Tag: cxc poetry analysis

Theme for English B by Langston Hughes

The persona’s lecturer gave him an assignment to write a page that reflects ‘him’, or his character. The persona wonders if this is a simple task, and begins to think about his life. Things like his age, place of birth, race and place of residence. Based on these musings, he surmises that he is confused due to his youth. He guesses that he is what he feels, sees and hears, which is Harlem, New York. He continues his musing about what he likes, and concludes that he likes the same things that people of other races like. On this basis, he questions whether or not his page will be influenced by race. He concludes that it will not be white. He admits that his instructor, as well as the fact that this instructor is white, will have some influence on his page. He states that they both influence each other, that is what being American is about. He believes that both of them might not want to influence each other, but it cannot be helped. He concludes that both of them will learn from each other, despite the fact that the instructor has the advantage of being older, white and ‘more free’. All of these musings and conclusions become his page for English B.

LITERARY DEVICES

1.RHETORICAL QUESTION

Stanza 2, line 6: The persona ponders the ease of what he is asked to do. This question, in turn, actually highlights the difficult nature of the task.

Stanza 3, line24: This question highlights the persona’s confusion as to who he is, or his character. He is unsure.

Stanza 4, line 32: The persona is wondering whether his race will affect  what he writes on the page. This is despite the fact that he concludes that race does not hinder people, in general, liking the same things.

  1. REPETITIONThis repetition emphasizes the profound impact that Harlem, New York, has had on the personality of the persona.

IMPORTANT WORDS/ PHRASES

3.’here to this college on the hill above Harlem.’

The fact that the college is on a hill, above Harlem, is very important. It highlights the fact that the college is a superior entity. The people of Harlem look up at it, showing their inferiority.

4.’I am the only colored student in the class.’

This line emphasizes the persona’s ‘otherness’ in relation to every-one else in the class. He is different. The isolation of the sentence (enclosed by full stops/periods) also emphasizes the persona’s ‘otherness’.

5.’The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem, through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas, Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y, the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator up to my room’ 

This line highlights the fact that the college is a great distance from his home. This distance is also metaphorical because it is implied that the experiences that he has at the college are also a great distance from the experiences that he has in Harlem. They are two different worlds.

6.’But it will be a part of you, instructor. You are white – yet a part of me, as I am a part of you. That’s American.’ 

This statement reveals the fact that America is viewed as a melting pot by the persona. He believes that different races and cultures influence each other, thereby forming the term ‘American’.

7.As I learn from you, I guess you learn from me – although you’re older – and white – and somewhat more free.

This statement, by the persona, repeats his belief that the American society is a melting pot. It also, however, states that not every-one is equal within this society.

* It is interesting to note that the persona’s ‘page for English B’ becomes a journey of self discovery that actually does not end. He forms no conclusion as to who he is because his personality is still ‘in process’

MOOD/ ATMOSPHERE The mood of the poem is reflective.

 

TONE  The tone of the poem is also reflective.

THEMES: Racism, places

It is the Constant Image of your Face -Dennis Brutus

SUMMARY

The persona reflects on the image of someone he cares for. This love interest accused him, with their eyes, of breaking their heart. The persona admits that both of them (he and the love interest) can make no excuses for his behaviour because the love interest does not take precedence over his land, or country. Despite this fact, the persona begs for mercy, pleading guilty for being seduced by his love interest’s beauty. This person protects him dearly and he admits that, as a result of this, he has committed treason against his country. He hopes that his country, his other dearest love, will pardon him because he loves both his country and his love interest.

LITERARY DEVICES

  1. PERSONIFICATION

Lines 4, 6-7: The love interest’s eyes constantly accuses and convicts the persona. This device highlights the extent to which the persona has hurt this person.

Lines 18-20: The persona hopes that his country, his other dearest love, will forgive him for the treasonous act of loving another. This highlights the patriotism that defines the persona’s relationship to his country.

  1. OXYMORON

The term heart’s-treachery implies that the heart, something so vital and indicative of love, has committed a terrible crime. It highlights the heartbreak that the persona has caused his love interest.

IMPORTANT WORD/ PHRASES

  1. ‘constant image’

This implies that the persona constantly, or always, remembers his love interest’s face. It emphasizes the guilt he feels in relation to this person.

  1. ‘grave attention’

The love interest’s eyes display grave attention. The word grave implies intensely serious, so this person is truly hurt.

  1. ‘world of knives’

A knife inflicts pain and destroys. The persona, therefore, is identifying his world with causing pain.

  1. ‘such blackmail with your beauty’

To blackmail someone is to have something over them that puts their will in your control. The love interest’s beauty has captivated the persona in such a way that he betrays his country with this person.

MOOD/ ATMOSPHERE

The mood of the poem is reflective. The persona is thinking about his two loves and how he is torn between them.

TONE: The tone of the poem is sadness and guilt. The persona is guilt ridden over this love triangle and sadness permeates the words that he uses to describe it.

THEMATIC CATEGORY: Love, guilt, patriotism, places, desires/ dreams

My Parents by Stephen Spender



SUMMARY
Stanza 1
The poet’s parents sought to protect him from the street children. They were rude in speech and were dressed in rags. They were uninhibited and stripped off their clothes and swam in the country rivers.

Stanza 2
The speaker feared the brute strength of the boys. They were muscular and did not hesitate to use their arms and legs. The poet was also scared of their mocking ways. They laughed behind his back, imitating his lisp. Stanza 3
The boys were like vandals; they threw mud at people and pounced on them. But despite all this, the speaker was forgiving. He wanted to be friendly and smiled at them. But they did not reciprocate the friendly overtures.


ANALYSIS This poem could be a personal or biographical depiction of Spender’s early life suffering the disability of a club foot and a speech impediment. The use of the first person, stark contrasts, and ambiguity give us a vivid picture of a child troubled by a superiority/inferiority complex. While his parents are condescending towards the rough coarse children, the child appears envious of their carefree liberty, their unbridled animal prowess and uninhibited playfulness, yet resentful of their bullying behaviour to him. We can visualise the persona through contrast.  He is everything that they are not; softly spoken (words like stones), well dressed (torn clothes, rags), passive (they ran and climbed), inhibited – modesty (they stripped by country streams), weak (muscles of iron), well mannered (salt coarse pointing) lisp (parodied by copying), clumsy (lithe), and friendly ( hostile- they never smiled). His attempts at conciliation and acceptance are rebuffed but he appears to blame his parents for psychologically damaging him by over protection or shielding him from a natural childhood.  While their superior attitude (snobbery?) has excluded him from mainstream society he ambivalently identifies with his parents by having the boys spring “like dogs to bark at our world”.
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This is the Dark Time, My Love -Martin Carter

The persona speaks to someone that he cares for. He tells this person that this is the dark time, which is, in essence, a time of sadness. It is implied, by certain key terms; such as ‘dark metal’, that it is a time of war. The persona warns his ‘love’ that it is a dark, sad time.

LITERARY DEVICES

1. REPETITION
Stanza 1, line 1 & stanza 2, line 7: The repetition of this phrase highlights that there is something seriously amiss. The persona is telling his ‘love’ that this is a sad and terrible time.

2. ALLITERATION
This device literally draws the reader’s’ visual attention to the sentence. The sentence implies that everything that is good and positive is hidden away, or gone. This alliteration sets a sad tone at the very beginning of this poem.

3. PERSONIFICATION
This device emphasizes the sad tone of the poem. This is the case because flowers are usually associated with feelings of happiness and cheerfulness. Therefore, if the flowers – ambassadors of joy –  are sad, then it highlights how really sad the times have become.

4. METAPHOR
The contrast in this device is startling. The terms ‘festival’ and ‘carnival’ not only describes fun and festivity, but also a large amount of each. Both words are associated with huge crowds. This emphasizes how terrible the times have become because guns and misery are plentiful.

5. RHETORICAL QUESTION

Stanza 3, line 13: This device informs the reader/ audience that a threat exists and that it comes in the dark of night.

Stanza 3, lines 14 – 15: It is implied that the threat is a soldier through the term ‘boot of steel’. The ‘slender grass’ is the innocent youth who is cut down and trampled by these ‘boots of steel’. The fact that we are given this information through the use of rhetorical question adds mystery and intrigue to the poem.

IMPORTANT WORDS/ PHRASES

6.‘All round the land brown beetles crawl about.’
Some variety of brown beetles are scavengers that feed on decaying or dead carcasses. Therefore, when the persona states that they crawl about, it implies that a lot of dead or decaying bodies exist in the land.

7.‘season of oppression, dark metal, and tears.’
A season is an extended period of time. Therefore, the persona is telling his ‘love’ that it is a period of extreme sadness. This sadness is brought about by the ‘dark metal’, which can be literally interpreted as vehicles of war.

8.‘man of death’ 
The man of death, in this context, is the soldier.

9.‘Watching you sleep’
Sleep is a state of extreme vulnerability. This is the case because when one falls asleep, they fall into unconsciousness, which equates to a state of defenselessness. The fact that the man of death, ie soldier, watches the persona’s ‘love’ while he/she sleeps, implies that this person is not only vulnerable, but in extreme danger.

10.‘aiming at your dream.’
The man of death’s purpose is to destroy the persona’s ‘love’s’ dreams, or desires.

MOOD/ ATMOSPHERE 
The mood of the poem is a sad one. The persona is giving his ‘love’ sad and depressing news.

TONE–The tone of the poem is also a sad one.

THEMES
Racism, War, Oppression, Dreams and Aspirations, places.

‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ by Wilford Owen

SUMMARY

Wilfred Owen, the poet, tells of his first hand experience in war. He tells the tale of tired and wounded soldiers walking through dirt and sludge. Suddenly, there is a warning about gas, which the soldiers hurriedly and awkwardly heed by donning their helmets. Unfortunately, one soldier is too late in donning the helmet and his companions watch him ‘drowning’ in the gas. The unfortunate soldier was thrown in the back of a wagon, where it is implied that he was left to die. The persona points out that if you (the reader/ listener) could have witnessed these events, then you would not tell children the old lie: dulce et decorum est pro patria mori (It is sweet and honourable to die for one’s country).

LITERARY DEVICES

1.SIMILE

Stanza 1, line 1: This simile introduces the exhaustion of the soldiers. Stanza 1, line 2: This emphasizes not only the tiredness of the soldiers, but the fact that they might be sick as well.

Stanza 2, line 19: This device gives a visual image of how the soldier physically reacted to the gas. Floundering implies flopping about, therefore, the soldier was flopping about violently. We know it was violent because fire and lime illicit excruciating pain.

Stanza 4, line 39: This device gives a visual image of the expression on the soldier’s face. This is a particularly grotesque image that highlights the soldier in the throes of death.

Stanza 4, line 39: Cancer is a horrible disease that takes many lives on a daily basis. Therefore, to compare this dying soldiers face to this disease is to emphasize the agony that the soldier was going through, which was reflected on his face.

Stanza 4, lines 39-40: This is another graphic comparison that compares the soldier’s face to incurable sores. ‘Sores’ is a disgusting visual image of degradation which, in turn, highlights the soldier in the throes of death.

ALLITERATION
Stanza 1, line 7: This device points to the level of fatigue that the soldiers were undergoing. Stanza 1, lines 7-9: This highlights not only the fatigue that the soldiers were feeling, but the fact that they were injured as well. Stanza 4, lines 29-30: This device highlights a visually graphic death mask. The soldier is in the throes of impending death.

IMPORTANT WORDS/ PHRASES
3.‘Bent double’
The soldiers are bent over with fatigue. It is very significant that the poet/ persona initiates the poem by highlighting the exhaustion of the soldiers. He is trying to emphasize the harsh realities of war.

4.‘haunting flares’
Flares are typically used to signal distress. The flare is fired from a flare gun, in the air, where rescue crafts, at sea or in the air, can have a general idea of the location of the soldiers who are in distress. Therefore, to describe the flares as haunting implies that the soldiers are severely distressed by their situation.

5.’deaf even to the hoots of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.’
Five-nines are German 5.9 artillery shells. This means that bullets were firing around them while they were walking. The extent of the soldiers’ tiredness is also emphasized at this point because the soldiers do not hear the shells going off around them.

6.‘An ecstasy of fumbling’
The word ecstasy, that is used to describe the fumbling, implies the level of panic that this one word (gas) elicits. The soldiers’ were so tired that they could not even hear the five nines, but this one word immediately wakes them up.

7.‘Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light, as under a green sea, I saw him drowning.’
This describes exactly what the outside world looks like through the lens of a gas mask. The effect of the gas is seen in the mention of the word ‘drown’. It implies that the unfortunate soldier could not breathe.

8.‘He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.’
This is the very graphic result of breathing in the gas. It is a very violent reaction, as seen in the word ‘plunge’. The dying soldier did not simply reach for the persona/poet, but he did so in a desperate manner, while all the time being unable to breathe.

9.‘wagon that we flung him in’ 
The statement implies that the soldier was left for dead in a wagon. No regard was shown to him, through the use of the word ‘flung’. This implies that war is heartless and tragic.

10.’Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.’ 
This statement literally means it is sweet and honourable to die for one’s country. The persona/ poet clearly does NOT believe this to be the case. 

 

MOOD/ ATMOSPHERE
The mood of the poem is reflective. The persona/ poet is thinking about his experiences in WW1.

TONE
The general tone of the poem is both sarcastic and ironic. The persona/ poet tries to present a visual of the realities of war while using the haunting words that contradict that reality. It is, in fact, NOT sweet and honourable to die for one’s country.

THEMATIC CATEGORIZATION
War, death, survival,  patriotism

Analysis of God’s Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Summary
The first four lines of the octave (the first eight-line stanza of an Italian sonnet) describe a natural world through which God’s presence runs like an electrical current, becoming momentarily visible in flashes like the refracted glinting of light produced by metal foil when rumpled or quickly moved.

Alternatively, God’s presence is a rich oil, a kind of sap that wells up “to a greatness” when tapped with a certain kind of patient pressure. Given these clear, strong proofs of God’s presence in the world, the poet asks how it is that humans fail to heed (“reck”) His divine authority (“his rod”).

The second quatrain within the octave describes the state of contemporary human life—the blind repetitiveness of human labor, and the sordidness and stain of “toil” and “trade.” The landscape in its natural state reflects God as its creator; but industry and the prioritization of the economic over the spiritual have transformed the landscape, and robbed humans of their sensitivity to the those few beauties of nature still left. The shoes people wear sever the physical connection between our feet and the earth they walk on, symbolizing an ever-increasing spiritual alienation from nature.

The sestet (the final six lines of the sonnet, enacting a turn or shift in argument) asserts that, in spite of the fallenness of Hopkins’s contemporary Victorian world, nature does not cease offering up its spiritual indices. Permeating the world is a deep “freshness” that testifies to the continual renewing power of God’s creation. This power of renewal is seen in the way morning always waits on the other side of dark night.

The source of this constant regeneration is the grace of a God who “broods” over a seemingly lifeless world with the patient nurture of a mother hen. This final image is one of God guarding the potential of the world and containing within Himself the power and promise of rebirth. With the final exclamation (“ah! bright wings”) Hopkins suggests both an awed intuition of the beauty of God’s grace, and the joyful suddenness of a hatchling bird emerging out of God’s loving incubation.

Form

This poem is an Italian sonnet—it contains fourteen lines divided into an octave and a sestet, which are separated by a shift in the argumentative direction of the poem. The meter here is not the “sprung rhythm” for which Hopkins is so famous, but it does vary somewhat from the iambic pentameter lines of the conventional sonnet.

For example, Hopkins follows stressed syllable with stressed syllable in the fourth line of the poem, bolstering the urgency of his question: “Why do men then now not reck his rod?”

Similarly, in the next line, the heavy, falling rhythm of “have trod, have trod, have trod,” coming after the quick lilt of “generations,” recreates the sound of plodding footsteps in striking onomatopoeia.

Commentary

The poem begins with the surprising metaphor of God’s grandeur as an electric force. The figure suggests an undercurrent that is not always seen, but which builds up a tension or pressure that occasionally flashes out in ways that can be both brilliant and dangerous. The optical effect of “shook foil” is one example of this brilliancy. The image of the oil being pressed out of an olive represents another kind of richness, where saturation and built-up pressure eventually culminate in a salubrious overflow.

The image of electricity makes a subtle return in the fourth line, where the “rod” of God’s punishing power calls to mind the lightning rod in which excess electricity in the atmosphere will occasionally “flame out.” Hopkins carefully chooses this complex of images to link the secular and scientific to mystery, divinity, and religious tradition. Electricity was an area of much scientific interest during Hopkins’s day, and is an example of a phenomenon that had long been taken as an indication of divine power but which was now explained in naturalistic, rational terms. Hopkins is defiantly affirmative in his assertion that God’s work is still to be seen in nature, if men will only concern themselves to look.

Refusing to ignore the discoveries of modern science, he takes them as further evidence of God’s grandeur rather than a challenge to it. Hopkins’s awe at the optical effects of a piece of foil attributes regulatory power to a man-made object; gold-leaf foil had also been used in recent influential scientific experiments. The olive oil, on the other hand, is an ancient sacramental substance, used for centuries for food, medicine, lamplight, and religious purposes. This oil thus traditionally appears in all aspects of life, much as God suffuses all branches of the created universe. Moreover, the slowness of its oozing contrasts with the quick electric flash; the method of its extraction implies such spiritual qualities as patience and faith. (By including this description Hopkins may have been implicitly criticizing the violence and rapaciousness with which his contemporaries drilled petroleum oil to fuel industry.)

Thus both the images of the foil and the olive oil bespeak an all-permeating divine presence that reveals itself in intermittent flashes or droplets of brilliance. Hopkins’s question in the fourth line focuses his readers on the present historical moment; in considering why men are no longer God-fearing, the emphasis is on “now.” The answer is a complex one. The second quatrain contains an indictment of the way a culture’s neglect of God translates into a neglect of the environment. But it also suggests that the abuses of previous generations are partly to blame; they have soiled and “seared” our world, further hindering our ability to access the holy.

Yet the sestet affirms that, in spite of the interdependent deterioration of human beings and the earth, God has not withdrawn from either. He possesses an infinite power of renewal, to which the regenerative natural cycles testify. The poem reflects Hopkins’s conviction that the physical world is like a book written by God, in which the attentive person can always detect signs of a benevolent authorship, and which can help mediate human beings’ contemplation of this Author.