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Souvenir of the Ancient World
Saturday, 23 June 2007
Souvenir of the Ancient World
Clara strolled in the garden with the children.
The sky was green over the grass,
the water was golden under the bridges,
other elements were blue and rose and orange,
a policeman smiled, bicycles passed,
a girl stepped onto the lawn to catch a bird,
the whole world--Germany, China--
all was quiet around Clara.

The children looked at the sky: it was not forbidden.
Mouth, nose, eyes were open. There was no danger.
What Clara feared were the flu, the heat, the insects.
Clara feared missing the eleven o'clock trolley:
She waited for letters slow to arrive,
She couldn't always wear a new dress. But she strolled in the garden,
in the morning!
They had gardens, they had mornings in those days!

Mark Strand's translation of Andrade's poem "Souvenir of the Ancient World" is a very descriptive poem full of detailed imagery and a rich tone. The first stanza has quite an optimistic and bright tone about it, with the usage of words such as "green," "golden," "rose," and "orange." These colors are those of the spring season and images of "garden" and "grass" create a bouncy overall tone. Verb choice also contributes to this optimistic tone, for "strolled" provides the image of a young child happily wandering around the green garden. While reading this stanza, the reader can also imagine a calm and serene scene, in which "all was quiet around Clara" with the blue sky and the golden water. The second stanza further provides rich imagery and a limitlessly bright tone. The reader can easily imagine young children looking at the sky, which "was not forbidden." Words such as "open" and "morning" also contribute to a bright overall tone of the poem. The second stanza seems to emphasize that the sky is not the limit and there are endless opportunities provided for the children to grow up. The things that Clara fears, such as "the flu, the heat, the insects, and missing the eleven o'clock trolley," further prove to us the trivial objects that characterize childhood innocence and youth. "Wearing a new dress" shows a hint of maturity, but the fact that that doesn't matter to Clara who nonetheless "strolled in the garden" shows the youthfulness of innocent children. What is a bit ironic is the slightly depressing tone that the title of the poem suggests in contrast to the overall tone of the entire poem. "Souvenir of the Ancient World" suggests a yearning tone as it longs the past, and the last line of the poem, "they had gardens, they had mornings in those days," connects back to the title. It is as if the author turns back to innocent childhood years and longs for the purity and wholeness that had existed back then but can be found no longer.

Posted by markstrandlit at 1:30 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 25 June 2007 1:22 AM EDT
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