They are waiting for me somewhere beyond Eden Rock…Eden Rock – Charles Causley
Oh, hello there…it’s been a while, hasn’t it? Are we ready to dive back into AQA’s Love and Relationships anthology? This time, we’re taking a closer look at ol’ Charles Causley’s Eden Rock poem, offering GCSE revision Eden Rock analysis. As ever, we’ll be focusing on:
Shall we go for it? Yes? Nice…
Eden Rock Context
‘Eden Rock’ is a 20th Century poem by the Cornish poet, Charles Causley. The poet, Charles Causley, was born in Launceston, Cornwall in 1917. Causley was an intensely private man whose poetry achieved greater acclaim after his death. Regardless of his private and quiet nature, Causley knew many of the great writers of the 20th century and was friends with Siegfried Sassoon, Susan Hill and Ted Hughes among others. Apart from war service, Causley spent most of his life in the same small town he was born in and worked as a school teacher at the local primary. He wrote extensively for adults and children.
Causley was an only child and was very close to his parents. His father had returned from the First World War with long term, debilitating injuries. He died when Causley was only seven.
The poem ‘Eden Rock’ seems to be an early memory of Causley’s childhood but it can be interpreted as an allegory for both birth and death as well.
The title of the poem reflects the nature of the piece as an allegory about death. The place ‘Eden Rock’ was invented by Charles Causley specifically for the purposes of the poem and so one can assume that he meant the title and place name to figure symbolically. When asked where ‘Eden Rock’ might be, Causley was said to answer: ‘I have no idea, I mean I made it up! ‘Dartmoor’, I said – that’s always a safe answer.’
- Eden Rock is a 20th-century poem
- Charles Causley was born in Cornwall in 1917
- Eden Rock seems to be an ode to Causley’s childhood
- The title of the poem reflects the nature of the poem
Eden Rock Structure
The poem ‘Eden Rock’ is made up of five stanzas of fairly regular length. Only the last of the stanzas is broken up with the last line being on its own.
‘Eden Rock’ is written in the first person and seems to be occurring in the present tense. This gives the impression of a memory or dream being experienced by the poet as he writes. The regular lines of the poem are broken eventually by the final line, which is separated from the rest of the text. This line’s separation may indicate the poet’s own separation from his parents or that he has actually now stepped over and is on his parents’ side of the stream.
The half-rhymes make the poem seem more realistic and easy going as does the effective use of enjambment at the line: ‘Leisurely,/They beckon to me’ which seems to mirror the leisurely way in which the parents great the poet.
- Eden Rock is made up of five stanzas
- Eden Rock uses the first person
- Eden Rock is written in the present tense
Eden Rock Analysis
The poem seems to relate to a memory of a picnic long ago. The poet is remembering his parents in their youth, his father only twenty-five, his mother twenty-three. They seem to be waiting for him to join them by a stream where the poet’s mother has set out the picnic. There is an emphasis on the clothing the pair are wearing as the poet lovingly remembers his parents in their youth. The ordinariness of the day and the picnic itself is offset by the loving way in which the poet describes the simple things: the mother’s clothing and the ‘screw of paper for a cork’ in the bottle used for milk.
The poem can also be seen as an allegory or metaphor for either being born or dying. The parents seem to be waiting for the poet. They are on one side of a river while he is on the other. Rivers are often seen as symbols of crossing over, taking a journey or transitioning from one phase of life to another. The poem’s words take on new meaning if you interpret the poem as the parents waiting for the son to join them (either in life or in death). The parents are ‘waiting’ for the poet, near a location he calls ‘Eden Rock’. This reminds us of the garden of paradise and the picnic location is indeed idyllic.
His parents are described in vivid and loving detail and are young again in his ‘memory’. The colour white infuses the poem with a reminder of burial shrouds: ‘the stiff white cloth’ and heaven: ‘the sky whitens’. The mother’s hair ‘takes on the light’ making her appear angel-like. The reference to ‘three suns’ reminds us of the three members of the family, now equal in death.
The parents seem comfortable and happy and they are clearly waiting for the poet to arrive: ‘sets out/The same three plates’. They are, however, separated from him by a stream which represents the transitional journey between life and death in mythology. One is reminded of the River Styx that must be traversed, in ancient Roman literature, to reach the land of death. The mother and father beckon to the poet from the ‘other bank’ and tell him that ‘Crossing is not as hard as you might think’ making death seem like a simple transition, a short crossing over a languid stream. The last line of the poem is separated from the regular scheme, making it appear as though time has now past and the poet has moved to the other side to join his parents. He states ambiguously that ‘I had not thought it would be like this.’ We are not told whether he refers to life, the transition to death or the afterlife itself in this line.
In terms of writing about death, other poems in the collection that may be considered are: ‘When We Two Parted’ or ‘Porphyria’s Lover’. Strong family bonds can also be found in the poem ‘Follower’ and unusual ways of using childhood memories can be found in ‘Before You Were Mine’.
- The poet is remembering his parents in their youth
- River symbolism is used in the poem
- The poem can also be seen as an allegory or metaphor for either being born or dying
- Garden of Paradise and biblical allusion are present
- The last line of the poem is separated from the regular scheme
Eden Rock Poem Revision from Beyond
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See where the stream-path is! Crossing is not as hard as you might think…Eden Rock – Charles Causley
Explore even more set texts from the AQA GCSE English syllabus here.