Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Analysis of "Plowman's Song" by Raymond Knister

Original poem reprinted online here: "Plowman's Song" by Raymond Knister
Originally read: June 4, 2013
More information about the Poet: Raymond Knister

A song. There's an expectation of refrain and maybe even rhyme.  The rhyme happens on the second and fourth lines which adds a distanced effect that barely clings together sonically.  Also for this poem, the refrain of "Turn" adds a sense of tension because of what the turn does.

1.   Turn under, plow
2.   Turn under Griefs
3.   Turn mouse's nest
4.   Turn, plow, the clods
5.   Turn, under, plow
6.   Turn under.

With the exception of 1 and 6 the phrasing is all different.  But with 1 and 6, the context changes.

The introduction of the "turn" goes straight into metaphor with, "Turn under, plow, my troubles." And so when the second "turn" appears -- a duality is in play, "Turn under griefs and stubbld" where there's a a reference to burying griefs, and to the actual of moving stumps.

The mix of the metaphor and the actual come into play in the second stanza with the quatrain focusing on the actual in the beginning and the representation at the end:

     Turn mouse's nest
     Gnawing years
     Old roots up
     For new love's tears

Granted, "mouse's nest" seems purposefully inserted into the poem since the image doesn't fit with the flow of images (plowing), but the image implies a sort of home, a sort of connection that is gone for the "new love's tears"  (which I think the metaphor is going).

Then in the third stanza, the speaker goes back to the plowing of "clods" ("Turn, plow, the clods"), which seems pretty mundane, but "for new thunder" is an image that goes contrary -- as though the lines are a cause and effect.

So when we get to the last two lines, "Turn under, plow, / Turn under."  The lines sounds like a plea for something to change, but not turn.  In context to the poem, the "turn" is to lose, to bury, to destroy, to do the same things over again; however, the want implied at the end is a change away, a "thunder" -- something loud which the speaker cannot say.

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