Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

It may not be too farfetched to suggest that the poem’s meaning includes a trip from the “brink of obvious death” to the brink of heaven, a trip more than hinted at in the final lines, with their “lute and song” and “singing angels.” A change indeed has taken place, physically (the poet was apparently at death’s door), emotionally (the entire sonnet, while acknowledging the grimmer aspects of existence, seems to want to leave those thoughts and celebrate the poet’s recovery and rapturous new state), and spiritually. Though a physical recovery is suggested, the poem deals with events occurring in the soul or suggests the spiritual realm: the “outer brink,” “love,” “the whole of life in a new rhythm,” “cup of dole,” and so on. This dualism is clearly evident in line 10, where “country, heaven” are juxtaposed to suggest their interchangeability, at least in the poet’s mind.

The poet’s confidence with regard to her own physical and mental state seems to increase from the first line to the last. The focus certainly shifts from “The face of all the world” to a spiritual realm filled with angelic singing. Between those two realms, the poet declares that her love has taught her a “new rhythm” and a new way of hearing the music “loved yesterday.” The poem develops an argument that mounts from earth to heaven, reflecting the poet’s own rise from the brink of death to a place where she views “heaven” and...

(The entire section is 478 words.)