Crossed The Poems of Crossed

Condie employs poetry as a means of interpersonal connection, event description, and character development throughout Crossed and the Matched trilogy. For Cassia, poetry is a means of powerful creation, and so important to her after escaping the originality-punishing Society.

One of the most frequently referenced poems in Crossed is Lord Alfred Tennyson’s "Crossing the Bar," a four-stanza elegy that uses an extended metaphor about crossing the sand bar of a water channel to represent the transition from life to death. Following the loss of his younger son to an illness abroad, Tennyson fell into an episode of anxiety about death and desperation for immortality. While later experiencing a serious illness at sea in 1889, crossing the Solent from the Isle of Wight to the mainland of England, he wrote the poem in what some have referred to as a "moment of serenity." The poem employs a standard ABAB rhyme scheme and rhythmic pattern, mimicking the content of the push and pull of waves. It is said that Tennyson, on his deathbed, asked his elder son to ensure that "Crossing the Bar" be published at the end of all future collections of his work, which to this day is tradition when republishing them.

The second most frequently mentioned poem in Crossed would be Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night," so named for the first line of the poem. Written in 1951 as Thomas' father was fighting for his life, the poem depicts strong language of "raging" against death, refusing to go quietly into whatever lies beyond a man's last breath. The poem is written as a villanelle, a specific form of poetry that incorporates nineteen lines divided into five three-line stanzas and a sixth stanza with four lines, written in iambic pentameter (ten syllables to a line with alternating syllabic stresses). That Thomas used his father's death as inspiration for the poem draws parallel to the death of Cassia's grandfather in Matched, who himself made arrangements to defy the Society as he died by asking his son to destroy his tissue preservation sample post-mortem. Cassia's grandfather's gift of "Do Not Go Gentle" along with the Tennyson poem in her compact is the match that ignites her transformation from Society pawn to Rising radical. As such, the words take on even more meaning in the context of fighting against an enemy that seeks total submission: when one refuses to go quietly, one is able to fight back, something that Cassia is prepared to do by Crossed's end.

Though mentioned only briefly in Crossed, there is great significance when Cassia comes across Emily Dickinson's "I did not reach thee" among the farmers' books and papers in Chapter 34. The poem comes from a collection of Dickinson's poems published in 1914 entitled, "The Single Hound," and many images and elements of it are reminiscent of those found in the Matched series, including journeying across hills and deserts to reach an unidentified "thee." (Ironically, a specific person is not designated as a goal - a parallel to Cassia's indecision between pursuing Xander or Ky.) Of particular note is the ominous and potentially foreshadowing last two lines, which say, "Now Death usurps my Premium / And gets the look at Thee." This suggests the possible death of a prominent (or "Premium") character in Cassia's future, a moment that may reveal itself in Reached.

Hunter's daughter's epitaph, "the June wind like a finger goes" comes from another poem by Dickinson, this one from her second series of poems published in 1891. The series, like her others, is separated into four books: "Life," "Love," "Nature," and "Time and Eternity." This poem, the ninth in "Time and Eternity," is entitled "Battlefield," and talks of "dropping like flakes... [and] stars," evoking images of the slew of dead farmers that Cassia and Indie discover atop one of the canyons. That Hunter chose it for Sarah's epitaph places her memory in the same narrative as that of a soldier, a victim of a conflict much larger than any one fallen individual.

Finally, Condie drives home the book's poetry theme by writing a poem to describe the night that Cassia and Ky spend together in Chapter 27, when they take the time to kiss and hold and appreciate one another. The poem speaks of “…the world [being] only you / and only me.” It references the colors red, blue, and green, a quintessential Matched motif, and concludes with “the music ended / but we / were still / singing.” In the Society, any poetry not approved as a part of the Hundred Poems is considered illegitimate and an act of treason, and since this is also true of Cassia and Ky's relationship, to have their night of intimacy as the focus of a poem is perhaps the greatest symbolism of their forbidden love and the power it has to result in beautiful, new creation.