Compare how feelings are presented in two of the poems Harmonium and Brothers

Categories: Poems

Everyone experiences feelings; they cannot be ignored as we have no control over them. In ‘Harmonium’, Simon Armitage explores the feelings of the relationship between himself and his father, using the extended metaphor he presents the instrument ‘harmonium’ to test his feelings that exists between the father and son. The name itself ‘harmonium’ immediately highlights the connection or ‘harmony’ between them. Armitage also underlines the feeling of regret throughout the poem, as the harmonium is “gathering dust”, which means by protecting the instrument, he can retain memories from his life.

In ‘Brothers’ feelings are also explored by Andrew Forster, the poem underlines the childhood experiences, and the unbalanced relationship with siblings. Forster presents a nostalgic part of a childhood memory, which consists of emotional significance, where relationships change between two brothers. The little brother is considered inferior, as the older brother does not enjoy his “spouting” conversation, he takes advantage to neglect his little brother so that he can be with his friend doing “what grown-ups do”.

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In similar, this poem also identifies regret, the older brother expresses guilt that the ‘distance’ he has created between them, and the little boy with his ‘hand holding out’ showing desire for connection with his older brother. Feelings are presented differently throughout the poems. In ‘harmonium’, Armitage uses colloquialisms which shape the speech patterns of Yorkshire dialect, and also showing discomfort between the feelings of father and son. At the start of the poem, Armitage begins with ‘for a song’, which explores the idea of memories of the past ‘struck a chord’.

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Armitage also highlights his father’s vulnerability, as he is a ‘dead weight’ which may suggest that he is a burden to his son as he gets older, where they have formed feelings of regret. Similarly, in ‘Brothers’, Forster also uses colloquialisms ‘saddled with you’ or ‘me and Paul’ to represent the speaker’s voice as more realistic. Forster explores the feelings through using monosyllabic language such as ‘said you should go and ask Mum’ which is clearly suggesting childhood and an emotional tone, also showing regret in their feelings.

In ‘Harmonium’, Armitage uses personification to identify the metaphorical link between his father and the harmonium, such as ‘the case is ‘aged’, its keys are ‘yellowed the fingernails’, it has ‘lost its tongue’. These suggest that Armitage is describing his father as old, no longer needed. Contrastingly, in ‘Brothers’, Forster uses verb forms to underline the feelings of the two brothers, as the older brothers are considered ‘ambled’ and ‘strolled’, whereas the younger brother ‘skipped’ and ‘windmilled’ which suggests that he is at ease.

However, his brothers fear unassertiveness due to being in their teens. This suggests that they hold feelings for each other, but don’t want to expose them in front of their friends. Imagery is used to express the uselessness and vulnerability of the father in ‘Harmonium’. As the instrument itself is ‘gathering dust’, old and is rusty, the father is also ‘aged’, showing that he is no longer needed and is a burden. ‘Bundled off to the skip’ and ‘laid on its back’ suggest his uselessness.

However, Armitage also emulates on the harmonium’s positive past, by describing it as ‘under the sunlight, through stained glass’, and the voices to be singing like ‘glided finches’. This positivity of his father’s is shown as the last words in the final stanza, where the use of sibilance, imagery and strong rhyme suggests whispering of the ‘phrase’ contained in rhyming couplet which creates regretful tone and feeling, which could suggest that Armitage cannot bring himself to speak. On the other hand, in ‘Brothers’, the tone becomes regretful as he describes his little brother from a distance when ‘holding out a coin’.

This suggests that the brother is regretful for neglecting and abandoning his little brother for being with his friends and ignoring his existence, and this is shown at the end of the poem where the older brother realises the ‘distance’ he created between them both. Hence, the love for his little brother is a realisation of guilt through the description of his carefree playfulness and him ‘holding hand out’ for a coin. The repentance makes his feelings for his little brother come across and their relationship alter over time. Both poems present strong, feelings of emotional pain and regret. Harmonium’ where Armitage discovers the vulnerability of his father at the end and through the instrument itself, where he feels something has been lost which is unable to recapture. Which suggest that he later wanted his father to be a part of his life. ‘Brothers’ where the poet underlines the difficult relationships between siblings and how they change overtime, as for the older brother feeling regretful for neglecting his younger brother who was ‘holding up a coin’. Both poems suggest and express regret for a missed opportunity to communicate the feelings with the close ones.

Updated: Apr 19, 2023
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Compare how feelings are presented in two of the poems Harmonium and Brothers. (2016, Oct 28). Retrieved from

Compare how feelings are presented in two of the poems Harmonium and Brothers essay
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