Comparison Of The Swimmer And

The Lone Bather Essay, Research Paper

Poetry is used to send a variety of messages, either through its imagery, meaning, or by the poetic devices used. Each and every poem has something special and unique to offer to the reader, as long as the reader looks deep enough to find it. Lone Bather written by A.M. Klein, and The Swimmer by Irving Layton both offer such messages to the reader. At first glance, these messages seem surprising similar, but after further examination they are in fact strikingly different. The similarities are most evident in the imagery and use of poetic devices, however there are some cases where they are contrary. Meanwhile the differences are most obvious in the meaning, but due to the general similar themes of the two poems, some similarities are found.

The imagery used in the two poems is very similar at times. Both authors describe to the readers a picturesque view of nature, like plants blooming in the springs. Proof of this is found in Lone Bather : is plant with lilies bursting from its heels. Similarly, in The Swimmer the first

stanza reads opening the spray corollas which also means the blooming of flowers or plants. This similarity is very strong, as it helps to paint the same picture in the reader s head. Both describe a very beautiful scene of nature involving the blossoming of a plant, perhaps reflecting the

changes the character might go through.

However, there is one fact that distinguishes the imagery in Lone Bather from the imagery used in The Swimmer. The Lone Bather tends to describe a softer, calmer image, while The Swimmer seems to have a rougher, more darkened picture it paints for the reader. For example, in Lone Bather : He rolls in his heap of fruit, he slides his belly over the melonrinds of

water, curved and smooth and green. This seems to illustrate the peacefulness of the situation, almost creating a lazy, calm atmosphere. However, the imagery within The Swimmer is quite opposite. The Swimmer tends to portray a scene of force, as there is no evidence of the peaceful interaction between man and water as found in Lone Bather. Evidence of such force is found in the first stanza: …by his act of war-the snake heads strike. This in fact is the exact opposite of Lone Bather. Throughout the two poems there are many examples of these types of contrasts regarding imagery. Another example is found in the quote …the ecstatic diving board the diver, poised for parabolas, lets go …his manshape to become a bird which is found in the beginning of Lone Bather. Irving Layton starts his poem, with a different view of the entrance of the man into the water : the swimmer plunges from his raft. The Lone Bather obviously seems to offer a scene of laziness, and a sense of calm. Meanwhile in the Swimmer, everything is rushed and forced, as if time is of the essence. Obviously, each author was trying to relay a slightly different picture to the reader with his descriptions, sometimes in harmony, yet sometimes in conflict with each other. Similarly, each poet makes good use of poetic devices, enhancing the styles of their respectivepoems, sometimes differently, but often alike.

The use of poetic devices such as similes and word choice are both mastered by these two poets. In some cases, it seems as if the two are trying to make their points distinct from each other s. In the case of word choice, A.M. Klein chooses to dwell on a more positive side, with Layton taking the negative. Proof of this is found in Lone Bather : swims fancy and gay ….under the satins of his great big bed. This quote shows the richness and prosperity of the water, and how the water is viewed by the character in it. Within The Swimmer almost the opposite is identified: to the tiger shadows…….through underwater slums. This quote illustrates the poverty

of the water in the eyes of the character entering it. Both these techniques are extremely effective, as they enhance the strength of the mood of each poem, helping to send the aforementioned unique message to each reader. However, both these poets make use of similes to help the reader grasp what the poet is trying to say. For example, in Lone Bather the third stanza reads feels good: and trains, like little acrobats , while in The Swimmer , the third stanza opens with he dives, floats, goes under like a thief. Both these similes enhance the pictures the reader is forming in his mind as he tries to follow the story. Another similarity in style between these two poems is the constant reference to animals, and how the character either becomes one or acts like one. In

Lone Bather the character becomes a dolphin, then a bird, while in The Swimmer Layton makes reference to the swimmer s snake heads strike and later goes on to where his blood sings to the tiger shadows. As often in poetry, when writing about the forming or creating of life, as I believe is the case here, making reference to living, non human things like animals and plants is

most effective.

Perhaps where the greatest difference in the two poems lies is in the meaning. Lone Bather by A.M Klein seems to be a softer, perhaps even feminine side. The Swimmer on the other hand seems to be a more harsh, masculine look at the story. Proof of this is found throughout the poem, with instances too numerous to name. There are some similarities in the meanings of each poem. The meanings both seem to be that the main character, whether it is the swimmer or the bather, seems to undergo great change when he is around and in the water. Lone Bather actually goes out and says the bather becomes like a dolphin, then a plant, and even at first a bird. This leads the reader to think that the water is something powerful, yet peaceful, which is an extraordinary combination. The exquisite detailing used by Klein in describing the interaction of man and water, is at first glance a symbolism for sexual interaction between man and woman. After deeper examination, it appears that what Klein is actually trying to say is that the bather in the poem is taking great pleasure in his time in the water, but this pleasure is not sexual. Instead, I believe this poem s unique message to this reader is that it is important to take time off for one to find himself, whether he seems to be like a bird or a dolphin yearning to be free, or like a plant, attached and relying on the ground, yet blooming its own identity through its petals. This poem is

encouraging the readers to realize there is a time for everything and one must take time to oneself,as the process of self realization and self identification is an invaluable one. Irving Layton, through his poem is trying to send an entirely different, yet equally important message. It seems that this poem is surrounded by a sense of urgency, as time is of the essence. Layton, like Klein realizes that there is a time for everything, yet it appears the only difference is which time Layton is talking about. Layton seems to be relaying a theme of taking advantage of the moment, and if one does not, then that moment could pass them by. Proof of this is found in the speed of the man entering or plunging into the water, as if he is desperate. Whether this time is sexual in nature is debatable, but it is obvious that the swimmer is acting most earnestly. However, one thing that is significant in Layton s work is the final line, where the last wave throws his boyhood on the sand. I believe that Layton s message is dictating that the swimmer has benefited from this experience in the water,

whether it is his first sexual experience, his first exposure to a powerful religion or way of life, or his moment of enlightenment, which could be either or another. Either way, the huge difference is that the swimmer has left something behind, his boyhood and he is now a man. Meanwhile in Klein s poem he ends with : the towel which rubs the bird, the plant, the dolphin back again

personable plain. This is so significant to the meaning and theme of this poem as it obviously explains that after all effects of the experience are over, shown by the drying with the towel, the bather goes back to the plain old person who he was before, leaving the shapes that were formed in the water behind.

Both these poems do indeed have unique interpretations, depending on the reader. However, the methods that the two great poets used to make send those powerful messages are sometimes similar, but in this case largely different. Once one looks past the similarities of man entering water, the two poems have entirely different stories to tell, in very contrasting ways. Each poet has used effective diction, as well as very striking symbolism and imagery. The fact that they are different just shows how many ways there are to write a great poem, the only thing needed in common is the desire, feeling and will.


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