Song of the Final Meeting” is a poem by Anna Akhmatova, a famous Russian poet who lived most of her life in the early 20th century. Owing primarily to the time into which she was born, a time in which many atrocities and horrific crimes were being perpetrated by the Communist government, she was a strong voice against Stalinism. This, combined with the fact that she was a woman, provided her poems with a unique touch, one not present in the other contemporary poetry of that time.
The poem, “Song of the Final Meeting”, examines, with the usage of colorful imagery and numerous apt metaphors, the end of a relationship between two lovers, as narrated by the female party.
The poem begins with the following lines:
My breast grew helplessly cold,
But my steps were light.
I pulled the glove from my left hand
Mistakenly onto my right.
The first line itself establishes the tone and emotions associated with the poem. The first line in this stanza serves to evoke a sense of impending doom, a cold unshakable dread that fills one’s chest. The use of the word, “helplessly”, in this line, induces a melancholic sense of bleak inevitability in the reader, the knowledge that the final outcome cannot be changed, try as one might. The second line can be interpreted as the poet’s mental response to these emotions. It suggests that, bleak as the future may be, there is nothing that she can do about it (linked to concept of inevitability on first line), and being such, there is no need to worry about it, thus, her steps are light.
In the 3rd and 4th lines of this stanza, the poet, citing an apt example of her putting on the wrong glove, conveys her absence of mind to the reader. The probable and logical cause for her being preoccupied, based on the previous lines, would be her anticipation, and simultaneous dread, for the meeting
The second stanza is as follows:
It seemed there were so many steps,
But I knew there were only 3!
Amidst the maples an autumn whisper
Pleaded: “Die with me!”
In this stanza, the first line can be interpreted as being indicative of the ever growing sense of anticipatory dread felt by the poet. Anticipation so much that one can hardly focus on their surroundings, is the general concept put forth. The second line shows, once again, the absent-mindedness of the poet at this stage, linking back to the same concept in the last two lines of the first stanza.
In the third line of the above stanza, an important aspect is introduced which, if interpreted on a physical level, serves to describe the environment. The short phrase used by the author, of the maple trees through which the poet walks, combined with the reference to autumn, induces a powerful image of her surroundings in the reader’s mind. The usage of maple trees, in particular, contributes greatly to this effect, seeing as how they possess their telltale bright orange leaves during autumn.
The use of the word ‘autumn’ in the third line, if interpreted symbolically, could be understood as a metaphor for unavoidable change. Autumn, the season in which leaves turn orange and fall from their branches, is the end of the spring and the beginning of the long, hard, cold winter. As it affects nature so drastically, reflected in the mass migrations of animals, and the telltale orange color taken on by leaves of trees in the North West, it is bound to, and does, evoke very strong emotions in one. In the words of Ernest Hemingway in ‘A Moveable Feast’,
“You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold wintery light…When the cold rains kept on and killed the products of spring, it was as though a young person died for no reason.”
The above quote quite aptly epitomizes the negative emotions induced in one during such a season. The writer, Anna Akhmatova, manages to link the above emotions related to autumn, with the emotions and feelings associated with the end of a relationship.
In many pieces of classical literature, autumn is symbolic of the earth with respect to beginning and end, harvest, and the end of spring, the leaves falling from the branches. It is also commonly used to represent an end, in the literal sense; the end of summer is naught but the beginning of fall. In poetry especially, spring is associated with youth and new, budding life. Summer is the pinnacle of life, when you are older, but still young enough to have family, success, etc. Autumn is often the time of retirement, but you have a sense of fulfillment, richness, wisdom, freedom. Winter is old age, illness, the death of loved ones and, ultimately your own death. The author has managed to take the above symbolism, and twist it, ever so slightly, so that, rather than the seasons being indicative of the course of one’s lifetime, they represent the inevitable stages of a relationship.