R Ron Tranmer

The Broken Chain by Ron Tranmer

‘The Broken Chain’ by Ron Tranmer explores the feelings of grief that a family suffers when one of their much-loved members passed away. The poet uses the metaphor of a broken chain to describe their loss.

The Broken Chain by Ron Tranmer Visual Representation

Throughout ‘The Broken Chain,’ the poet uses simple language that makes this poem easy to read and widely relatable to different types of people around the world. No matter where one is from, or the period in which they are living, they will sometimes suffer a family loss. ‘The Broken Chain’ explores this loss in broad terms.

The Broken Chain by Ron Tranmer


Summary

‘The Broken Chain’ by Ron Tranmer is a widely relatable poem that explores familial loss.

The poem begins with the speaker directing their words to a specific listener, someone who has passed away. The speaker and their family members did not know that this person was going to die that day or “that God was going to call your name.” But, the speaker explains how everyone on Earth loves this deceased person in the same way they did when they were alive.

As the poem progresses, the speaker describes how everyone is devastated that this person has died, but they did not go to Heaven alone. Memories and love went with them, and one day they will all be reunited in Heaven at God’s side. 

You can read the full poem here

Detailed Analysis 

Stanza One

We little knew that day,

God was going to call your name.

In life we loved you dearly,

In death, we do the same.

In the first stanza of the poem, the speaker refers to someone who God called to their side. This is a phrase that is commonly used to suggest that a person has passed away and, according to Christian belief, gone to Heaven to live alongside God. It is an example of a euphemism that requires some context, and knowledge of allusion, to understand. 

In the second half of the first stanza, which forms another closed couplet that can stand by itself, the speaker tells the person who has passed away that everyone on Earth loves them with the same passion that they did when this person was alive.

Stanza Two 

It broke our hearts to lose you.

(…)

The day God called you home.

In the second stanza, the speaker admits that the people they left behind on Earth were brokenhearted when their loved one passed away. This is despite knowing that their loved one was going to have to live alongside God. But, the speaker notes that it gave them some solace to know that “you did not go alone.” A part of everyone who loved this person on Earth went along with them when “God called you home.” This is another example of a religious euphemism that refers to death.

Stanza Three 

You left us beautiful memories,

(…)

You are always at our side.

In the third stanza, the poet makes use of a literary device known as an anaphora. This occurs when the poet repeats the same word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines. In this case, the poet begins two lines with the word “you.” The speaker is talking directly to the person who has passed away, which is itself an example of an apostrophe, telling this person that they left the people on Earth with “beautiful memories” and with a love that is “still our guide.”

The repetition of the word “you” continues in the second two lines of the stanza. The speaker says, using very simple and easy-to-understand language, that despite having passed away, the deceased person is “always at our side.” This is another commonly used phrase to describe the way that grieving loved ones remind themselves of the close bonds they formed with a person who has passed away.

Stanza Four 

Our family chain is broken,

(…)

The chain will link again.

It is in the fourth stanza of the poem that the title’s reference to a “chain” is explored. It is also in the stanza that the speaker reveals that the person who has passed away was a family member. The speaker is expressing their emotions along with the emotions of other close family members.

Everyone believes that the “family chain is broken” because this is a very important person to whom the poem is addressed as lost. Without going into any detail (something that allows this poem to be highly relatable to all those who have lost a loved one), the speaker says that their world has been changed irrevocably. Nothing seems the same without the specific person, whether they were a mother, brother, father, sister, daughter, etc., who has gone to the next life. 

The reference to the chain continues in the final couplet of the poem. The speaker says that the “chain will link again” as everyone who was a part of it during life dies and goes to God’s side. They are in the afterlife, and the speaker and their family members believe they were all be reunited and the “broken chain” will “link again.

Structure and Form

‘The Broken Chain’ by Ron Tranmer is a four-stanza poem that is divided into sets of four lines. These are known as quatrains. The poem follows a simple and direct rhyme scheme of ABCB and changing end sounds from stanza to stanza. Readers should also take note of the exact time in the second stanza with the word “you” ending both lines one and three. 

The poet does not use a specific metrical pattern throughout the four stanzas of this poem. But, there are some examples, in combination with the rhyme scheme, that suggests the poet is interested in the ballad or hymn form. This is seen through their near use of alternating lines of iambic trimeter and iambic tetrameter in some stanzas. 

Literary Devices 

Throughout this poem, the poet makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to:

  • Metaphor: occurs when the poet compares two unlike things without using “like” or “as.” In this case, the speaker compares the loss the family suffered to a broken chain that will “link again” when they all are reunited in heaven.
  • Caesura: occurs when a poet inserts a pause in a line of verse. This could be through the use of punctuation or through a natural pause in the meter. For example, “In death, we do the same.”
  • Alliteration: occurs when the poet repeats the same consonant sound at the beginning of multiple lines. For example, “dearly” and “death” in lines three and four of the first stanza. 
  • Repetition: occurs when the poet repeats one or more elements of a poem. This could be the structure, an image, a word, phrase, or more. In this case, the poet repeats the idea that “God” called “you” into Heaven and there was nothing anyone could do about it. 


FAQs 

What is the tone of ‘The Broken Chain?’

The tone is mournful but also hopeful. Despite having suffered a grievous loss, this speaker and the family members for whom they’re speaking believe that in the future, when everyone is reunited in the afterlife, everything will be as it was on Earth. The “broken chain” will “link again.”

What is the theme of ‘The Broken Chain?’

The theme of this poem is the loss of a family member. It is not until the final lines that readers become aware that the person who is passed away, to whom the poem is directed, is a close family member to the person delivering the lines. Their loss has changed the family dynamic in an irrevocable way. The speaker, and all those around them, are well aware of this fact.

Who is the speaker in ‘The Broken Chain?’

The exact identity of the speaker is unknown. But, due to the fact that they use the third person pronoun “we,” it seems likely that they are speaking from a communal perspective. The speaker is delivering the ideas and feelings of the remaining family members left behind on Earth after the intended listener of this poem has gone to Heaven.

Why did the poet write ‘The Broken Chain?’ 

The poet likely wrote this poem as a way of soothing a personal loss or helping heal someone close to them who lost a family member. Due to the fact that this poem contains few details, it also seems likely that the poet wrote this piece with the intention of other readers, outside of their own family circle, finding it and feeling uplifted from its message.


Similar Poetry 

Readers who enjoyed this poem should also consider reading some related pieces. For example:

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The Broken Chain by Ron Tranmer Visual Representation
Emma Baldwin Poetry Expert
About
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.
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