Death in Poetry

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Death in Poetry

Numerous themes are found in poetry. One recurring theme that we have

encountered this year is death. It is the main focus of Stevens' "The Emperor of

Ice-Cream," Frost's "After Apple-Picking," and Whitman's "The Wound-Dresser" and

is hinted at in many other poems. This essay will discuss how the different

poets treat the subject differently in relation to various aspects of

composition, such as style, form, theme, tone, imagery, metaphor, and diction.

Whitman describes the horrible scene that he sees as a nurse on a battlefield,

including injured and dying soldiers. Frost describes life and death in a

metaphor of apple picking. The narrator of his poem has lived a sufficient life,

and now tires of it. In "The Emperor of Ice-Cream," Stevens uses strange imagery

to describe the funeral of a woman that no one seems very attached to. The three

poets use different approaches on the theme their poems.

These three poems have very similar styles. All of them follow the same

rules for capitalization, wherein only the first letter of every line is

capitalized (unlike other poems we have read, such as E. E. Cumming's completely

lowercase works and Emily Dickenson's German-like capitalization of nearly all

nouns). None of these three follow any strict rhyme or meter. Whitman doesn't

seem to like to use rhymes or meter at all in his poetry, but Frost and Stevens

throw rhymes in occasionally and have an appropriate tempo set by the meter.

Frost uses rhymes to keep the poem going, but Stevens uses rhymes to give his

stanzas closure. The rhetorical questions in Whitman's poem are there because of

all of the questions humans have regarding death. Frost and Stevens are just

tellin...

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...man uses a realistic approach, accurately describing what

it was like in the hospital with the dying soldiers. Whitman is sad to see all

the soldiers die, but has realized that it must happen. Frost's approach is that

of a masterful metaphor. The narrator of his poem, unlike with Whitman, is fully

ready to die. The narrator is prepared to travel into the unknown "sleep" that

is death. Stevens took yet a different approach on death. He portrayed the

strangeness found around death with his eerie poem. "The Emperor of Ice-Cream"

is the most unsettling of the three poems, even though it does not comment on

whether death itself is good or bad. In fact, this chillingly neutral stance on

death is mirrored by the neutral viewpoint of his poem. Even though these poets

chose different methods to relay their ideas, the theme of death was a common

element.

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