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Themes In The Poetry Of Eavan Boland

2867 words - 12 pages

The relentless passage of time and the loss of human lives are in no doubt hugely apparent themes in Boland’s poetry. In fact I believe them to be probably the most profound issues which she deals with, and I find her means of exploring them, through a juxtaposition of personal exposure and political address to be highly impressive. Although her poetry is extensive in its subjects, her clear consideration of inevitability itself and the tragedy and loss which can be associated with it is explicitly prevalent within it all. We can see it when she opens up her own heart to us in ‘Love’ and ‘The Shadow Doll’ and when she explores the relationship between her parents in ‘The Black Lace Fan’, ...view middle of the document...

Instead he will make them work because 'their bones need toil, their characters no less’. She writes 'Trevelyan’s seal blooded the deal table' and I believe this metaphor is appropriate to signify the suffering and loss that the Irish will endure as a consequence of his deliberations.
There is another voice running throughout the poem in interlocking stanzas. It is that of a doctor, addressing a female patient on the subject of her infertility. The tone is clinical, impersonal and derelict of any sympathy or compassion. ‘One out of every ten/another third of those again’ I thought his attitude towards a suffering individual to be an ironic counterpart of Trevelyan’s attitude towards a suffering race. To me, it is as if there is a refusal to become involved, a patronizing dismissal of the woman and her problem, which is seen merely as one of the 'mysteries' of life. The doctor’s advice to the woman to work 'grow your garden' echoes in its condemnation and indifference to human suffering as Trevelyan.
As the poem unfolds, the consequences of Trevelyan’s decision are described by the narrator in a deeply harrowing and almost raw depiction. I thought the imagery to be extremely unsettling and disturbing. The peasants 'sick, directionless' are shown working without tools ‘fork, stick were iron years away’. The blood symbolized by Trevelyan’s seal is now a reality as the Irish 'blood their knuckles on rock'
One of the most unsettling parts of the poem is when the narrative voice enlarges on the theme of dehumanization through appalling suffering. Typhoid has struck one of the workers on the famine road. Instead of being helped in his plight however, he has become an outcast among his own kin 'his blood tainted/although he shares it with some there’. The most basic human feelings of compassion have been hardened in these people. All the emotions which make us human have been uprooted and the rituals which bind society have been discarded, ‘no more than snow attends its own flakes where they settle and melt will they pray by his death rattle’. Poetry, I have always found, is the best and most perfect form of encapsulating emotion, but here by eliminating it from the lines in the poem, Boland has encouraged, me the reader, to experience it all the more and I found myself empathizing with the nameless characters and becoming almost chokingly disturbed by her descriptions of their forgotten sorrow.It is in this section where I believe the effect of the loss of human lives is most apparent.
The final lines were for me, the most compelling. The last voice appears to address, with a mixture of sympathy and hopelessness, the woman’s despair at her barren state. By directly comparing her body to 'a famine road' the voice implies a link between the sufferings of the individual and those of the suffering country. The woman indeed, may be seen as an apt symbol for Ireland during the famine years though she is far removed from the symbol of beautiful womanhood...

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