Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Harrison is often a strongly autobiographical poet and, as such, is not shy about the difficulties he had with his parents as a result of being educated out of his class. He comes from the working-class world of northern England; his parents never left the area around Leeds, Yorkshire, where Harrison was born. His father was a baker; Harrison became a classical scholar, a part-time academic, a poet, and eventually established connections in the theater and the opera through his translations of classical and European texts. He had continuing difficulty in relating to his parents as his world expanded, and they, in turn, had considerable suspicion of the life he led, despite his determination to keep his connections with northern England open. Harrison writes about working-class life and keeps a home in the north when he is not working in London or New York. The battle with his parents shows up regularly, somewhat ruefully, in his poetry.

In this poem, it takes an elegiac turn since he is contemplating the death of his father. That death is put in the context of a further theme: the inability of his father ever to express love for his son openly, a common idea which the poet often explores and sees as an example of the stunted emotional lives of the working classes as he knows them. The idea that his father was so incapable of expressing his feelings that he could never show his love openly is a common theme in Harrison’s poems, and the act of dropping a...

(The entire section is 578 words.)