Derek Walcott

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Can you explain some of the imagery in the last two stanzas of "The Walk"?

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"The Walk" is a poem about a writer's struggles with the creative process. He finds that this creative process is slow and painful, and necessarily opens up old wounds. He also seems to speculate that his inability or unwillingness to leave his home is holding back his creativity.

In the final two stanzas, the speaker, addressing himself, says, "Here's your life's end, a clump of bamboos ... a track / that hisses through the rain-drenched / grove." This track through the grove is the furthest that the speaker seems able to venture beyond his own home. He can go no further, and this is a symbol of his inability to rekindle the creative process. His efforts to rekindle this creative process always seem to fall short, just as this track away from his home is blocked by "a clump of bamboos." This image of the "clump of bamboos" knotted together serves as an appropriate symbol for the speaker's frustration. He can not seem to disentangle his own emotions, and his own frustrations, and this is mirrored by the tangled bamboos. The image of the "rain-drenched / grove" is an example of pathetic fallacy. The torrential rain evokes an inhospitable, cold and miserable mood, reflecting the mood of the speaker.

The poem finishes with the metaphorical image of the speaker's house as "a lion rising, paw[ing] [him] back." This image suggests that the speaker is like a lion cub who has wandered too far from the pride, and is being called back by the mother. This image echoes the fact that the speaker feels unable to leave his home. This image of his house as a lion also links back to an image from earlier in the poem. In the fourth stanza, the speaker describes the "cats yawn[ing] behind their window frames" as "lions in cages of their choice." The implication here is that the speaker empathizes with the cats. They have the potential to be much more, to be "lions," but they have denied that potential by confining themselves to the "cages" of the homes in which they live. In the same way, the speaker feels that he, if he can rekindle and reconcile himself to the creative process, has the potential to also be, metaphorically, a lion. However, like the cats, he too has confined himself to the "cage" of his own home, and thus denied his own creative potential. The reference to the speaker's house as "a lion rising" at the end of the poem, emphasizes the idea that he too, in terms of his creativity, is potentially powerful like a lion. However, the fact that he can not leave his home means that he remains only a cub.

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