Here is an analysis of the poem Images by English writer and poet Richard Aldington. Born Edward Godfree Aldington, he is best known for his poetry dealing with World War I. Aldington served in the war until he was wounded on the Western Front. The war haunted him the rest of his life, and Aldington probably suffered from what is today referred to as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Aldington was part of the Imagist group, which was a group of poets who favored language and imagery that were sharp and specific. Aldington was a prolific writer who was considered by many to be angry and overly critical of others. He was included in the Great War poets memorial at Westminster Abbey in 1985.
Summary of Images
Images is the quintessential poem of the Imagist movement, combining vivid imagery with precise diction. Aldington separates his poem into six stanzas of varying length, each containing between three and five lines. The poem does not rhyme or have a set meter, probably because it does not need to utilize such poetic devices—the imagery conveys all that is necessary. Aldington uses vivid scenes of nature to compare the way he feels for his lover. His imagery includes a gondola floating through the waters of Venice to the red deer on the mountainside and a flower battling back to life after harsh winds.
Analysis of Images
Aldington opens his poem, which can be read in full here, with a simile, comparing a Venetian gondola floating in the water to the way in which the speaker’s lover floated into his heart. The speaker reveals very intimate details about his personality in this first stanza, openly admitting that his life, up until this point, it seems, has been isolated and desolate. These lines convey the sense that the speaker has allowed very few people to enter his “desolate city,” but the exquisiteness of the person to whom the speaker is addressing the poem has completely won him over, and he has allowed his lover to enter a place no one has ever been. Aldington also juxtaposes the speaker and his lover in this poem, using precise diction to convey their differences. The speaker describes the dank canals of Venice and his desolate city, yet he uses a word with positive connotations, exquisite, to describe his lover.
In the second stanza, Aldington utilizes precise images found in nature to express the speaker’s love for his mistress. Here, the speaker is emphasizing the cyclical pattern found in both nature and the love he feels. The blue smoke in the sky disappears just like a group of birds does; likewise, the speaker’s love advances toward his mistress, then vanishes and renews itself again. Aldington also uses a simile to compare the blue smoke the speaker sees to a group of vanishing birds.
The third stanza continues with absolutely beautiful imagery that the speaker compares to his love. The speaker depicts a beautiful scene and tells his lover that is what she is to him. Aldington’s diction is superior in this stanza; instead of just a yellow moon, Aldington describes the orb as rose-yellow, and instead of the sunset being right red or orange, it is vermilion, a brilliant red. The moon and the sun, two celestial beings that have been written about for ages, perfectly capture the way in which the speaker sees his lover.
The fourth stanza is one of Aldington’s longest at five lines. Here, he creates a juxtaposition between the two ways a tree is perceived. In the evening, a beech tree is standing still, yet it shudders and rids itself of its leaves, seeming to fear the night. The speaker says that just like the tree, his love is also still and trembling.
There is a fleeting nature to the fifth stanza, as the speaker admits his desires have run with the red deer. It is unclear at this point if the speaker’s desires for his mistress have fled for good, or whether it is temporary, proving that even love can have an ebb and flow to it.
In the sixth and final stanza, the speaker makes it clear that he still loves his mistress, but she seems to be the one who has fled. Aldington writes:
The speaker compares his heart filling with tears to a flower that has been both shaken by the winds and is slowly filling with rain. The speaker also calls his lover Foam-Driver and Wind-of-the-Vineyards, which conveys the power the mistress has over the speaker. She controls the foam on the ocean; she is the wind on the vineyards. His heart has been shaken by her time and again, and the tears that are filling it will certainly come again at some point. Indeed, the speaker admits that this will continue to happen until she returns to him. The poem ends, and the reader is left to wonder if and when the speaker’s mistress will ever return again; however, one can assume that since Aldington has used several instances of the cycles found in nature, eventually, the speaker’s lover will come back to him.
Historical Significance of Images
Images would definitely be classified as one of Aldington’s love poems. Aldington had several significant love affairs during his lifetime, and he was married several times. He married fellow poet Hilda Doolittle in 1913, but their marriage ended in divorce in 1938. He later married again, but not before he had several love affairs in between. Clearly, this poem is very personal and an intimate look into how Aldington felt about a woman he loved very deeply.