Study Guide

What Were They Like? Flowers

By Denise Levertov

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Flowers, usually a symbol of new life, appear frequently in this poem. In the "questioning" stanza, the speaker asks if the people of Vietnam held ceremonies "for the opening of buds" (4). This indicates a belief that they may have had great reverence for nature and new life. Later, in lines 13-15, the second speaker answers that, while it is possible that the people held ceremonies to "delight in blossom," now, all the children have died. The blossoms, a symbol for children, are gone. There won't be any new life growing from the ruins, so why celebrate?

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