Analysis of The Cool Web, by Robert Graves

1627 WordsMar 20, 20057 Pages
The Cool Web Children are dumb to say how hot the day is, How hot the scent is of the summer rose, How dreadful the black wastes of the evening sky, How dreadful the tall soldiers drumming by. But we have speech, to chill the angry day, And speech, to dull the rose 's cruel scent. We spell away the overhanging night, We spell away the soldiers and the fright. There 's a cool web of language winds us in, Retreat from too much joy or too much fear We grow sea-green at last and coldly die In brininess and volubility. But if we let our tongues lose self-possession, Throwing off language and its watery clasp Before our death, instead of when death comes, Facing the wide glare of the children 's day, Facing the rose, the dark…show more content…
The reader is jolted as these adjectives are associated with unfamiliar subjects. This is a form of foregrounding to draw attention to the language of the poem. The use of "cruel" to describe the scent of a rose is especially jarring. Almost without exception the rose is a symbol of romance and love, not one of cruelty. Graves seems to be implying that anything that intrudes - even something pleasant - is objectionable and to be "dulled". By describing the night as "overhanging" Graves refers to the sense of intimidation, of something unexpected looming over us. The poet then tells us that this should - and can be - be spelled away as undesirable. The verb 'spell ' in the phrase 'we spell away ' (lines 7 and 8) Graves exploits a double meaning of "spell" to intertwine the ideas of language and trickery. In the linguistic context "spell" means to form a word by arranging its constituent letters in the correct order. 'Spell" also means to influence someone or something by means of magical powers. In this way, the poet concentrates a number of images into a single word. An adult 's desire to misrepresent reality is a form of magical spell, but it requires the ability to spell words. (Graves also uses this technique in line 1 by describing children as "dumb". This could mean that they are stupid and therefore unable to manipulate and distort the world. It

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