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Please comment on the following lines from "A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a...

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khanaa | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted September 15, 2011 at 5:40 PM via web

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Please comment on the following lines from "A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London."

The majesty and burning of the child's death.

I shall not murder

The mankind of her going with a grave truth

Nor blaspheme down the stations of the breath

With any further

Elegy of innocence and youth

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 15, 2011 at 7:09 PM (Answer #1)

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It is important to realise that this poem, in spite of its title, is more about the poet's own reflections on death and what happens to us when we die than it is about the poor girl who died in the fire. The quote you have cited comes from stanza three in this powerful poem, and just after the speaker has expressed his belief of what happens to us when we die. When we "shuffle our mortal coil," according to the speaker, we become part of nature again, and thus death is actually an incredibly dynamic process where our life force does not die but feeds back in to the nature that gave us life in the first place.

In this stanza, therefore, the poet expresses his dissatisfaction with traditional funeral ceremonies, which he finds meaningless and innaccurate given the nature of what happens to us when we die. To honour the life of this child with such ceremonies is to "murder" her memory, and to try and commemorate her "innocence and youth" is to commit blasphemy against Christ. Our ways of commemorating life are profoundly inappropriate given the poet's vision of death and what happens to us.

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