I Sit and Think

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I Sit and Think

Postby Nimhiril » Sun Nov 16, 2008 5:15 pm

I have to write a poetry explication for my English class, and I chose to do Tolkien's poem "I Sit and Think." I have lots of ideas of what this poems means, but was wondering what you all thought of it. I'm not sure if this is the right forum, so if it's not, I'm very sorry.

Here's a copy of the poem:

I sit beside the fire and think
of all that I have seen,
of meadow-flowers and butterflies
in summers that have been;

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun
and wind upon my hair.

I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall ever see.

For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring
there is a different green.

I sit beside the fire and think
of people long ago,
and people who will see a world
that I shall never know.

But all the while I sit and think
of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet
and voices at the door.




Let me know what you think!

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Postby truehobbit » Sun Nov 16, 2008 5:30 pm

Hi Nimhiril, it's certainly the right forum, and a lovely poem to discuss you chose, too, but I think it would be more helpful if you detailed your ideas first and then we could discuss them.

I'm also a bit puzzled with your question of 'what it means'. I think it means exactly what it says. :?

An (ageing) hobbit/man/person thinking of the past and the future and the people they love.
It's just very beautifully put. :love:
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Postby Cynara » Sun Nov 16, 2008 5:38 pm

I would say than it's about a man, possibly Tolkien himself (not sure at what age he wrote this), sitting and thinking of his incipit mortality. He treasures the beauty that he has seen, but there is some regret that he possibly did not see all that he could, or even regret that he will not see every spring forever. But his life is still full of the good things: friends and family, and companionship, so he is not too sad. It is almost a brief glimpse of a moment when he can rest, and think about his shortened future, instead of what is around him.
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Postby Nimhiril » Sun Nov 16, 2008 5:58 pm

I love it too. :) Unfortunatly, I can't leave it at that. I have to disect it and present it in a paper, that's what I meant by "What it means."

Well, since it's actually a poem from FotR it was "written" by Bilbo.

Here are some points I've noticed:

~he has used all 4 seasons in it somewhere.
~the phrase "when winter comes without a spring" is an interesting line, and I'm still trying to figure it out... :lol:
~the 4th stanza mentions how much he still hasn't seen and how good times are different everywhere
~the last stanza seems to say that history is bound to repeat itself with the phase "I listen for returning feet/and voices at the door"
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Postby truehobbit » Sun Nov 16, 2008 6:35 pm

Nimhiril wrote:I love it too. :) Unfortunatly, I can't leave it at that. I have to disect it and present it in a paper, that's what I meant by "What it means."


That's the fun about poems. :D
Maybe think of it as finding out and understanding the reasons for which you love it, rather than just 'dissecting' - that way the process makes a lot more sense, at least to my mind. :)

Well, since it's actually a poem from FotR it was "written" by Bilbo.


Good start. So, the "I" is Bilbo. We know that Bilbo is a hobbit of advanced age at this point. We also know that hobbits are pretty much "ordinary people".
Or maybe it is specifically about Bilbo and his story. Up to you to decide for yourself, I think.

~he has used all 4 seasons in it somewhere.


Excellent observation, I think.


~the phrase "when winter comes without a spring" is an interesting line, and I'm still trying to figure it out... :lol:


Well, another poet, P.B. Shelley wrote a line in a poem somewhere (can't remember where from the top of my head) saying "when winter comes, can spring be far behind?" - he was talking about the promise for new beginnings (in spring) which is actually closest when it seems the most impossibly far away (in winter), so there's most reason to hope exactly at the time when there seems least.

But, while nature is cyclical like that, our lives, really, aren't.
Old age is also often referred to as the winter of life...

~the 4th stanza mentions how much he still hasn't seen and how good times are different everywhere


Yes, another good observation. :)

~the last stanza seems to say that history is bound to repeat itself with the phase "I listen for returning feet/and voices at the door"


I wouldn't read it like that, but much more literally and straightforwardly. (I was serious when I said I thought it pretty much meant exactly what it said. :) ) He's listening for "returning feet", i.e. he hopes people he's known and who aren't around would return, so he could see them again. :)

Edit:
On the other hand, I think you could make a point of Bilbo remembering specifically the arrival of the Dwarves, for example - in that case, yes, you could say maybe he expects history to repeat itself...it would give a humorous turn to the poem, I think.

That's the beauty about poetry appreciation, the way I read it needn't be the way you read it, but you have to give reasons for why you read something in a certain way.

I think the reason I see a general thought about missing friends here is because I read the poem as a whole as an expression of feelings everybody can find in themselves - but you needn't do that. You could just as well come to a completely different reading - so, yes, the question of 'what does it mean' is wide open, really. I'll be curious to hear your interpretation. :D

If you think he talks about history repeating itself, make it clear why you think so. What do you associate with the line? What history is it that'll be repeating itself. What sort of feeling does that leave you with at the end?
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Postby Nimhiril » Sun Nov 16, 2008 8:29 pm

this may seem really silly, but if:
winter=old age
spring=youth (right?)
What do summer and autumn represent?
I would assume autumn would equal middle-aged but I really am unsure of that

I talked to my family about the last stanza, and they said the same as you Truehobbit.
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Postby rowanberry » Mon Nov 17, 2008 9:10 am

Well, usually, spring is connected to youth, and winter to old age, as you said. Summer could be the first part of full adulthood, something like from 30 to 60 in our world, and autumn the later part, from that until old age.

However, I see the meaning of this verse:

I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall ever see.

as that the person ponders what the world will be after his time, when he's dead and gone (and thus can't see another spring).
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Postby MithLuin » Mon Nov 17, 2008 9:40 am

I like this particular poem so much, I started my own thread about it a few years ago: Death and Deathlessness

I think that the poem shows a clear understanding that life is winding down, and that the speaker is mortal. Each year, the same seasons repeat, but each year, they are different. And, one year, the seasons will come around but the speaker will no longer be there to see them.

Tolkien puts the poem into the mouth of Bilbo in his old age, after the Ring is gone from him. He will not be 'thin and stretched', but will die as a mortal. This awareness/acceptance of death is very important to the themes of LotR. Bilbo doesn't want to die, but he is not going to try to cheat death, or fall into denial about it, either.
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Re: I Sit and Think

Postby EriathwenThenidiel » Fri Apr 05, 2013 9:21 pm

Nimhiril wrote:
~the phrase "when winter comes without a spring" is an interesting line, and I'm still trying to figure it out... :lol:


In poetry the seasons are used to represent life, spring meaning birth and winter death. I think that what that specific line means is just "when death comes."
Because if we take the whole idea written in the poem it says:
"I sit beside the fire and think of how the world will be when winter comes without a spring that I shall ever see."

So for me it is just that, Bilbo wondering of all the things that he may never see when he dies.

And about who's the narrator... I think it's Bilbo because of the last stanza, making reference to the moment when Gandalf and the Dwarves came to him and his biggest adventure begun. But at the same time, as Tolkien felt himself as a hobbit I think that those are entirely his thoughts but through Bilbo.
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