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Somehow this is an explanation of what love is, paradoxical. This paradox between the sublime relationship of sex to love and to procreation is all one in this small poem and is the true meaning the poet is conveying.
Fergus is at once the symbol and personification of this in the poem, "this blessing love gives again into our arms." (Meyers __) Referring to the love they have shared for each other and the love that is now their child. The meaning here is at once figurative and literal, here is a sense of spiritual love between them all, and the physical presence of their bodies, both at first as a couple making love and then experiencing their child between them as the symbolic and literal result of that love.
There is also a counter play between the innocence of a child and the experience of an adult. In the first few lines of the poem the poet states how he can snore like a bullhorn and sit up drinking while Fergus sinks, "into his dreamless sleep, which goes by all in one flash." (Meyers __)
The sleep of the innocent and untroubled mind of a child, with no responsibilities to speak of and one who has not yet learned the "value" of guilt. It is interesting to note that in this poem both the innocence of the child and the lustiness of the adults are both considered as a natural part of the universe, both in the poem and the world. This poem also certainly reminds us of the connection between the act of birth and the act of love.
This is summed up in the last stanza of the poem. After the couple has made love, one would think that this interruption between them would be disconcerting and unwanted. Instead, they have just the opposite reaction and the imagery creates a real sense of love and belonging in the reader: "In the half darkness we look at each other / and smile / and touch arms across his little, startling muscled body." (Meyers __) Here we mix the metaphor of warmth and closeness with another physical reference to the child's "muscled body." This reminds us that although there is certainly the spiritual side to the world it cannot exist without the physical side.
The total imagery that the poem conveys is more than just a visual one. This imagery, again, begins with the title. We are presented with a couple in bed, in the afterglow of making love. In that first half of the title we can feel that silent, warm presence, that peace and stillness of that moment. Someone, as yet unknown, peppers the silence with the sound of his or her footsteps. This reader's reaction was the feeling of interruption leading to annoyance. The irony of the poem is that it presents just the opposite effect.
Sounds play a large part in the poems total feeling. The first part of the poem is filled with allusions to sounds outside of the scope of the moment and within it. The poet referees to his snoring like a bullhorn, playing loud music and talking with a relatively sober Irishman in the wee hours of the morning. The latter reference is actually an ironic allusion to loud drunken conversation since a "reasonably" sober Irishman is one that has had six Guinness stouts and only two shots of Jameson, rather than the matching six. These sounds however, do not disturb the dreaming child; in fact the poet tells us that they propel him into deeper and deeper sleep. However let the slightest sounds of sex escape the room and Fergus is up in an instant and charging for the master bedroom.
After sound comes touch, and we are lead sensually by the poets diction and tone to the feeling of bodies next to each other, the warmth and familiarity of the couple and the genuine tenderness of contact with the introduction of the child. Then sight, but in darkness, as the couple looks over their child into each other's eyes and smile. The image of warmth, silence, tenderness and love is complete.
Meyer, Michael. Thinking and Writing About Literature: A Text and Anthology, Second Edition.…[continue]
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