“On a View of Pasadena from the Hills” is made up of seven stanzas of varying length written in heroic couplets (units of two lines of rhymed iambic pentameter that are self-contained in meaning and terminate in a full stop). The physical setting is the home of the poet’s father, a man in late middle age. The speaker may be identified as a version of the poet, a man in his early thirties. As the poem begins, the poet notes the subtlety of the transition from night to day at dawn: “No light appears, though dark has mostly gone.” There are no sharp distinctions between one stage and the other, yet there are boundaries and divisions. The garden is arranged in terraces supported by concrete. The poet’s mind shifts to the past as he notices what is not there. The palms of his childhood have disappeared, and this observation gives rise to a vivid memory of walking in this area before the changes. However, images of “powdered ash, the sift of age” suggest that impermanence and mortality had their place in the design of things even then.
In the fifth stanza, the place is specifically identified and the poet’s father is situated in that place, his home, his “phantasy of Paradise.” He is also situated in time. He is approaching the last stages of a life that has included some success but has been ultimately unfulfilling, each “stepgained” matched by a “loss of heart,” at least in the eyes of his grown son. The poet’s father is also...
(The entire section is 558 words.)