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A/L English Literature Made Easy - Poetry

The fisherman mourned by his wife - Patrick Fernando

Patrick Fernando is a Sri Lankan poet. He died in 1983. His poems are impressive and follow a definite style giving a tint of 'Local colouring'.

Being one of the most accomplished poets in Sri Lanka his style of expression is exceptional. "The fisherman mourned by his wife", describes the typical lifestyle of the people in a fishing village in Sri Lanka. Women as well as men marry young.

Most of them were arranged marriages sometimes lacking mutual understanding or even affection. With the arrival of children there develops the usual love and affection - a concept that has come into existence for years. This poem is in the form of an elegy and is in narrative style.

Though there is hardly any love between the man and the woman, the unawakened emotional attitude of the woman remains unexpressed. With the conceiving of a child there crops up a strong love between the husband and wife. The poet reveals how the man goes out to sea in rough weather and meets with an untimely death. The poem carries a specially attractive style, highlighting the character of the woman.

In the first verse, the poet reveals how the young man though he has not even reached thirty years 'before he has matured into a real fisherman'.

" ... not quite thirty and the sun

Had not yet tanned you into old-boat brown,

When you were not quite thirty and had not begun.."

The repetition of the words 'not quite thirty', in lines one and three and in the final lines

"Chaste as a gull flying pointed home

In haste to be with me" reflects the mental attitude of the immatured young man, having started his wedded life and the young wife's strong concern regarding her husband.

In the second verse, the poet reveals the pathetic situation of the woman with child and her husband's departure - never to return.

"Now that being dead you are beyond detection

And I need not be discreet, let us confess"

She laments recalling to the significant incident, their arranged marriage

"It was not love that married us no affection

But elders' persuasion, not even loneliness" and recalling to the young man's harmless attitude towards his young bride and how considerate he was.

"My eyes were open in the dark unlike in love

Trimbling lest in fear, you'll let me go a maid,

Trembling on the other hand for my virginity"

The repetition of the word "Trembling" emphasising the young man's excitement, and his gentle and understanding behaviour.

The third verse describes the terrific condition of weather, the coming of the monsoons and how the fisherman was compelled to remain at home and the atmosphere is beautifully created to suit the happy event - I was with child emphasising the relation between man and nature.

"When gulls returned new plumed and wild

When in our wind torn flamboyant

New buds broke, I was with child"

'New buds' may symbolize the happy event I was with child and the development of a strong love between husband and wife.

The fourth verse reveals how the happy news was conveyed to the husband by the wife and the man's reactions.

And you seemed full of guilt and not to know

whether to repent or rejoice over the situation

They were wrapped in love and devotion.

But soon I was to you more then God or temptation

And so were you to me

Her grief at his departure and how she had to bear it all up.

The last verse reveals the woman as being more mature and practical; being able to face the facts of life.

... The flamboyant is torn,

The sky cracks like a shell again

So someone practical has gone

To make them bring the hearse

Before the rain

These lines reflect the matured mental attitude of the woman, obtained through sheer experience inviting courage to face life.

Someone practical has gone to ... before the rain

This line of the last verse is significant as it exposes the woman's mature attitudes and touches upon the truth that life has to continue in spite of unfortunate incidents.

The poem is slightly metaphysical: The free verse form and the rhyming pattern varies to give prominence to highlighted facts - the emotional and practical characteristics of the woman. The title emphasising the significance of the woman mourning the death of her young husband.

The juxtaposition of the line you had grown so familiar as my hand and the inexperienced young man portrayed in the first verse is a striking feature in this poem.

When you were not quite thirty and had not begun

To be embittered like the rest, nor grown ...

The instance where the poet expects the reader to guess is a striking feature in this poem

Whether to repent or rejoice over the situation

you nodded at the ground and went to sea

and the last two lines of the fourth verse

But soon I was to you more than God or temptation,

And so were you to me

The symbolic presentation of the woman too young and inexperienced and then turning out to be mature, understanding and courageous to face life; highlights the theme of the poem.

The poem is in spoken language pattern and appeals to the reader as it is presented in the tone of a personal conversation. The reader may feel as if the fisherman's wife is unveiling her sad story to a close friend; and the reader's sympathy with the woman is deepened.

The poet's language style reflects the rhythm and the idiomatic expressions prevalent in the Sri Lankan 'English Pattern'.

The poem "sea morning" by Alfreda de Silva leads us to a similar version as that of Patrick Fernando's in 'The Fisherman mourned by his wife' - The uncertainty of the life of the fisherman.

Mrs. C. Ekanayake, Retd., Specialist Teacher, Eng. Lit., St. Anne's College, Kurunegala.

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