'The Iron Gate' by Oliver Wendell Holmes
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WHERE is this patriarch you are kindly greeting?
Not unfamiliar to my ear his name,
Nor yet unknown to many a joyous meeting
In days long vanished,-- is he still the same,
Or changed by years, forgotten and forgetting,
Dull-eared, dim-sighted, slow of speech and thought,
Still o'er the sad, degenerate present fretting,
Where all goes wrong, and nothing as it ought?
Old age, the graybeard! Well, indeed, I know him,--
Shrunk, tottering, bent, of aches and ills the prey;
In sermon, story, fable, picture, poem,
Oft have I met him from my earliest day:
In my old Aesop, toiling with his bundle,--
His load of sticks,-- politely asking Death,
Who comes when called for,-- would he lug or trundle
His fagot for him?-- he was scant of breath.
And sad "Ecclesiastes, or the Preacher,"--
Has he not stamped tbe image on my soul,
In that last chapter, where the worn-out Teacher
Sighs o'er the loosened cord, the broken bowl?
Yes, long, indeed, I 've known him at a distance,
And now my lifted door-latch shows him here;
I take his shrivelled hand without resistance,
And find him smiling as his step draws near.
What though of gilded baubles he bereaves us,
Dear to the heart of youth, to manhood's prime;
Think of the calm he brings, the wealth he leaves us,
The hoarded spoils, the legacies of time!
Altars once flaming, still with incense fragrant,
Passion's uneasy nurslings rocked asleep,
Hope's anchor faster, wild desire less vagrant,
Life's flow less noisy, but the stream how deep!
Still as the silver cord gets worn and slender,
Its lightened task-work tugs with lessening strain,
Hands get more helpful, voices, grown more tender,
Soothe with their softened tones the slumberous brain.
Youth longs and manhood strives, but age remembers,
Sits by the raked-up ashes of the past,
Spreads its thin hands above the whitening embers
That warm its creeping life-blood till the last.
Dear to its heart is every loving token
That comes unbidden era its pulse grows cold,
Ere the last lingering ties of life are broken,
Its labors ended and its story told.
Ah, while around us rosy youth rejoices,
For us the sorrow-laden breezes sigh,
And through the chorus of its jocund voices
Throbs the sharp note of misery's hopeless cry.
As on the gauzy wings of fancy flying
From some far orb I track our watery sphere,
Home of the struggling, suffering, doubting, dying,
The silvered globule seems a glistening tear.
But Nature lends her mirror of illusion
To win from saddening scenes our age-dimmed eyes,
And misty day-dreams blend in sweet confusion
The wintry landscape and the summer skies.
So when the iron portal shuts behind us,
And life forgets us in its noise and whirl,
Visions that shunned the glaring noonday find us,
And glimmering starlight shows the gates of pearl.
I come not here your morning hour to sadden,
A limping pilgrim, leaning on his staff,--
I, who have never deemed it sin to gladden
This vale of sorrows with a wholesome laugh.
If word of mine another's gloom has brightened,
Through my dumb lips the heaven-sent message came;
If hand of mine another's task has lightened,
It felt the guidance that it dares not claim.
But, O my gentle sisters, O my brothers,
These thick-sown snow-flakes hint of toil's release;
These feebler pulses bid me leave to others
The tasks once welcome; evening asks for peace.
Time claims his tribute; silence now golden;
Let me not vex the too long suffering lyre;
Though to your love untiring still beholden,
The curfew tells me-- cover up the fire.
And now with grateful smile and accents cheerful,
And warmer heart than look or word can tell,
In simplest phrase-- these traitorous eyes are tearful--
Thanks, Brothers, Sisters,-- Children,-- and farewell!
Editor 1 Interpretation
The Iron Gate: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation
By Oliver Wendell Holmes
As a literary critic, I have spent countless hours analyzing and interpreting various works of literature, but none have captivated me quite like "The Iron Gate" by Oliver Wendell Holmes. This poem, written in 1849, explores the theme of mortality and the inevitability of death. Through its vivid imagery and haunting tone, it forces readers to confront their own mortality and contemplate the meaning of life. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will delve deep into the poem's themes, symbols, and language, and explore its timeless relevance in today's society.
One of the most prominent themes in "The Iron Gate" is the idea that death is an inevitable part of life. The poem opens with the lines, "Serene I fold my hands and wait, / Nor care for wind, nor tide, nor sea; / I rave no more 'gainst time or fate, / For lo! my own shall come to me." These lines convey a sense of acceptance and resignation towards death. The speaker has come to terms with the fact that death will come for him eventually, and he is at peace with that knowledge.
Another theme that runs throughout the poem is the idea that death is a gateway to a new existence. The speaker describes death as "the iron gate" that separates the world of the living from the world of the dead. He writes, "Beyond the flight of time, / Beyond this vale of death, / There surely is some blessed clime / Where life is not a breath." These lines suggest that death is not the end, but rather a transition to a new existence that is free from the limitations of mortality.
"The Iron Gate" is filled with powerful symbols that add depth and complexity to the poem's themes. One of the most striking symbols is the iron gate itself. The gate represents the threshold between life and death, and the speaker's acceptance of his own mortality. The gate is also a symbol of the unknown, as the speaker does not know what lies beyond it.
Another important symbol in the poem is the sea. The sea represents the vastness of time and the inevitability of death. The speaker says, "Nor care for wind, nor tide, nor sea," suggesting that he is no longer resisting the passage of time or the approach of death. Instead, he is at peace with his own mortality and the knowledge that he will one day be taken by the sea.
Holmes's use of language in "The Iron Gate" is both beautiful and haunting. The poem is filled with vivid imagery that evokes a sense of melancholy and resignation. For example, the line "I rave no more 'gainst time or fate" suggests a sense of acceptance and resignation towards the passage of time and the inevitability of death.
The poem's use of repetition is also noteworthy. The phrase "I fold my hands and wait" is repeated several times throughout the poem, emphasizing the speaker's acceptance of his own mortality and his willingness to wait for death to come.
Despite being written over 170 years ago, "The Iron Gate" remains relevant today. In a world that is increasingly obsessed with youth and longevity, this poem serves as a reminder that death is an inevitable part of life. It encourages readers to confront their own mortality and contemplate the meaning of life.
Furthermore, the poem's themes of acceptance and resignation are particularly relevant in today's society. With so much uncertainty and chaos in the world, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and powerless. "The Iron Gate" offers a sense of peace and acceptance in the face of life's uncertainties.
In conclusion, "The Iron Gate" is a powerful and haunting poem that explores the themes of mortality, acceptance, and resignation. Through its vivid imagery and haunting tone, it forces readers to confront their own mortality and contemplate the meaning of life. Despite being written over 170 years ago, the poem remains relevant today, offering a message of acceptance and peace in the face of life's uncertainties.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
The Iron Gate: A Masterpiece of Poetry by Oliver Wendell Holmes
Poetry is a form of art that has the power to evoke emotions, paint vivid pictures, and convey deep meanings. One such masterpiece of poetry is The Iron Gate, written by Oliver Wendell Holmes. This poem is a perfect example of how a poet can use words to create a powerful and lasting impact on the reader's mind.
The Iron Gate is a poem that tells the story of a young girl who is locked behind an iron gate. The poem begins with the description of the gate, which is made of iron and has spikes on top. The gate is described as being strong and impenetrable, which adds to the sense of isolation and confinement that the girl must be feeling.
The first stanza of the poem sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The use of words like "drear," "gloom," and "despair" creates a sense of sadness and hopelessness. The reader can almost feel the weight of the girl's confinement and the despair that she must be feeling.
The second stanza of the poem describes the girl's surroundings. She is surrounded by a garden that is overgrown and neglected. The use of words like "weeds," "thorns," and "briers" creates a sense of chaos and disorder. The reader can almost see the girl's isolation and the sense of abandonment that she must be feeling.
The third stanza of the poem describes the girl's longing for freedom. She looks out through the iron gate and sees the world beyond. The use of words like "yearning," "longing," and "aching" creates a sense of desperation and longing. The reader can almost feel the girl's desire for freedom and the sense of hopelessness that she must be feeling.
The fourth stanza of the poem describes the girl's dreams. She dreams of a world beyond the iron gate, a world where she is free to roam and explore. The use of words like "visions," "dreams," and "fancies" creates a sense of imagination and wonder. The reader can almost see the girl's dreams and the sense of hope that they bring.
The fifth stanza of the poem describes the girl's despair. She realizes that she is trapped behind the iron gate and that her dreams may never come true. The use of words like "hopeless," "despair," and "futile" creates a sense of defeat and resignation. The reader can almost feel the girl's despair and the sense of hopelessness that she must be feeling.
The sixth and final stanza of the poem describes the girl's fate. She is trapped behind the iron gate, and there seems to be no escape. The use of words like "prison," "captive," and "bondage" creates a sense of confinement and imprisonment. The reader can almost feel the girl's sense of hopelessness and the sense of resignation that she must be feeling.
The Iron Gate is a powerful poem that evokes a range of emotions in the reader. The use of words and imagery creates a vivid picture of the girl's confinement and the sense of isolation and despair that she must be feeling. The poem is a testament to the power of poetry to convey deep meanings and evoke strong emotions.
In conclusion, The Iron Gate is a masterpiece of poetry that deserves to be read and appreciated by all. Oliver Wendell Holmes has created a powerful and moving poem that speaks to the human experience of confinement and longing for freedom. The poem is a reminder that even in the darkest of times, there is always hope and the possibility of escape.
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