“Welsh Landscape” is written by R.S Thomas. He was a Welsh traditionalist born in 1913 and he died in 2000. He has strong views and lives in the past thinking of Wales of having no present or future. The poem consists of just one stanza. The main theme of this poem is war imagery, the words that suggest this are “ambush”, “spilled blood”, “wild”, “strife”, “strung”, “sped arrows”, “cries”, “fields”, “corners” and “carcass”.
He describes Wales to have “spilled blood” which describes past battles. He goes on to describe how the “immaculate rivers” are dyed – they can’t be perfect. Even water is effected by past occurrences, blood is becoming part of nature. Nature has been corrupted by battles. There’s no control over the sky, Thomas uses the word “wild” to describe it. Next he uses alliteration, sibilance “strife”, “strung”, “sped” its related with the past, as its in past tense. “Strife” describes the struggles they’ve had, “strung” indicates there was trouble. “Vibrant” makes you think of a bright, alive and almost artistic place, but then he brings in the strong opinion of “you cannot live in the present”.
Gillian Clarke, a feminist born in Cardiff in 1937, writes “East Moors”. She believes boredom is a major problem in Wales once the community’s biggest employer closes down. It consists of 6 stanzas. Demolition is the main theme. This poem looks at change in the community, the sort of change some might regard as a progress, but which the poem suggests can undermine communities, individual identity and purpose. Steelworks meant more to men than anything in their life as it was their life, they were there all the time, it was the main topic of conversation and it was the income to support their families, without it they had nothing.
The first line in this poem make you think a seasonal change will follow these events, the arrival of spring is to come with the arrival of May. It’s a device used to suggest a possible end to bitter times but this is undermined in the final stanza when the phrases “icy” and “rain is blowing” is used to describe the first day in May.
The “flash of sea” is a metaphor, to tell us there isn’t much sea. There are some metaphors in “Welsh Landscape” too: “thick ambush of shadows” is a metaphor for past memories haunting you. The fourth line in “East Moors” describes “blue islands” the word “blue” has a double meaning – the colour and also the emotion of sadness. In both poems there are examples of sibilance, in “Welsh Landscape” it is “sped, strung, strife” and in “East moors” it is “steelworks used to smoke”. This also tells us that the place used to be filled with industry.
The first line of the second stanza shows typical lives of people living in the valleys in the 1930s, people were born in houses instead of hospitals, then they lived in them throughout their lives. The second and third lines describe how the how the steelworks often gave off flashes of light “sudden glow” in the middle of the night, so the neighbours were “accustomed” to it. Then it says a “dark” sound, it’s a contrast to the earlier mention of “glow”, and it could mean, low or spooky. Throughout the second stanza, there’s a lot of cases of sibilance -“sudden”, “sky”, “sound”, “smell” and “sulphur”.
There’s also more sibilance in “Welsh Landscape”, Thomas talks about “soft” consonants being “strange” to the ear. “Soft” is a positive word. The words have a strong connection to the welsh language as he chose to learn it in adulthood – he finds it important to his heritage.
In “East Moors”, the third stanza begins with alliteration “Roath”, “Rumney” they are two areas of Cardiff, its showing typical sense of valley life. Now, clothes are hung in yards and there’s no pollution to dirty these garments. Then comes more stereotypical life of men and women – men being “lethargic” and women lining up jobs for their lazy, redundant husbands. We know they’re jobless, as the steelworks have been closed down, the explanation comes in the last line of the third stanza. The fourth stanza states how bitter these jobless men are, their misery matches the atmosphere as the “skyline” is being destroyed as the building is torn down. The steelworks made a pattern like “hieroglyphics”.
The day its torn down families gather round like it’s a day out, it reminds us of tragedies like September 11th. The simile at the end of the fourth stanza shows how important it is to them, like losing someone close to them “a death”, there will now be an “appalling void” where the steelworks used to be. These are such negative words it emphasises the meaning of the loss of the steelworks.
So in the final stanza, it describes a new beginning, the start of a month, it should be positive as summer is nearing, but as the steelworks are gone, May is a miserable month. There are, however, some positive words “quieter” “cleaner” but it goes on to say “poorer from today” which means the workers have lost their jobs. The fourth line is a repetition from the first stanza. It indicates that although the town might be poor the cherries are still growing. The last line shows it doesn’t take long to forget about the steelworks and life goes on. The sky is blind though and there’s no future for the village.
Back to “Welsh Landscape” the next line in question, “hushed at the fields corners”, this means, they’re being forced to be quiet, as if by barriers. Then again, Thomas brings up his pessimistic views of Wales, he’s determined to create an atmosphere so people think of past times. He even goes as far as to say things are “brittle” and would break apart. Its so bad it can’t even have a real ghost, it has pretending “sham ghosts”. All Wales has are mines so if they are going what else is here? Powerless people unable to perform sexually? Or people “sick with inbreeding”? That is a harsh opinion, which shows Thomas thinks people never come out of Wales. The last line of the poem is a loose personification, meaning the song can worry and die. The song probably being the Welsh National Anthem.
“Welsh Landscape” has no rhythmic syllable pattern, which implies Wales isn’t structured. There isn’t a rhyme pattern either. In “East Moors” however, there isn’t a strong syllable pattern, there is however a rhythm and structure to the poem, it relates to the routine of the day. In both poems there are many cases of enjambment, this is mainly caused by the non-structured there’s a lot of punctuation in both poems, I don’t however, believe that it helps with the meaning of the poem. The mood at the start of “Welsh Landscape” is the same as the end, dull, violent and derogatory towards Wales. In “East Moors” the mood at the start makes you think there’ll be a seasonal changer, that the bitter times have ended, but in fact the times continue to be just as terrible as before.
Courtney from Study Moose
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