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AUBADE, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography


"Aubade" by Louise Gluck offers an intricate interplay between repetition and transience, capturing the contradictory elements of life that are both cyclical and fleeting. An aubade traditionally is a dawn song or a poem about lovers separating at dawn; yet, in this piece, the dawn becomes a metaphor for moments both repeated and singular in a lifetime, for loves and experiences that leave an indelible mark.

The poem commences with the echo of "there was one summer / that returned many times over," introducing from the outset the concept of one pivotal experience that keeps reverberating through life. This theme is echoed with the image of "one flower unfurling / taking many forms," as if to say that while life unfolds in varied ways, its essence remains consistent. The flower is a motif that recurs but changes form, similar to how pivotal experiences or people in our lives return in our memories, each time perhaps slightly different in the light of subsequent understanding or nostalgia.

Gluck incorporates colors like the "Crimson of the monarda, pale gold of the late roses," invoking the sensory experience of time, place, and emotional states. These colors add depth to the cycle of summers, as if each return is tinged with a slightly different hue of feeling or significance.

However, the fulcrum of the poem is love-recurrent yet evolving. "There was one love; he had many voices," she writes, portraying love as both singular in its impact yet multifaceted in its expression. The love story here is not one of ceaseless passion but of complex emotions that can't easily be categorized, as indicated by the line, "I couldn't tell / my solitude from love-".

The motif of the dawn amplifies this complexity. Traditionally, dawn marks a new beginning or a separation. Here, the dawn is "one," yet they sometimes watched it "together," encapsulating the essence of moments that are both shared and individual experiences. It serves as a poignant metaphor for love and life, witnessed alone or as a shared experience but nonetheless powerful.

In the concluding lines, "I was here / I was here," there's an assertion of existence, as if the speaker marks her place not just in the dawn she has watched but also in the love she has felt and the summers she has seen return. The lines speak to the human desire to leave an imprint, to validate that one has indeed lived through these cyclical yet singular experiences.

"Aubade" grapples with the complexities of love, solitude, and the passage of time, all within the framework of repeated yet ever-changing cycles. Gluck masterfully depicts how, despite their ephemeral or recurrent nature, some experiences become landmarks in the emotional landscape of our lives. Through vivid imagery and layered meanings, the poem illustrates that even in repetition, no two moments are ever truly the same, much like the dawns that keep returning, each one witnessed with an older set of eyes.


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