(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

There are four stanzas of eight-syllable lines in “The Age.” In line 1, the poet addresses his age directly and immediately equates it with a beast (“My age, my beast”); this central metaphor sets the tone for the entire poem. He is puzzled about his age and wonders who can fathom its true nature. He sees that the present world is being built of blood; it is gushing from the throat of the earthly things, so that only a parasite is trembling, in expectation of good things. The mood of the first stanza is bleak.

That mood continues in stanza 2. The poet maintains that every creature must carry its backbone and that every wave plays with this invisible spine. He calls the present age an infant and equates it with the tender cartilage of a baby. Life is being sacrificed. To what, the poet does not say, although at the beginning of stanza 3 he speaks of captivity. If one is to liberate himself from this captivity, one must “tie the knotty elbows/ Of days together with a flute.” The flute represents poetry. This is the force that can bring about liberation. The poet again refers to the nature of the age as one of melancholy: an adder in the grass becomes its “golden measure.”

In the final stanza, the poet rejoices briefly at a possible salvation that would come when the buds would swell again and the green shoots would spurt, but he quickly reminds the reader that the backbone of the age is broken. He ruefully calls his age both...

(The entire section is 415 words.)