Analysis

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

In this poem, the narrator visits a place called Locksley Hall, where he spent some years in his youth and where he fell in love with his cousin, Amy. Although she loved him too, she eventually abandoned him—at her parents's behest—to marry a man who had more money but is, in the narrator's words, "a clown" who loves her only a bit more than he loves his horse or his dog. He questions whether he ought to wish for her happiness, knowing that she married someone with lesser feelings and a "narrower heart" than he simply because the other man was richer. He believes that Amy has become a clown because she married a clown, and the "grossness of his nature" weighs her down and affects her as well. The narrator curses the "social wants that sin against the strength of youth!" He feels that greed and materialism are held in higher esteem that true love, like the love he felt for Amy in his youth. Wealth is prized more than happiness; because he had no wealth, Amy's parents would not allow her to marry him, though he loved her so much and would have made her happy (he believes).

The narrator goes on to lament and critique the state of the world. It isn't only his marriage to Amy that was prevented by her parents greed; in fact, the world only offers good opportunities to those with riches. He says, "Every door is barr'd with gold, and opens but to golden keys." People with money seem to stand in his way, and only people with money have the resources needed to succeed. He laments the greed and materialism that seem to form the backbone of society at large; Amy's parents's decision now seems merely a symptom of the catastrophic greed that runs throughout all of society. He imagines that this materialism and greed will inevitably corrupt the world, causing a world war between the nations. Only after this breakdown will cooler, wiser heads prevail in the creation of a "Parliament of man," a "Federation of the world." Common sense, then, will rule, and peace will reign. In the meantime, however, the world's focus on acquisition and commerce will continue to make people unhappy.

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