Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 364
All I know is a door into the dark.
This opening quote is declarative. It is the only time in the poem that the speaker refers to himself; from now on in, he will mention only the blacksmith and his shop. This line, set apart from the rest of the poem, has an uncertain quality despite its simple, declarative words: the speaker is crossing a liminal space into the "dark," but we don't know where he is going or what he will find. The sonnet thus opens with a sense of mystery.
Set there immovable: an altar/Where he expends himself in shape and music.
These are the two central lines of the poem. They occur where the octet, the first eight lines of the poem, "turns" into the sestet, or last six lines. The octet ends on the word altar, rendering altar a highly important word in the poem, especially with the full stop before it caused by the insertion of the colon. Our attention is forced toward the word "altar," (the colon insisted we stop before it) suggesting that the sacred is central to the poem. As we then enter the sestet, the "he" in that line signals the move from describing the setting, which is the focus of the octet, to the blacksmith himself, the center of the last portion of the poem.
He leans out on the jamb, recalls a clatter/of hoofs where traffic is flashing in rows
The blacksmith is an active worker but also a man who takes the time to contemplate. In these lines, the speaker imagines him recalling a time when horses clattered past, their hoofs cased in the metal shoes a blacksmith made (the clatter would be the sound of the metal hoofs on the road), but today this road is filled with traffic (presumably cars) rushing past. Past and present come together in this image of the blacksmith, an archaic figure from history surviving amid the fast-paced modern world. These lines show us that this is not a poem set in the past, but one in which past and present collide in the figure of the blacksmith surviving in modernity with his craft.
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