Away Melancholy poem by Stevie Smith

Away Melancholy - Stevie Smith

“Away Melancholy” is a poem by Stevie Smith, the pen name of the English poet Florence Margaret Smith (1902–1971). Stevie Smith is known for her distinctive and often whimsical style, and “Away Melancholy” is no exception. This poem explores themes of sadness, escape, and the desire to transcend the melancholic aspects of life.

Away Melancholy

Away, melancholy, Away with it, let it go. Are not the trees green, The earth as green? Does not the wind blow, Fire leap and the rivers flow?

Away melancholy. The ant is busy He carrieth his meat, All things hurry To be eaten or eat.

Away, melancholy. Man, too, hurries, Eats, couples, buries, He is an animal also With a hey ho melancholy, Away with it, let it go.

Man of all creatures Is superlative Away, melancholy, Let it go.

The repetition of the phrase “Away, melancholy” serves as a refrain, creating a rhythmic structure and emphasizing the poet’s desire to dispel or distance herself from melancholy. The poem, with its deceptively simple language, delves into complex themes, inviting readers to contemplate the transient nature of melancholy and the vitality of life.

The first stanza begins with a direct address to melancholy, instructing it to go away. The speaker immediately shifts focus to the vibrant elements of nature—the green trees, the earth, the blowing wind, the leaping fire, and the flowing rivers. The use of vivid imagery creates a contrast between the perceived gloom of melancholy and the lively, dynamic aspects of the natural world.

The second stanza employs a list of actions to emphasize the busyness of life. The ant, symbolizing industriousness, carries its food, and all living things are described as hurrying, either to be consumed or to consume. This portrayal of the cyclical nature of life echoes broader existential themes, suggesting that life is a continuous cycle of creation and consumption.

The refrain “Away, melancholy” reappears in the third stanza, emphasizing the speaker’s persistent desire to distance herself from sadness. Here, the focus shifts to human activities. The speaker observes that man, like other creatures, is engaged in essential life processes—eating, coupling, and burying. These actions, presented matter-of-factly, contribute to the portrayal of life’s basic and inevitable activities.

The fourth stanza reiterates the refrain and introduces a comparative element. Man is described as “superlative,” emphasizing the exceptional nature of human existence. The speaker, by urging the departure of melancholy, suggests that life, with its unique qualities, deserves to be celebrated and embraced.

The final stanza concludes with a decisive and emphatic dismissal of melancholy. The refrain is repeated one last time, and the poem ends with the directive to let go of melancholy. The simplicity of the language and the rhythmic quality of the poem contribute to a sense of resolution, as if the speaker’s exhortation has the power to dispel the shadows of sadness.

Stevie Smith’s “Away Melancholy” is a brief yet powerful exploration of the human experience and our relationship with melancholy. Through its rhythmic refrain, vivid imagery, and straightforward language, the poem encourages readers to confront and reject feelings of sadness, emphasizing the vitality of life and the beauty inherent in the world around us. The poet’s unique voice and perspective add a layer of complexity to the poem, inviting readers to engage with its themes on both an emotional and intellectual level.