The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

This short, unrhymed exercise in free verse has the intimacy of a bit of private conversation about it. The poet, seated at his desk at a moment of creative frustration, his poem “thus far clotted, unconnected,” notices a tiny angel hovering above his desk. Whether this is a figment of his imagination or a real spiritual intrusion is never made clear, and there are aspects of the description that possess intimations of the natural and the artistic worlds about them. The “whirring” sound leads directly to an association with the hummingbird, and its robes remind one of the colorful plumage of the tiny bird—robes which are described in terms of art, since Jan van Eyck is a fifteenth century Flemish painter whose work was bright and highly colored. There is, however, another association which may come to mind, getting its strength from the pointing finger; it may remind some readers of those small hanging mobiles, usually made of thin metal, painted gold, in which a figure, often an angel, cut out in profile and with arms outstretched, swings around in a circle, responding to air currents.

The tiny figure is pointing out the window with one hand. It is winter, and seemingly a particularly cold day, as evidenced by the smoke from the houses showing sharply in the crystal air and the haste with which people hurry by. The window seems to be in a house by the sea, since the speaker can see the sun’s cold rays bouncing on the waves. With the other...

(The entire section is 506 words.)