When one loses something, he thinks that there is more of it where that came from, and thus he does not feel any regret about losing it. Yet there are some things in life that once lost can never be had again. This is what the contemporary Irish poet Eavan Boland reveals in a poem of hers that alludes to the lost city of Atlantis. Eavan Boland’s “Atlantis: A Lost Sonnet” reveals sorrow in an irrecoverable past and shows this through its diction, imagery, and rhythm.
Firstly, through the rather conversational tone of the author, she uses words that depict the sorrowful theme of the poem. She first expresses her own sadness at the idea that “a whole city [with its] arches, pillars [and] colonnades” (Boland 2) is all gone. She seems to grieve because she herself says, “I miss our old city” (7). Moreover, she somehow feels alone in saying that she misses her city. It is obvious that when she sarcastically says in the preceding line, “Surely a great city must have been missed?” it seems that no one else has remembered the city except her. It also seems that she is surprised at the idea that no one seems to miss the city no matter how great it was before. Furthermore, another line in the poem that reveals such sorrow is “to convey what is gone is gone forever and/ never found it” (13), where the poet somehow reiterates to the reader that her city is gone and will never ever return again. One more thing is that the author uses the pronouns “I” and “you” in the poem as an indication that the pain of loss that she is experiencing is actually very personal and that she actually feels it as she tells of it in the poem. Overall, the author’s choice of words for this poem somehow conveys to the reader the message that there are just some things in life that once gone will never come back.
The imagery in the poem reinforces the sorrow expressed by the diction. When the author mentions “White pepper, white pudding, you and I meeting” (8), the author tells of some sweet memories she has had with a friend and how they both enjoyed the food they shared when the city when their city still existed. The “whiteness” of the pepper and the pudding somehow reveals the idea of purity and innocence – things that the author and her friend lost when the city ceased to exist. Nevertheless, by recalling this “whiteness,” the author seems too long for such innocence and purity, and at the same time she seems to be telling the reader that these are two things that will never return when one loses them. Moreover, in mentioning “under fanlights and low skies to go home in it” (9), the author wants to express to the reader how happy and delightful she was under the stars and skies when she and her friend used to share the white pepper and pudding that they shared. The contrast that such lines create with the idea that the city is now gone – or perhaps in ruins – somehow intensifies the idea of sorrow in the poem. Furthermore, the mention of “arches, pillars, colonnades” (2) and “vehicles and animals” (3) reveals the richness and glory of the culture that was gone with the destruction of the city. Therefore, through the imagery of the poem, the author somehow wants to evoke sorrow and remorse in the reader as the latter realizes how much was actually lost when the city was gone, and how much goodness can be lost in real life if one is not careful.
The sorrowful tone of the diction and the imagery are both complemented by the poem’s rhythm. Technically, the poet employs mostly anapestic tetrameter throughout the whole poem. This somehow creates a smooth melodic breeze which is perfect for a poem of sadness. Moreover, the urgency and continuity of such emotion are revealed in the lines that go on to the next and finish there, as in “to convey that what is gone is gone forever and/ never found it” (12-13) and many others. Through such rhythmic continuity, the author somehow implies that sorrow almost always never ends, or if it does, then it must be after one has borne it for some time.
Eavan Boland’s “Atlantic: A Lost Sonnet” is more than just a poem that alludes to a legendary city that has long been gone. The diction, imagery and rhythm of the poem all help each other express the sorrow and longing that the author wants to convey to the reader. By revealing this sorrow through the three elements of the poem, this particular literary masterpiece becomes a reminder to us that if we are not careful with how we live our lives, we may lose something precious and that we might not be able to see or experience this again.
Boland, Eavan. “Atlantis – A Lost Sonnet.” 2007. Poets.org. Web. 16 Sept 2010.