Sudden Spoon

Collaborative Close Readings

Vespers…the prayer of evening

I’m very caught up in the evening/darkness imagery of the poem.

Vespers is the evening prayer in the liturgy of the hours.  (Someday, remind me to tell you of my retreat with the Benedictines and my random canine companion, who always knew when to meet me for morning prayer.)  It’s often the last prayer done in community, with night prayer (Compline) happening at midnight.

If I’ve done my homework correctly, Louise Gluck was almost 50 when this poem was first published…the age I am now…and I keep seeing the poem as a metaphor for that place in later midlife, when darkness is falling and we look back on what we’ve grown.  We have a while to go before full night, but the sun is starting to set.

The lines:

“…who are, in consequence
immune to foreshadowing, you may not know
how much terror we bear, the spotted leaf,the red leaves of the maple falling
even in August,”

are very poignantly meaningful for this time of life.  We recognize the signs of aging and if feels too soon.  It’s also a time when we’re learning that we are fully responsible for our own lives.

I also love the language of the poem.  Her use of alliteration in absence/anticipating and broken/blight/black just carry us through the poem, riding on the wave of sound.

Thanks so much, Nadia, for choosing this gorgeous piece!

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4 comments on “Vespers…the prayer of evening

  1. Thank you for this contemplation. It has been pointed out that this was just one among a handful of poems that Gluck titled “Vespers,” and I think you’ve set your eyes on the core set of emotions here.

    PS: May I ask if the monks wake you up for the Compline, or if you’re expected to keep awake till midnight? Would also love to hear about that faithful dog!

  2. Nadia Ghent
    December 1, 2012

    I love your reflection! I completely agree, since I am at the same point in my life. I think Gluck is absolutely writing about the approach of darkness in later life, and yet she reminds herself that she is the only one who bears the responsibility for continuing to nurture life–her own, too, in her role as poet and creator–in the face of such unrelenting certainty of death drawing near. All that remains is bearing responsibility for the vines, keeping going, even though the end will approach.

  3. trjst
    December 4, 2012

    I like this poem much more when I read it with your take, Paige. Does this mean tomatoes are her creative work? Some crops are better than others.

    • figuringfifty
      December 4, 2012

      Yes, I think so. I just wonder why she chose tomatoes and not some other veggie or fruit. Tomatoes are notoriously easy to grow, I think, so maybe that’s it.

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This entry was posted on November 29, 2012 by in Week 1.
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