The combined imagery of this section puts springtime, birdsong, "Lazarus" coming out of grave, and Teddy Roosevelt in the jungle on parallel tracks, in a sense. Here are some notes by individual stanzas:
1.1 - "An April day" - allusion to opening of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales ("When that Aprill..."). We are starting out; we are going on a journey.
"in camera obscura" - Lazarus in the crypt compared to the inverted shadow-box (with its pinhole of light) of the proto-photo camera.
- "Clay lips" : birdsong reminds Lazarus-poet of living speech ("infant words"). Phrase is an allusion to Stubborn Grew's opening line ("Time flowers on the lips of whispered clay"). We are going to reflect back on that (lost?) epic poem.
1.2 - "woodwork" : a synthesis of birds in the woods, poetic "wordwork", and (proleptically) toward TR in Amazon forest.
- "gleam... trumpets" : sort of a synaesthesia - Lazarus sees the pinhole of light in his crypt as a gleam - like a trumpet-call. But distorted, off-key - as if a "parallax" (light bent through water).
1.3 - "the spring breeze shifts" : sort of a self-reflexive mirror-moment, here. "the breeze" is the poetic afflatus itself, shifting as the poem shifts (rhetorically) from stanza to stanza : the shifting is like the shuttling or theme & variation of weaving. So the light is sound, the birds are trumpets, the trumpet shape is a tree-shape, the word is wood. Lazarus - wound in a banderole - is "rewinding" (as in a "winding horn").
- "banderole" - a kind of cloth used in medieval depictions of Christ, saints & emperors - it was a formal border between the visible and the invisible, between the earthly and the heavenly realm.
1.4 - "it was... sighs". Here begins play on notions of poetry's reflexivity as self-enclosed solipsism, narcissism, self-destruction.
- "But the President...tribe" : - the previous countered immediately by a political-epic problem, the "lost President". 1st of series of representations of Teddy Roosevelt's famous, excruciating, near-fatal expedition on "River of Doubt" in Brazilian Amazon. Poet-Laz's self-doubts echo here. Also I'm returning to river themes of Stubborn Grew & its sequels (Mississippi, in that case).
- "his doubtful wish" - Hamlet, narcissism, death-wish in this & next lines.
1.5 - "devoutly" : ie. Hamlet's soliloquy ("devoutly to be wished"). This stanza represents TR's feverish state. "Scavenging insects... pity" : malignant, competitive jungle ecology (cf. Candice Millard's book River of Doubt) compared to poet's situation.
1.6 - "jaguar" : brute power of nature, reality. "Flags..." - ironic allusion to line in Hart Crane's "Repose of Rivers". On emerging from jungle to meet his rescuers on April 26th, TR saw American flag flying. Crane died on this date 20 yrs later.
1.7 - the melodramatic "action" of this section is shaken off by "Lazarus's" own "shift", his physical re-action. He is waking up. "Turtle-dove..." : almost every longish poem opens with an invocation...