Old Age Gets Up – Ted Hughes – Comments

Old Age Gets Up

Stirs its ashes and embers, its burnt sticks

An eye powdered over, half melted and solid again
Ideas that collapse
At the first touch of attention

The light at the window, so square and so same
So full-strong as ever, the window frame
A scaffold in space, for eyes to lean on

Supporting the body, shaped to its old work
Making small movements in gray air
Numbed from the blurred accident
Of having lived, the fatal, real injury
Under the amnesia

Something tries to save itself-searches
For defenses-but words evade
Like flies with their own notions

Old age slowly gets dressed
Heavily dosed with death's night
Sits on the bed's edge

Pulls its pieces together

Ted Hughes (1930 - 1998)

The difficulty in awaking to the day when old = how to give life to burnt sticks? Can a little flame be resurrected … in due course maybe?

The eyes a little hard to adjust to daylight … they maybe half-melted but we must be thankful that they do eventually adjust … at the same time those early morning thoughts are quick to fade away … focusing on the day and remembering in the opening haze of early awareness

The window frame is compared with old age … strong, long lasting condition, never changes each day, will be around for many years, centuries maybe

All is gray with no colour to the day. And then that beautiful cynical statement on age deterioration ‘Numbed from the blurred accident / Of having lived, …’ and perhaps that inescapable condition of losing memory … and emphasis on how sad this is … being a real injury – like a broken leg … and later words evade like flies with their own notions … highlights the difficulty the mind has in focusing on words when there is lost recall and searching is in place

The window frame is seen as a scaffold … it is a strong metaphor dictating the emotional feeling of the aged associated with impending death? … time leads us all to the ‘scaffold’

something tries to save itself … a wonderful personification … and to survive to get up, movements are slow … and that slow awaking coming alive … heavily dosed with death’s night … coming to the end of life, equated to night … however, eventually some success in the sitting on the edge of the bed and the pieces have been put together for the body to function.

A little depressive and a bit of a bleak view of life; but you must give credit to the creative words in generating the groping of awareness in early morning awaking.

Ted Hughes on Wikipedia … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ted_Hughes
He was Poet Laureate in 1984 and held the office until his death

The Last Word – Matthew Arnold – Analysis

The Last Word

Creep into thy narrow bed,
Creep, and let no more be said!
Vain thy onset! all stands fast.
Thou thyself must break at last.

Let the long contention cease!
Geese are swans, and swans are geese.
Let them have it how they will!
Thou art tired; best be still.

They out-talk’d thee, hiss’d thee, tore thee?
Better men fared thus before thee;
Fired their ringing shot and pass’d,
Hotly charged – and sank at last.

Charge once more, then, and be dumb!
Let the victors, when they come,
When the faults of folly fall,
Find thy body by the wall!

Matthew Arnold (1822-1888)

I don’t know whether this was the last poem that Matthew Arnold wrote but it is the last poem in the set of poems recorded against his name in my ‘The Harvard Classics’ edition.

S1 – well we all have to break sometime … leave the world that is … creep (go slowly) into your narrow bed (perhaps a link to that wooden box which awaits) … and it’s a bit silly if we ever thought we were going to change the world, all stands fast … we have no choice but to break.

S2 – Geese are swans, and swans are geese … well, you would have to be a goose not to know the difference, however there are some people who never learn – no matter how hard you try to educate – so unfortunately you must accept that others may always be a bit of a goose and not understand reality, not know the truth, not know the beauty of the swan – so there is a plea not to continue to try to make others understand, suggesting you are tired and maybe you need that rest … and indeed you will have no choice but to be very still!

S3 – they hiss’d thee – well if they are a bit of a goose this is an apt statement … and if it is any comfort others better than you have tried and failed – they sank like a drowning, appropriate considering swans are always seen with water

S4 – OK have one more attempt, one more charge at trying to make them see that swans are swans – but they the ‘victors’ with their faults of folly and will find your body by the wall – the wall that they have created in not letting your message get through

Of course you may not agree with all the sentiments expressed by this poem and I am sure that you will leave the world a better place! – but realistically there will always be some who you’ve tried to influence that have never heeded the message you wanted to convey.