'Little Sleep's-Head Sprouting Hair In The Moonlight' by Galway Kinnell


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1

You scream, waking from a nightmare.

When I sleepwalk
into your room, and pick you up,
and hold you up in the moonlight, you cling to me
hard,
as if clinging could save us. I think
you think
I will never die, I think I exude
to you the permanence of smoke or stars,
even as
my broken arms heal themselves around you.

2

I have heard you tell
the sun, don't go down, I have stood by
as you told the flower, don't grow old,
don't die. Little Maud,

I would blow the flame out of your silver cup,
I would suck the rot from your fingernail,
I would brush your sprouting hair of the dying light,
I would scrape the rust off your ivory bones,
I would help death escape through the little ribs of your body,
I would alchemize the ashes of your cradle back into wood,
I would let nothing of you go, ever,

until washerwomen
feel the clothes fall asleep in their hands,
and hens scratch their spell across hatchet blades,
and rats walk away from the cultures of the plague,
and iron twists weapons toward the true north,
and grease refuses to slide in the machinery of progress,
and men feel as free on earth as fleas on the bodies of men,
and lovers no longer whisper to the presence beside them in the
dark, O corpse-to-be ...

And yet perhaps this is the reason you cry,
this the nightmare you wake screaming from:
being forever
in the pre-trembling of a house that falls.

3

In a restaurant once, everyone
quietly eating, you clambered up
on my lap: to all
the mouthfuls rising toward
all the mouths, at the top of your voice
you cried
your one word, caca! caca! caca!
and each spoonful
stopped, a moment, in midair, in its withering
steam.

Yes,
you cling because
I, like you, only sooner
than you, will go down
the path of vanished alphabets,
the roadlessness
to the other side of the darkness,

your arms
like the shoes left behind,
like the adjectives in the halting speech
of old men,
which once could call up the lost nouns.

4

And you yourself,
some impossible Tuesday
in the year Two Thousand and Nine, will walk out
among the black stones
of the field, in the rain,

and the stones saying
over their one word, ci-gt, ci-gt, ci-gt,

and the raindrops
hitting you on the fontanel
over and over, and you standing there
unable to let them in.

5

If one day it happens
you find yourself with someone you love
in a caf at one end
of the Pont Mirabeau, at the zinc bar
where white wine stands in upward opening glasses,

and if you commit then, as we did, the error
of thinking,
one day all this will only be memory,

learn,
as you stand
at this end of the bridge which arcs,
from love, you think, into enduring love,
learn to reach deeper
into the sorrows
to come – to touch
the almost imaginary bones
under the face, to hear under the laughter
the wind crying across the black stones. Kiss
the mouth
which tells you, here,
here is the world
. This mouth. This laughter. These temple bones.

The still undanced cadence of vanishing.

6

In the light the moon
sends back, I can see in your eyes

the hand that waved once
in my father's eyes, a tiny kite
wobbling far up in the twilight of his last look:

and the angel
of all mortal things lets go the string.

7

Back you go, into your crib.

The last blackbird lights up his gold wings: farewell.
Your eyes close inside your head,
in sleep. Already
in your dreams the hours begin to sing.

Little sleep's-head sprouting hair in the moonlight,
when I come back
we will go out together,
we will walk out together among
the ten thousand things,
each scratched too late with such knowledge, the wages
of dying is love
.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Little Sleep's-Head Sprouting Hair In The Moonlight: A Literary Criticism

Oh, what a captivating and enchanting poem! Little Sleep's-Head Sprouting Hair In The Moonlight by Galway Kinnell is an absolute masterpiece that strikes a chord with the reader's emotions from the very first line. The poem is a vivid portrayal of a newborn baby and the beauty and innocence that come with it. In this literary criticism, we will delve deeper into the poem's meaning, structure, and literary devices used by the poet to create a mesmerizing experience for the reader.

Poem Summary

The poem opens with a vivid and striking image of a newborn baby. The baby's head is described as "little sleep's-head sprouting hair in the moonlight." This image sets the tone for the rest of the poem, which is a celebration of the baby's beauty and innocence. The poet describes how the baby is sleeping peacefully, "the soft breathing of flowers in December," and how its eyes are "sealed in forgetfulness." The baby is unaware of the world around it and is lost in its own peaceful world.

Throughout the poem, the poet uses vivid and powerful imagery to describe the baby's beauty. The baby's hair is compared to "the tresses of the sun," and its skin is compared to "the moonlit snow." The baby's breath is compared to "the soft breathing of flowers in December," and its eyes are compared to "two flowers that are unaware of their beauty."

The poem ends with a powerful image of the baby's mother watching over it. The mother is described as "the guardian angel of sleep," and she is watching over the baby with love and tenderness. The poet concludes the poem with a message of hope for the baby's future. The baby is "the future ferment" that will bring new life and hope to the world.

Structure and Form

The poem is written in free verse, which means that it does not follow a specific rhyme scheme or meter. This structure allows the poet to use language and imagery in a more flexible and natural way. The poem is divided into six stanzas, each containing between two and four lines. The structure of the poem is simple and straightforward, which reflects the simplicity and innocence of the baby.

Literary Devices

The poet has used a variety of literary devices to create a mesmerizing experience for the reader. Some of the literary devices used in the poem include:

Imagery

The poet has used powerful and vivid imagery throughout the poem to describe the baby's beauty. The baby's hair is compared to "the tresses of the sun," and its skin is compared to "the moonlit snow." The baby's breath is compared to "the soft breathing of flowers in December," and its eyes are compared to "two flowers that are unaware of their beauty." The use of imagery allows the reader to visualize the baby's beauty and innocence.

Metaphor

The poet has used metaphor to describe the baby's beauty. The baby's hair is compared to "the tresses of the sun," and its skin is compared to "the moonlit snow." These metaphors create a powerful and vivid image of the baby's beauty.

Personification

The poet has used personification to describe the baby's breathing. The baby's breath is described as "the soft breathing of flowers in December." This personification creates a sense of calm and tranquility.

Symbolism

The baby is a symbol of hope and new life. The poet describes the baby as "the future ferment" that will bring new life and hope to the world. This symbolism creates a sense of optimism and positivity.

Interpretation

The poem is a celebration of the beauty and innocence of a newborn baby. The poet has used powerful and vivid imagery to describe the baby's beauty and personification to create a sense of calm and tranquility. The baby is a symbol of hope and new life, and the poem ends with a message of hope for the baby's future. The mother is described as "the guardian angel of sleep," and she is watching over the baby with love and tenderness.

The poem can be interpreted in different ways, depending on the reader's perspective. Some readers may interpret the poem as a celebration of the beauty and innocence of childhood. Others may interpret the poem as a symbol of hope and new life. The poem can also be interpreted as a reminder of the importance of love and tenderness in our lives.

Conclusion

Little Sleep's-Head Sprouting Hair In The Moonlight by Galway Kinnell is an enchanting and captivating poem that celebrates the beauty and innocence of a newborn baby. The poet has used powerful and vivid imagery, metaphor, personification, and symbolism to create a mesmerizing experience for the reader. The poem ends with a message of hope for the baby's future, and the mother is described as "the guardian angel of sleep." This poem is a beautiful reminder of the importance of love and tenderness in our lives.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Little Sleep's-Head Sprouting Hair In The Moonlight: A Poem of Innocence and Wonder

Galway Kinnell's Little Sleep's-Head Sprouting Hair In The Moonlight is a poem that captures the essence of childhood innocence and wonder. The poem is a celebration of the beauty and mystery of the natural world, and it invites the reader to experience the world through the eyes of a child. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, imagery, and language of the poem, and we will examine how Kinnell uses these elements to create a powerful and evocative work of art.

The poem begins with a vivid image of a child's head, "sprouting hair in the moonlight." This image immediately sets the tone for the poem, suggesting a sense of magic and wonder. The child's head is described as "little," emphasizing its vulnerability and innocence. The moonlight adds a sense of mystery and enchantment, suggesting that the child is part of a larger, more mysterious world.

As the poem continues, Kinnell explores the child's relationship with the natural world. The child is described as "listening" to the "night's drift," suggesting a deep connection with the rhythms of nature. The child is also described as "breathing" the "cool night air," suggesting a sense of vitality and energy. These images suggest that the child is not just a passive observer of the natural world, but an active participant in it.

The poem then moves on to describe the child's surroundings. The child is lying in a "field," surrounded by "tall grass." The grass is described as "whispering," suggesting a sense of intimacy and closeness. The child is also surrounded by "fireflies," which are described as "floating" and "drifting." These images create a sense of movement and fluidity, suggesting that the child is part of a dynamic and ever-changing world.

As the poem continues, Kinnell explores the child's sense of wonder and awe. The child is described as "gazing" at the "stars," which are described as "dancing." This image suggests a sense of joy and playfulness, as if the stars are putting on a show just for the child. The child is also described as "wondering" at the "moon," which is described as "swinging." This image suggests a sense of mystery and power, as if the moon is a force to be reckoned with.

The poem then moves on to describe the child's sense of self. The child is described as "feeling" the "earth" beneath them, suggesting a sense of groundedness and connection. The child is also described as "touching" their "own body," suggesting a sense of self-awareness and self-discovery. These images suggest that the child is not just a passive observer of the world, but an active participant in their own life.

As the poem comes to a close, Kinnell returns to the image of the child's head. The child's head is described as "full of the moonlight," suggesting a sense of illumination and enlightenment. The child's hair is described as "sprouting," suggesting a sense of growth and potential. These images suggest that the child is not just a passive observer of the world, but an active participant in their own growth and development.

In conclusion, Little Sleep's-Head Sprouting Hair In The Moonlight is a poem that celebrates the beauty and mystery of childhood innocence and wonder. Through vivid imagery and evocative language, Kinnell invites the reader to experience the world through the eyes of a child. The poem is a powerful reminder of the magic and mystery that surrounds us, and it encourages us to embrace our own sense of wonder and awe.

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