The Work, Allen Grossman, an analysis


…. what kind of work?

Gut Reaction
Slightly confused if this is a love poem or a call to arm to procreate. Or something else…

What does it all mean?
A great light is the man who knows the woman he loves
A great light is the woman who knows the man she loves
A great light? As in, an inspiration to others? Or full of such happiness that they can’t help but light up the lives of those around them?

And carries the light into room after room arousing
The sleepers and looking hard into the face of each
And then sends them asleep again with a kiss
Ah. Those that are loved up do tend to wander through life in that kind of glow that either makes those envious of love growl bitterly that honestly, no, that’s not what they want in their own lives right now. Or, they remind others of what real love really is. Or inspire people to fall in love. Or, you know. Those kind of couples that decide because they are deliriously happy that they must set up every single one of their own friends so that they can experience such, um. Bliss. yes. Then get so lost in each other that they drift in and out of conversations unaware of what is going on around them.

Or a whole night of love
… stamina?

and goes on and on until
… yep. Definitely stamina…

The man and woman who carry the great lights of the
Knowledge of the one lover enter the room
toward which
Their light is sent and fit the one and the other torch
In a high candelabrum and there is such light
So… those that are lucky enough to experience love can… pass on some kind of wisdom? Know where each other are at all times? Their love inspires others because of its brightness? That their love is something to aspire to? I’m… getting myself a bit lost I think…

That children leap up
unless the sea swallow them
So… they’re a fertile couple then. Able to keep on reproducing unless there’s some accident at sea? What else could sea be here? Some other big event that could deprive us of our offspring?

In the crossing or hatred or war against which do not
Ah, yes. If hatred or war takes them away.

Pray only but be vigilant and set your hand to the work.
Set your hand to the work. Spreading the word of love? Spreading… is love in this instance religion, in which case we’re spreading the Good Word and… being vigilant against things that would counter it? I’m… very lost indeed.

Form – the vaguely technical stuff
Division and order
One long stanza.

Hopeful? Optimistic?

Suggested rhyme scheme
Aside from the first two lines, free verse. Woo!

Similes and metaphors
Sorry, I’m still lost, perhaps in the signing off…

Author’s relationship with their subject
They seem to hold these fictional characters in high esteem, don’t they?

Other points of view (ideas from other sources)
The Allen Grossman website talks about the ability of humanity to evoke change through love

Signing off
What actually drew me to this poem, and forgive my earlier… cynicism? Confusion? Refusal to play nicely? Is the idea that love can change the world. And I don’t mean, necessarily, the love between two (or more if you’re poly-amorous) consenting people. I mean, if we were to spend time actually giving a damn about each other – loving, if you will – then perhaps we wouldn’t be constantly fighting against each other over the things we all, as human beings need. Oil, water, land, cake (… might just be me…)

What really inspires me are those rare people in life that are the embodiment of ‘light’ this poem seems to talk about. No matter what they’ve been through, what hardships they’ve faced – whatever has happened. They are all about helping others, doing their very best to be altruistic (although if you listen to Darwin et. al. true altruism is impossible for evolving species… geek in… geek out…). They care about others, they’re way beyond perfect – but what is perfect about them is that they’re willing to show they’re imperfect – to show that even those doing their very best still make mistakes.

There’s a few organisations out there, and individuals, that are such ‘lights’, and if I ever stop dithering and start living, I would very much like to be that kind of person to affect change just by kindness – love – for other people.



Poetry Foundation

When I read this I think of the song… had to do it… All you need is love


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