Wednesday, 26 December 2018

The Falling Leaves Analysis by Margaret Postgate Cole

This article is an analysis of the poem "The Falling Leaves" by Margaret Postgate Cole.

The Falling Leaves Analysis:

The poem is a reflection on the huge loss of life in WWI from a female perspective. It was written in November 1915. It was written during the war at the start really in the first year of the first World War.

Form:

Today, as I rode by,
I saw the brown leaves dropping from
their tree
In a still afternoon,
When no wind whirled them whistling to
the sky,
But thickly, silently,
They fell, like snowflakes wiping out the
noon;
And wandered slowly thence
For thinking of a gallant multitude
Which now all withering lay,
Slain by no wind of age or pestilence,
But in their beauty strewed
Like snowflakes falling on the Flemish
clay.

  • Tightly structured poem
  • 12 lines of alternate lengths
  • Written in one sentence

The regular structure of alternating lines offers one of the first contrasts in the poem. The longer and shorter lines perhaps signify the lives of those fighting in the war with those that are left behind. Soldiers who are fighting in the war have the lives cut short or disrupted by conflict.

By writing the poem in one sentence, Postgate Cole shows how it is one single thought; a reflection on the many lives that have been lost in the war. Beginning with the word "Today" highlights how this poem is focused on the present; that, at the time the poem was written, many lives were currently being lost in the war. The first half of the poem is a more gentle reflection on the falling leaves but the second half shows more anger as it specifically references the dying soldiers.

Language:

Today, as I rode by
Dropping/whistling/wiping/withering/falling

  • Use of the first person
  • Frequent use of present participle verbs (-ing words)


The first person pronoun use in the first two lines suggests that the voice of the poem is that of the poet herself. Having it follow the date, at the start, and the word "Today" shows that the poem was current and reflecting on real events when it was written.

The frequent use of present participles in the poem further emphasize the actuality of the deaths being described. The poet is making a comment on how lives were continuing to be lost in the war.

Imagery:

The Falling Leaves

Like snowflakes wiping out the noon

Slain by no wind of age or pestilence

  • The central metaphor of falling leaves
  • Gentle image of snow contrast with destruction
  • Biblical reference

The central metaphor is that of the autumnal leaves falling from the trees symbolizing the soldiers dying in WWI. Autumn, as a season, represents the natural progression of time when trees shed the leaves for winter but this is contrasted with the image of the 'still afternoon' which shows that the leaves are falling unnaturally as were the soldiers in the war.

The simile of the snowflakes should be a gentle and peaceful image but it turns into one of destruction, blocking out the sun and 'wiping out the noon'. Again, this is an unnatural image that shows the discord in life as a result of the war. The snowflake image is repeated in the final line to show how the soldiers will melt away into nothing after they have died.

Pestilence is an archaic word that references the Bible. The line is another metaphor showing how the leaves should fall in nature by wind but this is not happening. The soldiers are not dying a natural death through old age or disease but are being killed far too early. This emphasises that there is no logical reason for their deaths.

Rhythm/Rhyme

Today, as I rode by,
I saw the brown leaves dropping from
their tree
In a still afternoon,
When no wind whirled them whistling to
the sky,
But thickly, silently,
They fell, like snowflakes wiping out the
noon;
And wandered slowly thence
For thinking of a gallant multitude
Which now all withering lay,
Slain by no wind of age or pestilence,
But in their beauty strewed
Like snowflakes falling on the Flemish
clay.

  • Regular and uniform meter and rhyme scheme
  • The rhyme scheme is complicated: ABCABCDEFDEF

This is a poem full of contrasts and the regularity of the meter and rhyme is further evidence of this. The tightly controlled structure of the poem contrasts with the lack of order and logical thought in the war. The war, itself, represents disorder in the global community and the lives of the men are sacrificed as a result. The regular pattern to the poem offers an ironic contrast to the chaos of the war.

Tone:

In a still afternoon
gallant multitude/their beauty strewed

  • Mournful in tone
  • Respectful towards soldiers


The poem is a mournful reflection on the loss of life in WWI and is, therefore, gentle in its tone. The soldiers are presented in terms of respect showing how the poet is honoring their sacrifice, if not the cause for which they were fighting.

the-falling-leaves-analysis


The use of the word "strewed" after "beauty" shows this contrast between respect and anger as it suggests that their lives were not considered important and were carelessly wasted.

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