Raphael Armattoe

The Lonely Soul by Raphael Armattoe

‘The Lonely Soul’ by Raphael Armattoe is one that speaks to an emotion that almost every person on earth has felt at one time or another, loneliness. The speaker uses two characters to bring the deep effects of loneliness to light. He addresses these characters in his own mind, and then he relates himself to them. In doing so, the speaker allows the readers to feel united with him and with the two characters. Ironically, the unity of these people who all feel common loneliness offers comfort to them in knowing that they are not alone in feeling lonely. Many before them have felt lonely, and many after them will. The longing for companionship is built into human nature, and the lack of companionship creates a deeply felt void that is loneliness.

The Lonely Soul by Raphael Armattoe


The Lonely Soul Analysis

Lines 1-5

I met an old woman
Laughing all the time,

These three lines of ‘The Lonely Soul seem simple enough of the poem, which you can read in full here. But, they set the tone for the rest of ‘The Lonely Soul’, and they paint a picture of the character the readers are to empathize with. The speaker first introduces himself by beginning the poem in the first person and then proceeding to tell a story about an experience he has had. It seems to be an experience of little significance, but the fact that he is telling the story suggests that it had an effect on him. He tells of an old woman he met. He does not give her a name. He may not even know her name. He simply listens to her as she talks to herself. Then, the speaker offers the setting, which is a lonely road. The characters and the setting immediately create a sense of loneliness which the readers can feel upon the opening of ‘The Lonely Soul’. The fact that the woman is talking to herself reveals just how lonely she is. It would seem that it has perhaps been a very long time since this old woman has held a conversation with anyone other than herself. The repetition of the setting as a road, and the description of it as a country road, emphasizes the loneliness of the woman by repeating that she is in a very lonely place physically.


Lines 6-9

Talking to herself
Why folks talk alone.

With these lines, the speaker turns his attention to the readers and addresses each personally as “child”. This gives the readers the idea that this speaker is one with age and thus the authority to speak on matters of life. The fact that he calls all of his readers “child” suggests that he has lived long enough to view himself as a parental figure. After addressing his readers, he states a simple observation. He concludes that no one really knows why a person will talk to himself on a long road, where there are no other travelers to meet. Suddenly, this road begins to represent life, and travelers the people. Each person seems to be on his or her own road, where there are no other travelers to come across. This produces the intense loneliness the speaker describes.


Lines 10-12

If the road be long
A man talks to himself

Here, the speaker introduces another character whom he refers to simply as “a man”. This introduction of another character gives two specific insights to the readers. First, the speaker does not give a name to the man, which implies that he did not ask the man his name. In the same way, he never asked the old woman her name. He notices these two people, and he even notices that they are lonely, but he never asks them their names. This gives the readers some insight into the problem of loneliness. It causes one to question why there are so many lonely people in the world, and yet none of them seek companionship in one another, even when they encounter each other on a lonely country road. After introducing the man, the speaker says that he “walks to himself”. Perhaps this implies that he was walking or carrying himself in such a way that did not invite others to approach him. The speaker seems to think that the man, lonely as he was, did not invite acquaintance, but preferred to walk to himself. He describes the man as having endured “showers of sorrows” which fell upon him “like arrows”. Something about the way the man carried himself caused the speaker believe that he had endured many sorrows.


Lines 13-23

If showers of sorrows
Fall down like arrows
The lone wayfarer
To keep the tears away.
Woman, you are sad!
‘Tis the same with me

In the final lines of ‘The Lonely Soul’, the speaker mentions all the characters he has introduced so far. He talks of the man as a “lone wayfarer” and he reiterates that he “may talk by himself”. In the same way, he permits the old woman to “babble to herself” as she walks down the lonely country road. Then, the speaker gives his reasoning for pardoning the man and the old woman for their strange ways. He suggests that they are walking by themselves and talking to themselves “to keep the tear away”. Then, he specifically addresses the old woman and says, “Woman, you are sad!” as if to make her face her own emotions which she has kept at bay through her laughing and babbling to herself. Then, he admits to himself, that he is also sad. In this way, he again creates a camaraderie between himself and the two characters in his poem.

Ironically, he comforts himself with the knowledge that he is not alone in his loneliness. These last lines also suggest that perhaps loneliness is only a part of the reason for the sadness of these people. While the loneliness may add to their sadness, the speaker suggests that there are other reasons for their loneliness, and that perhaps they stay lonely on purpose to keep the tears away. This suggests that these people have endured sorrows that would only produce tears to speak of with others. This is why the man walks alone and is uninviting to other travelers. This is also the reason the woman laughs and talks to herself. By talking to herself instead of another person, she can decide every topic that is brought up and continue to laughs to avoid thoughts of tragedies she has endured. In the same way, the lonely man walks by himself to avoid ever having to talk about those sorrows which have been showing down upon him. The speaker, thus, reveals that loneliness is a result of people’s coping mechanisms. Unfortunately, their way of coping with sadness has only created loneliness, thus creating more sadness. Therefore, through his own experience and through his observations of others, the speaker is able to reveal a life truth to his readers, that loneliness is not a solution to sadness.

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Allisa Corfman Poetry Expert
Allisa graduated with a degree in Secondary Education and English and taught World Literature and Composition at the high school level. She has always enjoyed writing, reading, and analysing literature.
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