Elegy (could be because of his upbringing and

Elegy for my father’s father – James K BaxterBorn in 1926 in Dunedin, New Zealand and died in 1972.About the poemAn elegy is a sad and thoughtful poem written to lament (expressing grief)  the death of a person. The theme of the poem is death. The poem has a mournful (dull and slow) tone and is written as free verse. Throughout the poem, there are many parts that show masculine domination (could be because of his upbringing and also because when Baxter was getting a feel for the world, women were oppressed and men were dominating the economy and jobs). The whole poem also represents the season of summer going into winter. There is no rhyme scheme and the poem is one stanza long. This poem shows that there is a deeper meaning to life and people should ponder about it.”Elegy for my father’s father” – Very direct title and shows that he didn’t know his grandfather very well. Targeted to specific person ‘father’s father’. Wording of title used to create a sort of distance between him and his grandfather. “He knew in the hour he died that his heart had never spoken” – Shows a point of realisation and the fact that his ‘death’ was long and painful. There is also a piece of personification (HEART has spoken). The poet wants to say that his grandfather had never really expressed himself and showed emotions and that he had an introverted personality.”In eighty years of days o for the tall tower broken” – The usage of eight years of days shows how each day was different for his grandfather and could also have been a challenge. It also shows distance and duration. The word ‘broken’ shows the grandfather’s death. This sentence also shows masculine domination as the word, tower, represents most of a male’s character ie, strength, height etc. “Memorial is denied: and the unchanging cairn” – Due to his introverted personality, no one cared for his death and so, a memorial was ‘denied’ and he wasn’t remembered at all!”They stood by the graveside from his bitter veins born and mourned in their fashion” – The theme of death dominates this part of the poem as the poet talks about the burial of his father’s father. ‘Mourned in their fashion’ shows that because the grandfather had never expressed any feeling or emotions, no one really knew what kind of a burial he wanted or how he wanted to be mourned, thus, he was mourned in their fashion. “A chain of sods in a day he could slice and build” – The writer looks back to the times where his grandfather was strong and could perform tasks considered manly such as building and ‘slicing’. In this line, the author is also praising his grandfather a little by saying he was strong, which moves the tone from extremely negative to a little positive. “High as the head of a man and a flowering cherry tree” – His grandfather’s adulthood and times of strength are represented by the season of summer (flowering cherry tree). This part of the poem is happy and shows positivity. “On his walking shoulder held under the lion sun” – This line shows masculinity and how he was the man in charge (lion) and was the breadwinner. Again ‘lion sun’ refers to the season of summer where everyone is in a mood to go out and work instead of staying inside as it is warm and sunny. “When he was old and blind he sat in a curved chair” – This part refers to when he had gotten old. One also notices that there are only a few lines talking about the good parts of his life which hints that Baxter’s grandfather’s life wasn’t too good. Him becoming old and blind also shows that just like winter where everything comes to a standstill due to the holidays, his life is also coming to and end and he is losing physical strength and becoming ‘old and blind’. The tone again becomes dull.”All day by the kitchen fire many hours he had seen” – Shows his grandfather’s inability to move about.”The stars in their drunken dancing through the burning-glass of his mind” – Shows that while sitting by the kitchen fire, he was thinking about all the things he could have done in his life.”And sober knew the green boughs of heaven folding” – He talks about the boughs of heaven folding which means that death is near. He uses the word bough to refer to the season of autumn where trees get ready to undergo massive changes such as shedding of its leaves.”The winter world in their hand the pride of his heart was dumb” – The poet is saying that winter, where leaves die out, is near. So, his grandfather’s life is coming to an end and the folding boughs of heaven have his grandfather’s ‘ticket to heaven’ with them.”He knew in the hour he died that his heart had never spoken in song or bridal bed” – There is a repetition of the first idea that his grandfather never expressed himself. Also, now the poet says that he wasn’t too involved with his wife as his heart had never spoken even in bridal bed (bridal – refers to wife).”Then for a child’s sake: to the waves all night awake with the dark mouths of the dead the tongues of water spoke and his heart was unafraid” – Finally, after all this while his natural self comes out and ‘his heart is unafraid’. The words water and heart are used to show that he is becoming aware of the natural world and his surroundings that his heart finally opens up and so, ‘his heart was unafraid’.Throughout the poem there isn’t much use of literary devices as the theme is one of sadness and sorrow. James K Baxter grew up among the Polynese people of New Zealand which helped him understand nature. Thus, he is able to use his background effectively in order to enhance the meaning of the poem. From the poet’s writing, one can deduce that Baxter definitely respected his grandfather but didn’t approve of his reserved nature.