I find this poem to be very hard to understand 1 read a few critiques of it, and most seem to agree that it is a reflection of the author’s, Margaret Atwood‘s, immigration to Canada and her difficulty establishing roots there in contrast to her son, who was able to rise to success easily. Although there is some vaguely Canadian imagery 7 the loggers who pull in her son’s body, the cold and abrasive weather, and references to a new land that connotes the concept of immigration 7 it mainly focusses on the death of the narrator’s son, and less on the idea of immigration.
Furthermore, the description of “dreamed sails” indicates that the author may be describing a dream or a fear; either way, something ethereal and theoretical, perhaps simply allegorical, as opposed to an actual occurrence or death.
Regardless of this ambiguity in purpose and meaning, Margaret Atwood’s poem describes a mother‘s fear of losing a son prematurely through subtle, archetypal allusions.
Atwood’s first two stanzas refer largely to the cycle of life and the order in which a family is, Atwood would argue, supposed to diet The first lines, “He, who navigated with success / the dangerous river of his own birth / once more set forth,” immediately allude to an archetypal crossing that is literally a symbol of his birth. It is logical that a second crossing of this river, the first of which is into life, would be back into death, The narrator herself thought, before her son’s death, that she was closer to death, and thus “floating on” but not “touching” the land on the opposite side of the river to which her son is now traveling.
There is also a distinct shift in tone and in topic between the seventh and eighth stanzas, The mention of spring indications that he prior events happened in the winter, as does reference to ice, a season typically associated with hardship and understood as daunting. Conversely, the section that is set in spring represents the author’s need to move on from the sorrows of winteri “The sun kept shining, the new grass leapt to solidity,” she says, indicating her desire to move forward following her son’s death, “Plant[ing] him in this country / like a flag,” the narrator is able to conquer her sorrow over losing her son, and she is capable of crafLing a new life after her loss whether or not her loss is the result of a literal death, of her son’s coming of age, or her son’s acclimation to a new country.