Terminal Days at Beverley Farms

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Terminal Days at Beverley Farms

By Robert Lowell

The poem is basically about the poet reminiscing and fondly remembering his own father.

‘At Beverly farms, a portly, uncomfortable boulder

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bulked in the garden’s centre---

an irregular Japanese touch.’

The strongest mental picture that he has is one in which his father is standing in the garden of the Beverley Farms home which was his father’s last abode. He is immaculately dressed in his favorite clothes and is looking smart and energetic.

In the author’s view, the garden of his father’s house was not very appropriately done up and had a large stone occupying the central portion. Though the stone gave it some similarity with a Japanese garden, it was somewhat incomplete, since the stone was the only piece that contributed to this semblance.

It took half an hour by train from Boston to reach Beverly Hills and from there it was two minute walk. They did not have a sea view from their house.

‘…through the scarlet late august sumac,

multiplying like cancer

at their garden’s border.’

Through the dense red shrubs ,which seemed to grow as fast as cancer spread, ran the light blue railway tracks, as the blue sky above cast a reflection on them. From their house, the tracks looked like a double-barrelled shotgun.

The poet’s father was a noticeably fit and healthy man with a tanned red face. He had no qualms about being considered old fashioned but preferred to stick to his favourite drink ‘Bourbon’. It seems from the poem that his father was a man of simple tastes. He cherished the gifts given to him as is clear from the fact that he retained a simple gift of the six pointed lantern given to him on his last Birthday. He was formally dressed for dinner in his cream coloured gabardine jacket and an indigo cummerbund and he swayed under the lantern as he drank his Bourbon.

‘Father had had two coronaries...’

His father had not been keeping well and had had two heart attacks.

‘..his newly dieted figure was vitally trim.’

He had been overweight and it was only a little while before his death that he had lost weight and become lean. Old Mr. Lowell never wanted to be a burden on his children. It seems that he moved his residence to the Beverley Farms basically to be able to reach his doctor easily for regular checkups. The poet was not very happy about the fact that this house did not have a good view and was uncomfortably close to the railway tracks.

‘His head was efficient and hairless...’

Referring to his fathers head, he describes the outer as well as the inner qualities of his head. This means that his father was very sharp and intelligent from the inside, and bald from the outside.

Despite his failing health, his father was willing to take risks and save money. However, if he had one passion, it was his car, his “little black Chevie” that is the reason why the poet calls this car as his father’s “best friend”. This car had been bought from a dealer whom the poet’s father describes as a “buccaneer”. In fact he did not try to economise at all and even paid the dealer extra money over and above the regular price to make sure that he got the piece that he wanted. Even though it looked simple it was a special Edition with Golden plating. He however always had the grudge that the dealer was unfair to him in charging him so much for this car.

‘Each morning at eight-thirty,

inattentive and beaming,

loaded with “calc” and “trig” books,

his clipper ship statistics,

and his ivory slide rule,

father stole off with the Chevie

to loaf in the Maritime Museum at Salem.’

The poet seems to respect his father for his simple tastes also. This is evident from the description of the routine followed by him. He was quite content to spend his mornings, getting up distracted and joyful, at the Maritime Museum, where he seems to have developed quite a relationship with its curator.

‘He called the curator

“the commander of the Swiss Navy.”’

It seems that he still cherished the days he had spent in the Navy and he relived those days by regularly visiting the Museum where he could be in the midst of all the items a ship would normally have. He completed the picture by carrying his own tools like the Calculus and the Slide-rule.

The poet’s father was a man who never complained however difficult the situation.

‘Fathers death was abrupt and unprotesting.

His vision was still twenty-twenty.

After a morning of anxious and repetitive smiling....’

The poet feels that even though his father was so energetic so enthusiastic, healthy and fit it was very strange for him to die so suddenly. One day his father had another heart attack. On this day, he hid his pain behind his smiles and only when the pain became unbearable did he tell his wife about it.

‘…his last words to mother were

“I feel awful.”’

Since he looked to be quite healthy with perfect vision, his sudden death came somewhat as a surprise. This was despite the fact that he had a history of heart attacks.

To me it seems that the poet is expressing his own feelings of guilt through this poem. We see that in the poem the mention of his mother is very less therefore we can conclude that this poem is truly dedicated to his dead father. The ‘oval Lowell smile’ is probably a mask behind which his father keeps his pain hidden. The guilt arises from the fact that he could not be with his father during his last days, probably the days when his father needed him the most.

Word Count 77

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