Elegy For My Father`s Father

James Keir Baxter was born in 1926, in Dunedin, New
Baxter become one of New Zealand’s finest poets and
most controversial figures
In his short life he produced a huge number of poems,
plays, literary criticism and social/religious commentary
His father was Archibald Baxter, who was one of New
Zealand’s better-known pacifist from the First World War
Baxter took an interest in poetry from an early age
His first collection of poems where published in 1944,
when he was only 18
He was deeply influenced by the Romantic poets and
classical mythology
After visiting India in 1959,
he returned to New
Zealand, deeply concerned
with the poor and social
inequality – a idea he
showed through his poems
His strong judgements of
society were often harsh
and were not always well
Baxter died of a heart
attack on 22 October 1972
from a heart attack
Different kind of title – very direct
Written in past tense – reflection
Written is second person – author describing the
death of someone else
Idea of ‘Death’ – universal idea
Poem is one stanza long (written on two pages
but actually one stanza)
Tone is dull and slow
References to nature and water
Free Verse
A sad and thoughtful
poem lamenting the
death of a person.
Lamenting – passionate
expression of grief.
Poem about sorrow
and praise
Sorrow for the death
but prise for his life.
Elegy For my
Father’s Father
Title very direct.
Targeted at one
specific person.
Dedicated to father’s
father – male
‘Father’s Father’
Grandfather not used.
Creates more of a distance.
Distant relationship or
generation cycle.
Adds more to the age.
Death – natural process
Remembrance of the past
Seasons – change
Phases of life
‘cairn’ - A mound of rough stones built as
a memorial or landmark, typically on a
hilltop. Burial mound made of stones.
‘aaronsrod’ – flowering shrub
‘sods’ – surface of the ground held
together by matted roots
‘burning-glass’ – magnifying-glass
‘boughs’ – the main large branch of a tree
‘He knew in the hour he died
That his heart had never spoken’
‘He’ – personal pronoun
Used to refer specifically to the author’s ‘Father’s Father’
‘in the hour he died’ – didn’t know before of after
Point of realisation – stuck in a period of realisation
Long death – peaceful or painful?
died’ – strong with more impact instead of ‘passed away’
‘his heart had never spoken – personification
the father’s father never truly expressed his real feelings or emotions
He was more reserved and detached – that was his personality
‘heart’ – centre of emotions and essential organ for life
“The human heart feels things the eyes cannot see, and knows what
the mind cannot understand”
‘had never spoken’ – silenced/unemotional
The heart has not functioned it part – he underestimated his feelings
but realised too late
Masculine character – strong figure linked to the ‘tall tower’
‘In eighty years of days
O for the tall tower broken’
‘eighty years of days’ – used instead of eight years of life
Each day was unique and a challenge for Baxter’s grandfather
Draws out the time – shows adds to the distance shown in the title
‘O for the tall tower broken’ – ‘tall tower’ metaphor for life.
Life is a process of different events that help us to grow, physically
in height and emotionally to build our knowledge.
The floors of a building are the ages of life – the taller the tower,
the more experience a person is in life and the older they are
‘broken’ – when things are falling apart – linked to the point of
‘eighty years of days’ links to the use of the ‘tall tower’
‘tall tower’ – alliteration. Added to exaggerate the length of life
‘tower’ – usually seen as something strong and sturdy, and
characteristics linked to males
With the addition of ‘broken’ it implies how life is unexpected and
can fall apart
‘They stood by the graveside
From his bitter veins born
And mourned him in their fashion’
‘they stood by the graveside/…/And mourned him in their fashion’
The theme of death is present as the author is talking about the
burial of his grandfather
The family members were finding it difficult to mourn for his death
as they all ‘mourned him in their fashion’
The family members did not actually know how the grandfather
wanted to be fare welled as ‘his heart had never spoken’, he hadn’t
expressed what he wanted of felt.
‘From his bitter veins born’
‘bitter’ – resulting from grief, anguish and disappointment.
Links back to the ‘heart had never spoken’
The grandfather felt ‘bitter’ after ‘he knew in the hour he
died/…/that his heart had never spoken
‘He could slice and build…
On his walking shoulder held
Under the lion sun’
‘He could slice and build’
A more active time in life – active verbs ‘slice’/‘build’ – Prime stage for
Author is praising the grandfather for his skill and commitment – Adds a
slight more positive tone for this section of the poem
Linked to summer – A stage in life where we are most active
Contrasts what's on the next slide
‘On his walking shoulder held’ – Metaphor
Carrying the load on his shoulders – carrying the pressures of life along with
Being the man of the family – having to stay strong as the masculine figure
and carry more of the load.
‘lion’ – a strong authoritative/dominant figure
Linked to the ‘tall tower’
‘summer’ – season – linked to the life cycle
‘When he was old and blind…
He sat in a curved chair’
‘old and blind’ – aging
Live is catching up to Baxter
Capability to be the strong figure fading
‘When’ – past tense – reflection of what used to happen before the
grandfather passed away
‘sat in a curved chair’
Contrasts the active words mentioned in the previous slide
As the time is coming nearer to the cold ‘Winter’ of end, things are
becoming progressively slower – the tone is transferred back to being dull
‘sat’ enhances the grandfathers incapability
Reflects the old age of inability in contrast to the prime age of activeness
‘The tongues of water spoke
And his heart was unafraid’
‘tongues of water spoke’ – personification
Another person of his conscience talking to him in his dreams
Reminding him that all this time the grandfather had been able to keep
the emotions bolted in and now death shouldn’t be something to bring
them out
Baxter’s father’s father was aware of the cycle of life – shown through the
various seasons
This aided his heart to be ‘unafraid’
‘water’ also has its own cycle, like the life cycle
It is an essential element for life, like the ‘heart’
The ‘heart’ and ‘water’ are both natural aspects of life – Baxter uses these
aspects to explain how natural death comes as a process of life
Despite the grandfather’s failure to express feelings, he was sensitive to
his experiences of the natural world around him.
The Cycle of Life – Shown through the seasons
which are metaphorically mentioned in the poem.
‘flowering cherry tree’
‘flowering’ – coming into life/blossoming
New beginning, being re-born, new hope
Reminder that beautiful things must be enjoyed and appreciated in
life before it is too late
Shows the stage in life when we are born and coming into life
‘Under the lion sun’
‘lion’ – a strong authoritative/dominant figure
A leader – someone others follow
Again linked to the ‘tall tower’
‘sun’ – summer – a time for growth and development
Represents a time of growth and development as humans
youthful days
The Cycle of Life – Shown through the seasons
which are metaphorically mentioned in the poem.
The winter world in their hand.’
‘winter’ – time of reflection
Usually refer to wet, cold, suffering, destruction, freezing
The end of time and life
Period of coldness, misery and death
Remembering the past but also shows wisdom
‘Boughs oh heaven folding’/’leaves the wind had shaken’
‘boughs’ – largest branch of a tree – grandfather was the support
system of the family
Autumn is the season which things slow down, to enjoy the time
A time to appreciate the things in life that remain before winter arrives
Again, the symbols of nature also shows how the father’s father had a keen
awareness of the cycle of life – this enabled him to be ‘unafraid’ of death
The poem is just one stanza long
(even though it is on two pages – it is actually one stanza)
The stanza consists of 38 lines
The use of one long stanza represents life as one long
process – it is continuous
It starts from the beginning and finishes at the very end
– there are no pauses between life just like there are no
gaps between the lines of the poem
The length of the lines have no pattern and there is no
rhyming scheme – showing how life is not structured.
It is random with no automatic pattern it can follow
Through the in-depth interpretation, the author has tired
to draw on audiences attention towards the deeper
meanings of life, if they even is one
Follower – Seamus Heaney
Praise Song for My Mother –
Grace Nichols
A Dream – William
My Parents – Stephen
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