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Water by Robert Lowell
Transcript of Water by Robert Lowell
It was a Maine lobster town—
and below us, the sea lapped
but it was only
Water by Robert Lowell
Meaning Behind the Poem
Water is a poem that is describing a long gone relationship the writer wished had never ended. Describing a coast line with fragile buildings possibly the place the two used to live, not necessarily together but in the same town, or a place he cant get out of hence the phrase "White frame houses stuck like oysters shells on a hill of rock."
Stanza 1 Analysis
The first stanza gives us a location in Maine and the words "lobster town" is
to give the thought of a small coastal fishing town.
This is a town where many people work at the granite quarries which are on islands out off the coast given that the men must take boats to reach their workplace.
Stanza 3 Analysis
Remember? We sat on a slab of rock.
quarries on the islands,
pushed off for granite
each morning boatloads of hands
on a hill of rock,
like oyster shells
white frame houses stuck
and left dozens of bleak
Stanza 2 Analysis
The workers leave their plane white houses each mourning when they go to work. Relating them "Like oyster shells on a hill of a rock" using a simile to compare the way oysters attach them selves to the way the houses are placed.
where the fish for bait were trapped.
the raw little match-stick
mazes of a weir,
Stanza 4 Analysis
Assuming this is the view from the ship: Below their ship on the way to work the calm sea gently hits the side of the vessel, as they get through the "Maze" of weirs which cannot be passed quickly because the wake may disrupt the weirs. Weirs can be used to regulate sea level and/or trap fish.
of iris, rotting and turning purpler,
it seems the color
>From this distance in time
This is the part in the poem where it turns into a memory of a relationship he used to have. One that he dearly misses. He sees the rock him and his girlfriend used to sit on. Others may see the rock and think nothing of it. But to him its special, he sees the individual colors of the rock which remind him of fond memories.
when drenched by the sea.
turning the usual green
the usual gray rock
flake after flake.
and kept tearing away
at our feet all day,
The sea drenched the rock
Stanza 6 Analysis
Stanza 5 Analysis
This is him realizing that in fact the rock was just a rock now. It holds memories but its nothing more than a rock, that he must forget about it and come back to reality because the past is gone.
This stanza has to do again with the past. The hidden meaning in this stanza is that the rock was deteriorating flake by flake, just as his relationship was little by little, until it was no more.
Stanza 7 Analysis
Stanza 8 Analysis
One night you dreamed
off the barnacles with your hands.
and trying to pull
you were a mermaid clinging to a wharf-pile,
This is in the perspective of his girlfriend, she had a dream she was a mermaid trying to pry the barnacles from the pier with her bare hands. Mermaids are thought of as beautiful but delicate creatures. This most likely means that she tried salvaging her relationship with him but failed because she wasn't strong enough to take him with her, maybe he didn't want to leave like the barnacle and the pier.
the water was too cold for us
to the rock. In the end,
might return like gulls
We wished our two souls
The last stanza of
is the conclusion to their relationship. This may have been a long distance relationship or a reason that she had to leave the town for college perhaps given the line "might return like gulls". The poem finishes off with the line "the water was too cold for us" which signals that there initial good bye "wish" to come back to the rock, in the end did not happen.
Robert was born in Boston March 1st 1917, and died September 12th 1977 at the age of 60. Most of Roberts poems take place in the New England area, given that he grew up in Boston it gave him most of the inspiration to write poetry. Robert also had 3 wives and 2 children throughout his lifetime. He amited to being somewhat of a bully at a younger age but eventually grew out of it and attended
Harvard University for 2 years, during which he discussed poetry with Robert Frost while looking for guidance. In the 1940's he refused to go to war with the armed forces choosing prison time instead. Robert ultimately died of a heat attack while in a cab.
"Robert Lowell Biography." Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2014.
"Download Wallpaper Sea, Rock, Waves Free Desktop Wallpaper in the Resolution 3600x2400 - Picture №511962." Download Wallpaper Sea, Rock, Waves Free Desktop Wallpaper in the Resolution 3600x2400 - Picture №511962. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2014.
"Water - Poem by Robert Lowell." Water - Poem by Robert Lowell. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2014.
is a poem without a rhyme scheme. Base almost solely on creating an image in your mind. The small lobster town in Maine, "the iris rock turning purpler", "white frame houses", "when drenched by the sea", "mermaid clinging to a wharf-pile", are all images the reader intends to give. Robert appeals to your senses by using lines like, "trying to pull off the barnacles with your hands", "In the end, the water was too cold for us" are all examples where as you read the poem you get a sense of what it would feel like.