Lampman may depict on one level, often metaphorical, a tragic view of life in nature besieged, for example, by the cruel armies of winter. Ironically, however, what he captures in such depictions is the beauty of the season described. Life, he implies, can be hard, but life is good and, for the true happiness of human beings, sufficient. A final point about "The Sweetness of Life" has to do with the relation between thought and feeling in the poem.
About the reason for their happiness, nature's representatives declare, "we cannot answer why", and the speaker's "self" echoes this statement, informing the speaker at the end of the poem, "thou canst not answer why". What the speaker discovers through this revelation, which likens his experience to the imagined experience of nature, is that his happiness is unrelated to the world of "thought".
The reason for the smile attributed to the speaker's "self", then, is that he is glad not to know. He has come to appreciate, in other words, the nature of dream. To reiterate the main conclusion of this analysis of "The Sweetness of Life", an equation is drawn in the poem between what it means to live and to be happy. All of life, accordingly, is conducive to the attainment of dream consciousness, making life, indeed, for the dreamer, "only sweet". This point is emphasized by the juxtaposition of the statement describing the entirety of life from birth until death ll.
In Lyrics of Earth the entirety of life is represented by the four seasons. By placing "The Sweetness of Life" at the beginning of the sequence, Lampman implies that the poems which follow will demonstrate in terms of evocations of nature throughout the year the validity of the claim put forward in that poem: that there exists in nature an endless potential for dream, giving rise to happiness. That nature is seen to be beautiful in all its aspects, whether mild or harsh, in the various poems of the sequence confirms this view.
In "Forest Moods" LE , p. This poem, it will be recalled, was one of three written in and therefore not included in the original compilation of the sequence. Possibly it was inserted later because of its particular relevance to the meaning of the book as a whole. A brief discussion will suffice to show how the larger theme is reflected in this poem. The speaker, already present in the woods and observant, takes note of the variety of birds and flowers within the reach of his perception.
The moods" with which he associates his subjects vary, but his response remains consistently affirmative.
The songs of some birds strike him as nostalgic ll. To the speaker, however, "all the notes of their throats are true" l. Likewise, the speaker's love for all things in nature is evident in his description of the flowers. The effect of suggesting that both the truth and the beauty of nature are constant despite the variety of "moods" which are manifest in nature is to affirm that nature is the embodiment of perfection. As it is the variety of nature's "moods" to which the seasons, like the flowers and birds of "Forest Moods", give expression, it makes sense that the purpose of the sequence in Lyrics ofEarth is to embody the same belief.
We turn now to "After Rain" and "By an Autumn Stream", poems which, though very different in terms of mood, are alike in other respects. As was the case with "Heat" and "In November" and again with "April" and "In October", a comparison of these poems will demonstrate the consistency with which Lampman recognizes beauty in nature, however various its quality, and the similarity of his responses to beauty in nature throughout the year. In developing this comparison, we will focus on the relation between the quality of a particular inspiration and the crafting of the poem which is meant to capture that inspiration.
Particularly evident in both "After Rain" and "By an Autumn Stream" is Lampman's practice of using language and poetic technique to evoke as precisely as possible the actual impression created by the scenes described. Lampman himself describes this practice in his discussion of the primary goal of poetry in "Poetic Interpretation". Elaborating on the previously quoted statement about the variety of equally beautiful impressions produced by "a May day sunrise", "an October sunset", "a full-blown rose", and "a bunch of sedge", he states,.
The poet's reproduction of any impression must be effected not by a vivid picture only, or by a merely accurate description, but also by such a subtle arrangement of word and phrase, such a marshalling of verbal sound, as may exactly arouse, through the listening ear, the strange stirring of the soul, involved in every beautiful emotion, which we feel to be akin to the effect of music. If the poet should undertake to reproduce the impression of the summer sunrise, the October sunset, the rose, and the bunch of sedge, not only must the pictures be different, but the tones must be different too.
To recreate precisely a given impression from nature all four examples cited are from nature , Lampman goes on to suggest, would be to achieve perfection in poetry, the "perfect poet" being one who could weave into each of the "pictures of life" he chose to focus on "its own peculiar harmony so perfectly that we should have no doubt whatever as to its degree of truth, but we should know it instantly for what it is" 10 In "After Rain" and "By an Autumn Stream" Lampman comes close to achieving this goal.
The subject matter of the one contrasts sharply with that of the other, as is reflected in his responses. In "After Rain" LE , pp. At both stages, as he recalls, he was attuned to the beauty of nature as it presented itself at the time. Having watched the "columns" of rain l. In each of the passages quoted, the imagery effectively conveys an impression of the object or phenomenon described. The designation of the "columns" of rain as "sullen packs", for example, aptly suggests both the gloomy grayness and the closely-knit appearance of the vertical waves of rain created by the wind, as unlikely as the implied comparison with wolves might be.
The contrast between wolves and sheep suggested by "packs" and "fleecy" captures the transformation from stormy to clear with particular felicity. Similarly, the verb "drumming" used to describe the raindrops hitting the roof successfully evokes an impression of the heavy rainfall familiar to the residents of central Canada. The speaker's response to the clearing of the weather is recounted in stanza four:. As if he himself had been nourished by the rain, the speaker feels a surge of energy and vitality to which he gives expression by striding the valleys and climbing the hills.
The figurative reference to the world's "blight" and "delight", it should be observed, applies to the mood of nature and not to its essential beauty. The speaker's mood shifts not because his attitude to nature changes but, on the contrary, because he consistently identifies with the beauty of nature as he finds it.
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Accordingly, a light and spirited mood is preserved through to the last stanza of the poem, at which point, having mentioned the songs of various birds, he declares, "And as I went I sang with them" l. In terms of form, Lampman uses poetic devices which help to suggest the active quality of both the rainstorm and its aftermath. The dynamism of the storm, first of all, is evident in the descriptions of the clouds of rain that "loomed and broke" as they travelled "across the sky" with "flying fringes" ll.
In the stanzas dealing with the passing of the storm, the roofs of the houses are "steaming dry" l. Indeed, even the "river's length", described as "unfurled" l. Literally, what is meant is that the expanse of the river, previously obscured by the rain, has once again become visible. The verbal "unfurled", however, suggests movement, thus helping to generalize the sense of action in the poem. The ringing abbabcc rhyme scheme, the regular line lengths, and the "marching" iambic meter of the verse altered only occasionally, as in "and soft heat" [l.
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Here the poet describes in the present tense only the sights and sounds which he detects from his vangage point beside a slow-moving stream. The time of year is late fall, as is consistent with the position of the poem in the sequence between "In November" and "Snow". In a similar vein, he notes how.
Not all of the poem's images are as dolorous as these. Mentioned as well, for example, are the "snowbirds" likened to "fringes of spray". Primarily, however, the mood of the poem, reflecting nature's mood, is one of sadness. Nevertheless, the speaker's response is not to turn away from the scene in quest of more cheerful surroundings but, again, to identify with nature as he finds it.
It is for this reason he dwells with tenderness, even with yearning, on the landscape confronting him, seeking to capture in words the essence of its beauty, regardless of whether this will render him doleful or gay. In the closing stanza of "By an Autumn Stream" the speaker describes his identification with nature as follows:. Here, as in "After Rain", the poet proclaims his oneness with nature by indicating that he is subject to the same influences as nature is.
Because of the difference in nature's mood, however, the effect of the scene on the observer in "By an Autumn Stream" bears little resemblance to that of the storm and its passing in "After Rain", as is evident in Lampman's handling of form. The variations in the durations of the verse lines lines one, four, and six in each stanza have two stressed syllables while the remaining lines have three and in meter the pattern is anapestic, but there are almost as many exceptions to the rule as there are examples of it create a halting rhythm appropriate to the sad and contemplative tone of the poem.
Particularly effective in terms of metrical variation is the stress pattern of the second-to-last line of the passage just quoted. According to normal patterns of speech, "Marsh" should receive stress. The pattern established in the poem, however, sug gests that the line should be scanned as follows:. The clash between the two patterns, natural and set, serves to retard the progress of the verse and thus reinforce the impression of a brooding stillness which the words themselves convey.
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This impression is further strengthened by the abbcca rhyme scheme, the separation of the a rhymes serving to emphasize the silence of the day into which a sound intrudes only now and then. What these examples of Lampman's handling of poetic technique indicate is that in "By an Autumn Stream", as in "After Rain", form has been determined by what is observed rather than by the fact that the speaker identifies with nature.
At the same time, the two poems are thematically similar, the speaker's positive response to beauty in nature and his own involvement with the scenes described being common to both. In "After Rain" and "By an Autumn Stream", by means of "subtle arrangement of word and phrase" and "a marshalling of verbal sound", Lampman has succeeded in capturing the moods of two very different scenes in nature.
Moreover, he has shown that both scenes reflect the beauty of nature which, though various in terms of mood, may be found to exist in all manifestations of nature. Finally, he has made clear that his identification with nature is not dependent on balmy weather or the presence of the picturesque, for, just as nature is entirely beautiful, so dream consciousness can always be achieved by those who are receptive to beauty in nature.
The attitude to nature evident in these poems is evident, as well, in "The Bird and the Hour" and "In November". In looking at these poems, our purpose will not be to make comparisons. By observing how different kinds of beauty in nature are variously interpreted by the speaker and, at the same time, how his response is consistently affirmative, however, we hope to give further support to our main argument, namely, that the sequence in Lyrics of Earth depicts the shifting moods of nature within the compass of a unified, positive vision.
In the first six lines of the poem, he confines himself to a depiction of the scene before his eyes. The dazzling effect of the sunlight is suggested by the description of the valley as flooded with a "torrent of gold" l. No sooner has he noted the effect of the light on the landscape and the sky, however, than he begins to anticipate the coming darkness:. The effect of this observation is not just to emphasize the ephemeral nature of the experience but also to show how the mind, by jumping ahead, tends to undermine even the momentary pleasure of watching the sun go down.
It is at this point that the song of the "hermit" is heard:. As the phrase "And yet a moment more" implies, the speaker sees himself as having been granted a kind of brief mental reprieve.
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Inspired by the song of the bird, he returns to a contemplation of the moment and experiences a kind of epiphany. The effect of the adjective "golden", used here to describe the song of the thrush, is to recall the appearance of the sunset. Thus the two subjects, "the bird" and "the hour", are merged, creating a unified impression of the experience, both visual and auditory.
In the closing stanza of this poem, noting the brevity of the experience, the speaker comments,.
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Only a moment! This passage, it is worth noting, appears in Lampman's final notebook the one in which Scott discovered Lampman's last poem, "Winter Uplands" independently of the rest of the poem. The idea conveyed in the passage is that, through momentary insights, human beings are able to participate in the timeless ness or the eternal present of nature and hence to experience oneness with the divine, identified with nature.
Although the focus of these lines is on the fleeting quality of this experience, the passage nevertheless captures suc cinctly the paradox according to which the ephemeral and the eternal come to be one. At the same time, it does not convey a sense of the actual experience of involvement with landscape. In contrast, Lampman's achievement in "The Bird and the Hour" stems from his success in putting across the same idea exclusively in terms of the beauty of the phenomena described, allowing language and tone to imply rather than state what is meant. It is of interest to note that Lampman had a particular fondness for "The Bird and the Hour", one which reflected his increasing preference for his shorter lyrics over his longer descriptive poems.
This fondness is evident in his responses to the acceptance of "Comfort of the Fields", typical of the descriptive mode, by Scribner's Magazine, and to the rejection of "The Bird and the Hour" referred to as "The Hermit Thrush" by the Youth's Companion , the magazine for which Thomson was serving as editor at the time.