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Wood of Green [Poem + In-Depth Interpretation]

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Giancarlovan avatar Giancarlovan
Level 39 : Artisan Loremaster
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Wood of Green [Poem + In-Depth Interpretation]

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Poem Text
Wood of Green
by Giancarlo N. H. Gonzaga

Every footfall grows heavy as
Vet’rans stray from mazy for’st
Old gnarled claws colonnade the path
Leaves of fell leave no space for rest

Vacant yet replete, those glades of blades
Erst where her fondness had once stayed
Free were those sunny days waded
Revelled, we, through those streams and lakes

Orey now, and hushed once more
Monkshood and foxglove lovely spread
Undergrowth thorns reap drops of blood
Nevermore to rest the throb of breath

They were once of rose, now of poppy
Remembrances of cataplasms
And yet, true honest joy eludes
Nearly all were wrought of phantasm

Scant seems the truth that warm gale breathes
Caress, egress, the laurel seethes
Egret doused red by songless elegy
Now the path breaks to an estuary

Dreams fall and fade as flowered snow
Echoes ought not have been pursued
Days were young, early put to rest
Rued the hands and tools all outstretched

Underneath what lurks the green and grey
Morosely the forest floor doth stay
Endlessly left to yearn the sky
None other than me, myself, and I



I hope you enjoyed reading the poem as much as I did writing it!
I highly recommend going through the poem first before proceeding to the in-depth interpretation and analysis below.



local_library Interpretation and Analysis local_library

Examining the poem from a macro perspective, we notice the poetic form: a lipogrammatic acrostic arranged into seven stanzas consisting of quatrains with alternating voices. Ranging from the message formed by the first letters of each line, to how there is no letter 'i' until the very last letter, to the presence of two voices in an eternal dialogue, each of these elements consciously convey meaning supporting the theme: one’s understanding of love evolves and matures through experience.

The Hidden Message

Just from looking at the poem, its unique form comes to light. It is composed of seven stanzas with four lines each. While this conveys a sense of regularity and predictability, we notice that stanzas 1, 3, 5, and 7 (odd-numbered stanzas) are aligned left, while stanzas 2, 4, and 6 (even-numbered stanzas) are aligned right.

Following the negative space running through the middle of the poem, we find ourselves meandering through a winding path, slowing us down and eliciting an impulse to ruminate. Looking at the first letter of each line, a hidden message is unearthed:

Evolve from untranscended rumen

This cryptic call to action represents the persona’s resolution after pondering the notion of love. ‘Evolve’ is an imperfect anagram of ‘love’, representing how previously, the persona has not yet come to terms with the idea of love, but has, through his ruminations, bettered his understanding of love and his personal limitations in this regard.

He characterizes his previous thoughts about love as ‘untranscended’, rudimentary, and naive, which feels like a mire he had dwelled in for a long time. But now he has committed to leaving from this rumen (a metaphorical representation of thought), through slow, continual improvements encapsulated in the notion of evolution. He is coming to terms with how he must first establish love for self to truly love others. We shall better see the persona’s maturation as we look into the poem line by line later.

We also notice that the acrostic message is broken up by the sets of quatrains. The consistent sets of four lines convey a sense of rhythm and steadiness, representing the inexorable march of time, and likewise the persona’s own ruminative march through the woods. The acrostic’s being broken up hints at the persona’s internal turmoil, where deeper thoughts are fleeting and can be difficult to bring to fore when time marches on so swiftly and steadily.

Me, Myself, and I

This is likewise hinted at by another intriguing element. The poem is a lipogram, where the letter ‘i’ is completely absent from the poem until the last letter of the last line, where it stands alone, staunch in its representation of self. This carries multiple meanings.

It can be interpreted as the persona seeing love as an act of selflessness and giving, and only realizing later that relationships must be mutual and bilateral, where one both gives and receives. It can also be interpreted as how the persona had been extricating himself from the idea of love, focusing too little on the internal emotions and thoughts that it involves, until he finally ruminates and comes to terms with them; he has finally come to realize the importance of the self in love, and the importance of his own maturity and understanding.

The Two Voices

Going back to the contrast between odd and even-numbered stanzas, we notice their subtly different fonts and backgrounds. This suggests the presence of two voices.

Moreover, both fonts are serif type, with the even-numbered stanzas being an italicized version of that of the odd-numbered ones. The backgrounds of these stanzas are likewise the same image, albeit cast in differently tinted lights. Such similarities imply that these voices are not the voices of different people. They are one and the same, representing the voices of an internal dialogue.

One voice speaks in the present tense, with a grim, resigned tone that describes the gloom of the surroundings and the gloom of own thought. This is matched by the dark blue background of the odd-numbered stanzas, as dark blue represents moroseness and introspection. As it speaks in the present tense, it shows the current thoughts the persona bears, and reflects his current (and evolving) understanding of love.

Meanwhile, the voice in the even-numbered stanzas is kinder, speaking with a softer, more wistful tone, as though longing for the past (hence its use of past tense). The dark viridian background reflects a night that has fallen on what was a bright green forest, signifying the (inevitable) end of something good, which in this case pertains to either the persona’s past relationship, or his previous blissful notions of love.

A Deep Dive

To enrich our understanding of the overarching ideas and themes we have just explored, we can dive deeper into each line of the poem:

Title
Wood of Green

The title is deceptively simple, appearing at the beginning of the poem to establish the setting of the poem in a wood (forest) that is allegedly green. Green here, however, is a quadruple entendre. Green overtly means the color of the leaves and vines the trees bear, although such color is not very evident given the apparent nighttime and darkness surrounding the forest. Green also represents both flourishing life and sickness. The forest of thought the persona trudges through was once filled with life and optimistic ideas of ideal love, but later is plagued by disappointment and a need to rectify the ailment. Green can also reflect inexperience and naivety, which are traits the persona once exemplifies but seeks to evolve from.



First Stanza
Every footfall grows heavy as
Vet’rans stray from mazy for’st
Old gnarled claws colonnade the path
Leaves of fell leave no space for rest

The first stanza is a mini acrostic, with each line’s first letter spelling out ‘love’ backwards, subtly heralding what the poem and persona ponder on in this forest. This stanza also embellishes the scene, casting portents and ominousness to the once-green forest, which represents one’s thoughts about love.

Footfalls growing heavy hint at tiredness and slowing down, presumably from having wandered for a long time in this forest that was like a maze. With old gnarled claws and leaves of fell, the persona remains restless in this forest. There is no space for rest, which is an uncanny play on the word ‘forest’ that could elicit the deja vu associated with being lost in a maze. After all, love can be very complicated, and can leave anyone mired in thought. In fact, even veterans (those who are experienced in love) cannot easily escape from naive notions and disappointing idealizations of love.



Second Stanza
Vacant yet replete, those glades of blades
Erst where her fondness had once stayed
Free were those sunny days waded
Revelled, we, through those streams and lakes

The second stanza is our first encounter with the other voice, the voice from the past that describes the past. The forest glades here are described to be filled with blades; perhaps blades of grass, in the past, in line with the joy of free sunny days where one wades in streams and lakes with glee. This is akin to the blissful joy we experience in love.

But alas, things sometimes go awry, and those we love may one day leave. This leaves an emptiness in our hearts, where we longingly look back at memories of better days. When we see memorabilia that remind us of the past, we often find them vacant (hearkening to bygone days) yet replete (with emotional memories). The pangs of such can manifest themselves in sharp blades of steel that replace those gentle blades of grass.



Third Stanza
Orey now, and hushed once more
Monkshood and foxglove lovely spread
Undergrowth thorns reap drops of blood
Nevermore to rest the throb of breath

The third stanza represents the persona’s present feelings following the longing recollection of the past when everything seemed much better. Orey is a contraction of ‘orey-eyed’, representing great anger and bitterness that often swells from the anguish of losing love. But we also see that the persona has already overcome the stages of denial and anger, as rage is quickly hushed once more, subsiding again into a resigned despondence.

The persona then notes the flora around him. Monkshood and foxglove are beautiful flowers that do not betray their poisonous nature, hence appearing lovely. However, they are, indeed, toxic, akin to the unhealthiness of excessive brooding and longing for lost love. To remain in the forest is to continually expose oneself to the thorny undergrowth that makes one bleed, keeping one anxious and restless, in constant need of catching one’s breath. This ties back to the forest’s capacity to fatigue and harm those in it. We cannot dwell forever.



Fourth Stanza
They were once of rose, now of poppy
Remembrances of cataplasms
And yet, true honest joy eludes
Nearly all were wrought of phantasm

The voice of the past then chimes in again, mentioning two flowers, the rose, and the poppy, which bloom in the forest. The rose symbolizes love, but these roses have since been superseded by poppies, which symbolize death. This stanza thus alludes to the wane of the persona’s love. He remembers cataplasms, which are medical plasters that remind him of the tender love and care he showed and was once shown.

However, after loitering (and perhaps languishing) in this bittersweet memory, the persona realizes that even back then, true and honest joy had eluded him. He realizes that most of the fondness he had ascribed to love was folly, wrought of phantasm. This could be interpreted in two ways. This could mean that that the persona had been delusional all along, seeing love where there was mere liking, realizing later that those fond memories were not really special moments after all. Alternatively, this could suggest the resurgence of the rage and anger from the third stanza, with the persona trying to suppress his pangs of longing by dismissing them as folly. These two interpretations are both likely, and we may never know which is closer to the truth.



Fifth Stanza
Scant seems the truth that warm gale breathes
Caress, egress, the laurel seethes
Egret doused red by songless elegy
Now the path breaks to an estuary

The persona is jolted to the present with the realization in the fourth stanza, and notes how he feels like it was all a lie; the truth seems scant. The warm gale represents the breath of his loved one, the wisps of love in the air many of us have come to believe. He thinks of the caresses and loving touches of the past, and their sudden egress from his life, throwing the laurel of love he wears into seething turmoil.

He then walks further deeper into the forest in a fit of rage, finding a bloody egret. With such a white, peaceful bird so brutally depicted, one realizes how deep resentment runs in the persona’s rage, prompting him to possibly even hurt the bird himself (though this remains an ambiguity). The songless elegy is a paradox, likely representing the regret the persona feels for having harmed (and slain, hence the elegy) the bird, which represents both his past relationships and his past conceptions about love.

Then the fourth line of the stanza seems to break the persona out of his stupor. The path has ended, and he is faced with an estuary, where one river breaks into many streams leading out into the open sea. The path is likened to a river, metaphorically hinting at a fork in the road. This represents a choice the persona must now make–to dwell in this hurtful forest of sadness and resentment over love, or perhaps to break free at last. Following his angry reencounter with the sadness that weighs in his heart, he is at last presented with the opportunity to leave the narrow confines of forest paths to the open sea, where he could find joy and freedom once more.



Sixth Stanza
Dreams fall and fade as flowered snow
Echoes ought not have been pursued
Days were young, early put to rest
Rued the hands and tools all outstretched

With the persona at a junction, his inner past voice pipes up again, offering its own insight. It hints at the ephemerality of dreams, however ideal and flowered they may be, by likening them to snow. In other words, one’s wishes (perhaps for true love) come and go. And when they go, they may echo, as though a stone falling into a deep well. It is understandably unwise to follow such an echo, to keep pursuing the remembrances of something that once was, but is no longer there.

Thus, the past admonishes the present not to waste and let die (put to rest) any more days spent self-harmfully pursuing the past. Hands here represent the persona’s family and friends, while tools represent his hobbies, passions, and possessions. All this while they had been outstretched and readily available, but the persona had ignored them all, and had let them all down, due to his obsessive myopia over lost love.



Seventh Stanza
Underneath what lurks the green and grey
Morosely the forest floor doth stay
Endlessly left to yearn the sky
None other than me, myself, and I

The past voice powerfully prompts the persona into an anagnorisis, where he now comes to a realization and a decision in this seventh and final stanza. He begins with noticing a consistency that had always been there, albeit not typically noticeable and lurking, in all his time dwelling in this green and grey forest: the forest floor. He had not paid much attention to it, being too focused in his ruminations and longing, hence the forest floor remained morose and unnoticed.

However, he now realizes that there is something that had been left buried under this forest floor. Something left to yearn the sky, longing for the day when it can once again see the light of day. It was none other than the persona himself. This comes as a startling realization, prompted by the voice in the sixth stanza. The persona finally realizes and accepts what the voice had been telling him, and admits that he has let his life revolve too much around love, seeking love, seeking another to love, and dwelling in this forest. Now he is finally ready to unearth himself from this forest floor, to save himself, to focus first on loving himself, and to walk away at last from this wood of green.

And so the poem concludes with a perfectly rhyming couplet, conveying a sense and tone of resolution. And it ends with what the persona has now realized matters foremost: the self, I.




This poem was inspired by the personal encounters of love experienced by various members of my family, my friends, and myself, representing an amalgamation of perspectives on love whose confluence governs my own prevailing perspective of love.

I dedicate this poem to everyone who experiences or yearns to experience love. It is a fundamental aspect of the human nature that we still cannot fully grasp, after all. Nevertheless, it takes us through joys and sorrows, and makes love all the more intriguing and indispensable.

I hope you enjoyed embarking on this literary journey.

Now relax a bit, because here are some fun facts about this poem:
  • Time Taken: I planned for about three days after getting inspired, and then took about two whole afternoons composing the poem itself. The analysis took another afternoon, and I spent a night figuring Photoshop out to make the image of the poem itself. I'm quite happy with the result :)
  • Music Listened to During Composition: While composing this poem, I was listening to an orchestral mashup of Canon in D and River Flows in You - it's nice and relaxing, and at times inspiring, check it out!
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4
04/07/2021 6:40 pm
Level 54 : Grandmaster Musician
Punkamoar
Punkamoar avatar
Well deserved my boy, I'm really glad you took first place. You put a lot of work into this, and the win is well deserved. Congrats!
3
04/08/2021 3:12 am
Level 39 : Artisan Loremaster
Giancarlovan
Giancarlovan avatar
Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it!
3
04/07/2021 10:19 am
Level 34 : Artisan Blueberry
Lumi_
Lumi_ avatar
Wow! Congrats on winning! You've put in a lot of work in this, and it's amazing!
2
04/07/2021 1:38 pm
Level 39 : Artisan Loremaster
Giancarlovan
Giancarlovan avatar
Thank you so much! I'm glad you like it!
3
04/07/2021 9:27 am
Level 54 : Grandmaster Sus
F I N N L E Y
F I N N L E Y avatar
CONGRATS Omggg
3
04/07/2021 1:39 pm
Level 39 : Artisan Loremaster
Giancarlovan
Giancarlovan avatar
Thank you! The wait was incredibly suspenseful!
3
04/07/2021 9:10 am
Level 24 : Expert Prince
Baboocu
Baboocu avatar
Congratulations for winning! i can see you've put a lot of work in your poem! very extended vocabulary!
3
04/07/2021 1:39 pm
Level 39 : Artisan Loremaster
Giancarlovan
Giancarlovan avatar
Thanks for your kind words! I'm glad you like it!
4
02/23/2021 2:20 am
Level 12 : Journeyman Ranger
Tesday
Tesday avatar
This guy knows more about poetry than I know about inactivity

and that's saying something
3
02/23/2021 5:27 am
Level 39 : Artisan Loremaster
Giancarlovan
Giancarlovan avatar
Haha! Well I'd be glad to share with you more about poetry, and maybe you can share a thing or two about inactivity too
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