Forgive My Guilt-Robert Tristram Coffin

Forgive My Guilt-Robert Tristram Coffin


An adult is reminiscing about a traumatic childhood experience. The persona went hunting and shot two birds, plovers. He suffers extreme guilt about this action in adulthood. The poem describes the event, the actions of the bird, how he reacts, and, by the last line, asks the birds to forgive his guilt.



Line 4: The nature of frost is that it covers everything in its path, therefore, when the flowers are compared to frost, it implies that there were a lot of flowers, enough to hide the boy from the birds.

Line 8: The sand is being compared to gold, the colour. It is emphasizing how beautiful the setting was.

Line 12: This metaphor emphasizes the injuries that the birds sustained. The bones are compared to jagged ivory, which is a direct contrast to the smooth feathers that existed before the injury.

Lines 20-21: The birds are compared to a flute, an instrument that plays beautiful music. This emphasizes the sadness that is related to their death.


Line 5: The air and the flowers are being compared, both are blue.

Lines 6-7: This simile offers a beautiful visual image of the birds. Dreams are beautiful, and the birds are compared to this.

Line 7: The speed of the birds is being highlighted, while also maintaining that beautiful visual imagery.

  1. PUN

The pun is between the words ‘airy’ and ‘air’. ‘Airy’ means light and beautiful, while ‘air’ refers to the sky and flying. The poet is lamenting that these light and beautiful things can no longer fly and feel the pleasure of air rushing past them.



  1. ‘the blue’

This literally translates to the sky. The birds were crying out to the other birds that were flying away.

  1. ‘in war or peace’

This phrase highlights the fact that the persona feels extremely guilty about killing the birds, so much so that he thinks about it all the time. Their cries went out for literally one day, but he thinks about the birds all the time.

  1. ‘drown’

It is important that the poet chooses to use the word drown, because it means death. He cannot get rid of the sounds of sorrow that the birds made while they were dying.


MOOD/ ATMOSPHERE: The mood of the poem is nostalgia and guilt.


TONE: The tone of the poem is sad. The poet’s response to his guilt is sadness.



  • Death,
  • Childhood experiences,
  • Nature,
  • Guilt,
  • Loss of innocence,
  • Desire/dreams.

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