This poem of four stanzas makes an unusual observation about the relationship between the emotions and the language used to express them. The cool web of the title is a metaphor for language itself, which, rather than intensifying and clarifying what one feels, may actually dull or cool the passions.
The first quatrain presents the plight of those who presumably have limited ability to put feeling into words: “Children are dumb to say how hot the day is.” The other three lines name other experiences that induce emotion in children: the scent of roses, the darkening of the evening sky, and the sound of drums and marching soldiers.
The second stanza states that “we,” presumably meaning adults, though it might have more specialized application to poets, have speech, with which to cool the heat of the day, dull the scent of the rose, and “spell away” our fears of approaching night and marching soldiers.
The third stanza characterizes this effect of language as a “Retreat from too much joy or too much fear,” as though these contradictory possibilities were equally ominous to the fragile psyche. Yet such protection produces its own disaster: “We grow sea-green at last and coldly die/ In brininess and volubility.”
The last stanza, having six lines, suggests an alternative to this miserable drowning. “But if we let our tongues lose self-possession,/ Throwing off language and its watery clasp” before we...
(The entire section is 468 words.)