The Sense of Life in the Poems by Carol Ann Davis, Albert Housman, and by Bob Dylan

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"Tips from My Father" by Carol Ann Davis, "To an Athlete Dying" by Albert Housman, and "Tangled up in Blue Lyrics" by Bob Dylan are incredible poems, which depict the sense of life through human relationships and appropriate attitude towards the surrounding. In fact, the authors focus on such significant issues as love for the closest person or fame while trying to portray the nature of every individual. Thus, the poems present the essence of life and the feeling of love either for people or for such an abstractive thing as fame.

The poem "Tips from My Father" by Carol Ann Davis demonstrates warm relationships between a father and his daughter, who needs to learn some significant secrets about the sky. The title gives a clear understanding that the father plays an important role in the life of a girl, who is going to tell their story. She is a narrator of the poem, but she listens to her father's explanations with patience when he attempts to teach her about the meaning of sky and its use for the future. The words "I want to show you Mars" sound like an intention to show the whole world (Davis 2). It is evident that the daughter knows that everything her father says is necessary to learn, and therefore, she obeys him submissively. Undoubtedly, the narrator understands the significance of the talk presented with a serious manner. Eventually, the speaker perceives a new kind of information as a piece of advice, which she may always utilize.

The poem is free verse without particular rhymes and definitions, but one of the most vital poetic features is the direct speech. The poet applies it five times to reinforce the essence of the father's strength and ability to explain her daughter what difficulties she will need to cope with. The line "this is something you might need" reflect his kind intention to protect the girl from cruel reality (Davis 13). Perhaps, one day she will have an opportunity to apply this knowledge for the sake of her own salvation. Even though the plot is devoted to the father, the tone is rather soft and calm as the interconnection is based on mutual understanding and patience of both characters. Moreover, imagery makes the poem meaningful and complete; the reader has also an irresistible desire to touch the sky and join the observation referred to Mars and other planets. Mars is a metaphor, which is associated with the universe and future life in general. The author also represents the sky as a metaphor, which illustrates the entire world. The speaker tries to emphasize that this conversation is under great importance as it relates to the father's desire to protect his child now. Additionally, the images "the sea" and "the ocean" are precise symbols referred to different obstacles of life, but their implication is to understand how much the father worries about his daughter. Thus, the primary idea of the poem reveals the father's intention to support his daughter and defend from obscurity.

The second example of the life's value and its impact on the fate of the main character is the poem "To an Athlete Dying Young" by A. E. Housman. It also depicts the sense of life related to love but for fame. The poet shows that there is no need to adore life if there is no fame in sport, and nothing makes sense. Gradually, love for life disappears as every day seems to be boring and useless without prominence, which gives the so-called power above the rest of the world. The title of the poem immediately makes the reader immerse into the plot to learn the hidden implication. This accuracy makes this poem similar to "Tips for My Father" as both demonstrate that the main idea will be connected with the protagonist from the title. The line "The time you won your town the race" praises a young sportsman, who was like a hero (Housman 1). However, the word "race" symbolizes nothing more than a regular rush for renown. Thus, the author portrays the sense of life according to personal success and bright achievements.

The structure of the poem "To an Athlete Dying Young" is interesting to observe as it consists of eight stanzas, and each of them has four lines. Moreover, it is full of rhymes and various literary devices including different symbols and metaphors. These help the reader realize the initial message of the plot connected with the value of fame and its influence on a contemporary society and the protagonist at the same time. In fact, the society ignores anyone, who has lost his/her fame. Besides, the title contains the metaphorical element as death is a necessary tool for an athlete, who is unable to oppose the indifference of the humankind. One may assume that death is also a symbol of a new life - life after death depicted in the line "Townsman of a stiller town" (Housman 8). "The stiller town" may be a metaphor as it resembles a graveyard; flowers and shrubs symbolize the victory of the dead, who need respect. However, the words "And early though the laurel grows/ It withers quicker than the rose" remind everybody that the athlete has no eternal fame, which is similar to a gradual process of fading. It contributes to the creation of a sad tone reinforced by the use of such rhymes as "grows"-"rose", "down"-"town", "race"-"place", and others. These build the atmosphere of sorrow and solitude.

In the poem "Tangled up in Blue" by Bob Dylan, the meaning of life goes through the loss of love, which makes the narrator suffer from depression. The poem is a song, in which a man expresses his inner feelings as his love has disappeared like clouds in the sky. It has a free style, and a narrative voice is definitely male, but there is a female one as well. The main theme relates to relationships, which are finished. The narrator also recalls divorce indicating, "She was married when we first meet/ Soon to be divorced" (Dylan 14-15). Nevertheless, the protagonist cannot find any peace, and even traveling does not help his to get at least a little bit consolation. The line "Early one morning the sun was shining" shows that the narrator was happy before these relationships (Dylan 1). The reader notices it and may think that life was full of harmony and peace a long time ago. Unfortunately, recollecting the lost love, the memories bring neither moral nor spiritual satisfaction.

One of the most significant central images of the poem is the phrase "tangled up in blue". It is the most common repetition, which the reader may explore in the plot. Perhaps, it is a metaphor referred to the inner state of the narrator as his past love does not leave his mind in peace. On the other hand, it is possible to state that the meaning of the repetitive phrase relates to the male longing for his lover. The reader understands the poet's intention to express his feelings as his soul and heart are filled with sadness and regret, but life has its own challenges. Additionally, the narrator repeats "tangled up in blue" at the end of every stanza making a considerable effort to reinforce a sad tone of the poem. The lines "She was standing there in back of my chair/ Saying 'Jimmy, Don't I know your name ?'/ I muttered something underneath my breath" reveal that the fate decides to comfort the speaker when he meets the object of his adoration (Dylan 47-49).

In conclusion, the poems "Tips from My Father" by Carol Ann Davis, "To an Athlete Dying" by Albert Housman, and "Tangled up in Blue Lyrics" by Bob Dylan illustrate reality based on human relationships. I think that the theme of love to a person or fame makes the plot of each poem similar as the main characters tend to reach life through its significance. Undoubtedly, imagery, metaphors, and symbols help the authors to reinforce the hidden implication of each plot. As for me, I like the poem "Tips from My Father" by Carol Ann Davis most of all as it refers to my childhood when my father gave me useful pieces of advice.

Works Cited

  • Davis, Carol Ann. "Tips from My Father." Genius. 2016. Web. 29 Feb. 2016. Dylan, Bob. "Tangled up in Blue Lyrics." Lyrics Freak. 2016. Web. 29 Feb. 2016.
  • Housman, Albert. "To an Athlete Dying Young." Poetry Foundation. 1983. Web. 29 Feb. 2016.
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The Sense of Life in the Poems by Carol Ann Davis, Albert Housman, and by Bob Dylan. (2022, Dec 12). Retrieved June 20, 2024 , from
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