AP English Lit
December 13, 2010
Often I am Permitted to Return to a Meadow – Explication
As one sleeps, the human conscience guides the mind into another dimension entirely. The realm of dreams is a playground for the brain and a portal into the turmoil of one’s inner self. In Robert Duncan’s poem “Often I am Permitted to Return to a Meadow”, the narrator unveils his ideal of happiness through the symbolic apparitions of an idyllic dream.
To begin, the narrator clarifies that the poem’s setting is indeed a dream – or at the very least it is not set in reality. It is a “made-up scene by the mind” and “so near to the heart”. The narrator brings up a contradiction when he mentions in one line when he mentions that the scene is “not [his]”, yet immediately turns around to overthrow that statement and say the “place” is [his]. Therefore the author recognizes that the dream is merely an illusion of the mind, but the illusion is so reminiscent of a real place that he can barely tell reality and illusion apart. Such is the strength of the mind of man, the strength capable of bestowing a glimpse of happiness in the off hours of one’s time of sleep. The narrator solidifies the setting of the poem with the statement that the place is “created by light, wherefrom the shadows that are forms fall”. Implied here is that the place in the dream is one of holiness, where bright clouds reign above to form soft shadows below – a heaven and paradise.
With setting established, the narrator proceeds to highlight the true reason as to why the place in his dream is the ideal of happiness. A paradise on its own is wholly capable of making one happy. A paradise represents comfort, stability, and security. But for many men, and evidently the author, that is not enough. The other half of happiness is represented in the dream by the “Queen Under the Hill”. She represents happiness in the form of companionship, a vital component of human life. The driving force that compels humans to communicate with one another is loneliness. A person alone cannot reasonably be happy. But with at least one other individual in one’s life, to share all matters of life ranging from problems, solutions, and even each other’s happiness, one can be perfectly happy. For just one other person to exist in the narrator’s paradise implies she is the one with whom he achieves, and shares, happiness.
And yet, dreams are not limited to displaying a mirror of one’s image of happiness. For the narrator, his paradise is not completely heavenly. It is also an image of the monotony of marriage. It is a place of “first permission, everlasting omen of what is.” And so, the dream is the narrator reliving the first days of his marriage, when happiness was at its peak. But in reality, as the years settled in, so did a life of monotony and restraint, a “secret we see in a children’s game of ring a round of roses told.” The game of ring a around the roses is played in a circular motion, representative of the life of a married man. With only one woman, and only one life to live, life is naught but a circle of repeated motions. The cementing of this harsh reality compels the narrator to escape the circle at nights by dreaming of a time when the circle just first began – the time where he was most happy.