Sir Walter Raleigh Questions and Answers

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How might I analyze the poem "To His Son" by Sir Walter Raleigh? To His Son Three things there be that prosper all apace And flourish while they grow asunder far; But on a day, they meet all in a place, And when they meet they one another mar. And they be these:The Wood, the Weed, the Wag The Wood is that which makes the gallows tree; The Weed is that which strings the hangman's bag; The Wag, my pretty knave, betokens thee. Now mark, dear boy--while these assemble not, Green springs the tree, hemp grows,the wag is wild; But when they meet, it makes the timber rot, It frets the halter, and it chokes the child. Then bless thee, and beware, and let us pray We part one with thee at this meeting-day. Please answer addressing theme and subject matter.      

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This poem is addressed to a younger person. This audience is understood by the endearing terms of "my pretty knave" and "dear boy". The speaker sounds like a father giving advice. In fact, the advice is rather proverbial, morsels of truth for the audience to digest about life.

The advice the father seems to be giving is cautionary in an effort to encourage the son not to mix three inappropriate forces. The wood, the weed, and the wag may all make effort to mix together on their own, but in life, it is important to understand when these do not work together effectively. Taking these items on their own; a tree, a plant, and possibly the blowing wind which "wags" or sways can cause incredible destruction. A forest after a storm of wind is torn apart because of the weight of the incredibly tall trees. The same is true in life: the solid in life (the tree) must watch that over time potential dangers (like a plant that could take space choking out the room for the roots of a tree, or the wind which could then blow the tree over when the roots are not very deep), do not extinguish the growth of life.

Although "green springs the tree",

"hemp grows, the wag is wild;/But when they meet, it makes the timber rot,/It frets the halter, and it chokes the child."

This analogy demonstrates the concept of deadly combinations that could happen in life.

The father ultimately encourages that the child be blessed and cautioned (through the word beware), and that the child remain one. This reference to one is an encouragement to not let the individual become three by being overcome by other destructive forces.

The themes of this poem could be destruction, caution, life forces, deadly combinations, advice, or dreadful mixtures.

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