To A Friend Whose Work Has Come

To Triumph Essay, Research Paper

In the poem “To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Triumph”, Anne Sexton alludes to the

flight of Icarus and Daedalus and to “To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Nothing” to convey a

message to a friend. I think this poem was written to reassure a friend that what she did was

the right thing. Perhaps a father figure of the friend advised her to do something and she

defied him, making herself feel worried that she did the wrong thing.

William Butler Yeats once wrote a poem titled “To a Friend Whose Work has Come to Nothing”.

It was a poem believed to be written to reassure a friend that what she ended up doing was a

noble thing even though in reality she failed her original task. The title of Sexton’s poem is

an obvious allusion to Yeats’ poem. Sexton changed “Nothing” to “Triumph” in her title.

Sexton’s friend must have been a fellow poet to be able to catch the allusion to Yeats’ poem.

I believe she wanted her friend to know that what she did was the right thing. Perhaps she

compared her friend to Yeats’ friend. Sexton wrote “Think of the difference it made!” referring

to Icarus’ flight. She might have wanted her friend to realize a difference her defying her

father made.

The final line of the poem has a comparably different tone than the first 13 lines. The

last line, “See him acclaiming the sun and come plunging down while his sensible daddy goes

straight into town.”, seems more mocking of Daedalus’ flight. It seems that Sexton feels that

Daedalus’ flight was a wasted chance and was in no way adventurous. She might also be comparing

her friend to Icarus, seeing as he too failed his initial task but accomplished something greater

on a global scale. I believe Sexton thought that Icarus’ flight was not foolish or a failure,

but adventurous and a great personal success, even though his satisfaction and personal glory was

short-lived. She wrote “Admire his wings”, “wondrously tunneling”, and “Who cares that he fell

back to the sea”, therefore I think that she doesn’t believe that the fact Icarus plunged to the

sea is important.

Many have used the process of allusion in the past to help convey a meaning of a poem.

A popular example and choice of an allusion topic is the bible or past works of art and

literature. Anne Sexton obviously chose allusion as her method of conveying her emotional

message to her friend.


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