Sunday, November 6, 2011

An Echo Sonnet: To An Empty Page


In Robert Pack's poem, "An Echo Sonnet: To An Empty Page," the narrator is speaking to the reader with a desperate tone. He asks the reader what the true purpose of life is, and whether it is even worth it. He wonders if death is the sure and inevitable solution. Through the course of the poem, the speaker doubts life. In the end, it can be inferred that based off the information provided in the poem, life is a gamble, and the only way to find out whether it is worth it is for all of us to take a risk and put ourselves out there. This can be supported by the structure and literary devices in the poem.
            Pack's use of structure tells a story in itself through his use of iambic pentameter. The first quatrain begins the line of questioning between the narrator and the reader. He asks, "How from emptiness can I make a start?" (1) Here, the narrator depicts the struggles that life entails when one is born with nothing. The echo begins with 'start" and goes to "grief." This incontrovertibly asserts that the moment life starts, it will only lead to grief. The next quatrain poses the same idea. The narrator proclaims, "Leaf blooms, burns red before delighted eyes." (5) The leaf symbolizes life, blossoming and then burning suddenly; this shows the flash that life is. The third quatrain asks the reader, "Are you glad that I must end in sleep?" (9) Here, the narrator is again attempting to bombard the reader with questions to make him/her think of life's value. The echo, saying "leap," is again supporting the idea for the reader to take a leap of faith for life. The couplet, however, takes a final and firm spot on the meaning of life. The narrator says that, "I feel your calling leads me where I go," providing a now more submissive and final stance on the debate between life and death. The echoing "go" emphasizes the reader to go and experiment with life.
            Through the literary plethora in the poem, the same meaning can be derived of life being a gamble. The leaf being born and suddenly dying serves as both an allusion and a metaphor to the ancient phoenix symbol. The leaf blossoming and burning quickly relates to the myth that a phoenix would die suddenly and be reborn out of the ashes. Similarly, the cycle of life never ends; one may die, but another shall live. This supports the idea that life is always happening; why not take the risk if there is nothing to lose? The personified enemy, death, also shows the idea that because death if human like life, it is neither better nor worse than life. Again, why not choose life? The tone, in going from doubtful throughout all the quatrains to submissive and rational in the couplet, supports the different opinion that the narrator now has. He now realizes that he must choose, so why continue arguing? He ultimately chooses death, showing the prevailing nature of life over death.
            Clearly, life is something that cannot be wasted. Millions of people every day are able to enjoy their food, their families, and their lives all because they have something that is permanent: life. Life is something that is permanent in that it can never be replenished or regained; it is mortal. Death, on the other hand, is eternal. The interesting question then is: why do people want to rid themselves of the priceless value known as life?

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