Analysis of Fame Is A Food That Dead Men Eat by Henry Austin Dobson

About The Poet

“Fame Is A Food That Dead Men Eat” is a poem written by Henry Austin Dobson, an English poet and critic. According to Wikipedia article, Dobson was born in Plymouth on the 19th of January, 1840. It is noted that he decided to focus on literature around 1864_ creating splendid poetry and prose. He was responsible for the first original ballade written in English language. He died on the 2nd of September of 1921.


Here, in the poem titled “Fame Is A Food That Dead Men Eat”, two important elements are juxtaposed; fame and friendship. In the poet’s debate, he clearly chose a side_ picking friendship over fame. Looking at both, fame in most cases attracts huge friendship though most friendship attained outside of fame are more cordial and long lasting than that which fame brought. This is probably the reason why the poem speaker denied fame as uttered in line 2 of the poem:  “I have no stomach for such meat”.

As he has keenly considered the aftermath of both fame and friendship then in line 8 of the poem he said, “Of friendship it is good to sing” knowing that someone who made or invested in friendship while on earth will long be remembered by his or her friends compared to someone who acquired fame while living but ended alone in grave without living friends to remember and speak of his or her friendly acts while on earth.

The denotation of the poem leads us to few of its theme which can be listed as follows:
1.       Friendship is better than fame; as stated in line 1-6 versus line 7-12.
2.       Living in friends memories is better than living in the grave alone.
3.       Death is the worst enemy of fame, when line 4-5 “They eat it in the silent tomb/ With no kind voice of comrade near”
4.       Remembrance is the true reward for friendship, as stated in line 9-12:
“For truly, when a man shall end
He lives in memory of his friend
Who doth his better part recall
And of his fault make funeral”.

Further Summary

‘Line 1: “Fame is a food” is an instance of metaphor in the poem and the repeated “f” sound is an example of alliteration.
Line 2: “I have no stomach for such meat,” meaning I am not interested in such thing.
Line 3: “In little light” is alliteration while “narrow room” symbolizes the grave or tomb.
Line 4: “They eat it in the silent tomb.” Though tombs might be quite cold but dead people eating in their tombs is very much of an imaginative creativity.
Line 5: “With no kind voice comrade near”, that the act of friendship ends on earth; it can’t be found in the grave.
Line 6: “To bid the feaster be of cheer” has the repeated “i” sound as assonance.
Line 7: This is where the poem speaker declared his or her actual preference which is the act of friendship.
Line 8: “Of friendship it is good to sing,” meaning it is a good thing to laud the act of friendship.
Line 9: “When a man shall end,” means when a person eventually dies.
Line 12: “And of his fault make funeral.”  The line means that the friends of the dead won’t talk or make reference to the faulty ways of the dead even at his or her death. The word “funeral” in the line is a metonymy.

Other things of note are the use of regular end rhymes pattern and rhythm. There are some old fashion words in the poem such as “doth”, “shall”, etc. The twelve line poem maintains simple dictions in addressing the subject between life and death. The poet supported friendship through the repeated use of the word “friendship” plus other family words “comrade”, “friends”, etc. 
Continue Reading>>>
Enunwa Chukwudinma S aka samueldpoetry
(the Leo with wings flying)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.