Study Guide

my father moved through dooms of love Funerals

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This poem is an elegy, meaning it's written in honor of someone who's died. So, it's no shocker that it includes some imagery that reminds us of funerals. The piece never gets too on-the-nose with this stuff, but it's cleverly woven into several stanzas. There's a good amount of imagery that relates directly with death. too. Check of our "Theme: Death" section for more on these good times.

  • Lines 9-10: The funeral imagery first pops up in the third stanza with the line "newly as from unburied which / floats the first who,his april touch." It's kind of cryptic (pun intended), but we think the speaker is talking about his father inspiring people. (Isn't that what he's always talking about?) The word "unburied" has the cool effect of making us think of both the dead and the living at the same time. Usually the word is used to describe a dead body that hasn't been put into the ground yet, but here it seems to be referencing the living people who the father is inspiring, while simultaneously summing up the image of a grave. 
  • Line 25: The speaker gets in a sneaky funeral reference with the line "keen as midsummer's keen beyond." There's a play on words here with the word "keen." It can mean sharp, so you could interpret this line as being about how keen the father's mind was during the prime years of his life. "Keen" can also mean eager, which would make sense for a guy whose mind is so sharp. However, keening is also a name for a type of Irish funeral song, which can sometimes sound like a kind of eerie wailing. So it looks like once again the speaker has slipped funereal language into a line that's also celebrating life.
  • Lines 41-42: With the lines "proudly and(by octobering flame / beckoned)as earth will downward climb" the speaker seems to talking about how his father is walking towards his death with dignity during the autumn of his years. The phrase "earth will downward climb" plants the image of a grave in our heads. We can almost see the dirt on the edge crumbling into the darkness six feet below. It says a lot about the character of the father that he faces this scariness so boldly.

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