Mother Earth

Mother Earth

by Henry van Dyke

Mother of all the high-strung poets and singers departed,
Mother of all the grass that weaves over their graves the glory of the field,
Mother of all the manifold forms of life, deep-bosomed, patient, impassive,
Silent brooder and nurse of lyrical joys and sorrows!
Out of thee, yea, surely out of the fertile depth below thy breast,
Issued in some strange way, thou lying motionless, voiceless,
All these songs of nature, rhythmical, passionate, yearning,
Coming in music from earth, but not unto earth returning.

Dust are the blood-red hearts that beat in time to these measures,
Thou hast taken them back to thyself, secretly, irresistibly
Drawing the crimson currents of life down, down, down
Deep into thy bosom again, as a river is lost in the sand.
But the souls of the singers have entered into the songs that revealed them, —
Passionate songs, immortal songs of joy and grief and love and longing:
Floating from heart to heart of thy children, they echo above thee:
Do they not utter thy heart, the voices of those that love thee?

Long hadst thou lain like a queen transformed by some old enchantment
Into an alien shape, mysterious, beautiful, speechless,
Knowing not who thou wert, till the touch of thy Lord and Lover
Working within thee awakened the man-child to breathe thy secret.
All of thy flowers and birds and forests and flowing waters
Are but enchanted forms to embody the life of the spirit;
Thou thyself, earth-mother, in mountain and meadow and ocean,
Holdest the poem of God, eternal thought and emotion.

Literary Analysis

The poem “Mother Earth” is a beautiful description of the earth as a mother of everything, including all the objects in the world as well as human beings. The main idea of the poem is love of nature, and the role of the earth in being a part of nature’s beauty.

The poem is set in an open field with beautiful meadows, forests, oceans, and mountains. The title “Mother Earth” refers to the importance of the earth as a mother, which sustains everything with its richness and fertility. The tone is a little bit sad in the beginning, but turns positive in the second stanza, and culminates in the praise of the Creator in the third stanza.

The speaker is the poet himself, who gets inspiration from nature. The poet starts the poem by throwing light on the role of the earth in boosting human artistic talents. The earth is like a mother who keeps everyone secure, and treats everyone equally. It has given birth to great people, singers, poets, and artists, as it is the “Mother of all the high-strung poets and singers departed.” Therefore, it “weaves over their graves the glory of the field.”

However,a tinge of sadness permeates the poem at the end of the first stanza in that all the songs and tones come out from the earth, but “not unto earth returning.” The poet describes all the attributes of the earth like that of a good mother: “Silent brooder and nurse of lyrical joys and sorrows!” He then references its fertility saying, “All these songs of nature, rhythmical / Coming in music from earth.” The metaphorical language of the second stanza such as, “Dust are the blood-red hearts that beat in time to these measures,” makes the tone a bit gloomy, as the poem goes on to state that the earth is “drawing the crimson currents of life down, down, down.” However, the tone once again turns optimistic in that the souls of the singers have entered into the songs that revealed them.” It states that the poets and singers have died, but their songs and poems are still alive.

In the final stanza, the poet uses a simileLong hadst thou lain like a queen transformed by some old enchantment” to clarify his point. Mother Earth is beautiful and lying speechless “till the touch of thy Lord and Lover.” It is because the Lord has commanded it so, and “All of thy flowers and birds and forests and flowing waters” are demonstrations of life it begets. All these things sing the praises of their Creator as “Holdest the poem of God, eternal thought and emotion.” The poem thus ends on a positive note.

Structural Analysis

The poem is written in lyrical form, with three long stanzas. Each stanza consists of eight lines. There is no strict pattern of meter and rhythm in any of the stanzas. The rhyme scheme of this poem is unusual, though it is consistent throughout the three stanzas. In each stanza only the final two lines rhymes. Thus, for each eight-line stanza the rhyme scheme is ABCDEFGG. We can see an example of this rhyme in the final two lines of the poem: “Thou thyself, earth-mother, in mountain and meadow and ocean / Holdest the poem of God, eternal thought and emotion.”

The metrical pattern alternates and changes form from line to line, but the dominating one is trochaic such as, “Dust are the blood-red hearts that beat in time to these measures, / Thou hast taken them back to thyself, secretly, irresistibly.” The diction is connotative and filled with images, similes, and personifications. Internal rhyme can be seen in few lines, such as in the second stanza: “secretly/irresistibly.” Anaphora is also in the first stanza: “Mother of all the high-strung poets and singers departed, / Mother of all the grass that weaves over their graves the glory of the field.” This repetition is used to intensify the role of the earth as mother of everything. Another example of repetition has been aptly used to give emphasis to the finality of death in, “Drawing the crimson currents of life down, down, down.”

Guidance for Usage of Quotes

This poem can be used as a dedication to mothers. The poet has compared the mother earth to other mothers. The earth has a lot of comparable qualities to a human mother. The poet shows us the fertility of its soil, likens its dust to the red heart of a mother, and discusses objects of nature as its children. Thus, this is a wonderful poem to dedicate to mothers on Mother’s Day to express love. The lines below can be used as a quote:

“All of thy flowers and birds and forests and flowing waters
Are but enchanted forms to embody the life of the spirit;
Thou thyself, earth-mother, in mountain and meadow and ocean,
Holdest the poem of God, eternal thought and emotion.”

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