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From the Long Sad Party
Saturday, 23 June 2007

Someone was saying
something about shadows covering the field, about
how things pass, how one sleeps towards morning
and the morning goes.

Someone was saying
how the wind dies down but comes back,
how shells are the coffins of wind
but the weather continues.

It was a long night
and someone said something about the moon shedding its
on the cold field, that there was nothing ahead
but more of the same.

Someone mentioned
a city she had been in before the war, a room with two
against a wall, someone dancing, someone watching.
We begin to believe

the night would not end.
Someone was saying the music was over and no one had
Then someone said something about the planets, about the
how small they were, how far away.

Mark Strand

Nature is governed by a cycle of rhythmic balances that keeps the forces in control. Repetition creates a type of mundane constancy of opposite, yet equal forces that can always be counted on and anticipated. All can be expected to work within a rhythmic cycle of perpetual back and forth which can leave many people yearning for the unknown. Many possess the craving for the new, the unexpected, or simply something different than the mundane existence in which they live.
In Mark Strand's poem, From the Long Sad Party, there is a distinct tone of sadness and longing involved with the notion that all will be repeated and that we, as humans can always expect these occurrences. In the first half of the poem, hopelessness is implied by the boring, mundane world of repeated changes. People make comments about the fact that night will always turn into day, the wind may cease to blow, but it will always be sure to return, and that moonlight always accompanies darkness. There is no escape from the inevitable repetition of the idea that everything will always continue to go, and be sure to return once more. This notion of things always following a specific rhythm is always applied to two opposite forces because two are needed to achieve balance. This balance is demonstrated through the actions of night and day, darkness and moonlight, the disappearing sun and the oncoming shadows etc. In the latter portion of the poem, a hopeful feeling emerges through the desire of the partygoers that "the night [will] not end", and the fact that "the music was over and no one had noticed". These minor instances began to give these people hope that things can change, that if they wish hard enough that their dreams of the unexpected may possibly come true.
This expectation of things to come contributes to the general dissatisfaction of humans. Human nature usually leans towards a quest for adventure, for change, and for the unfamiliar, and as Strand states in his poem, people know that "there [is] nothing ahead but more of the same". Routine can make many people feel as if they are in control of their lives, but in the case of From the Long Sad Party, Strand relays the concept that the desire for change is necessary to fight complacency. Dreams are essential for a person to strive for the unknown, whether it is the desire for a never-ending night of a continual party, or the possibilities held within the stars and planets that lie so far beyond our reach, or just simply believing that the impossible is possible. From a speaker's stance, Strand weaves a narrative that expresses this general human understanding that this standard balance surrounds us because most changes are expected, and therefore planned around. When he says that "[s]omeone was saying…" it really doesn't matter when or where, away from this party or not, it is a common perspective of humans that things can be anticipated and many of these natural forces are irreversible.
The controlled, balanced forces of nature are expressed in this poem through the use of unique metaphors and powerful imagery that is characteristic of Strand's writing. The main theme of the poem revolves around darkness and the inevitability of its repeated return each night. Not only does the poem continually refer to the night, but the imagery primarily focuses on aspects of the world within darkness. He uses a lot of metaphors that successfully personify nature as a living, breathing being, capable of deliberate actions. He refers to the "shadows covering the field" as if the shadows of darkness are laying a blanket over the slumbering field. He points to the action of the "morning [as it] goes", for the retreat of the morning that creeps nearer to the time that darkness will once again return to night. Also, he says that the "wind dies down but comes back" as if it possibly met its demise and is perpetually re-incarnated to return to its place of residence. He brings life to the "moon shedding its white" as if it were capable of removing a layer of its white like a jacket and laying it over the "cold field" which is also brought to life by the idea that the field can actually feel the cold and needs to be warmed for comfort. Although not necessarily related to the night, he refers to "how the shells are coffins of wind" which creates almost a tone of death and demise, as if that is where the fragments of wind go to rest in eternal peace within the safe haven of the coffins (shells) and their souls can live forever.
Beyond his use of imagery, he also uses many words, sounds and phrases to carry on the themes of darkness and sadness, and of course, repetition. Many words in Strand's poem can signify a loss, such as "shedding", "pass", "goes", "dies", "coffins", "sleeps", "shadows", and "nothing". These words help to exemplify and bastion the sense of sadness that that flows from his poem. Although death is not a strong theme within this poem, all these words can describe a loss of some sort, not necessarily death itself. He uses many words that have a harsh "s" sound which tends to give the poem a certain sad bitterness. "s" words such as "someone", "something", "said", "saying", "shedding", "shadows", and "shells". Also there are some repetitious phrases and some redundant phrases, both being used in two completely different ways. First, the repetitious phrases are ones that have a meaning of repetition like "comes back", "continues" and "more of the same". These phrases all display the knowledge that something will either remain or return. Second, the redundant phrases are ones that are merely repeated redundantly, like "someone was saying" and "someone said something" are used in every stanza in slightly differing ways.
The structure illustrates the repetition of change through varying stages of changes from the constant and predictable, to the before and after, and finally to the hopeful possibilities of the unexpected. First, the poem begins by examining the predicable aspects of nature: wind, nighttime, daytime, and the moon in the sky. Later, he says that "[s]omeone mentioned a city she had been in before the war" which signifies that the time after the war had been undoubtedly different than before the war. It doesn't really matter which war she was referring to, because any war will create a change in attitudes and actions of the government, and therefore, the people. Lastly, the people at the party "began to believe the night would not end", and "someone said something about the planets, about the stars, and how small they were, how far away". Both these instances refer to the hope for change, the simple wish that the night would not end, or even the dream that those mysterious little planets and stars so far from them might even contain life beyond Earth. The feeling of mystery towards the unknown can generally bring people the promise of possible change, but they never know in which way the change will take place.
People crave change, they want adventure and intrigue because this gives them something to dream about, to hope for. Humans desperately want to break the cycle of stability, and ponder the unknown and what the unknown can bring to them. Mark Strand delivers this message through the use of intense imagery and repetition to clarify the idea of restlessness and dissatisfaction can bring about that unexpected change. If people continue to dream for something different, it gives them a purpose and something to hope for, breaking them out of their complacency to wish for more. Although nature is a wondrous thing, the predictability of the changes within it can lead some to become bored. As long as people can hope and dream, those unexpected changes will eventually take place, because believing tends to make people take action. Day will always become night and night will always become day again, but as long as people desire and strive for more, changes will be made and the simple boredom of the rotating Earth will become insignificant in the long run.

Posted by markstrandlit at 1:26 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 25 June 2007 1:18 AM EDT
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