Derek Walcott’s poem expresses love and the grief that results from the loss of a loved one. Although in this case the deceased is a dog, not a person, the speaker is moved to profound grief. An important secondary theme is that death is not only inevitable, but arbitrary. We cannot prepare for death because there is no logical way to predict the fickleness of the universe. Walcott uses the natural world as a source for imagery and for the figures of speech that strengthen these themes. In addition to visual images, the author refers to sound and language. The poem is written in free verse, which uses neither rhyme nor regular rhythm.
One ongoing representation is the weather, especially storms. For example, a terrible storm symbolizes the randomness and the severity of major events, serving as a metaphor for death. Looking out at a calm sea, a person might only expect a little rain, but instead it storms.
The author also uses repetition, sometimes with slight variation. One example is his use of the ending “deep” to emphasize similarities of different natural regions, but then switch to emotion: “it is sea-deep, earth-deep, love-deep.” The speaker refers to the totality of experiences with sentences ending “is all.” The subjects are abstract nouns, such as “silence.” This construction appears several times: “the unreadiness is all” is later contrasted by “readiness is all,” and then “silence is all.” At the end of the poem, the silence indicates what cannot be expressed through grief: “love… becomes unutterable”; “the silence of the deepest buried love….”