Writing Style in Poems
The Romantic Literary Period is commonly associated with a group of people called the Fireside Poets. The Fireside Poets were writers during the Romantic Literary Period whose poems were read around the fireplace in a home as a form of entertainment. One common topic many Fireside Poets wrote about was death. Two famous Fireside Poets that wrote about the theme of death are James Russel Lowell and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Lowell is the author of “The First Snowfall” while Longfellow composed “The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls” and “A Psalm of Life”.
James Russel Lowell’s “The First Snowfall” and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls” and “A Psalm of Life” all share the common theme of death. “The First Snowfall” by James Russel Lowell has an overall theme of death and shows Lowell’s perspective on death which is finding comfort in those left behind after others have died. In this poem the personas daughters dies and one way Lowell portrays the theme of death and sorrow is through the actions the speaker takes. For example after explaining to his surviving daughter who makes the snow fall the persona kisses his daughter shown when Lowell says Then, with eyes that saw not, I kissed her; And she, kissing back, could not know That my kiss was given to her sister, Folded close under deepening snow (Lowell 37-40). This quote lets the reader know that the poem is representing Lowell’s comforting perspective of death through the death of the persona’s daughter and the comfort received from the surviving daughters kiss.
Lowell also uses the persona’s words to portray how he feels about the subject of death. To illustrate this the persona says And again to the child I whispered, “The snow that husheth all, Darling, the merciful Father Alone can make it fall! (Lowell 33-36). These words tell the reader that Lowell feels the pain of death can eventually be lessened with the help of God and that in this situation that help comes in the form of snow like the patience of grief. In the same way that the snow is like a gift of patience through difficult times it is also used as a symbol to convey the theme of comfort in death. For instance the falling snow in this poem is mentioned several times as silence such as the lines I stood and watched by the window The noiseless work of the sky, And the sudden flurries of snow-birds, Like brown leaves whirling by (Lowell 13-16).
The persona is creating an image in the reader’s mind that the snow symbolizes the calm stillness that comes after someone dies; this stillness can come in the form of shock, numbness, or sometimes even relief. These three factors in “The First Snowfall” by James Russel Lowell create an overall theme of death. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls” is another famous romantic poem that uses death as a theme by portraying his perspective of the birth and death cycle. Like Lowell, Longfellow also uses a variety of actions to convey the theme of death. One extremely prevalent action used in this poem is the action of the tide rising and falling such as when the persona says “And the tide rises, the tide falls.
” (Longfellow 5). This action of the tide rising and falling contributes to Longfellow’s theme of death because of the way the tide rising represents birth and the tide falling represents death and its automatic and never ending cycle.. Another tactic used to create a theme of death is the use of the words the author uses. For example when Longfellow says “Darkness settles on roofs and walls,/ But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls:/ The little waves, with their soft, white hands (Longfellow 6-8).The use of the word “Darkness” is important because the darkness mentioned takes its place in the world and settles into its cycle of birth and death.
Symbolism is also used in Longfellow’s poem to make the waves represent the theme of death. One example of a symbol in this poem is the wave itself such as when the author says Darkness settles on roofs and walls, But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls: The little waves, with their soft, white hands. Efface the footprint in the sands (Longfellow 6-9). The waves are symbol because of the way they represent nature’s role of keeping the world spinning even after death happens; the wave does this by erasing the memory of those lost. In conclusion Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls” uses a variety of tactics to portray a theme of death. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow also wrote a poem called “A Psalm of Life” that also has a theme centered on death, however the perspective shown in this poem is one of living life in the present and not striving for the grave.
In the same fashion as Lowell’s poem and Longfellow’s other poem “The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls” this poem uses specific actions in the text to get the authors point of living life to the fullest and not worrying about death across. For instance the persona in this poem says Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal; Dust thou art, to dust returnest, Was not spoken of the soul (Longfellow 5-8). This quote relates to the authors point because it tells the reader to live in the present and not to work your life away only to die, because it is not your souls mission to simply die. Another key point to think about is the type of words Longfellow uses to convey the theme of death. To demonstrate this Longfellow says Art is long, and Time is fleeting, And our hearts, though stout and brave, Still like muffled drums, are beating Funeral marches to the grave (Longfellow 13-16). This quote is another example of Longfellow’s point that people will work away their lives without realizing the beauty that comes with life.
In order to continue the theme of death Longfellow, like Lowell, also use symbolism. One example of symbolism in this poem is when Longfellow says In the world’s broad field of battle, In the bivouac of Life, Be not like dumb, driven cattle! Be a hero in the strife! (Longfellow 17-20). This quote further connects to the point of not wasting the short life that someone has by using the cows as a symbol of stupidity and conformity; the persona is saying to not be idle like the cows but to make a purpose of your life before death sneaks up on you. Longfellow makes his perspective on the theme of death clear by using these three tactics. Ultimately the concept of death can be portrayed in many different ways. It could be a calm stillness like in “The First Snowfall”.
Perhaps they way someone may see death is as just another part of nature. Not to mention the fact that some people may not want to dwell on death but instead live for the present. Nonetheless James Russel Lowell’s “The First Snowfall” and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls” and “A Psalm of Life” use their own unique way to discuss death. James Russel Lowell’s “The First Snowfall” and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls” and “A Psalm of Life” all establish a theme of death using many different perspectives. Works Cited Lowell, James Russel.
“”The First Snowfall”.” www.poets.org.Web. 9 Jan 2014.
“”The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls.” www.poetryfoundation.org. Web. 9 Jan 2014.
poetryfoundation.org. Web. 9 Jan 2014.