‘An Eastern Ballad’ by Allen Ginsberg is published in his collection “Collected Poems 1947-1980.” Ginsberg, the central figure of the “Beat Generation Poets,” worked to change the consciousness and the conventional writing style. In this poem ‘An Eastern Ballad,’ Ginsberg has broken the definition of the ballad form. Ballad, in general, is a long narrative poem, but ‘An Eastern Ballad’ is a short narrative poem. Ginsberg became the notable writer in 1956 with the publication of his “Howl and Other Poems”.
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Summary of An Eastern Ballad
The poem ‘An Eastern Ballad’ by Allen Ginsberg reveals the poet’s extensive use of creativity. The poem demonstrates Ginsbeg’s childlike thought process when he describes things. The moon plays a dominant role in this poem. It has complete control over the sea, the sea too is so submissive. The connection between the moon and the sea is not revealed. The last two lines indicate the speaker’s reverence and excitement over the earth, just like a kid’s excitement over things. The speaker is fascinated with the moon and sea, yet he is excited to see the day break where the sense of dominance is reversed.
You can read the full poem ‘An Eastern Ballad’ here.
Form and Structure of An Eastern Ballad
The poem ‘An Eastern Ballad,’ as the title suggests is written in the ballad form. Yet, the poet, the dominant figure of the Beats poetry evolved during the 1940s, has not followed the conservative form. Conventional ballads are long narrative poems, but this is a short poem, The total eight lines of the poems are divided into two stanzas. The poem follows the “AABB” rhyme scheme. The poem is written from the point of view of an adult looking at the world engrossed and enthralled by the beauty of the natural being. The first stanza describes the dominance of the moon over the earth. And the second stanza describes the poet’s observation of the sea and earth. The shift in the poet’s perspective changes towards the 6th line as he expresses his excitement over the arrival of the morning when the world goes wild.
Imagery in An Eastern Ballad
In ‘An Eastern Ballad,’ Ginsberg focuses on nature imagery. The images revolve around the moon, sea, and earth. In the first stanza, the speaker says, “She moves in thought she cannot speak,” that discloses the paradoxical nature of the moon, that lacks control over itself. In the second stanza, the images, “the sea so deep” and “The earth so dark” mentions the dominance of the moon over sea and earth. The sea and its tidings are controlled by the moon. The concept of “darkness” and “sleep” associates the moon’s dominance over the earth, which happens only during the night time.
Symbolism in An Eastern Ballad
Symbols are used to represent the theme and motif of the speaker. Often symbols convey the message the poet intended to reveal through literature. In the poem ‘An Eastern Ballad,’ we could see two symbols being used by the poet: the moon and the sea. The moon present in the first stanza symbolizes the dominance of the moon over the sea and earth. Whereas, the sea symbolizes the submissive nature being “sea do deep,” especially some of the people in the society. The complete dominance of the moon makes it impossible for the sea to be an individual and break free. As Wordsworth concludes his poem ‘Ode to the West Wind,’ with “If Winter comes can be spring be far behind,” similarly Ginsberg says “I wake to see the world go wild.” Apparently, he wishes to wake up into a hustle-bustle day, despite his reverence and awe of the night.
Theme of An Eastern Ballad
The theme and purpose of the poet are unclear in this poem ‘An Eastern Ballad.’ Yet, we could see the poet’s reverence of the Moon, the Night, and the Day is held within the poem. The poet gives a detailed view of the night and the dominance of the moon above all. But, towards the end, we could see a shift in the attitude of the speaker, for he is prepared to wake up to the busy world.
Literary Devices used in An Eastern Ballad
The poet uses a number of poetic/literary techniques in the poem. The poet has employed a simple language or diction in the poem. Still, the meaning is deeper than his other poems.
In the Poem ‘An Eastern Ballad’ Ginsberg has personified the “Moon” as a girl. “The moon is faithful, although blind; She moves in thought she cannot speak” (1-2). The true love and its perfect ceremonies the reason it still remains.
The poet has employed a childlike tone that is illustrated in the last two sentences. This also illustrates hope that the speaker possesses for the future. There is a shift in line 5 because it first talks about moons dominance and beyond transitions into the seas submissive behavior. I believe there is also a shift inline 8 because it brings the reader’s attention to the speaker’s hope.
Ginsberg uses this literary device to refer to the character as a child. It states “another child,” Children want to see everything and. It excites them when something so simple happens. Ginsberg used this technique so that you can see a different thought process.
Idioms are used to describe how the moon acts. It’s referred to as being faithful although not blind. This means that the moon always comes around and never leaves. It acts as if it’s a job to be there. Ginsberg used this reference because he wanted to make a comparison that people would understand.
Analysis of An Eastern Ballad
I speak of love that comes to mind:
( . . . )
Perfect care has made her bleak.
The first stanza of the poem ‘An Eastern Ballad’ begins with the poet introducing the subject of the poem. He says that he wants to speak of the love that comes to his mind. He describes the moon is being faithful, although it is blind. The poet personifies the moon as a girl. The poet might have written the poem during the night time. He compares the way the moon moves around to a girl who moves with the thought that she cannot speak out. The moon seems to be gloomy for the perfect love it has. The shift in the subject appears at the end of this stanza.
I never dreamed the sea so deep,
( . . . )
I wake to see the world go wild.
The second stanza of the poem ‘An Eastern Ballad’ delves deep into the poet’s opinion of the sea. He states that he has never dreamt of the depth of the sea. The absence of the moon is reflected in the line “The earth so dark.” He states that the earth remains dark during the time he is asleep. In the lines follows, he comments on the transformation he gets. He has become another child thinking of this love between the moon and the sea. The perspective of the poet’s mind, like a child, explores new things. As he wakes up in the morning, the poet is excited to see the world going wild.
Nature worshiping is a very common aspect of poetry writing. There are many poets and poems that exalts the beauty of nature. Some of the poems that can be read are: “Stopping by Woods on Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth, and “Thanatopsis“ by William Cullen Bryant. Other articles that can be read are: “Ballad of Worldly Wealth” by Andrew Lang, “Ballad of Birmingham” by Dudley Randall, and “Death and the Moon” by Carol Ann Duffy.