Critical Appraisal of Melodic Trains

The poem shows melodically sounding related series of thoughts that are developing in mind. They are called Melodic trains for they have the power to transform the minds of people from some ordinary experience to some particular.

The poem is a fine example of stream of consciousness technique. The poem shows the complexity of thoughts as they pass through a sensitive mind of a poet. A poetic mind has a great capacity for associating this similar and distinct thought. That is why; the poem has more than one layer of meaning. The title itself suggests the thought process growing on within the poet’s mind. The outer journey in her real train is paralleled by a symbolic train of thoughts and melodies, poetic ideas running through the mind. The first thought or theme present in the poem is the expression of vanities through appearances, when the little girl asks the poet what time it is:

“A little girl with scarlet enameled fingernails/
Asks me what time it is—evidently that’s a toy wristwatch”
It is surprising how children satisfy their vanity with toys and fake objects, which cannot fulfill their need. The toy watch doesn’t tell the time. It is not only children but adults also do the same and are caught up in vanities and appearances. The poet discovers that the color of his overcoat resembles the color of brown mountains; in fact the seams of his coat actually look like the white paths running down the slopes of the mountains. His thoughts drifting to his clothes suddenly discover that clothes are like a mask hiding the reality. Just as one cannot find out the reality under the clothes, we cannot find the reality of the appearances. The theme of appearance and reality and the vanities to satisfy one’s self on fake foundations starts right from the beginning. Basic instinct, at all levels, remains the same all over the world regardless of race, age, region or nation.  But it is very difficult to understand human psychology only by appearances.  The poem is highly personal as Huybernsz asserts, ‘throws the reader out of the poem’. For him:
‘The premise of this marvelous poem is a journey around New York City.’
The opening metaphor is that of music which sets the poet in meditation and finds meaning in life. The main purpose in life seems how to live and what to do? This process of meditation begins when a little girl asks the poet time. The poet is attracted towards the jagged peaks of the mountains by the seams of his coat and later caught up in the humdrum of every day life. Rather than a meaning, the poet finds confusion, crowds and tensions everywhere. A sense of entrapment encapsulates us, we find surrounded by troubles all around us and find no way out. The Pisa figures ultimately end this process of mediation and life seems a perpetual struggle against the odds of society. We keep oscillating between the complex beginning and peaceful end and sometimes, peaceful beginning and complex and disturbing end.
“Only the wait in stations is vague … /One beings to suspect there’s no Rule”
Next the train takes turns like a pencil and the poet experiences life to be a train full of complexity and running to its destination – death. As in an ordinary journey, the train stops at various stations for brief moments. We also pause at some stage of life before turning into a new direction. The faces of the passengers standing outside the platforms melt into the faces of those million faces, the poet reads different expressions. Some carry on eternal sadness. Some reflect disillusionment with life and its receptive appearance; some show anxiety about the future. There are questions in every mind.  Will the taxi be available? Will some one come to welcome me? These and many others perplex the mind of travelers. As the following lines show: “Sadness of the faces of children on the platform/ Concern of the grownups for connections”. These questions asked in ordinary life reflect those questions in the next world. The poet contemplates some spiritual and metaphysical issues at this point. The complexities of the world symbolize those of the hereafter and regarding the future of man in the next world. The is haphazard dimension in life which disturbs all routines and the same is to be found on the Judgment Day when this hustle blends into a unique Death which rampages every thing on the earth.  The total existence of human activity is controlled by chance, which may be termed as Fate. The train journey becomes a semblance to the drama in real life. As the play has acts and chorus as the character, so is the situation here when the writer says, ‘“It’s as though a visible chorus called up the different Stages of the journey”.
Realizing the basic anxieties of the heart, the poet feels complete oneness and identification with the fellow travelers. Since this journey symbolizes life. It is a moment of human unity which the poet experiences. He wonders whether complete communication between the individual and society is possible.  They are like brothers, as poet calls them and require our perfect sympathy. And we need to convince each other because if there is little panic and disorder, why are we so tense.  The gap that exists between one man and the other in the modern period can be only bridged if communication barriers, such as alienation, estrangement and personal entrapment are removed as in, “The platform or waiting to board the train are my brothers”.  The poem is perfectly a representative of modern American Sensibility. The striking images of tweed coat and its seams and the girl’s enameled nails are powerful. Melodic Trains is a fine piece of poetry in which the poet addresses a number of issues, political, social, and psychological. It is a journey of life and the end of the journey ends in optimism and happiness on the typical note of ‘Welcome Home!’ 

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