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Analysis and comments on For the Union Dead by Robert Lowell

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Comment 4 of 24, added on February 23rd, 2007 at 1:19 AM.

This poem is hell of sweet. What a poet: he's off the chain. Deeeyamn!

Ryan from United States
Comment 3 of 24, added on April 20th, 2006 at 4:32 PM.

I must say that I disagree with what Peter Alcibiades had to say about "For
the Union Dead." He is criticizing both the poem for its ambiguity and
America for loving that ambiguity. Well, perhaps I am falling into the
American standard, but isn't ambiguity most of poetry? I mean
interpretation should be left to the reader. The objective correlative was
correctly used in this case, instilling in readers a sense of hopelessness
through imagery and metaphors. As for alcoholism and madness of the time,
perhaps Robert Lowell's poetry would not be the same without his mental
instability; perhaps William Faulkner, one of the most revered writers of
all time, would not have written what he did write without alcohol, as he
confessed that he wrote most of The Sound and the Fury (no underline,
sorry) under the influence. As for "For the Union Dead," the ambiguity
used makes the poem what it is, criticized, loved, and, perhaps most
importantly, famous (more famous than Peter from Belarus).

Jeffrey from United States
Comment 2 of 24, added on June 22nd, 2005 at 1:40 AM.

The poem compares two sets of things, the present decayed political and
social environment to that of an idealised past, where the Union armies
were raised and fought, and the present that the narrator sees compared to
the vision he had of the same place through his eyes as a child. The
verdict on the environment is clear, and occurs in the last four lines.
The significance of the contrast between the present and childhood visions
is not so clear - one has the sense that the author himself doesn't really
know what he is trying to say. There is a sense of regret, but of what is
not clear.

It is a widely admired poem, but is it a good one? Probably not. What is
missing is clarity and form. Clarity of meaning, and the economy and
intensity of expression that form gives. The problem with this sort of
free verse is that there are few constraints. It is not an accident that
it flourished in a country where Protestantism in its later stages
substituted impulse for conscience, and a purely personal conscience for
what had been a sense of objective right or wrong. This same movement of
spirit allowed 'poetry' to be written simply by inspecting the momentary
feeling of rightness or wrongness of the lines. There was no other
standard.

How unsurprising then, writing and living by arbitrariness, that the poets
of this era fell prey to alcohol, drugs and madness. Some of this threat
appears in the poem's slightly brittle surface, a sense of menace and
dissatisfaction that the author has found it impossible to place or account
for in the ostensible subject matter.

Peter Alcibiades from Belarus
Comment 1 of 24, added on February 20th, 2005 at 4:50 PM.

great poem that i feel embodies what we want


tony from United States

This poem has been commented on more than 10 times. Click below to see the other comments.
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Information about For the Union Dead

Poet: Robert Lowell
Poem: For the Union Dead
Volume: Life Studies and For the Union Dead
Year: 1964
Added: Oct 29 2004
Viewed: 2075 times


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