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Old Man E.Thomas

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Introduction

Old Man: the way in which Thomas explores the experience of remembering. Robert Frost describes 'Old Man' as 'the flower of the lot', the poem summarises Thomas' thoughts about memory, lost innocence and the sense of isolation from family and friends. In the poem, the speaker watches his daughter 'snipping the tips' of an herb, as he fails to pin down an old memory from his childhood, which has been lost in time. The ponderous opening points out the two paradoxical names for the herb: 'Old Man' or 'Lad's-love'. After the first sentence is a dash, showing that the writer is thinking as he writes. This is also made apparent in the opening stanza, which ends with a short sentence; 'And yet I like the names.' The poem is ponderous and seems to simply present Thomas' thoughts; this is a common feature in his poetry. We see his using his poems as a means through which to present his own thoughts and memories, this is more notably seen in poems such as 'New Year'. ...read more.

Middle

In the second stanza, the poet deliberates about the herb itself. He states; 'The herb itself I like not, but for certain I love it.' This suggests that he likes the herb for the memory of his childhood which it brings back, the one that he is searching for. Thomas observes his daughter as she 'waits there, snipping the tips and shrivelling the shreds'. The use of assonance on the 'I' sound, and alliteration of 'snipping' 'shrivelling' and 'shreds' brings back the sense of a ghostly echo, linked with the theme of remembering. He is describing the scene that she will remember; 'with that bitter scent of garden rows...ancient damson trees...' This description reveals to the reader the nostalgia that Thomas feels. We note that there is no regularity in the poem, apart from the slight use of Iambic Pentameter which he uses to keep the poem together. This lack of regularity emphasises the sense of memories lost and the passing of time. ...read more.

Conclusion

The simple, short sentence is dramatic and reinforces the idea that he cannot unlock the door to the past to revive the memory. He repeats the negatives, such as 'no', 'nor' and 'neither': 'No path...no child beside...neither father nor mother, nor any playmate.' This repetition gives a sense of anguish; Thomas seems to be almost beside himself with loss of the memory. The ghostly echo of the words also seems to remind the reader of the theme of remembering and the impact that it has on the writer. The Final line of the poem is somewhat ominous: 'only an avenue, dark, meaningless, without end.' This seems to suggest some kind of void to war, Thomas often ends his poems on a more portentous note, introducing a hint of the war. Andrew Motion once observed that 'His (Thomas') poetry consistently juxtaposes the ideal past with the troublesome present...' We can apply this to old man, especially in the contrast between the idyllic image of the garden and this final verse, as Thomas ends with this almost inimical image of the dark avenue: bringing forth the topic of the war in his ever-subtle way. ...read more.

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