Kathleen Raine: Poems Symbols, Allegory and Motifs
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Written by Lina Christoph
The Speaker’s Angel - “Worry About Money“
In the first stanza of the poem, the speaker describes to be fighting with his (inner) angel in the first stanza of the poem, the speaker describes to be fighting with his (inner) angel about the necessity to stop donating money the speaker no longer has. It is made clear however, that the speaker’s need to give is stronger than their self-preservation (as they give away everything they have and begin to go into debt to give even more). The speaker’s angel therefore is a symbol for the speaker’s obsessive need to give, which the speaker themselves views as a positive force.
The last stanza of the poem reveals two more levels to the symbolic picture of an angel inside the speaker: On one hand, the speaker’s turn to the bible reveals their deep-running Christian faith, connecting the angel to the religion. On the other hand, the last stanza reveals that the speaker hopes to be rewarded for their generosity, which makes the angel not only a generous force but also a protective one that looks out for the speaker.
Money - "Worry About Worry"
In the poem, money is a symbol for life force. Even though the speaker appears not to care for their future, they are painfully aware that without money their life will deteriorate into societal shame and crime and that only money will make the difference. Not only is money the most important commodity to have, the speaker also appears to view it as the only thing worth giving (as they not once contemplate donating their time or knowledge). This is especially prevalent in the last stanza, where it is revealed that the speaker hopes for a reward for their monetary generosity.
The Angel - "Nocturne"
The poem describes how the speaker images the land of dreams. Central in this image is a tall angel that hovers protectively over the dreamers. Not only do the dreamers crouch at the angel’s feet, it also is in charge of overseeing the time of night. The angel is symbolic for a greater power (likely God) that is both benevolent and powerful. However, the angel’s power is limited (it has no control over where the butterflies fly, so little so that they can actually get lost) and thus reveals that the speaker is doubting God’s omnipresence and almighty power.
Butterflies - "Nocturne"
In the poem butterflies are symbolic for dreams. The speaker describes how each sleeper has a butterfly emerging from them that flies out to find dreams (both good and bad). The bodies of the sleeping people are describes as “wingless” (line 8) which emphasizes the importance of dreams being able to ‘fly’ and not be dragged down. The symbol of the butterfly also makes clear that the speaker believes that dreams arise out of something, as a butterfly does out of a cocoon. The butterflies are describes as highly precious beings, with fragile wings, that can get lost somewhere in the darkness.
Islands of the Blest - "Nocturne"
In the last line of the poem, the speaker describes the “islands of the blest” (l. 14) that is apparently the place every butterfly is attempting to reach. However, it is surrounded by waves, far away from the world and the description of “somewhere” (l. 14) implies that no one really knows where it is exactly. The symbol of the island here stands for the mental peace that can be found in dreams. Isolated and floating (thus not being weighed down like the “wingless” bodies in line 8), the islands are a sanctuary, everyone is trying to reach. The way however, is difficult and one might get distracted by other pleasures (such as the “day’s shores” in line 11) or lost in darkness.
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