Merwin Analysis

1 January 2017

Merwin mixes-up chronological time in his poems to combine the past with the present. Using time as a major tone in these three poems, it allows the reader to unfold how Merwin delivers this duality of what was to what is the case. “For the Anniversary of My Death,” Merwin writes about his appreciation and love for the life he had, as he mourns himself upon his own death.

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The poem uses the themes of death, eternity and life, which all coincide with this concept of time. The author blurs together the idea of the life that will go on, even after death. In the first part of “For the Anniversary of My Death,” it says: “Every year without knowing it I have passed the day, when the last fires will wave to me,” is a notion that Merwin envisions for his death. Merwin uses fire in the statement “… the last fires will wave to me,” as a metaphor for possibly the people who have come to his funeral and are saying their last goodbyes.

The entire first stanza is a description of how Merwin feels when he is alive, while the second referring to his life before death, using “then,” as a way to explain the past. In the entirety of the poem, it seems as if Merwin is longing for death, which is quite strange. When he states “timeless traveler, like a beam of a lightless star,” it symbolizes eternity. As a “timeless traveler,” he is someone who has spent his life whether emotionally or physically constantly moving, to a “lightless star,” as in a star that has been fading for a long period of time.

Merwin is saying that he himself has been slowly diminishing for an endless amount of time. The metaphor of life and death is used in the last few lines it states: “As today writing after three days of rain…hearing the wren sing and the falling cease… and bowing not knowing to what. ” “Three days of rain,” represents life, while “hearing the wren sing and the falling cease,” is interpreted as death because the rain has ended, and so has his life. He seems to be obliterating chronological time when the rain is pouring and when the rain is coming to an end.

In the last few lines when it states, “And bowing not knowing to what,” Merwin is possibly referencing to life after death. The entire poem is about his intuition of his own death. Merwin’s “Drunk in the Furnace,” begins with “For a good decade. ” Here, we can find contrast in what exactly the author means by this line, and what he is saying about time. He is either speaking about an approximation of time, or when he says “good decade,” possibly pertaining to how enjoyable the decade was. In the first stanza it states: “no more to them than a hulking black fossil to erode unnoticed with the rest of the junk-hill…

This poem is possibly about the demons we face, like alcoholism, and the furnace might represent hell, or that low place one goes to subconsciously when drinking. The black fossil “eroding unnoticed,” could represent the drunk himself, suffering and corroding over time by his own sins, but yet still aware in time of what’s going on when it states: “to confirm, one morning, a twist of smoke like a pale resurrection, staggering out of its chewed hole…cozily bolted behind the eye-holed iron door of the drafty burner, had there established his bad castle. It is interpreted as the aftermath of the drunken stupor, “a twist of smoke like a pale resurrection, staggering out. ”

Also, Merwin uses dark metals and iron works to represent this ‘hell,’ or ‘evil place,’ the drunk goes to. The drunk merges his past and present simultaneously from being drunk in the present time, but also the small pieces of remembrance from nights being intoxicated. In “Losing a Language,” the first two lines along with the title set a tone of loss and the loss of time.

When it states: “the old still remember something they could say, but they know now that such things are no longer believed and the young have fewer words” it describes how the history of language and life change with time, but that the older generations long for how society once was. That older generations are simultaneously caught between how language was, to how people interact in “todays,” society. Merwin conveys this idea that the loss of ones information of words to define a specific thing through language, results in a loss of knowledge when it states nothing that is here I known.

The last line ends with great pause and emphasis when Merwin writes: “Here are the extinct feathers, here is the rain we saw”-If one loses the language, they have lost the knowledge that went with it. W. S Merwin writes these three poems “Losing a Language, For the Anniversary of My Death, and The Drunk in The Furnace,” with multiple meanings of how life is simultaneously combined between how it once was, to what is happening in the present time.

Drunk in the Furnace,” was memorable for the metaphors of the furnace possibly representing ‘hell,’ or a horrible place “the drunk “goes to either physically or mentally when he is caught between what is actually happening, and his drunken stupor. I also noticed that Merwin uses this theme of religion in a few of his poems by “the last fires are waving to me,” in “Anniversary of My Death”, and ‘the furnace’ in “Drunk in the Furnace. ” “The last fires waving to me,” possibly representing last moments of sins before death. It is very noticeable that Merwins use of loss and time are greatly prevalent in each one of these poems, leading the reader to believe that Merwin’s thoughts on his own human experiences are not necessarily the most positive ones.

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