Study Guide

Recuerdo Quotes

  • Happiness

    We were very tired, we were very merry— (1)

    You know that the speaker's got to be happy when she repeats a line about her merriment three times! Oh – and one of them just happens to be the first line of the poem.

    We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry. (2)

    Who would've guessed that public transit could be so exciting? The fact that repeated ferry rides could make our speaker so happy makes us think that she's more interested in her companion than she is in the ride itself.

    And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
    From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere; (9-10)

    The combination of simple actions (eating fruit) and extravagant gestures (buying two dozen pieces of fruit just for kicks) helps to create a sense of spur-of-the-moment happiness in this poem.

    And she wept, "God bless you!" for the apples and pears, (17)

    This line introduces a different sort of happiness than the one experienced by the speaker and her friend: their generosity to an old woman inspires an almost desperate gratitude.

  • Friendship

    But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
    We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;
    And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon. (3-6)

    The speaker emphasizes the "we"-ness of the actions she remembers, making sure that the reader knows that everything that happened that night was done with "you."

    We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
    And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear, (8-9)

    The syntax of line 9 feeds into the sense of shared actions set out in lines 7 and 8: the repetition of "and" allows the speaker to describe each individual's actions as if they were part of a related whole.

    We hailed, "Good morrow, mother!" to a shawl-covered head, (15)

    The casual use of "mother" here signals a sort of kinship and respect which is actually more like friendship than actual family relations.

    And she wept, "God bless you!" for the apples and pears, (17)

    Does generosity (and the blessing which it inspires) signal a sort of bond between the speaker and the old woman? And if so, what sort of bond is it? It's difficult to tell, since the poem is deliberately short on emotional reflection.

    And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear, (9)

    One of the most interesting aspects of this poem is that "we" doesn't get defined as a group of two people ("you" and "I") until precisely half-way through the poem at line 9.

  • Compassion and Forgiveness

    We hailed, "Good morrow, mother!" to a shawl-covered head, (15)

    Notice how the speaker both claims a relationship with the woman by calling her mother? It would seem like she's trying to establish a relationship with the woman – and yet the speaker never describes her as anything other than a "shawl-covered head." Does the speaker really want to get to know the woman, after all?

    And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read; (16)

    Once again, the speaker's actions are marked with extravagance: why buy a paper that you know you're not going to read? Unless, of course, you're doing it to help a poor old woman…which is the implication of these lines.

    And she wept, "God bless you!" for the apples and pears,(17)

    The speaker describes the woman's reaction to receiving the fruit – but she never explicitly describes the moment when she gives the woman fruit. Perhaps that's because she doesn't want to seem overly generous. After all, she's about to give her money, as well.

    And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.

    And here's the big finale: the grand giveaway. Why would money seem more important than fruit or buying a paper? Maybe it's because the money seems to matter more to our speaker than either of the items that she describes earlier.

  • Memory and the Past

    We were very tired, we were very merry— (1)

    The repetition of "we were" (twice in the first line!) immediately establishes this poem as one that will explicitly address the past.

    But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
    We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;
    And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon. (3-6)

    These lines are deliberately vague, sketching out the bare-bones outlines of what the speaker and her friend did over the course of the night. It's clear that she doesn't care about remembering the details of the hill path or the night sky. She just wants to re-capture the emotions that the travels inspired.

    We were very tired, we were very merry,
    We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry. (13-14)

    By the time we encounter these lines for the third time, we get the strange feeling that we're re-living our past, as well! After all, we've been here before…

    And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon. (6)

    Ever notice how time always seems to move quickly when you're describing the past? From the vantage point of the present, the "whistles" that mark each ferry passing move oh-so-speedily through the night.

    "Recuerdo" (title)

    Entitling this poem "I remember" makes it pretty clear that the poem is going to address the subject of the past in fairly short order!