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Critical Analysis Essay-Monet's Waterlilies, by Robert Hayden

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I think that “Monet's Waterlilies,” by Robert Hayden, is a very profound and contemplative poem. In this piece, he demonstrates metaphor, in the line, “the seen, the known/dissolve in iridescence, become/illusive flesh of light/;” simile, when he says, “the eye like the eye of faith believes;” and personification, when he says “...news from Selma and Saigon/poisons the air like fallout.”


This poem is about the author escaping the world of war and destruction, from Vietnam and even Civil Rights, by visiting his favorite piece of art: “Monet's Waterlilies”. To him, this painting is a thing of beauty through a veil of light. His perception of light in this poem is very interesting. I like how he writes of the blurred lilies as “light beheld through refracting tears.” I think that's just a really great line.


It's really interesting to see both the early and final versions of this piece. There are some truly great lines in the early poem-but they make the overall poem sound choppy, like he's trying to hard to sound impressive and complicated. In my opinion, the final poem is much improves. It is easier to see his intent, because it's much simpler. He expresses the same ideas more concisely. He doesn’t use a particular pattern for line breaks, but it seems like he starts a new line whenever he begins a new idea. The final draft is a lot longer than the earlier draft, but I think that’s because he trimmed some loose ends.


For instance, “Today as the news from Selma and Saigon/poisons the air like fallout, /I came again to see/the serene, great picture that I love.” sounds much better than “Saigon, Selma: multitudes multitudes/march in pitching hellmouth glare. /Horror is hourly, /is radar, clock and calendar;/like virus horror spreads, infecting all. / Our nightmares patrol the world/in power and bloody privilege.” The latter stanza is just overdone. It is extremely well written, but in excess. All of that extra, fancy description is too rich and interrupts the flow and content of the poem.


This poem really affects me because I can relate to it. Everyone has a special place that they escape to whenever they just want a break from life, or some time for themselves. It can be a book, or a tree house, or even a poem; I like the fact that he made his a painting, because I liked to hear him ponder the deeper meanings while reflecting on its beauty and complexity. It was especially interesting because it was his point of view. To anyone else, it may just be a painting of water lilies, but to Hayden it’s much more. It’s his history of going to see this painting year after year of tough times, and he has brought his own meaning to it.



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