River Of Life Explication Essay

1108 words - 4 pages

Scotland, or “the land of Scots”, is home to many famous people and poets, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the notorious Sherlock Holmes novels. Besides the novels, the poetry published is very influential and astute. “The River of Life”, by Thomas Campbell, is one such example. This poem follows an ABABCDCDEFEFGHGHBIJIGIGI rhythm scheme for the entire poem. The pattern does change near the end, however. “The River of Life” is a poem describing mainly life and time. It describes the stages of life, of childhood, of middle age, of oldness, all thanks due to the slow yet quick passage of time. Youth is compared first, then comes the old age. Death and sadness is laced throughout out poem, being the focus with the mention of old age. At the end, the poem gives a reference to heaven controlling the years between old and young age. This is another “stereotypical” yet sensible poem.
This poem has a total of 7 stanzas, and 24 lines. In the first stanza, the poem begins by talking about how “life’s succeeding stages” seem briefer as one lives more. It expands in the next two lines by presenting a literary element: “A day to childhood seems a year, / And years like passing ages”. Childhood simply goes too fast, or too slow, as in the case of the “passing ages” taking forever as one year passes in childhood. The subject of childhood transfers into the next stanza, as Campbell compares youth to a current and a river. “Passion and disorders” steal along the “grassy borders”, staying in equal measures on the passage from childhood to adult hood. The transformation elaborates in the third stanza as the “careless cheek grows wan/ And sorrow’s shafts fly thicker”. Sorrows come in abundance as the happy and careless person grew old and paler. The stars, “that measure life to man”, are questioned about their courses being quicker. In the fourth stanza, the “Falls of Death” are felt very closely as all of the joys in life dwindle away and “life itself is vapid”, or uninteresting and shallow. The next stanza has only one line, although it may be a misprint as there is a space between this line and the next stanza, which only has three lines, instead of four like the others. The subject is also similar, as it talks about strangeness if one could make time fly by slower, “when one by one our friends have gone”, causing much grief. The final stanza ties it together by referencing to Heaven, and how it “gives our years of fading strength/ Indemnifying fleetness”, or gives the fading strength everlasting trickling out of the systems. Heaven also gives a “seeming length” to those of youth, in perfect balance to the “sweetness”.
Much like Robert Frost’s famous poem “The Road Not Taken”, this poem is also rich in literary terms. The poem is an extended metaphor, which is a metaphor spread out throughout the poem, comparing life to time, and how death and Heaven play a role in life. However, unlike an extended metaphor, this poem has clearly stated...

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