Patterns by Amy Lowell: Summary and Analysis

Patterns by Amy Lowell published in 1915 was one of the best known Imagist poems. Lowell beautifully and vividly created pictures with the words and presents the view of the woman towards the war and on the social conventions. The lady in the poem has just heard the death of her would be husband in the war, which had brought her the gloom of the separation before the union.

Amy Lowell (1874-1925)

The speaker walks down the patterned garden path and comes in the shade of the lime tree. She was in her ‘stiff, brocaded gown’ with beautiful hair and jeweled fan, which has created a pattern of dressing of marriage. One small flower drops upon her bosom when she was under the tree. The speaker imagines that her lover will come out of the bush and she will lead him to a maze, where he will tightly embrace her. Aching, melting, unafraid are the three images that describe her experience of being together. When he will embrace her it will be aching but she will remain unafraid only because she will be melting in his love. But all these things have happened only in the world of imagination. Like her contemporary modernist, Amy Lowell swims into the world of imagination.

Despite this imagination, the speaker unfolds her own reality in which she has lost her would be husband. They were planning to enter the patterns of marriage, sex and family life. But suddenly comes with a pattern called a war and in that pattern of war, she loses her beloved man. So, at the end of the poem, she is questioning the destiny asking a question ‘Christ! What are patterns for?’ If the patterns are meant to give her the torture why are the patterns created. This question has also questioned the necessity of war. By fighting a war, many countries might have earned the name and fame, but many people have lost their beloved family members. In this sense, this poem condemns war and its aftermath.

As we come to the concluding part of the poem, the image of the dropping flower and dripping water become relevant. She has lost a beautiful flower of her life and like dripping water its sorrow is constantly haunting her memory.

The patterns depicted in the poems such as the dress of the speaker, the blooming flowers, and the falling water powerfully shows the love of the speaker towards her lover who has died in the war. The imageries of ‘blowing daffodils’, 'flutter in breeze' symbolize her freedom and carefree life, even in the stiffness of the ‘brocaded gown’ which furthermore metaphorically stand for the restrictions and boundaries created for the women by the so-called civilized society.  'And the train makes a pink and silver stain' suggest the training to the groom of formal social etiquette of high ranking people before the wedding. The imageries show her sacrifice of self-freedom for the sake of social restrictions. But she eagerly waited for the union with her lover as after the wedding she would be free from the restriction imposed upon the unmarried girls. Sadly, the news of the death of the lover shatters all the patterns of the life of the speaker. Her dream of starting a new pattern of life with the lover is destroyed by the chaotic pattern of war. The death caused by the bloody war has destroyed all the beautiful patterns of the speaker’s life.

Related Topic

Amy Lowell: Biography