Throughout the centuries, there have been an infinite amount of literary works written by a sea of authors that write a variety of genres. All of these works are precious in their own way, and even if their theme is similar to that of another, the author always ads a bit of his/her own flare in order to make said literary creation unique in some way. William Wordsworth’s “London 1802” and Paul Laurence Dunbar’s “Douglass”, although quite similar in form and sentence structure, do add their own flare through the use of specific details. Through the use of these devices, the speakers show their disgust for the evil deeds humans do and attempt to change them. Form is a very important aspect of literature. Both “London 1802” and “Douglass” are sonnets therefore hinting that the work will be very much a serious topic, which as the reader continues, is proven to be true. The rhyme scheme used in the first two quatrains is similar in both sonnets.
The last quatrain and couplet, however, are different in rhyme. In “Douglass”, the first quatrain is used to tell this person of the evil that is occurring in that time, and how even his wildest nightmares could never measure up to that is now being done whereas in the first quatrain written in “London 1802” is used to describe the place and what it is like at the time. In the second quatrain, the speaker believes as if he truly believes that the presence of this man to whom he writes could change the evil that is occurring. “Douglass” on the other hand, describes what the situation he is in is like. Although each speaker approaches this in a different manner, the ultimate goal of both is to shed light on the wrong doing of humans. Another device used by both speakers both similarly and differently is sentence structure. On both, the last six lines compose one sentence. This sentence in “Douglass” is used to ask for guidance and comfort from Fredrick Douglass however, this happens in the second sentence in the sonnet “London, 1802”. Dunbar’s purpose for making the last sentence about Douglass ability to “guide the shivering bark” ( Dunbar line 12) is to give the reader a sense of repulsion, like his own repulsion and therefore encouraging the reader to change.
The last sentence in Wordsworth’s poem, on the other hand, is used to praise John Milton. This leaves the reader with the impression that Milton was in fact a great man, and that we should strive in order to become more like the person. Even though they are written in different sentences, the fact that this is even mentioned at all suggests that man kind has become repulsive and although they are expressed in different manners, it is clear that the eventual goal of these speakers is to make the readers change. There are specific details used throughout both sonnets that, again, help to reveal the speaker’s ultimate purpose. First, the way the speakers begin both poems is completely different. Wordsworth commences in a tone of urgency and forcefulness by saying “Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour:” (Wordsworth line 1).
This makes the reader excited about reading the rest of the poem and also, adds interest to the work. Dunbar, however, takes a more meditative approach by saying “Ah, Douglass, we have fall‘n on evil days.” (Dunbar line 1). This, although not as exciting as the previous example, is also effective in grabbing attention because it leaves the reader wondering what it is that could be inspiring such deep thought while still, clearly stating his position. The speaker in this poem also says “Give us comfort through the lonely dark” (line 14). This line makes the reader believe that there is still hope in humanity. All we need is comforting from the wicked world and we can become better people. We have the qualities that make for decent citizens, we just no longer show them. Wordsworth, however, shows no sympathy nor hope for humanity.
He states “Oh! Raise us up, return to us again; and give us manners, virtue, freedom, power” (Wordsworth line 8). This suggests that Wordsworth has lost all hope in humanity and believes that the qualities that make for decent people are lost. People need someone to show them the qualities that make for good people, they need to be shown. Although both speakers believe that humanity is cruel and abominable, the way they perceive the solution is obviously much different.
With the devices used throughout both poems, it is apparent that society needs to change in order to become better. The way things are is absolutely horrendous and by no means is it suitable for living in. Although both poems express similar ideals, the state of mind of the speaker is clearly much different, and the way to go about fixing society is also much different. Because the devices and tone used throughout both poems was different, it in turn made their works of literature truly a one-of-a-kind.
Courtney from Study Moose
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