I have been looking up poems from my past and remembering how it felt back then, and how it feels right now. Sometimes the understanding is varied. As a young girl, my understanding was different from that of my present-day mindset.
The poems were read exactly in the order they are listed below:
Death Be Not Proud – John Donne
Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night – Dylan Thomas
Because I could not stop for Death – Emily Dickinson
At this point, let me stop and look at what I have collected so far. Let me take the poem in the order presented because there is a clear chronological logic to it. I read John Donne’s Death Be Not Proud, in my secondary school days. The fact that my school included the topic of death at a very early stage and partly the reason being that all parts of literature was never far from it. Take for instance, when children watched their pet breath their last right in front of them. These days you cannot protect the children from all the gory details of war and violence. Violence these days are a given. In that, when we speak of death and passing, the angle that needs to be taken is rather interesting.
Should death as a subject be introduced at an early grade? It is still a debatable question. But I feel death as a sensitive topic should be addressed early. Then I would give it a resounding, Yes! The more secular thoughts on the passing and coping with the passing is something that needs to be in the survival kit of each individual child.
The fact that each of the poet had their own way of looking at death; but then something else was also happen with the topic. By the time I reached the American poet’s version of His Majesty the Death, I had undergone much emotional changes.
John Donne’s version of what Death can accomplish is not so dramatic and back at that age it kind of gave a weird sense of pride that after the passing the soul will rise and live on. Though it was different from Hindu philosophy of circle of birth, death and rebirth, ad infinitum. I understood that maybe, yes, Death is not to be feared as much, since there was a next chance to make amends.
With this false bravery, I made progress in life, thinking that Death cannot outdo me. But yet there were such moments, when I felt maybe, I should rethink my concept of passing away and how we handle it.
Dylan Thomas also begged and beseeched his readers to not accept without putting up a brave-faced fight till the end. The various ways in which Death does challenge the human being until they are subdued to submission was explored, but the need, not to give up the fight till the last becomes an emphatic refrain with the nice touch of the Villanelle’s natural form.
A Villanelle is rather strictly structured, and the magic is in the refrain. Dylan Thomas uses it very beautifully to accomplish it. When the thoughts get grounded in the action that human take, then it becomes significantly important point to look out. Thomas’ version of how to fight it out and not be defeated in the hands of Death is a strong takeaway.
The strife and struggle that goes into the process of leaving this mortal world is something that Dylan Thomas brings out in his villanelle. I love this poetic form so much that I feel that one can get much out of those rhyming sequence. I have played around with this form for topics that were about hiding things and not giving up.
Surprisingly, when I reached high school and some American poets were also included in our repertoire of poetic studies, I first encountered Emily Dickinson with such pleasant shock that it was a new experience for me.
By my high school days, I would look upon poets and try to figure out their life stories. So, Emily was such a fascinating person and I liked the fact that she had characteristics that are close to my preferences in life.
The fact that Death gets invited into her very parlor for some nice tea and nibbling snacks kept a drummer’s beat in my mind. It is almost as if Death is a welcome guest, on whose honor the table of snack sits waiting to be attended to.
There are times when a poem can evoke images in the mind that is unique for each poem. In “Because I could not stop for Death” poem there is much that is happening which I didn’t find it in the early masculine expression to death. Somewhere there is a sense of gentleness in Emily’s version.
I am still looking out for a version of Death that is an equalizer. A more modern expression of death what it has to offer for a human being in the form of life. Somehow it is not even about living after being dead and I feel I am not that happy with the current affairs to wish to be born again. So, what should be the angle of a more modern and current version of Death which overpowers Dickinson or Thomas or Donne’s approach to the central figure called Death?
Of late, I am more mellowed, I am no longer the fiery poet who kind of thinks, that she can change the world with her words. I know the world will continue in its strides caring not for a single thing of any major concern. It is like the time has passed and the human being who watched it go by passively are none the wiser from those that actively participated in it. The passing of time is inevitable.
Death as a topic has always been my favorite. It is mysterious and filled with a unique quality of evading human understanding. Why would human beings be born and go through the various stages of life and undergo the varied aspect of life’s struggles and then, pass away? The Eastern theories and Western principles kind of clash and confront the understanding limits of this individual’s perception.
Desire to hold on to the memories of the time spent together is high, yet death dare not visit as John Donne says that after death I shall rise and be free forevermore. There was a huge change, in the way, especially the classic method of viewing death by the British poets. This stark difference in the American poets and British poets handling brings out the varied interpretation of death is the varied Indian spice of new understanding.
Life according to me is somehow filled with people, things and places. When in reality none of these should really matter, to begin with. Life is always is just about the Self – the indweller. I have had moments when I simply see things happening around me, as if in a movie theatre. I don’t know if that should raise a red card alert that the participant is no longer a participant, but merely an onlooker.
Sometimes the mind has its own way of handling sadness and despair. Some relations in life has certain special place in the human emotion and mental setup. Whenever I am very sad, I tend to create poetry that is fully loaded with heavily coded words. I am the only one who can Unicode it, pun intended.
I have learned from living that you should not give up and just let life happen on you. You should try to go out there and making little things of importance happen whatever be the outcome. The need of the moment is not to see your life as ending but beginning with a fresh start.
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