What Is the Theme of the Poem "I Have Visited Again"?
The theme of a poem is not necessarily an intentional decision made by the poet. Sometimes a writer may have been thinking of one particular experience or feeling, and in the reading of the text the audience interprets several themes that universally reflect the human condition. The poem "I Have Visited Again" by Alexander Pushkin explores the themes of our personal evolution over time, the inevitability of death, aging, and our relationship with the future.
Human Changes Through Life's Progression
One prominent theme in the poem is that of human transformation. Each of us changes and grows over time, such that we may reflect on our past selves and wonder why we did or said a particular thing; or our opinions on a particular issue may change; or if we were introverted we may become extroverted, or vice versa. In the poem "I Have Visited Again," Pushkin writes: "And I have changed too, obedient to life’s law." The second part of the sentence references the universality of this process; all people -- as they gain life experience -- transform in some way. This is "life's law."
The Inevitability of Death
Death is one of the most common themes in literature. Here, the theme of death is explored in terms of its inevitability. Making the reader confront the cycles of life, Pushkin writes: "She is no more. No more behind the wall/Do I hear her heavy footsteps as she moved/Slowly, painstakingly about her tasks." The juxtaposition of day-to-day "tasks" with the inevitability of death amplifies the magnitude of the theme of death, making it feel less abstract to the reader.
Aging and the Passing of Time
The changes that passing time creates are not only manifested in personality and worldview, but also affect social and political structures, human relationships, living bodies and physical objects. Of the speaker's old, untended home, Pushkin writes: "Here is the cottage, sadly/Declined now." There is a sadness to the erosion of the physical and natural landmarks to which the speaker was once accustomed. One way people cope with this sadness is through nostalgia -- a sentimental reflection on, or longing for, the past. Pushkin writes: "But now that I am here again, the past/Has flown out eagerly to embrace me, claim me,/And it seems that only yesterday I wandered/Within these groves." However, ultimately, nostalgia is merely an escape, and does not stop the passing of time nor the erosion of the human body.
The Future and Our Place in It
"I Have Visited Again" implicitly poses a set of questions about our relationship with the future that takes place after we have passed away. What is our relationship to the future? What legacy do we leave? Are we remembered? How and by whom? Does our being remembered even matter? Does it bring us solace in the present? The poem also explores how we deal with the future while we are still alive, suggesting that we cannot be like the single old pine that stays in its same, barren place, away from the new saplings. Pushkin writes: "They have remained the same, make the same murmur—/But round their aging roots, where all before/Was barren, naked, a thicket of young pines/Has sprouted; like green children round the shadows/Of the two neighboring pines. But in the distance/Their solitary comrade stands, morose,/Like some old bachelor, and round its roots/All is barren as before." We must not cling rigidly to our old ways, Pushkin suggests, otherwise we will be left isolated and stuck in the past while the youth and the future proceed without us.
Soheila Battaglia is a published and award-winning author and filmmaker. She holds an MA in literary cultures from New York University and a BA in ethnic studies from UC Berkeley. She is a college professor of literature and composition.