I really emotionally resonated with the fifth stanza about death in Book One. “Death, men say, is like a sea”, the stanza opens, illustrating a metaphor of a vastness that encapsulates people with emotions like “terror” like a deadly storm (Field 8) as it is compared to. Field however, does not follow this up with more frightening images of death. They instead take a different approach that one might read as rationalizing grief and a sense of loss with something more accepting and kinder.
The next part goes “Death is like the deep, warm sand/Pleasant when we come to land/Covering up with tender hand/The wave’s drifted error.” (Field 8). The imagery in this is almost the opposite and quite peaceful. Now we see a calm landscape, post-storm, one that implies the sea of death from before made a mistake in being this angry, and is now guided by the “tender hand” mentioned before. Interestingly, the first three lines also rhyme well, adding to the pleasant sounding flow of this part.
The third stanza focuses on the life of the deceased. “Life’s a tortured, booming gurge” it begins, implying a frustration with living and how difficult it is to be alive. This part also has the same three-rhyme scheme as before (gurge/urge/surge) but this one sounds rougher, and stronger words like transmute, passion and ambition stand out a lot.
The fourth stanza takes a similar approach to the second in the continued tone of peacefulness in an attitude to death. “Death’s a couch of golden ground,/ Warm soft, permeable mound,/Where from memory’s sound/We shall have remission.” The three-rhyme scheme here is much softer, and the Fields use a much more delicate set of words in this part as well. Warm, soft and permeable sound a lot more acceptable and safe than the storm and terror from the first part. This section of the stanza also takes the most welcoming and accepting approach of death too. The “remission” they bring up from “memory’s sound” implies a strong sense of relief for the deceased, like yes dying may not have been easy and terrifying, but in death they have peace from the troubles that plagued them. This is a place to relax.
I love this stanza because it takes a complex view of grief and a primal fear of death, which so far has been brought up previously at the beginning, where “mortal men” are told not to fear grief, and take it easy (Field 1). The sense of loss and grief is brought up a few times so far, and as someone who’s personally grieved a lot about things I’ve lost before, this view on death is almost relieving.