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For the Union Dead

Author, Robert Lowell tells a story about his thoughts an opinions about being young and then growing old. He takes us through different stages as he remembers what once was in a different and earlier time in life. Lowell relates to fish, describing his journey through life and offers his view concerning life and death in his poem, “For the Union of Dead”. He teaches us that the more simpler things in life are the most important. The author describes the “old South Boston Aquarium” as he explains that the tank is now old and has lost his appeal from what he formerly remembers.

It’s glory has now faded and stands there rendering as useless. The fish that lived in the aquarium are now just as unattractive as they age as they have made their journey through life, from new to old and from appealing and exciting to an older unattractive sight that he now views with sadness and hopelessness. Lowell tells us how he once stared at the fish and the aquarium with such enthusiasm as his thoughts of piercing the bubbles gave him pleasure as the fish allowed him to quietly watch them as they allowed him to gaze and wonder at their watery world.

Sadness overtakes vigor in this poetry as the author talks about the beauty of the aquarium being interrupted. He describes how the aquarium is being taken from him as a parking garage will stand in place of the place that he so desperately needed. He compared the digging equipment to a huge and mean monster that was coming to take away something that he so loved. He tells us how he watched safely from afar as the crew came in to destroy the aquarium and how this sight personally affected him. Robert Lowell continues to tell his story as he talks about the Civil War as he compares the war to Boston and the parking garage.

He compares the war monuments to fish as he explains how the Colonel is thin and angry as his image stands for all to see in the city. The Colonel looked as if he lived like a fish out of water when he searched for a place of privacy; an environment that wouldn’t suck away his oxygen, where he could find happiness away from the crowd. There is a nice comparison of man and fish as the author talks about a person feeling like a fish out of water as he explains that the Colonel was out of his element and away from his normal environment as he led so many to their death in the Civil War.

He went on to tell us that this man could not turn back or retreat from his goal that he had set forth to accomplish. We learn from this poetry that there are constant reminders from the past in the New England city, about what happened so many years ago. We are told a story of man being viewed as useless as they died and were cast away and forgotten like dead fish in the city. The author retreats his thoughts back to the old aquarium of fish and how he once stood watching the bubbles in the tank as he says, “Colonel Shaw is riding on his bubble” just as the fish in the tank once moved along with the bubbles in the water.

The Colonel depended on his soldiers just as the fish relied on the bubbles in the tank of water. The Aquarium ceases to exist, now. There are constant reminders around the city that Lowell sees that tells him that the past life as he once saw it, is gone. He looks at everything that has changed around him. He talks about how automobiles in the city have replaced the quiet floating fish in the tank. He compares the fish as “giant finned cars” that move quickly like fish. Author Lowell obviously preferred a more quiet and subtle world where peace and tranquility was much more preferred.

He is saddened by the loss of appreciation for a fish tank that brought happiness to him than the large parking garage in the city or the monuments that replaced life in the city. He views the bulldozers and cars as replacements for something much simpler in life, such as fish in aquariums and men that once had life but gave that up for a life more complicated as they were all forgotten. Lowell is very efficient in describing life that once was and how people existed in a much quieter and serene time in life.

The author makes us realize that there is more to life than what humans view now as being normal. He takes us back to a time of fish and bubbles and reminds us that we should search out the most important things in our lives; even though they seems boring, small or useless to others who live their lives building bigger and better things that may possibly only make them lose what really means the most to them. It’s nice to think of fish and their quiet splendor as they are happy with their world of water and bubbles.

Humans swim through their lives, as they make changes and age. They leave behind remnants of the lives they led. As we get older, we make changes, our surroundings get older as we do, but as we remember back though our lives, it is so important to not let go of the ideas and views that we held as children. It is the fish in the aquarium that brought this man peace just like there are certain things in our own world that we think about that remind us that life is all about finding peace of mind and living a life that is happy and full of simplicity.

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