W.S. Merwins translation of poem Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 15:24:05
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Category: Poem

Type of paper: Essay

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As I read W.S. Merwins translation of this poem, I feel a sense that the poet was trying to articulate the harmony which exists between humanity and nature. The initial lines of the poem: Into my head rose/the nothings/ my life day after day (Merwin) seemed to indicate a state of disharmony, sadness and banality.

The reader immediately wonders: what might be the cause of the poets malaise. Rather than immediately show or evoke the source of sadness and disharmony in the poem, the next lines reveal the antidote to this feeling, which is expressed in motion: but I am leaving the shore/in my skin boat (Merwin) which sets up a metaphor of the body-as-voyage. This feeling moves toward at least a partial explanation,explication of the poets source of malaise and sadness: the world itself, but particularly the world of human ambition and human affairs: and the ache/ that comes from the things/I have to do every day (Merwin)

This realization on the part of the poet which is expressed obliquely to the reader allows the second half of the poem to function as a response to or answer to the poets malaise and sadness. By separating the poem into a call and response format, it is easier for the reader to sense the movement of the poem from a state of emotional disharmony to a state of reprieve or even illumination.

The most profound aspect of the  call and response motif is that it actually unifies dual idea of the poet speaking to nature ” or inquiring into it for a panacea against malaise and angst ” and the poet inquiring into himself for an answer to his emotional distress.

By unifying these concepts, the poet expresses that nature and the human soul are actually one.  The concluding lines bring a simultaneous experience of going back to nature and of being reborn.

By juxtaposing the idea of introspection with a journey into nature, the poet is able to bring the reader through an emotional arc which begins with feelings of oppression and melancholy and transforms through a vision of a nature and the soul as one, into an image of rebirth which more than adequately disperses the melancholic feelings expressed by the poet and brought to climax in the reader, making a dramatic emotional and psychological reversal from sadness to joy.

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