Like many other proleptic poems, "servesseveral functions. It does provide a means of "Looking at Death"; in addition,however, it strives to define both death and life in unaccustomed ways. Thus it iscentrally concerned to posit "seeing" as a form of power: "to see" isto assert authority and autonomy—the authority to define life in ways that will bemeaningful not only to oneself, perhaps, but to other as well, and autonomy to reject thecriteria and limits God would force upon us, even if such an act will inevitably elicitGod’s wrath. Death robs us of all bodily sensations; more important, however, itwrests this autonomous authority from us, the final and most devastating wound, "Icould not see --." Ironically, the strategy of the poem mimicsGod’s method, for a reader is enabled to comprehend the value of "sight"here principally by experiencing the horror of its loss. Moreover, the poem even suggestthat some ways of engaging with the world during "life" may be no more thanforms of animated death. Eating, sleeping, exercising the physical faculties—thesealone do not describe "life"; and many pass through existence with a form of"blindness" that fatally compromises the integrity of self. Thus the poem offera counsel to the living by strongly implying the crucial importance of daring "tosee" while life still lasts, and one way in which the poet can be Representative isby offering a model of active insight that is susceptible of emulation.


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