Elizabeth Boyd's `On the Death of an Infant of Five Days old, being a
beautiful but abortive Birth' (L135) is a simple form of elegy, a monody
`a single voice' (M. H. Abrams) - that is not obscured or `elevated' by
pastoral/classical influence. It is a domestic poem concerned with
domestic relationships, which is nonetheless universal in its analysis
of the dynamic between father, mother and child and how this dynamic can
The process of becoming aware of the fetus and giving birth is both a process of division and/or duplication (one being becomes two) and this is reflected in the form of the poem (frequent caesura's and repetition).
The father has (especially before modern science) an ill-defined role. He is part of the generation and both precedes the child in holding the mothers affections, being in closest sympathy with her, and is in some ways replaced by the child, who was at one point part of the motherís identity an incontestable intimacy and co-dependence. From the motherís perspective, the father's causality and responsibility for the child is to be found in comparison and association.
Noticeably, convulsions, an aspect of child-birth, are moved from the womb to the breast, birth pains the womb, death pains the heart. The reassigning of effects shows an ability to move through the grief, reallocate pain and use her resources to ultimately deal with it.
With the object that caused the process of duplication, replacement and a division of her identity suddenly absent, she struggles to replace the loss. She tries reversing the cycle (negating the birth in line 8) and drawing the father in to replace the absence and recreate a version of the old dynamic.
In conclusion, the poem is a grief cycle and the form and content, reflect Boyd's coping mechanisms.