“Men at Forty” Donald Justice
The poem basically pertains to me turning the age of forty, which can be interpreted as a mid-life crisis. The idea of a child being a father’s inspiration also comes into play. In the first stanza in lines 2-4 when the author states that “Men at forty learn to close softly the doors to rooms they will not be coming back to”, the author is referring to the thought of moving forward and the idea that the past must be left behind. In other words men at forty tend to have many regrets which now have no remedy, therefore they learn to simply live with that regret. In the following stanza, the author is speaking about the health issues that men face at forty, referring to them as “it”. On the other hand it could also mean pride and arrogance, which would be supported by the author using the word swell in line 8, which means to become filled with pride and arrogance. The fact that “it” is “moving beneath them now like the deck of a ship” could imply that the individual person is letting go of the pride and arrogance he displayed in his younger years. In the following stanza, lines 9-12, the author is speaking about a boy practicing to tie his father’s tie in secret. The author states that this is through a mirror, implying that the author is actually trying to state a memory that men might have when pondering about the past. Therefore the boy, is actually the man when he was younger. In the next stanza, the author is explaining a man can be reminded of their father. In line 15 “they are more fathers than sons themselves now” is referring to the fact that the son has grown to be a father. In line 16 “something is filling them, something”, something is referring to an older man’s will to continue working or his reason, which the majority of times tend to be their children. In the final stanza, the author is attempting to make a connection between the calm aspects of nature and how once a man turns forty the party is over. The final line emphasizes this idea because stating that the house is mortgaged, shows that the man no longer strives to have fun or party, but rather to support his family by paying for him home. Ultimately, “Men at Forty” is a poem about a time in life, which every man will have to face one day whether they want to or not.
“The Horse” Philip Levine
The Horse begins by stating that it was written for Ichiro Kawamoto, this implies that Kawamoto was either a very inspirational figure who had an impact on Levine, or someone of great influence who passed away. The Horse is a poem concerning the aftermath of Hiroshima.
In the first stanza, the author clearly depicts a horse who has been affected by radiation, the only way that the reader could know that this was due to radiation is by knowing that Kawamoto was a survivor of Hiroshima. “They” in the first line are the rescuers or people who aided once the Hiroshima incident occurred. The first stanza is depicting the aftermath, by using phrases such as “bicycles turned like question marks”, the reader can tell what the bomb actually was capable of. In the next stanza, the author is depicting the imprint of the people on the walls, accordingly the heat waves were so immense that people were engraved in the walls when the explosion occurred. In lines 16-18 “shadow of a hand entered a leaf” exactly depicts what happened to the people who were living their daily lives. The following two stanzas are there to further emphasize the setting, in line 26 “fish caught above water” the author is referring the fact that radiation affected everything including the marine life, which either died or became highly irradiated. The following stanza is there to show how new life sprouted after everything was loss, representing a sign of hope. The last line in the stanza reminds the reader that the place is still uninhabitable. “Like hair from a deafened ear” shows that while many people went deaf from Hiroshima, hair growing doesn’t necessarily mean that they are going to hear again. The horse in the poem was used as a placeholder for a person. Those same attributes that the horse was given, where the attributes that those who survived Hiroshima might have suffered. A horse was used instead out of respect. They is those who died at Hiroshima, and enragement could have meant anything they were mad about at the time of the incident. The fact that the rage went out of their bones, emphasizes how many people died and how fast the tragedy actually occurred.
Ultimately, after analyzing the poem, the survivor who this poem is directed towards, Ichiro Kawamoto, must have been greatly affected both physically and mentally by the event. Therefore, the author might be recalling events that Kawamoto lived, or his personal experience.