Reprinted, with corrections, from The Sewanee Review, 1952. Tate's intent in this poem is to dramatize the clash between solipsism, which he defines in "Narcissus as Narcisscus" as "a philosophical doctrine which says that we create the world in the act of perceiving it," and "active faith," a collective faith "not private, romantic illusion" in the nobility of the human spirit as manifested in its chivalrous public deeds. These odes dwelled upon interesting subject matters that were simple and were pleasing to the senses. The leaves, "of nature the casual sacrament / To the seasonal eternity of death," remind man of his own mortality. Homer's passage containing this image is perhaps one of the best known in the Iliad. Example: “Ode to the Confederate Dead” by Allen Tate. For unlike the fallen leaves, man continues to believe that he has a future. Row after row of headstones and spoiled statues 'a wing chipped here, an arm there'. He has lost his creative imagination, the means by which he could transcend the knowledge circumscribed by reason and sensory perception. It is the theme of heroism, not merely moral heroism but heroism in the grand style, elevating even death from mere physical dissolution into a formal ritual: this heroism is a formal ebullience of the human spirit in an entire society, not private, romantic illusion—something better than moral heroism, great as that may be, for moral heroism, being personal and individual, may be achieved by certain men in all ages, even ages of decadence." In Homer the leaf image provides a commentary on the constant feats of heroism which his heroes demand of themselves and which it is assumed they owe their society. However, if you want to, you may know my lineage. The toothless dog is replaced by the energetic jaguar who "leaps / For his own image in a jungle pool, his victim." "—is answered in the refrain—"We shall say only the leaves / Flying, plunge and expire." We are also happy to take questions and suggestions for future materials. In Tate’s best-known poem, “Ode to the Confederate Dead” (first version, 1926; rev. Irregular odes follow no set pattern or rhyme. This ode was named after an ancient Greek poet, Pindar, who began writing choral poems that were meant to be sung at public events. As the "jaguar leaps" we see the lovely boy Narcissus for what he really is. . Order your unique college paper and have "A+" grades or get access to database of 536 ode to the confederate dead essays samples. The most that he can allow himself is the fancy that the blowing leaves are charging soldiers, but he rigorously returns to the refrain: 'Only the wind'—or the 'leaves flying.'" He is aware of the changing seasons—he can see the falling leaves of autumn—but he has lost the faculty of explaining mystery through myth. . By yielding to time and participating in the past through memory, man can at least survive through the makeshift devices of his secular imagination, even in a declining civilization. Its broken windows are boarded. The airy tanks are dry. This section of the poem is brought to a close by the image of the "hound bitch," a reminder of the ancient action of the hunt. The man at the gate cannot identify himself with the leaves ''as Keats and Shelley too easily and too beautifully did with nightingales and west winds." What he knows that nature does not know is history and the pattern of things that comes through the memory as man's refusal to submit to mere despair. That life is not the simple organic cycle of nature but something beyond it. The penultimate stanza begins with a suggestion to speak to the mortal predicament, but the stanza ends in a series of bleak questions. I have read 'Ode to the Confederate Dead' many times lately. Of course, Narcissus by his very absence is immensely important. Its Allen Tate reading his poem Ode to the Confederate Dead. . He is trapped in time, isolated, alone, self-conscious, caught between a heroic Civil War past, which is irrecoverable, and the chaotic, degenerate present. Tate remains a traditionalist in this respect, too, that his poems are tightly organised; his narrators may disperse their energies, scattering themselves piecemeal, but he tries to ensure that his poetic forms never do. He is trapped more than ever in his mind, with "mute speculation, the patient curse / that stones the eyes," and subconsciously thinks of the image of the jaguar leaping "For his own image in a jungle pool, his victim"—Narcissus come to life in an image of suicide, as the speaker tries but fails to find objective reality in the past. "Fragmentary chaos" has succeeded the "active faith" of the traditional society, the poem reiterates, and try as he may, the protagonist of the poem, standing at the gate of the Confederate cemetery, cannot imagine that the falling leaves are the "charging soldiers" of the Confederacy who lie buried in the graves before him. ALLEN TATE (1927) "Ode to the Confederate Dead," Allen tate's most anthologized and best-known poem, brought modernism more fully to bear on American poetry, especially in the South, where a pervasive sentimental/romantic poetics was giving way to the agrarian aesthetics of the Fugitives (see fugitive/agrarian school). . (All the critical comments quoted in connection with the "Ode to the Confederate Dead" are from Tate's essay "Narcissus as Narcissus.") While the poem carries "Ode" in its title, Tate insisted that he wrote it to demonstrate that the form is no longer accessible to the modem poet. Diomede and Glaucus meet on the battlefield, and Diomede asks Glaucus who he is. He was depressed and dissatisfied with New York City. In both Homer and Tate, the leaf image, with its implications of death, is combined and contrasted with a scene of heroism in warfare. . In his most famous poem, "Ode to the Confederate Dead," Tate pays his tribute to the historical South, those kinsmen who had fought bravely to defend their land and had been honorably defeated, but in so doing he does not draw closer to them; rather, he finds himself farther from them after meditating on their graves, for the heroic failure has been translated into the "verdurous anonymity" of death, and the speaker feels conscious of his own morbidity in trying to memorialize them. The alternative to the closed temporal system that he views resides in some sort of spatial suspension, represented in part by the sculptured angels on the tombs. "Ode to the Confederate Dead" is a long poem by the American poet-critic Allen Tate published in 1928 in Tate's first book of poems, Mr. Pope and Other Poems. By Christmas of 1926, he had completed a first draft of the poem, originally titled ELEGY for the Confederate Dead. The first stanza shows a natural order that is dominated by the closed system of "the seasonal eternity of death." In the "Ode" Tate suggests, as he does in "The Mediterranean" and "Aeneas at Washington," that the solipsism of modern man results from the fact that contemporary society denies him his traditional right to fulfillment through a heroic goal. In the "Ode" the image of the leaves provides the answering strain to the quest for heroism in history, in man himself, and vainly, in society. The verse is saturated with a stoic yet apocalyptic tone and deals unflinchingly with the conflicting modern themes of nature, history, death, and alienation. Tate's Southern friends were mystified. 'Ode' is, in fact, structured according to classical precepts, with a Strophe (establishing the themes of the poem), an Anti-strophe (answering the themes of the Strophe), and an Epode (gathering up the opposing themes). Modern man is like a blind crab who has "energy but no purposeful world in which to use it." The result is a constant tension between texture and structure: the language, packed and disruptive, the multiple levels of allusion and bitter ironies of feeling, are barely kept in control by the formal patterns of the verse. Of those desires that should be yours tomorrow. Although it was far from his favorite, it remains his best-known poem. Even Robert Penn Warren referred to the poem as "the Confederate morgue piece." The grim wit of Tate's language—the multiple shadings of words like "impunity," "recollection," "sacrament," "scrutiny," "rumor," "inexhaustible," "zeal," or "brute"—gives these first two stanzas an astonishing compactness and power. Like the Iliad, the "Ode" is "a certain section of history made into experience." 0:30. Those who merely go through the motions of the ritual of "grim felicity" can see nothing more than that "Night is the beginning and the end." Example: “Ode to an Earthquake” by Ram Mehta. Browse more videos. . What history provides is a memory of "that orient of the thick-and-fast" where action begins; but since the protagonist has been reduced to paralysis, "stopped by the wall" (death) and the "angel's stare" (self), he can only hover over the decaying transition point of the "sagging gate," the threshold of initiation into another life or state. Thus, Parmenides and Zeno represent for Tate an objective, "whole" view of life. . For it is at this point that one becomes aware of some sort of community standing behind the protagonist, those "who count our days and bowl Our heads with a commemorial woe" during the public ceremonies offered for the dead. Traditionally an ode publicly celebrates, in stately and exalted lyrical verse, an aspect of human existence; Tate's ode is not celebrative, public, or exalted. The Pindarics are not simply victory odes: they are poems in which a particular hero is regarded as the worthy bearer of a great tradition. "Ambitious November" is answered by the arrogance of man himself; he will rush to his death without waiting for his place in the natural cycle of decay. The lone man speaks for himself, and, if what he says represents the thoughts of others, it is their defeat which he expresses, for they, like him, are cut off from the heroic past and the actual present. . There are many who do know it" (VI, 145-51). Nor can the modernist celebrate the perpetual cycle of existence, a central theme of romantic poets. The stone memorials placed over the graves "yield their names" with "strict impunity." The "mute speculation" is part of the "jungle pool" (a play on the Latin word for mirror, speculum, is hidden in the phrase). We are left with an image of a serpent who, much like the poet confounded by death, "Riots with his tongue through the hush. Good luck in your poetry interpretation practice! If death dominates the first stanza, the self is prominent in the second. Indeed, he told Davidson that writing the poem had been so wrenching for him personally that it dredged "up a whole stream of associations and memories, suppressed, at least on the emotional plane, since my childhood." The fallen, decaying leaves in the first stanza and throughout the poem recall the "grimy scraps / Of withered leaves" that wrap around the feet of the addressee in Eliot's "Preludes" (1917). As the poem develops, it becomes a drama of "the cut-offness of the modern 'intellectual man' from the world." Tate finally suggests, "Leave now / and shut the gate." Shall we take the act, To the grave? Tate's alienation is even more final and desolate than Davidson's, and though Tate wrote somewhat more hopeful poems later, the "Ode" still stands at the center of his work, like Eliot’s Waste Land, a masterpiece that could not be transcended and that dominates his achievement as a poet. The Modern American Poetry Site is a comprehensive learning environment and scholarly forum for the study of modern and contemporary American poetry. For he is not the poet, this man at the gate, but the skeptical historian who meditates on the past of Western civilization as though he were looking at a graveyard. It did not appear to Davidson that the poem had much to do with Confederate soldiers. Tate's poetry, she observed, "speaks of the present only in relation to the past, and his view of the past is the epic view, heroic, exalted, the poet's past rather than the historian's." about Lillian Feder: On "Ode to the Confederate Dead", about Thomas A. Underwood: On "Ode to the Confederate Dead", about Robert S. Dupree: On "Ode to the Confederate Dead", about William Pratt: On "Ode to the Confederate Dead", about Richard Gray: On "Ode to the Confederate Dead", about Alan Shucard, Fred Moramarco, and William Sullivan: On "Ode to the Confederate Dead", about Thomas Daniel Young: On "Ode to the Confederate Dead", about Edward Hirsch: On "Ode to the Confederate Dead", Lillian Feder: On "Ode to the Confederate Dead", Thomas A. Underwood: On "Ode to the Confederate Dead", Robert S. Dupree: On "Ode to the Confederate Dead", William Pratt: On "Ode to the Confederate Dead", Richard Gray: On "Ode to the Confederate Dead", Alan Shucard, Fred Moramarco, and William Sullivan: On "Ode to the Confederate Dead", Thomas Daniel Young: On "Ode to the Confederate Dead", Edward Hirsch: On "Ode to the Confederate Dead". 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