Dee Wang at 19:55:50 3/31/98 from a151.dialup.dj.net.tw
Percy Bysshe Shelley
The whole poem tells us a story about a carving. The carving is a portrait of king who was very powerful and strong, but now it is broken and hard to tell. The speaker meets a traveler and he describes how the carving looks. The carving is elaborate and has the sculptor's passions within it.
The carving is described as a wreck and we can find that its body is broken into pieces. Its legs and face are still there in the sand, and they are near each other. Five sentences are used to describe the face of the carving. The face is frowning, which shows the awe-inspiring bearing of the king. And its wrinkled lip shows its determination to be a king or to be like a king, looking as if it was a real king and was not scared of anything or anyone. The facial expressions come from the sculptor's hands, and through the fingers the lifeless stone becomes a live king.
The words appear on the pedestal are ironic to what the carving looks now. It is written to be king of kings and to be mighty and to make others despair, but there is nothing beside it. Around it are just boundless and bare sands but not its soldiers who listened to its command. The sands stretch far away without anyone on it. No one listens to its silent command or admires its power and might.
From the poem, we know that what is immortal is the spirit of a piece of work but not the work itself. What is tangible and visible today may be disappear tomorrow. Human beings are one of the examples. We will die and our bodies will disappear someday, but our soul and spirit will last forever whether in the world or in somebody's heart.
The sculptor put his passions into the carving he made, and now we can read them from the carving. Although the carving is damaged in shape now but its spirit of desire to be the number one still exists on its face and the words on the pedestal. Although its face and legs are on the sands now, it was in a prominent position when it was intact.
I can't understand the seventh and eighth lines well.
The poem is what the dead sees in his/her funeral. The funeral is solemn because of the swept floor and the rushes on it. The dead is around by rosemary and may which come from his/her relatives and those who enter the funeral. The creeping ivy-shadows through the lattice are strange here. They make the atmosphere of the funeral a little bit weird and make us readers a little bit scared.
Then there comes a "He" without a sign. It confuses us readers because we don't know who "He" is or where "He" comes from. He must be one of those who join the funeral, but we can't tell clearly who he is. He may be the father, brother, lover, or other relatives of the dead. He may be someone who has no relationship with the dead. But the dead sees him and what he does.
The "He" said "Poor child, poor child" in low voice, which shows his pity for the dead. He turned away to conceal his deep sorrow and then he cried. The fifth to the eighth lines shows his care for the dead and his sadness. We don't know if his sorrow is sincere or false because the phrase "turned away" seems to separate the "He" from us.
The speaker thinks the "He" so distant from him/her that "He" never tries to touch the shroud, the fold, the pillow, or even his/her hand. The shroud represents the body of the dead. The fold represents the gap between life and death because one can see the face of the dead if he raise it. According to the above mentioned, I think the "He" is those who join the funeral. They are only acquaintance to the dead. If we replace the word "He" with everyone, it is also suitable in the poems.
The last line is ironic because one won't feel sweet when he realize that he is dead while others alive. Finally, the speaker finds that he/she is really dead and distant from where he/she was before. He/she is no longer warm but cold.
The last three lines show what is normal among people. We usually don't care or notice everyone around us. What they do is none of our business when they are alive. But once they die of an accident or something, we start to be concerned about them. We care more about people when they are dead than when they are alive.
There is no listener in this poem. The one who is dead just described what happens around him/her. Maybe the poet feels that no one understands her so she expresses her loneliness in her poem. No one can see the shape of a soul or know what a soul think. The poet used the dead as the speaker to show her not being understood.
I am really interested in the poems about death. What do the poets think when they write the poems about death? Why the poets write down the poems? How do they imagine what they will do after death?