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The Theme of Memory in "the Last of the Books" by Alfred Noyes

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In his poem, “The Last of the Books”, Alfred Noyes explores how books are used as a crucial form of remembrance and represents the human need to maintain their legacy. The prevailing theme of memory is used in the poem to convey the role of books in maintaining the legacy of humanity.

Our first indication that the poem is set in an apocalyptic world where earth has been washed clean of humanity is when the poet first describes the sun as having a “pale blink” to represent its loss of life and the passage of time, emphasising the “desolate planet” which has lost humanity, allowing the reader to further understand how the books carry our legacy past our deaths. It also contrasts the long-lasting books who are “housed”, with use of personifying them as they are escaping the “venoms of decay”. This is done to create a sense of death and absence of life. By doing so, the reader can understand how the books are able to maintain their legacy even after their death.

Through the use of personification, the books are described as lively and warm, in contrast to the cold, desolate planet, as they are “remembering”, “outliving”, “treasuring” the “music of the earth” and “outliving the dust”. The poet then refers to the books as “little fading hieroglyphs” which compares it to the ancient Egyptian writing system, used by archaeologists to understand their ancestors’ lives. This reminds us of how the books maintain the memories of Earth, our own versions of hieroglyphs. The books will bear through “death and night”, contrasting what they are protecting: “the legend”, again maintaining memories, “of our spring” which carries a positive connotation of a different time. The idea of spring conveys a sense of warmth and contrasts the coldness of the current time.

The last stanza describes the content of the books as “stranger secrets”, the use of sibilance to create a mysterious and ominous sound. As the secrets are bore to the stars, it is as if the aliens will take books and share the legend of humanity with the millions of stars.



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