The Language of Poetry Essay
The Language of Poetry
This accessible satellite textbook in the Routledge INTERTEXT series is unique in offering students hands-on practical experience of textual analysis focused on poetry. Written in a clear, user-friendly style by an experienced writer and practising teacher, it links practical activities with examples of texts. These are followed by commentaries and suggestions for research. It can be used individually or in conjunction with the series core textbook, Working with Texts: A core book for language analysis.
Aimed at A-Level and beginning undergraduate students, The Language of Poetry: focuses on the ‘look, the sound, the movement and the appeal of poetry uses clusters of poems to highlight differences in structure, tone, quality and form explores historical, contemporary, regional and social differences in language and style combines a highly individual and fascinating selection of poems from the canonical to the fringe, among them an Old English lament, a haiku and a poem by Benjamin Zephaniah includes a selection of suggestions for project work has a comprehensive glossary of terms.
John McRae is Special Professor of Language in Literature Studies at the University of Nottingham. He has been at the forefront of work on the language and literature interface for many years and is the co-author of The Routledge History of Literature in English. The Intertext series Why does the phrase ‘spinning a yarn’ refer both to using language and making cloth? What might a piece of literary writing have in common with an advert or a note from the milkman? What aspects of language are important to understand when analysing texts? The Routledge INTERTEXT series will develop readers’ understanding of how texts work.
It does this by showing some of the designs and patterns in the language from which they are made, by placing texts within the contexts in which they occur, and by exploring relationships between them. The series consists of a foundation text, Working with Texts: A core book for language analysis, which looks at language aspects essential for the analysis of texts, and a range of satellite texts. These apply aspects of language to a particular topic area in more detail. They complement the core text and can also be used alone, providing the user has the foundation skills furnished by the core text.
Benefits of using this series: Unique—written by a team of respected teachers and practitioners whose ideas and activities have also been trialled independently Multi-disciplinary—provides a foundation for the analysis of texts, supporting students who want to achieve a detailed focus on language Accessible—no previous knowledge of language analysis is assumed, just an interest in language use Comprehensive—wide coverage of different genres: literary texts, notes, memos, signs, advertisements, leaflets, speeches, conversation.
Student-friendly—contains suggestions for further reading; activities relating to texts studied; commentaries after activities; key terms highlighted and an index of terms The Language of Poetry • John McRae LONDON AND NEW YORK First published 1998 by Routledge 11 New Fetter Lane, London EC4P 4EE Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by Routledge 29 West 35th Street, New York, NY 10001 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2003. ©
1998 John McRae The author has asserted his moral rights in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication Data McRae, John.
The language of Poetry/John McRae. p. cm. —(Intertext) Includes index. 1. English language—Style. 2. English poetry—History and criticism. 3. English language—Versification. 4. Discourse analysis, Literary. 5. Style, Literary. 6. Poetics. I. Title. II. Series: Intertext (London, England) PE1421. M39 1998 808. 1–dc21 97–17316 ISBN 0-203-01831-1 Master e-book ISBN ISBN 0-203-22274-1 (Adobe eReader Format) ISBN 0-415-16928-3 (Print Edition) I shall invent a new game; I shall write bits of slang and poetry on slips and give them to you to separate.
George Eliot, Middlemarch This page intentionally left blank. The series editors: Ronald Carter is Professor of Modern English Language in the Department of English Studies at the University of Nottingham and is the editor of the Routledge INTERFACE series in Language and Literary Studies. He is also co-author of The Routledge History of Literature in English. From 1989 to 1992 he was seconded as National Director for the Language in the National Curriculum (LINC) project, directing a ? 21. 4 million in-service teacher education programme.
Angela Goddard is Senior Lecturer in Language at the Centre for Human Communication, Manchester Metropolitan University, and was Chief Moderator for the project element of English Language A-Level for the Northern Examination and Assessment Board (NEAB) from 1983 to 1995. Her publications include The Language Awareness Project: Language and Gender, vols I and II, 1988, and Researching Language, 1993 (Framework Press). First series title: Working with Texts: A core book for language analysis Ronald Carter, Angela Goddard, Danuta Reah, Keith Sanger, Maggie Bowring Satellite titles: The Language of Sport
Adrian Beard The Language of Advertising: Written texts Angela Goddard The Language of Poetry John McRae The Language of Newspapers Danuta Reah The Language of Humour Alison Ross The Language of Fiction Keith Sanger Related titles: INTERFACE series: Variety in Written English Tony Bex Language, Literature and Critical Practice David Birch A Linguistic History of English Poetry Richard Bradford The Language of Jokes Delia Chiaro The Discourse of Advertising Guy Cook Literary Studies in Action Alan Durant and Nigel Fabb English in Speech and Writing Rebecca Hughes Feminist Stylistics Sara Mills.
Language in Popular Fiction Walter Nash Textual Intervention Rob Pope Literature about Language Valerie Shepherd Language, Ideology and Point of View Paul Simpson Language through Literature Paul Simpson Literature, Language and Change J. Stephens and R. Waterhouse Language, Text and Context edited by Michael Toolan Twentieth-Century Poetry edited by Peter Verdonk Twentieth-Century Fiction edited by Peter Verdonk and Jean Jacques Weber Vocabulary: Applied linguistic perspectives Ronald Carter The Routledge History of Literature in English: Britain and Ireland Ronald Carter and John McRae Dramatic Discourse.
Vimala Herman Text and Discourse Analysis Raphael Salkie Stylistics Laura Wright and Jonathan Hope contents Acknowledgements Unit one: Unit two: Unit three: Unit four: Unit five: Unit six: Unit seven: Unit eight: The look The sound The movement The appeal The places The genders The images That was then, this is now Poetry project List of texts Index of terms Index of authors x 1 13 24 36 48 61 81 95 117 134 139 143 acknowledgements Maya Angelou, ‘Women Work’, from: And Still I Rise. By kind permission of Virago Press. Anon. , ‘Deor’s Lament’, from An Anthology of Old English Literature by Charles W.
Kennedy. Copyright © 1960 by Charles W. Kennedy. Reprinted by kind permission of Oxford University Press, Inc. Simon Armitage, ‘Let This Matchstick Be a Brief Biography’ in The Dead Sea Poems. By kind permission of Faber & Faber. W. H. Auden, ‘Stop All the Clocks’, from Collected Poems by W. H. Auden, edited by Edward Mendelson. Copyright © 1940 and renewed 1968 by W. H. Auden. Reprinted by permission of Random House Inc. Louise Bennett, ‘Colonization in Reverse’, originally published in Selected Poems, edited by Mervyn Morris, Kingston, Jamaica.
Edward Clerihew Bentley, ‘Clive’ originally published in Biography for Beginners (1905). Publisher unknown. Valerie Bloom, ‘Yuh Hear Bout’, from Grandchildren of Albion, edited by Michael Horovitz, New Directions. By courtesy of Valerie Bloom. Originally published in Touch Mi, Tell Mi by Bogle I’Ouverture, 1983/90. Robert Crawford, ‘Nec Tamen Consumebatur’, from A Scottish Assembly, Chatto & Windus, 1990. e. e. cummings, ‘ygUDuh’ and ‘The Moon’s A Balloon’, from Selected Poems 1923– 58. Emily Dickinson, ‘Much Madness…’; ‘Because I could not stop for Death …’; ‘I Sing to use the Waiting…’; ‘A narrow Fellow in the Grass…’.
Reprinted by kind permission of the publishers and the trustees of Amherst College from The Poems of Emily Dickenson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson, Cambridge, Mass. : The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Copyright © 1951, 1955, 1979, 1983 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. T. S. Eliot, The Hollow Men (last two lines). Reprinted by courtesy of Faber & Faber and Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Inc. Gavin Ewart ‘Office Friendships’ from Selected Poems 1933–93, Hutchinson Books Ltd, Chatto & Windus. By kind permission of Margo Ewart. Nissim Ezekiel, ‘Goodbye Party for Miss Pushpa T. S. ’ from Collected Poems 1952– 88.
Originally published in Hymns in Darkness, Oxford University Press, India, 1976. Robert Frost, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, from The Poetry of Robert Frost, edited by Edward Connery Latham © 1951 by Robert Frost. © 1923 © 1969 by Henry Holt & Co. Inc. Reprinted by permission of Henry Holt & Co. Inc. Lorna Goodison, I Am Becoming My Mother, New Beacon Books. Alfred Perceval Graves, Father O’Flynn, reprinted by kind permission of J. M. Dent. Tony Harrison, ‘Them and [uz]’, from More Poems, published by Jonathan Cape and Holt Rinehart & Winston. Reprinted by kind permission of Gordon Dickerson for Tony Harrison.
Seamus Heaney, ‘Digging’ from Poems 1965–1975. © 1980 by Seamus Heaney. Reprinted by permission of Faber & Faber and Farrar, Straus & Giroux Inc. A. E. Housman, ‘Because I Liked You Better’ from More Poems. Reprinted by permission of The Society of Authors as the literary representative of the Estate of A. E. Housman. Langston Hughes, ‘I Too Sing America’ from Selected Poems by Langston Hughes. Copyright 1926 Alfred A. Knopf Inc. and renewed 1954 by Langston Hughes. Reprinted by permission of the publisher. Rebecca Hughes, ‘Divergence’, reprinted by kind permission of the author. Rudyard Kipling, If.
By courtesy of A. P. Watt Ltd. on behalf of The National Trust. Philip Larkin, ‘This Be the Verse’, from High Windows, reprinted by kind permission of Faber & Faber. Tom Leonard, Jist Ti Let Yi Know, reprinted by permission of the author. First appeared in the sequence Bunnit Husslin, Third Eye Centre, Glasgow 1975. Reprinted in Intimate Voices: Writing 1965–83 Galloping Dog Press, Newcastle 1984. Reprinted by Vintage Press 1995. Amy Lowell (d. 1943), Patterns. John McRae, ‘Haiku’, published in the British Haiku Society anthology, Fire, 1993. Reprinted by kind permission of the author and the British Haiku Society.
‘Elijah and Isaac’, published in Not Love Alone, GMP, London, 1985. Reprinted by kind permission of the author and GMP Publishers Ltd. Roger McGough, ‘40-Love’, from Penguin Modern Poets 10, 1971. Reprinted by permission of A. D. Peters & Co. Ltd. Muhammad Haji Salleh, ‘A Star-Petalled Flower Falls’, from Time and Its People, reprinted by permission of the author. Stevie Smith, ‘Not Waving But Drowning’, from Collected Poems of Stevie Smith. Copyright (c) 1972 by Stevie Smith. Reprinted by kind permission of New Directions Publishing Corp. Stephen Spender, I Think Continually of Those Who Were Truly Great, single.
line reprinted by courtesy of Faber & Faber. Dylan Thomas, ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’ from The Poems of Dylan Thomas. Copyright 1952 by Dylan Thomas. Reprinted by permission of J. M. Dent and New Directions Publishing Corps. Malachi Edwin Vethamani, ‘It Was A Wondrous Sight’ published in South-East Asia Writes Back, Skoob Pacifica Anthology No. 1, Skoob Books, 1993. Reprinted by kind permission of the author and Skoob Books Publishing Ltd. William Carlos Williams, ‘This is Just To Say’, from Collected Poems 1909–1939, vol. 1. Copyright 1938 by New Directions Publishing Corp.
Reprinted by permission of Carcanet Press and New Directions Publishing Corp. W. B. Yeats, ‘The Second Coming’. Reprinted with permission of Simon & Schuster from The Collected Works of W. B. Yeats, vol. 1. : The Poem; revised and edited by Richard J. Finneran. Copyright 1924 by Macmillan Publishing Company; copyright renewed (c) 1952 by Bertha Georgie Yeats; and by permission of A. P. Watt Ltd on behalf of Michael Yeats. Benjamin Zephaniah, ‘As a African’, originally published in Inna Liverpool by the African Arts Collective, Liverpool 1988/90. Reprinted by kind permission of Benjamin Zephaniah, copyright (c) 1992.
Routledge has made every effort to trace copyright holders and to obtain permission to publish extracts. Any omissions brought to our attention will be remedied in future editions. Unit one The look First of all, what is poetry? words with a frame round them ‘what oft was thought, but ne’er so well express’d’ (Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism, 1711) ‘the best words in the best order’ (Samuel Taylor Coleridge, from Table Talk magazine, 1827) the words of the current number-one hit boring old-fashioned soppy stuff the words inside birthday cards. Which of these signifies poetry to you?
Tick one or two—add more if you want to. In this unit we are going to look at a range of texts, and try to decide what makes them poetry, and see how we react to them subjectively and objectively. To allow the focus to be on the texts themselves, titles and authors are listed at the end of each unit, with a complete list of all the poems quoted appearing at the end of the book (p. 143). So what makes poetry good or bad? Activity Look at these lines and grade them on a 1 to 10 scale, where you think 1 is bad, 6 quite good, 10 really good. Text: Poems (i)–(x) (i) The trumpets sounded, Saint Peter said, ‘Come. ’
The pearly gates opened And in walked Mum. (ii) ’Tis said that some have died for love The Language of Poetry 2 (iii) I’ve measured it from side to side: ’Tis three feet long, and two feet wide. (iv) What I like about Clive Is that he is no longer alive. There is a great deal to be said For being dead. (v) God save our gracious Queen, Long live our noble Queen, God save the Queen. (vi) There was an old man of Thermopylae, Who never did anything properly; But they said, ‘If you choose To boil eggs in your shoes, You shall never remain in Thermopylae. ’ (vii) Fear no more the heat o’ th’ sun Nor the furious winter’s rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done, Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages. (viii) Then hurrah! for the mighty monster whale, Which has got seventeen feet four inches from tip to tip of a tail! Which can be seen for a sixpence or a shilling, That is to say, if the people all are willing. (ix) How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight For the ends of Being and ideal Grace. […]
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose With my lost saints—I love thee with the breath, Smiles, tears, of all my life! —and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death. The The look 3 (x) They come as a boon and a blessing to men, The Pickwick, the Owl, and the Waverley pen. Did any of them make 10 out of 10? Give reasons for your choices. (Discuss the results in groups, if possible. ) List some of the negative aspects in the texts and some more positive ones. Negative ……………………………………………………….. ……………………………………………………….. ……………………………………………………….. Positive ………………………………………………………..
Commentary First we might react to the subject matter—so many of them seem to be about death. But they range from fairly banal (i) to serious (vii, ix). Probably (vii), (ii) and (ix) would be the highest-rated for most readers. Compared with the others, they have a range of reference (past, present, future) and touch on more than one idea. In short, they give the reader the chance to explore the potential meanings and resonances in the text, rather than just one level of simplistic meaning or effect.
The length of the lines might add something to the appeal of (ii) and (viii) in particular—compare the short lines of (i). The final line of (i) creates an effect of bathos, and might even make the reader laugh: (iv) and (vi) do this more deliberately. Text (v) does none of these, and perhaps sounds least ‘poetic’. Rhyme can reinforce the effect created by the sound of the text—we will see more of this. But what of ‘poetic’ language? Look at (ii): instead of saying ‘some people have died for love’ it is distanced by the words “Tis said’, and another level is introduced—the words, the order of the words, the sound, all come into the equation.
Text (vii) is similarly a bit removed from everyday language, with ‘thou’, ‘art’, ‘o’ th”, etc. , which sound ‘poetic’—they are older forms of language. Look also at contrasts: hot/cold, life/death, past/present, which give the poem its movement. Activity In Text: Poems (xi)–(xvii) are some lines which have been considered ‘great’, poetry? How do they compare with the ones you have just read? Text: Poems (xi)–(xvii) The Language of Poetry 4 (xi) Who ever loved, that loved not at first sight? (xii) Sweet Thames! run softly, till I end my song. (xiii) Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate. (xiv) Tyger! tyger! burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry? (xv) Summer is i-cumen in, Lude sing, cuccu! Groweth seed and bloweth med And springth the wode nu. (xvi) When lilacs last in the dooryard bloomed, And the great star early drooped in the western sky at night, I mourned, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring. (xvii)
The woods decay, the woods decay and fall, The vapours weep their burthen to the ground, Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath, And after many a summer dies the swan. Commentary Try reading some of these aloud: sound makes a contribution to sense. Which lines do you find the most musical? There is a wider range of sounds, emotions and rhymes in these samples: happiness, sadness, power, regret, awe, and more. Repetition features in several of them, reinforcing the effects.
The texts make us read them in different ways, by the form, the language they use, the sounds, and even the references (the Thames, the tiger). We construct our The The look 5 readings out of all these influences, plus what we bring to the text.
Part of us takes the text subjectively, reacting emotionally, and part can be objective, thinking about the specific devices, tricks and techniques the poet uses. For example: unanswered rhetorical questions (xi, xiii, xiv), exclamations (xii, xiv, xv), and images (the first line of (xvi) really means ‘last spring’, but makes an image of it, combining time, home, and a sense of loss)—all these contribute to how the texts work. If we try grading these lines on the same scale as before is it easier, or not, to separate them into ‘good’ or ‘bad’?
Some of them will simply appeal to you subjectively more than others—just enjoy them! Extension Try the same sort of thing with any song lyrics you know well. What makes some work more for you than others? Keep some of these ideas in mind: we will look back at some of these questions as we go on. Activity We are going to move on to what a text looks like, and how that affects its ‘poetry’. Where do you think you might find this? How can you tell if it’s spoken or written? What is the essence of the message? Could it be said in fewer words? What words would you have used? So, what are the other words there for?
(Padding, politeness, covering something up, …etc. ) Realistically, who might be writing, and to whom? Is it a poem? Why/why not? Try writing it as a poem. Commentary How is it now different from the version above? There can be an infinite number of The Language of Poetry 6 variations experimenting with different possibilities: change the words or keep them the same; emphasise the forgiveness, or the taste, rather than the information; do it in the shape of a plum; use rhyme and put it into stanzas; give it a title. Activity Now you can check out the ‘real’ poem (Text: Poem (xviii)).
Look at how it works, compared to your version, and to the ‘note’ version above. What similarities and differences are there? Text: Poem (xviii) (xviii) This Is Just to Say I have eaten the plums that were in the icebox and which you were probably saving for breakfast Forgive me they were delicious so sweet and so cold Commentary It is often the very look of the text that conditions our response to it. At first this text looked like a note on the fridge door or left on the kitchen table. But the words say a lot more than just ‘sorry I ate the plums’. And would you have said ‘Forgive me’—it seems a bit strong.
It is very often worthwhile thinking about what we ourselves would have written and comparing it with what the author wrote; that can give us an insight into what the text is doing. The word ‘icebox’, for instance, is more common in American English than British, and yes, the author is American. The The look 7 The simple fact of rearranging the words in any way shows something of how texts work differently in different shapes or with a different word order. Putting it into three stanzas influences such things as line length, the emphasis given to some words, like ‘saving’.
Who might be speaking/writing to whom is often an interesting question to wonder about, although often it cannot be answered. The word ‘so’ in the last two lines is a subjective intensifier: it makes us taste the plums more directly than, for example, ‘very sweet and very cold’. Activity We can try another exercise in rewriting now. Look at Text: Poem (xix). What makes it ‘work’ for you? Text: Poem (xix) (xix) 40 middle couple ten when game and go the will be tween – LOVE aged playing nis the ends they home net still be them Try writing this as sentences.
What is lost, and what gained, if anything? What do you think it is about most: tennis, space, love, age…or what? How modern do you think these two texts are? Tick a date for each: 19th century 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s ‘This is Just to Say’ ………. ………. ………. ………. ………. ………. ………. ………. ………. ‘40–Love’ ………. ………. ………. ………. ………. ………. ………. ………. ………. ‘This is Just to say’was published in 1923, ‘40–Love’ in 1971. Probably ‘This Is Just to Say’ feels more modern than that.
The Language of Poetry 8 Activity Rewriting is one of the main techniques we can use when working with poetic texts. Sometimes it will simply ‘frame’ or ‘de-frame’ the text; often it will help us unravel complicated syntax, as in this moment when Eve bites the apple in the Garden of Eden (Text: Poem (xx)). Text: Poem (xx) ‘What hinders, then, (xx)
To reach, and feed at once both body and mind? ’ So saying, her rash hand in evil hour Forth-reaching to the fruit, she plucked, she eat; Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her seat, Sighing through all her works, gave signs of woe That all was lost. […] all heaven Resounded, and had earth been then, all earth Had to her centre shook.
Try putting some lines into more ‘usual’ English; then read the two versions aloud. For example, the last three lines might read ‘all heaven felt the shock,/And if earth had existed then,/It would have been shaken to its core. What words do you find that are clearly old forms? Are there any rhymes which would not work in modern English? John Milton’s Paradise Lost, from which that extract is taken, is an epic poem, with rich, sonorous, ten-syllable lines in clearly defined rhythm.
Count the number of syllables in each line; just sound the syllables as you read. Very often you will find ten-syllable lines throughout your reading of poetry; iambic pentameter, i. e. 5? 2 syllables, is considered the closest to English rhythms of speech. Iambic is short/long ( —), one syllable lightly stressed, the other with a heavier emphasis, and the line sounds short/long five times to make iambic pentameter. It is always worth checking the syllable count—shorter or longer lines may create different effects.
Extension We can conclude this look at shape and form with two contrasting short texts (Text:The The look 9 Poems (xxi)–(xxii)). What does the shape or the look of the text give to these? How would they be different in another form (single lines, or dialogue, for instance)? Text: Poems (xxi)–(xxii) (xxi) the fire that burned in a loving hearth turned to ashes in the morning (xxii) If I should meet thee After long years, How should I greet thee? With silence and tears.
The first is a haiku, a Japanese form based on the use of seventeen syllables, often 5/7/5, but here 4/5/8, expressing the ‘zen’ or essence of a passing moment. The second is a stanza with a very regular rhyme scheme: a b a b.
Questions that might come into our minds as we read these two texts could cover things like: is there word play on heart/hearth; would another organisation of the lines make a difference; who answers the question; what had happened between ‘I’ and ‘thee’? These questions are not necessarily to be answered. They can be explored, thought about, discussed. We, as readers, can decide for ourselves what a text makes us wonder or what it makes us think about. What we have been considering in this unit covers the look as well as the content of texts.
With any text we read, we have to make some decisions: what it looks like (a recipe, a horoscope, an advertisement, a poem, etc. ) what the form tells us what the language tells us what more we need to know (or want to know). These questions could be asked about all the texts we have already looked at. For example: Which one looks as if it was on a gravestone? Which one might be from an advertisement? Which ones look old and which modern? How can you tell? Are there any you recognise? Which do you take as serious, and which not? The Language of Poetry 10 You could now seek out some other samples of what might broadly qualify as poetry.
Try greetings cards, pop songs, women’s magazines, newspapers, advertisements as sources. But also look out one or two ‘real’ poems: ask parents or friends if they can remember poems or poetic lines. Collect them for future reference, and see where you would place them on the 1–10 scale. How much of your reaction to these texts is subjective, how much objective, do you think? And how much does a poem need to be serious? With the next two similar-looking examples (Text: Poems (xxiii)– (xxiv)), how can you tell whether they are serious or not? Text: Poems (xxiii)–(xxiv) (xxiii) ’Twas brillig and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe. (xxiv) Ben Battle was a soldier bold And used to war’s alarms: But a cannon-ball took off his legs, So he laid down his arms. Do you need to know the strange words in the first one? Does it work grammatically— subject before verb, verb before object, for instance? Would rewriting it with ‘real’ words make it better? In the second one, what makes it memorable for you—the rhyme, the pun, the alliteration, or nothing at all? We have already come across rhyme, rhythm, alliteration, stanzas, free verse, epic, and even a haiku. Check these back in the texts you have read so far.
Sources (i) Anonymous obituary verse; (ii) William Wordsworth, extract from’ ‘Tis Said That Some Have Died for Love’ (1800); (iii) William Wordsworth, extract from ‘The Thorn’ (early draft, 1798); (iv) Edward Clerihew Bentley, ‘Clive’ from Biography for Beginners (1905); (v) Extract from UK national anthem (18th century); (vi) Edward Lear, extract from One Hundred Nonsense Pictures and Rhymes (1872); (vii) William Shakespeare, extract from Cymbeline (1610); (viii)
William McGonagall, extract from ‘The Famous Tay Whale’ (1883/4); (ix) Elizabeth Barrett Browning, extract from Sonnets from the Portuguese, 43 (1850); (x) Anonymous advertising slogan (1880s); (xi) The The look 11 Christopher Marlowe, extract from Hero and Leander (publ. 1598); (xii) Edmund Spenser, extract from Prothalamion(1596); (xiii) William Shakespeare, extract from Sonnets, 18 (c. 1594); (xiv)
William Blake, extract from ‘The Tyger’ from Songs of Innocence and Experience (1794); (xv) 13th-century English lyric; (xvi) Walt Whitman, extract from ‘When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed’ (1865); (xvii) Alfred, Lord Tennyson, extract from ‘Tithonus’ (1833); (xviii) William Carlos Williams, ‘This Is Just to Say’ (1923); (xix) Roger McGough, 40—Love (1971); (xx) John Milton, extract from Paradise Lost (1667); (xxi) John McRae, ‘The Fire That Burned’ (1993); (xxii) George Gordon, Lord Byron, extract from ‘When We Two Parted’ (c. 1820); (xxiii)
Lewis Carroll, extract from Through the Looking Glass (1871); (xxiv) Thomas Hood, extract from ‘Faithless Nelly Gray’ (1820s). This page intentionally left blank. Unit two The sound From the look of the text, we move on to the sound—not just ‘music’ or rhyme, but also the voices in a text. We have already seen, in This Is Just to Say’, that the question can often be asked, who is speaking, to whom?
In ‘How Do I Love Thee? ’ (p. 2) the answer would probably be a lover to the one he or she loves, for instance. Activity What can you tell about the voice of the poem, or the I or you/thee of the poem in Text: Poems (i)–(xii)? Text: Poems (i)–(xii) (i) O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms, Alone and palely loitering? (ii) Farewell! thou art too dear for my possessing, And like enough thou know’st thy estimate. (iii) Yestre’en the Queen had four Marys, The night she’ll hae but three;
There was Mary Seaton, and Mary Beaton, And Mary Carmichael, and me. (iv) I am the enemy you killed, my friend. (v) Your lips, on my own, when they printed ‘Farewell’, Had never been soiled by the ‘beverage of hell’; But they come to me now with the bacchanal sign, And the lips that touch liquor must never touch mine. The Language of Poetry 14 (vi) I come from haunts of coot and hern, I make a sudden sally And sparkle out among the fern, To bicker down a valley. […]
For men may come and men may go, But I go on for ever. (vii) I have been half in love with easeful Death (viii) Had we but world enough, and time, This coyness, lady, were no crime. (ix) I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers, From the seas and the streams. (x) With how sad steps, O Moon, thou climb’st the skies! How silently, and with how wan a face!
(xi) What heart could have thought you? — Past our devisal (O filigree petal! ) (xii) They are all gone into the world of light, And I alone sit lingering here. Each of these has an addresser, the voice or the ‘I’ of the text, and most also have an addressee, to whom the words are spoken. Examine what the language tells you in each, and see if you can identify the following addressers: a Queen’s maid a brook or stream the wind a dead soldier and the following addressees: an alcoholic lover. a snowflake the moon a soldier a lost love a shy The sound 15 What do you make of the others? Who do you think are ‘all gone’, for instance, in the last extract?
Very often, these questions do have a (fairly) clear answer but not always, as we saw in ‘This Is Just to Say’. It is not easy to say precisely who is asking the ‘knight-at-arms’ what can ail him. But it is important to check out what we can tell, and move on from there: to the knight’s answers, for instance (in Unit 6, p. 83–4).
The addressers and addressees can be anyone or anything, real or imagined: so what is the function of this kind of address? When, as we saw, the writer addresses the ‘Sweet Thames’ he might be suggesting the river’s eternal flow… In (xii), for example, ‘they’ are all the poet’s friends and acquaintances.