Death Poems - Poems For Death - A City's Death By Fire

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A City's Death By Fire - Poem by Derek Walcott

After that hot gospeller has levelled all but the churched sky,
I wrote the tale by tallow of a city's death by fire;
Under a candle's eye, that smoked in tears, I
Wanted to tell, in more than wax, of faiths that were snapped like wire.
All day I walked abroad among the rubbled tales,
Shocked at each wall that stood on the street like a liar;
Loud was the bird-rocked sky, and all the clouds were bales
Torn open by looting, and white, in spite of the fire.
By the smoking sea, where Christ walked, I asked, why
Should a man wax tears, when his wooden world fails?
In town, leaves were paper, but the hills were a flock of faiths;
To a boy who walked all day, each leaf was a green breath
Rebuilding a love I thought was dead as nails,
Blessing the death and the baptism by fire.


Comments about A City's Death By Fire by Derek Walcott

  • Gold Star - 141,011 Points Rajnish Manga (8/22/2017 10:33:00 PM)

    A lovely sonnet with philosophical musings about life to redeem the joys of life. Thanks. (Report) Reply

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  • Rookie - 29 Points Simon Beech (4/8/2017 12:36:00 PM)

    Really good poem, I'd never read this before. The most obvious thing as soon as you see it is it's a sonnet,14 lines, but the syllables are always higher than the traditional 10, the first line has 15, in fact. The rhyme scheme is:

    a B a b c b c B a c d d c B

    The 'b' rhyme occurs 5 times and in fact the upper case 'B' indicates the same word which also appears in the poems title: fire. This repetition of one rhyme and one word especually drives the impact of the fire home, it shows it's the uppermost thing in the narrator's mind, but it also produces an incantatory effect, the repetition of this sound through the poem can ring in our ears and consciousness without us being too aware of it, but produces a powerful effect, like a bell of meaning tolling somewhere in our minds. The beauty of that in this poem is that the devastation that's occurred to the City has been brought about by religion also, specifically that of a hot gospeller, which one would usually associate with evangelical Protestant religion, and in modern times with quite expressive preaching that also uses incantatory effects to produce a feeling and a mood and an emotion in listeners.

    This is further reinforced by alliteration (and repetition of) tale by tallow and the use of wax at initially as a noun and later as a verb. Some phrases stop the reader in their tracks, for example, Under a candle's eye, that smoked in tears: is the candle smoking in the tears like someone might inhale a cigarette? Or is it smoking, as in emitting smoke like a chimney, into the writer's eyes? But then how would he be under the candle's eye? The problem of the phrase is not disagreeably impossible, it just creates ambiguity and intrigue.

    Why would our character who is the 'I' of the poem be ambiguous when he (assuming it is a man) says he wants to record events precisely:

    Wanted to tell, in more than wax, of faiths that were snapped like wire?

    He's distressed, of course, but his distress could also explain the loss of his city to newcomers who introduced, quite forcibly, strange new ideas and told the people of the city and the surrounding hills that they were sinners of liars, as later, as the narrator is slowly assuming the information the hot gospeller has brought to them (even asking Christ for direction) he calls the walls that represented the last standing remnants of his city liars. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Michelle Mcanuff-gumbs (3/21/2017 9:51:00 PM)

    Its is about the loss and renewal of faith. Literally a church burnt in a fire and what survives... fire is personified a a warner running mad spreading a hell fire gospel message. (Report) Reply

Read all 11 comments »

Poems About Death

  1. 1. Let Me Die A Youngman's Death , Roger McGough
  2. 2. And Death Shall Have No Dominion , Dylan Thomas
  3. 3. Death Be Not Proud , John Donne
  4. 4. Death Is Nothing At All , Henry Scott Holland
  5. 5. Because I Could Not Stop For Death , Emily Dickinson
  6. 6. A Refusal To Mourn The Death, By Fire, O.. , Dylan Thomas
  7. 7. Nothing But Death , Pablo Neruda
  8. 8. A Poet's Death Is His Life Iv , Khalil Gibran
  9. 9. A Dream Of Death , William Butler Yeats
  10. 10. Father Death Blues , Allen Ginsberg
  11. 11. A Death Blow Is A Life Blow To Some , Emily Dickinson
  12. 12. An Irish Airman Forsees His Death , William Butler Yeats
  13. 13. The Death Of The Ball Turret Gunner , Randall Jarrell
  14. 14. Death Wants More Death , Charles Bukowski
  15. 15. A City's Death By Fire , Derek Walcott
  16. 16. The Beauty Of Death Xiv , Khalil Gibran
  17. 17. A Funeral Poem On The Death Of C. E. An .. , Phillis Wheatley
  18. 18. Death , Rainer Maria Rilke
  19. 19. Death Xxvii , Khalil Gibran
  20. 20. After Death , Sara Teasdale
  21. 21. First Death In Nova Scotia , Elizabeth Bishop
  22. 22. On The Death Of A Young Lady Of Five Yea.. , Phillis Wheatley
  23. 23. The Death Of Joy Gardner , Benjamin Zephaniah
  24. 24. Death Leaves Us Homesick, Who Behind , Emily Dickinson
  25. 25. A Ballad Of Death , Algernon Charles Swinburne
  26. 26. I Have A Rendezvous With Death , Alan Seeger
  27. 27. For The Anniversary Of My Death , William Stanley Merwin
  28. 28. Gacela Of The Dark Death , Federico García Lorca
  29. 29. Go Down, Death , James Weldon Johnson
  30. 30. A Thought For A Lonely Death-Bed , Elizabeth Barrett Browning
  31. 31. On The Death Of That Most Excellent Lady, , Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz
  32. 32. On The Death Of Anne Brontë , Charlotte Brontë
  33. 33. Death &Amp; Fame , Allen Ginsberg
  34. 34. On Death , Anne Killigrew
  35. 35. The Death Of The Hired Man , Robert Frost
  36. 36. Death Fugue , Paul Celan
  37. 37. As At Thy Portals Also Death , Walt Whitman
  38. 38. An Elegy On The Death Of A Mad Dog , Oliver Goldsmith
  39. 39. On Hearing Of A Death , Rainer Maria Rilke
  40. 40. Holy Sonnet X: Death Be Not Proud , John Donne
  41. 41. Love &Amp; Fame &Amp; Death , Charles Bukowski
  42. 42. All But Death, Can Be Adjusted , Emily Dickinson
  43. 43. Death , William Butler Yeats
  44. 44. Fugue Of Death , Paul Celan
  45. 45. If Death Is Kind , Sara Teasdale
  46. 46. Don'T Fear Death , Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Blok
  47. 47. On The Death Of Rev. Mr. George Whitefield , Phillis Wheatley
  48. 48. Death Of A Cockroach , Robert William Service
  49. 49. A Death-Bed , Rudyard Kipling
  50. 50. Death , Heinrich Heine
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