‘Havisham’ by Carol Ann Duffy and ‘The laboratory’ by Robert Browning, both present evil-like and mundane forms of death. However, ‘November’ by Armitage and ‘On My First Sonne’ by Ben Johnson present the natural cycle and almost the relationship side of death on the two poems.
To begin with, ‘Havisham’ is structured in four stanzas. The stanzas could represent the persona’s intensifying hatred with the ‘beloved sweetheart bastard’ that left her standing at the altar, all alone. Secondly, Duffy uses the enjambant as means to show how her thoughts of killing him replays in her mind; as the sentence runs across to the last stanza, her hatred and her calculations of his death are both seen.
This is similar to Browning’s poem, ‘The Laboratory’, in which we see the persona, a rampaging maniac who is ready to kill her husbands’ mistress. The stanzas could be envisioned as a clock. There are12 stanzas and as the stanzas progress so does her dire craze for her husband’s mistresses death increases and almost takes over. The readers are left to imagine the evil within the persona and the depth she would go to into killing.
On the other hand, ‘November’ creates a calm and loving ambiance around the theme of death. This is somewhat different to the poems mentioned above. ‘November’ is structured in 5 stanzas; all of different length. This could show the personas dilemma of bringing the one person they love closer to their death. The theme of death is heightened in this poem as the persona feels hurt and lost without knowing that their loved one is close to their death. Similarly, ‘On My First Sonne’ uses structure as means to convey the grievance of his sons’ misfortune; his death. Johnson uses an elegy as a way of dedicating his unmatched love for his boy and his sorrow at being killed. All four poems above use structure to convey a physical representation of their poems main theme and in this case, it’s death.
Both Duffy and Browning use violent imagery and diction to connote the main theme of death. In ‘Havisham’, the persona goes into a trance like state of anger at her ‘beloved sweetheart bastard”. This oxymoron suggests the hatred that she has for him and could connote how she feels that he should die. Moreover, Duffy also uses imagery such as “my fluent tongue in its mouth”.
This suggests that she is going to kill him slowly and sensually and that the pain he caused her will be felt by the death of the personas love interest. Similarly, Browning uses violent diction and archaic language as means to channel the poems boisterous theme of death. When the persona says “let death be felt and proof remain” shows that the persona’s hatred for her lover’s mistress is paramount. The lexical choices used such as ” felt” and “remain” implies that the persona wants the mistress to feel her agony and dismay at the emotions of vengefulness and jealousy.
Comparatively, ‘November’ uses imagery to present sorrow and an emotion themed poem. When the persona says “their stunned brain and baldness”, it shows that death is a powerful force that has the might of turning such a beautiful human being into a brain-dead monster as implied by the lexical choices used “stunned brain” and baldness”. Moreover, ‘On My First Sonne’ uses financial imagery as means to decrease his loss and his grieve. The persona says “seven yeeres thou’wert lent to me and I thee pay”. This shows that he believes his son was a property of God, thus why he should stop crying. This is somewhat different to the other poems as death is seen as a vengeful and an evil might whereas in ‘On My First Sonne’, Johnson shows that death is just part of nature and not something we should be angry about.
To conclude, death is presented as a force by all four poets. Nevertheless, Johnson took an interesting approach and he knew that death is a natural thing, therefore he knows his boundary. The poem I found most effective is laboratory as it’s no narrative and the persona’s views on death is seen first handily through the lexical choices and through language and structural devices.