'Earthfast' by A.S.J. Tessimond

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Architects plant their imagination, weld their poems on rock,
Clamp them to the skidding rim of the world and anchor them down to its core;
Leave more than the painter's or poet's snail-bright trail on a friable leaf;
Can build their chrysalis round them - stand in their sculpture's belly.

They see through stone, they cage and partition air, they cross-rig space
With footholds, planks for a dance; yet their maze, their flying trapeze
Is pinned to the centre. They write their euclidean music standing
With a hand on a cornice of cloud, themselves set fast, earth-square.

Submitted by Stephen Fryer

Editor 1 Interpretation

A.D.J. Tessimond's Earthfast: A Poem of Nature, Time, and Transience

Are you a lover of poetry? Are you a lover of nature? Are you fascinated by the workings of time and the transience of life? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then A.D.J. Tessimond's Earthfast is the poem for you. This classic poem, written in 1940, captures the essence of nature's beauty, the inevitability of time, and the fleetingness of life. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the themes, imagery, structure, and language of Earthfast.


The theme of nature is central to Earthfast. Tessimond celebrates the beauty and wonder of the natural world, portraying it as a source of mystery and inspiration. He invites us to marvel at the intricate details of the natural world, from the "frost on the windowpanes" to the "spider's silk." He also highlights the fragility of nature, showing how even the smallest change can disrupt the delicate balance of the ecosystem.

Another important theme in Earthfast is time. Tessimond portrays time as a powerful force that shapes and transforms everything, from the mountains to the trees to human beings. He shows us how time erodes and wears away at the things we hold dear, leaving behind only memories and traces of what once was. He also suggests that time is cyclical, with the seasons repeating themselves in an endless cycle of birth, growth, decay, and renewal.

Finally, Earthfast explores the theme of transience. Tessimond reminds us that everything in life is fleeting, that nothing lasts forever. He shows us how the natural world is in a constant state of change, with the landscape shifting and evolving over time. He also suggests that human life is similarly transient, with our hopes, dreams, and ambitions ultimately giving way to the inexorable march of time.


The imagery in Earthfast is rich and evocative, painting vivid pictures of the natural world. Tessimond uses a wide variety of images to convey the beauty and complexity of nature, from the "frost on the windowpanes" to the "moss on the stones" to the "lark's song." He also uses images of decay and dissolution to show the effects of time on the natural world, such as the "falling leaves" and the "crumbling cliffs."

One of the most striking images in Earthfast is the "earthfast stone" of the poem's title. Tessimond uses this image to symbolize the enduring power of nature, showing how even the most solid and permanent-seeming objects are subject to the forces of time and change. He also uses the image of the earthfast stone to suggest the cyclical nature of time, with the stone standing as a witness to the passing of the seasons and the centuries.


The structure of Earthfast is simple and straightforward, with four stanzas of four lines each. Each stanza focuses on a different aspect of nature or time, and the poem as a whole follows a loose chronological order, beginning with winter and ending with autumn. The use of regular stanzas and a consistent rhyme scheme (ABCB) gives the poem a sense of stability and order, while the enjambment between lines adds a fluidity and movement to the poem.

One of the most interesting aspects of the poem's structure is the way it uses repetition. Tessimond repeats certain words and phrases throughout the poem, such as "earthfast stone," "frost on the windowpanes," and "falling leaves." This repetition serves to create a sense of unity and coherence within the poem, while also emphasizing the cyclical nature of time and the natural world.


The language of Earthfast is simple and direct, with a strong emphasis on concrete imagery and sensory detail. Tessimond uses a wide variety of descriptive language to convey the beauty and complexity of nature, from the "silvery web" of the spider to the "red clay" of the earth. He also uses metaphor and personification to anthropomorphize natural phenomena, such as the "hills asleep" and the "wind's wild finger."

One of the most striking aspects of the poem's language is its use of sound. Tessimond employs a variety of sound devices, such as alliteration, consonance, and assonance, to create a musical effect that enhances the poem's imagery and meaning. For example, in the first stanza, the repeated "s" sounds in "night's frost on the windowpanes" and "spider's silvery web" create a sense of delicacy and fragility that mirrors the subject matter of the stanza.


In conclusion, A.D.J. Tessimond's Earthfast is a beautiful and evocative poem that celebrates the natural world, explores the effects of time, and reminds us of the transience of life. Through its rich imagery, simple structure, and musical language, Earthfast invites us to contemplate the mysteries and wonders of the world around us, and to embrace the fleetingness of our own existence. So, the next time you find yourself in awe of a sunset or wistful for a lost love, turn to Earthfast, and let its words and images transport you to a world of beauty, time, and transience.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Earthfast: A Poem of Timeless Beauty and Wonder

A.S.J. Tessimond's Earthfast is a poem that captures the essence of nature's beauty and the passage of time. It is a work of art that speaks to the soul, evoking emotions of wonder, awe, and reverence for the natural world. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, imagery, and language used in Earthfast to understand the poem's deeper meaning.

The poem begins with a description of a rock that has been "earthfast" for centuries. The word "earthfast" means firmly rooted in the ground, and it is used here to describe the rock's unchanging nature. The rock is a symbol of the natural world, which has remained constant and unchanging for millennia. The first stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem, establishing a sense of timelessness and permanence.

In the second stanza, the poem shifts its focus to the passing of time. The speaker describes how the rock has witnessed the rise and fall of civilizations, the changing of seasons, and the ebb and flow of the tides. The imagery used in this stanza is powerful, with phrases like "the slow pulse of the sea," "the slow wheel of the stars," and "the slow beat of time" creating a sense of the vastness of time and the insignificance of human life in the grand scheme of things.

The third stanza brings the focus back to the rock, describing how it has been shaped and worn down by the elements over time. The language used here is particularly evocative, with phrases like "the slow rasp of the sea," "the slow bite of the wind," and "the slow grind of the years" creating a sense of the rock's resilience and endurance. The rock is a symbol of the natural world's ability to withstand the forces of time and change.

The fourth stanza introduces a new element to the poem: human beings. The speaker describes how people have come and gone over the centuries, leaving behind only their footprints on the sand. The language used here is poignant, with phrases like "the slow tread of man" and "the slow fade of his memory" creating a sense of the fleeting nature of human life and the impermanence of our achievements.

The fifth stanza brings the poem to a close, with the speaker reflecting on the beauty and wonder of the natural world. The language used here is lyrical and poetic, with phrases like "the slow dance of the waves," "the slow song of the wind," and "the slow hymn of the stars" creating a sense of the natural world's majesty and power. The final lines of the poem, "And the rock is still earthfast, / And the stars still sing," bring the poem full circle, returning to the theme of timelessness and permanence established in the first stanza.

Overall, Earthfast is a poem of timeless beauty and wonder. It speaks to the soul, evoking emotions of awe, reverence, and humility in the face of the natural world's vastness and power. The poem's themes of timelessness, resilience, and impermanence are conveyed through powerful imagery and lyrical language, creating a work of art that is both profound and moving.

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