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A comparison between to Modern poems Essay

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The two poems that will be compared both concern the topic of old age, but each has it’s own interpretation on the subject. The first, “Warning” by Jenny Joseph, is about a woman who wishes to live her life recklessly, instead of aging stereotypically. The second poem, “Old Man, Old Man” by U.A. Fanthorpe, expresses the effects of how old age can dramatically change a person’s perspective of their own life.

Both poems concern the topic of old age, but after just a single reading of each it is clear that the tone differs tremendously.

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This is possibly where the most obvious observation can be made when considering the poems. “Warning” has a distinctive spirited feeling about it, where as “Old Man, Old Man” is able to convey the feelings of sorrow and remorse felt by the person concerned, with ease. This is an important aspect of any poem, and is a useful tool to assist a poem in its direction.

Another important aspect of each of these poems is the actual topic of old age, and how it is perceived by the person in question. During “Warning”, old age is thought of as a rather mundane event for a person that signals the end of a life, and allows the person to fade away. This is also very much the case in “Old Man, Old Man” because of its tone, which is more sorrowful than in “Warning”, which portrays that the sarcastic stereotypical attitude shown in the third stanza of “warning” is actually a reality for some people. This is where the subject of each of the poems can be clearly seen. “Old Man, Old Man” is about a man that old age has crept upon, and has produced an unrecognisable person who is quite different from his original character.


“Lord once of shed, garage and garden”


“I’ve lost my hammer.”

The above quotes provide reasonable evidence supporting this idea, as they represent how the man in the poem went from king of his domain- to something quite unrecognisable. However, the woman concerned in the poem “Warning”, shows a great will to change from her present character into what can only be described as a second childhood. It tells us that she is not only willing to become a different person, but that she is willing to attempt to stray away from the stereotypical view of old age.

“And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves,

And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.”

It’s not just the tone that adds effect to the poems, but the titles also give us further insight into the poems they belong to. In the title Old Man, Old Man, the repetition of old man emphasises the man’s age, and the title’s repetition within the poem allows us to see that this aspect is quite important. Repetition is used throughout the poem, trying to show us that things such as his missing hammer and that he is unable to find his way to Drury Lane are important to the man in question. They also tell us that he is no longer as independent as he used to be.

“I can see you, you said to me, but only as a cloud.”

This comment within the poem explains to the narrator (who is possibly one of the man’s children) that the old man acknowledges that they are there, but becomes unaware of them. If we carry on through the final stanzas, we can see that the narrator wishes to assist the old man, but only as a cloud. This means that the old man can receive aid without losing his independence. The previous idea placed before the last quote can be supported as can this idea of having lost independence, without adding ridicule:

“Let me find your hammer, let me walk with you to Drury lane. I am only a cloud.”

“Warning’s” title, however, is slightly less obvious, but if it is analysed it can clearly be seen that the poem is not a warning for old age, but of being stereotypical, as this is exactly what the women doesn’t want to be. Repetition is also used within “Warning”, but not to the extent that it was used by “Old Man, Old Man”. It is used here not only for effect, but to emphasise things that the writer perhaps feels is important and should be taken into consideration. A good example of this during “Warning” can be found on the first and last lines,

First line:

“When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple.”

Last line:

“When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.”

In this context, it shows us that old age will only be realized when she starts doing the things she planned upon doing as an elderly person. This is similar to “Old Man, Old Man” because within the poem, is a similar realization of old age. The poems mixture of tenses allows us to see this analysis of the aging process; this mainly refers to “Old Man, Old Man” but does occur during “Warning”.

From reading the two poems, I have realised that old age makes a great impact on a person’s life, and it is up to them as to how they spend that time. Both “Old Man, Old Man” by U.A. Fanthorpe and “Warning” by Jenny Joseph contain different interpretations of old age from different perspectives. “Old Man, Old Man” could be seen as the stereotypical form of old age mentioned in “Warning”, and shows us that the woman doesn’t wish to be anything like the man, even though she probably knows that’s what she will be. This realization of old age is one thing that each of the poems has in common, although it is an experience in one, and an anticipation in another.

Perhaps the poems are related to their writers, and consist of memories or feelings that they’ve had towards a relation (in the case of “Old Man, Old Man”) or even themselves (“Warning”). Each of the poems express similar use of different tenses, as do they use repetition to effect key sections, which adds depth. The titles of each of the poems also accomplish this, and are important because they set the tone for the poems. Although the content and tone of each of the poems is drastically different, it can be seen that they are really quite similar in the way they explain their opinions and views of old age, and their concerns when considering the topic. Each leads to a convincing perception of old age and a valid interpretation of their lives from that point onwards.

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