Dionysian Analysis of Three Poems

” Communing with nature is the ultimate Dionysian act; the poets subsequent writing of the communion is the Apollonian gesture that tempers this Dionysian indulgence.

What each of these three poems has in common is the fact that they are based around images of human figures confronting the Dionysian motifs of descent and ascent via nature. Each poem represents a struggle between the Apollonian and Dionysian extremes, a struggle that is very much part of every human beings life. In Hamiltons poem, the poet is quite eager to run away altogether from Apollonian order into the wild chaos of poetry and the sea. It does not take much convincing for her; from the moment the poem opens, she is ready to go. Oldss poem represents a more virulent struggle between the two poles. While the father in the poem has clearly made his choice and has learned to live with it, for the younger man, the son, the journey will be a much longer road, Olds infers, marked by pain and suffering. In Komunyakaas poem, wild Dionysus is consistently present from the beginning in the form of the figure in the poem, who is apparently half-man and half-beast – a hefty dramatization of the sublimation of Apollo into Dionysus.

The poem plays not only with this dichotomy between man and the animal kingdom, but between man and woman as well. While rooted in the scene of Apollos domain – a “hilltop house” – nature is not far away, and it is to wild nature that the figure in the poems gaze ultimately turns.

As our interpretation of these poems has established, it is not possible to have Dionysus without Apollo. Apollo is constantly there to serve as Dionysuss shadow, and vice versa. It is through the Apollonian and Dionysian, the ways in which they unite and the ways in which they disperse, that we may identify poetrys mythical conception of the universe, while simultaneously showing the ways in which it intersects with our own day-to-day realities.


Parisi, Joseph and Stephen Young, eds. The Poetry Anthology, 1912-2002: Ninety Years of Americas Most Distinguished.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *