TASK: Write a letter to either Robert Frost or Robert Lowell and tell them about one of their poems that has had a real impact on you.
Dear Mr. Lowell,
I’m writing to you to tell you of my newfound appreciation and respect for your work, especially your poem “For the Union Dead”. It took me a few reads to fully process the words and your meaning behind them but once I started to comprehend it, I was aghast at the message you were trying to convey. At first, I got very confused at the constant references to an “aquarium” and various marine references but then I honed in on one sentence particularly: “he waits for the blessed break”. I was wondering what that break would be so I began to think a bit deeper…
I think you might mean a break from slavery altogether. Not just in the typical sense of having other people – who society and history deem to be of a lesser status than the rest of us for no good reason – do our chores and dirty work for us, but also in the sense that everyone, no matter what walk of life you come from, is becoming more and more a slave to laziness and our most materialistic desires. You frequently make references to cars and machinery – maybe a hint as to the sign of the times? I think you intended this poem to be a wake up call for us as the world “slides by on grease” – I believe this to be another hint that the natural world around us is fading and the manmade world is taking over. Cars, machines and technology are now our slaves and are consuming us as we can make them do almost whatever we want whenever we want.
You wrote the word “servility” in the poem and this means to be like a slave, to be willing to serve and to be completely dependent on others’ wills. I think that’s a very fitting word for what you are trying to warn us of and what we need to be aware of: to not become slaves to our materialistic desires and, ultimately, the promise of an easy life with nothing natural and no hard work required.
You have written a most profound poem, sir, and I heartily commend your work here!