Denise Levertov's "A Time Past" is a poem illustrating a warm and friendly memory of a distant past that she recalls as if it were yesterday. She uses powerful imagery and symbolism and sets a tone of comfort and joy. An overview of these three tools will show how she developed these throughout the poem.
The first tool that one notices is Levertov's use of imagery. Her mention of "that fall morning" (1.2) brings to mind sunshine, clear skies, and trees covered in bright oranges and reds. Also, the image of granite steps in place of wooden steps brings to mind, not a warm memory, but the reality of the present. But the most striking image is of the loving warmth from the "old wooden steps" (1.1) that are now gone. They were old, creaky and probably broken, but still useful as are our fond memories.
The quietness that was not broken by birds, crickets or even falling leaves is symbolic of a past not interrupted by day to day worries. One can choose to use the quietness of the past to reflect and frame their present and future. The warm inviting steps tell of a friendship that has sustained Levertov throughout the years since those days gone by. She remembers how the warm sun, bright day, old steps and old friendship has developed into her present life.
The last tool that she uses is tone. She equates the steps with the love that has flourished in her life. The steps were warm and dependable, but now have been replaced by granite, more solid and more dependable that the wooden ones waiting to be burned. From the simple live of her past, she has grown and developed into someone who has allowed the past to set the tone for her future. In this poem, Levertov shares her memories of a set of warm steps, friendships and loves. We can all search our memories for places and times that bring us from the past to the present. We can use the memories as mere memories only or reflect on how we became the people we are.
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