Change itself is the only constant in life, whether we are looking for it or doing everything in our power to avoid it, it always finds a way to strike. Change comes in different forms, some good, some bad, some caused internally, others externally, we can never know how it will hit us, all we can know is that it will.
When looking into Gwen Harwoods poetry we see a lot of different ideas and concepts of self-change being explored mainly through the experiences of the persona in each poem, For example “In the park” explores an aspect of self-change, the idea that change can be quite negative, while also linking to the idea that at times we are force to reflect on our self-change when represented with aspects of our past.
Another concept of self-change is explored with-in another of Harwoods poems “Glass Jar” where we are shown change brought on by a highly traumatic experience. This same idea is further explored with-in Mumford and sons song “Below My Feet” and Ruth Ostrow’s story “The Violin” as we see the death of someone close acting as a powerful catalyst of self-change. Through the use of a variety of different techniques and structures with-in these 4 pieces we are represented with the main idea that change is inevitable.
With-in Gwen Harwoods sonnet “In the Park” we are represented with the personal changes that an aging mother confronts as she encounters a past-lover. The use of powerful contrast and figurative language with-in the structure of this poem successfully explores the idea that change is constant. Harwood creates the initial idea of self-change through the repetitive Juxtaposition in the first stanza. Saying that her clothes are “out of date” implies that they were once in-date and also shows that the mother is now questioning her ‘old-fashioned’ style.
Harwood further explores the contrasting situation of the mother in saying “Someone she once loved”, she was once in the tangle of love with this man but is not now, this contrast from the strong emotion of love, to now nothing more then idol conversing powerfully portrays the idea of negative changes while illustrating the changed circumstances within her life. Harwood exercises this negative tone with the use of monotonous words and phrases “Aimless – Staring at her feet – Whine and bicker”.
This bland tone creates the idea that the mother is feeling cynical towards the changes that have bombarded her as she even goes on to blame her children for causing the dreary turn in her life. This is illustrated through the exaggerated comment in the last line of the poem “They have eaten me alive”. The hyperbole with-in this quote really demonstrates the negative thoughts the mother feels towards the circumstance she is in, however regardless of her disgust, there is nothing she could have done to avoid these inevitable changes of life.
Harwood further explores the more negative sides of self-change through the poem “Glass Jar” however rather then exploring the downsides of change itself, she explores the idea that change is commonly brought on by a traumatic experience or negative catalyst. The poem tells of a young boy whose dreams are corrupted by nightmares, and how his innocent mind attempts repel the evil when he awakes in the night. This distressing night acts as catalyst, which causes the childs loss of innocence and the development of his understanding of the cruel realities of life.
Harwood heightens these ideas in the poem through the contrasting tone, the use of figurative language and the addition of first-person for a stronger link with the reader. Harwood illustrates the initial naivety of the young boy in saying that he places all of his “faith” with-in a “sun – soaked – glass jar” in hopes that it will repel the monsters from his room in the night, however when the jar does nothing of the sort, his hope is lost.
The link to religion through the use of “Faith” and then later labeling the glass jar as “His Monstrance” amplifies the sense of loss the child feels. This idea is further heightened through the personified falling of his “hopes” as they “fall headlong”. The juxtaposition from the sunlight, and optimism with-in the first stanza into the horrid terrors and darkness of the 3rd stanza further strengthens the ideas of negative changes while also emphasizing the loss of innocence through the changing tone from light hopes, to dark realities.
Harwood continues with the use of contrast with-in the last stanza where she depicts the “resurrected sun” as an awakening image for the young boys change, metaphorically implying that he to is “resurrected” from the horrific night, and has come out a stronger person, having lost his innocence and naivety. Harwood portrays these concepts to further strengthen the idea that change is constant. The concept that change is the only constant is further xplored through Mumford & sons 2012 song “Below my feet” where we are confronted with the personal thoughts of the persona as they deal with their grief, distress and confusion after the death of a loved one (presumably a parent). The song is strewn with contrasting features from soft melodic tunes to powerful rhythmic beats. These opposing sections successfully demonstrate self-change through a musical sense.
The intro of the song involves soft melodic guitar picking, the gentle tone of this instrumental section is very powerful in the sense that it illustrates the first idea of grief before any words are even spoken, and even complements the first line of the song when the vocals do come in “You were cold, like the blood through your bones”. This line creates a vivid visual image through the tactile description of the lifeless body that lies before him while also symbolizing a sense of sadness through the use of “cold”.
The lead singer also showcases varying high notes and low nights during the verse. This constant rising and lowering pitch metaphorically links to the change and development occurring with-in the persona regardless of whether they want to move on or not. The contrasting “humming” that follows represents a step in healing, growth and change as the persona passes through the grief into a state of stability. While the beginning part of the song is depicted as a sorrowful section, the chorus demonstrates a completely different tone, with a rise of pitch, volume, included harmony’s and a slower tempo.
These features coupled with the lyrics “Keep the earth below my feet” demonstrate an extremely power section, showing a sense of optimism, a willingness to move past the grief and to grow from the experience, or as the singer says “Let me learn from where I have been”. The song continues rising in intensity until reaching the powerful closing chorus acting like the climax to the songs build-up. This increment directly symbolizes the personal change with-in the persona, showing a sense of strength as they grow from the pain, ultimately demonstrating the positive development brought on by the sorrowful experience of loss.
Below my feet” successfully portrays a positive side of self-change whilst also demonstrating that death acts as a powerful catalyst for it, forcing self-development and growth. These ideas are strongly illustrated through the constant alter of tone, rhythm and volume throughout the piece. “The violin”, a story told by Ruth Ostrow at the 2003 writers fest, represents a very parallel idea to “Below my feet” looking past the negatives of loss and death and into the positive growth and development it provokes. The violin” is a true story of when Ruth lost her father and dealt with the grief of the loss by locking away her fathers soul inside her inherited violin case. Ruth personifies the motif of the violin constantly throughout the story, creating emotion with-in this seemingly lifeless object, “the violin was singing in pure joy – so full of emotion”.
Ruth also demonstrates her confusion and sorrow of the situation by continually asking rhetorical questions “For do we ever recover from our losses? – What do you do with a man’s soul? these questions also help in involving the audience, and sharing the emotion she felt. Finally when Ruth goes on to tell of when her fathers’ soul was released as a friend begins playing the violin, we are represented with a climax of emotion, pouring from the violin and the whole scene as a whole. “Dad was there. In the room. – In the beauty” These quick snappy sentence help demonstrate the joy and positivity of the experience, linking to a sense of resurrection linking back to the “glass jar”.
Ultimately through the personification and symbolism with-in “the violin” we are represented with an idea that even after the death of someone, they never truly leave you, showing positive growth from loss, and again linking to the idea that change is constant. When looking into Gwen Harwood’s poems “In the park” & “Glass Jar”, Mumford & sons song “Below my feet” and “The violin” by Ruth Ostrow, we are represented with a multitude of aspects of self-change, however although they may differ in certain aspects, one thing becomes clear. Change is the only inevitability in life. It is constant.
Courtney from Study Moose