The Experience of Loss and Grief in Poetry

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About this sample


Words: 819 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Jun 5, 2019

Words: 819|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Jun 5, 2019

The loss of a loved one will always be a painful personal journey, and coping experience that no one is ready for or can prepare for till it happens. The after effect or grief is always personal for everyone that loses a loved one. “The Courage That My Mother Had” by Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost, and “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop are three examples of how different people feel when they lose a loved one and something precious to them. These three poems are written from different authors and have different plots, but they all have the same theme of loss and grief.

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People tends to treasure things that are left behind by a loved one. They tend to cling to those thing for comfort, remembrance, and the experience they had with the deceased. In the poem “The Courage That My Mother Had” by Edna St. Vincent Millay shows the great amount of admiration a child has for her mother’s courage. The author uses rock to illustrate her mother’s courage. Rocks are assumed to be strong and highly resistant to weathering or external pressures. The author felt bad that her mother took her courage to the grave, and she lacks her mother’s type of courage to endure her death. This poem reminded me of how painful it was for me when I was told that my mother died when I was two years old. I remember been so angry with my mother, that she chooses death over her children. I felt devastated, and was so scared that I will make bad choices with my life without her presence. I kept imagining how wonderful my life would have been if she was still alive. The only thing my mother left for me to possess was her photographs, and each time I look at it, I see me. Sometimes, I feel that she’s still living through me. With this experience, I relate with the author where she said, “the golden brooch my mother wore, she left behind for me to wear; I have no thing I treasure more.”

Besides, life is such a fragile thing, and most of it is taken for granted. In the poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” Robert Frost stresses that nothing will last forever. He uses figurative language in illustrating that good things last for a while, and then vanishes, for example, “her early leaf’s a flower; but only so an hour.” Gold has always been seen as something precious. Literally, some people may qualify gold with material possessions, since it is something precious, others may see their loved ones as the gold in their life. Whichever way, it is something so precious to be cherished. In line 6 of the poem, the author says “So Eden sank to grief.” This may be seen as a reflection that the author is in grief of losing something or someone dear to him which I can relate with. My mother is the gold that I lost, and no one can replace her place in my heart. Mother’s love is something that I never felt, and will never feel, because she’s no more to give it to me and it hurts.

Also, one can lose material things that they cherish so much, which may likewise be devastating for them. Most people that have lost a loved one or material possessions may look for a way to deal with their loss, especially if they are so attached to the deceased or material things. And some people may tend to neglect the pains they are feeling inside. In the poem “One Art,” Elizabeth Bishop stresses that nothing is eternal. This poem may be seen as a reflection of self-deceit. At first, she claimed that her losses are no disaster. She tries to justify losses as not something too bad. The first two lines of the last stanza “even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture I love) I shan’t have lied” indicates that she has lost a loved one. Even though she thought she has master the art of losing, but from her tone, one can feel the deep anxiety she must have felt from her losses.

Additionally, Bishop’s ‘One Art’ employs the poetic villanelle form, consisting of two recurring rhymes of ‘master’ and ‘disaster’ at the end of each consecutive stanza. This can be seen through Bishop’s discussion of the metaphorical loss of geographical locations and a sense of belonging, ‘but it wasn’t a disaster’ in comparison to the physical death of a loved one. Therefore, the intentional choice of the poetic villanelle form emphasises the continual grief and pain for the loss of Bishop’s partner and aids to memorialise Messfessel’s death through the repetitive ‘disaster’ to conclude every other stanza.

This poem also reminded me a time I thought I have gotten used to my mother’s absence, but not until the time I gave birth to my son that I realized I was still grieving. I was so happy, and at the same time I was depressed, because my mother was not there to share in my joy, and guide me through the journey of motherhood.

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In conclusion, the three poems represent reflections of loss and grief. “The Courage That My Mother Had” explores the pain and grieve felt by losing a loved one, “Nothing Gold Can Stay” emphasizes that nothing precious last forever, and “One Art” expresses the art of mastering lost. Their connections express the inevitability of loss and grief.

Works Cited

  1. Bishop, E. (1976). One Art. In The Complete Poems 1927-1979 (pp. 130-131). Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
  2. Frost, R. (1995). Nothing Gold Can Stay. In The Poetry of Robert Frost: The Collected Poems, Complete and Unabridged (pp. 73). Holt Paperbacks.
  3. Karolides, N. J. (Ed.). (2011). The Poetry for Students Volume 39: Presenting Analysis, Context, and Criticism on Commonly Studied Poetry. Gale.
  4. Lentricchia, F., & McLaughlin, T. (Eds.). (2010). Critical Terms for Literary Study (2nd ed.). University of Chicago Press.
  5. Millay, E. S. (2000). The Courage That My Mother Had. In Edna St. Vincent Millay: Selected Poems (pp. 45). Modern Library.
  6. Plath, S. (2004). The Collected Poems. Harper Perennial Modern Classics.
  7. Rosenblatt, R. (1995). Literature as Exploration (4th ed.). Modern Language Association of America.
  8. Vendler, H. (2003). Poems, Poets, Poetry: An Introduction and Anthology. Bedford/St. Martin's.
  9. Williams, W. C. (1999). Selected Poems (Revised Edition). New Directions.
  10. Wimsatt, W. K., & Brooks, C. (1995). Literary Criticism: A Short History. University of Chicago Press.
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The Experience of Loss and Grief in Poetry. (2022, March 29). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 30, 2024, from
“The Experience of Loss and Grief in Poetry.” GradesFixer, 29 Mar. 2022,
The Experience of Loss and Grief in Poetry. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 30 May 2024].
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