James Russell Lowell 1819-1891 Background • Lowell lost three of his four children at the height of his literary fame. – In the mid-1800s, this was not uncommon. – 1/3 of children born in urban areas died before the age of 21 due to diseases such as measles, diphtheria, and small pox • Wrote “The First Snow-Fall” for one of his daughters – The child Mabel in the poem is his lone living daughter “The First Snow-Fall” • Poem’s title refers to the first snow fall since the death of his daughter • Stanzas 1-4 describe the overnight fall of snow on the land, the trees, the shed, and the fence. • It is in the fifth stanza that the speaker introduces the image of a snow-covered graveyard. “The First Snow-Fall” (cont.) • In the seventh stanza, the reader can infer that the “first great sorrow” was the death of his child. • In the ninth stanza, the reader sees the use of what could be considered figurative language. – Lines 34-36 – “The snow that husheth all, / Darling, the merciful Father / Alone can make it fall!” • Death results from God’s will. Theme • Time blurs the sharpness of grief. – Implied through the imagery of the gradually falling snow – Time heals. The Snow • Lowell uses alternate words for snow that have positive connotations. – “ermine too dear for an earl” – “pearl” – “sheds new roofed with Carrara – “stiff rails softened to swan’s down The Snow (cont.) • Snow = the ability to find comfort over the course of time • Makes things softer, quieter, and more beautiful • Creates a silent, white world The Snow (cont.) • The snow conveys a number of feelings/ideas in the poem. – Peacefulness (line 1-4) – Beauty (lines 5-8) – Change (lines 9-12) – Perseverance (line 14) – Compassion (lines 17-20) – Patience (lines 29-32) – Holiness (lines 33-36) – Protectiveness (lines 17-29; 40) View of Death • Lowell views death in a very serious and respectful manner. • He sees this death as sad, and this is very sacred to him. • However, he views all these events as God’s work/will.
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