Poplars are standing there still as death
And ghosts of dead men
Meet their ladies walking
Two by two beneath the shade
And standing on the marble steps.

There is a sound of music echoing
Through the open door
And in the field there is
Another sound tinkling in the cotton:
Chains of bondmen dragging on the ground.

The years go back with an iron clank,
A hand is on the gate,
A dry leaf trembles on the wall.
Ghosts are walking.
They have broken roses down
And poplars stand there still as death.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Arna Bontemps's poem Southern Mansion


  1. haley says:

    the southern mansion poem is really good you just need to know a lot about it to pass the quizzes and stuff….

  2. radhia amaidi says:

    the poem opens and ends in the same idea of death . Personification serves to portray “poplars” trees as a witness abouy the historical legacy of slavers ,it aims to connect the past to the present.However the simile in “still as death” avokes the silence of te poplars tree.

  3. Kylie says:

    Alright. Well, I, myself thought it was a well-written poem, description-wise, at least, although I don’t like poetry much. But please, if you have something to comment about how you disliked the poem, have a legitimate reason if you wish to share it and please, I beg of you, show that you have a fraction of intelligence unlike some on here…

  4. Katie says:

    This poem sucks. OKay so not only is this poem boring its very stupid. Seriously i wish i never read it because it def. wasted my time. and i dont think its bout weed but it would make it better…

  5. Kwasi Oppong says:

    I love the way Bontemps depicts the slavery movement and put in clear images the conditions the slaves were made to go through. His imagery about the living conditions of blacks in wooden buildings yet having the happiness of living is great. I think he merged the elements chronologically and in comprehensive details. I love this poem.

  6. Sonya Vaio says:

    I am a very big Arna fan and i have to agree with the comment left by dr. benton. It took me a while to understand what bontemps was trying to say in Golgotha is a mountain. after a few times reading it i got the main point of his poem. when he uses mountains he is referring to the hardships of the african americans. the mountains represent the deaths of them!

  7. Dr. J.D. Benton says:

    it kind of reminds me of another of Bontemp’s poems, Golgotha is a Mountain. Within Golgotha is a Mountain Bontemps epitomizes the corruption of the black man’s treasure by the mountains which are conveyed images of burial grounds”

  8. brunswick meiyers says:

    bontemps is refering to slavery being the death of the African Heritage.

  9. Mimi says:

    this poem is about slaves. you have to analyze the poem line by line to figure that out. it shows that they got hanged on the poplars. and it also showed they singing a funeral song for the slave that got hung.

  10. Siavash Ghazisaidi says:

    Certain and special ideas are in this poem.as a good example we can refer to the words like poplar,marble and cotton.These things are all white,the color of death.Or the use of the words representing sounds like tinkling,dragging and iron clank.The use of one sentence at the beginning and the end of the poem also is interesting.
    There are some materials in this poem that refer to idea of DEATH.For instance,the use of the words poplars,marble,cotton that are all white and have the color of death.Or the alliteration in the first line by using the sounds [t],[d] and [th].Ghosts,which are the most important feature in the poem,also remind the reader this idea.Music echoing,which is a sound of the music gradually disappearing,is another factor reminding death.
    There are three different visions in each stansa of the poem.The first stansa contains the seeing vision and the experience gotten by seeing.The second stansa,however,refers to the hearing of the sounds.The last stansa of the poem refers to the review of history by the sentence:”The years go back with an iron clank”These three visions can have some emotional effects on the reader in order to get the idea of the poem better.
    The tense of the sentences in the poem is also important.All of the tenses are different aspects of the present tense.There is no sentence with the past future tense in the poem.This use of tense makes the reader closer to the scene of the poetry and improves the effect of the poem.
    If we have a good look,we see that there are some things apparently not related at all.For example,the hand on the gate,the poplars,the ghosts and the roses broken down by them and the dry leaf.But if we pay attention,we see that thge choice of these things is very smart.All,except the hand,refer to the idea of death.the hand also can be the hand of the poet himself who is describing the scene while his hand is on the door.
    The mansion usually is the place of joy,but in this poem its glory has fallen.Maybe if its residents had not broken roses down,it would not had happened.Roses can be symbol of the others’ right in life here.
    At the end I think that this poem is a very good poem for teaching poetry.Because it has different ideas represented by different visions that can create very useful comments in a class.

  11. Tee says:

    What does this poem mean exactly i would like to know so i could understand it better..thank you

  12. Jakima Davis says:

    Great commentary on slavery and its wrongs

  13. Nikki says:

    This is the best poem from my best poet!!!!!!!!!!

  14. Stephen says:

    i dont like this poem

  15. stephanie says:

    Bontemps at first made this poem very confusing for me, and it took alot of thinking to even understand what it’s about. I think it has to do with a slave, and his master’s mansion and all of the music and happiness he heard while he was out slaving in the feilds. The only music that the slaves heard was the “tinkling of cotton”…basicly the slave chains dragging. Bontemps uses time very wisely in the poem, he begins in the “now”, takes the second stanza to the “past” and then the third in the “now”. The goasts of dead men, I think, are the slaves comming back to the mansion to walk that of which they could not during life. The usage of sound is very prevailent in this poem as well, especially in the second stanza. The author is able to portray the lack of music and joy that the slaves suffured, hearing the distant music beauty in the mansion while they endured the clinking of chains. The third stanza is focusing on the goasts having “broken down the roses”. I think (though this is rather a farout stretch, and may be completly wrong…) that the slave goasts have come to walk on roses; trod on the white man’s garden; destroy the beauty that they could never have. Lastly, Bontemps begins and ends the poem with: “Poplars are standing there still as death”, it entrances the reader in the scenary and truley enhances the setting. A thoroughly intriguing, but confusing poem by Arna Bontemps.

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