I need help with a crtical analysis of the poem "To Daffodils" by R. Herrick? http://quotations.about.com/cs/poemlyrics/a/To_Daffodils.htm

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The surface meaning of this poem concerns a speaker who is moved by the sight of wilting flowers.  The speaker laments this in the opening lines by saying “we weep to see/ you haste away so soon.”  This sets the stage for the comparisons that the speaker will make the flowers’ passing as well as our own.  The speaker parallels those flowers to human beings in several ways:  Both have “short time to stay,” as well as a “short a spring.”  Both grow “to meet decay”  and when both die, they are “Ne’er to be found again.”  In this naturalist poem, there is a strong link between the experiences of the flowers in the natural setting and our own lives.  This feed into the symbolic meaning where the speaker feels a certain melancholy about the flowers’ passing, and perhaps this is because it keys in the specific feelings of the fleeting nature of human beings.  The link between natural experience and human growth is very strong.  The imagery invoked in the poem is designed to give the feel of something growing and then dying far too soon.  The speaker uses lines like “As yet the early- rising sun/ Has not attain’d his noon.”  This brings out the idea that the flowers died too young, and perhaps, human beings experience the same.  The image of the “pearls of morning’s dew” is another image designed to create a vision of beauty that is not lasting, something that is to be dashed.  The theme of the poem is that there is a short and transitory nature to existence, and like the daffodils spreads beauty in its state, we should aspire to do the same.  There is a definite melancholy tone about how existence and death is an unavoidable cycle.  You might have to assess for yourself whether this is something to be believed.  For example, a follower of reincarnation would have challenges with the speaker’s closing idea of “Ne’er to be found again.”  I think the appreciation of the theme of the poem might be contingent on one’s own belief about death and the afterlife.

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