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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

ELSINORE IN THE LATE ANCIENT AUTUMN, by                 Poet's Biography

"Elsinore in the Late Ancient Autumn" is a poem by Norman Dubie, first published in his collection of poems "The Quotations of Bone" in 2016.


The poem is a reflection on the famous tragedy "Hamlet" by William Shakespeare, set in the Danish castle of Elsinore. The speaker begins by describing the castle in the late autumn, with the leaves turning to rust and the air heavy with the scent of apples. The speaker then imagines the ghosts of Hamlet's father and Ophelia haunting the castle, with the father seeking revenge and Ophelia trying to find peace.

The poem also touches on the themes of love and loss, as the speaker reflects on the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia, and the tragedy that ensued. The speaker suggests that their love was doomed from the start, with the forces of the world working against them.

Poetic Elements:

  • Form: The poem is written in free verse, with irregular line lengths and no set rhyme scheme.
  • Imagery: The poem is rich in sensory details, with vivid descriptions of the autumn landscape and the ghosts haunting the castle.
  • Allusion: The poem makes reference to the characters and themes of Shakespeare's "Hamlet", using them to explore deeper themes of love, loss, and the human condition.
  • Tone: The poem has a melancholic and reflective tone, evoking the sense of loss and tragedy that pervades the world of "Hamlet".


"Elsinore in the Late Ancient Autumn" is a powerful and evocative poem that uses the setting and themes of "Hamlet" to explore universal themes of love, loss, and the passage of time. Through its vivid imagery and allusions, the poem creates a haunting and deeply affecting portrait of the human condition.

Poem Snippet:

The gravekeepers in their solemnity

Shuffle their black slippers, crack

Sunflower seeds, sip green tea

Scrutinize photographs of the dead, their lives

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