Sadness and despair often accompany loss, particularly if the item lost is held dear to one’s heart. Memories are held all the more dear, as they represent a life that is past, a life that is no more. Vivid images of a past life may create a current of turbulent emotions that sweep one of one’s feet, be it lamenting with bottomless grief or cackling with joy at humorous scenes The former seemed more apparent in the poem, where fond remembrance of the past drives the poet to tears.
The tears were described as ‘idle’, suggesting that they were bothersome and viewed with annoyance with the poet, which isn’t surprising, really, as tears were a sign of weakness, a portrayal of emotion often shunned by men. ‘I know not what they mean’, however, seemed to convey that the poet experienced an overwhelming sorrow, that he would not like to experience again, numbing his mind such that he is unable to comprehend what the tears meant . It is also the retort of a wounded angry pride, the poet is ashamed at himself for crying over such a trifle.
The tears had ‘depth’, ‘rise[ing] in the heart’ suggesting that the tears weren’t shallow and feigned, the tears weren’t shed without meaning, instead, they were caused by an irrepressible sadness from the depths of his heart. ‘Divine despair’ further emphasizes that the sadness was no ordinary one, it was otherworldly, such that no other mortal would experience, symbolizing the devastation brought about by the loss. The ‘autumn fields’ were described as happy, which is ironic, as autumn is rarely ever associated with joy, being a mere prelude to the biting cold winter.
It was as though the poet was scoffing at himself for he was nearing the end of his life, and there was only the bleak, dreary winter to look forward to. The poet was reminiscing on the spring and summer that was past, the joy that he has had. Regret, sadness and longing are expressed in ‘thinking of the days that are no more’. All wasn’t lost, though. There was a bittersweet quality to the poet’s grief, although most of his life flew by, he appreciated the fact that he experienced joy in the period of his brief existence. The days that are no more’, or the poet’s memories were described as ‘sad’ and ‘fresh’.
Fresh, as it was constantly in the poet’s head, frequently intruding his thoughts, showing the tender regard the poet had for his past life, the significance it held for him. Sad, as the friends he had are now in the ‘underworld’ and ‘below the verge’, they are beyond the poet’s reach, the poet has no longer any hopes of attaining them, thus, building on the melancholy inferred by the first stanza,.
Fresh as the first beam’ and ‘sad as the last which reddens over one’ were allusions to the rising and setting sun, indicating the course of the poet’s life, from the moment he was born to the present moment when his life was reaching its rightful end, he was losing his grip on life. The repetition of the words sad and fresh further hammers home the turmoil of emotions building up within the poet as his time on earth gradually fades. Then, sad and strange were used to describe ‘the days that are no more’, strange, being similar to fresh in one sense, representing a continuation of the freshness that the poet felt.
The loss he experienced, though bringing grief, was entirely new to the poet, he wasn’t used to loss, just as he wasn’t used to death, though no one could ever get used to it, for one only experiences it once in a lifetime. The summer dawns were dark, contrasting with the happy autumn fields of before, the juxtaposition signals the poet’s death. It also goes to show the poet’s subtle longing for death, to be reunited with his long lost friends. ‘The casement slowly grows a glimmering square’, a welcoming sight for the poet’s eyes, further indicating that the notion of death was inviting to him.
Yet, the ‘earliest pipe of half unawakened birds’ were ironic, ‘when unto the dying eyes’, as the singing of birds, that were the herald of a new day, was signaling the end of the poet’s life. The poet expressed the intensity of is feelings towards ‘the days that are no more’ by likening it to a. ‘love affair. It was ‘dear as remembered kisses after death’, cherished and treasured as they are far gone, away from the poet’s grasp. It is also a sign that the poet still clings on hopelessly to the memories, even as he draws his last breath.
As sweet as the ‘hopeless fancy’ symbolizes despair, that the poet has finally come to terms with the loss, that any wild fancies of regaining that which he has lost are useless. ‘On lips that are for others’ further reinforces this fact, suggesting that it was no longer his to take, had he tried, he couldn’t possibly turn the clock, to relive the life he is slowly losing, to re-experience joyous moments. It was deep as love, the repetition of deep was evidence of just how deeply ingrained the memories were within him, that he would never allow death to be a barrier, forbidding him from clinging to his lost past.
Meanwhile, wild with regret shows the regret he felt in letting time slip past his fingers, that the ‘loss’ wasn’t accidental, it was due in part to his idleness, which explains his grief. O death in life is a culmination of the poet’s feelings towards the loss. Although the poet was alive, the memories caused him tormenting pain, such that he wished himself dead, that the death depicted in the previous stanza wasn’t true, being merely a fragment of the imagination brought about by the mind-numbing remorse.
The lack of rhyme scheme in the poem also suggests that the poet lost control of his emotions and thoughts, reinforcing his feelings towards his loss. The poet attributed loss to his carelessness; it was not accidental, it was all his fault that the days are no more. He emphasized the regret he felt by repeating diction that expressed his feelings on the loss. He face it by shedding tears and wishing himself dead, a rather pessimistic view on life. Thus, this summarizes the ways the poet dealt with the subject of loss.