17 pages 34 minutes read

Derek Walcott

A Careful Passion

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 2014

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Symbols & Motifs


Walcott repeatedly turns to the image of the inn’s tables throughout “A Careful Passion.” He begins by describing them as “fixed like islands near a hedge” (Line 3) in the first stanza, emphasizing their immobility. As the poem develops, they represent the speaker’s feelings of stasis and ennui. In the third stanza, he writes, “We are lapped gently in the sentiment / Of a small table by the harbor’s edge” (Lines 21-22). This phrasing, and the strangeness of the table creating a sentiment for the speaker, underscores his interpretation of the scene; rather than experiencing the romance of the ocean, or any number of other, more passionate images he could note, he returns to the banality of the small table. He repeats it nearly verbatim in the next stanza and again in the fifth: “To twirl a glass and smile, as in pain, / At a small table by the water’s edge” (Lines 32-33). The table is an anchor for him, the solid image he returns to rather than engaging with his lover’s conversation, and rather than feeling an emotional response to her request to break up. When he repeats the line at the end of the fifth stanza, he completes the story’s cycle and emphasizes the feeling of rigidness; nothing has changed about the table or the image, suggesting that he believes this romantic interlude with his lover has done little to change him on a deeper level.