Follow on Facebook

Monday, July 1, 2013

"To a Waterfowl" A Critical Analysis

This is a critical response to the American romantic poet William Cullen Bryant’s poem, "To a Waterfowl." Although there is a creative use of allegory which depicts natural objects in the narrative as being equal in meaning to themes and subjects that are completely outside the narrative, the interplay of words, ideas, and sentiments meld and culminate in this poem as a cohesive and sustainable fountain of imagery that led me to deduce, quite romantically, that, no matter how circumstances present themselves in life, every life is directed by the providence of God. 

The central motive of the poem does indeed seem to be a moral teaching about God’s benevolent providence. The waterfowl is an allegory for heartbreak. Figuratively speaking, the bird is only used as a visual reference. Allegorically speaking, however, perhaps to people living in the city or people outside the confines of the church, the waterfowl may represent the struggle every individual who has ever existed experiences in life. It seems clear to me that the vulnerable little bird is on a journey and that he has an adversary. This adversary, a hunter or fowler, represents the pursuing threat of death or unknown peril.

Uncertainty in the form of fog alludes to obscurity “through rosy depths” and “crimson sky,” whereas, “plashy brink” bespeaks water, peace, and contemplative things such as choice of direction. Life’s uncertain destination, a “pathless coast” denotes an unseen power. Is this power God? Will there be obstacles to the objective? Intrigue is a common romantic theme, one of embarking on a journey like a river progressing to the ocean. Any traveler is apt to experience weariness persevering alone, outnumbered, overwhelmed, and melancholy in the face of such adversity. “All day thy wings have fann'd.” Yet, as night acquiesces to the dawning of day, frustration and melancholy give way to thoughts of an end to toil and travel. The waterfowl triumphantly arrives at a seeming place of rest, the intended destination where undoubtedly a jubilant scream of celebration is found, albeit muted by contemplation of this illusive achievement or arrival. 

Further on, a mention of toil indicates a figurative death on the horizon with day as metaphor for life and night as that of death, the ultimate permanent end to struggle. The bird’s flight and subsequent demise culminates in the phrase, “swallowed up in the abyss of heaven.” Life, “thou art gone.” He who orchestrates all life, God Almighty, from breath to breath and age to age, through all the developmental stages of life, guides each life along its course as He dictates. I, as the reader, was directed to look literally at natural things but think very figuratively about the power of God exhibited in nature with romantic allusions to the Bible through the mention of heaven and the usage of archaic and melodious language such as “thou art gone.” One might say that, with this poem, Bryant killed two birds with one stone. The thematic focus begins with the bird through personification and leads progressively to the author who learns a lesson by witnessing the bird. In this way, Bryant makes the point that every experience counts and is significant both in nature and in life. Hence,  the poet herein makes the poem relevant to the myriad conditions of humanity, the loneliness of both the waterfowl and the author within the sovereign providence of God. 

© 2009 Brian L Hunter

Sunday, March 31, 2013

"A Pair of Silk Stockings" by Kate Chopin (Hunter, 2009)

Mrs. Sommers, having come into possession of an unexpected windfall, chooses to temporarily escape from the dreary responsibilities of a rather common, penny pinching existence to enjoy some of the finer things in life for a fleeting moment of lightness, free from the usual shackles of conscientiousness expected of a wife and mother. We are given no reason to believe that Mrs. Sommers had ever previously neglected the necessities of her family in order to selfishly enjoy such a fleeting pleasure as any woman would be entitled to by virtue of her gender. I see her purchase of the silk stockings and subsequent indulgences as inevitable temptations given the sudden circumstances of unexpected cash in lieu of the regular obligations being as satisfied as they ever were. This momentous event of hedonism could hardly tip the scales of justice when weighed against a lifetime of abstention, temperance, and moderation for the sake of honoring the unwritten contract to fulfill matrimonial obligation and motherly pride. Hence, the theme of escapism herein is universal. We often consider subservience as a key issue addressed by the women’s movement and feminism. However, in “A Pair of Silk Stockings,” the issue of economics is brought into focus with both gender and class taking center stage. I do sympathize with Mrs. Sommers.

This short story makes clear the fact that to be a wife and mother one has to be an excellent book keeper and administrator in order to meet the ever changing and abundant needs of her family. I would imagine that rare was the occasion when time, opportunity, and disposable income would be available to anyone of the lower or working class, whether they be male or female, in order to enjoy such a mildly opulent day as Mrs. Sommers had on the day described in this story. She was a victim of circumstances and to call her selfish is to ignore the greater contexts of class, gender, precedence, and economics indicated by the author. I am convinced that Mrs. Sommers betrayed neither Christian ethics nor her family by her actions. No amount of Scripture considered in context could dissuade my conclusion that this woman had consistently practiced self sacrifice for her family and also suffered unfathomable indignities as a "have not" in American society up until that day.

There is also no reason to believe that she will not return to her selfless and dutiful life as thrifty wife and mother at the story's end. From the standpoint of developments and movements in American society and how they are reflected in the Literature written throughout our history, taking into consideration the setting of this tale, I am trying to have an open mind to the complexities of Mrs. Sommers’ dilemma and not take the easy route of pointing my finger at an act of sin. The point I am trying to make is that there is more to this story than that. Mrs. Sommers usually shopped for her family’s needs at the expense of her own. She usually never treated herself to anything nice, not even an occasional luncheon or the theater. She would usually fight tooth and nail to secure the necessities of life at a bargain for her family’s sake. This story does not paint her as a terrible sinner, but rather as a woman usually inclined towards sainthood.

This story is about a very unusual day in the life of an extraordinarily virtuous woman who, having otherwise sacrificed life and limb for her family for years, had enough self respect and self esteem left to take advantage of a fleeting fortuitous circumstance and temporarily break out of the box of her usually studious and exemplary way of life. Her thriftiness had perhaps saved her family fifteen dollars a thousand times over throughout the years of her marriage. I am not so quick as others to cast a stone at her for one single, documented, isolated incident of non-puritan action in the 1890s when women were beginning to be thought of as more than chattel in a male dominated society. Consider that Mrs. Sommers had likely been ordered by her husband occasionally to bring home a thirty dollar box of cigars or some other frivolity for him to enjoy with his buddies. I am moved, not to condemn, but to defend the honor of this heroine.

© 2009 Brian L Hunter

Sunday, March 24, 2013

"But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless." (1 Corinthians 13:10 NLT)

Husbands, that good thing by which we obtain the gracious favor of the Lord (Proverbs 18:22) is only a hint (Romans 8:23, 2 Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1:14) of salvation eternally fulfilled and the absolute fortuitousness of God's glory to be revealed when the perfect has come (1 Corinthians 13:9-10). 

© 2016 Brian L Hunter

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Poema 115

Do I really need to tell you?
If God has made you awesomely, what is my mortal word?
The sun shines no less brightly if I wear the darkest shades.
And, liberty not taken, neither hinders nor affords
Vicissitudes regarding you and all your splendid charms imbued
Inherently with autumn hues and scent of ambergris,
Of pine, and moss, and morning dew upon a dale so green
And whispering, ever faintly.

In the background of pure minds
Are all the things you are to Him whose smile you satisfy.
So be not bored my love, my friend, for truth is not denied.
I’ll wait for you, forever now; this love I cannot hide.

For God has placed it deep within and thrown away the key.
No mountain, sea, or ocean shall prevent our wedding day.
Sleep on, sun shining brightly; burn on to meet the night.
I know I need not tell you this, my honest pure delight.

In Christ you live and move and have your being all in Him.
To me you are a dream come true, forgiven, new, and free.
And so I find myself now highly favored to the core, and
Existing in His mind with you, one flesh forevermore.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Poema 113

Slipping, gripping, and dipping
Into the outer realms of sensuousness, you find
The honey-pot of enticing nastiness seems sweet
Until the bill comes due and you're left wanting wine.

But then, you say, your heart is good and sweet.
You're numb from being broken, lost, and crying.
You're dying breath by breath with no retreat.
And love, the dream, has left you deaf and blind.

But wait; your chariot is yet to come
And cart you off to lands before unseen
Where you'll be safe from all your past mistakes
And love divine shall make you ever clean.

Oh sleep today, perchance to have this dream.
While dangers of the night predict your doom,
There is a Savior praying even now for you.
Accept and know He's right there in the room.

And so from wallowing in sinful pride,
The Lord's corrective lenses show the light
Where thirsty travelers meet with living water
And selfishness moves towards abundant life.