Eng 432


POEMS


The Second Coming

by W. B. Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;

Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out

When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi

Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it

Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again; but now I know

That twenty centuries of stony sleep

Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towardsBethlehemto be born?

The Second Coming Summary

The poem begins with the image of a falcon flying out of earshot from its human master. In medieval times, people would use falcons or hawks to track down animals at ground level. In this image, however, the falcon has gotten itself lost by flying too far away, which we can read as a reference to the collapse of traditional social arrangements inEuropeat the time Yeats was writing.

In the fourth line, the poem abruptly shifts into a description of "anarchy" and an orgy of violence in which "the ceremony of innocence is drowned." The speaker laments that only bad people seem to have any enthusiasm nowadays.

At line 9, the second stanza of the poem begins by setting up a new vision. The speaker takes the violence which has engulfed society as a sign that "the Second Coming is at hand." He imagines a sphinx in the desert, and we are meant to think that this mythical animal, rather than Christ, is what is coming to fulfill the prophecy from the Biblical Book of Revelation. At line 18, the vision ends as "darkness drops again," but the speaker remains troubled. Finally, at the end of the poem, the speaker asks a rhetorical question which really amounts to a prophecy that the beast is on its way to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ, to be born into the world.

Stanza I Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 1-2

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

  • The falcon is described as "turning" in a "widening gyre" until it can no longer "hear the falconer," its human master.
  • A gyre is a spiral that expands outward as it goes up. Yeats uses the image of gyres frequently in his poems to describe the motion of history toward chaos and instability.
  • In actual falconry, the bird is not supposed to keep flying in circles forever; it is eventually supposed to come back and land on the falconer’s glove. (Interesting fact: falconers wear heavy gloves to keep the birds from scratching them with their claws.)

Line 3

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

  • The "notion" that "things fall apart" could still apply to the falcon, but it’s also vague enough to serve as a transition to the images of more general chaos that follow.
  • The second part of the line, a declaration that "the centre cannot hold," is full of political implications (like the collapse of centralized order into radicalism). This is the most famous line of the poem: the poem’s "thesis," in a nutshell.

Lines 4-6

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

  • These three lines describe a situation of violence and terror through phrases like "anarchy," "blood-dimmed tide," and "innocence [. . .] drowned." (By the way, "mere" doesn’t mean "only" in this context; it means "total" or "pure.")
  • Overall, pretty scary stuff.
  • Also, with words like "tide," "loosed," and "drowned," the poem gives the sensation of water rushing around us. It’s like Noah’s flood all over again, except there’s no orderly line of animals headed two-by-two into a boat.
  • What’s Yeats referring to here? Is this a future prophecy, the poet’s dream, or maybe a metaphor forEuropeat war? There’s really no way to be sure – Yeats doesn’t seem to want us to know too much.

Lines 7-8

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

  • Who are "the best" and "the worst"?
  • One way of deciphering them is that Yeats is talking about "the good" and "the bad." But he doesn’t use those words in the poem, and these lines are a clue as to why not.
  • For one thing, if "the best lack all conviction," can they really be that good? Believing in something enough to act on it is kind of what being good is all about.
  • On the other hand, "the worst" have all the "intensity" on their side, which is good for them, but definitely not for everyone else.
  • Think about that time you dropped your lunch in the cafeteria and all the people you hate laughed really hard, and all your friends were too embarrassed to do anything about it. According to Yeats,Europeafter the war is kind of like that. Things are so messed up that you can’t tell the good and the bad apart.

Stanza II Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 9-10

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

  • Notice how these two lines are almost exactly the same. This is where the speaker tells us what he thinks is going on, but the repetition means that he’s maybe not so sure and is slowly trying to figure things out.
  • It’s a revelation, he says, which is when the true meaning of something is revealed.
  • Not only that, but it’s a revelation according to the most reputable source for these kinds of things: the Book of Revelation.
  • Apparently, all this violence and moral confusion means "the Second Coming is at hand." According to the Bible, that means Christ is going come back and set everything straight, right?
  • We’ll see. For now, the poem is about to take another turn.

Lines 11-13

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert

  • So maybe we’re not saved.
  • The words "Second Coming" seem to have made the speaker think of something else, so that he repeats the phrase as an exclamation. It’s like, "Eureka!" It makes him think of a "vast image out of Spiritus Mundi."
  • To know what this means, you have to know that Yeats was very interested in the occult and believed that people have a supernatural connection to one another. It’s in the same ballpark as telepathy or a psychic connection, but not quite as kooky as those other things. It’s more like we’re all connected to a big database of communal memories going back all the way through human history, which we can get in contact with when we’re feeling truly inspired.
  • Literally, Spiritus Mundi means "spirit of the world."
  • The speaker, through his sudden, revelatory connection to the world, is given access to a vision that takes him "somewhere in the sands of the desert."

Line 14

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,

  • Here, he is describing the sphinx, a mythical beast "with lion body and the head of a man."
  • You might have seen the picture of the ancient sphinx inEgypt: it’s pretty famous. But Yeats isn’t talking about that sphinx, per se. He’s talking about the original, archetypal symbol of the sphinx that first inspired the Egyptians to build that big thing in the desert, and which is now inspiring him.

Lines 15-17

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

  • In these lines he describes the sphinx’s expression and what it is doing.
  • By calling its gaze "pitiless," he doesn’t mean "evil" or "mean-spirited." In fact, the sphinx really seems to have an inhuman expression that is as indifferent as nature itself. It is "blank," statuesque, and incapable of having empathy with other humans.
  • This might not tell us much, but now we know that the sphinx doesn’t jibe at all with the way most people think of Christ. In other words, this "Second Coming" doesn’t seem to have at lot in common with the descent of Christ from Heaven as described in the Book of Revelation.
  • Nor does it seem to be in any big hurry to get here, as it moves "its slow thighs."
  • But, strangely, this slowness only seems to add to the suspense and terror, like Michael Myers chasing Jamie Lee Curtis in the movie Halloween.
  • Even the birds are ticked-off, or "indignant," but it’s not clear why. Their circling is similar to the gyres of the falcon from the beginning of the poem, but from what we know about desert birds, like vultures, when they fly in circles it’s often because they think something will die soon.

Lines 18-20

The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

  • The vision from Spiritus Mundi ends as "darkness drops again," like a stage curtain, but it has left the speaker with a strong prophetic impression. He knows something that he didn’t before, namely, that this strange sphinx is a symbol that will bear on the future.
  • Thinking outside the poem, it’s safe to say that he is talking aboutEurope’s future, and perhaps the world’s in general.
  • What exactly does the speaker claim to "know"? "Twenty centuries" refers to roughly the amount of time that has passed since the "first coming" of Christ. But we have already seen that the Second Coming is not going to be anything like the first.
  • Although 2,000 years seems like a long time to us, Yeats compares it to a single night of an infant’s sleep, which is suddenly "vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle."
  • The cradle reinforces the image that something has recently been "born," and its motion also serves as a metaphor for social upheaval.
  • It’s interesting that the infant doesn't wake up because of the rocking. It instead begins to have nightmares, much like the recent nightmares afflicting European society, whose long history amounts to no more than the first stages of childhood. It’s the terrible two’s of an entire continent.

Lines 21-22

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towardsBethlehemto be born?

  • The object of Yeats’s vision, which was formerly symbolized as a pitiless sphinx, is now described as a "rough beast" on its way toBethlehem– the birthplace of Christ – "to be born."
  • The "slouching" of this beast is animalistic and similar to the slow gait of the sphinx in the desert. It sounds more than a little menacing.
  • Yeats is using the birth atBethlehemas a metaphor of the passage of this malevolent beast from the spirit world –Spiritus Mundi – to the real, everyday world, where its effects will be visible to everyone.
  • By phrasing these lines as a question, Yeats tantalizes us with all the possibilities of what he might be describing. In the time since Yeats wrote the poem, the beast has been interpreted as a prediction of everything bad that the twentieth century has wrought, particularly the horrors of World War II: Hitler, fascism, and the atomic bomb.
  • It is the "nightmare" from which society would not be able to awake. Of course, Yeats would not have known about these specific things. However, he did seem to have a sense that things were still getting worse while most people around him thought things were getting better.
  • Some readers have thought that the birth at the end was an ironic vision of the Antichrist, an embodiment of evil as powerful as Christ was an embodiment of goodness.
  • Others believe that the beast, even though it is described as "rough," might not be evil, but merely a manifestation of the kind of harsh justice that society as a whole deserves. In other words, things have become so violent and decadent that God’s only solution is to deploy his all-purpose cleanser.


No Second Troy

W. B. Yeats

WHY should I blame her that she filled my days
With misery, or that she would of late
Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways,
Or hurled the little streets upon the great,
Had they but courage equal to desire?
What could have made her peaceful with a mind
That nobleness made simple as a fire,
With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind
That is not natural in an age like this,
Being high and solitary and most stern?
Why, what could she have done being what she is?
Was there another Troy for her to burn?


No Second Troy Summary

"No Second Troy" plays out through four rhetorical questions.

First, the speaker wonders "why" he should blame "her" for his unhappiness and for her reckless manipulation of the emotions of Irish commoners to rouse political violence. Then he asks whether it would even have been possible for "her" to be a "peaceful" person. He thinks her character and beauty have an old-school quality, more like a figure from Greek tragedy than a contemporary woman. She belongs to another age. She could not have been anything other than what she is. Simple enough. Last, because there was no "secondTroy" for her to destroy, she had to destroy other things – like the speaker's happiness, and the lives of Irish commoners. The firstTroy, of course, was destroyed because of a quarrel over Helen, another politically troublesome beauty from another "age": ancientGreece.

Lines 1-2

Why should I blame her that she filled my days
With misery, […]

  • The first question begins with "Why," and more specifically, "Why should I blame her?"
  • Right from the start, one thing is clear: the speaker does blame "her." Otherwise, he would not be wondering why he does, or should.
  • Sometimes it's appropriate to ignore the poet's biography whenreading a poem, but in this case, Yeats's Irish readers would have known exactly who this "her" was: Maud Gonne.
  • Maud Gonne was an Irish actress and revolutionary. Yeats proposed to her repeatedly, but she rejected him just as many times. Politically, she was more of a radical and a nationalist than he was, which contributed to the failure of their love affair. For more on this dynamic, which is essential to the poem, we recommend you read "In a Nutshell."
  • The speaker blames Maud Gonne for filling his life with unhappiness. We can only assume that the reason for his "misery" is that she rejected him – again and again.
  • The tone at the beginning of the poem is one of anger and bitterness. Will this trend continue?

Lines 2-3

[...]or that she would of late
Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways,

  • Gripe #1: She didn't love him. Gripe #2 introduces politics into the mix: recently ("of late"), she encouraged simple, "ignorant" men to be violent.
  • From the reader's perspective, this is a much more serious accusation. So she didn't love the speaker: too darned bad. But inciting violence is serious business.
  • Yeats is talking about the role Maud Gonne played in encouraging violent, revolutionary activities inIrelandduring the movement for independence.
  • Unlike the poor, simple souls she encouraged, Gonne was an educated, intelligent woman from a wealthy background. From Yeats' perspective, she should have known better. She doesn't have "ignorance" as an excuse for her radical beliefs.
  • Her support for political violence is a recent development, something that has happened "of late." She hasn't always been like this. "You've changed, baby!"
  • This poem was published in 1916, the same year as the violent Easter Rising inIreland, in which Gonne and her husband played a role.

Lines 4-5

Or hurled the little streets upon the great,
Had they but courage equal to desire?

  • This is a funny image. Image a woman lifting up a small street and throwing it on top of another street.
  • That's not what's happening, though. It's a metaphor. The speaker accuses Maud Gonne of class warfare, trying to make poor, simple people, who live in the "little streets," rebel against the more powerful people who live on the "great" streets.
  • Imagine the residents of the Bronx invading the Upper East Side and you've got an image of the little streets against the great. Except in this case, the "great" streets are actually populated by colonizers, the British.
  • Yeats was a conservative dude, and he didn't have as much faith in the spirit and character of the commoners as Gonne did. The common folk have the "desire" to overthrow British rule, but they don't have the "courage" to carry out the deed. They are too impoverished and uneducated.
  • Yeats thinks that stirring up trouble among such people is reckless to the extreme.

Lines 6-7

What could have made her peaceful with a mind
That nobleness made simple as a fire,

  • The beginning of the second question says, in effect, "She couldn't have turned out any other way, so what are you getting your undies in a bunch about!"
  • It's a rhetorical question, so the poet is talking to himself.
  • Remember how we said Yeats was conservative? He's big into aristocratic values like "nobleness," manners, and refinement.
  • Maud Gonne is not a simple person or commoner. She has a noble personality, like a medieval lord...or an ancient Greek warrior.
  • Yeats equates nobility with "simplicity" of mind, as if Gonne's emotions were not all muddled up and conflicted. Remember that famous "noble" characters, like Achilles from the Iliad, are often defined by a single, purified emotion – in Achilles' case, "rage."
  • Maud Gonne's state of mind is captured by the word "fire," as in "fiery." She can't be peaceful with a mind of fire.

Lines 8-9

With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind
That is not natural in an age like this
,

  • Yeats moves from discussing Gonne's mind to discussing her appearance. Her beauty, like her emotions, is simple. He compares her appearance to a "tightened bow" and says that her kind of beauty is old-school; it belongs to another age.
  • The string on a bow (as in bows and arrows) must be kept very tight so that it can shoot arrows far. In Homer's ancient Greek work the Odyssey, Odysseus's bow is so tight that only he can string it. He's super strong.
  • A tightened bow looks graceful and noble, but it contains an enormous amount of power within the tension of that single string. Maud Gonne's beauty is the same way: graceful, but containing a deep inner tension that only adds to the allure.
  • The bow is often associated with ancient Greece, and because we know how much Yeats like dropping references to the good old Greeks, we can say pretty confidently that the "age" in which Gonne's beauty would seem most natural would be oh, say, a couple thousand years ago on the Mediterranean coast.
  • OK, we'll bring out the hammer and hit you with it: she looks like a character from one of Homer's epics. (Homer wrote both the Iliad and the Odyssey).

Line 10

Being high and solitary and most stern?

  • There he goes with more description of Gonne's noble beauty.
  • Doesn't this line make her sound like some kind of royalty, a queen or princess?
  • She is "high," like someone haughty or of "high" birth.
  • She is a "solitary" person, the kind of person who is confident in her own worth and does not need to be validated by others. She's like, special. Also, her beauty has no comparison; it stands alone.
  • Finally, she is "stern," or unyielding. Not just stern, but "most stern." Nobody's sterner than her! Actually "most" just means "really" or "very" here.
  • She's like that teacher you used to have who could reduce you to a blubbering idiot with just one "stern" glance.
  • She's not someone to mess with; she can hold her own.

Line 11

Why, what could she have done being what she is?

  • So far, we have gotten one new question every five lines. But the last two lines give us two different questions.
  • This line is strangely vague and general. Also, the syntax (the order of words) is gnarled and complicated with all those verbs: "could...have," "done," "being," and "is."
  • The speaker is simultaneously thinking about some other reality in which Maud Gonne was not such a firebrand or heartbreaker, even as he recognizes that it could never have been any other way.
  • He decides that there is no point guessing about what could have been and blaming Maud for the way she was born and raised. That's just how she is!
  • To make matters more confusing, Yeats even manages to squeeze two question words into one question: the line begins, "Why, what..." We would have liked him to work in "how" and "when," too, but not a bad effort as it stands.

Line 12

Was there anotherTroyfor her to burn?

  • The poem ends on this simple and pithy question, which is like the punch line after an elaborate setup.
  • Considering that the title of the poem is "No Second Troy," we were wondering when the ancient city ofTroywas going to make its big entrance. Yeats creates suspense by delaying this until the last line.
  • The mention ofTroyties together the little hints about how Maud Gonne is like a character from an ancient Greek epic. In this line, he compares her directly to the famous Helen of Troy.
  • Helen of Troy was considered the most beautiful woman in ancientGreece, maybe even the most beautiful woman of all time.
  • Helen was also seen as being responsible for the Trojan War when she ran off with the Trojan Prince Paris, abandoning her husband King Menelaus, who became very, very angry.
  • Helen's was "the face that launched a thousand ships." She was viewed from then on, rightly or wrongly, as a beautiful troublemaker.
  • At the end of the war,Troyis burned to the ground and lots of people die.
  • The speaker is saying that, if there had been anotherTroyfor Maud to burn, she would have burned it. But since there wasn't, she had to go around making trouble for lovesick poets and stirring up violent protests against the British.
  • He compares the magnitude of the problems Gonne created to the destruction of an entire city. Sucker-punch!
  • And that, ladies and gentleman, is how to spurn a former lover.



In a Station of the Metro

by Ezra Pound

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;

Petals on a wet, black bough.


"In a Station of the Metro" Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Line 1

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;

  • The poet is watching faces appear in a crowded metro (subway) station.
  • You wouldn’t know it only from reading the poem, but we’re inParis, which means that everyone looks really nice.
  • The poet is trying to get us to see things from his perspective, and the word "apparition" suggests that the faces are becoming visible to him very suddenly and probably disappearing just as fast. They almost look like ghosts. If you’ve ever been in a crowded subway, then you’re probably familiar with this phenomenon.
  • By calling them "these faces," he puts us right there in the metro station, as if he were pointing his finger and saying, "Look!"
  • The station must be pretty full, because there is a "crowd."

Line 2

Petals on a wet, black bough.

  • Although he doesn’t say so, the words "looks like" are implicit at the start of this line. The faces in the crowd "look like" flower petals on a "wet, black bough."
  • A "bough" is a big tree branch, and the word, in case you’re wondering, is pronounced "bow," as in "take a bow."
  • When is a tree branch wet and black? Probably at night, after the rain. AParissubway, on the other hand, is always wet and black.
  • Now, we’re going out on a limb here (pun!), but he may be seeing the faces reflected in a puddle over black asphalt. Or it could just be a more general sense of wetness. At any rate, the faces in the subway are being compared to flowers on a tree branch.
  • Another fact to keep in mind is thatJapanis famous for its beautiful flowering trees, and considering that this poem is written in Japanese haiku style . . . well, heck, he might just be thinking of a Japanese tree.


Canto I

by Ezra Pound

And then went down to the ship,

Set keel to breakers, forth on the godly sea, and

We set up mast and sail on that swart ship,

Bore sheep aboard her, and our bodies also

Heavy with weeping, so winds from sternward

Bore us out onward with bellying canvas,

Circe's this craft, the trim-coifed goddess.

Then sat we amidships, wind jamming the tiller,

Thus with stretched sail, we went over sea till day's end.

Sun to his slumber, shadows o'er all the ocean,

Came we then to the bounds of deepest water,

To the Kimmerian lands, and peopled cities

Covered with close-webbed mist, unpierced ever

With glitter of sun-rays

Nor with stars stretched, nor looking back from heaven

Swartest night stretched over wretched men there.

The ocean flowing backward, came we then to the place

Aforesaid by Circe.


The Story Behind Canto I

1.Troy: After the victory atTroy, Odysseus and his men begin their journey home from here.

2.The Island of the Cicones: After leavingTroy, they stop to raid this island for supplies. The Cicones attack on horseback, and Odysseus lost 72 of his men.

3.TheIslandof the Lotus Eaters: Odysseus sends his men out to search for food, and has to recover them when they eat the Lotus Flower.

4.TheIslandof the Cyclopes: Here, Odysseus and his men find a Cyclops' cave, lured by his cheese and wine. The cyclops, Polyphemus, traps them inside the cave. Odysseus and his men blind the cyclops, and then sneak out under his heard of sheep.

5.TheIslandof Aeolus: Aeolus, the god of the winds, gives Odysseus all of the bad winds, so he can safely sail home. Odysseus' men go against his orders and open the bag, and all of the winds escape.

6.TheIslandof the Laestrygonians: The Laestrygonians, a race of cannibals, eat the Greeks. Only the men on Odysseus' ship and himself survive.

7.Circe'sIsland: Circe turns Odysseus' men to swine, but Odysseus is protected from her magic with the help of Hermes, who gave him a magical herb called Moly. Odysseus ends up staying there for what seems like a short time, but ended up being a couple years. Before Odysseus departs, Circe finally tells him that he needs to find the blind prophet Teiresias in the Underworld.

8.The Underworld: Odysseus consults the prophet Teiresias to ask how he can get home, and finds his mother there, who has committed suicide in depression.

9.TheIslandof the Sirens: Odysseus and his men pass here, an island with women singing their luring songs, trying to reel in sailors. So they do not hear, Odysseus fills his mens ears with beeswax, and he has them tie him to the mast.

10.Scylla and Charybdis: Odysseus chooses to sail for Scylla, a six-headed sea serpent, rather than Charybdis, a giant whirlpool. He did this because he knew that if he went to Charybdis, the whole ship would be destroyed. However, if he went towards Scylla, six men would die. A sacrifice the brave Odysseus decided to make.

11.TheIslandof Helios: They stop here, and Odysseus falls asleep praying to Athena. While sleeping, his men once again go against his orders and eat Helios' cattle. This outrages the god, and he threatens never to rise again. As a punishment, Zeus throws a bolt of lightning at the ship, and turns it to splinters. Only Odysseus survives.

12.Ogygia (Calypso'sIsland): Odysseus finds this island after drifting in the sea. It is a island of women, with a nymph named Calypso, with whom Odysseus has a seven-year affair with. After the seven years, Hermes convinces Calypso to let Odysseus build a new ship so he could sail home.

13.TheIslandof the Phaecians: The Phaecians accept Odysseus, and he explains his ten-year journey to them during a feast. They happily give him a ride home on one of their magical ships.

14.Ithaca: Odysseus finally arrives home, and sees his son, Telemachus, for the first time in 15 years. He and Telemachus kill all of the suitors, and Odysseus takes his place as king, once again, alongside his wife Penelope.

*Odysseus went to the underworld because he wanted to go see a man named Tiresias. After speaking to Circe, Odysseus decided to talk with Teiresias, so he and his men journeyed to the River Acheron in Hades, where they performed sacrifices which allowed them to speak to the dead. Odysseus sacrificed a ram, attracting the dead spirits to the blood. He held them at bay and demanded to speak with Tiresias, who told him how to pass by Helios's cattle and the whirlpool Charybdis. Tiresias also told him that, after his return toIthaca, he must take a well-made oar and walk inland with it to parts where no-one mixes sea salt with food, until someone asks him why he carries a winnowing fan. At that place, he must fix the oar in the ground and make a sacrifice to appease Poseidon. Tiresias also told Odysseus that, after that was done, he would die an old man, "full of years and peace of mind"; his death would come from the sea and his life ebb away gently. (Some read this as saying that his death would come away from the sea.) While in Hades, Odysseus also met Achilles (who told him that he would rather be a slave on earth than the king of the dead), Agamemnon, and his mother, Anticlea. The soul ofAjax, still sulking about Achilles's armor, refused to speak to Odysseus, despite the latter's pleas of regret. Odysseus also met his comrade, Elpenor, who told him of the manner of his death and begged him to give him an honorable burial.

In Homer's Odyssey, Circe is described as living in a mansion that stands in the middle of a clearing in a dense wood. Around the house prowled strangely docile lions and wolves, the drugged victims of her magic;[3] they were not dangerous, and fawned on all newcomers. Circe worked at a huge loom.[4] She invited Odysseus' crew to a feast of familiar food, a pottage of cheese and meal, sweetened with honey and laced with wine, but also laced with one of her magical potions, and she turned them all into swine with a wand after they gorged themselves on it. Only Eurylochus, suspecting treachery from the outset, escaped to warn Odysseus and the others who had stayed behind at the ships. Odysseus set out to rescue his men, but was intercepted by the messenger god, Hermes, who had been sent by Athena. Hermes told Odysseus to use the holy herb moly to protect himself from Circe's potion and, having resisted it, to draw his sword and act as if he were to attack Circe. From there, Circe would ask him to bed, but Hermes advised caution, for even there the goddess would be treacherous. She would take his manhood unless he had her swear by the names of the gods that she would not.

Odysseus followed Hermes's advice, freeing his men and then remained on the island for one year, feasting and drinking wine. According to Homer, Circe suggested two alternative routes to Odysseus to return to Ithaca: toward Planctae, the "Wandering Rocks", or passing between the dangerous Scylla and the whirlpool Charybdis, conventionally identified with the Strait of Messina. She also advised Odysseus to go to the Underworld and gave him directions.


The Waste Land


I. The Burial of the Dead

April is the cruellest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.

Winter kept us warm, covering

Earth in forgetful snow, feeding

A little life with dried tubers.

Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee

With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,

And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,

And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.

Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch.

And when we were children, staying at the arch-duke’s,

My cousin’s, he took me out on a sled,

And I was frightened. He said, Marie,

Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.

In the mountains, there you feel free.

I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.


The Waste Land Summary

The Burial of the Dead

It's not the cheeriest of starts, and it gets even drearier from there. The poem's speaker talks about how spring is an awful time of year, stirring up memories of bygone days and unfulfilled desires. Then the poem shifts into specific childhood memories of a woman named Marie. This is followed by a description of tangled, dead trees and land that isn't great for growing stuff. Suddenly, you're in a room with a "clairvoyant" or spiritual medium named Madame Sosostris, who reads you your fortune. And if that weren't enough, you then watch a crowd of people "flow[ing] overLondonBridge" like zombies (62). Moving right along…

That's right folks. Eliot starts this poem off with an epigraph that might as well be Ancient Greek to Shmoop. Oh wait, it is.

Actually, it's in Greek and Latin, and it refers to a very famous, very old text—Petronius' "Satyricon." The poem refers to an Ancient Greekoracle, Cumaean Sibyl, who was granted immortality by Apollo, for whom she was a prophetess. Eventually, she really really really regretted this wish (immortality is almost never as awesome as it sounds), because she just grows older and older and never dies. So in this quote from the poem, the speaker asks Cumaean Sibyl what she wants most, and she says that she wants to die.

Yikes. Now there's a hint of what's to come, right? In a poem that's all about the spiritual and cultural death of the Western world, it only makes sense that we would begin with the life of an oracle that is utterly without meaning. And the classical allusion reminds us that we're about to read a library's worth of references to the greatest hits of Western literature. The epigraph's telling us to buckle up.

The Burial of the Dead Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 1-4

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

  • An unknown speaker claims that "April is the cruellest month," even though we might usually think of spring as a time of love (1). But if you're lonely, seeing flowers blooming and people kissing might make you even more depressed about your "Memory and desire" (3). The spring rain might normally bring new life, but for you it only stirs "Dull roots" (4).
  • Also, you might want to note how Eliot really works the poetic technique of enjambment to carry each phrase over the line breaks with extra participles or -ing words (i.e., breeding, mixing, and stirring).
  • These lines are also written in almost-perfect iambic meter, which is really supposed to give you a sense of stability in a poem. But Eliot's enjambment keeps making it unstable by making every thought seem unfinished.
  • So right off the bat, he suggests that traditional forms of art might not bring the sense of closure and certainty they once did.

Lines 5-7

Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

  • The speaker says that instead of spring being the best time of year, "Winter kept us warm, covering / Earth in forgetful snow" (5-6). These lines show that when it comes to feeling bad, it's better to be forgetful and almost numb in your emotions, surviving on the little bits of joy in your life as if they were "dried tubers" from you potato cellar (7).
  • Uplifting, yes?
  • Also, the iambs of the first three lines have started to break down, although you're still getting those enjambed participle -ing words at the end of each line. Eliot is thematically showing you here that an unfinished thought has a way of infecting our sense of certainty and nibbling away at it like a termite.

Lines 8-12

Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bing gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch.

  • These lines talk about how "summer surprised us," meaning that the poem's speaker has a crowd they hung out with in the past, but we're not clear who "us" is. At this point, you suddenly realize that you're probably dealing with a dramatic monologue, meaning that the poem is being spoken by a specific character.
  • This isn't Eliot, or some third person narrator yakking away. Think of the speaker as a character here.
  • "[C]oming over the Starnbergersee" makes the location of the memory more specific, because Starnbergersee is the name of a lake that's just a couple miles south of Munich, Germany.
  • The speaker then talks about how the group walked past a bunch of fancy columns and ended up in a city park inMunichknown as the Hofgarten (10).
  • They drank coffee and talked for an hour.
  • Then you have strange line in German that says "I am not Russian at all; I come fromLithuania, a true German" (12). Um, thanks for the info? What this line tells us is that the speaker was having a conversation about who counts as a "true" German, and suggests that a true German can come from the country ofLithuania, which has Germanic historical roots.
  • See? This poem isn't so hard, right? Right…
  • But rest assured that even if you can't read German, a perfect translation is less important than the fact that we readers are eavesdropping on a conversation.
  • We're getting snippets of life inEuropein the early 20th century, and that notion's more important than what's actually being said in those snippets. Stay tuned for more.

Lines 13-18

And when we were children, staying at the arch-duke's,
My cousin's, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.

  • These lines continue on with the speaker's memories of childhood. And hey—they're not so bad.
  • You find out that the speaker is the cousin of an archduke, which means that he or she probably came from a pretty ritzy background. And they went on swanky vacays to boot.
  • The archduke took the speaker out on a sled and told her not to be frightened. You find out at this point that the speaker's name is Marie.
  • It turns out Eliot's actually alluding to a real, historical figure named Marie Louise Elizabeth Mendel, a Bavarian woman who was born into a family with royal roots, and became Countess Larisch when she was nineteen. She was also the cousin of Archduke Rudolph, the Crown Prince of Austria.
  • It's not entirely clear why Eliot inserts Marie into the beginning of his poem, but there are a couple running theories.
  • First, there was a widespread scandal in 1889 (Eliot would have been less than a year old) when the archduke was found dead with his mistress, leaving a gaping hole in the Austrian royal line of succession. Whoops. This story could set off the motif of dead royalty that Eliot uses in this poem to symbolize the collapse of traditional forms of government and the "rule of the mob" in the 20th century. Yikes. (More on that coming soon.)
  • Also, the countess Marie also barely avoided being killed when a socialist workers' movement swept acrossBavariaand encouraged the killing and imprisoning of anyone of Marie's high class. Once again, we've got notes of the decline of traditional, high culture in a modern sea of stupid, violent, and worst of all, average people (cue Eliot's sneer).
  • Either way, legend has it that Eliot and Marie once met, so maybe he's just using their brief encounter as poetic fodder, and nothing more. Shmoop's guess is as good as yours.
  • These lines close with Marie talking about how awesome and free you feel in the mountains, to which we say obvi.
  • She ends on a weird note, though, telling you that she likes to read during the night and travels south in the winter, which makes her sound like a bookwormy goose. This could mean that now that she's old, she gets her enjoyment from books and doesn't go to the snowy mountains anymore, choosing instead to "go south in winter" (18) like an old fogey headed toFort Lauderdale.

TheWasteLand: Rhyme, Form & Meter

We’ll show you the poem’s blueprints, and we’ll listen for the music behind the words.

Dramatic Monologue, Refrains, Mixed Meters

We've got a speaker reflecting on memories and current experiences in a personal, often philosophical way, which means that for much of "The Waste Land," we're reading a dramatic monologue. What makes "The Waste Land" different from a normal dramatic monologue (like Eliot's earlier poem, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock") is that the speaker is constantly shifting between different personalities, cultures, and historical moments. This gives Eliot's poem a panoramic quality while also making it very fragmented. It's hard to keep track of who's saying what, but there's no doubt that for much of the poem, they're talking tous.

Every now and then, you'll find a rhyme or a consistent meter; but these moments are always fleeting. It's fitting, though. What good would perfect rhyme and meter do in a poem about the chaos and decay of the modern world? We get the sense that maybe the speakers trying to put together the pieces of a big, cultural puzzle, but we never quite see the overall picture that the pieces are supposed to create. And hey, maybe that picture doesn't exist anymore.


Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

BY ROBERT FROST

Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer

To stop without a farmhouse near

Between the woods and frozen lake

The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sound’s the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.


Summary

line 1

Whose Swoods these are I think I know.

  • Our speaker is not the most confident person in the world. This line begins as a question, and we're totally ready to get on board the question train, but then, halfway through the line, he switches it up.
  • He wonders initially who owns "these woods." The word thesemakes us realize that our speaker is actually near the woods in question.
  • Our speaker then tells us he thinks he knows who owns these woods. Notice how he doesn't say he knows who owns these woods; he says he thinks he knows.
  • Why doesn't our speaker say, "I think I know whose woods these are"? What would be lost or gained if the poem began with that rewritten line?

Line 2

His house is in the village though;

  • The speaker thinks he knows the owner of woods, and this owner lives in a house in the village. Civilization, sweet, sweet civilization!
  • This line tells us that there is a village around here somewhere. The word "village" reminds us of thatched roofs, smoke curling out of little chimneys, and of a few stores and homes clustered around a single main street; in other words, a village is not the most hoppin' place in the world.
  • However, our speaker is relieved that the owner of the woods is in the village – now he doesn't have to worry about getting caughttrespassing on someone else's property.

Line 3

He will not see me stopping here

  • Man, this woods-owner guy must be pretty strict if our speaker is so worried about getting caught taking a breather on his property.
  • The speaker is almost trying to calm himself down and reassure himself that the owner "will not see me stopping here," as though he believes that saying so makes it true. It's similar to the magical phrase, "If I can't see them, they can't see me," uttered by Haley Joel Osment in the movie Sixth Sense.
  • This line also tells us that the speaker has stopped, that he's hanging out at the moment.

Line 4

To watch his woods fill up with snow.

  • Our speaker is a total rebel. He's hardcore trespassing so that he can…watch the snow fall?
  • Yes, he has stopped in order to take a gander at snow falling on cedars.

Line 5

My little horse must think it queer

  • Our speaker is not alone! He has a horse, and this horse is little. Maybe a pony.
  • The speaker and his little horse probably spend a lot of time together, because our speaker is totally able to read the little horse's mind.
  • He imagines that his horse is thinking that things are a little strange right now.

Line 6

To stop without a farmhouse near

  • Our speaker continues to read his horse's mind, and imagines the horse is thinking something along the lines of, "Whoa, why are we stopping here? We're in the middle of nowhereville. Where's my dinner? I don't know about you, but I'm cold. There isn't even a farmhouse close by – what's going on?"
  • The fact that our speaker even attempts to figure out what his horse is thinking shows that he's a caring kind of guy, and that he's aware that stopping in the middle of some snowy woods is kind of a random thing to do.

Line 7

Between the woods and frozen lake

  • Now we get the 411 on just where, exactly, the speaker and his horse have stopped: they are currently hanging out between the woods and the "frozen lake," so they must be on a little patch of snowy shoreline with dark trees to one side and a glossy, ice-covered lake to the other.
  • It must be really cold if the lake is frozen, and we also are kind of intrigued by the fact that the speaker is not riding through the woods, but is right beside the woods.

Line 8

The darkest evening of the year.

  • Not only is it snowy and wintry, but it's also approaching nighttimetoo.
  • Why is this speaker dilly-dallying when the light is dying and the snow is falling? A lot of people in his place would want to scurry home as fast as is humanly possible.
  • Besides sounding ominous and like the preview to a horror movie, "the darkest evening of the year" makes us think of the winter solstice, which occurs in late December (in the northern hemisphere) each year and marks the moment at which the sun is at its farthest possible distance from the observer.
  • It also happens to mark the beginning of winter.
  • Whatever the case may be, it's dark out and it's getting darker by the minute. We don't think that the speaker is the kind of guy to pack flashlights.

Line 9

He gives his harness bells a shake

  • Even though the speaker can read his little horse's mind, the horse can't talk back.
  • So, the next best option is to shake his booty. And by shaking his booty, we mean that he shakes his harness a little. There are little bells attached to his harness, which give a nice little jingle (think Santa Claus's sleigh).

Line 10

To ask if there is some mistake.

  • Again with the mind reading. Our speaker knows his horse is shaking his bells in order to "ask" his master if something is awry, is there's a problem.
  • It's kind of like the horse is saying, "Hey, is everything OK? We've been standing here staring at nothing for a little while, and I just wanted to make sure you didn't need me to keep on truckin'. I'm cool with the standing still thing, but I just wanted to make sure I wasn't misinterpreting you."

Line 11

The only other sound's the sweep

  • Beyond the harness bells' shaking, the only other sound that the speaker can hear is the "sweep."
  • The word "sweep" makes us think of the sound brooms make when they sweep dust into a dustpan.
  • At this point, we realize that the speaker is taking inventory of all of the sounds around him. He's interested in sounds.

Line 12

Of easy wind and downy flake.

  • The sweeping noise comes from the slight wind and the softly falling snow.
  • Have you ever listened to snow falling? It's very, very quiet. There's just a gentle whirr. Everything is very, very still.

Line 13

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

  • Our speaker finally admits to liking the woods. We knew it all along. He's entranced by the darkness and deepness of the woods, and he thinks they are lovely.
  • Dark and deep woods are awesome in our book, but they also make us feel slightly anxious. There's something mysterious about the maze-like nature of woods and forests.
  • The point, though, is that our speaker digs these woods.

Line 14

But I have promises to keep,

  • Our speaker begins this line with the word "but." The word "but" makes us think that the speaker is contemplating staying in these woods rather than returning to the village to fulfill the promises he's made.
  • These promises may be things like, "I'll be home for dinner, mom," or they may be things like, "Let's get married," or "I will take care of you."
  • Regardless of whether these are big promises or little promises, our speaker flirts momentarily with the idea of breaking them, before deciding against it.

Line 15

And miles to go before I sleep,

  • Rats. Our speaker really is in the middle of nowhere, because he's still got a few miles to go before he can rest his head on his pillow. He better roll out soon.
  • But we feel like we are well acquainted with that feeling of being so far away from where you need to be that it almost seems easier to just give up and hang out.

Line 16

And miles to go before I sleep.

  • OK, so our speaker must really be far from home, because he feels the need to repeat the fact that he's got miles to go.
  • However, when he says the line a second time, we hear the word "sleep" more clearly than when we heard it in the line before. Maybe that's because "sleep" has the honor of wrapping up the entire poem.
  • In any case, this line makes us think of how awesome it will be for our speaker to finally rest his head on his pillow after such a long trek.

[in Just-]

BY E. E. CUMMINGS

in Just-

spring when the world is mud-

luscious the little

lame balloonman

whistles          far          and wee

and eddieandbill come

running from marbles and

piracies and it's

spring

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer

old balloonman whistles

far          and             wee

and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and

it's

spring

and

the

goat-footed

balloonMan          whistles

far

and

wee

in Just- Summary

It’s that day in May when the sun starts shining for the first time in weeks and everybody you know heads out to the park. The story’s pretty simple: spring has sprung. Everything’s growing and all-around delightful. The kids, in fact, jump for joy when the man selling balloons starts to whistle. Clowns (and other balloon-selling folk) have gotten a bad rap for being scary and creepy, but this guy seems to be all right. At the very least, he gets the kiddies to come running to him.

That, folks, is the poem. See? We told you it wasn’t so bad. Why the big fuss about the first day of spring? Well, that’s where the magic of this poem takes over. See, E.E. Cummings creates a poem that’s half painting and half sound-scape (that’s the aural version of a landscape). We know, we know: we told you it was a poem. But it’s also an image. We won’t get deep into the technical reasons for why this works so well here; check out "Symbols, Imagery, Wordplay" for some closer looks at all the good stuff that’s going on. For now, though, we’ll just tell you to read the poem aloud. You’ll see what we mean. Chock-full of words like "mud-luscious" and "puddle-wonderful," the poem seems to be bursting with descriptions of the way that a spring day in the park looks and feels and sounds and smells. And because the poem repeats itself several times (in fancy technical terms, we’d call that a "refrain,") it emphasizes the way that all the tiny details of the poem actually contribute to one overarching image: the park in spring.

Lines 1-3

in Just-
spring when the world is mud-
luscious

  • The first lines of this poem set the scene: the entire world has realized that it’s springtime.
  • Our speaker doesn’t appear to be too obsessed with details here. It’s not like he’s saying that there was a light drizzle from 8am - 10:30, and now there are puddles on103rd St.
  • Nope. That would be lame. It’s SPRING! Get EXCITED! The entire WORLD is full of mud!
  • When we stop to think about it, there are a very few select populations that get super-excited about mud: pigs and small children. We won’t spend too much time pointing out the other similarities between the two species here. If you’ve got younger brothers or sisters, you can probably do that yourself.
  • Don’t get us wrong, we love Charlotte’s Web. Since it’s about the only book we can think of which features talking pigs (besidesAnimal Farm, but that’s just creepy), however, we’re guessing that the poem voices the viewpoint of children. Who else would get so psyched about a world of mud?
  • Check out "What’s Up with the Title?" for our thoughts on "Just-spring." We won’t spoil the surprise here!
  • Oh, and if you’re wondering what’s up with all the hyphens, read on…

Lines 3-5

the little
lame balloonman
whistles far and wee

  • Now that we’ve established how spring-y this spring is, our speaker introduces a character: the "little/ lame balloon man."
  • The word "lame" means he can’t walk properly – he’s got a limp.
  • He’s sort of out of place in the world of spring, where everything is young and new and full of life. In this world, a little man with a limp seems, well, old. And out of place.
  • It’s slightly jarring, but our speaker doesn’t seem too upset about it. After all, we don’t hear anything nasty about the balloonman; we just hear his whistle.
  • Check out the way that Cummings stacks up the "l"s in these lines, though: little lame balloonman. It creates a lilting tone as all those "l"s roll off your tongue.
  • Lilting is peaceful, isn’t it? It reminds us of when moms (or dads) sing kids lullabies before they go to sleep. For all that the lameness of the balloonman might be creepy, the language that Cummings uses to describe him makes him seem pretty soothing.
  • In case we haven’t mentioned it, E.E. Cummings is all about the spaces between words. Check out line 5 for an example of this: "whistlesfarand wee."
  • What’re they good for? Well, here’s our best Shmoop expert opinion: when you read a line of poetry aloud, your eyes (and therefore your voice) tend to speed on to the end of the line. Try it and see. When you read "in Just-," however, the spaces slow your eyes down. More importantly, they slow your voice down, as well. As you’re reading, you’re thinking, "Huh? I totally don’t know whether to pause for the spaces or not!" And even in that time that it takes to think that through, your voice slows oh-so-slightly. Kind of cool, huh?
  • So we pause during the lines. So what? You can almost hear the time that it takes for the balloonman’s whistle to travel across the playground. The space between "whistles" and "far" mimics this time. It’s like we actually see the sound and maybe even its echo afterwards.
  • One more thing: did you notice what we haven’t got in this line? Punctuation. We told you Cummings was one crazy cat! Check out our analysis in "Form and Meter" for some more thoughts on this.

Lines 6-8

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies

  • Drawn by the sound of the balloonman’s whistle, the kids (Eddie and Bill) come running from their games.
  • Notice how "eddieandbill" all just jam themselves together into one word? It’s almost like a little kid is so excited to be telling you about what’s going on that the poem refers to them as one person. Remember how you used to ask your folks, "Can meandSpencer go to the pool?" That’s what we’re talking about.
  • The coupling of real-life marbles and imagined adventures as pirates only adds to this euphoria. Kids usually don’t distinguish between the real and the imaginary (and more than they leave spaces between words or use appropriate punctuation).
  • Playing marbles and being pirates? All in a good day’s work. This, folks, is a kid’s world.

Lines 8-10

and it's
spring
when the world is puddle-wonderful

  • Have we mentioned that it’s spring. It’s Spring. SPRING!
  • Our speaker is so excited about it that he even gives "spring" its very own line (that would be line 9, in case you were wondering).
  • Once again, we’re not into cutting corners when it comes to being excited about spring. The Entire World fills with puddles.
  • Notice how the poem seems to be circling back on itself, repeating one or two central themes? We bet you can guess what they are: 1) It’s spring. 2) Spring is generally awesome. 3) Know how we know it’s spring? In spring, the balloonman starts to sell balloons.
  • First it was "Just-spring." Then "mud-luscious." Now "puddle-wonderful?" What’s with all the weird made-up words? For one thing, creating words gives the poem a sense of limitless possibility, of creativity and…creation. Sort of like spring itself.
  • For another, it allows Cummings to totally throw normal syntax – the order of words – out the window. To be honest, it’s more like he’s throwing normal syntax off theEmpireStateBuilding. Syntax is getting a serious beating here.
  • See, "luscious" and "wonderful" are adjectives. In "normal" language, you might see them tacked onto nouns (like, say, "mud" or "puddles"). Talking about luscious mud or wonderful puddles may not be something you do everyday, but it sounds pretty much like everyday language. Adjectives describe nouns.
  • Using the magic of a hyphen, however, Cummings plays some serious games with language. All of a sudden, "mud-luscious" is one great big adjectival phrase describing the world. It’s the world that is "mud-luscious" and "puddle-wonderful."
  • See how that works? The world isn’t just wonderful. It’s wonderfully puddle-y. Kind of nifty, huh?

Lines 11-13

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far and wee

  • Wait a second…little, lame, queer, and old? This balloon-selling guy is totally not fitting in with the rest of the poem. ("Queer," by the way, just means "weird.")
  • We’re back to the refrain of the poem, in case you’re wondering. This time, we get just a tiny bit more info about this balloonman character.
  • We’ll say one thing: he may not fit into the rest of the spring-themed thing we’ve got going on, but he does seem to be driving all of the action.
  • We’ve got to admit, we’re not quite sure what to do with line 13 (or lines 5 and 25, for that matter). We understand whistling far. We even could understand whistling far and wide. But whistling far and wee? Does that even make sense?
  • Maybe the balloonman’s whistling a "wee" little tune. Or maybe he’s whistling for the wee ones (that would be the kiddies). Or maybe it makes no sense at all. We’ll leave that up to you.

Lines 14-15

and bettyandisbel come dancing
from hop-scotch and jump-rope

  • Just like Eddie and Bill, the girls come running. Just like last time, these lines are jam-packed with action.
  • They’re also some of the longest lines of the poem. Length, like jammed-together words, creates a sense of fullness and action. Packed with Very Important Activities, the world of little kidsoverflows with energy.

Lines 15-17

and
it's
spring

  • We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again. Spring, folks. Got it?
  • Notice, though, that the words are spreading out across lines. Does this cause you to focus more on what’s being said? Do you slow down when you read each line? Probably. We sure do.
  • One critic has suggested that this spacing out of the lines mimics something growing. It’s kinds like those sped-up videos of a seed growing out of the ground. All of a sudden, it unrolls itself, lengthening into a long stalk.
  • Take a good look at the words of the last stanza on the page. Kind of like a flower-stalk, huh?

Lines 18-23

and
the
goat-footed
balloonMan whistles
far
and
wee

  • On a slightly more disturbing note, the balloonman, the guy who’s interrupted all the playing and games and fun of spring, is the one who gets the poem’s final attention.
  • We’re left with the sound of his whistle (and the knowledge that, if things work the way they have in the past, all sorts of little kids are about to come running).
  • OK, sure, he’s got balloons. But he’s old. And strange. Why does he get to be part of spring? Come to think of it, he seems pretty darn ominous.Well, we do finally get one tiny hint about who this balloonman might be in these last lines. Besides goats, a few famous mythical creatures had goat’s feet. Satyrs, in particular, are often depicted as creatures that are human in appearance from the waist up and goat-like from the waist down. Check out our "Websites" links for some more info (and some pretty sweet pictures) of satyrs.
  • Fans of woodland revels, satyrs fill their days with drinking, dancing, and mischief. Pan, a super-famous god of the satyrs and shepherds, even carries a pipe, which he uses to get nymphs to dance.
  • Hmm…pipe-playing and whistling. Sound familiar? For more of our thoughts on this Greek god thing, check out "Symbols, Imagery, Wordplay."
  • On another note, the pipe-playing Pan brings us back to the "Songs of Innocence" (see our "In a Nutshell" for a reminder about William Blake). After all, the "Songs" start out with a poem about a piper playing a song about a lamb. It’s all beautiful and pastoral and, well, innocent.
  • If the balloonman is a version of Pan, however, things become slightly more sinister. After all, Pan wasn’t exactly a paragon of innocence. He’s all into revelry and debauchery. And it doesn’t look like he’s about to slow down anytime soon.
  • In fact, the poem’s "ending" (or lack thereof) seems to emphasize this fact. He’ll go on whistling and kids will continue to come running to him.
  • Lovely? Creepy? We’ll leave that up to you.


The Thirties: 1930s

InBritainin the 1930s, but also later, many poems were written by people that identified with the proletariat: they either belonged to this class themselves or had strong left wing sympathies. These writers - the 'social' poets - used their poems to reveal their political feelings and express their desire for a socialist society, and sometimes elaborated on the theme of Eliot's 'The Waste Land'. Among them are four poets of middle-class background that came to the foreground with the opening of this decade: Cecil Day Lewis, Stephen Spender, Louis MacNeice, W.H. Auden; young university men, born shortly before the war. They represent the rising generation and have attracted considerable attention. A similar situation inEuropewas giving birth to unrest there and saw the rise of Nazism - as yet only a threat, but one the young revolutionary poets - Auden, MacNeice, Spender and Day Lewis - detected. It was of these things they began to write, in an attempt to wake up sleepy minds in Britain and make ordinary people more socially and politically conscious. The poet wants to 'heal theWasteLand': 'seek a new world, a saviour to establish long-lost kinship'; 'restore the blood's fulfillment'; 'welders of a new world'. In the last stanza he draws on feelings of rebellion: 'you who have come to the far end'; 'who can bear it no longer'; 'in easy chairs chafing at impotence'; 'the nerve for action'; 'You shall be leaders when zero hour is signalled'.

Poets such as W. H. Auden, Louis MacNeice, C. Day Lewis, Stephen Spender and John Betjeman had as an outstanding a place in the thirties as Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot had had in the twenties. But in contrast to Pound and Eliot this second generation of modernist was little interested in Mediterranean culture and the literatures and myths it had produced. They rather chose to be self-consciously concerned with their own time. Hence their poetry almost deliberately deals with the British landscape and cityscape of the thirties which is why they are often referred to as the “Pylon Poets”. In contrast also to the rather conservative and rightist position of poets like Pound and Eliot the “Pylon Poets” approached a socialist and Marxist position in their writings and lives. Many of them went toSpainin 1936 to fight the fascists in the Spanish civil war. The struggle between the Republican and National Forces inSpainnot only engaged their imagination and aroused their conscience but seemed to be representative of a final clash between civilization and barbarism. Lastly, another strain in their works deals with rather personal issues – sometimes seriously but sometimes, not to be underestimated, also light-heartedly. W. H Auden for example was one of the most accomplished writers of light and comic verse in an age where everybody else tended to take him- or herself seriously.

W. H. Auden (1907-1973)

Wystan Hugh Auden, British poet, born inYork, was educated atChristChurch,Oxford. Having worked as a schoolteacher inGermanyfrom 1929, Auden moved toLondonin 1935 and worked briefly with the GPO Film Unit. A trip toIcelandwith MacNeice in 1936 produced a collection of prose and verse by both authors. He went toSpainin 1937 to broadcast propaganda for the Republican cause and emigrated to theUSAin 1939. Here he met Chester Kallman, who became his lover and remained his companion for the rest of his life. He wrote 'Five Songs' while he was inGermanyin 1931. The next poem is the second song; it has a psychological approach to the defects of society.


Five Songs

That night when joy began
Our narrowest veins to flush,
We waited for the flash
Of morning's levelled gun.

But morning let us pass,
And day by day reliefe.

Outgrows his nervous laugh,
Grown credulous of peace

As mile by mile is seen
No trespasser's reproach,
And love's best glasses reach
No fields but are his own.

The theme of the poem is: recovering from a trauma. All overEuropesoldiers in World War I had returned disillusioned and traumatized from the trenches, where they had witnessed the death of many of their friends and relatives. Back home, they had to pick up their normal life again. The persona in the poem is an ex-soldier, who, with a cautious heart, begins to enjoy life again but does not dare to believe this can really be lasting and true. He is happy with his lover at night, but expects this to end again in the morning. Much to his relief, nothing is wrong in the morning, nor in the next days: 'morning let us pass', 'day by day relief'. Peace has been so far away in everyday life that a feeling of security has to be recovered, mile by mile, till love can reach him again in 'fields of his own.

As to the structure the poem has off-rhyme, which produces a jarring effect in for instance 'flash/flush'; 'began/gun'; 'pass/peace'; 'reproach/reach'. This is a modernist feature. On the other hand, the strict metre of the poem is that of a song: more traditional. There are six syllables to a line with a fixed pattern of unstressed/stressed. The contents are emotional, but the fixed form creates a rational impression, just like many Renaissance sonnets.


Forties poetry: definitions and defences

The political events of 1939 – the fall of the Spanish Republic, the Stalin–Hitler Pact and the outbreak of the Second World War – delivered a body-blow to the authority of the Audenesque style which had dominated thirties poetry. In January 1939 W. H. Auden (1907–73) himself had emigrated to theUSA, and a shift from socio-political engagement to self-assessment and retrospection was discernible in his work as well as that of his followers. Those journals which had championed the Audenesque style, Twentieth Century Verse and New Verse, were wound up. Suddenly it was clear that events had outstripped even the direst prophecies of this poetry, insofar as these were cast in a realist style and rooted in a belief in the efficacy of rationality and collective action.

The sense of a sea-change in taste was confirmed by the publication of an anthology, The New Apocalypse(1939), edited by Henry Treece (1911–66) and J. F. Hendry (1912–86). Treece and Hendry spoke for a new poetic grouping (to which the anthology gave its name) which advocated an individualist, metaphysical, richly lyrical, anti-Audenesque poetic. Along with work by the group members, the anthology included poems by their chief inspiration, Dylan Thomas (1914–53), who, in Auden’s absence, soon came to be regarded as the leading young British poet. Journals sympathetic to New Apocalypse appeared, among them Wrey Gardiner’s Poetry Quarterly (1939–53) and M. J. Tambimuttu’s Poetry (London) (1939–49). It was felt that, in Cyril Connolly’s words, ‘The flight of Auden . . . is also a symptom of the failure of social realism as an aesthetic doctrine . . . a reaction away from social realism is as necessary and as salutary as was, a generation ago, the reaction from the ivory tower.’

Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

Welsh poet, born inSwansea, Glamorgan, educated atSwanseaGrammar School. Much of his verse originates in a series of notebooks dating from his schooldays, which have been published as 'Poet in the Making: The Notebooks of Dylan Thomas'. In the early thirties two volumes of poems were published: '18 Poems' (1934) and '25 Poems' (1936). The latter established his reputation as a poet of importance. Thomas's poetry arises from deeper levels of consciousness; it is not deliberately intellectual and has no political purpose. A poet like Dylan Thomas has no such aim as 'healing theWasteLand'.

Thomas is one of the poets who gets close to surrealism, which, if practised ideally, means the release of whatever wells up from within, without any conscious control or selection. This idea is related to Freudian psychoanalysis, with its notions of free association, dreams, intuition, the psyche's irrational expressions. As Stephen Spender expresses later: "It is the voice, not of the doctor, but of the patient that is heard. The poet no longer stands outside theWasteLand: he is the flower." From the Welsh chapel of his boyhood Thomas absorbed the Bible, and came to know Freud. Biblical and sexual imagery are wonderfully intertwined in his poetry.


Do not go gentle into that good night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a
green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieve it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Summary

Lines 1-3

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light
.

  • The speaker addresses an unknown listener, telling him not to "go gentle into that good night."
  • At first this is a puzzling metaphor but, by the end of line 3, we realize that the speaker is using night as a metaphor for death: the span of one day could represent a man's lifetime, which makes the sunset his approaching demise.
  • "That good night" is renamed at the end of line 2 as the "close of day," and at the end of line 3 as "the dying of the light." It's probably not an accident that the metaphor for death keeps getting repeated at the end of the lines, either. Or that the two rhyming words that begin the poem are "night" and "day."
  • So what does the speaker want to tell us about death? Well, he thinks that old men shouldn't die peacefully or just slip easily away from this life. Instead, they should "burn and rave," struggling with a fiery intensity.
  • The word "rave" in line 2 connects with the repeated "rage" at the beginning of line 3, uniting anger, power, madness, and frustration in a whirlwind of emotion. Oh, yeah, it's going to be one of those poems. Get ready to feel.

Lines 4-6

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night
.

  • These lines are potentially quite confusing, so let's start by untangling the syntax of Thomas's sentence here: even though smart people know death is inevitable (line 4), they don't just accept it and let themselves fade away (line 6), because they may not have achieved everything they were capable of yet (line 5).
  • The metaphor of night as death continues here, with death figured as the "dark." The speaker admits that sensible, smart people realize death – traveling into "the dark" – is inevitable and appropriate. After all, we're all going to die, and it's a totally natural process.
  • But even though clever people know they're going to die, they don't simply accept it. They don't take the news lying down.
  • Why not? The speaker tells us that it's because "their words had forked no lightning" (line 5). This image is puzzling and open to several interpretations.
  • Here's ours: the "words" represent the actions, the speech, or maybe the artistic creation of intelligent people. You know, the way this poem consists of Dylan Thomas's own "words."
  • These words don't fork lightning, which means they don't split and divert the massive electrical shock of the lightning bolt, which draws it toward themselves like a lightning rod instead. Even though the "wise men" have put everything they can into their "words," those words weren't attractive enough to make the lightning split.
  • Basically, they haven't really made much of a mark on the world.
  • The bright electric current of the lightning bolt adds a new twist to the light/dark and day/night metaphors, suggesting that really living life is more like getting zapped by an electric shock than like feeling the gentle radiation of the sun.
  • This stanza also begins to conflate – or collapse together – people in general, such as the person the speaker is addressing with poets and artists like the speaker himself.
  • As the poem continues, we'll see more and more connections between great men and great artists. These connections imply that artistic expression is a more concentrated version of life in a broader sense. You know, the way a can of lemonade concentrate tastes way more lemon-y than the lemonade itself once you add water.

Lines 7-9

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in agreen bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light
.

  • Once again, the best way to understand how all these poetic images work together is to untangle Thomas's sentences, which are all twisted up so that they fit the meter and form of the villanelle.
  • The basic parts of this sentence are the subject, "Good men" (line 7), and the verb, "Rage" (line9). In the speaker's opinion, true goodness consists of fighting the inevitability of death with all your might: "Good men […] Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
  • Next, Thomas adds an image of the ocean waves; the most recent generation of good men, the "last wave by" (line 7), are about to crash against the shore, or die.
  • As they approach death, these men shout out how great their actions could've been if they'd been allowed to live longer.
  • Or, to use the metaphor in the poem, as their wave crashes against the rocks, the men shout how beautifully that wave could have danced in the bay if it could've stayed out at sea instead of rolling onto the beach.
  • So this generation is like a wave, death is like the breaking of the wave on the shore, the sea is like life, and the dancing waters in the ocean are like beautiful actions.
  • The bay is "green" because the sea is really brimming with life – plants, seaweed, algae, you name it.
  • In this image, being out at sea is like life and coming back to the barren shore is death –the opposite of the metaphor you might expect, in which drifting out to sea would be like death.
  • Notice that Thomas describes the good men's potential future actions – the things they won't be able to do because they have to die – as "frail deeds." It's not clear whether the men or the actions are weakened by age; perhaps both.

Lines 10-12

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night
.

  • The speaker describes another kind of men – those who don't allow themselves to fade quietly away into death, "Wild men" (line 10).
  • What sort of men are we talking about? The kind who captured the world around them in their imagination and celebrated it – "who caught and sang the sun in flight" (line 11) – only to discover that the world they celebrated was slowly dissolving around them as comrades age and die.
  • Here the sun represents the beauty that exists in the mortal world, and its "flight" across the sky represents the lifespan of people living in this world.
  • "Flight" also suggests that it moves rapidly – our lives are just the blink of an eye.
  • So just when you think you're partying to celebrate birth and life, symbolized by the sunrise, you find out that you're actually mourning death, symbolized by the sunset.

Lines 13-15

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light
.

  • The speaker describes the way that "Grave men" fight their impending death.
  • Notice the pun on "grave," which could either mean that the men are very serious, or that they are dying.
  • These serious dying guys realize that, even though they are weak and losing their faculty of sight, they can still use what strength they have to rage against death.
  • So, even though their eyes are going blind, these men can "see," metaphorically speaking, with an overwhelming certainty or "blinding sight," that they still have a lot of power over the waythey die, even if not the timing.
  • Instead of getting snuffed like candles, they can "blaze like meteors" (line 14). They're planning to go out with a bang.

Lines 16-19

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light
.

  • In the last lines of the poem, the speaker turns to addressing his father. His father is on the verge of death, which the speaker describes as a "sad height."
  • We think this is probably an allusion to looking down into the Biblical valley of death; the metaphorical mountain where the father stands is the edge of the mortal world.
  • The speaker begs his father to cry passionately, which will be both a blessing and a curse. After all, the father's death is heartbreaking. But if he battles against the odds, it might also be heroic.
  • The speaker ends with the two lines that are repeated throughout the poem, asking or instructing his father not to submit to death – instead, he should rant and rave and fight it every step of the way.

Poetry of 1950s

The Movement was a term coined by Jay D. Scott, literary editor of The Spectator, in 1954 to describe a group of writers includingPhilip Larkin, Kingsley Amis, Donald Davie, D.J. Enright, John Wain, Elizabeth Jennings, Thom Gunn, and Robert Conquest. The Movement was essentially English in character. Poets from other parts of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland were not actively involved with it.

The Movement emerged with the decline of the New Apocalyptics poetry after World War I with its main member being Donald Alfred Davie.[1] While considered a literary group, The Movement was viewed as less of a group by its members and as more of an actual movement in which each writer shared a common purpose.[2] The goal of The Movement was to write poetry that was anti-romantic and structured, avoiding poetry that was experimental in format and text.[3] From 1945 to 1955, The Movement was published through various magazines, the main magazine being The Spectator.[4]

The Movement was important because it created a new way of looking at the world based onBritain’s reduced dominance in world politics.[2] The purpose of the group was to show the importance of British poetry over the new modernist poetry. The members of The Movement were not antimodernists, however they were opposed to modernism, which was reflected in the Englishness of their poetry.[2]

It was The Movement which sparked the division between different types of British poetry. Their poems were nostalgic for the formerBritainand filled with pastoral images of the decaying way of life asBritainmoved farther from the rural and more towards the urban.[2]

The Movement poets were considered anti-romantic, but we find many romantic elements in Larkin and Hughes. We may call The Movement, the revival of the importance of form. To these poets, good poetry means simple, sensuous content, traditional, conventional and dignified for


The Hawk in the Rain by Ted Hughes

I drown in the drumming ploughland, I drag up

Heel after heel from the swallowing of the earth’s mouth,

From clay that clutches my each step to the ankle

With the habit of the dogged grave, but the hawk

Effortlessly at height hangs his still eye.

His wings hold all creation in a weightless quiet,

Steady as a hallucination in the streaming air.

While banging wind kills these stubborn hedges,

Thumbs my eyes, throws my breath, tackles my heart,

And rain hacks my head to the bone, the hawk hangs

The diamond point of will that polestars

The sea drowner’s endurance: and I,

Bloodily grabbed dazed last-moment-counting

Morsel in the earth’s mouth, strain towards the master-

Fulcrum of violence where the hawk hangs still,

That maybe in his own time meets the weather

Coming from the wrong way, suffers the air, hurled upside down,

Fall from his eye, the ponderous shires crash on him,

The horizon traps him; the round angelic eye

Smashed, mix his heart’s blood with the mire of the land.


The Hawk in the Rain is a collection of poems by the British poet Ted Hughes. Published in 1957, it was Hughes's first book of poetry. The book received immediate acclaim in bothEnglandandAmerica, where it won the Galbraith Prize.[1] Many of the book's poems imagine the real and symbolic lives of animals, including a fox, a jaguar, and the eponymous hawk.[1] Other poems focus on erotic relationships, and on stories of the First World War, Hughes' father being a survivor of Gallipoli.

The book, dedicated to Hughes' first wife Sylvia Plath, is a collection of 40 poems. According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Plath considered her husband's poetry ".. the most rich and powerful since that of Yeats and Dylan Thomas". She had typed out almost all his poems and submitted them, in this collection, to a competition for a first book of poems being run by the Poetry Centre of the Young Men's and Young Women's Hebrew Association of New York. In February 1957 the judges, W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender, andMarianne Moore, awarded the first prize (publication by Harper and Row) to Hughes. Marianne Moore wrote: "Hughes' talent is unmistakable, the work has focus, is aglow with feeling, with conscience; sensibility is awake, embodied in appropriate diction." Hughes rejected the Latinate and courtly iamb in favour of bludgeoning trochees and spondees. The strong alliteration, onomatopoeia, and hyperbole gave his poems an impact not heard in English verse since the demise of Middle English.

*Some thoughts on “The Hawk in the Rain” by Ted Hughes

The Hawk in the Rain is a four stanza poem that acts as a gateway to the poetry of Ted Hughes in two key ways. Firstly, it is the first poem in the book that bears its name, in this it sets the tone for what follows; secondly, it is the first poem in Ted Hughes’ first published collection of poetry. Does it set the tone for all his subsequent work? Unfortunately, I haven’t read it all, so unfortunately cannot say. I do know, however, that animals dominate this book and Hughes appears to have had a lifelong love and/or concern for Nature.

Let’s look at the poem. It contrasts the life of an earth bound man with that of a hawk whose flight sets him above the world both literally and figuratively.

The first line of the first two stanzas of the poem introduce us to the man and hawk:

I down in the drumming ploughland, I drag up…
Effortlessly at height hangs
his still eye.

I like the way Hughes reinforces the heavy/light imagery of the man and bird through his choice of words.

Down… drumming… drag… the ‘d’ makes these ‘heavy’ words – completely reflective of the weighed downness of the man.

Compare that to Effortlessly… height… hangs… eye… Because we do not need to use our tongues to vocalise them, the ‘e’ and ‘h’ are very light words.

By-the-bye, I am very fond of Hughes’ repititious use of the same opening syllable, whether it be ‘d’ or ‘h’ as this reminds me of good old Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse. I studied Anglo-Saxon prose and poetry at university, and enjoyed doing so immensely. Anything that reminds me of this under-rated period is good in my book, or on my blog.

Back to Hughes, the first three stanzas of The Hawk in the Rain are a straight forward comparison of a moment in the life of the man and hawk. When I first read the poem, however, something amazing and quite awful happened in the fourt stanza:

Coming the wrong way, suffers the air, hurled upside down,
Fall from his eye, the pondorous shires crash on him,
The horizon traps him; the round angelic eye
Smashed, mix his heart’s blood with the mire of the land.

At first, I was so surprised by this turn of events that I hardly understood what Hughes was saying. Then, I realised and I did not want to understand: The hawk crash landed. I was affronted. What an awful thing to make happen. Why? Why did Hughes write the poem this way? It was only when I came back to the poem after a few days that I took in the fourth line of the third stanza.

That maybe in his own time meets the weather

Note the lack of a full stop at the end of the line. Its absence is absolutely critical as it means that the line joins on to the start of the fourth stanza.

The way I read the poem, therefore, is that Hughes is describing not an actual event within the terms of the poem, but the opinion of the speaker – the man in the poem. Well, it is very sad that anyone would want to think about the hawk crashing to the earth but it is quite a different thing to it actually happening.


The Beat Generation: The 1950s and the 1960s

The Beat Generation was a group of American post-World War II writers who came to prominence in the 1950s, as well as the cultural phenomena that they both documented and inspired. Central elements of "Beat" culture included rejection of received standards, innovations in style, experimentation with drugs, alternative sexualities, an interest in Eastern religion, a rejection of materialism, and explicit portrayals of the human condition.[1]

Allen Ginsberg's Howl (1956), William S. Burroughs's Naked Lunch (1959) and Jack Kerouac's On the Road (1957) are among the best known examples of Beat literature.[2] Both Howl and Naked Lunch were the focus of obscenity trials that ultimately helped to liberalize publishing in theUnited States.[3][4] The members of the Beat Generation developed a reputation as new bohemian hedonists, who celebrated non-conformity and spontaneous creativity.

The original "Beat Generation" writers met inNew York. Later, in the mid-1950s, the central figures (with the exception of Burroughs) ended up together inSan Franciscowhere they met and became friends of figures associated with the San Francisco Renaissance.

In the 1960s, elements of the expanding Beat movement were incorporated into the hippie counterculture. Gary Snyder leads this category.

Origin of name[edit]

Jack Kerouac introduced the phrase "Beat Generation" in 1948 to characterize a perceived underground, anti-conformist youth movement inNew York.[5] The name arose in a conversation with writer John Clellon Holmes. Kerouac allows that it was street hustler Herbert Huncke who originally used the phrase "beat", in an earlier discussion with him. The adjective "beat" could colloquially mean "tired" or "beaten down" within the African-American community of the period and had developed out of the image "beat to his socks",[6][7][8] but Kerouac appropriated the image and altered the meaning to include the connotations "upbeat", "beatific", and the musical association of being "on the beat".


Cold Mountain Poems

By Han Shan, Translated by Gary Snyder

If I hide out atColdMountain

Living off mountain plants and berries -

All my lifetime, why worry?

One follows his karma through.

Days and months slip by like water,

Time is like sparks knocked off flint.

Go ahead and let the world change -

I’m happy to sit among these cliffs.


The poem is a translation of Chinese poetry. It is one of Cold Mountain Poems of Han Shan. Cold Mountain Poems is a small collection of twenty-four poems. It presents many concepts and aspects of Chinese life which are basically introduced in the main theme of the character of the Chinese monk Han Shan. Some of these concepts and aspects of Chinese life concentrate on poverty, materialism, death, immortality, isolation, wisdom, weather, and nature inChina.

Essentially, Cold Mountain Poems speaks about Kanzan or Han Shan, a Chinese hermit of the T'ang Dynasty who is dated to 627-650 AD or according to the scholar Hu Shish to ca 700-750 AD (Snyder, e-mail, May 14, 2005). He lived "west of the T'ang-hsing district of T'ien-t'ai at a place calledColdMountain" (Snyder, 2004: 35). The description of the character of Han Shan as a Chinese monk is considered the main theme in the translated poems. This theme is about an entirely silly and crazy character; a person who is roaming around dressing worn out clothes and has a difficulty in communicating with other people. Yet he turns to be misinterpreted and misjudged.

The lines represent Han Shan's wisdom as the outcome of his dedication to Buddhist teachings. Han Shan's words prove how he embraces and accepts the impermanence of life. The line "Go ahead and let the world change" is undoubtedly, "a kind of base line of the Buddhist teachings, their famous doctrine of impermanence" (Bielefeldt, 2004: 9). However, Buddhism is not all about rigid rules or doctrines, but it is indeed a practical way of living. Buddhism, generally, is a "natural" religion. It has the sense of the value of nature, Buddha's nature, which makes it more earthy and authentic. Contemplating nature is in the essence of Buddhism.






الملفات المرفقة

  • pdf (modernism_slides.pdf - B)
  • pdf (ModernismBackground.pdf - B)
  • pdf (ModernistaPoetry.pdf - B)

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