Study Guide

Bearded Oaks Passivity

By Robert Penn Warren

Passivity

and thus the scene,
Recessed, awaits the positive night.
So, waiting, we in the grass now lie
Beneath the languorous tread of light (3-6)

It may have cost the poet some energy to write this poem, but not much in the way of exertion is asked of the speaker and his cohort. They're just kicking back, lying under the trees, waiting. All the words in this line contribute to a feeling of slowed-down ease: "recessed," "waiting," "lie," "languorous."

Upon the floor of light, and time,
Unmurmuring, of polyp made,
We rest; (9-11)

Coral: is it even an animal? It's one of those living creatures you just can't believe isn't some kind of rock. It's practically inanimate. Come on, you can't get more passive than that. "Rest" implies stopping… something. Maybe these two were doing something (wink wink) before, but now nothing. In fact, they're feeling unable to move.

All our debate is voiceless here, (25)

Is he talking about a lover's spat or something bigger? These two might have gotten into it before (you know how lovers do) but not here, not now. The plug has been pulled on all that.

That we may spare this hour's term
To practice for eternity (39-40)

Hold a mirror under their nose. Are they even breathing? We haven't seen them stir this whole poem. They're practically dead, but don't worry—it's just a practice run for eternity, anyway.

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