Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The poem establishes a rather puzzling context, like the “dashed” wall against which the beauty of the sunflower can be seen, in which the final lines carry, by their very clarity, comprehensibility, and directness, a force of truth and relief. The poem is also about vision and its problems, about the difficulty of seeing the beloved clearly. The eyes of the blackbirds in part 1 may be perfect, but the eye which sees the poem is clearly not. The umber mark which the poet puts on his beloved’s hand is a sign and token of love, yet it is also a stain, as if he were undeserving or unworthy. The poem as a whole remains mysterious, almost as if its real subject somehow cannot quite be discussed directly.