Death in Poetry
Numerous themes are found in poetry. One recurring theme that we have
encountered this year is death. It is the main focus of Stevens' "The Emperor of
Ice-Cream," Frost's "After Apple-Picking," and Whitman's "The Wound-Dresser" and
is hinted at in many other poems. This essay will discuss how the different
poets treat the subject differently in relation to various aspects of
composition, such as style, form, theme, tone, imagery, metaphor, and diction.
Whitman describes the horrible scene that he sees as a nurse on a battlefield,
including injured and dying soldiers. Frost describes life and death in a
metaphor of apple picking. The narrator of his poem has lived a sufficient life,
and now tires of it. In "The Emperor of Ice-Cream," Stevens uses strange imagery
to describe the funeral of a woman that no one seems very attached to. The three
poets use different approaches on the theme their poems.
These three poems have very similar styles. All of them follow the same
rules for capitalization, wherein only the first letter of every line is
capitalized (unlike other poems we have read, such as E. E. Cumming's completely
lowercase works and Emily Dickenson's German-like capitalization of nearly all
nouns). None of these three follow any strict rhyme or meter. Whitman doesn't
seem to like to use rhymes or meter at all in his poetry, but Frost and Stevens
throw rhymes in occasionally and have an appropriate tempo set by the meter.
Frost uses rhymes to keep the poem going, but Stevens uses rhymes to give his
stanzas closure. The rhetorical questions in Whitman's poem are there because of
all of the questions humans have regarding death. Frost and Stevens are just
telling us their stories, signifying how death just happens. Apart from
Whitman's questions and parenthetical remarks, all three poems are punctuated
The forms of these three poems are very different. Whitman's "The Wound-
Dresser" is completely in free verse, and is broken into four sections of
varying lengths. Some of the sections are further broken into stanzas. The first
section is about a specific encounter Whitman had with a dying man, the second
section is about how the hospital seems when he is there, the third section
describes how the wounded soldiers look, and the fourth section wraps up the
poem. Frost's "After Apple-Picking" has no distinctly different sections. It is
just a continual string of lines, but it tells a story in a logical order, with
the ending being near death. "The Emperor of Ice-Cream" is broken into two
stanzas, each with the same concluding line. The first stanza paints the
picture, and the second stanza explains what the poem is about.
Although the prevalent theme in each of these poems is death, each poet
treats it differently. Whitman discusses how he has seen death often enough to
become used to it. He is so attached to each of the patients he...