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Sir Philip Sidney’s poem The Nightingale and Amy Clampitt’s poem Syrinx are two very different poems. The Nightingale is a poem based on the mournful song of a bird, as it expresses grief and pain: ‘And mournfully bewailing/ Her throat in tunes expresseth/ What grief her breast oppresseth.’ (lines 5-7) Whereas the Syrinx is a poem based on how the sound of words, have no real meaning and are simply just sounds.
The Syrinx can also be defined as a water reed which prohibits birds from singing: ‘syrinx, that reed/ in the throat of a bird,’ (lines 7-8) The abrupt stop at the end of the line, is a technique used by Amy Clampitt, to make the reading of the line feel like choking on the words, like a reed in a birds throat would cause. Therefore there are many comparisons and contrasts between the two poems, thus in order to examine what these are I am going to look at the use of rhyme, imagery, diction, structure and metre in each of the poems to try to identify the similarities and differences between the two.
The Nightingale is divided into two stanzas of equal length, whereas Syrinx is divided into two stanzas of equal length, then a final short verse paragraph. The effect of this is to highlight that The Nightingale is a very regular poem, where Syrinx is a very irregular poem. It is as if Amy Clampitt teases the reader by making the first two stanzas of equal length, then throws in another couple of lines at the end. This therefore highlights her desire to make the poem seem irregular. This difference in regularity can also be seen through the metre of the poems. The Nightingale is mainly iambic pentameter throughout, with hypermetrical stresses on each of the last words in each line.
The effect of this is to make the poem flow better and lead on to the next line, whereas Syrinx is extremely irregular switching between iambic and trochaic regularly. This switch in metre throughout the poem acts as a technique to again frustrate the reader. The tone of each poem is greatly affected by the contrast in layout and metre. The Nightingale seems to flow much better, giving the effect that reading the poem, is like listening to a mournful song. Syrinx on the other hand is very difficult and frustrating to read.
The Nightingale also seems a more personal poem as it is written in the first person, whereas in Syrinx Amy Clampitt seems to be addressing her listeners and just uses: ‘we’ (line 10) once. Therefore this gives The Nightingale a more deep and meaningful tone, where Syrinx has a very controversial tone. Also not only is the metre and layout of Syrinx irregular, But Amy Clampitt’s over use of enjambement only serves to slow the reading of the poem: ‘what ails it, the aeolian/ syrinx, that reed.’ (lines 6-7) This not only makes the poem appear fragmented but is used as a device to slow the tone of the poem so that the reader can value the sound of the words.
In both of the poems the difference in regularity is further expressed through the use of rhyme. The Nightingale has a regular rhyme scheme of ABABCDDC this serves to make the poem flow better as if making it appear some what musical. There are also a lot of heroic couplets present; they appear emphatic on words which are the antithesis of each other, for example: ‘O Philomela fair, O take some gladness/ That here is juster cause of plaintful sadness.’ (lines 9-10) Therefore this helps to understand the meaning of the poem, as if the song of the Nightingale is sad searching for some gladness. Syrinx however, has no real rhyme present.
This again serves to add to the irregularity of the poem. It could be argued that in fact there is some half rhyme used by Amy Clampitt, for example: ‘Like the foghorn that’s all lung/ the wind chime that’s all percussion.’ (lines 1-2) However, it is as if it needs to be forced out again frustrating the reader. It also depends on how you pronounce the words, this links to the meaning of the poem. Amy Clampitt through her use of all these irregularities and emphatic use of half rhyme appears to be trying to put across a message to the reader. That it is important how we pronounce words and sometimes how words sound can mean more than their actual meaning.