By: Rachel Lyle, June 2nd, 2017
I took Intro To Poetry as an elective course in college. In this class instead of writing papers we did explications of poems. Here is one of them:
There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.
Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.
Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein seems to be a metaphor for how life is a journey with a road, or in this case a sidewalk, everyone must travel to the end and some are destined to travel it alone but others are meant to travel it together. Silverstein uses a scheme that goes back and forth from trochaic pentameter to trochaic tetrameter as well as anaphora and other types of repetition to show this, such as the use of and beginning four lines in the first stanza, and the reputation of we’ll, and they…. in the third stanza.
The first stanza seems to explain how life has an ending and what that ending seems to be and what it seems to look like. The first line, “There is a place where the sidewalk ends” shows the ending of life by saying there definitely is a place where life, or the sidewalk ends. The second line, “And before the street begins” says yes this life, the side walk, ends, but a new life begins, the use of and at the begging of this line helps to show this life, the sidewalk is done, And this next one, the street begins. The third line, “And where the grass grows soft and white” says through the anaphora of the repeating of the word And, new life begins And it will be beautiful, wonderful, and pure not only do we get new life but this new life is awesome and exciting. The fourth line, “And there the sun burns crimson bright” again uses Anaphora by repeating the word And to show that this new life will begin after the last one ends And it will be wonderful and pure, And it will always be bright and full of light and sunshine, we will never in this new life have to worry about the time of day again because the sun will always shine. The fifth line, “And there the moon-bird rests from his flight” tells through even further anaphora with another And that this new life will come And it will be beautiful and pure And the sun will always shine And we will be able to finally be able to rest our aching, tired, worn out bodies in this new life, we will be able to lay down and find a rest that will finally satisfy us. The sixth and final line, “To cool in the peppermint wind” means that we will experience soothing breezes and be able to relax and sooth ourselves and rest our bodies.
The second stanza through picturesque words explains how we will know which way to go what direction to take in this life. The first line, “Let us eave this place where smoke blows black” through the use of alliteration with the B sounds in Blows Black shows how we know we need to get through this life to get to the next one, we need to leave somethings behind rather than sticking to one place all our lives, the repetition of the B sound shows how we all try and try and try and repeatedly fail at things in life and we often repeatedly fail to get out of and through this life but there is a way to get through it if we keep trying. The second line, “And the dark street winds and bends” through the words dark, winds, and bends, shows us how this world and this life can seem dark and dismal and the path that we walk isn’t always straight forward and easy and it’s not always easy to figure out which way we need to go, sometimes the path seems to be twisty and longer than it needs to be and sometimes it even feels like it’s going in the wrong direction. The third line, “Past the pits where asphalt flowers grow” shows that similar to the way that flowers grow up through asphalt and new plants grow through the cracks we can make it through this life and into the next one where you can start a new, you can have a clean slate to start fresh. The fourth line, “We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow” explains how, yes, we will be getting a better life after we die, but we can still go this life slowly and steadily and make the most of it by getting the most enjoyment we can and enjoying life while we have it by spending rare treasured moments with loved ones and doing adventurous things. The fifth line, “And watch where the chalk-white arrows go” shows how there will always be light in this world guiding our way there will be arrows and signposts guiding our way to where we are supposed to go in this life. The sixth and final line, “To the place where the sidewalk ends” says how we are all on a journey through this life to the place where it, or the sidewalk ends and we will all end up dying and ending this life no matter who you are because it is inevitable, there is no way to avoid the end of this life.
The third and final stanza is mostly a repetition of previous lines, it repeats the fact that we are on a journey to the end of life. This stanza is also shorter and may be seen as an example of showing how the journey of life can be short and abrupt and people can end their lives before their times and can have very sudden deaths and ends. The first line a repetition of a previous line, “Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow” reiterates the fact that we may want to get out of this life but we will still want to make the most of it and have as much fun as we can through this repetition. The second line, “And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go” is repeated to show that no matter what we face in this life no matter what we go through, what we face will always follow the signs and the signposts pointing our way through this life no matter which direction they point us in in this life. The third line, “For the children, they mark, and the children, they know” shows that even children know they are journeying through life and they mark milestones to show the journey they have through this life and the journey others have through this life, and they know that they can’t stay young forever and they have to row up at some point or another in order to continue their journey through this life and the repetition of basically the same phrase twice shows how children are constantly taught this and they now this thoroughly inside and out. The fourth and final line, “The place where the sidewalk ends” repeats the original first line of the poem in different words, this repetition shows that this both the end of the poem and represents the fact that there is an ending to the sidewalk of this life and that being the end of the poem shows that the journey through life eventually comes to an end.
The fact that this poem rhymes shows that even though the poem is about the end of a journey it still reminds us that there are better things to look forward to and there is hope for us at the end of life. The happy rhymes of the words, grow, slow, know, and go and the words, white bright, and flight, show how death and the end of a journey can be a happy thing because it means you will start a new journey and a new life, a better journey and a better life, with better things to look forward to in them.