Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Close Reading of "Rachmaninoff's Elegy"

"Rachmaninoff's Elegy" by Linda Pastan
for William Lyoo
Though only 16,
you played the piano
at your mother's funeral,
to honor her, you said,
and the music was like water
washing over a wound
each note a footfall
through a darkness
you will negotiate
for years.
For my close reading of Linda Pastan's "Rachmaninoff's Elegy," I will start with the fifth line of the poem. In that line, "and the music was like water," we find a simile. This simile, comparing the music played by the young man at his mother's funeral to water, is further extended in the next line when it is said to be "washing over a wound." Of course the wound in question is the death of the young man's mother. This simile suggests that the music he is playing has some soothing aspect of it. Nonetheless water alone is not enough to heal a wound and this is made clear in the last four lines of the poem. In line eight we find a metaphor which states that every note was a "footfall." These are not merely footfalls, but as the next line states, these are footfalls "through a darkness." A footfall is basically the sound of a foot step. These two lines create a sense of feeling lost, of feeling incomplete, and of not knowing exactly where one's place is in the world. These seem to be perfectly appropriate sentiments to be associated with a poem about a very young man losing his mother. The last two lines make clear that this type of devastating loss is not something one gets over quickly, but something one must "...negotiate / for years."
Pastan, Linda. "Rachmaninoff's Elegy." Alaska Quarterly Review 25 No 1 & 2 (2008): 214.

No comments: