The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“The Airy Tomb” begins with the phrase “Twm was a dunce at school” and describes in the first stanza what Twm cared for instead of school: the noise and motion of birds and the land around him. Though the first stanza contains the word “I,” thus establishing the presence of a speaker who is narrating the poem, the speaker remains largely absent from the poem, occasionally asking the reader for a judgment but for the most part describing what Twm did and what his world was like. The language is simple, consisting of phrases with nouns and strong verbs rather than extensive descriptive adjectives or metaphor.

The poem’s second stanza describes Twm’s work on a farm among the hills once he leaves school; he is more comfortable among the animals and the harsh working conditions than he was in the classroom. The third stanza tells of his father’s death, and the fourth of his mother’s. In the fifth stanza the poem shifts slightly from the narrative of what has happened and asks the reader to participate; the first lines are, “Can you picture Tomos now, in the house alone,/ The room silent, and the last mourner gone/ Down the hill pathway?” This question is followed by two others asking what Twm did, a device that allows the reader to imagine Twm’s feelings and options rather than being told by the speaker what they are. The stanza then moves back into a narrative of Twm’s life, alone on the farm.

The sixth stanza continues...

(The entire section is 470 words.)