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Sailing Home From Rapallo By Robert Lowell

1467 words - 6 pages

Sailing Home from Rapallo by Robert Lowell

There are many distinctive qualities in the poem "Sailing Home from Rapallo" by Robert Lowell. One of the most distinctive characteristics of the poem is the fact that the reader experiences Robert Lowell's personal journey. Lowell focuses on a specific event rather than emotions, and he constantly changes his tone of voice, interrupting the poem. Lowell also brings other exterior characters and emotions into the poem. Lowell uses many poetic devices to bring his poem to life; Lowell uses onomatopoeia and extreme juxtapositions to enhance his poem. He also uses symbolism and irony to convey his ideas and emotions. Robert Lowell likewise uses ...view middle of the document...

Lowell's mother is the principal character in this poem. Her death in Europe and her final journey to the family graveyard in New England give the theme, which invokes a variety of emotional responses in Robert Lowell.

Another distinctive quality of the poem is that Lowell abruptly changes his tone of voice, interrupting the feeling of continual forward movement in the poem. He never allows himself to get too emotional; once he begins to release his feelings he immediately changes tone and presents the facts. The poem begins in a detailed way, establishing the scene:

"Your nurse could only speak Italian,
but after twenty minutes I could imagine your final week,
and tears ran down my cheeks…."

This compassion is striking, but the moment of sympathy is not savoured, as Lowell immediately slips into a more objective tone:

"When I embarked from Italy with my Mother's body…."

This shows Lowell's continual change of tone in the poem "Sailing Home from Rapallo".

Yet another distinctive quality of the poem is the way that Lowell focuses on the bigger picture, other family members, rather than just his relationship with and emotions for his mother. It is peculiar that in a poem written specifically about the death of his mother, Lowell chooses to express derogatory feelings about his father. Although his mother is the principal subject of this poem, Lowell takes the opportunity to portray his father to the readers. His depicts his deceased father as a misfit in life, who is also a misfit in death.

"The only 'unhistoric' soul to come here was Father….
Even the Latin of his Lowell motto:
Occasionem cognosce,
Seemed too businesslike and pushing here."

Thus, the poem can be seen as distinctive because Robert Lowell allows us to follow his train of thought by bringing other events and a range of new emotions into the poem. this gives the reader a greater understanding of the current situation, rather than focusing solely on one event, or one emotion.

Robert Lowell brings his poem alive through the use of onomatopoeia. He expresses that:

"The crazy yellow and azure sea-sleds
blasting like jack hammers across
the spumante-bubbling wake of our liner,
recalled the clashing colours of my Ford."

Onomatopoeia is used in words like "blasting" and "bubbling" to help establish the scene and add to the mental image by creating sounds and images. The use of onomatopoeia contributes to the passionate tones used in the poem, which as a direct result, allows the reader to be deeply moved by "Sailing Home from Rapallo".

The poem works through juxtapositions and contrasts. As the lifelessness of his Mother's corpse is contrasted with the vitality of the gulf, as the ship moves out to sea:

"The whole shoreline of the Golfo di Genova
was breaking into fiery flower."

This contrasts with his mother's condition, as there is a passionate description of liveliness in nature. There is also juxtaposition...

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