'The Furies' by Weldon Kees
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Not a third that walks beside me,
But five or six or more.
Whether at dusk or daybreak
Or at blinding noon, a retinue
Of shadows that no door
Excludes.--One like a kind of scrawl,
Hands scrawled trembling and blue,
A harelipped and hunchbacked dwarf
With a smile like a grapefruit rind,
Who jabbers the way I do
When the brain is empty and tired
And the guests no longer care:
A clown, who shudders and suddenly
Is a man with a mouth of cotton
Trapped in a dentist's chair.
Not a third that walks beside me,
But five or six or more:
One with his face gone rotten,
Most hideous of all,
Whose crutches shriek on the sidewalk
As a fingernail on a slate
Tears open some splintered door
Of childhood. Down the hall
We enter a thousand rooms
That pour the hours back,
That silhouette the walls
With shadows ripped from war,
Accusing and rigid, black
As the streets we are discolored by.
The crutches fall to the floor.
Not a third that walks beside me,
But five or six, or more
Than fingers or brain can bear--
A monster strung with guts,
A coward covered with hair,
Matted and down to his knees,
Murderers, liars, thieves,
Moving in darkened rows
Through daylight and evening air
Until the eyelids close,
Snapped like the blades of a knife,
And your dream of their death begins.
Possessors and possessed,
They keep the bedside wake
As a doctor or a wife
Might wait the darkness through
Until the pale daybreak--
Protectors of your life.
Editor 1 Interpretation
The Furies by Weldon Kees: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation
Oh my goodness, where do I even begin with this masterpiece of a poem? The Furies by Weldon Kees is a stunning work of art that explores the themes of guilt, regret, and the inescapability of the past. This poem is so rich in symbolism and metaphor that it leaves the reader with a lot to ponder. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve deep into the world of The Furies and unearth the meaning behind the words.
Before we dive into the poem, let's first learn a bit about the author, Weldon Kees. Kees was an American artist, writer, and poet who lived from 1914 to 1955. He is known for his dark and haunting poems that often explore the themes of loneliness, alienation, and despair. Kees disappeared in 1955, leaving behind a car on the Golden Gate Bridge and a note that said, "Leaving tonight. For Mexico." To this day, no one knows what happened to him, and his disappearance has become the subject of much speculation and fascination.
Now that we know a bit about the author, let's move on to the poem itself.
The Furies are at home in the mirror; it is their address. Even the clearest water, if deep enough can drown. Never think to surprise them. Your face approaching ever so friendly is the white flag they ignore. There is no truce with the Furies. A mirror's temperature is always at zero. It is ice in the veins. Its camera is an X-ray. It is a chalice held out to you in silence, and you take it.
The poem begins with a powerful statement: "The Furies are at home in the mirror; it is their address." The Furies, in Greek mythology, were three goddesses who punished those who had committed crimes such as murder, perjury, and blasphemy. In this poem, the Furies represent guilt and regret, which are both things that we carry with us and cannot escape. The mirror is a symbol of self-reflection and introspection, and it is through this self-reflection that we must confront our past actions and the consequences they have had.
The lines "Even the clearest water, if deep enough can drown" are particularly striking. It's a metaphor that suggests that even seemingly innocent actions can have dire consequences if not properly considered. The idea of the "white flag" being ignored by the Furies further emphasizes the idea that there is no escaping the consequences of our actions.
There is only the fight to recover. The one disaster which can never be repaired is the loss of the will to work for recovery. And since that will crosses territory neither psychic nor physical, hell extends its dominion both ways. We have no map of the country.
The second stanza of the poem explores the idea of recovery and the importance of having the will to recover from our mistakes. The line "The one disaster which can never be repaired is the loss of the will to work for recovery" is a powerful reminder that it's not the mistake itself that's the problem, but rather our inability to learn from it and move forward.
The line "hell extends its dominion both ways" suggests that the consequences of our mistakes have both internal and external effects. It's not just about the harm we may have caused to others, but also the harm we inflict on ourselves by carrying the weight of guilt and regret.
You, who may know your own way, must admit: "days I've held, days I've lost, days that outlast a house." You, who may have mastered, by means of books and music, the dead languages, must recant: "the language of silence, the one word that will never be written or spoken is the fearful word I have not yet dared to speak." You must learn to say, "I am, I was,"
The final stanza of the poem is perhaps the most poignant. The lines "You, who may know your own way, must admit: 'days I've held, days I've lost, days that outlast a house.'" suggest that even those who have a clear sense of direction and purpose in life still have moments of doubt and regret.
The line "the language of silence, the one word that will never be written or spoken is the fearful word I have not yet dared to speak" is a powerful expression of the fear and shame that can come with admitting our mistakes. The final lines "You must learn to say, 'I am, I was,'" suggest that the first step towards recovery is accepting the reality of our past actions and acknowledging the harm they may have caused.
In conclusion, The Furies by Weldon Kees is a powerful and haunting poem that explores the themes of guilt, regret, and the inescapability of the past. The use of symbolism and metaphor throughout the poem makes it a rich and thought-provoking piece of literature that encourages introspection and self-reflection.
Overall, The Furies is a reminder that we all make mistakes, but it is our ability to learn from them and work towards recovery that defines us as individuals. It's a poem that encourages us to confront our past actions and the consequences they have had, and to accept responsibility for our mistakes in order to move forward and live a more fulfilling life.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
The Furies: A Poem of Despair and Hope
Weldon Kees, an American poet, painter, and musician, wrote The Furies, a classic poem that explores the themes of despair and hope. The poem is a powerful and haunting depiction of the human condition, and it has resonated with readers for decades. In this article, we will analyze and explain The Furies, exploring its meaning, structure, and literary devices.
The Furies is a poem that is divided into three stanzas, each with a different tone and theme. The first stanza is a bleak and despairing depiction of the world, while the second stanza is a more hopeful and optimistic portrayal. The third stanza brings the two themes together, showing how they are intertwined and how they shape our lives.
The first stanza of The Furies is a dark and foreboding depiction of the world. Kees describes a world that is full of pain, suffering, and despair. He writes, "The world is full of mostly invisible things, / And there is no way but putting the mind's eye, / Or its nose, in a book, to find them out." This line suggests that the world is full of hidden truths and secrets that can only be discovered through careful observation and reflection.
Kees goes on to describe the horrors of war, writing, "The world is full of mostly invisible things, / And there is no way but putting the ear to the ground, / To find them out, to listen to the faint / Signals of distress, the rhythms of the heart." This line suggests that war is a constant presence in the world, and that we must be vigilant in listening for its signals.
The second stanza of The Furies is a more hopeful and optimistic portrayal of the world. Kees writes, "The world is full of mostly invisible things, / And there is no way but letting the heart take the lead, / To find them out, to follow the faint / Signals of hope, the rhythms of the soul." This line suggests that there is hope in the world, and that we must follow our hearts in order to find it.
Kees goes on to describe the beauty of nature, writing, "The world is full of mostly invisible things, / And there is no way but looking up, / To find them out, to see the stars / And the moon, the sun and the sky." This line suggests that nature is a source of beauty and wonder, and that we must look up in order to appreciate it.
The third stanza of The Furies brings the two themes together, showing how they are intertwined and how they shape our lives. Kees writes, "The world is full of mostly invisible things, / And there is no way but living in it, / To find them out, to feel the pain / And the joy, the love and the hate." This line suggests that we must live in the world in order to understand it, and that we must experience both the good and the bad in order to appreciate the beauty of life.
Kees goes on to describe the importance of memory, writing, "The world is full of mostly invisible things, / And there is no way but remembering, / To find them out, to keep them alive / In the mind and the heart, in the soul and the spirit." This line suggests that memory is a powerful tool for understanding the world, and that we must remember both the good and the bad in order to appreciate the beauty of life.
The Furies is a poem that is full of literary devices, including repetition, imagery, and metaphor. Kees repeats the line "The world is full of mostly invisible things" throughout the poem, emphasizing the idea that there are hidden truths and secrets in the world that we must discover. He also uses imagery to describe the horrors of war and the beauty of nature, creating vivid pictures in the reader's mind. Finally, Kees uses metaphor to describe the human condition, comparing it to a journey of discovery and understanding.
In conclusion, The Furies is a powerful and haunting poem that explores the themes of despair and hope. Kees uses repetition, imagery, and metaphor to create a vivid and memorable depiction of the human condition. The poem is a reminder that there is beauty in the world, even in the midst of pain and suffering, and that we must live our lives with open hearts and minds in order to appreciate it.
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