Monday, October 27, 2014

Analysis of "Early Sunday Morning" by Edward Hirsch

Poem Found Here:  "Early Sunday Morning" by Edward Hirsch


Old man lament in five quatrains.  The interesting thing in this poem is that the poem admits what type of poem this is within the first stanza:

     I used to mock my father and his chums
     for getting up early on Sunday morning
     and drinking coffee at a local spot
     but now I'm one of those chumps.

The first stanza is not only tongue in cheek content wise, but also structure wise with the rhyme and inversion of "chums" (friends) and "chumps" (fools, but the speaker is by himself).  The question then is what the speaker does with this self-awareness -- be cynical about the structure and the idea, be genuine as though to confess some parts of the self.

"No one cares about my old humiliations / but they go on dragging through my sleep"  There's a mix, yes there's humor about no once caring about "old humiliations" -- but the idea is pressed forward to the personal with, "dragging through my sleep" this idea is further internally ingrained with the specific simile of, "like a string of empty tin cans rattling / behind an abandoned car."

The image itself can represent a marriage or a missed connection which is followed up with the next lines, "It's like this: just when you think / you have forgotten that red-haired girl / who left you stranded in a parking lot"  With these lines there is a sense of cynicism about the memory or rather to retell the memory again and again to a reader as though the speaker knows all this already, but the lament comes with, "forty years ago, you wake up / early enough to see her disappearing" to a bit sentimental, "around the corner of your dream" to a bit outlandish, "on someone else's motorcycle / roaring onto the highway at sunrise."

The shift of tones so frequently within three lines feels more genuine to me against the cynicism of the speaker.  This is the emotional draw the speaker feels about the memory -- regardless how real or tangible it is.  These are the speaker's thoughts, not thoughts for show for an audience:

     And so now I'm sitting in a dimly lit
     cafe full of early morning risers
     where the windows are covered with soot
     and the coffee is warm and bitter

Note how the girl leaving at sunrise correlates with the speaker observing the "early risers" with him in the dimly lit cafe.  The speaker acknowledges that people around him too have this lament as they all share the same setting -- windows covered with soot, and the same coffee, warm and bitter.

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