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Quotes

Quote #1

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray. (lines 16-17)

Instead of more clearly explaining the relationship between all the kinds of men mentioned in the poem – wise men, grave men, wild men, good men – and his father, Thomas turns to his father with the simple conjunction "And." This linking word leaves the reader in doubt about the father's character; the poem and the speaker seem to be withholding judgment until they see how the father reacts in the face of death. The speaker hopes he will rebel against death, but isn't quite sure.

The "And" stands out even more when we read line 17, where "curse" and "bless" are linked with a comma – no wasted linking word there. The comma also creates an ambiguous relationship: is the speaker suggesting that to curse is the same thing as to bless? Or creating a sharp juxtaposition between opposites?

The contrast of "sad height" (line 16) and "fierce tears" (line 17) creates even greater emotional resonance. In each case, a word with grand and majestic connotations, "height" or "fierce," is paired with another word connected with anguish, "sad" or "tears." Notice that Thomas moves from a majestic noun with a tragic adjective, "sad height," to a tragic noun with a majestic adjective, "fierce tears." This seems to imply that the father is losing his battle with death, since the grandeur moves into the modifying word instead of the thing itself. But the almost-rhyme between "fierce" and "tears" also ties these words together, as if they were almost the same thing. After all, by the end of this poem, simple crying seems like a major act of rebellion against the inevitability of death.

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