Milkweed and Monarch by Paul Muldoon: Summary and Critical Analysis

The poet Paul Muldoon in Milkweed and Monarch is creating a specific landscape. He starts from church and goes to human beings in general. The speaker of the poem was kneeling in front of the grave of his parents, random thoughts and images crept into his consciousness.

Paul Muldoon (Born in 1951)

Random thoughts baffled him and laid a great stress in his psyche that troubled the persona to render tribute to his parents. As the son goes to a church yard for the memories of his parents, the taste of sweet herbs comes to his mouth.

He can hardly tell what is what. Something is filled in his mouth. He lacks concentration in the purpose he has gone to the churchyard. It seems as if he has suffocated but he is not. It seems as if he is stricken with the grief of his parents but he is stricken with the grief of a woman. May be she was his beloved. He remembered the woman who slunk from the sea - otter. The woman is selfish and she left him. She has given him pickled gherkin. Why should he remember her who left him? The rhetorical question is there.

Now speaker brings the reference of monarch and butterfly. While he was thinking of his beloved, the monarch flew for the milkweed. It passed with hunger and it forgot everything as it was satisfying its hunger. In the same way the boy (speaker) and the girl are interdependent because of the passion. They cannot be separated like milkweed and monarch. Despite the physical separation, the boy is always hers. Her memories are like a hurricane that can erase the memories of his parents. Through the help of milkweed and monarch Paul Muldoon is trying to show the interdependence of male and female.

Similarly, we can safely say pervasiveness of the past actions imposes meaning to the present action. No actions of present and no picture of the mind are complete without reference of the past. The mind of the persona of the poem oscillates between past and present. This is the plight of the modern man tool. The speaker cannot act properly at present because past memories always, intervene him in the present. In this poem Muldoon mixes together a memory of his parents’ Collegelands grave with the remembered tastes of the plants that he used to eat as a child! He also remembers the American sea otter, Irish Monarch butterflies, Irish Cliffs and a Russian samovar. Visiting this mother and father’s grave in Milkweed and Monarch, Muldoon free associates with time and place, fact and emotion, and religion and philosophy.

Cite this Page!

Sharma, Kedar N. "Milkweed and Monarch by Paul Muldoon: Summary and Critical Analysis." BachelorandMaster, 15 Nov. 2013,

Related Topic

Paul Muldoon: Biography