landscape Painter, Jamaica
Please note that the information given on this poem is not meant to replace any material given in the classroom setting. It is a very BASIC giude to enable a literal understanding of the poem. Metaphorical interpretations should be sought in the classroom.
The physical structure of this poem has been altered from the original layout in the text.
I watch him set up easel,
Both straddling precariously
A corner of the twisted, climbing
5 A tireless humming-bird, his brush
Dips, darts, hovers now here, now there,
Where puddles of pigment
Bloom in the palette's wild small garden.
The mountains pose for him
10 In a family group -
Dignified, self-conscious against the wide blue screen
Of morning; low green foot-hills
Sprawl like grandchildren about the knees
Of seated elders. And behind them, aloof,
15 Shouldering the sky, patriarchal in serenity,
Blue Mountain Peak bulks.
And the professional gaze
Studies position, impatiently waiting
For the perfect moment to fix
20 Their preparedness, to confine them
For the pleasant formality
Of the family album.
His brush a humming-bird
Meticulously poised ...
25 The little hills fidgeting
The painter's art.
Virtue, Vivian. 'Landscape Painter, Jamaica' in A World of Poetry. Edited by Mark McWatt and Hazel Simmonds McDonald. Pearson Education Ltd, 2005
This is the OPINION of one individual, which might not coincide with the views of others.
The speaker watches the landscape painter setting up his easel in a corner of the twisted mountain track. The painter's brush busily paints the mountains, which are grouped like a family. He watches the painter observing what he is about to paint, but the painter appears to have some frustration over his inability to capture the perfection of the mountains.
IMPORTANT WORDS/ PHRASES
1. 'Mighty and dreadful'
These two terms connote fear and power. So, they are used to create a visceral feeling of those exact same things; fear and power. The poet then skillfully creates a contrast by saying that Death is NOT these things. This is an important statement that introduces the idea of Death as weak, an idea that is at the very center and is the purpose of the poem.
2. 'poor Death'
This highlights the fact that the speaker believes that Death has deluded himself, in terms of his belief in his strength and power. This is non-existent because Death cannot even affect him, the speaker.
3. 'our best men'
The fact that the best of the crop could/ can fall prey to Death highlights the fact that Death waits on no man, he is a social equalizer who will make his presence felt regardless of race, colour, creed or station. Yet, the speaker still feels that he, Death, is powerless because Rest and Sleep (salvation to come) supersede Death.
3. 'with poison, war, and sickness dwell'
The speaker identifies allies of Death, who dilute Death's power. These concepts compete with Death by robbing him of the sole ownership of mortality.
4. 'poppy or charms can make us sleep as well And better than thy stroke'
The speaker throws probably his most effective punch at Death with this phrase because these things, poppies and charms, are frivolous. If frivolous things are seen to be more effective than a stroke, then Death is truly powerless.
The mood of the poem is generally reflective.
The tone of the poem is aggressive, in the octave, but then pity can be seen in the sestet, except for the very last line of the couplet that becomes triumphant..
Contributor: Leisa Samuels-Thomas