Within ‘A Mother’s Legacy’ Melone explores themes of family relationships, memory, and childhood. The mood is wistful and reverential throughout as the speaker celebrates his mother’s life and the impact she had on him.
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Summary of A Mother’s Legacy
The poem takes the reader through a series of images that depict a speaker’s mother in a warm and positive light. At first, he speaks on the stories that made up his youth and the joy he experienced listening to his mother read them. As the lines progress, he depicts her love for gardening, her ability to make things grow, and important moments both indoors and on the beach. In conclusion, he acknowledges his mother’s death but remembers her with a final image of peace and joy.
Structure of A Mother’s Legacy
‘A Mother’s Legacy’ by Matt Melone is a ten stanza poem that’s separated into sets of four lines, known as quatrains. These quatrains, mostly, follow a rhyme scheme of AABB. There are a few moments, such as in the first and last stanzas where the lines rhyme ABCC. A reader should also consider the way that the lines alternate in the depth of their indentions. This forces a reader’s eye to move back and forth, taking in each line, where it’s located on the pages, before moving to the next. This also creates greater visual interest on the page.
Poetic Techniques in A Mother’s Legacy
Melone makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘A Mother’s Legacy’. These include alliteration, enjambment, and repetition. The first, alliteration occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same letter. For example, “hand in hers” in line two of the first stanza as well as the use of sibilance in the seventh stanza.
Another important technique commonly used in poetry is enjambment. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. For instance the transitions between lines two and three of the second stanza and three and four of the eighth.
Repetition is the use and reuse of a specific technique, word, tone or phrase within a poem. For example, throughout the poem, the poet includes images that evoke a feeling of warmth, life, and love. His memories are rich and powerful, and by reiterating at the care with which his mother did everything, a reader is able to feel some of the emotion he felt during his youth.
Analysis of A Mother’s Legacy
Now I lay me down to sleep –
And so it was, for this child, my hands in hers
Nightly ritual made all worries naught
Countless stories read and lessons taught
In the first stanza of ‘A Mother’s Legacy,’ the poet begins by talking about his “Nightly rituals” as a child and how he took comfort from his mother’s words and presence. The poet makes use of “Now I lay me down to sleep,” the first line from a classic children’s prayer from the 18th century. This line was part of his own experiences as a child, but is also broad enough to where many readers would be able to connect it to their own lives.
Watership Down and Brothers Grimm –
Feeding the soul with the lights set dim
In company of Hobbit and Fellowship Rings
All the glories of wise elvish kings
The second stanza goes into detail about which lessons and stories the child was exposed to at bedtime. He speaks about “Brothers Grimm” and “Watership Down,” both of which, along with the reference to J.R.R. Tolkien, will connect to other readers. From these magical stories, there were lessons, morals, and adventures that were important to the speaker.
Between such tales were your sprinkled gems –
Your love of verse, to you like hymns
But a young boy’s mind simply could not read
That which sage eyes would come to heed
The next stanzas of ‘A Mother’s Legacy’ make clear that the stories were important, but they weren’t the most important thing in the speaker’s life. It was the fact that his mother was there telling him about them. The narrator speaks on his mother’s “love of verse” and the very magical experience of being read to.
Mighty Casey at the bat and the beautiful Annabel Lee –
To you, indeed, poems were more lovely than a tree
Vitae Lampada, Light of Life by name
Play up, play up, play the game!
The fourth stanza of ‘A Mother’s Legacy’ alludes to two different poems that influence the speaker’s life. The first, ‘Casey at the Bat’ by Ernest Thayer, a 19th-century baseball poem, and ‘Annabel Lee’ by Edgar Allan Poe. These two different poems are made equal in their importance to the speaker because they came from his mother. It is here that the title becomes more relevant as well. From his mother, this speaker has developed a love of poetry, and all stories and literature.
In the last two lines of this stanza, he alludes to the poem ‘Vitae Lampada’ by Henry Newbolt. The stanza ends with a line from the poem itself.
Flower gardens, your hands would tend –
Daffodils, tulips, and stems of crocus bend
It wasn’t raining rain to you, it was raining roses down
As April Rain brought clouds of grey over floral gown
Moving away from poetry and literature, the poet turns to natural images to convey the impact his mother had on his life. Just as he spoke with care and adoration for her eyes, he refers reverentially to her hands in the fifth stanza. She tended plants, caring for each. The poet uses a metaphor in the third line, expressing his mother’s good nature, optimism, and ability to look towards the future and see rain as “roses”.
Winter winds brought housebound days –
Canadian rummy and puzzle plays
Filling birdhouse with savory seed
Finch and cardinal, all came to feed
Alliteration is used again in the sixth stanza. Here, he very skillfully connects the reference to rain in the fifth stanza to a discussion of how he and his mother spent rainy days indoors. These were “housebound days” but they were wonderful all the same. They’d play rummy and work on puzzles.
More natural imagery comes into the poem in this stanza as well. A feeling of life, magic, and the warmth of relationships flows throughout this poem and is emphasized through the feeding of birds. They “all came to feed” at his house.
Snowbirds know so well, ocean waves beck and call –
Your favorite beach, sand of shells so old and small
Starfish and conch, with salty essence of sea spray
Bright sun with tropic breeze, gladly fill the day
In the seventh stanza of ‘A Mother’s Legacy,’ the poet makes use of sibilance or the repetition of the “s” consonant sound. It appears throughout these lines, mimicking the sound and movement of the ocean waves.
Additionally, these lines reinforce the feelings of life and warmth seen in the previous stanzas. The ocean is powerful, constantly moving, and remains a solid memory in the speaker’s mind. It is made all the more important by its connection to his mother’s “favourite beach”.
O Canada, homeland dear, so proud and strong –
Scotland the Brave, our heritage in song
The call of lonely bagpipes brought tearful eye
Gazing o’er yonder banks, loch against the sky
The eighth stanza gives the reader a little more information about the speaker’s origins and his family’s heritage. They are from both Canada and Scotland and this stanza displays the speaker’s feelings of pride in both those countries.
McLean in name and kilt, proudly worn for all to see –
Scottish tartan, navy blue and hunter green
Curler’s stone hurled with measured pace
Wielding shiny skates with humble grace
The last two lines of the eighth stanza and the four lines of the ninth stanza focus on the cultures of Scotland and Canada and the bits that have stuck in the speaker’s memory. Part of his mother’s legacy is her heritage and the symbols of her culture. These are seen through the Scottish tartan, its colours, and activities such as curling and ice skating.
Your memory is kept with the legacy you left –
And you sleep where none shall you awake
Glen to glen, purple heather remains in keeping
In the sunshine warm, the still waters lay sleeping.
The poem concludes with the speaker acknowledging his mother’s death and the importance of the memories and legacy she left behind. The last images are ones of natural peace and beauty, this is how, along with the stories and cultural symbols, he remembers his mother.