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The poem “XIV” by Derek Walcott explores the subject of childhood. Even though this poem is primarily monotonous, readers who get the poet’s mood will feel happy. As he and his twin brother gathered around their mother to hear stories, Walcott is happy to recall those wonderful times. Their mother served as the lamplight of those formative years. In this poem, Walcott celebrates the illustrious history of his life, which served as the foundation for his later years.
About the poet
A Saint Lucian poet and playwright named Sir Derek Alton Walcott received the 1992 Nobel Prize for Literature. He also received several literary honors, such as the T. S. Eliot Prize, Obie Award, MacArthur Foundation, Queen’s Medal for Poetry, OCM Bocas Prize, and Griffin Fund For Excellence in Poetry Lifetime Recognition Award.
With the frenzy of an old snake shedding its skin, the speckled road, scored with ruts, smelling of mold, twisted on itself and reentered the forest where the dasheen leaves thicken and folk stories begin.
The symbolic introduction of Derek Walcott’s “XIV” is an old snake shedding its old skin and starting fresh on its journey. The road, which is a metaphor for the poet’s recollections of his or her youth, is marked by ruts or lengthy, deep tracks from recurrent activity.
It then turns and re-enters the forest after a given distance. An allusion to the poet’s mother’s nighttime tales or the folktales of Walcott’s homeland can be found in the way that dasheen leaves get thicker as one enters the woodland. The forest is a representation of historical culture.
Sunset would threaten us as we climbed closer to her house up the asphalt hill road, whose yam vines wrangled over gutters with the dark reek of moss, the shutters closing like the eyelids of that mimosa called Ti-Marie; then — lucent as paper lanterns,
The speaker is strolling down memory lane with his sister and brother to their childhood home beside the asphalt hill road. The expression “the dark reek of moss” describes the scent of moss-grown in the moist nooks of ancient homes, and they like the way the old yam vines wrangled over gutters.
The speaker recalls how the residents shut their shutters in the lines that follow and compares them to the “eyelids of mimosa.” Another tropical plant that closes its leaves when being touched or moved is the mimosa.
lamplight glowed through the ribs, house after house — there was her own lamp at the black twist of the path. There’s childhood, and there’s childhood’s aftermath. She began to remember at the minute of the fireflies, to the sound of pipe water banging in kerosene tins, stories she told to my brother and me.
In the phrase “there was her own lamp,” which is lit at the “black twist of the path,” Walcott’s speaker alludes to his mother. The evening’s total darkness is referred to as “black.” The visuals seem poorly lit or gloomy when the poet recalls his earlier experiences.
With a lamp lit by his mother as a representation of his glory days and darkness outside as “childhood’s aftermath,” Walcott draws a contrast between childhood and childhood’s aftereffects. A sense of harmony is created in his head by fireflies and the sound of pipe water slamming in kerosene containers, reminding him of his childhood.
Her leaves were the libraries of the Caribbean. The luck that was ours, those fragrant origins! Her head was magnificent, Sidone. In the gully of her voice shadows stood up and walked, her voice travels my shelves. She was the lamplight in the stare of two mesmerized boys still joined in one shadow, indivisible twins."
In Walcott’s poem “XIV,” the speaker considers his mother’s literary taste as being like a book whose pages were the “libraries of the Caribbean.” His mother, “Sidone,” had a brilliant mind and a fantastic memory. Her voice was so wonderful and emotionally charged that it might even give her story’s characters life.
In the lines that follow, Walcott compares his mother to a “lamplight” and describes two youngsters who were entranced when she told them stories. They were so intertwined at the time that the poet compares them to “indivisible twins” and “one shadow.”