Adages in Poetry and Their Affect on the Readers Interpretation
Many adages, from past eras are relevant to readers and interpreters of poetry today in the 21st century. Famous poets whose writings are the legacy which they chose to leave, used these short but memorable sayings to relay an important fact of experience in their lives. Over the years these adages have gained credibility, reinstating the brilliance of poets representing different time periods in Literature. Robert Frost, Wilfred Owen, and Robert Browning are ideal representation of the utilization of adages and the affect it has had on Modern as well as Victorian poetry.
In Robert Frosts, Mending Wall, the speaker of the poem clearly implements his dislike of the wall and doesn't see the need for a barrier between his neighbor and him. His neighbor finds use for the wall in keeping their relationship on a particular level - the mending of the wall reminds them that they must actively work to keep each other separate. Through my personal experiences, I disagree with the neighbors idea that this barrier should be present. In order to live a fulfilled life of purpose, we must open ourselves to not only impact the lives of others, but also be impacted ourselves. Frost comments on the nature of humans with the mention of gaps regularly forming in the wall: And makes gaps even two can pass abreast. (line 4) As humans, our tendency is not to isolate oneself from others, but in fact the opposite. In the same way that the wall breaks down over time and must be actively mended, relationships cannot always remain the same with the passage of time. I agree with Frost and his confusion of the neighbors reaction to the wall. In my life, I have faced change, specifically in the nature of relationships; inevitably they will change, either for better or worse. To fight change is futile because it will always come back, as the gaps in the wall do. The neighbor follows his father's adage, believing it to be true, because he does not want to accept change. And he likes having thought of it so well/ He says again, Good fences make good neighbors (Frost, line 45).
In Dulce et Decorum Est, Wilfred Owens is attacking the patriotism of those people who have never experienced war first-hand, and who advocate that it is fitting to die for ones country. The speaker recounts a gas attack during which a soldier is too late in putting on his gas mask and uses it to embrace the wider atrocities of war: Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!-An ecstasy of fumbling,/Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;/But someone still was yelling out and stumbling (Owens, lines 10-12). I am supportive in the authors desire to relay this horrific truth. At a time in American history in which war is reality, I do not over look the brutality presented. I am forever indebted and grateful to those who have fought and continue to fight for our freedom and appreciate Owens ability to express the real situation faced in war that is too often misconstrued. In concluding his poem, Frost writes, The old lie; Dulce et decorum est/ Pro patria mori (lines 27-28). I love the directness of the speakers reference to the adage, its sweet and seemly to die for ones country as an old lie. A lie most fully exemplifies this phrase. I understand being patriotic, however I believe this adage has become way too widely used over the years. It is important to understand the terror faced in war and not disrespect those who lose their lives fighting by referring to the fight as sweet and seemly.
In Pippas Song, Robert Browning use six images seemingly closely related. Whether referring to the year, the day, or the morning, the poet tries to tell us that life is short. The larks on the wing;/The snails on the thorn (Browning, lines 5-6). In these lines, I find it appealing the way the speaker uses a comparison as a preface to the adage he presents in the following lines. The lark is a symbol of rejoice: it is free among the trees and mountains, and it is enjoying its life. Immediately contrasting, the speaker makes reference to the snail on the thorn which reminds the reader of being lazy and disgusting. Brownings ability to present these two obscure yet perfectly appropriate symbols enables me to appreciate not only this poem, but the adage he relays. I am delighted by the adage and think Brownings word choices are ideal. Gods in his heaven./Alls right with the world! (Browning lines 7-8). God's in Heaven controlling the order of the whole world, and there will be seasons and times which are better than others. However, this adage communicates a contentment which can be felt no matter the circumstance.
Upon examining Mending Wall, Dulce et Decorum Est, and Pippas Song, I have a greater appreciation for the poets and their incorporation of adages into their poetry. These simple phrases add a great deal to the works and provide the reader with an opportunity to more easily relate to the poem in their lives. My views on these adages coincide with Robert Frost, Wilfred Owen, and Robert Browning each in his own poetry.