“The eagle” by Alfred Tennyson

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring’d with the azure world, he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.

Alfred Tennyson

The short poem has visual beauty and harmony of words, apart from the effective use of alliteration ‘c,-‘c’-‘c’ .Crisp mono-syllabic words convey the swift efficiency of the eagle. The eagle‘s talons are crooked hands and the eagle’s perch is close to the sun, ringed with the azure world. Below is the sea with its wrinkled waves and it will appear from the top of the crag as if the sea is crawling .The eagle watches from the mountain’s “walls” and as soon as it spots a prey it swoops on it with the speed of a thunder-bolt.

John Donne’s “Send not to know for whom the bell tolls /It tolls for thee”

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

These famous words by John Donne were not originally written as a poem – the passage is taken from the 1624 Meditation 17, from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions and is prose.

“If a clod be washed away by the sea,Europe is the less”-a beautiful image .A clod is an unimportant thing,usually meaning a stupid person,an unworthy man.Even if a man who has not made any mark on the world dies ,Europe,the whole continent is the less as much as it would be the less if a promontory is lost . As if the manner of your own or your friends is lost. Each man’s death diminishes me because I am not an island but part of the continent and if a part of the continent is lost a part of me is lost.

In a village if the church bell rings to announce the death of a person the usual question asked is “who is the person ” and the poet says do not ask the question because it does not really matter for whom the bell tolls. When anybody dies a part of you dies and the bell is tolling for you.

An excerpt from”My father adjusts his hearing aid” by David Bottoms


Now in the dark kitchen he faces the window

where the first stars tremble in the branches of his oaks.
The house is as quiet as a broken watch.

He knows the score—nothing will ever be
repaired again, nothing will ever work as it did. The dumb wind

says as much, and the needles raining in the yard.
The silence around his shoulder is my mother’s arm


The most telling image is in the last line “The silence around his shoulders is my mother’s arm”. Very beautiful.Does not need any interpretation.In fact we would rather not impose any meaning on it.

“The last house” by Rilke

From the Book of Hours

The last house of this village stands
as alone as if it were the last house in the world.

The road, that the little village cannot hold,
moves on slowly out into the night.

The little village is but a place of transition,
expectant and afraid, between two vast distances,
a passageway along houses instead of a bridge.

And those who leave the village may wander
a long time, and many may die perhaps
along the way.

Rainer Maria Rilke
from The Book of Hours

(tr. Cliff Crego)

One of the most “visual” of Rilke’s poems.The imagery is almost photographic. Just imagine a village,a path that goes through a village ,a road that the village cannot “hold” but only eject it into the night,the last house standing on the edge of the village as if it were the last house in the world. The little village continues to function as the transition point between two vast distances ,just like any other village,a passageway along houses.The village is expectant because it is expecting visitors but at the some time afraid that the people who leave the village may wander and may not return.

Patting the drum-hide of the night

“In the village in the village in the village
life repeats itself, life repeats itself.
There is sunlight; there is darkness. The dark
repeats itself, the light repeats itself;
planting repeats itself, harvest repeats
itself. Yet life is never dull. It pats
the drum-hide of the night and is satisfied.
It listens for footfalls when the dogs bark
in the village in the village in the village”

– Andrew Oerke

(excerpt from the original poem)

Apart from the music of the repeated words “in the village” suggesting how life repeats itself in the village, I like the simple beauty of the image :

it pats the drum-hide of the night and is satisfied/
It listens for the footfalls when the dogs bark..

It is these unique sounds which define the character of life in a village where everything gets iterated and re-iterated.The days and the nights ,births and deaths,the planting and the harvest-in all of which there is a rhythm just like the drum-beats one hears at midnight in the stillness of the village night.