'When Death Comes' by Mary Oliver
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When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it's over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.
Editor 1 Interpretation
When Death Comes by Mary Oliver
Oh my goodness, where do I even begin with this poem? When Death Comes by Mary Oliver is a masterpiece in every sense of the word. It's a poem that speaks directly to the human condition, and it does so with such elegance and grace that it's difficult not to be moved by it.
The Power of Death
The first thing that strikes me about this poem is how it deals with the concept of death. Death is something that we all must face eventually, yet it's a topic that many of us shy away from. But not Mary Oliver. In When Death Comes, she confronts death head-on, and in doing so, she reminds us of the power that death holds over us.
The poem begins with the lines:
When death comes like the hungry bear in autumn;
Right away, Oliver establishes death as a powerful force, one that is both inevitable and unstoppable. The image of a hungry bear in autumn is a powerful one, and it immediately conveys the idea that death is something to be feared.
But Oliver doesn't stop there. She goes on to say:
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse to buy me, and snaps the purse shut; when death comes like the measle-pox;
Here, Oliver is using death as a metaphor for something else. Death is no longer just a physical force, but something deeper and more profound. It's something that takes away the things we hold dear and leaves us with nothing but emptiness. It's a reminder of our mortality, and of the fact that we are all just passing through this life.
The Importance of Living
But even as Oliver acknowledges the power of death, she also emphasizes the importance of living. In fact, the entire poem is a celebration of life, and a call to live it to the fullest.
When it's over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement.
These lines are some of the most beautiful in the entire poem. Oliver is saying that she wants to live her life fully, to experience everything that the world has to offer, and to be amazed by it all. She doesn't want to be held back by fear or anxiety, but instead wants to embrace life with open arms.
Oliver goes on to say:
I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.
This line is so powerful because it's a reminder to all of us that life is short, and that we should make the most of every moment. We shouldn't just go through the motions of life, but should instead strive to truly experience it.
The Beauty of Nature
Another theme that runs throughout When Death Comes is the idea that nature can provide us with a sense of meaning and purpose. Oliver has always been known for her love of nature, and this poem is no exception.
I want to go on walks with the dead, and let them take me by the hand.
Here, Oliver is saying that even in death, nature can provide us with a sense of comfort and solace. Nature is something that is timeless and eternal, and it can help us to connect with something greater than ourselves.
In conclusion, When Death Comes by Mary Oliver is a powerful poem that speaks directly to the human condition. It's a reminder that death is something that we all must face, but that we should not allow it to hold us back from truly living. Instead, we should embrace life with open arms, and find meaning and purpose in the world around us. Oliver's words are a call to action, a reminder that life is short, and that we should make the most of every moment. This poem is a masterpiece, and it's one that will continue to inspire and resonate with readers for generations to come.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
When Death Comes: A Poem of Life and Acceptance
Mary Oliver's poem "When Death Comes" is a powerful reflection on the inevitability of death and the importance of living a meaningful life. Through vivid imagery and introspective musings, Oliver invites readers to contemplate their own mortality and to embrace the beauty and complexity of existence.
The poem begins with a bold declaration: "When death comes / like the hungry bear in autumn." This simile sets the tone for the rest of the poem, as Oliver uses natural imagery to explore the cycle of life and death. The bear, a symbol of both power and ferocity, represents the inevitability of death and the primal force that drives all living beings.
Oliver goes on to describe the various ways in which death might come: "when death comes / like an iceberg between the shoulder blades." This metaphor suggests the suddenness and unexpectedness of death, as well as its ability to cause immense pain and suffering. Yet even in the face of such a brutal end, Oliver maintains a sense of wonder and awe at the sheer magnitude of life: "I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering: / what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?"
Throughout the poem, Oliver emphasizes the importance of living fully and authentically. She writes, "I don't want to end up simply having visited this world." This line speaks to the fear many of us have of living a life that feels unfulfilled or incomplete. Oliver urges us to embrace our passions and pursue our dreams, even if they may seem unconventional or risky. She writes, "I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes."
Oliver also touches on the idea of legacy and the impact we leave on the world after we're gone. She writes, "I want to leave looking like the sunflower, still / partly holding its seeds." This image of the sunflower, a symbol of resilience and growth, suggests that even in death we can continue to nourish and inspire others. It's a reminder that our actions and words have the power to shape the world around us, even after we're gone.
One of the most striking aspects of "When Death Comes" is Oliver's use of language and imagery. Her words are simple yet profound, and her descriptions of the natural world are both vivid and evocative. She writes, "I want to be the tiniest / piece of the polar bear's hair." This line captures the beauty and majesty of the natural world, while also emphasizing the interconnectedness of all living things.
Oliver's poem is also notable for its sense of acceptance and peace. She writes, "I don't want to end up simply having visited this world / I want to feel the light of the sun, / I want to breathe the air, / I want to be the rain falling on the hillside." This sense of contentment and gratitude for life, even in the face of death, is a powerful reminder of the importance of living in the present moment and cherishing every experience.
In conclusion, Mary Oliver's "When Death Comes" is a poignant and thought-provoking poem that encourages readers to embrace life and accept the inevitability of death. Through her use of natural imagery and introspective musings, Oliver invites us to contemplate our own mortality and to find meaning and purpose in our lives. Her words are a reminder that even in the face of death, there is beauty and wonder to be found in the world around us.
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