One of the most outstanding poets of the XX and in fact XXI century, Rita Dove, has created a number of wonderful pieces of poetry that show the world as it is – bare, but beautiful, like Venus the goddess appearing from the deepest of the sea.
Because of the talent of the poetess, the world that people live in has taken a new shade of unreal, and shown its natural beauty to the people. The question is, how on the earth does this woman make the words speak so sincere and tender? “Dove”, a poem of hers, might give the readers a clue about this astonishing riddle.
A poem that touches the very depth of the soul and makes the heartstrings ring with the sudden wistfulness, it tells a story of the horrifying cruelty that can lurk in the depth of the island and come into the light suddenly, grasping people and causing them to die.
A terrifying dictator, Rafael Trujillo, who ordered to kill the local people that could not pronounce the letter “r” in “perejil”, Spanish for parsley, is the blind and scary force that lurks in the depth of the poem, making it so tense and making shivers run down the reader’s spine.
One of the most curious questions is how come the author makes the words sound so intense and provocative, yet lulling the audience into the rhythm of the exotic world of the strangers. Taking the poem apart, one could see that there are certain patterns that Rita Dove follows to create the feeling that stuns the readers.
When it comes to mentioning the tone, one has all the rights to say that the tone of the poem is filled with the things – the word is vague, but that is the only way to describe all the realities of the Dominica that Rita depicts – the things that create the specific atmosphere of the life on an island so separated from the rest of the world that it seems cut of the map of the world.
The words that ring no memories to the English ear make the picture bright and vivid, yet the colors of the new wonderful world are hushed down by the feeling of suppression that is constantly following the reader. What makes this feeling grow is the speaker’s tone, employed in the gloomy air. As one reads the poem, the vision of a beautiful garden on a rainy day comes to one’s mind. The place where hopes shatter is heaven governed by a monster.
Syntax is, probably, one of those prosaic things that cannot go together with the poem the same way as it does in prose (Syntax in English Poetry 1870-1930). The syntax that Dove uses in “Parsley” is of quite different kind than a piece of prose might have. In fact, as the notion that represents some kind of order in writing, how come can syntax claim its rights in a poem?
In fact, it does. Filled with the unusual phrases that sound foreign to the ear of the English speakers, “Parsley ” is the example of the poetic piece that does not adhere to the rules of syntax – and closely follows them. It stirs the rules from the down under and makes them all topsy-turvy, yet it creates the order of its own, that makes the poem look absolutely logical to the audience.
“Parsley” does not have a tint of the short, sharp snatches of phrases that usually make the poem sound like the beating of the drum. On the contrary, the verse is all gentle and stifled into a kind of a song that reminds much of a lullaby – a lullaby of the people that live on an island cut off from the rest of the world.
The phrases in the first line float quietly in the second one, like milk is poured into a glass from a little jug. This all makes the poem acquire the rhythm that it needs to sound soft and mild, like a tale told on a rainy evening next to the fireplace.
Yet there is something that disturbs the reader as the poem unwinds. The constant struggle between the soft melody of the poem and the idea that it is supposed to express must find the way out in the way the words are stacked up together. It can be traced in the way the lines are torn away from each other, and they way they are trying to get together, but – alas! – with very little success. The snatches of the sentences that continue in the other lines is the very place where the struggle within is expressed.
Full of metaphors, “Parsley” seems to speak out loud on its own. “The parrot imitating spring” is the refrain that goes on and on till the end of the journey that Dove takes us on. It makes the beat of the tam-tam that is hidden in the middle of the poem sound louder and creates a specific figure that is supposed to express the despair that the whole poem is sewn through.
The metaphor that is the very atmosphere that the people lived in makes the reader understand the tension that was growing within the country, the despair of the people that were killed for nothing, and the useless anticipation of the changes to come, which never did.
In fact, all the pieces of the nature that are mentioned in the poem are the specific challenge to the harsh and severe rules imposed on the people, the punishment that were passed to them according to the judgment, and the fear together with the desire to make the life full of sufferings end somewhere.
The figure that symbolizes the state of the people living under the unceasing restrain and control is the fall “when thoughts turn/ to love and death”. Actually, the fall also is one of the faces of the death itself, and it makes the readers think that the people that are suffering the severe and cruel tyranny will be released soon, if not with the help of the hero to come, then by the soothing grip of death.
The drops that add to the specific beauty of the poem are the rhythm and the sound, rolling and shaking the lines so that they went in a tribal dance.
It is not that usual that each stanza of the first part of the poem has three lines – a solution rather unusual even for poetry where every weird idea is another step towards perfection. The first part makes the pattern that is rather soothing, while the second one, with five lines in each stanza, is much more filled with fear and anxiety.
The abovementioned makes the poem split in two structurally, just the way it is split logically, as it has already been mentioned. The struggle between the tyrant and the people who want to live their own life is something that cannot be hidden within, and this something comes out into the light, with all its grace and beauty.
The sound of the chains breaking, the sweetest melody to the ears of the enslaved, is what one could hear in the poem. Beginning with the words that are mild and soothing, the author ends with the sounds that rock the poem into an anthem of the people suppressed yet struggling and suffering. Listen to the sound of this line: “Even a parrot can roll an “R”!” – it sounds like a storm going on and tearing the world apart with the lightning strike, the scattering “R” rolling all around.
The unceasing iamb pattern that the poem is breathing with is the meter that makes the poem sound both restrained and full of inner strength that is going to burst out immediately. It hides the danger that is growing as the people become more and more oppressed, and it grips the audience like a spell that only the author can break. The deafening pain that the people are gripped with has to be stopped, and that is why Dove sends the characters of the poem to sleep, laying them to rest till the sun shows up above the country.
Usually referred to as the classical meter o the Greek prosody (Wilson 222), iamb in this case plays a part of the basis that all people’s hopes stand on. The profound and stable beat of the poem leaves the hope that as the last drop of the rain falls on the earth, the suffering ends and the parrot that imitates spring, green as parsley, will be flying high, and the stains of blood on the parsley will fade into yesterday.
A perfect piece of poetry, the creation of Rita Dove is the piece of history that has to be stored in people’s memory. As the pain subsides, parsley will grow on, as the remainder of the storm that was rocking once in the skies of the Dominican Republic.
The purpose that the abovementioned text has is to convey the main idea of the poem and analyze its poetic structure. In the process of writing this paper, which consisted of analyzing the poem and taking it its logical parts, I learned the basics that every poem consists of. The most difficult about writing the paper was trying to understand the hints that the author sent to the readers and explain them with the due accuracy.
Speaking about the strengths of the paper, these are the descriptive parts that make the essence of the poem come out in the limelight. However, it would also be nice to include some elements of the poetess’s biography to make the context of the poem even clearer. The approach of writing the essay resulted from the ideas that were inspired by the poem and the poetic elements that it combined to reach the stunning effect that it had on me.
Syntax in English Poetry 1870-1930. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1967. Print.
Wilson, Peter. Introduction to Greek Prosody. New York, NY: T and J Swords, 1811. Print.