My Mother

My Mother

Claude McKay

I

Reg wished me to go with him to the field,
I paused because I did not want to go;
But in her quiet way she made me yield
Reluctantly, for she was breathing low.
Her hand she slowly lifted from her lap
And, smiling sadly in the old sweet way,
She pointed to the nail where hung my cap.
Her eyes said: I shall last another day.
But scarcely had we reached the distant place,
When o’er the hills we heard a faint bell ringing;
A boy came running up with frightened face;
We knew the fatal news that he was bringing.
I heard him listlessly, without a moan,
Although the only one I loved was gone.

II
The dawn departs, the morning is begun,
The trades come whispering from off the seas,
The fields of corn are golden in the sun,
The dark-brown tassels fluttering in the breeze;
The bell is sounding and the children pass,
Frog-leaping, skipping, shouting, laughing shrill,
Down the red road, over the pasture-grass,
Up to the school-house crumbling on the hill.
The older folk are at their peaceful toil,
Some pulling up the weeds, some plucking corn,
And others breaking up the sun-baked soil.
Float, faintly-scented breeze, at early morn
Over the earth where mortals sow and reap–
Beneath its breast my mother lies asleep.

Literary Analysis

The theme of “My Motheris the love of the speaker for his mother. He recounts how his mother’s death distresses and shakes him. Despite this, life and its activities continue even while his mother lies dead in the casket. The speaker, who is the poet himself, felt a sense of loss over the departure of his mother, and this sense of loss overwhelmed him when writing this poem.

The poem is set in fields in the countryside, where children are playing and people are doing their work. The poem has two parts.  The first part of the poem is dedicated to the death of the speaker’s mother, and the second highlights the activities in nature, which do not go through any change.

The poem starts with a request from the poet’s friend Reg, who “wished me to go with him to the field.” However, the poet “paused because” he did not want to go.” His love for his mother along with her deteriorating health makes him hesitant. He is feeling anxious about his mother, as she was breathing with great difficulty, but she consoles him that she will survive: “I shall last another day.” Almost content with this, he goes away, but on the hills he “heard a faint bell ringing.”  A boy with an upset expression brings some news, which the speaker can already predict: “we knew the fatal news.” It is the news of his mother’s death.

Moving on to the second section, the speaker describes the normal activities of life: The dawn departs, the morning is begun.” There is no hindrance to routine life: “The trades come whispering from off the seas,” and “The fields of corn are golden in the sun.” Children are going to school and playing, while adults go on with their work.  Everyone on earth is busy with his or her own life, and the speaker feels that nothing has changed “Over the earth where mortals sow and reap.” In the meantime, the feeling of belonging to the land overcomes the feeling of loss. Despite expressing his grief, the poet realizes that everything belongs to this earth, and his mother “lies asleep” under the earth. This feeling, at least, provides relief to his bereaved soul.

Structural Analysis

The poem “My Mother” is written in two parts. Each part is written in the form of a sonnet containing fourteen rhyming lines. The rhyme scheme is regular, and follows the strict pattern of ABAB, as given below:

Reg wished me to go with him to the field,   A
I paused because I did not want to go;   B
But in her quiet way she made me yield    A
Reluctantly, for she was breathing low.    B

The second stanza follows CDCD, the third EFEF, with a final rhyming couplet, GG. The poem follows iambic pentameter, such as “I paused because I did not want to go; / But in her quiet way she made me yield.” At the end of the both parts of the poem comes a couplet. These couplets form a complete thought, and follow iambic pentameter as in the rest of the poem: “I heard him listlessly, without a moan / Although the only one I loved was gone.” In addition, the speaker uses alliteration in several lines such as the “s” sound in the words smiling, sadly, sweet” and the “f” sound in words “frightened, face.” Enjambment is employed at various places like “Her hand she slowly lifted from her lap / And, smiling sadly in the old sweet way.”

Guidance for Usage of Quotes

This poem is about the sense of loss and feeling of pain after the demise of the poet’s mother. Therefore, he expresses his love for his mother. He also feels a sense of belonging to his motherland, and treats it as a mother. Hence, this is a good poem for all those who have lost their mothers. They can think of the following lines on Mother’s Day, or any other day when they miss their mothers:

“A boy came running up with frightened face;
I heard him listlessly, without a moan,
Although the only one I loved was gone…

Also, the poet feels a sense of belonging to his motherland. The following lines can be quoted to show love for one’s motherland:

“Over the earth where mortals sow and reap–
Beneath its breast my mother lies asleep.”

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