Literary Analysis Essay on Waking Early Sunday Morning by Robert Lowell

Published: 2021-07-01
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Middlebury College
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Research paper
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Lowell is the most prominent poet in the history of the United States and the world. Born into a Boston Brahmin family, Lowell dedicated his early year of growth to learn poetry skills from his family members (Axelrod 137). In his assertions, Lowell mentions that he was directly prominent figures such as Allen Tate, Elizabeth Bishop and William Carlos William tremendously influenced his poetry art. He started working on his first book, Life Studies in 1959 and won a 1960 National Book Award. Throughout his career, Lowell was considered an integral component of the confessional poetry movement (Hamilton 35). It is, however, important to recognize that the majority of Lowells works integrated both the public and personal issues but did not align with the traditional confessional poetry. Rather, he spent much of his career on working on different stylistic forms and modes and this made him one of the greatest poets across the world. His poem, Waking Early Sunday Morning emerges as one of the most read poems (Axelrod 137).

Waking Early Sunday Morning is a long lyric poem that offers a greater meditation on the mortality in its fourteen eight-line stanzas. Fundamentally, the poem speaks about the internal journey through the thoughts of the persona as he rises. It starts with a dreaming image of freedom and escape and the wish to search for freedom like the Salmon that swims against the current and clearing the waterfall with intent to reach its native home. Regarding the style, it is notable that the poem is written in the first person, both singular and plural. In this sense, therefore, the speaker uses I and sometimes we. Lowell as the speaker can be felt to move from the personal to prophetic, where he addresses the desire to freedom and the desire for his religious devotion. Finally, he demonstrates remorsefulness regarding the planet he lives in because the humanity is all destined to become destroyed in small wars (Komura 1). A close look at the poem shows the reference to the Chinook as being free. In this sense, the audience or readers may not be able to explicitly know which Chinook this was addressing as it could be the winds, river, and the helicopter developed in 1961. The second line where the persona asserts, salmon jumping and falling provides an insight that the Chinook being referred is the river (Sowellcj

Lowell has continually utilized distinctive stylistic devices to enhance a deeper understanding of reader and consequently deliver his message to his audience (Lehman and Brehm 637). Notably, he has used the Dacron rope in the third stanza to reference the type of rope was used to tie boats to docks. Conceivably, the speaker has used various words to illustrate the nature of the struggle that salmon went through in its desire to look for freedom and break loose. In the fifth and sixth line of the first stanza, the speaker says, Stopped by the ten steps of the roaring ladder. In this phrase, Lowell means that many people are occasionally stopped by ladder and ultimately find it difficult to proceed with the journey (Hart 270). Readers are therefore able to interpret that this ladder comes in different forms. In the case of this poem, the Ladder refers to the waterfall which salmon eventually overcomes through persistence and perseverance.

Utilization of the hidden meanings in various lines throughout the 14 stanzas makes the Lowell one of the greatest poems. The use of the statement here squatting like a dragon on times hoard represents two meanings. From one perspective, it refers to the control of the dragon by the unknown future of the time. Squatting means the dragon was prepared to attack. In most occasions, a bear would be waiting to attack and kill the salmon when it jumps over the waterfall. The other meaning of the same line would be waking in the early morning just as suggested by the title. As human beings, we may not know if we are going to rise from the beautiful dreams, a nightmare. All these are based on the fact that the time the future forms clear (Komura 1). The poems rhythm is an iambic parameter and choppy based on my interpretation. The use of alliteration in the poem enhances emphasis, and the reader can adequately understand the intended meaning.

Finally, Lowell succeeds in using his expertise to employ symbolism in his poem. As a stylistic device, metaphor helps to hide the actual sense of a poem when its intention is to address the subject being talked about (Drury 52). A major symbol Lowell uses in his poem is Salmon, which symbolizes perseverance (Brittan 21). In another sense, Lowell could use the line to represents a soldiers persistence to serve a given nation irrespective of the hardships that emanate from the war. From a general point of view, I think Waking Early Sunday Morning poem is allegorical based on the fact that several meanings that go beyond the literal interpretations are conveyed.

Works Cited

Axelrod, Steven G. Robert Lowell: Life and Art. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 1978. Internet resource.

Brittan, Simon. Poetry, Symbol, and Allegory: Interpreting Metaphorical Language from Plato to the Present. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2003. Print.

Drury, John. Creating Poetry. Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer's Digest Books, 1991. Print. Hamilton, Ian. Robert Lowell: A Biography. , 2011. Internet resource.Hart, Henry. Robert Lowell and the Sublime. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse Univ. Press, 1995. Print.

Komura, Toshiaki. Robert Lowell's Waking Early Sunday Morning: Making of an Unconfessional Confession. The Journal of Explicator

Lehman, David, and John Brehm. The Oxford Book of American Poetry. Oxford [u.a.: Oxford Univ. Press, 2006. Print.

Sowellcj Blog. Waking Early Sunday Morning Analysis. Accessed on May 11th, 2017. Retrieved from

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