Lowell is often praised for her skill in expressing her passion in her poems. ‘‘The Taxi’’ is a good example of how she instills passion in the poetic images she creates.
Passion defines this poem and drives it forward. The word passion means any deeply felt emotion. In the case of Lowell’s poem, the passion is the love that the speaker has for the lover she is either leaving or imagining she is leaving. According to the poem, this passion is so strong that separation becomes torturous for the speaker. It is interesting to note that even though the main theme is the passionate love that the speaker feels, the speaker never mentions the word love. This is due in part to the form that an imagist poet such as Lowell practices in her writing. Imagist poetry does not use abstractions. Love, being an emotion, is an abstract concept; instead of talking about love, Lowell uses powerful images to express it. The speaker could have simply said that she missed her lover when she left, but when she writes that the world feels dead to her when she leaves her lover, she reveals the depth of her passion.
All the images that are used in this poem continue along the same path—they provide vivid images of how strongly the speaker feels about her lover. The speaker’s passion rips through her as if something is being torn away from her. She feels lost and unable to stop the forces that are pulling her away. Every effort that she makes to stop the process not only is met with failure but wounds her ever more deeply.
One of the reasons Lowell’s poems are praised for their expression of passion is the poet’s skill in opening up her emotions without making the poem sentimental or maudlin. Lowell’s passion runs deep. There is nothing frivolous or silly about the images she uses to express her passion. The speaker’s reaction to the situation does not seem overly dramatic because of the depth and power of the imagery.
Suffering is sometimes the consequence of passion. This is well demonstrated in Lowell’s poem. Because she has such strong passion for her lover, she suffers when they are parted. She is blinded and wounded by the lights and by the darkness of the night. In other words, being away from her lover is like torture. It is through Lowell’s expression of suffering that she defines her love and passion for this other person. The torture that she experiences is a demonstration of how deeply she loves. In that sense, the speaker might be saying that the suffering is worth the pain because the pleasure of love is so rewarding. On the other hand, she might also be saying that the suffering is so great that she does not want ever to leave her lover again.
Separation is an underlying theme. Separation is what makes the passion and the suffering rise to the surface so that they become known, looked at, and felt. The taxi is the vehicle of separation. It is what causes the lovers to take leave of one another. This parting has taken place in the past and is being pondered or reflected on in the present. In some ways, it is through this past or imagined separation that the speaker declares her love. She does this in two ways. First, she states that when she has left in the past she has been miserable. She has realized how much passion she has because of the pain she has suffered while separated from her lover. Second, she uses the past separation as a statement of purpose. Why would she ever leave again, she might be asking, when it hurt so much in the past? She might also be reassuring her lover that the lover means so much to her that she promises never to leave again.
One way of reading this poem is to observe the weakness and passivity of the speaker. The elements of passivity are exposed in the statements the speaker makes that insinuate that she is a victim of someone else’s actions. For instance, there is the image of the taxi pulling the speaker away from her lover, placing an ever-growing number of streets between them. There is also the speaker’s voice, which has been silenced by the stars and the wind, which take her shouts away from her lover’s ears. The speaker is also wounded by the night and blinded, all of which are signs of increasing weakness and passivity. The speaker expresses her inability to live fully without her lover. She has become dependent on her lover to prop her up, to make her life whole. To correct this situation, the speaker does not work to actively make herself stronger but rather succumbs to her weaknesses and insinuates that she will not leave her lover again, thus passively giving in to her inability to stand on her own two feet when she is not in the presence of her lover.
Poetry for Students, Presenting Analysis, Context, and Criticism on Commonly Studied Poetry, Volume 30, Amy Lowell, Gale Cengage Learning, 2009