The Comfort of Death

In the poem, “Death, men say, is like a sea”, Field writes of the comparison of death to the sea. The first and third stanza highlights the negative description of the sea, while the second and fourth challenge this imagery by equating the sea to comforting sand and comfortable land. The poem follows a A-A-A-B-C-C-C-B rhyme scheme that places emphasis on the last line of each stanza. The ending words of the last lines of each stanza consist of terror, error, ambition, and remission. These words portray the widely-believed notion that death is something that is frightening, which is addressed throughout the poem, but then negates this idea and promotes the opposite notion, that death is “tender” (Field 8), “warm” (Field 8), and “soft” (Field 8).

The first stanza compares death to a stormy sea that “engulfs mortality” (Field 8). The use of “engulfs” insinuates that death eliminates “mortality”, which in this case would mean humanity, which puts emotions of fear and resentment towards death for “blindingly” (Field 8) taking away life from humans. But, as the second stanza asserts, death is a “pleasant” (Field 8), “tender hand” (Field 8) that protects us from the “wave’s drifted error” (1.5.8),which are all the mistakes or regrets that one has made in their lifetime. The poem progresses to mention that the real torture to humans is living as it destroys our ambition, as seen in the lines “[a]nd transmute to broken surge/Foam-crests of ambition” (Field 8). The fourth stanza ends the poem by referencing back to the “errors” and expresses that “[w]e shall have remission” in death. The last line of the poem is essential as it provides a great deal of relief for all individuals due to the notion that all will be amended and forgiven in death.

The constant imagery of a violent sea versus a comfortable beach articulates the transition from life to death, as seen in the difference between the two images, but reverses the perceived perception of these two entities. The imagery of the sea is enforced by the s sounds that are woven into poem as well as the rhyme scheme, as the A-A-A-B-C-C-C-B rhyme scheme relays a repetition that is disrupted by an anomaly and continues to in a cyclical matter, almost like waves crashing onto a beach. The poem overall offers a positive view of death and loss, while using natural images to support this view.

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