Thursday, February 27, 2014

Analysis of "Bartimeus Grown Old" by Marjorie Lowry Christie Pickthall

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Bartimeus Grown Old" by Marjorie Lowry Christie Pickthall
Originally read: August 11, 2013
More information about the Poet: Marjorie Lowry Christie Pickthall


Here the poem is entirely dependent on understanding the allusion.  Bartimeus  refers to the blind man healed by Jesus.  And what this poem does is written in the voice of an older Bartimeus.  But also note the poem is also a dramatic monologue in which the speaker, Bartimeus, is giving a sort of confession.

The first line indicates identity, "Yea, I am he that dwell beside this tomb."  And from identity comes background, "I was a child.  God smote me from the sun. / A little while, I had forgot to run / Under the rain-sweet roof of almond bloom."  The initial line of age has an child like, but profound, outlook, "God smote me from the sun.  The line has symbolic implications of "God" but also "sun" (equal divine entities, unable to feel warmth, whatever you want to put).

"I had forgotten summer, and the flaw / Ruffling the gray sea and the yellow grain,"  These line lead to the tactile, and "the flaw" leads to the idea of experience.  Is experience valid if a person uses all senses?  How about none?  Or more importantly, what defines experience and how does remembering change in time?

"Now I am old and I forgot again, / But a man came and touched me, and I saw"  Here's an interesting line to end the octave.  The focus in previous lines were the tactile and these lines are more centered on the tactile -- remembering what is felt -- rather than the visual or even the man that healed him.

And even though the "man" dowered (endowed) Bartimeus with sight in the most flowery sense, the core and idea is this, "Now I am blind again, and by the way / Wait still to catch his footsteps in the dust."  Yes, Bartimeus is blind based on age, but one again he wants to be healed.  Note the difference between the outlook of a child (smote -- direct) to the old (wait -- dream).

And the turn with the couplet, "Surely he comes? --and he will hear my cry. / Though he were stricken and dim and old as I"  It's not the waiting part.  Well, that's sad but.  Look at how consistent the speaker is with parallel structure.  I noted the difference above with actions, but not with thought.

God smote him.  A Man healed him.
He waits for a man.  But doesn't wait for God.

Is this poem a riff on religion.  Probably.

But since this is a persona poem, I think the bigger question does the thoughts of the persona fit with the character or is the persona more like a puppet to speak the poet's intent.

Up to you to decide at that point.

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