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Compare the ways Maya Angelou and William Cowper present the issue of slavery in the poems ‘Still I Rise’ and ‘The Negro’s Complaint’ The poems, ‘Still I Rise’ and ‘The Negro’s Complaint’, clearly present the issues of slavery in different ways. ‘Still I Rise’ was written in the 1970’s by a poet called Maya Angelou. Angelou was a black American. Angelou writes about the effects which slavery had on black people and how she always rose above what happened in her life.
Hence the name of the poem, ‘Still I Rise’.
On the other hand, ‘The Negro’s Complaint’, was written in 1788 when slavery was still legal, therefore, Cowper’s poem was seen as very controversial at the time when it was written. ‘Still I Rise’ was written many years after the slave trade was abolished but nevertheless, white people were segregated from the blacks in this very racist time. Obviously the main theme of the poem is: the effects of slavery, the treatment of blacks, and racism.
The content of ‘Still I Rise’ is very moving as it describes all the things which slavery had had its affect on.
For example, when Angelou says, “You may write me down in history with your bitter twisted lies. ” This suggests that people treat her differently just because of their racial history. The content of ‘The Negro’s Complaint’ mainly focuses on the lifestyle of a slave. It begins with the black African being forced from his home and giving up possessions.
It then progresses further and discusses the treatment and torture that the slaves had to go through and finally the poem ends by questioning the rights of slavery.
This particular poem depicts the reality of slavery and portrays slavery as inhumane. The tone and language of ‘Still I Rise’ is very powerful and Angelou often refers to herself as being a strong aspect of nature. Angelou says, “I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide. ” This suggests the power to overcome things. Oceans take whatever is thrown at them, be it good things or bad, just like Angelou is forced to accept the point that she’s different from the others and therefore, receives an earful of racial comments.
The theme of nature is just one of the many similarities which these two poems contain. In Angelou’s poem the aspects of nature apparent are: ‘moons, suns, tides and oceans. The natures featured in Cowper’s poem are: billows, water, soil, sky, tornadoes, seas, plantations, meadows and whirlwinds. The reason why Cowper may have written about nature so much is probably because he writes hymns. The nature in the poem is all really part of God’s creations, so being a hymn writer; this may have influenced the theme.
The nature in Cowper’s poem is used to show Gods anger whereas in ‘Still I Rise’, it shows the positive aspects of Angelou’s life. Another similarity in both is the subject of gold and wealth. Angelou mentions several wealthy things such as, ‘oil wells, gold mines and diamonds’. Cowper, on the other hand, mentions, ‘treasures, buying and selling, and paltry gold’. Gold and wealth, therefore, is the main point of slavery.
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