20th Century Narrative Poetry

Categories: 20Th CenturyPoetry

Choose two or three characters from the poem you have studied. Discuss how the poets have described these characters and their behaviour.

Consider the choice of words, poetic devices, rhythm and rhyme that the poets have used to communicate their ideas.

The poems we have studied are:

* How They Brought The Good News From Ghent To Aix Robert Browning,

* The Revenge Alfred, Lord Tennyson,

* The Inchcape Rock Robert Southey,

* The Charge of The Light Brigade Alfred, Lord Tennyson,

In the four poems we have studied, there are different attitudes and behaviours displayed by the characters, ranging from pure envy to patriotism and heroism.

In “The Inchcape Rock”, Sir Ralph the Rover is portrayed as a wicked and jealous man. However the irony is that, his evil feat backfires onto him when he least expects it.

“His heart was mirthful to excess,

But the Rover’s mirth was wickedness.”

Sir Ralph the Rover was jealous of how the Abbott of Aberbrothok was loved by everyone for doing such a good deed.

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Southey shows how Sir Ralph was determined to humiliate the Abbott, and how inconsiderate he was of others. Sir Ralph was willing to put other people in danger, just so he could become the centre of attention.

“Quoth Sir Ralph, ‘The next who comes to the Rock

Won’t bless the Abbott of Aberbrothok.’ ”

“And row me to the Inchcape Rock,

And I’ll plague the Abbott of Aberbrothok.”

The fact that Sir Ralph actually did the deed by himself (cutting the bell away from the Rock) shows how much hatred he has against the Abbott.

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“Sir Ralph bent over from the boat,

And he cut the Bell from the Inchcape Rock.”

Compared to “The Revenge”, “The Inchcape Rock” shows no kind of patriotism or heroism. In fact, it shows anti-heroism, because of Sir Ralph’s actions.

Southey has used a ‘rhyming couplet’ pattern in “The Inchcape Rock”. The poem is written in quatrains. I personally feel that the poem sounds like a song or ballad, due to the rhythm pattern used by Robert Southey.

“Sir Ralph the Rover sailed away,

He scoured the seas for many a day,

And now grown rich with plundered store,

He steers his course for Scotland’s shore.”

Southey used figures of speech to emphasise certain parts of the poem. Here are a few examples:

When the Bell sunk into the water, onomatopoeia was used to illustrate how similar it was to a drowning man exhaling carbon dioxide. “Down sunk the Bell with a gurgling sound.”

Alliteration also had a key role in this poem as it gave a rhythmic tone to how rough the seas (high tides) were, due to the storm. “When the Rock was hid by the surge’s swell.”

I found “The Inchcape Rock” very interesting with a good moral: “Bad deeds often boomerang upon the doer.” Towards the end of the poem, Sir Ralph regretted for foiling the Abbott’s good idea.

” ‘Now where we are I cannot tell,

But I wish I could hear the Inchcape Bell.’ ”

The six hundred in “The Charge of the Light Brigade” are hard to describe as individuals. They were all brave patriots who risked their lives for a just cause. Tennyson wrote this poem to commemorate the dignified six hundred.

“Honour the charge they made!

Honour the Light Brigade,

Noble six hundred!”

Tennyson used this particular metaphor to show what the six hundred had entered into. This image was used to add a feeling of terror, and also to portray how the six hundred could not escape the volley of the cannons.

“Into the jaws of Death,

Into the mouth of Hell.”

“The Charge of The Light Brigade” also sets emphasis on alliteration. The horse of a hero is classed also as a brave soldier, as it was a key asset to fight in battle. This shows that the horse will never leave its master and therefore it would rather die with him.

“While horse and hero fell,

They had fought so well.”

The rhythm of this poem was written with the firing of cannons in mind. The lines that start of with the word ‘cannon’ must have emphasise on that word. This gives a feeling of how loud and dynamic the cannons were, and also of how many there were.

“Cannon to right of them,

Cannon to left of them,

Cannon in front of them

Volleyed and thundered.”

In “How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix”, Roland the horse is illustrated as a strong stallion who was fit mentally as well as physically.

“And I saw my stout galloper Roland at last,

With resolute shoulders, each butting away.”

Roland was always ready to take any commands from his master, the narrator. Browning created the character Roland in a way that, the horse had immense intelligence, e.g., it knew what trouble was lurking ahead in the journey.

“And his low head and crest, just one sharp ear bent back

For my voice, and the other pricked out on his track.”

It was obvious that Roland loved his master deeply, and vice versa. Roland was aware of other’s feelings and emotion, unlike Sir Ralph the Rover from “The Inchcape Rock”. As Roland was concentrating on the road, he was still able to look sideways, and see from the corner of his eye if the narrator was out of harm’s way.

“And one eye’s black intelligence, -ever that glance

O’er its white edge at me, his own master, askance.”

“Called my Roland his pet-name, my horse without peer.”

Roland was very determined as he always kept on going. It was like as if he was trying to show the other horses how it was done. It seems Roland was trying to please his master by being persistent and trying to achieve his goal.

“Nor galloped less steadily Roland a whit.”

“His fierce lips shook upwards in galloping on.”

Nearing the end of the quest, Roland became tired and stressed. It was up to him to tell the citizens of Aix what the good news was. Even when Roland was on the brink of death, he made sure he upheld the given orders from his master. This further fortifies my point of how strong-minded he was and how loving he was towards the narrator.

Browning used personification to make an item or something else more human like. He used the sun, the shining and happy source we see everyday, as a superior figure who mocked the three riders and their horses. Dirck, Joris and the narrator suffered so much for trying to complete their journey, and it was as if the sun was mocking them, having no mercy or pity on them. “The broad sun above laughed a pitiless laugh.”

I felt that the following alliterated phrase, was used powerfully to put forward how the horse, Roos, was after death. He was still like a stone, he did not move as all his nerves had died. He was also cold like a stone because, the blood had stopped pumping round his body; therefore, his heart had stopped. “Dead as stone.” This shows how ‘death’ can steal your soul away, and leave you like an empty cold shell.

There was a distinct rhythmic pattern in this poem of the galloping of horses. Browning was trying to show the feel of the fast and furious journey.

Sir Grenville, from “The Revenge”, cared for his sick men deeply and even though he wanted to fight the Spaniards, he stayed on land and took care of his crew.

“But I’ve ninety men and more that are lying sick ashore.

I should count myself the coward if I left them, my Lord


Grenville was never scared of dying, even though he knew that one small ship couldn’t destroy fifty-three ships.

“For to fight is but to die!

There’ll be little of us left by the time this sun be set.”

Grenville had a lot of confidence in himself and in his men. He was always optimistic and looked on the good side of things, even when the going got tough. He made his men feel strong and self-assured. “Sir Richard spoke and he laughed, and we roared a hurrah.”

When The Revenge was in trouble and the boat started to break, Sir Grenville kept telling his men to fight on and not to give in. Even when Grenville was badly injured, he told his men to fight on. This showed his determination to keep combating the Spaniards. Sir Grenville did not want any attention from his crew, e.g. medical, or checking whether he is safe.

” ‘Fight on! fight on!’

Through his vessel was all but a wreck.”

“But a bullet struck him that was dressing it suddenly dead,

And himself he was wounded again in the side and the head,

And he said, ‘Fight on! fight on!’ ”

Grenville had his dignity and honour, i.e. he would rather die on his British boat then be captured by a foreign country. Grenville was very patriotic and courageous. He was the kind of man who would never regret anything he did.

” ‘Sink me the ship, Master Gunner – sink her, split her in twain!

Fall into the hands of God, not into the hands of Spain!’ ”

When Sir Grenville died, his men respected him as a good leader and they gave him a proper naval burial.

Grenville had a powerful effect on his crew; he brought them confidence and courage. He died as loyalist who had completed his duty as man, for the Queen and Faith.

“But they sank his body with honour down into the deep.”

” ‘I have only done my duty as a man is bound to do:

With a joyful spirit I Sir Grenville die!’ ”

Tennyson used this alliteration: “sun smiled”, to show how Grenville and his crew fought with much pain and concentration, while the sun shining was happy without a problem in the world. This alliterated phrase is very similar to the one that was used in “…The Good News from Ghent to Aix”.

Onomatopoeia was also used to compare the volley of cannons to that of a stampede of elephants. The crash signifies the destruction of The Revenge. “Crash of the cannonades.” As well as being onomatopoeia, this phrase is also an alliteration to illustrate the destruction and loudness of the cannons.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the four poems, however my favourite two poems are “The Inchcape Rock” and “The Revenge”.

I feel that “…Good News From Ghent To Aix”, “The Revenge” and ” The Charge Of The Brigade” are about characters who were patriotic, heroic and had determination, which influenced others in a positive way. However, with “The Inchcape Rock” the character Sir Ralph the Rover has a hate-filled, envious and selfish personality. Southey shows in “The Inchcape Rock”, how conflict between people can be out of envy and hatred, and how it all does have to come down to war or a battle trying to save the country.

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20th Century Narrative Poetry. (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/20th-century-narrative-poetry-new-essay

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