A Critical Analysis of Derek Walcott’s “a Lesson for This Sunday”
English and Literature
Submitted By Uwistud
Derek Walcott’s “A Lesson for this Sunday” is a steady buildup from a masculine persona lazily remarking a summer’s day; however it quickly turns to a source of annoyance as the cries of children shatter the reflective mirror of paradise leaving him introspective and critical of their actions as they destroy a part of nature. The poem in itself is melodic, not with a particular rhyme scheme however but with the way Walcott wove his words. The poem elicits a theme of deep introspection, contemplation, death and philosophy of human nature.
“A Lesson for this Sunday”, aside from being the title is a window of opportunity to view the poem at face, but a second read foreshadows the end conclusion. The first stanza follows in painting a picture of a lazy and beautiful summer day, specifically a Sunday that the persona is enjoying “In scansion gentler than my hammock swings”. He uses derivatives of the word idle in the first and last lines of the stanza “The growing idleness of summer grass”, “Since I lie idling from the thought in things,” along with the lack of punctuation emphasizes just how easy going and relaxed it is. However, the tone shifts immediately as the reader encounters the second stanza, “Until I hear the cries Of two small children hunting yellow wings.” The persona is disturbed, shaken, pulled from his meditative mood by the sounds of these children chasing a butterfly. He states “Who break my Sabbath with the thought of sin.” They have ruined his day of rest, and simultaneously made a link to his ever present themes of spirituality; the story is building to something, the senses that initially plucked at guitar strings begin to strum as he moves to the third stanza. “As a mantis prays She shrieks to eviscerate its abdomen.” A simile, a reference, the imagery; the picture painted, the pun as these simple words hint to a gentle action but is innocently...