an explication

what friends are for: a very brief examination of the role of 

restorative influences in Thomas Moore's The Meeting of the Waters

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                THERE is not in the wide world a valley so sweet
                As that vale in whose bosom the bright waters meet;
                Oh! the last rays of feeling and life must depart,
                Ere the bloom of that valley shall fade from my heart.

                Yet it was not that nature had shed o’er the scene                             5
                Her purest of crystal and brightest of green;
                ’Twas not her soft magic of streamlet or hill,
                Oh! no—it was something more exquisite still.

               
Twas that friends, the beloved of my bosom, were near,
                Who made every dear scene of enchantment more dear,               10
                And who felt how the best charms of nature improve,
                When we see them reflected from looks that we love.

                Sweet vale of Avoca! how calm could I rest
                In thy bosom of shade, with the friends I love best,
                Where the storms that we feel in this cold world should cease,   15                 And our hearts, like thy waters, be mingled in peace.

Thomas Moore

 

        a lingering sentiment in moore’s ballad seems to be contained very simply in his final lines: when our lives turn difficult and tremulous, nature and friendship will act as protective, restorative agents. even when read very superficially, this interpretation seems to be clear enough, but moore’s poem is wrought with imbedded elements that echo this observation. in terms of poetic devices, it is important to note that along with its obviously luscious and tranquil imagery, the poem’s tense and structure parallel and encourage this reading, which is succinctly and eloquently represented by the third stanza of moore’s poem.
        images and inklings of motherhood pepper every stanza of moore’s verse, lending to the natural setting contained in its lines several amicable qualities. in the first couplet, moore opens his description of “that vale in whose bosom the bright waters meet” (ln. 2). the content of the remainder of the poem reflects the fact that moore has often spent time nestled in this scenic spot. moore draws an allusion that this particular valley acts quite like a mother unto his group friends: moore convenes with his companions in the valley’s “bosom of shade” (ln. 14). alongside these references to motherhood are the descriptors “calm,” “soft,” “sweet,” “dear,” “enchantment,” “charms,” and “love”. each of these words, used respectively to describe moore’s feelings about the valley and surrounding nature, and his friends, indicate that these influences warrant the most adulation and credit for moore’s spiritual and emotional restoration.
        the setting of any artistic work is important to consider, as it usually denotes something important about the piece or its author; in this instance, moore’s frequent use of the subjunctive and the past tense gives the poem a reflective quality reminiscent of fond daydreaming. the first stanza is descriptive, and illustrates a favorite leisure spot to which moore  feels a particularly close connection. it is, therefore, necessarily a location from his past, the beauty of which has made such a lasting impression that moore explains he will sooner die than forget the stunning characteristics of that valley at avoca. later, in the third quatrain, moore attaches a memory of friends to his experience in the valley, noting that they served to enhance the potency of the “dear scene”; the tone and lack of temporal specificity in the third stanza may reflect that the valley and the presence moore’s friends are inextricable a series of memories or a time period, not one instance in particular. finally, in the fourth stanza, moore notes that he could spend an extended period of time in the valley with the friendly company he so intimately cherishes. using the subjective mood in order to express his wish, the poet reflects that if he were permitted the freedom, he would gladly shelter himself from the problems issued to him by the busier world outside the valley, and would instead spend more time with “the beloved of [his] bosom” (ln. 9) where their “hearts [may] be mingled in peace” (ln. 16).
        furthermore, the structure of the poem is quite like a piece of advice rather than solely a work of reflective verse. in the first six lines of moore’s lyrical daydream, the poet ruminates on the limitless beauty of the valley at avoca. but as a parent giving advice to a child, the true point of the monologue is revealed in its turn, which comes exactly halfway through the poem. using the valley’s image as a backdrop for its revelation, moore discloses that the comfort and camaraderie he and his friends felt around each other were, in truth—more than the beautiful scenery and certainly more than a demanding, chaotic city life—the steadfast agents that give life its vibrancy. as with any well-structured piece of advice, the set-up and the turn are not enough to complete the sermon: an application is needed to illustrate the need for or to iterate an example of a scenario in which one ought to heed the advice contained in the work. correspondingly, the final quatrain of the meeting of the waters may represent a three-fold moral. first, moore illustrates the relaxing and restorative tranquility of the “bosom of shade” offered by the valley, and by extension, by the tresses of nature in general. next, the poet describes his discomfort with the “storms that we feel in this cold world,” and suggests that these would not be able to inflict worry upon anyone sheltered by the maternal care of a pastoral setting. finally, in order to place emphasis on the elixir which he believes to be the true restorative agent, moore underscores that he would not go alone into the valley; rather, he fantasizes about being in the company of “the friends i love best,” and foresees that by simply being in each other’s presence, their “hearts, like thy waters, be mingled in peace” (ln. 14-16).
        thomas moore’s the meeting of the waters is a celebration of the ease of the moments of life that the poet has been able to spend in nature with his loved ones. it is at the same time a declaration that the other times—those that are dominated by social imperatives brought about by life in a big city or life as a popular and recognizable writer—are, at best, not so desirable as the environment described in the poem, and at worst, make retreat to nature and companions flatly necessary.