Tag Archives: grieving

Poetry: Sure Solacer of Human Cares

For those trapped in gloom, Emily Bronte reminds us that the Imagination is there to provide us with solace.

Posted in Bronte (Emily) | Also tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Doctor Faustus: Lessons in Grieving

After watching two students turn to Marlowe’s “Doctor Faustus” as they grieved the death of parents, I have come to see the play as a powerful meditation upon how we respond to death.

Posted in Marlowe (Christopher) | Also tagged , , | Leave a comment

He Doth Sit By Us and Moan

Last week I was honored by my friend Jean Yeatman when she asked me to sit with her at her mother’s deathbed. We talked about childhood excursions that our families took together and also about the importance of ritual in our lives. Today’s William Blake poem is for her and her brother Clay. Blake finds […]

Posted in Blake (William) | Also tagged , , , | 7 Comments

If Beowulf Went to War with ISIS

The Jordanian response to the burning alive of a Jordanian pilot reminds us that Grendel’s Mother is on the loose in the Middle East. Beowulf models how we should respond.

Posted in Beowulf Poet | Also tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Message from the Mower in the Dew

Robert Frost’s “Tuft of Flowers” helped me grieve for my son in ways I am only beginning to understand.

Posted in Frost (Robert) | Also tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Our Strands Grow Richer With Each Loss

May Sarton’s beautiful poem “All Souls” reminds us that our dead continue to move through us.

Posted in Sarton (May) | Also tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Destructive Grieving for a Lost America

Grieving for a lost America reaches deep across the political spectrum, “Beowulf” provides a healthy response.

Posted in Beowulf Poet, Robinson (Marilynne) | Also tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Faustus’s Soul and a Grieving Student

This past year I have learned, in a new and powerful way, that the Faustus legend is a powerful exploration of the meaning of life and death. This is thanks to Caitie Harrigan, a senior at St. Mary’s who has been writing her senior project on the legend. As Caitie told me recently, she never […]

Posted in Marlowe (Christopher) | Also tagged , , | 9 Comments

Top Gun Takes Down Grendel’s Mom

An unexpected parallel between “Beowulf” and the Tom Cruse film “Top Gun” has given me new appreciation for the 8th century Anglo-Saxon epic and a deeper insight into how at least some guys in the military handle grief.

Posted in Beowulf Poet | Also tagged , , | Comments closed

Win or Lose, Turn to Beowulf

Drew Brees, Super Bowl MVP     A few years back, if I remember the article correctly, I came across two interesting statistics about life in America on Super Bowl Sunday.  During the game the country’s crime drops to the lowest level of the year. Following the game, however, acts of spousal violence hit their highest levels of […]

Posted in Uncategorized | Also tagged , , | Comments closed

Ring Out the Old, Ring in the New

I am writing to you from the home of my parents in Sewanee, Tennessee, where I figure I have spent around 48 of my 58 Christmases.   In this I differ from the Tennyson in the third Christmas passage of In Memoriam.  For the first time since Hallam’s death, he is not celebrating the season in […]

Posted in Uncategorized | Also tagged , , , | Comments closed

Dead Hands Reaching Out to Comfort

Alfred Lord Tennyson’s three Christmas passages in In Memoriam are reminiscent of the way that my own family celebrates Christmas. My ancestry is British and the ceremonies that we observe date at least as far back as my great grandmother Eliza Scott Fulcher, born in the 1850’s.    Christmas in Sewanee, Tennessee (which is where we are […]

Posted in Tennyson (Alfred Lord) | Also tagged , , , | Comments closed

Singing Carols in the Darkness

Thinking about my dead son in this Christmas season brings to mind Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s In Memoriam, the lengthy poem that he wrote over the course of 17 years lamenting the death of his close friend Arthur Henry Hallam.Hallam was a young man when he died unexpectedly of a cerebral hemorrhage, and Tennyson describes his […]

Posted in Tennyson (Alfred Lord) | Also tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Willow Rosenberg as Grendel’s Mother

This past year I was surprised to suddenly find myself a fan of the 1997-2003 television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It would be hard to find a television show with a wackier premise, but it somehow works. In this entry I want to draw some parallels between the show and Beowulf and, especially, between […]

Posted in Beowulf Poet | Also tagged , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Battling with Monstrous Grief

I said in the last blog that I am kept fresh by the variety of ways that my students respond to the works that I teach. Sometimes their reactions are entirely unexpected and altogether marvelous. To make this point dramatically, I share here a Beowulf reading story. The student was a 19-year-old African American woman […]

Posted in Beowulf Poet | Also tagged , , | Comments closed


  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

  • Sign up for weekly newsletter

    Your email will not be shared or sold.
    * = required field

    powered by MailChimp!
  • Twitter Authentication data is incomplete