Original poem reprinted online here: "The Iron Gate" by Oliver Wendell Holmes
Originally read: December 1, 2012
More information about the Poet: Oliver Wendell Holmes
There's a lot going on in this poem: form, rhyme scheme, tone changes, perspective changes, irony, etc which are really well rendered and all lead to the same conclusion of death, or Death. However, when I was reading this over again I was thinking of "quote worthy lines."
Maybe I was thinking this because it's too early in the morning for me to do an 15 minute analysis on a single aspect on a poem that has a lot going on, but the idea of epigraphs came to me when reading the poem again.
Epigraphs are quotes from another source in the beginning of poems, stories, whatev. The epigraph in the beginning serves several purposes like a) contextualizing the piece, b) the piece is responding to the quote, c) focuses the reader on looking for the same aspect the quote brings (i.e. if the quote is about computer love, then, as a reader, I'd look for computer love in a piece).
Even though this poem doesn't use an epigraph, this line stood out to me the most from the poem, "Youth longs and manhood strives, but age remembers," In my notes I wrote, "This is probably 'quote worthy' sentence, summing up how lament works -- is described beautifully through images."
Geez past me, why grammar errors, why bad analysis. The line I pointed to doesn't use images but uses generalizations. Second, "lament" only can be extracted by the usage of "but setting up the negative age remembers" which contrasts the progressive movements in the "Youth longs" and "manhood strives".
If I did quote this line for a piece, then the piece would either be about: death, age, youth, manhood, lament, regret. Since the line ends with a negative then my piece will focus on something that ends negatively to parallel the statement. Could I do the opposite? Probably, but there's the risk of losing the reader or having the reader feel tricked "Hey I was expecting computer love, and I got Dante instead."
Yes, a writer can't control how a reader reacts to a piece; however, adding things like an exposition, an epigraph, over elaboration through images, adjectives, and adverbs, (there'll probably be more) -- really does focus the reader to a conclusion...death, or to add more gravitas, Death.