In "I Think Continually of Those Who Were Truly Great," what is the connotative meaning of grave, and how does it impact the poem?In terms of connotative and denonative meanings, how does the word...

In "I Think Continually of Those Who Were Truly Great," what is the connotative meaning of grave, and how does it impact the poem?

In terms of connotative and denonative meanings, how does the word grave have connotative implications in addition to its primary denonation? How does it impact the poem?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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The second stanza of "I Think Continually of Those Who Were Truly Great" has a change of tone from the first stanza, becoming more somber, whereas stanza one is more celebratory with "suns / Endless and singing." The word "grave" thus appropriately appears in line five of this second stanza.

Lines four and five are interesting for several reasons. First, line four breaks with the rules of English grammar in ways that aren't accounted for by metaphor and other literary devices, such as the personification of line five. Line four says "in the morning simple light." This, as it stands, is grammatically meaningless--which is not to say it is poetically meaningless. To convey grammatical meaning in English the line needs to read "in the morning's simple light," as a possessive, or "in the mourning simple light," with "morning" replaced by a homonym. This rhyming scheme of playing with sounds and homonym meaning sets the stage for the upcoming connotative and denotative play on the word "grave" in line five.

In line five, "grave" is used in a noun phrase as an adjective for the noun "evening." As an adjective, "grave" has the denotative meaning of slow, somber, serious. So the phrase has the denotative meaning picturing evening as a slow, somber, serious time of day.

When joined with "morning simple light" of the preceding line, the connotative meaning of "grave" becomes clear and a decided funerial meaning and tone emerge: At the end of the great life, the light of the sun of greatness fades to a simple, subdued light of mourning (like an early morning's simple light) and the somber evening of life demands the acknowledgement of love for the great one facing the grave.

So the denotative meaning of the adjective "grave" suggests other connotative meanings to paint a visual and emotional image of death and loss--a tightening of the chest with the end of greatness.

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