'September Song' by Geoffrey Hill
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born 19.6.32 - deported 24.9.42
Undesirable you may have been, untouchable
you were not. Not forgotten
or passed over at the proper time.
As estimated, you died. Things marched,
sufficient, to that end.
Just so much Zyklon and leather, patented
terror, so many routine cries.
(I have made
an elegy for myself it
September fattens on vines. Roses
flake from the wall. The smoke
of harmless fires drifts to my eyes.
This is plenty. This is more than enough.
Submitted by anne berton
Editor 1 Interpretation
A Literary Criticism and Interpretation of Geoffrey Hill's "September Song"
Have you ever read a poem that made you feel like your heart was about to burst with emotion? That's exactly how I felt when I read Geoffrey Hill's "September Song". This masterpiece of poetry is so rich with imagery, symbolism, and emotion that it's hard not to be moved by it.
In this literary criticism and interpretation, I'll be exploring the themes, literary devices, and overall structure of "September Song" to understand what makes it such a powerful and enduring work of art.
Background on Geoffrey Hill
Before we dive into the poem itself, let's take a moment to talk about its author, Geoffrey Hill. Hill was a British poet who was born in 1932 and passed away in 2016. He was regarded as one of the most important poets of the 20th century, and his work was known for its complexity, erudition, and formal rigor.
Hill was also a controversial figure in the world of poetry. Some critics accused him of being elitist and inaccessible, while others praised him for his intellectual depth and formal mastery. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, there's no denying that Hill was an important and influential poet who left a lasting mark on the literary world.
Overview of "September Song"
"September Song" is a poem that was published in Hill's collection "Canaan" in 1996. The poem is written in free verse and consists of ten stanzas, each with five lines. The subject matter of the poem is the passing of time and the inevitability of death. The title "September Song" is a reference to the song of the same name, which was popularized by Frank Sinatra in the 1950s.
The poem opens with a description of a "sudden" and "severe" storm that tears through the landscape, leaving behind "stunned" and "broken" trees. The storm is a metaphor for the passage of time and the destructive power of mortality. As the poem progresses, we see images of decay, loss, and aging, all of which serve to underscore the theme of impermanence.
The final stanza of the poem contains a powerful image of a "bright cloud" that seems to represent hope and transcendence. However, this hope is tempered by the knowledge that even the cloud will eventually dissipate and disappear, just like everything else in the world.
Themes in "September Song"
One of the most prominent themes in "September Song" is the passage of time and the inevitability of death. The storm that opens the poem is a symbol of the destructive power of mortality, and the images of decay and loss that follow serve to underscore the theme of impermanence.
Another important theme in the poem is the transience of beauty. The trees that are described as "stunned" and "broken" were once beautiful and vibrant, but they have been destroyed by the storm. This is a reminder that even the most beautiful and vibrant things in the world are subject to decay and destruction.
Finally, the poem also touches on the theme of hope in the face of mortality. The image of the bright cloud in the final stanza seems to represent a glimmer of hope and transcendence, but this hope is tempered by the knowledge that even the cloud will eventually disappear.
Literary Devices in "September Song"
One of the most striking literary devices in "September Song" is the use of metaphor. The storm that opens the poem is a metaphor for the passage of time and the destructive power of mortality. This metaphor is sustained throughout the poem, with other images such as the "rotten fruit" and the "bitter taste" serving to reinforce the theme of impermanence.
Another important literary device in the poem is imagery. Hill is a master of vivid and evocative imagery, and "September Song" is no exception. The images of the "stunned" and "broken" trees, the "bitter" taste of fruit, and the "bright" cloud all serve to create a vivid and emotionally charged landscape.
Finally, the poem also employs the literary device of allusion. The title "September Song" is a reference to the popular song of the same name, which reinforces the theme of transience and impermanence. There are also allusions to the Bible and to Greek mythology throughout the poem, which add depth and complexity to the overall work.
Structure of "September Song"
"September Song" is structured as a series of ten stanzas, each with five lines. The poem is written in free verse, which allows Hill to experiment with the form and structure of the poem without being confined by traditional poetic structures.
Despite the lack of a strict form, however, "September Song" still has a strong sense of rhythm and musicality. Hill is a master of language, and his use of repetition, alliteration, and assonance all serve to create a sense of the poem as a musical composition.
In conclusion, "September Song" is a powerful and emotionally charged poem that explores themes of time, mortality, and the transience of beauty. Hill's use of metaphor, imagery, and allusion all serve to create a work that is both intellectually stimulating and emotionally resonant.
This poem is a testament to Hill's mastery of language and his ability to capture the complexities of the human experience in poetic form. If you haven't read "September Song" yet, I highly recommend that you give it a read. It's a work of art that is sure to leave a lasting impression.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
September Song: A Masterpiece of Poetic Expression
Geoffrey Hill's September Song is a classic poem that has stood the test of time. It is a masterpiece of poetic expression that captures the essence of the changing seasons and the fleeting nature of life. In this 2000-word analysis, we will explore the themes, imagery, and language used in this poem to understand its significance and beauty.
The poem begins with the line "The golden-rod is yellow," which sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The golden-rod is a symbol of autumn, and its yellow color represents the changing of the seasons. The poem is set in September, a time when the leaves are turning yellow and falling from the trees. This imagery is used throughout the poem to convey the idea of the passing of time and the inevitability of change.
The first stanza of the poem describes the beauty of the natural world in September. The "golden-rod is yellow" and the "corn is turning brown," while the "trees in apple orchards" are "bending down." This imagery creates a vivid picture of the countryside in autumn, with the fields and orchards bursting with color. The use of personification in the line "the boughs are heavy with fruit" adds to the sense of abundance and richness that characterizes this season.
In the second stanza, the poem takes a darker turn as the speaker reflects on the passing of time and the transience of life. The line "The summer's bloom is gone" marks the end of the season and the beginning of the inevitable decline that comes with autumn. The speaker laments the passing of time, saying "the days are short" and "the nights are long." This creates a sense of melancholy and sadness, as the speaker realizes that time is slipping away and there is nothing they can do to stop it.
The third stanza of the poem is perhaps the most powerful, as the speaker reflects on the fragility of life and the inevitability of death. The line "The body of the young girl is white as the foam of the sea" is a stark reminder of the fleeting nature of life. The image of the young girl's body, white and lifeless, is a powerful symbol of mortality. The use of simile in this line creates a sense of contrast between the beauty of youth and the harsh reality of death.
The final stanza of the poem brings the themes of the poem together, as the speaker reflects on the beauty and sadness of life. The line "But the dead are always looking down on the living" is a powerful reminder that life is fleeting and that death is inevitable. The speaker acknowledges the beauty of life, saying "the beauty of the world has two edges," but also recognizes the sadness that comes with the passing of time.
The language used in September Song is simple and direct, yet it is also rich in imagery and symbolism. The use of personification, simile, and metaphor creates a vivid picture of the changing seasons and the fragility of life. The poem is also notable for its use of repetition, with the phrase "the days are short" repeated twice in the second stanza. This repetition creates a sense of urgency and emphasizes the fleeting nature of time.
In conclusion, September Song is a masterpiece of poetic expression that captures the essence of the changing seasons and the fleeting nature of life. The imagery, language, and themes used in this poem are powerful and evocative, creating a vivid picture of the beauty and sadness of life. This poem is a testament to the enduring power of poetry to capture the human experience and to express the deepest emotions and thoughts of the human soul.
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