Earle Birney's poem "David"

Essay by Shu June 2003

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"David," written by Earle Birney is a very emotional piece. The poem is narrative as told through the eyes of Bob, David's friend. One of the themes that follow throughout this poem is the onset of maturity and all the barriers that must be over come. The tone is a cynical one, when Bob is asked by David to push him over the edge to his death. This poem also includes figurative language and poetic devices that help to develop an element of suspense, complication, and emotion.

Birney has created a poem that consists of eleven sections that break down into quatrains. There is not a set pattern that is constant throughout this poem. Some verses are different from other verses, thus do not follow the same rhyming scheme, it adds the story element. One of the rhyming schemes that does occur in some verses which have the first and the fourth lines rhyming, it reminds the reader that it is also a poem.

Alliteration is also included in his poem. It helps the reader flow from one word to another; "seracs that shone" is one example of this device. There is no exact rhythm in this poem; it is more of a story then a classical poem. Since not all of the verses rhyme or follow the same rhyme scheme it sets the emotion of the poem to a more serious and mature piece then a happy and fun poem. Birney has used the lack of verse to clearly set the subject matter for a very serious and emotional poem.

This piece has impressionistic, decorative, and picturesque imagery. All of these images allow the reader to visualize what's going on and experience the emotion expressed. There are many symbols to help add to the picture conveyed by the poet. The symbol of a bird that has a broken wing and is going around in circles symbolizes that everyone is impermanent and can get hurt. The goat's bones on the mountain also symbolize the danger that is always present in the our lives and paints the reader a picture that danger is even in ordinary activities. One of the similes that gives the reader a very vivid picture is " an overhang crooked like a talon." It shows the power and threat that the mountain gives off. "...mountains...were made to see over,/ Stairs from the valleys and steps to the sun's retreats." Is a very metaphorical image, it relates to life and how the mountains are barriers in life and you can always find a way to get past the barrier. The image of the stairs relates to your chance to overcome the barrier. The sun setting is an image, which defines missed opportunity. The conveyed imagery gives the reader the emotion and feeling of actually being present and climbing along side David and Bob.

The diction that is used in this poem is very effective. There are many geological terms that associate David and Bob's action, with mountain climbing and traveling through the wilderness. Terms like crevasses, moraine, hawks, firs and larches are used in a proper diction. The time that the story is taking place is not really made clear, it would is suggested to take place during mid-afternoon to afternoon. The poem's setting is the rugged Rocky Mountains located in Canada. The narrator, Bob, uses some words that are hard to comprehend, but mostly a dialect that everyone can understand. Bob uses words that are sometimes unfamiliar and seems to be well spoken. This causes the reader to assume he has been well-educated and is from a prominent family.

This poem brings a lot of emotion and complications into discussion. It shows that everyone will have to face decisions will prove to be difficult, but will be for the best. Birney has successfully created a poem that shows the reader the connection between two men and the complication they must have. The things that are good about the poem are the use of the proper diction and lingo that describe what David and Bob are doing. This makes it easier for the reader to understand, which captures the reader's emotions on different levels.