the sonnet-ballad by Gwendolyn Brooks
|the sonnet-ballad |
| Oh mother, mother, where is happiness?|
They took my lover's tallness off to war,
Left me lamenting. Now I cannot guess
What I can use an empty heart-cup for.
He won't be coming back here any more.
Some day the war will end, but, oh, I knew
When he went walking grandly out that door
That my sweet love would have to be untrue.
Would have to be untrue. Would have to court
Coquettish death, whose impudent and strange
Possessive arms and beauty (of a sort)
Can make a hard man hesitate--and change.
And he will be the one to stammer, "Yes."
Oh mother, mother, where is happiness?
This poem is about the narrator's lover going off to war and dying. She asks her mother where happiness is, which is a way of asking how she is supposed to be happy now that her true love is dead. She personifies happiness as though it were a tangible noun. She also personifies death by describing it as a though it were a seductive woman, who took her man away from narrator. She also describes her heart as an "empty heart-cup", creating an image that her heart has been drained, and is now empty. She is obviously very upset over the death of her husband or lover, and so she asks her mother that impossible question, one she doesn't really expect an answer for. In this poem I imagine the speaker as completely overcome with emotion and slightly hysterically. The image I get is that the speaker might not even be talking to anyone- her mother being deceased. I just pictured the most desperate woman when I read this poem, so much that she might have gone a little insane.