The Albatross

The Albatross

by Kate Bass

When I know you are coming home
I put on this necklace:
glass beads on a silken thread,
a blue that used to match my eyes.
I like to think I am remembering you.
I like to think you don’t forget.

The necklace lies heavy on my skin,
it clatters when I reach down
to lift my screaming child.
I swing her, roll her in my arms until she forgets.
The beads glitter in the flicker of a TV set
as I sit her on my lap
and wish away the afternoon.

I wait until I hear a gate latch lift
the turn of key in lock.
I sit amongst toys and unwashed clothes,
I sit and she fingers the beads until you speak
in a voice that no longer seems familiar, only strange.
I turn as our child tugs at the string.
I hear a snap and a sound like falling rain.

Summary of The Albatross

  • Popularity of “The Albatross”: The poem was written by Kate Bass, one of the greatest British poets. The Albatross is a remarkable literary piece on loneliness and depression caused due to relationships. It was first published in 2003 in her book The Pasta Maker. The poem speaks about the life of a single mother who is lonely and depressed. It illustrates how she manages to get along with life, but her distance from her lover steals the joy of her life.
  • “The Albatross”, As a Representative of Sorrow: The poem is written in a sad tone. It highlights the life of a lady who fulfills her household responsibilities. However, she never receives the attention of her partner in return. The poem begins with the description of a beautiful necklace she used to wear for her lover. This beautiful gift reminds her of all the happy moments they had spent together. It is through this gift she relives sweet memories.
    As the poem progresses, the poet expresses the present agony of that lady. She gets busy with her child to pass her time. Suddenly, the opening of the door attracts her attention. She sits silently and does not show any emotion as the arrival of the person neither brings joy nor comfort. Instead, the person seems to be a stranger to her, and there is no warmth left in their relationship. Thus she recollects sweet memories of her broken relationship.
  • Major Themes in “The Albatross”: Emptiness, sorrow, and memories are the major themes of this poem. The poem presents two things: the joyous and blissful past of the lady using the metaphor of necklace in contrast with the present life in which they seem strangers to each other. The presence of the baby shows that the baby is the only reason for them to live under the same roof. The house is occupied by the people who are devoid of happiness, love, understanding, and comfort. Their joy echoes the past. Therefore, the lady recollects the moments looking at the things she used to wear for her lover or husband.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “The Albatross”

Literary devices are tools used by writers to present their ideas, feelings, and emotions. They also make the poem and stories appealing to the readers. Kate Bass has used some literary devices in this poem to make the poem more meaningful. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been given below.

  1. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break. Instead, it continues in the next line or verse. For example,

‘The beads glitter in the flicker of a TV set
as I sit her on my lap
and wish away the afternoon.’

  1. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /t/ in ‘I wait until I hear a gate latch lift’ and the sounds of /n/ and /l/ in “roll her in my arms until she forgets.”
  2. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, ‘I put on this necklace’, ‘I wait until I hear a gate latch lift’ and ‘The beads glitter in the flicker of a TV set’.
  3. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings different from literal meanings. The necklace is the symbol of her precious past memories while the snap symbolizes the lost love.
  4. Anaphora: It refers to the repetition of a word or expression in the first part of some verses. For example, the words “I like to think” is repeated in the first stanza to emphasize the importance of thinking.

“I like to think I am remembering you.
I like to think you don’t forget.”

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /i/ in ‘The beads glitter in the flicker of a TV set’.
  2. Irony: Irony is a figure of speech in which words are used in such a way that their intended meaning is different from the actual meaning of the words. The title of the poem is ironic as it hints a bird but the poem is about the sorrow of a woman.
  3. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between objects different in nature. Here. the necklace is the metaphor of lost love.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “The Albatross”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are three stanzas in this poem. The first stanza has six lines. The second and third stanza has seven lines each.
  2. Sestet: A sestet is a six lined stanza borrowed from Italian poetry. The first stanza is a sestet.
  3. Free Verse: Free verse is a type of poetry that does not contain patterns of rhyme or meter. This is a free-verse poem with no strict rhyme or meter.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are useful for a lover to express his/her emotions.

I like to think I am remembering you.
I like to think you don’t forget.”