Japanese Maple is a recently published emotional poem written by Clive James as he contemplates his own death. He has been diagnosed with a terminal cancer - leukemia - and also suffers from emphysema. The Japanese Maple tree that this poem is based on was a gift from his daughter, and he talks about it in most of the stanzas of the poem. Although he is explicit about his death further in the poem, he isn’t very explicit about how he feels about dying.
Clive James uses an English quintain rhyming scheme in his poem of five stanzas. The first and third lines rhyme, and the second, fourth and fifth lines also rhyme (ABABB). The third line of each stanza is shorter than the others, made up of four syllables. These lines stand out due to their length, and for three of the five stanzas there is no punctuation on these lines, and the line just runs into the next line to complete the sentence. However in the third and final verse, there is punctuation at the end of the line; a full stop in verse 3 (It never ends.) and a comma in the final verse (As my mind dies,). This use of punctuation draws extra attention to the lines as the reader is forced to pause, and contemplate the contradiction between the never - ending life of nature and the death of a man and his mind. For the other stanzas, the third line almost sounds like it is something that the author doesn’t want to think about because it is too painful, and rushes onto the third line without pausing for thought. This implies that perhaps although the author doesn’t seem scared by death explicitly, as he describes his death ‘is of an easy sort’, he does inwardly feel slightly intimidated by death. For example, in the first verse he says ‘Breath growing short Is just uncomfortable.’ Thinking specifically of how he might feel when he dies is a frightening thought, no matter how brave a man is. However there is still a pause in the middle of the fourth line as though the man has to take a moment to settle himself...
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