All Souls’ Morning by Eamon Grennan is a delightful poem of lyrical warmth and contrast. It is a poem of love, commenting not only on love between human beings but between ‘man’s best friend’, dogs and humans as well. As an Irish Poets, Grennan writes it with a sense of mystery throughout the poem’s rhythmically fast run-on lines and circular motion. Grennan writes in both the ancient tradition of mournful remembrance in attention to the natural world and the modern impulse to seize and preserve the moment.
He is a religious writer and once quoted: “In the poetry I write there’s a certain attempt at reanimation. Particularly if you’re a lapsed Catholic, you look for versions of reconciliation, consolation, something to hold onto in the face of disappearance. . . As far as I’m concerned, poetry is about elegy. Every poem is a memory of some kind, a celebratory elegy. Poems are like shells. Something is gone and that’s why you write.” Grennan writes this poem by working their way from the interior, domestic scene outward, thus successfully widening the scope of the poem.
The title of the poem is ‘All Souls’ Morning”. All Souls’ Day, in the Roman Catholic church, a festival falling on November 2, the object of which is, by prayers and almsgiving, to assist souls in purgatory. Purgatory, in Christian theology, state of purgation, in which, according to the Roman Catholic and Eastern churches, souls after death either are purified from venial sins or undergo the temporal punishment that, after the guilt of mortal sin has been remitted, still remains to be endured by the sinner. From this we gain a feeling of ‘holiness’, but more than this a very morbid feelings are sensed. Although, the use of the word “morning” brings are brighter light to the senary, and the reader commences the poem with a feeling of mystery gained from the title.
Grennan uses the strength of run-on-line device to make our voices rise and fall at different occasions by the use of punctuation and even the way we say different words. Throughout the poem, we are constantly reminded of the lost souls, finding a place in the after-life, winter and death. The poem is written in a cyclic structure, beginning with a soft domestic interior, reaching out to a cold and harsh exterior, and then leading back into the ‘comfort zone’ of the domestic scene. It can be divided into three distinct sections, each section commencing with an exquisite description of a small object, broadening out to a lager theme.
The first scene is a warm domestic one, describing the weather, Grennan’s house and the habits of a neighbour. It mainly focuses and branches of that later point, an old man, a neighbour of Grennan’s, who walks his dog every morning on a “cherry red leash” whatever the weather may be. Grennan uses onomatopoeia throughout the poem to adder colour and appeal to the senses. Commences the poem with the phrase “splatting wet leaves” to describe the soggy weather, the word “splattering” is so exquisite and well used that the reader can actually feel and hear the splattering. Other descriptions used in the opening phrase to set the scene, such as the cat “scratching” the sofa, and the “thumping” furnace, creates a similar affect with the uses of onomatopoeia, and involves the reader with what he is reading.
Grenna has an interesting, but affective use of verbs throughout the poem. The light described in the opening lines is described as “citrine light”. The intricate use of the word “citrine” again appeals to the senses, conveying a clear indication of exactly what colour, texture and mood the light is. An “orange surprise” and the “blossoming” of a golf umbrella from the man’s “fist” describes how out of place the umbrella seems in the bleakness of his walk, yet it once again uses the bright citric “orange surprise” to trigger our senses. Grenna write in a way that makes the reader feel that he or she is part of the scene, and not just a bystander. After the first few lines we already gain a vivid image of the scene – outside the house it is awfully wet and cold – contrasting to the warm domestic environment indoors.
All the exterior description is based on Grennan’s neighbour, whom he refers to as “that man”, by using the word “that” he is distancing himself from the man, and speaks of him as if he only knows his neighbour from sight and not from person, yet he is somehow able to portray a certain ‘bond’ between the two people. “That man” who walks his dog every morning is described in an almost affectionate way. The man’s shoulders are described as “bent” as he struggles against the weather, which is almost a metaphor of a struggle against life; a soul cast upon the rocks, to release its sins.
The use of alliteration is also adopted by Grennan to give emphases on words and slow down the fast run on lines of the poem. He uses phrase like “heavy head” to slow down the line and by using the harsh ‘h’ symbol, thus emphasising the man’s struggles against the weather. “Cherry-red” describes the dog’s leash; it is a quite bright contrast from the man’s dismal walk and “pale hand”. This seems to indicate that the man is loosing his strength, losing his battle with nature. Grennan has an incredible ability to manipulate and change situations from dismal and sad, to warm and happy, and then again to dismal.
The “dark tan of oak leaves” generates a luxurious shade of brown in our minds as well as perhaps associating itself with the season of autumn and dying away. Hence hinting that the dog has been a life long companion. Grennan also incorporates an effective use of hyperbole within the poem. He describes his neighbour’s stoop as having “huge patience”, the word ‘huge’ making that much more impact. The “treadle action” of his mechanical walk is yet another example of hyperbole.
The poem symbolises the journey of death seen though winter, the image of the bleak weather, a weak old man. There is juxtaposition between the “ghostly cigarette, limp between his lips and the “stiff tilt” of the frail man’s head.
The first section directly leads onto the second section. Grennan describes and works with the idea of his father and mother. The relationship between the man and his dog triggers his thoughts of his parents and how they are “bound to one another” and have “been at this for years”, just as his neighbour’s dog is faithful to his neighbour. There is an intriguing use of tense in the next phrase, “When my father come leaning, as he always did”, suggests that his father is still leaning over the fence, yet the next line implies that his father is already deceased. Again alliteration makes us slow down at the harsh ‘b’ syllables of “buried, bent against the bitter wind”. Thus creating a harshness to the line, and implies that his father had to fight nature too, like his neighbour and neighbour’s dog, to make his way home; once again referring to the journey of death seen though winter.
Grennan affectionately uses the word “fusses” to describe the way in which his mother put the tea together. The use of the word effectively paints a hectic scene in the reader’s mind. The use of hyperbole once again present in the phrase “fat raindrops”, it’s amazing how the interestingly used verb “fat” is so suggestive, and coveys such a vivid picture in the mind. Onomatopoeia is then used in “scudding in the wind”. The use of a run-on-line hastens our reading of “hastens after his dog, home”. This run-on-line continues into the phrase “to the wife who, when he leaves her behind him, will run aground with grief at being no one in the world.” This line shows of the love shared between his parent’s, the two people shared such a love that became one. Our voice pauses when we get to comma in “…leaves her behind him, will run…”, which is what Grennan wants us to do, as it gives us the effect of realising that this part of his story is not so warm, and concludes the second section of the poem.
Grennan’s tone changes rapidly in the line “This is the bottom line, I guess” and describes his thought on the general day to day living and its connection with death, once again coming back to the aspect of the journey of death seen though winter. “A bluejay’s screech” shatters the thoughts, silence, and “rattles the skeleton of our locust tree”, stripped to the branches by winter. Again the tone and mood of Grennan shifts and his thoughts begin to dwell on the weather, on winter.
The “grey aquarium light making luminous the air” is an exquisite description of the aftermath of the storm, followed by the brilliance of imagery in “mirror pools of periwinkle blue.” Next, Grennan describes the night, and thinking of his loved ones who have passed away, morning their souls, “hearing them whisper in the wall”.
From that point on Grenna returns to the domestic scene, an immediate change takes place as the cosy household is filled with moment. The tone of the poem changes from the harshness of outside to a warmth of the inside. Once again we see the use of onomatopoeia, “clattering” to the kitchen for breakfast, portraying moment of the house, as well as been direct juxtaposition to the ‘outside world’. The poem ends with the line “The house quickens”, completing the cyclic loop of the poem, and expressing his retreat back into the domestic world.
Eamon Grennan’s poem “All Souls Morning” begins with the notion of harmony and warmth, and ends with it. It is a clear picture of Grennan’s transition through life and his experiences. The poem is dedicated to following the path of love through life, the tragedy that may befall people, and finally the transition through death and passage of souls through the after-life, described so well using winter as its metaphor.
All Souls’ Morning is poem of lyrical warmth, mystery and love. It symbolises the journey of death seen though winter. Grennan, throughout the poem, shows an immense skill of triggering the imagination and sense of the reader, creating a most colourful and intriguing piece of art.