The context in which a poem was written can sometimes tell you more about its themes, message and meaning.

Some questions you might ask include:

  • are aspects of the poet’s life reflected in the poem?
  • is the time or place in which it was written reflected in the poem?

You will need to research the poet’s background to discover answers to these questions. But if you do write about a poem and its context, be careful to include only details that reveal something about the poem.

Context of 'Walking Away'

Cecil Day-Lewis was born in 1904 in Ireland, though moved to England with his family when he was very young. He was educated at Oxford and was later elected as Professor of Poetry in 1951. He was also Poet Laureate of England from 1968 until his death in 1972.

His poetry is often romantic and uses nature and personal experience as its themes. His mother died when he was very young and he was brought up by his father, who was a clergyman. Until the age of eight, he was educated at home. He eventually went to Sherborne School in Dorset where he fell in love with Mary King, who was to become his wife in 1928. This marriage dissolved in 1951 and he later married the actress Jill Balcon. He had four children, including the actor Daniel Day-Lewis.

In this poem, Day-Lewis combines imagery from nature and personal experience. The speaker also refers to God, though it is not clear whether this is a Christian concept of a higher power, or some other interpretation. It suggests a distinction between self and god.

More about commenting on context.