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DIRGE, by         Recitation     Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography

"Dirge" is a poem by Kenneth Fearing that was first published in 1935. Fearing was an American poet and novelist who was known for his dark and pessimistic view of the world, which is reflected in much of his work. "Dirge" is a particularly bleak poem that deals with the theme of death and the futility of life.


The poem is written in the first person and begins with the speaker expressing his exhaustion with life. He questions whether he should continue pretending that life is worth living or if he should simply give up. The speaker goes on to describe himself as finished and beaten, suggesting that he has given up on life and sees no point in trying anymore.

The middle section of the poem describes the struggle of life, with the speaker acknowledging that life is full of both pleasure and pain. However, he goes on to say that despite our best efforts, we are ultimately defeated by life and cannot find any joy in it. The speaker describes the end of life as a weary sigh, with death being the only release from the struggle.

The final section of the poem describes a group of people who continue to sing dirges, mourning the end of life. However, the speaker suggests that there is something beautiful and uplifting in their singing, as though they have found a sense of meaning in the pain and sorrow of life. The poem ends with the suggestion that death is not an end, but rather a transition to something new and unknown.

Poetic Elements:

  • Form: The poem consists of three stanzas, each with six lines. The poem has a consistent rhyme scheme of ABABCC.
  • Imagery: The poem is full of imagery related to death and mourning, including the use of the word "dirge" and the descriptions of people singing mournful songs.
  • Metaphor: The struggle of life is described metaphorically as a fight or a battle, with the speaker suggesting that we are ultimately defeated by life.
  • Tone: The tone of the poem is bleak and pessimistic, with the speaker expressing a sense of hopelessness and resignation.


"Dirge" is a powerful and deeply pessimistic poem that explores the themes of death and the futility of life. Fearing's use of imagery and metaphor creates a vivid picture of the struggle of life and the ultimate defeat that we all must face. Despite the bleak tone of the poem, there is a sense of beauty in the mournful singing of the dirges, suggesting that there may be some meaning to be found in the pain and sorrow of life.

Poem Snippet:

"Life is a welter of pleasure and pain,

And we fight and we struggle and go down again,

And we grapple and scratch with a fierce little will,

But we're licked and we're beaten and can't find a thrill."


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