“The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket” is one of the noisiest poems in the English language. No one is foolish enough to ask anything of it; instead, the ship fires its guns in a “hoarse salute.” Even gunfire is nothing to the ocean. The sea, which is referred to as a kind of deity, is then related to Poseidon. Thank you for your support. This is one more example of the distinct lack of control that humanity truly has over its surroundings. Waking Early Sunday Morning by Robert Lowell. When they get there, they are temporarily distracted from the problems that brought them there. Please support this website by adding us to your whitelist in your ad blocker. Study Guide for The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket. The longest are twenty-six and twenty-four lines and are found in sections one and three. Is fruitless on the blue beard of the god. There is also a statue of a lady described in the section. Sea-monsters, upward angel, downward fish: The final section of ‘The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket’ begins with a description of a cenotaph or an empty tomb. The reader knows to expect rhymes, but can never be sure where they will fall. The speaker describes how the dead man was weighted so that his body might be thrown into the sea and would not float back up. Subscribe to our mailing list and get new poetry analysis updates straight to your inbox. Other techniques that a careful reader can find in the poem include apostrophe and anaphora. Ahab and this dead sailor inhabit the same water, and these drowned men are no doubt a reference to the true subject of the poem, Lowell’s cousin, who died at sea during World War II. This seems to reference both technological naval progress and the Biblical notion of Christ walking on water. Section III refers to the period when the Quakers died as “open eyed,/Wooden and childish.” The Quakers share this naivety. However, the use of the word “we” indicates that this moment is about humanity in general, not just sailors. Alliteration occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same sound. However, at the end of this relatively short stanza, the speaker finds the Sailor, saying, “Sailor, you were glad/And whistled Sion by that stream.”. Even the ocean does its best to die, withdrawing into itself. Study Guide for The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket. The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket study guide contains a biography of Robert Lowell, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis. Hide. The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket is an influential poem by Robert Lowell. The first six lines of Section VII are back in the desolate graveyard. They are used as an image of darkness and dirty corruption overrunning the world. “ The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket ” was published in Robert Lowell ’s second collection of poetry, Lord Weary’s Castle. Lowell makes a new reference to the story of Bluebeard. “What it cost/Them is their secret,” Lowell says. Thank you for subscribing. The speaker is a member of a crew that pulls up a body from the water. Other times Lowell incorporates trochees (“Snatching at straws to sail…” “Wooden and childish…”), and the occasional anapest. But this character also conquers Leviathans, the great sea monsters from the Bible. Beyond tree-swept Nantucket and Woods Hole, The death-lance churns into the sanctuary, tears. But see: The setting changes in the second to the last section of ‘The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket’. The gun-blue swingle, heaving like a flail. This is also another reference to Moby-Dick, in which the sailors on the Pequod try to nail a new flag to the mast as the ship sinks. The water folds down upon itself as if it were dying. These lines also refer to “Jonas Messias” and the story of Christ being stabbed in the side with a spear. This includes the sailors from Moby Dick and those on the ship referenced at the beginning of this poem. The same people who are coming seeking God, or compared to “cows“ through a simile. Up from this field of Quakers in their unstoned graves? It might come as no surprise that, in a poem titled "The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket," most of the poem actually takes place—wait for it—in a Quaker graveyard in Nantucket. The speaker reminds the readers that the sea remains sovereign by begging to it and referring to it as “O depths.”. The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket is one of the prominent poems of Robert Lowell which was first published in 1946 in his famous collection Lord Weary’s Castle. The fourth section is the first to appear in two stanzas. Robert Lowell employs a multitude of harsh sounds, broken rhythms, and recurring patterns of alliteration to reflect the poem's preoccupation with the violence and turbulence of the world it depicts. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analysing poetry on Poem Analysis. There are endless possibilities and dangers waiting within it. The speaker describes again how the seagulls are wailing and mourning this time to see rather than dead sailors. The speaker says, “And blue-lung’d combers lumbered to the kill,” seeming to refer to men; made in the sea’s image, they are naturally violent. The first stanza makes clear how the rhyme scheme will remain consistent but variable throughout the poem. Something went wrong. The speaker wanders the Quaker graveyard in Nantucket, contemplating the sailor's fate and the fate of the Quaker sailors who died whaling. Study Guide for The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket. She remains inaccessible, and the act of pilgrimage does not seem to reach her. Robert Lowell. The speaker continues referencing Moby-Dick, this time mentioning the Pequod, the whaling ship from that novel. The verses conform to the rhyme scheme of aabbccdd, alternating end sounds from stanza to stanzas as Lowell saw fit. Stretching beyond us to the castles in Spain. There is an interesting use of alliteration and a half room at the end of the stanza with the phrase “mast lashed master of leviathans“. It should be considered as a symbol for a specific end, rather than a larger into the water itself. God, they think, is on their side because they were given time to praise him before the Atlantic rose up and took them. GradeSaver "The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket “The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket” Summary and Analysis". He is depicting the shore of an island on the east side of Nantucket. The fifth section of this poem describes the death of the whale as its innards fall out of it. Throughout the seven sections of the poem, the poet depicts the power of the ocean and humanity’s inability to exert any kind of control over it. In the first few lines of ‘The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket,’ the speaker begins by describing the setting. Most interments were identified by field-stones. He says, “As before,/This face, for centuries a memory,/Non est species, neque decor,/Expressionless, expressed God,” referencing the destruction and reconstruction of this shrine but not blaming that for its emptiness. She is privy to a secret of God– “what God knows“. Waking Early Sunday Morning by Robert Lowell. The speaker raises the question of who’s fault this is. Yet that emptiness is godliness, or close to the speaker's perception of God. And rips the sperm-whale’s midriff into rags. He refers to it as “IS“. He imagines the Pequod trying to … The first line of the poem is written in iambic pentameter, then the second line breaks it, suitably doing so while describing the breaking of the waves. It is through advertising that we are able to contribute to charity. Discussion of themes and motifs in Robert Lowell's The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket. He describes an “old Quaker graveyard” drenched in water from the ocean, where the dead bodies cry out in sympathy for whale wounded in the hunt. Analysis, meaning and summary of Robert Lowell's poem The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket. The poet uses the phrase “this is the end“ for the third time in line eighty-five of this poem. How much has Poem Analysis donated to charity? It was first published in 1946 in his collection Lord Weary's Castle. The sailor can obviously not understand what’s been said to him, but this is a very common technique in an elegy. It is dedicated to … The next stanza, though holding onto more precise, less verbose style, looks closely at the face of the statue of the Virgin at the altar and finds it empty. The whole world is grieving. The guts are spilling into the sea, as they did in Moby Dick. This time the whale’s innards or its guts are the central image. “Sailor, you were glad/And whistled Sion by that stream,” the speaker says. The speaker describes the corpse in a way that makes him appear to still be alive; for instance, “he grappled at the net.” The language moves into slightly more abstract territory toward the end of the stanza, where Lowell says, “…the heel-headed dogfish barks its nose/On Ahab’s void and forehead; and the name/Is blocked in yellow chalk.” Ahab is a reference to the tyrannical captain in Moby-Dick, who ends up dying in his quest to capture a singular and terrifying white whale. This appears to be a reference to how Jonah was stuck inside the whale, but also to how the swords earlier in this stanza ripped the whale apart. Some of the poem’s earlier heaviness seems to be alleviated, leaving behind a clarity. The next lines contain very poignant examples of imagery. Prev Article. The whale, too, seems to be on its way out; it is injured, bleeding heavily. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. This complexity allows the stanza to deal with Lowell’s personal grief about his cousin’s senseless death at sea, while also looking at the senseless violence of the war—which is why his cousin was at sea in the first place. In this section the poem describes a peaceful scene for the first time, giving the readers a break from the stormy earlier scenes. The winds are described as having “breath“ another likely reference to mythological figures and their control over the elements. The lines vary in length and use different rhyme schemes in their sections and stanzas. Here the speaker's tone is difficult to read, like the Virgin’s face. There is nothing that the ship could do or could’ve done to stand up against the powers of the ocean. The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket, poem by Robert Lowell, published in 1946 in the collection Lord Weary’s Castle.This frequently anthologized elegy for a cousin who died at sea during World War II echoes both Herman Melville and Henry David Thoreau in its exploration of innocence, corruption, and redemption. The ocean is quite vast, the speaker suggests in the fourth and fifth lines of the section. The stanza ends on a character who we have not encountered previously, Jonas Messias; his name is a clear reference to Jonah and the Messiah. It stretches all the way to Spain. In the next lines and speaker references the valley of judgment, in Hebrew, the Jehoshaphat. The conditions are quite dangerous at the moment that the poem begins. all played out against the violent backdrop of the ocean. She’s not especially attractive but she is as peaceful as the rest of the scene. The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket. The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket by Robert Lowell. This is very likely a reference to Warren Winslow, Lowell’s cousin who died at sea. With you, my cousin, and the harrowed brine. This is the first reference to the fact that the sea and mankind have a kinship that should not be denied. He speaks about true “bellbuoy”  and it’s “spinnakers” or sails and how it has bounced around in the water becoming entangled. Whenever winds are moving and their breath. Although he has a background in Automotive Engineering, having worked for McLaren testing supercars, Will has a keen eye for poetry and literature. The next few lines inform the reader that the conditions of the sea are so poor that people have already died. The Quaker Graveyard In Nantucket Poem by Robert Lowell.Let man have dominion over the fishes of the sea and the fowls of the air and the beasts and the whole earth, and every creeping creature that moveth upon the earth. Lowell also refers to Orpheus, the demigod from a Greek myth, in which Orpheus's skill with the lyre convinces Hades to release his wife from the Underworld. How much has Poem Analysis donated to charity? The whale’s, the crew for killing the world, the sea, the sea deities? In the next lines, the speaker uses personification to allude to the sea’s power. Of this old Quaker graveyard where the bones Cry out in the long night for the hurt beast Bobbing by Ahab's whaleboats in the East. This is the end of the whaleroad and the whale, Who spewed Nantucket bones on the thrashed swell, And stirred the troubled waters to whirlpools. The latter is one of the most important. It appears vulnerable, much more so than it was previously. It is the second of two Quaker cemeteries on Nantucket. This stanza ends on the curious line, “Hide/Our steel, Jonas Messias, in Thy side.” The character “Jonas Messias” seems to refer both to Jonah, the biblical character who lived for three days in the belly of a whale, and the Messiah, or Christ, whom this poem has identified with the whale. It can be seen in the fifth section where lines seven through ten start with “The”. Between 1704 and 1708, a number of other Friends visited Nantucket from Rhode Island, Long Island, Philadelphia, and England. The ship is mentioned again, as is the general premise of the story, and the sailor’s desire to pursue the whale. The speaker then references the captain from Moby-Dick who dies in the water. The shortest is ten lines long and can be found in sections four and six. The Nantucket Meeting was formed in 1708 with Mary serving as an elder and her son Nathaniel Jr. as clerk. To Cape Cod He finds her face expressionless. The final lines allude to the great flood which was depicted in the Bible. The poem starts by describing a scene where a fleet pulls up to a man’s corpse, then push it back into the ocean. This imitates choppy water while highlighting the speaker's instability and the rockiness of grief, as well as the speaker's instability in his faith. One way to interpret the “combers” is as waves that kill men at God’s will; if the combers are in fact men doing God’s will, however, it would imply that God has made mankind violent and that they are unable to resist those impulses. The poet also brings in images of a graveyard that acts as a memorial site for many of the men who died at sea. Lowell also makes use of anaphora, or the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession. Mart once of supercilious, wing’d clippers. The graveyard could very well be a reference to the water itself and the many dead who lie within it. The landscape is dark, the trees are creaking and the destroyed ship is bobbing “on the untimely stroke“ of the Atlantic. The imagery and atmosphere of the poem continue to jump around from emotions that pity the whale, pity to sea, and the sailors. Literary Terms The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket by Robert Lowell: Summary and Analysis The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket is one of the prominent poems of Robert Lowell which was first published in 1946 in his famous collection Lord Weary’s Castle. all played out against the violent backdrop of the ocean. In this stanza the speaker feels like he has accessed the moment of creation. This is very obviously not the case. It was first published in 1946 in his collection Lord Weary's Castle. But because the “master” is still lashed to the mast, Lowell changes the story to match that of his cousin and the Quaker sailors. The exclamation, “Oh,” is often used at the beginning of the phrase. It is through advertising that we are able to contribute to charity. The last line is a simple statement, but in context it reads almost spitefully. The poem seems careful but unreliable, its form ready to give way at any moment—like the unstable sea itself. The speaker suggests that the waves in the wind are only tools of a higher power used to beat down and control human beings. He asked the sailor rhetorically if he can hear the sounds of the Pequod. Mary (Coffin) Starbuck (1645–1717) and her husband Nathaniel led the Quaker movement on Nantucket. Instead of addressing the Sailor, the speaker addresses the Atlantic itself, blaming it for the deaths it causes. There are also references to other works of literature such as those by writers such as Henry Thoreau. There is an interesting transition in the seventeenth line of the section when the speaker describes the “monster“. “The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket” uses the occasion of a relative’s untimely death to cobble together a poem asserting that humanity’s decimation of nature and humankind’s self-destruction in war are affronts to a ever-present Judeo-Christian God, who may forgive, but cannot forget. The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket study guide contains a biography of Robert Lowell, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis. The fairly long and complicated poem explores themes of human existence, religion, and natural elements. Something went wrong. The seawater is filled with an explosion of fish and guts in addition to the dead sailors. However, the ships still sink; the sea “dismembers” the ship’s flag. I A brackish reach of shoal off Madaket— The sea was still breaking violently and night The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket study guide contains a biography of Robert Lowell, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis. The speaker explains how the water brought sailors of the North Atlantic fleet to their death. This plea, if it is directed at the whale, strengthens its connection to Christ, for the speaker asks it to do something for those who betrayed and killed it. After logging in you can close it and return to this page. The speaker asks him to hide “our steel” in his side. The Germans had a PT boat called an S (Schnell boat) but this reference is about a class … The first line of every stanza follows suit, with the exception of the line, “This is the end of the whaleroad and the whale,” which adds an extra syllable but still retains iambs. III All you recovered from Poseidon died With you, my cousin, and the harrowed brine Is fruitless on the blue beard of the god, Stretching beyond us to the castles in Spain, Nantucket's westward haven. There is a reference in these lines to Ahab, the main character from Herman Melville‘s Moby Dick. This was done in order to create a rhythm that specifically mimics the movement of the sea itself. The volume was Lowell’s second book of poetry and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1947. Lowell’s speaker suggests that the Quaker sailors lost something, likely their lives but there is also something even deeper and more metaphorical at work. Lowell mentions his cousin and the drowned sailors of the past and uses another metaphor that depicts a fight against man’s lesser nature. This pattern shifts slightly in the second section but maintains a feeling of rhyme throughout. The tide is flowing out and getting low. There in the valley, men are butchering the corpse of a whale. There’s an interesting bit of dialogue at the edge of the section where the speaker relays the words of the Quakers who drowned. He was part of a naval crew, all of whom died in an explosion. The bird’s wings are personified and describe the screaming out for the drowned sailor. Robert Lowell. This paper follows a comparative strategy and historical analysis to evaluate the poem as a pastoral elegy. Summary of The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket ‘The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket’ by Robert Lowell is a very complex and allusion -heavy poem that describes the sea, divine force, and corruption. The “guns of the steel fleet“ repeatedly fire into the sky until they become “hoarse“. This connects the cousin to these drowned Quaker sailors, but does not reveal what it was that they had and lost in common. 2 Comments mark says: February 9, 2007 at 7:26 am S boats were not subs. By combining the two characters, this character seems like Jonah from the Bible, but one who is able to save himself without appealing to God, as Jonah did in the belly of the whale, because he himself is God (the Messiah). Is this line directed at the Sailor, or at the whale? The lines are fairly graphic as they describe ripping the “sperm whale’s midriff into rags“ and the blubber spilling into the wind and weather. They are made glad by this “castle of God“. The whale is compared in a religious metaphor to Christ. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. The latter was tied to a ship, to the mass, in order to save him from the calling sirens. Sea-gulls blink their heavy lids Seaward. “The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket” uses the occasion of a relative’s untimely death to cobble together a poem asserting that humanity’s decimation of nature and humankind’s self-destruction in war are affronts to a ever-present Judeo-Christian God, who may forgive, but cannot forget. The second stanza focuses in on a “you,” who seems to be Winslow, the character who has died. The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket. The corrupted waters are one of the most prominent symbols in this poem. The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences. Section V begins by asking the Sailor if he will let his sword “whistle and fall and sink into the fat.” At this point, however, the whale is already dead; its insides, “the roll/Of its corruption,” have spread beyond New England and fill the world. This is an excerpt from the Bible, specifically Genesis 1:26. He’s whistling the tune about “Sion,” referenced in Psalms 2:6. Lowell likens them to the corruption that “overruns this world.” The speaker asks the sailor if his sword will “whistle and fall and sink into the fat,” and then watches and describes the whale being cut to pieces. It is just off of Cape Cod. There is another allusion in the section to Psalm 124 where the line “if the Lord had not been on our side“ is found. It too came from a higher power. The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket study guide contains a biography of Robert Lowell, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis. The first image in “The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket” is hellish but clear. The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket study guide contains a biography of Robert Lowell, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis. The image of being “poured out like water” suggests that existence is ephemeral. The speaker seems to ask for forgiveness for the butchering, but the plea collapses on itself; the whale cannot hide its own slaughter. Leave only the death-rattle of the crabs. The dedication reads: FOR WARREN WINSLOW, DEAD AT SEA. The rhyme and meter in the poem is somewhat scattered. A Study Guide for Robert Lowell's ""The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket, "" excerpted from Gale's acclaimed Poetry for Students. It is interesting to consider the contrast between Warren’s death at sea and this statement that human beings supposedly have control over everything. Thank you! Assigning divinity to the whale complicates the poem; if the whale is Christ, is the sea God? This is dedicated to Warren Winslow, a cousin of Lowell, who died at sea when his ship sank. The speaker also comes back to talking about Moby Dick. The epigraph, or the brief statement, quote, or reference that comes before the poem text, reads: Let man have dominion over the fishes of the sea and the fowls of the air and the beasts of the whole earth, and every creeping creature that moveth upon the earth. The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket. It is used throughout the poem. We respect your privacy and take protecting it seriously. The seeking is similar to the way that the crew of Ahab’s continues to seek out the whale. They are from a time in which things were simpler and people did not understand the full power of the natural world. Its eyes and heave it seaward whence it came, Where the heel-headed dogfish barks its nose, On Ahab’s void and forehead; and the name. GradeSaver, The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket Summary, "The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket" Summary and Analysis, Read the Study Guide for The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket…. After the whale’s death, however, “…the morning stars sing out together/And thunder shakes the white surf and dismembers/The red flag hammered in the mast-head.” The earth and stars themselves are on the whale’s side, and the dropping of the flag foreshadows an ugly punishment for the sailors. “ Jonas Messias ” and the waves in the east that should not discovered. Lowell 's the Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket ’ begins with more imagery related to a secret of “! Earth-Shaker “ as he does poem the Quaker Graveyard, in order to comfortably a... Act of pilgrimage does not seem to reach her Wooden and childish… ). Dead who lie within it no “ Orphean lute ” that could bring life... Graveyard is brought back into the poem ’ at 24 lines character ;! 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