The title of the poem is also part of the opening line, immediately establishing the idea of conflict in this relationship.
In the first stanza, the speaker gives a detailed account of the home of her 'rival'. At this point the precise relationship of the two and why she is visiting her home is unclear.
It is evident through the speaker’s observations that this is a home designed to intimidate and impress rather than to create a sense of welcome or comfort.
The speaker describes the house as being
peopled with many surfaces of
ormulo and gilt.
These surfaces are then filled with ornate and elaborate objects and ornaments. This only increases the formality of the occasion and adds to the speaker’s trepidation.
Her attention then moves to the subject of the poem, the rival of the title. She is wearing
slippers satin and has furnished her house with
lush velvet couches.
Again fabrics like satin and velvet only add to the opulent air of the home. Yet despite the cushions' luxurious surface texture, they remain
so stiff you can’t sink in.
The final line of the stanza,
Tables polished clear enough to see distortions in creates a sinister mood. It suggests that for all the gleaming impressiveness of the room, something dark is lurking underneath the surface.