The speaker is also the writer of the poem as he does use the word I to identify himself. It is not possible to know from this poem what the time period might be. It seems rather timeless. The language is not very abstract; in fact, it is rather vivid. It is not difficult to understand the context of what he is saying. The word choice is generally conversational.
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The tone of the poem does change from the beginning to the end. In the beginning, the writer is just telling us what happened, and he only got a glimpse of the dog’s body, but as the poem goes on and his dad brings him home to bury, sadness creeps into the story. He is able to use the tone of the poem and the fact that there are many things to talk about other than the dog to distance himself. It, for example, is easier to say “twined with another odor heavier still” than to talk about the fact that the dog was dead, and he could tell from the smell.
The tension comes from the fact that he knows that is his dog, but he really does not want to see it too close, and the dog has been missing for five days, so now he knows where he is. If he doesn’t notice too much, he won’t be really sad, but all that changes when dad brings him home. The reader has some tension because the visualization of the dog is actually pretty clear. We know the flies have been on him a few days, and we know his tongue is missing. It is not hard to imagine from the description of what he looks like. In fact, if you have ever been around a dead animal, you can almost smell him. He does not tell us about some of the images, such as the purification of the maggots from the flies.
Something happened that we do not know about. Something that makes the writer feel guilty. When he says, “I dreamt the past was never past redeeming,” he is saying that he will not be forgiven for something. Is it because his dog died? Maybe, but it seems that it is something else. He just didn’t do everything his dog needed. He is asking for a pardon for the things that he has done, even though in his dream it was not possible, He was now mourning for the lost dog that he loved.
It seems that the writer shows us rather than telling us. He says, “In the carnal sun, clothed in a hymn of flies,” which is very visual, “the death was breeding in his lively eyes.” In the second passage, we can see that the life has gone out of what was originally lively eyes. “In the thick of summer, hid in a clump of pine.” You know it is warm, and it seems humid, and his dog is down in some pine needles.
There are many concrete images. These include the following:
- The dog has been gone 5 days.
- The dog died.
- The dog is lying in a mound of pine needles and honeysuckle vines.
- His dad buries him in a grassy area in the yard.
- The boy dreams of his dog going to heaven.
In conclusion, this is a sad poem as we have all lost a pet, I would imagine. It is fearful for a child to confront death and that has happened here. Worse, the dog hadn’t just died so there was visual difficulty and a smell and therefore the need not to get to close. He was afraid too so he really did not want to confront this death alone. We all feel guilty when a pet dies because we can never have done everything we might have. It really was an interesting poem and this writer enjoyed it.