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One of the Lives

One of the Lives

by M.S. Merwin

One of the Lives Analysis

Symbols, Imagery, Wordplay

Form and Meter

Although Merwin is freewheeling here—holding to no formal patterns or constraints—he is using a couple of technical tricks that are consistent throughout the poem. Just looking at the poem befo...

Speaker

Our speaker is an adult, who's lying sick in an old farmhouse. He's retelling the (very indirect) history of how he came to be, but without giving us a ton of detail. He's also not letting things g...

Setting

The setting of this poem is actually an old farmhouse, in which the speaker is laid up, sick on a cot. However, through his lines, we get to do some more extensive traveling. We go back to the spea...

Sound Check

Take a deep breath. Now exhale all 29 lines without taking a break. Can you do it? If so, email us the video. Really. This poem has a ramblin' man kind of sound. We're not seeing the typical sound-...

What's Up With the Title?

This title, "One of the Lives," is quite the dynamo. Reading it before we dig into the poem, we expect to get the scoop on, you know, somebody's life. But, as we read through the poem, the title ta...

Calling Card

While sometimes it seems fashionable for poets to bemoan the state of the world and existence in general, Merwin instead stops to give thanks. His poems are certainly not all rainbows and unicornsâ...

Tough-o-Meter

If you can get used to the fact that there's no punctuation and accept that you're going to have to stop and retrace your steps to make sure you're following along correctly, then you'll be okay w...

Trivia

The W.S. stands for William Stanley. How 'bout that? (Source) Merwin lived in Spain, England, and France. Lucky. (Source) Merwin has been living as a Zen Buddhist in Hawaii since the '70s. Sounds...

Steaminess Rating

Clean as a whistle. (Where that expression comes from, we have no idea.)

Allusions

World War II (2-7)

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