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of Work and Year of Publication
.......“Dirge in the Woods” is a
fifteen-line lyric poem in which the poem's speaker presents his
observations about a quiet woodland beneath windblown pines as the
unceremoniously drop their cones and needle-shaped leaves onto the
it was part of a longer poem, “In the Woods,” published in an
English journal, Fortnightly Review, in August 1870. Meredith
later extracted several stanzas from “In the Woods” and turned them
into three separate poems: “Dirge in the Woods,” “Whimper of
Sympathy,” and “Woodland Peace.” “Dirge in the Woods” was
then published in collections entitled Poems and Ballads of Tragic
Life (1887) and A Reading of Earth (1888).
the nineteenth century, England and other countries were racing
forward with the Industrial Revolution, bringing rapid economic and
social growth and the promise of a better life. The poem says,
however, that the might of all the machines and technologies in the
world cannot overcome the inevitability of death. Time and nature
continue to prune the human race—and do so with cold indifference,
as line ? suggests.
each living thing—a human, an animal, a plant, or a
microorganism—eventually dies, the species to which it belongs
continues to survive. In the poem, the fall of pine
cones from the
tree underscores this theme. Here is why: Pine trees produce female
cones containing seeds and male cones containing pollen that
fertilizes the seeds when wind carries the pollen from the male to
the female cone. After a current of air carries a fertilized seed to
earth, the seed blossoms into a new tree. Thus, although pine cones
eventually fall to earth, their progeny sprout and grow—and life
rhyme and meter of the poem are irregular. Following are the sets of
lines that rhyme:
and 5 .......Line
lengths vary from two to nine syllables, with an irregular pattern of
4, 12, and 15
13 and 14
compares humans to objects in the sky and the forest and to creatures
in the sea. Like clouds chasing clouds, man chases his dreams. Like
the fruit of trees, he grows, flourishes, withers, and dies. Then he
disappears into the afterlife and, like the creatures in the ocean
depths, is neither heard nor seen.
of alliteration in the poem are the following:
/ Not a breath of wild air
(lines 2 and 3
Still as the
mosses that glow (line 4)
its dead (line 7)
life in a race
the clouds chase
in the Woods
By George Meredith
wind sways the pines,
a breath of wild air;
as the mosses that glow1
the flooring and over the lines
the roots here and there.
pine-tree drops its dead;2
are quiet, as under the sea.
life in a race,
the clouds the clouds chase;
we drop like the fruits of the tree,
1...Glow: Glints of
sunlight apparently reach the forest floor..
2...Dead: These include cones, needles, and twigs.
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and Writing Topics
1. Do you like the poem?
Explain why or why not.
2. Dirge has several closely
related meanings. Which meaning applies to the title of the poem?
2. Write a short poem in which nature
mimics human activity.
3. In what ways
was life in the second half of the nineteenth century, when the poem
was written, like a race (line 10)? Provide your answer in a short