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A MAN I AM By Stevie Smith
The poem~ I was consumed by so much hate I did not feel that I could wait I could not wait for long at any rate I ran into the forest wild I seized a little new born child I tore his throat, I licked my fang Just like a wolf, A wolf I am. I ran wild for centuries Beneath the immemorial trees, Sometimes I thought my heart would freeze And never know a moments ease, But presently the spring broke in Upon the Pastures of my sin, My poor heart bled like anything, The drops fell down, I knew remorse, I tasted that primordial curse, And falling ill, I soon grew worse. Until at last I cried on Him, Before who angel faces dim, To take the burden of my sin And break my head beneath his wing. Upon the silt of death I swam And as I wept my joy began Just like a man. A man I am.
Stevie Smith • Born as Florence Margaret Smith (Yes, she’s a woman.) • Born on September 20, 1902 in Yorkshire, England. • Stevie Smith lived through both World Wars. • She died in 7 March 1971(68 years old) from a brain tumour. • After high school she attended North London Collegiate School for Girls. • She began as a secretary with the magazine publisher George Newnes and went on to be the private secretary to Sir Nevill Pearson and Sir Frank Newnes. She began writing poetry in her twenties while working at George Newnes. • Smith never attended a university. Ashamed of her lack of education, she took notes of every book that she read. Her readings ranged from history to literary criticism. The only area she did not read was contemporary poetry. • Forty years after her death, her works are still a mystery. • Her works of poetry contain hints of humour with disconcerting seriousness. • Stevie Smith’s poetry best fit under the confessional poetry movement in the English modern period.
General Ideas~ This poem is basically about @Human Nature. @How human progresses through time and… @How they finally change for the better.
What I thought when I first read it… At first glance, the poem seems to be about a cold blooded man who committed a murder. He knew no guilt, remorse or regret at first, but as the years pass, his conscience catches up with him. He starts feeling guilty, remorseful, until someone or something (GOD) relieved him of this feelings of guilt. Only then, was he able to feel joy and happiness. ………..but when I read it more closely, I found that, it’s not about the sins that ONE man committed, but it’s talking about the sins that MANKIND, in general, had committed. @_@ I think…..what the poet is trying to say through her poem is that—Mankind started off really bad. We started off with violence and death. We killed off innocence lives for the benefit of ourselves. We knew no remorse, no guilt, WE HAD NOT CONSCIENCE. We’re basically like animals (Wolf), we follow our aggressive, merciless, impulsive and impatient nature. But, then, we started to progress. We grew a conscience, we learned about remorse and guilt. BUT, the progress is slow, it’s a surprised we even progressed at all. Then finally a breakthrough, we start to change and develop, for the better, of course. This is just my take on things. O_O
~IDEAS~ ~IDEAS~ ~IDEAS~ ~IDEAS~ ~IDEAS~ ~IDEAS~ ~IDEAS~ ~IDEAS~ ~IDEAS~ ~IDEAS~
Human Nature… *The poet may have used “I” throughout her poem, but it is not about one particular person. I think that “I” symbolizes mankind. Miss Smith generalizes, because to her, all human beings are the same, there’s no difference between them. (Which is technically true.) I = MANKIND. Okay, you gotta admit >_> Mankind started off pretty badly…endless wars, merciless killings and the “I have more land than you, so I’m more awesome! ” concept. =_= The poem starts off my describing the hate, impatience and impulsiveness that harbours in the essence of mankind. It is their instinct. These fabulous qualities, led mankind into eras and eras of endless violence, wars and deaths of innocent lives. *Note, this poem may portray the ascent of man from “hate” and savagery to “remorse” and “joy”, from “wolf” to “man”. It doesn’t take on a very serious tone, all the seriousness if undercut but the bouncing rhythm and the almost comically casual diction (I could not wait for long at any rate)
“I was consumed by so much hate”, the use of the word “consumed” suggest that mankind not only harbours the feeling of hate, but is utterly consumed by it. Meaning that mankind is practically a bundle of hate. They feel no remorse, no guilt, they only felt HATE.“I did not feel that I could wait” and “I could not wait for any rate”, this shows mankind’s impatience and impulsiveness towards the things they do. This impatience and impulsiveness leads to outbreak of violence, as they are not able to solve things calmly and rationally. “I ran into the forest wild”, suggests the rashness of human beings. How human beings just jump into action with no further considerations and evaluations of the situations. This leads to severe conflict which causes the outbreak war, all for the sake of themselves. They do not think about other lives that they are affecting, they only think of THEMSELVES. “I seized the new born child” For me, the “new born child” symbolizes innocent lives as new born babies are just innocent little creatures, they come into the world not knowing anything, completely vulnerable. Those innocent people who were killed by the act of violence and wars (because of those impatient, impulsive and full of hatred people :/) were completely vulnerable, they did not know what was about to hit them, they died in vain. “Seized the new born child” suggests the killing of innocent lives for the benefit of obtaining power. ORit could suggest all the sins that mankind had committed throughout the eras of life. “Just like a wolf. A wolf I am.” This further reinforces mankind’s impulsiveness and impatience. Mankind is just like animals, they do not hold back, they knew no remorse or guilt. Most of all they have no conscience.
Human Progress…aka Evolution Mankind’s progress is relatively slow. (probably because everyone was just to stubborn to change, to accept new things.)The poet suggest that human progress through time is fairly slow, it’s even a miracle that we managed to develop or change at all. This is reinforced by : “I ran wild for centuries”, “I ran wild” suggest mankind has not developed or progressed in any way. They are still surrounded endless violence and wars. “Centuries”…means…a very long time. This suggests how that they are unwilling to step out of their comfort zone and to change for the better. They are still living in a time of ancient thinking, with outdated concepts. “the immemorial trees”, suggest how human progress is taking it’s time while nature looks on timeless, immutable and uncaring. I guess it reinforces how while nature grows with alarming speed, it is leaving mankind behind. “never knew a moments ease” life was hard and tough in those days, with the violence and the wars happening around them. Violence was never resting and in a sense, it is a miracle that we developed at all.
The CHANGE The change >>> The ascent of man from “hate” and savagery to “remorse” and “joy”, from “wolf” to “man”. “The spring broke in” there’s a tone change. Spring signifies new beginnings, to symbolize start of something new. This tells the reader that mankind had changed and developed. They had suddenly developed an epiphany, they finally realized that they have to change for the better. “The drops fell down, I knew remorse.” This suggests that they grew a conscience. Mankind starts feeling guilty for all the ruthless things that they have done in the past. “I tasted the primordial curse”, This tells us that mankind realizes that the way they lived, full of violence and deaths, is a curse. Before hey grew a conscience, they did not suffer. But now when they have a conscience, they know that they were living in bad, bad times. Yet even, this causes suffering to our “poor heart bled”, because when we had start to realize that the folly we have been living in, it causes suffering. “Until at last, I cried on Him.” Mankind had created a GOD to help us put the universe in order. They created a GOD, to project their sins and guilt onto. OR They had turned to God, now that they had grew a conscience, to relieve themselves of the burdens and sins.“And break my head beneath his wing” They seek God to protect them, to shelter them from further sins and burdens.“Upon the silt of death I swam, And as I wept my joy began” Mankind has finally felt the joy of living a developed and changed life, but thinking about the past still causes them to suffer .
The last line– “A man I am” This line is somewhat very reassuring. This reassures readers that mankind have really developed from a “wolf” to a “man”. They have finally developed and progressed after such a long period of time.Through appreciation of what we have been through and what we have lived through, we know we are finally human.A man I am. =) We are just human, after all.
Sorry, if it doesn’t make sense…. >_< By, Denise Lim