Robert Lowell is a renowned American poet, known for being the founder of the confessional poetry movement. His many accolades also include the Pulitzer Prize which he won in two separate years. One of his most famous works titled ‘Near the Ocean’ is the current subject to be discussed within the scope of this paper. ‘Waking Early Sunday Morning’ formed the first part of the entire poem through which the poet has tried to convey to his readers a complicated set of emotions which include an attempt to gain respite from the disturbed and unnatural condition of humanity. This paper helps to analyze the poem in terms of its historical, analytical, biographical as well as technical elements by making use of examples from the poem itself.
A great amount of imagery has been used by Lowell within this poem as he begins by describing the dawn of his life, or his childhood in order to depict the yearning for escape from his daily life that he so badly longed for, in the lines, ‘O to break loose, like the Chinook, salmon jumping and falling back.’ He moves on to describe the way the world quickly began to get tarnished in front of his eyes, as the religion spread and he understood what faith meant, as he began to grow up. He compared the same to the ‘natural vermin’ that was stuck in various parts of his house, helping the reader understand the kind of situation he was falling back upon with respect to a dilemma that was winding itself in his life.
Further, along with the poem, the poet appears to have rejected the possibility of embarking upon a spiritual journey throughout the course of his life and thus says, ‘O to break loose. All life’s grandeur is something with a girl in summer.’ This helps to depict the shift of imagery from finding one’s self to understanding the concept of love and affection when it is received from other people. Towards the end of the poem, he helps the reader to comprehend that the escape route to the mercy that every human being seeks during the course of his life has been reduced to a certain extent as dreams have become mere illusions in the minds of the people due to circumstances of war and conflict among people. This is the true reality that haunts mankind and goes to show how a man himself loses his image within society because of his undying desire to be free. In the process, he commits himself to actions that induce him to turn wild and hostile, ultimately leading to his end.
The poem has an iambic quadra-meter rhythm and is also equipped with a great amount of alliteration and metaphors along with the excellent imagery. For example, as can be read in the line, ‘fierce fireless; water wet; fine fuzz.’ It mainly talks about a climax or a paradox that man reaches in life, with perseverance and life on one end and death on the other. The main symbol within the poem described with the help of a salmon attempts to provide the metaphor of how, when the fish tries to go upstream, it faces trouble. This has been compared to a man trying to counter the challenges that he faces in his life. Furthermore, a salmon may also be caught by bears and face death when it tries to get up the waterfall. Similarly, in life a man must be able to make the right decisions in order to survive and not die a painful death at the hands of his own misdeeds.
Axelrod, Steven Gould, ed. The Critical Response to Robert Lowell. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1999.
Belasco, Susan, and Linck Johnson. The Bedford Anthology of American Literatur. Vol. 2. 1856. Print.