Muir's poetry often deals with ideas of displacement and disorder caused by man. Discuss Muir's treatment of these themes in 3 or 4 of his poems.
Across his poetry a variety of Edwin Muir's work deals with the themes of displacement and disorder. This can be seen clearly in his war poetry, such as; The Wayside Station, The River, and The Refugees, from his 1943 collection The Narrow Place. These poems largely focus on the destruction of families and communities, and the areas and homes of these people. Through the use of literary techniques and overarching themes throughout these poems Muir eloquently reflects the ideas of destruction and disorder and their effects on Man.
The first poem to be looked at, The Wayside Station, has the most subtle undertones of war, with war being much more prominent in the rest of the poetry listed. There is a sombre, oppressive tone to this poem, with the speaker lamenting about the repetitive nature of life. This is made evident in the description of a farmer, as he wakes up to go about his day:
“The ploughboy stirs in the loft, the farmer groans
and feels the day like a familiar ache
Deep in his body...”
This small section tells us many things, such as the farmer's displeasure at greeting the new day, usually seen as a positive sign of new life and beginnings, its image is reversed here to one of a bringer of pain and displeasure. The “familiar ache deep in his body” shows us that the pain of starting a new day is one that he has grown accustomed to, and one he has learned to accept. Further on into the poem Muir describes the effects the daylight bring on two lovers, as they must part, leaving the idyllic land of dreams for the ground of reality:
“Great and mysterious as deep hills of snow
An inaccessible land. The woods stand waiting
While the bright snare slips coil by coil around it
Dark silver on every branch...”
The world of dreams and night is described as magical, as an escape to the mundane routine of everyday life. However as we can see the “snare” of daytime begins to wrap itself around the woods. This metaphor creates a morbid image of the woods being choked, as if being hung by a noose as it is coiled around its “neck”. This clearly shows a major theme of the poem, that the world which has been corrupted and tainted by humans is inferior, resulting in people trying to escape to an Eden-like dream world. Muir goes into more detail of this throughout his war poetry. The ending of the poem further expands this idea and provides a direct link into the next poem The River:
“The lonely stream
That rode through the darkness leaps the gap of light,
Its voice grown loud, and starts its winding journey
Through the day and time and war and history.”
This is the first mentioning of “the stream”, it is being personified and described as beginning a journey. The stream is showing the constant struggling of man, his many worries and flaws. The repetition of “and” in the last line accentuates the reiterative nature of life, however it also introduces a new idea to the poem. That throughout all of the hardships of time and war that man refuses to change, people do not learn from their suffering and continue to make the same mistakes, leading to depression. This is shows the link between the poem and disorder caused by man, as man has lead to these circumstances, and is entirely to blame.
The next poem, The River, acts as almost a continuation of the ending of The Wayside Station. The poem is split into five separate sections, with the first four describing the river flowing through time and land, through growing amounts of destruction cause by man. We can see the beginnings of this in the first section:
“Her hand upon her grandson's shoulder. He,
A bundle of clouts creased with tribulations,
Bristling with spikes and spits and bolts of steel...”
The description is of a parting between a grandmother and...
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