edited it. – Kugelblitz Mar 1 '15 at 13:37

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