“The Violets” and “At Mornigton”: How Harwood Creates Meaning Through the Exploration of Human Experience
The human experience is dependent on the memories that allow the understanding of time and the transition from youth to maturation, inevitably ending in death. Gwen Harwood’s poem ‘The Violets’ provides an understanding of life’s association with innocence and memories depicting their relationship with mortality through the similarities of the past and present. Similarly, “At Mornington” reflects the nature of existence due to the transition from ignorance to wisdom, depicting the value of memories and how accentuating the value of life can suppress the thought of death. Thus, Hardwood’s works prove relevant to themes of humanity by portraying the power of reminiscences which distract from the dwindling of time; her verse communicates the complexity of past experiences retains a contemplative power that allows humans to resonate their meaning of life.
Hardwood’s use of light as a metaphor of memory and enlightenment portrays the cyclical nature of life. This is evident in her work, “Years can’t move, nor death’s disorienting scale distort those lamp lit presences.” This motif allows an understanding that memories are a transient being that are present even in the moment of death. Hardwood outlines the importance of these recollections as they are vital in the human experience. The repetition of “Ambiguous light. Ambiguous sky” is used to symbolize the transitioning of life and the uncontrollable process of maturing. Hardwood uses this concept to display the dependence of memories throughout the human experience and demonstrates the ultimate power that these memories hold. Hardwood highlights mortality as the end of the human experience, questioning death and its relationship with time. The dialogue “Where’s Morning gone?” uses a rhetorical question to represent the realization of death and the passing of time. “Morning” is used symbolically of childhood as the persona asks why youth is gone and death is near. By doing this, Hardwood exposes the quick pace of life. The poet describes “Frail melancholy flowers among ashes and loam”, using the imagery of delicate “flowers”, symbolising youth and the dim “ashes” representing death to highlight immortality in the human condition. This reveals the complexity of the lifecycle, depicting the close relationship that life and death have. The emotive sentence “used my tears to scold the thing that I could not grasp…while I slept, stole from me” refers to time and its disappearance. By not directly naming the absence of time, referring to it a “thing”, Hardwood emphasizes that time can not return, and once gone, is forever absent. This allows Hardwood to state how time is unattainable and everything eventually leads to death. Thus, Hardwood portrays that the human experience is rapid as the inevitability of mortality is always present.
Similarly, “At Mornington” renders the gaining of perspective of life’s inevitabilities through the process of maturing and how thoughts from the past and present highlight the incapacity of controlling life’s cycle. The persona of the poem has a memory of being “Rolled like a doll among rattling shells”. By using this simile, Hardwood compares herself to a “doll”, a symbol of childhood. Though this, Hardwood implies the powerless feeling as the superiority of the world overpowers the innocent stage where death is a foreign concept. This nativity is soon seen to be brief as the persona changes their perspective when they are “Among avenues of the dead”. Through the change in understanding, the metaphor depicts the transition of innocence to maturity as the understanding of death suppresses purity. By doing this, Hardwood exposes the definitive process of ageing and how the understanding of death is inevitable. Alike from “The Violets”, Hardwood conveys the value of memories in respects to the passing aspect of time. The metaphor “On what floods do they borne” uses a rhetorical question to outline the transitory feature that memories hold, hence communicating the overwhelming sensation of nostalgia. Hardwood uses the metaphor “rolled in one grinding race of dreams, pain …love and grief” to attach memories to these raw feelings, as these four emotions are the basis of life. This highlights the significance of recollections throughout the human experience as they carry important sentiments of the past. In addition to this, Hardwood uses the juxtaposition of “Iridescent, fugitive” to describe memories, outlining the beauty and delicacy of memories, however also relating them as fleeting, describing them as being “fugitive.” Due to this, Hardwood emphasises the importance evoking these recollection in order to fully experience the human condition.
Furthermore, Hardwood renders the connection between life and death and how acceptance is obtained through time. Hardwood uses the change in tense when “light on the face of the waters…bear me away for ever.” The influence of Romanticism can be seen by the reoccurring motif of water to portray the acceptance of death. Through the shift to future tense, the emphasis that life, and everything in it, is temporary, while death is the only definite part in the lifecycle. Relating to this, the motif of water is carried through the metaphor “We have one day, only one, but more than enough to refresh us.” The reference to “day” symbolises the entirety of life, illustrating that we can only live once, but one lifetime is all that is needed. This depicts the acceptance of death can catalyse the appreciation of life in order to live rightly. Likewise, the acknowledgment of passing time and morality is explored in Hardwood’s work “Nightfall” where the “Taste of ripeness is plainly all” reflects on the satisfaction of life when death this known to near.
Hence, Gwen Harwood’s work ‘The Violets’ allows the understanding of the growth throughout the lifecycle, commenting on how memories play a vital role with youth into death. “At Mornington” creates a similar meaning while depicting the beneficial factor in the acceptance of death, exploring the gain of wisdom through the human condition. Through these themes, Harwood explores the meaning of life through the transition of time, overall creating meaning to the human experience.
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The human experience is dependent on the memories that allow the understanding of time and the transition from youth to maturation, inevitably ending in death. Gwen Harwood’s poem ‘The Violets’ […]