Discuss how the speaker deals with the contrast between past and present in a poem of your selection.
Elegy for my father´s father, written by James K. Baxter, is a sad and thoughtful poem lamenting the death of the speaker’s grandfather. Throughout the poem, the persona is constantly comparing and contrasting past and present.
To start with, the speaker throughout the lines 12 to 22, compares his grandfather´s active youth with his passive later life. When his father´s father was young, he used to be strong and even if it was very hot, he was able to carry heavy trunks, which was his job. His comparison to a lion gives the idea that he used to have a strong, dominant figure. What is more, this section of the poem adds a slight more positive tone. Nonetheless, when he reached the old age, he could no longer challenge the sun and even needed warmth. This gives an idea of fragility and weakness, compared to his former power. By this way, the tone is transferred back to being dull.
Another important contrast the speaker develops throughout the poem is how his grandfather reacts towards life and death. The persona describes his father´s father as a quiet and reserved person who was never able to open up. The lines “That his heart had never spoken
In eighty years of days”
emphasize how long this man lived and, although he had all that time to express his feelings, he could not. In addition, “tall tower broken”(alliteration) is a metaphor for life. The floors of the building represent the ages of life, and since the grandfather is compared to a tower, with lots of floors, he is shown to be strong and powerful. However, in a moment he fell apart, maybe because he fell sick.
Furthermore, since the old man was never able to reveal his true self, his death was unanimous and there was no physical way of remembering him.