Requiem (by Robert Louis Stevenson) In-Depth Analysis and Critical Appreciation

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Background of the Poet

  • Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson was a Scottish novelist, poet, essayist, and travel writer.
  • His most famous works are Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and A Child’s Garden of Verses.

The Poem

http://www.bartleby.com/103/15.html

Structure and Rhyme Scheme

  • 2 quatrains.
  • AAAB and CCCB is the rhyme scheme. Therefore, it has a set rhyme scheme and a set/consistent structure. This could symbolise the set rhythmic nature of life, how there is an orderly progression from life to death and the poet is content with this idea.
  • Alternatively, the AAA-B, then CCC-B could denote 2 different journeys, i.e. how AAA is one journey, ultimately ending up at ‘B’, then CCC another journey, ultimately ending up at ‘B’. ‘B’ could denote home, i.e. death. The orderly vision of life is also something that is experienced by everyone in life and thus could be referenced back to the title of the poem.

Title

  • Obviously related to the theme of death, to emphasise the idea. Singular word. Just ‘Requiem’ and nothing else. Easily generalised and referred to basically anything. Not personalised. This allows practically everyone to relate to this poem, because, lets face it — we’re all going to die one day!

Themes

  • Death
  • Contentment
  • Returning home (the idea of it)

Language Analysis and Critical Appreciation

  • ‘…wide’: Endless horizons of life. Life is seemingly limitless and you could possibly do anything in end, but there will be an end someday (and this is the message conveyed in the very next line).
  • ‘…starry sky’: Alliteration. To emphasise the beauty of the sky. It also holds a certain connotation to the constructed beauty of nature and the world as a whole. Essentially, the poet is acknowledging what surrounds him — and this is something we usually do when we realise and accept that one day we will be no more (will die).
  • ‘Glad did I live and gladly die’: So his feelings are mutual between living and dying. Just as content he is with living — he is content with dying. Why? This is because he knows there will ultimately be death to all organisms and living things on this planet right now. He understands that there is a whole resolution to a lifeline and therefore he brings it to justice by not only accepting it, but by embracing the concept of ultimately dying. There is also repetition in the word ‘glad’ to emphasise the aforementioned point.
  • ‘Here he lies where he long’d to be’: So he’s openly requesting for this to be engraved onto his tomb-stone. He says ‘…long’d to be’, which could be a reference to how since he knew he was going to die all this time, he developed a certain longing for it. This is because he may have touched upon some existential thoughts (i.e. what is the point of doing anything if we’re going to ultimately die in the end?), and thus he longed to end up in the grave because we later on see that this is ultimately his, and our, final destination and ‘…home’.
  • ‘home is the sailor, home from sea’: Anaphor used to further develop his point/metaphor of a sailor which represents a normal human that went to the sea for his journey. The sea denotes life. The sailor’s home denotes death. The sailor denotes a regular human. Therefore, he is trying to say that we can picture ourselves as sailors and we long to go home (usually to rest), and therefore that is death for us: our home and final resting place. He seeks refuge in the idea of dying and we praise him for his discovery of the existential nature of life itself.
  • ‘And the hunter home from the hill’: Okay so this is basically the same point as above, but simply he has used a different metaphor. This further emphasises the idea. He could be including an almost list of metaphors to allow working class men to be able to relate to such poems who hold such occupations in the current world. In addition, there is a repetition of the word ‘…home’ from the above line to further emphasise of his longing to eventually die and return to his idea of a home. Also, generally, he doesn’t mention anything about his own life, but instead relatively keeps it vague and therefore this helps us to imagine ourselves as the person being discussed in the poem and thus we praise Stevenson for his marvellous work and tenderness in his depiction of the idea of death, and ultimately allowing us to come to terms of our eventual death.
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