Compare and Contrast Suffering Shown in Six Poems

Categories: Vernon Scannell

The first thing you think when you are told the word suffering is torturing and death and yes this is a big aspect of the topic and it is included in the poem mother in a refugee camp by Chinua Achebe but there is also other parts of it that is not just physical but involves mental suffering and it is this section that is rarely associated with the word in question, Hide and seek by Vernon Scannell is a good example of how this piece comes into play.

From this evidence we can explore different forms of suffering and by the time I have reached my conclusion we will have a better understanding of the term.

To help us get a better perspective of the word I have used three main poems that demonstrate different elements of suffering War photographer is a poem by carol ann Duffy and he is looking through the pictures he has taken and looking back on their deaths he also talks about how the public react and their lack of care and understanding and what individual has gone through to get just one picture.

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You can also look at the poem Dulce ET decorum EST which is similar in that it involves the public, Wilfred Owen was a writer from world war one and he disliked how war was displayed to the public that everyone was a hero and they always won.

So Owen met some friends and they wrote poems about what the war was really like and this is where he wrote this poem and in it uses the phrase “the old lie Dulce et Decorum Est Propatria Mori”, In war photographer instead of showing the public the reality of war through poetry he has done it through vivid images that really hit the public and show them what war is really like and although they are separated by almost a 100 years you can see how they are connected.

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From the start of war photographer you get the feeling of quietness and solitude and if you had to link this with a colour it is quite possible that most people will say something along the lines of blue or green but Carol Ann Duffy has used the colour red and somehow connected it to quietness the colour red is mentioned as it was the colour used when developing a photograph so the room had to be pitch black with the faint red glow. Another example that gives the poem the feeling of tranquillity is the line that uses a religious example. A priest preparing to intone a mass” this technique has also been used in ‘War photographer.  “No Madonna and child could touch”, this is referring to Mary and her son Jesus in the bible and is used as a sign of peace and love which is how the mother in this poem feels towards her dying child.

The religious mention in ‘war photographer also represents peace but in this is example it is more to do with the quietness as the photos are developed. he phrase used in the second line is used to represent the people in front of the firing squad waiting to be shot “spools of suffering set out in ordered rows” and he has used the word suffering in this line as you can imagine the pain of knowing you are about to die and yet you are hopeless in terms of the outcome there is another example where hopelessness is mentioned and this is in ‘Dulce et decorum est’ when there is an “Ecstasy of fumbling” as everyone tries to put there gas mask on and the one guy who is a bit slow who runs out of time, this guy was helpless to what was going to happen to him is exactly like the men standing up against the firing squad as they are both powerless On the next line Duffy uses four lines to start of the poem and yet there are four full stops, this is to emphasise on each of the areas mentioned that he has been to and taken pictures of war and it makes the reader pause and think about each individual word, “Belfast. Beirut. Phnom Penh”.

The last line of the Stanza is taken from the bible “all flesh is grass” there is dying and suffering everywhere. As you read onto the next stanza Duffy talks about the war photographer going home to Rural England he has used caesura here again and it has been used to make “Rural England” sound really blunt and plain and she says “to fields that don’t explode beneath the feet of running children in a nightmare heat” this makes you think how much suffering there would be in the world if it was all like these places Beirut and Phnom Penh and the planet was a war zone. On the last stanza Duffy talks about a hundred agonies in black and white and it is said that black and white photographs are the most powerful and effective forms of capturing the moment of suffering.

This poem has a very effective ending and it is going back to what I said at the start “From the aeroplane he stares impassively at where he earns his living and they do not care” and she is talking about the public and what they have all gone through to get these photographs all for maybe five or six that will be picked out to be published and used in tomorrows newspaper and yet when they read it as he says they do not care. This is not the only poem that has a really effective ending many of the poems have a really strong ending to put there point across, and to make the reader feel emotion towards the victim of suffering.

Seamus Heaney’s Mid term break has left a line all by itself to serve as the ending, Mid term Break is about an older brother who has come back to school to find that his younger brother has been hit by a car and it is about how the older brother reacts to this experience, this piece of poetry is autobiographical so it makes the storyline even more moving. A four foot box a foot for every year” this line puts the poem in to perspective when you think just how small this child is and helpless he was, this comes back to the point made in ‘War Photographer’ and ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ and you can see this part plays a big role as it very important and is one of the most frequent forms of suffering.

Vernon Scannell has used a sense of mystery just like war photographer it doesn’t mention any names but it says “but where are they who sought you? You do not know who the people were same as in war photographer . Hide and seek is all about playing a typical childhood game that everyone knows about and it is through the eyes of a small child and how quickly excitement can turn to a type of suffering.

This means of seeing the world through the eyes of a child can be very effective in portraying loneliness and this is exactly what this poet is trying to exploit in using a younger victim. Throughout the start of the poem the writer has expressed the boys excitement using various methods the first technique Scannell has used is the rhyming couplets every forth and fifth line to show just how eager he is to play the game and to win and outsmart his friends also the writer has used caesura, this has been used when there is a change in tension “Don’t breathe. Don’t move. Stay dumb. Hide in your blindness. ” This has been used when the seekers are just at the door to the shed and there is a sudden tense moment when he realises that he must stay quiet to not be caught.

Then unexpectedly there is a time jump and we now have this change in atmosphere as the boy is suddenly at a discomfort “the dark damp smell of sand moves in your throat” also Scannell helps us feel empathy towards the boy as even the weather seems to be against him “the cold bites through your coat” whereas you had the feeling of warmth at the start where he talks about a beach which is not associated with the cold. Then you get the feeling of excitement again suddenly as he reveals himself only to be brought back down again as he finds out that there is no-one there and everyone has gone and this is where you get the feeling of loneliness which is directly related to suffering and is used in other poems such as half past two by U. A. Thanthorpe.

Half past two is about a seemingly sweet and innocent boy who is almost in a dream state throughout the poem and is about him “escaping into the clockless land”. U. A. Thanthorpe has also used the technique of seeing the world through the mind of a child to portray loneliness just as Scannell has done in his poem. There comes no worse than a death of a child especially your own, you may say this poem demonstrates death more intensely than war photographer or Wilfred Owens poem this is similar to Mid term break where Seamus Heaney talks about the death of a younger brother and they are similar in that a child is used to amplify the sympathy from the reader.

Although Heanny’s poem is autobiographical you can say that mother in a refugee camp displays a more depressing feeling as the little child is not the only one suffering as everyone in the refugee camp is almost suffering equally and some of the mothers have even given up on their Childs and the one person you usually look to for comfort is your mother and to not have that support is a disheartening thought. And this really creates an empathy link between the reader and this mother and the victims of this dreadful area in which the whole place is enclosed by death. Achebe uses techniques just as the other poets have, to express torturing in the poem.

The main thing he has used is vivid imagery which is a excellent method of really painting a picture in the readers mind about what it would have been like, “Behind blown empty bellies” he has also used alliteration so once you understand this picture that he is portraying it also sticks in your mind so that you don’t forget it. Then you really start to feel the mothers love for her child near the end as she uses the phrase ‘humming in her eyes’ which suggest she is close to tears and this is a really emotional part of the story and then Achebe really ends the story effectively “like putting flowers on a tiny grave” this means that even though she knows her son is going to pass away she still feels the love for him that any mother will always do. And this phrase really helps you sympathise with the mother and Ac hebe has helped us understand how she is really feeling and the suffering that she feels inside.

So as you can see these six different poets have expressed their feelings on suffering in lots different ways in their poems. Suffering can come in many forms. The ones used in this poem are just a few of the many aspects of suffering. It can come in the form of death and war which was what was used in most of the poems and you can say this is the most extreme form but as I have proved suffering can also come in the form of loneliness and helplessness which is not what you would first expect when you think of suffering, but when you look into it more closely you get a greater understanding of the word and how it can be expressed differently for different situations.

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Compare and Contrast Suffering Shown in Six Poems. (2017, Feb 08). Retrieved from

Compare and Contrast Suffering Shown in Six Poems
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