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Baxter's "Elegy for my Father's Father" :poetry analysis

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Introduction

Elegy For My Father's Father: An analysis What does death hold for an eighty year old man who has never spoken his heart? And why is he not afraid of what the mouths of the dead say? These are only a few questions among a lot of questions that could be asked about the poem. The way the poem is arranged is strange and only the things laid out plainly can be interpreted as what they are. But the ambiguity is intentional and adds quite a lot to the poem. Though the term 'Elegy' means lament, the tone of the poem is mixed, with celebration, sorrow and possibly regret. One of them may be for a life lived without expression of feelings, but the feeling expressed might not even be regret as in the end, his heart was "unafraid". The poem refers twice to the fact that 'his heart had never spoken'. ...read more.

Middle

Maybe love wasn't expressed in words. Baxter writes the poem as a one-stanza poem and this adds to the effect of the poem: it is the visual representation of the images he tries to evoke with words. The narrowness of the poem describes the erectness of stature of the man being described. This image is further punctuated by images such as "cairn", "tall tower" and "aaronsrod". The lines "And a flowering cherry tree/.../On his walking shoulder held" also shows the tallness though in a more roundabout manner. The "flowering cherry tree" is probably a metaphor for his head, the white flowers standing for his hair, an image being presented of him holding his head up high also being presented. Even in the literal sense, though, an image of his strength is delivered, along with the sense of uprightness. ...read more.

Conclusion

He was said to have not spoken his heart's desires even "in song", which corresponds to joy, or in his "bridal bed", in his most intimate moments. Nevertheless, when the dead speak to him, his heart is unafraid, which possibly shows that, taking religion as a theme and as he was a Protestant, God had elected him to go to heaven. This is not laid in black and white out in any of the many layers of meanings derived from the text and is at best only a conjecture. Although Baxter does not us with many answers and forces us think of even more questions, the words indeed tell us much, describe to us much about a person's character. They force us to think about age, about the memories of youth, about the hardships of life valiantly pushed through, and ultimately, death and how in the end we are all subjected to it. And in the end another question is asked: where are we going to go then? ...read more.

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