Original poem reprinted online here: "Last Meeting" by Gwen Harwood
Originally read: June 14, 2013
More information about the Poet: Gwen Harwood
The first thing past me noted was the rhyme scheme in which only the second and fourth line rhyme. A separation is formed based on cohesiveness and non-cohesiveness through the rhyme scheme which, I feel, is addressed in the first stanza.
The first stanza has strong visual imagery, "Shadows grazing eastward melt/ from their vast sun-driven flocks" but note how the beginning image and the last image constrast each other "Shadow" and "sun-driven"; furthermore, the shadows are "melting" "from" the sun driven flocks. The next line indicate cohesiveness through the images, "into consubstantial dusk."
The visual images continue as to create an atmosphere, "A snow wind flosses the bleak rocks, / strips from the gums their rags of bark, / and spins the coil of winter tight." So here we have the season of winter but also note the scene deals with a sense of destruction on a minuscule scale.
The next lines refer to an "our" but the scenic images already preface the relationship. A split, a merge, the end slowly breaking apart, but what the actual action between the speaker and the other is, "our last meeting as we walk / the litoral zone of day and night." There is a play here of non-cohesiveness again (day and night) but also a sense of the metaphor. The poem, here, becomes more and more reliant on the metaphor to dictate the pace.
Even with the "dissolve in nightfall-eddying waters;" line in the next stanza, the image serving as metaphor is at the forefront. How? The verb "dissolve" should be the focus and the semi-colon indicates that the next action of "tumbling whorls of cloud disclose / the cold eyes of the sea-god's daughters" -- distance.
The metaphors create distance, and so when we get back to the speaker, "We tread the warck of glass that once / a silver-bearded congregation / whispered about our foolish love" Note these are not things the speaker is declaring, rather the metaphor and the image sets up the conclusion of the foolish love.
So much of the metaphor and image has overtaken the poem that the personal image and the nature image, tonally at least, feel the same, "Your voice in calm annunciation / form the dry eminence of thought / rings with astringent melancholy." Not what the voice says, rather how the voice says it. And what's being said? It doesn't matter -- the outcome devastates the speaker much how nature devastates itself
"'Could hope recall, or wish prolong / the vanished violence of folly? / Minute by minute summer died." With these lines the first hint of sentimentality comes in with the alliteration of "vanished violence of folly" and a bit of hyperbole with, "Minute by minute summer died." These lines feels like the after effects of an unsaid conversation -- the break-up probably.
But the emotional hyperbole continues with, "this reef on which our love lies wrecked / Our hearts drown in their cardinal guilt." And here I'd be like "over sentimental, too much emotion" in these lines, which I'm 50/50 about, but note the phrase, "their cardinal guilt" which adds a sense of displacement to the speaker which goes firther with the next stanza.
The world, said Ludwig Wittgenstein,
is everything that is the case.
- The warmth of human lips and thighs;
the lifeless cold of outer spcae.
here the speaker quotes a source to dictate the images now. It's as if the speaker is quickly distancing herself from emotional lines before hands and goes back to image, to what can be seen, but not heard.
this windy darkness; Scorpio
above, a watercourse of light;
the piercing absence of one face
withdrawn for ever from my sight.
And here the sense of irony is in here through the visuals. Yes, the speaker can remember the scene, the sky, the quote -- however, when it comes to "we" -- there's a lack of description. The speaker remembers through the imagery of the surroundings; meanwhile, the speaker recognizes, "the piercing absence of one face / withdrawn for ever from my sight." Gone, the lover -- gone the image of him.