English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

There is a passage in the poem "Over" by Carol Ann Duffy that I don't understand well.

It is a key, unlocking all the dark,
so death swings open on its hinge

What is the meaning of the second line?

share|improve this question

closed as off topic by kiamlaluno, Mitch, J.R., Robusto, tchrist Aug 9 '12 at 19:32

Questions on English Language & Usage Stack Exchange are expected to relate to English language and usage within the scope defined by the community. Consider editing the question or leaving comments for improvement if you believe the question can be reworded to fit within the scope. Read more about reopening questions here.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Can you please include a link to the poem (I'm looking, haven't found one yet) or else the whole stanza? Thanks – JAM Aug 9 '12 at 16:03

It appears to be a metaphor, where death is a coffin, and that coffin opens up to release, --I'm presuming -- the author's beloved.

share|improve this answer
I don't think it's a coffin - would a coffin be locked? just a door behind which the beloved is closed from sight. – StoneyB Aug 9 '12 at 19:33

Thanks for including the link. Here is the whole stanza:

the hour it took for you
to make a ring of grass and marry me. I say your name
again. It is a key, unlocking all the dark,
so death swings open on its hinge.

I hear a bird being its song,
piercing the hour, to bring first light this Christmas dawn,
a gift, the blush of memory.

For what it's worth: the narrator says "your" name, the name becomes a "key" to open "the dark," itself a metaphor for death, probably the lamented death of "you."

When "death swings open on its hinge" the narrator receives "a gift, the blush of memory" i.e. the memory of "you."

In other words, "death swings open on its hinge" means in this case alone, the unlocking of the memory of the "you" addressed in the poem. You wouldn't want to generalize from this to any other context, however, unless you were quoting the poem in some relevant circumstance!

share|improve this answer
If someone more html savvy can find a way to remove those spaces between the lines in my quote, please do so! – JAM Aug 9 '12 at 16:19
Thy wish is granted. The trick is to put a double-space at the end of the line. Or a <br>. – tchrist Aug 9 '12 at 17:07
Thanks @tchrist – JAM Aug 9 '12 at 17:21

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.