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Preliminary Advanced English


Poetry Speech

‘Last Meeting’ by Gwen Harwood

In the poem “Last Meeting” by Gwen Harwood, the ultimate fate of life is considered through an image of an adjourned relationship. Through the use of natural imagery, the transience of human life and a fading romantic relationship is likened. Harwood uses the natural setting and the striking change of seasons to craft the mortal relationship. The poem ruminates the dismal fate of human life in relationships and the harsh disunion of love. Natural imagery reflects the volatility of human life and cyclical elements, the resultant of a break up in a relationship. Harwood concludes with a sentiment provoking motivation to embrace the finite scope of life.

The establishment of a natural environment experiencing natural change portrays life’s weaknesses and inevitable fate. The setting of shifting elements is created with the description of “shadows grazing eastward” and “into consubstantial dusk”. This corresponds to the idea of light and dark imagery, an evident reoccurrence in Harwood’s poems conceptualizing a positive and negative action. Throughout the play, imagery denotes the idea of natural decay hinting the progression and fatal fortune of their doomed and dying love. The matter of their separation is not specifically personified but foreshadowed and inferred. When “bleak rocks” become harmed and stripped by “a snow wind” that “strips from the gums of their rags of bark” the reader infers through personification the fragility of human life. The imagery of a landscape being stripped as if it was unclean teeth as suggested with the word choice of floss, outlines the rawness and discovery of the untold truth. The altering setting is not unpredictable but expected as cycles are understood.

The relationship is represented by the meeting spot which assumedly holds a significant moment in their relationship. The title highlights the great importance of their last meeting and throughout the poem is used to outline the progression of their deteriorating relationship. As “rocks and trees dissolve in nightfall-eddying waters” the landscape is inferred to being eaten away by the dark void of night, repeating the polarity of light and dark. Life’s harsh fate is recognized through the discernible natural laws of “the littoral zone of day and night” and “lights turncoat margins” indicating that a transitional setting is expected. The poems structure of 8 quatrains and consistent rhythm supports these recurrent natural forces. An analysis of the universe and mankind’s fate is told through two perspectives; a lover and the speaker. The first distinct voice reflects on the relationship as a “vanished violence of folly”, its alliteration suggesting a volatile fate. Also, the lover reviews their “foolish love” to take stance in a negative aspect of love. On the other hand, the second voice of the poem, perhaps Harwood’s perspective, has an improved and better foresight of the situation. They see value in human relationships despite vulnerability and oblivious fate or fortune. However, there is no easy acceptance of the ending of their love rather resentment remains. In collaboration of darkness into the winter elements the reader can visually conceptualize the dissolution of the relationship from the speaker’s position.

Furthermore, the eventual decay of the summer environment confirms understanding of the cyclical natural transformations. As day falls into night and summer dies the remnant of their “wrecked love” emerges. The aforementioned “bleak rocks” emphasizes the vulnerability of inflexible and indefinite fate. Harwood delivers an honest but least accepted virtue: lovers cannot withstand the progress of time. In today’s society the truth is avoided by some however realized and discovered as accurate for most. Relationships are ever-changing just like the environment, indicating the weakness of mankind to destiny. The relationship in the poem is deemed as foolish with an inevitable chance of success. Through expressing their emotions as “prolong(ed)” and “foolish”. This demonstrates the hidden understanding of the lovers towards their relationship which had little intention of lasting. Through the intertextuality of Wittgenstein’s belief, the eventual feeling of acceptance of their doomed love is felt. Wittgenstein, an Austrian British philosopher was one of the most influential philosophers in the 20th century. He held the belief of natural ruin; that the universe and everything has an inescapable path to oblivion. He wrote several pieces and books based upon the relationship of truth and logic and how one justifies the other. These comments of truth and logic exemplify the complications and difficulties built on relationships.

The speaker indicates the value of a human relationship specifically in the last two lines. Throughout the play all other ideas are dependent on natural imagery emphasizing the transitional natural elements and the impacts it has on the environment. In the final lines of the poem the “piercing absence of one face (is) withdrawn for every from my sight” bears no visual imagery but rather a personal literal conclusion of the termination of the relationship. Other parts of the poem are characterized with a temporal setting constantly changing which is contrasted to the permanent status inferred from the word choice of “forever”.

By using a natural environment Harwood expresses the similarities of an earthly relationship. The environment becoming vulnerable to seasonal change is compared to a relationship becoming vulnerable over time. Just like the environment being impacted on natural forces, mankind is too. It is in difficult times where human kind, the environment or anything is challenged and the truth becomes more evident. It is in these hard times where true qualities are shown and weaknesses are emphasized. This is clearly evident in the world today. Also, as shown in the poem, the progression of time challenges courage and reveals an outcome of being able to overcome or to lose. The relationship represented in this poem is one that cannot withstand time and where love slowly perishes. Although, love must be valued and lessons may be learnt from those challenges to grow the person, just like the environment becoming more adaptable to change. This poem teaches that humans can display weakness, just like the environment, as we are exposed to natural forces. Weakness is part of life that can strengthen and reveal the truth.

By exploring the theme and concept that love is doomed the polarity of relationships can be criticized. It is part of the worlds evolution of humankind that things won’t last, but will instead change. The poem recognizes this in the imagery of seasonal transition symbolizing the vulnerable and ever changing core of a relationship with the meeting spot. However, through all aspects love should be valued and treasured to remain a positive outlook on life.

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