Examination Techniques For Poetry

Hello everyone! Below are some examination tips provided by fellow teacher blogger Mrs. Najia Z. Nazir. Her blog is http://nijheer.wordpress.com and is titled Words Infinitum. It is worth checking out particularly if you are in Grade 9 or Grade 10, or Year 11 and 12.

Examination Techniques Handout 1

              Responding to the Poetry Section

The emphasis in poetry questions is on ‘how’ the poet communicates. Obviously ‘what ‘is being communicated is important, but candidates should not think that merely summarizing and paraphrasing the poem(s) will be sufficient for a satisfactory answer. Nor will merely giving a list of poetic devices, such as:’ this is an example of paraphrasing ‘,’this is a metaphor’. Candidates are being assessed on the extent to which they understand and can evaluate the effect of the use of a particular word or image or sound on the meaning and impact of the poem.

Candidates can approach the question ( as any question) by determining the key issues that they are asked to address.

Activity 1

Following are some of the actual examination questions for Literature in English 2010. Underline the keywords in each of them.

Norman Nicholson uses childhood as a means of exploring other ideas in Rising Five. Identify the ideas of the poem and comment on the ways in which they are presented.
Comment on the ways in which changes in perspective between childhood and adulthood are explored in the following poems: Plenty and Rising Five

Comment on the ways in which Heaney presents the experience of grief in Mid- Term Break
Explore the ways in which the poet has used language and other poetic devices to present ideas in Rising Five and Mid-Term Break

How do Wordsworth’s words create the striking picture of a girl and illustrate the effect she has on the poet.

Comment on the ways in which changes in perspective between childhood and adulthood are explored in two of the following poems: Plenty, Rising Five, Little Boy Crying

Consider the significance of the ways in which women are presented in two of the following poems: Muliebrity, Plenty, She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways.

Explore how Heaney significantly portrays grief in Mid Term Break.

As you must have noticed, the questions direct candidates to consider the poet’s use of words: which require not merely a general overview or summary but detailed focus on that particular aspect of the poem. Hence this requires a strong personal response and invites selection of particular words and images.

It is therefore essential to plan the answer, to select the words and images that are particularly asked for in the question, and to explore their effects in depth. Quality is more important than quantity.

Phrasing of Poetry Questions
Essay type and Passage –based questions

  1. ‘Explore how/explore the ways’…the word ‘explore’ is used in a large proportion of poetry questions. It means more than/explain’. It is an invitation to probe as well as to examine, but most of all it requires an individual approach; what one person explores will not be the same as another. To explore these ways , sometimes the structure of the poem or language will be the tools to assist you .
  2. ‘memorable’, ’striking’,’ powerful’, ’unexpected’, are all words intended to trigger a strong response. Even if the question seems to be focusing on a specific topic, there will usually be some such stimulus somewhere in the question.
  3. Specific emotions such as ‘joy’, ’sadness’, ’anger’,’regret’ may be used to identify the tone or mood of specific poems and to give a specific angle to a question.

Compare or Contrast questions

Thematically linked, structurally similar or employing similar language attributes are the concern of such questions

  1. Consider the significance of the ways in which theme of ———–is presented in two of the following poems.
  2. Explore the ways in which the poet has used language and other poetic devices to present ideas in _____________ and __________

Visual Representations On 2011-2012 Stories Of Ourselves

Creating a ‘Visual Representation’ of the short stories is an excellent way to get involved in the spirit of the story and makes a great starting point toward analysing the plot, characters, theme/s and structure. It’s also a fantastic way of reminding ourselves of the stories when the time comes for revising. I would like to thank the teacher and his students for blogging the work samples, and I am sure that he will not mind if I share them with you.


“Secrets” by Bernard MacLaverty

I will describe an episode from a “Secret” by Bernard MacLaverty. The Narrator of the story is a man, who thinks back and remembers very important, defining episode from his childhood. This part of the story is image that I’ve chosen.

We can see a boy (narrator as a child next to the big wooden shall who found some letters which were addressed to his aunt Mary from John Aug’15 Ballintoye. They were written with black spidery ink. You could see that letters are old because they were yellowish on the sides and you could find several holes on the paper. Reading letters was probably hard because some letters were fade and almost invisible. The boy was reading letters on the floor on the big fluffy carpet which was the size of the room floor. Letters were all around the boy and they smelled like old books from the library.

Windows were wide open and you could feel fresh wind which was blowing into the white transparent curtains. On the table where boy found bureau with letters you could see an old quill with dark blue ink on it and unfinished letter to person whom boy didn’t know. Between letters the boy could see a photograph of the soldier in green uniform and on the back was written with the same black spidery ink “Brother Benignus”. On the picture that I imagine the boy is wearing a clean white t-shirt, bright shorts, white shoes and socks. His hair is dark-dark black colour and eyes are brown. He is following each line of every letter very carefully.

I chose this scene because it’s mysterious part of the story “Secrets”. Also because it represents the climax is the most important scene in the plot of the story.

“The Lemon Orchard” by Alex La Guma

I am going to take the moment when all the men are leading the man in pajamas in the darkness. They are walking on an empty orchard with lemon trees alongside them. The moon is high up in the sky hidden by a few clouds. The men who kidnapped him are all wearing thick clothes because of the cold night weather. They are wearing hood to cover their dark faces with hateful looks towards the victim while he stands out with his striped, blue and white pajamas. He as well has a panicked look on his face. One of the men has a serious face and is holding a lantern as well as a gun. The leader is a big guy with an evil smile on his face holding a gun pointed at the victim.

This image is supposed to represent the main scene of the story. The dramatic scenery inspired me to describe this image, as the full moon and dark trees give a sense of drama to what was happening in the story. The guns express the terror and seriousness of the situation the poor man is in. The themes of this image I would say are terror, panic, darkness, death, and misery. As the story’s theme it is supposed to show, through the man’ s face, what South Africa has suffered with the huge segregation of educated, native, dark-colored men going on in the country at the time.

“The Taste of Watermelon” by Borden Deal

My Visual Storytelling Project is a picture of a watermelon field, with the huge watermelon at the front of the field, and a shed with a gun sticking out the window, filled with salt. This image was taken from the story “The Taste Of A Watermelon” by Borden Deal. The Picture Has lots of rows of normal sized watermelons in the field because that’s what the story is like, and then in the middle of the field (the full field isn’t shown on the picture) there is a giant watermelon compared to the rest, and it’s almost the same size as the boy trying to push / roll it towards the flood plains by the river.
At the top right hand corner of the page, I chose a wooden-shack like building, with a window to be placed there, because in the story it describes how the man used to sit there, night and day guarding this prize winner watermelon, with a shotgun and it’s full of salt. The boy is trying to push it, with his back towards the shed, because it was too large and heavy to pick up, and the only way he could get it out of the way was to roll it down the hill towards the flood fields. The field was well looked after since the rows were so strait and perfect, it tried to make this imply that he was very serious about his farming. This picture was made by several pictures, cropped and edited into each other, and then I found it easier to print it off, add some touches to it by hand and then re-scan it.

“There Will Come Soft Rains” by Ray Bradbury
The moment I have chosen is from “There will come soft rains” when the nuclear bomb explodes and leaves the silhouettes of the people enjoying themselves behind. The moment is about even though it is in the past what was there still is like it have left an imprint of its existence so anyone passing by that sees it knows what was there before. Little pieces of the past are always left behind; it is just like a photograph of that moment in time.

The impact it has is quite saddening because the people in the Silhouettes look like they were having so much fun, then something terrible happened and all that’s left is their silhouettes.
The silhouettes are of a man mowing the lawn, a lady picking flowers and a girl and a boy playing with a ball. I chose this scene because even though it is a small detail in the story it is still important it shows us that tragedy came for the family when they were enjoying themselves.

I chose to make the picture in black and white so it would have a saddening feel to it. I made the wall grey. There is also grass in the picture to show that even though the people have died that life goes on. The picture is like it is pause sort of but in reality time is still going by. I did not add in the sprinkler so that is also why I put the grass instead.

“How It Happened” by Arthur Conan Doyle
My visual Storytelling is from How it Happened. I know I’m not the best artist haha but I tried 😛 . I took the part just after the crash, when the ghost of the friend is standing there looking at the scene and the other ghost lets it sink in what really happened and becomes distressed. I found that great picture of the crashed car and I added a few adjustments to it and then printed it out. I thought it would be quite neat if I added the white outline where the body had been. The ghosts I drew are quite midgets because as I said I am not the greatest artist. I tried to draw a gun at the back of the friend’s shirt but I don’t think its very clear. I chose this image because I thought it had so much emotion to offer. There was the sadness, the fear, the sympathy and the anger. The disappointment and the curiosity. I thought this is one of the moments in the story I liked most because its the point where everything comes together. The ghosts I didn’t color or paste in because I thought it would be quite neat to leave them transparent and no one can see them. I enjoyed doing the project because you get so many good ideas 😀

“The Taste of Watermelon” by Borden Deal

I have taken a moment from “The Taste of Watermelon”. This story is about coming of age and right now I can really relate with that. The main characters and the narrator wanted to prove themselves by stealing the prized watermelon. My favorite is when the three boys are sitting on a bridge and looking over the moon lithe lake, talking about stealing the watermelon.

I have displayed this moment by presenting two boys with their backs visible. Two of the boys are sitting down and the narrator is standing up looking inspired. In the image you will be able to see a large moon and the lightened lake. The boys which are sitting down will have. The two boys sitting down are looking down at the lake talking. The shadows will give the image more depth.

The mediums I will be using are soft pencil and watercolor to give the image softness. The image looks like a child has drawn it, I tried to make it seem that way to illustrate that the boys were still children in that moment.

I’ll called the image “Moon Hanger” because the moon will be a focal part of the image and “hanger” because of the inspiration hanging in the air.

“How It Happened” by Arthur Conan Doyle

My visual storytelling is basically just a picture of the car being ‘driven’ quickly down the hill, from the story HOW IT HAPPENED by Arthur Conan Doyle, non-stop and at high speed, seeing as how the breaks don’t seem to work. The picture is drawn in just black and white, or grayscale, on purpose to add a gloomy effect. And the writing at the top is written in an (attempted) chaotic way.

At the top of the page I have added some of the characters’ thoughts as they roll down the hill towards their death. Words such as ‘confusion’ (because of the broken brakes) ‘questions’ (as to who broke them) ‘rush’ (as in the rush of the moment, and how fast they made their way down the hill), and more. They were supposed to be written faintly, as if blending in with the sky, so that it would look more ghostly, but instead I made it look like their actual thoughts (in a thought bubble). The angle the car is situated in doesn’t even look potentially dangerous, and I could have made the hill much more slanted, but then the picture would look a little more distorted. I’ve also made the slope look darker and grimmer than actually described in the book, but not by much, and I tried to make it look steep as if crossing it would lead to a huge drop. This story also lets the viewer think about possible endings to the story described in the one picture.

 “How It Happened” by Arthur Conan Doyle

The choice that i have made for a visualisation is the moment in ‘How it Happened’ where the car is flying through the air through the estate gates, about to crash into one of the pillars on the mansion. I have decided on this moment as it shows the climax of the story, and what happens after all of the hardships that occur up to the point of the crash. The car is a few feet above the ground, and it travelling at some speed, and it is speeding through the open gates of the estate, and headed straight for a large pillar on the front of the large building in the centre of the estate. The only light is moonlight, coming from the large Moon in the background. The faces of the main character and the butler would be of excitement, but also fear.

The image shows great excitement, and reveals how the story ends, with the horrible car crash, where the main character dies, and the butler is hurt. I chose this image as it seemed to be full of movement, and is a very exciting image. It also gives a good understanding of the main character; liking action and adventure, but sometimes takes things a little too lightly. The image symbolises the dangers of driving quickly, and what can happen to you if you make a mistake whilst at the wheel.

“Meteor” by John Wyndham

I chose an image from the story Meteor by John Wyndham. It represents the moment of the cat’s attack. After the aliens landed on the earth, they left their spaceship to explore the room and they met a cat. They got into a fight and a lot of them died. In the end, the leader of the alien group killed the cat, but he dies as well.

My image shows the fight between the black cat and the ant-like aliens. The cat is in an attacking position, on its feet and showing its claws and teeth. In the picture, I made the cat look very aggressive and evil because in the story, the cat is being described as ‘cold, cruel and non-inteligent’. I drew the cat in the middle of the image, and I tried to make it look very big compared to the aliens surrounding the cat. I tried to put a lot of movement into the picture.

To draw the aliens, I started with drawing normal black ants, but then I wanted to make them look more unfamiliar and ‘alienlike’, that’s why I added colourful stripes on their backs. Next to the cat, I drew the aliens very small, but further in the front, I drew them quite big, so that you can see them in detail. Some of the aliens are already dead and some have weapons (fire-rods) and one of them is even shooting.

I chose this scene because it is most exciting and full of action. It is interesting, how a cat – a cute ‘little’ pet for us – can be so dangerous for other creatures. And it is also amazing, that even though the aliens are so small, they are still really dangerous because of their good technology and knowledge.

“There Will Come Soft Rains” by Ray Bradbury

I chose this particular scene of ‘There Will Come Soft Rains’ because I found the sheer contrast and diversity in the setting fascinating and because the image itself tells a longer tale from its individual parts (and I have a soft spot for post-nuclear holocaust stories). The image shows the modern house with one wall burnt except in places where the shape of a family can be seen. It also clearly shows the irradiated city below, dead from the nuclear explosion. You can also see the dog foaming at the mouth and crazy next to the house that is still reading the poem.

Firstly, as in the story, you have the sleek new house full of technology and modern design seemingly in order (this is represented by the unscortched side of the house) then slowly as the story progresses we start to see that the house is empty. Now this could mean nothing more than the fact it’s a show house, but when you see the image of the house in my picture it is quite clear that something bad has happened, and again when you see the glowing irradiated city below you can see what happened. The image represents the destruction that man is capable of and how in this particular case, life was ended in an instant leaving behind only stencils of the people. However the image also shows Nature’s will to survive after such incidents.

“The Taste of Watermelon” by Borden Deal

Picture where in “The Taste of a Watermelon” three boys are eating a huge watermelon.
It is a dark colour of the sky, with bright stars and full moon shining. At the background you can see some trees, green leaves, red apples hanging, brown stems. The water which is running in front of the boys is calm, dark, reflects the moon. The watermelon is green and black stripped, it is not cut, but very messy all over the place. The flesh of it is bright red, with dark black seeds. Three boys sit around the watermelon, one is fit, blonde, handsome, he is sitting with his legs crossed. The other two are brunette, one is slimmer than the other one, all are eating watermelon and all are very dirty. All of them are wearing shorts which are dirty because they are sitting on the ground, and different coloured shirts, yellow, red and white, and all of their faces are in watermelon juice. Their shirts are messy too, they all have short hair and they seem to be full of the watermelon, but happy.
I decided to choose exactly this moment of the scene because i think that it is very strong, athe whole story is just about this moment where boys are finally eating this watermelon. For me it is a key scene in the story, i also decided to choose it because the watermelon is very nice, and that would be nice to picture it, like to show how huge it is.

“The Signalman” by Charles Dickens

My picture is my perspective of the scene from ‘The Signalman” where the woman jumps out of the train.

The centrepiece of the picture is the train that is coming out of the tunnel. As the story is set in the 1850s/ 60s, I have drawn a steam train. Just before the tunnel, you can see the front of the first carriage. At the rear of this carriage is the woman jumping out. The door is open behind her. The other person in the picture is the signalman. He is watching the events unfold.

Behind the train are the jagged hills. There is where the signalman’s house is located. It is a basic looking one made out of wood. There is a path leading from the entrance of the house to the tracks.

There are a few shrubs on the hills, but not many. I decided not to put too many things on the hills, as it would complicate the scene. Next to the hills is a bit of blue sky and some dark grey clouds. This symbolises the sad scene. Below this is the tunnel, which has a stone covering; the red light is on the left hand side.

I chose this scene as it is a very important one in the story and can be shown in many different ways. I have drawn what I think the scene should look like.

“Meteor” by John Wyndham

My picture shows the moment the meteor hits the ground, and everyone is shocked, and everything in the room is shaking from the force of the meteor.

The basic picture is the meteor is hitting the ground outside and you can see the fire trail and the earth flying as it hits the soil and the smoke behind it. There is a cat outside that looks very surprised because the meteor hit the ground very close to it. Inside, there is a dog that barks in surprise, a man that is surprised but more calm, and a woman that is really shocked and screams very loudly. Everything in the room is shaking, including the people and the animals.

To give the effect of the meteor flying very fast and violently, I tried making it look like a real meteor. I put streaks of fire on it to do this. Also, the soil on the ground flying out when the meteor hits the ground also gives an effect to how fast the meteor is going. I put smoke behind the meteor to show that it is on fire, and it is not just a rock. I put big eyes and a sad face on the cat to show that he is really surprised and not very happy about the huge bang behind him. I tried making him look like he was walking and just froze, as two of his feet are in the air. With the dog, I put one ear up to show that he heard something very loud, because dogs only seem to do that when they hear something very loud and they want to know what it is. To put an effect of the room shaking, (it’s hard to explain by writing it) I used black lines on curves of objects to show that they are vibrating, as I had seen this in a cartoon and thought it would be a very good idea. To give a greater effect of the room shaking, I made the liquid in the glass on the table look like it’s about to spill out. To show what emotions the people have, I used speech bubbles for all the living things in the room. To make sure people know they are in a house, I used a jar with flowers in it, and a rug.

“The Signalman” by Charles Dickens

I am doing my visual image on a particular part where the Signalman is having a conversation with the narrator about his job and then tells him how he thought he was someone else, he then goes on to tell the narrator what he saw when he looked at the red warning light and then the ghost appearing telling him all manners of weird and unusual things that didn’t make sense to the Signalman at first.

My image will look like the Signalman is looking out towards the tunnel entrance and sees the ghost fading into the picture; the picture is shaded almost completely because I want to show how dark it actually gets down in the dungeon like tunnel as that’s how I feel that the story was depicted through Charles Dickens’s descriptions. I will be making the Signalman kind of scruffy looking as he has been down in the darkness with only a small crevice of moonlight. The ghost however is going to look like it’s just coming into the picture so it makes it looks like he has just saw the ghost appear from the shadows of the tunnel. I make all these choices because I write/draw what I picture the story to be and this is my version of how the Signalman, Ghost, Setting looks like but even if my vision is different to what Charles had in mind it is still the same story and following the same rules.

I think this image will go well with the moment because it gives and understanding of how the Signalman reacted, and how the ghost came into the story. It also gives a sense of fear/horror/spooky whichever you like, because of the way that I have depicted the setting to be.

“The Taste of Watermelon” by Borden Deal

The story I am choosing is ‘The Taste of Watermelon’ and the scene ive chosen is when the boy goes through the field and gets the watermelon. The imagine i get in my head of this scene is, the moon, big and bright up in the sky and the young boy being covered in mud from head to toe as he has been crawling through the dirt, one of his hands is reaching towards the watermelon and one finger is gently placed on it while his hair is in his face. He has a worried look on his face because he is looking upwards towards Mr.Wills who we can see through the window in the distance. He has a long shot gun in his hand and is sitting on a rocking chair looking out with a sort of smirk but serious look on his face mummbling away to himself. So the young boy is very scared looking towards mr.Wills but he is still determined to get that watermelon. The boy then pull’s the root of the watermelon and it budges and he keeps tugging at it while he looks very struggled, then the watermelon comes loose and the boy lays down onto his back, and rolls it down his body and is now smiling. Mr.Will’s closes his eye’s for a moment to rest, as he is sure nobody would steal the melon on such a clear day. The boy feels a sort of adrenaline rush because of what he has accomplished while he is taking through the field to show his friends, and once he reaches the end of the field and his friends are in eye sight, he takes a deep breath and goes ‘ I Told You I Could Do It’ with a smug look on his face.

“The Yellow Wall Paper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

My project is about the part of the story where in “The Yellow Wallpaper”, the mad woman is ripping down all the wallpaper and John, her husband is on the floor. Jennie is trying to lift him us as he has fainted. There is John’s suitcase on the floor as he just came back from work in the city.

In the picture there is a woman, on the right hand side, with her sharp nails and angry facial expression. She is trying to rip the wallpaper as she is trapped behind it. She is imprisoned and cannot escape so she is ripping herself free. Her hair is all messed up as she has totally gone bonkers and she is now in complete madness. On the wallpaper near the door you can see her creeping out over John out of the room. As specified in the book, it says she has to keep on creeping over him again and again. This is what it is representing. Also Jennie, John’s sister is trying to lift John up from the floor as he was fainted at the shock of his wife. Thinking she was cured when she was not and then her ripping up the wallpaper gave him the shock of his life. His briefcase is on the floor behind him, showing that he had work at the city the day before that. Also in the picture you can see the bed she was on and under it you can see the her secret diary that she was writing her notes of the day and how she felt on. You can see it says ‘DIARY’ written on the cover of it. Another important factor is that the wallpaper is being torn down. Also some of it is already torn. The window is also open, but in the woman’s condition it is barred. There is also a curtain on it so that when she was ripping down the wallpaper nobody could see her. There is a lot of detail in the room. This is one of the most dramatic points of the story. It shows that everything they did to try to cure her failed and she became worse thanks to the cursed wallpaper.

“The Taste of Watermelon” by Borden Deal

Description forthcoming.

“The Taste of Watermelon” by Borden Deal

In this visual image I see it as two or three guys rolling away the huge watermelon, a watermelon which is bigger than any watermelon a person has ever seen in his life (the same as it is mentioned in the story). This watermelon looks mouth watering and just ready to eat. The guys are wearing farm clothes, as in some kind of shorts together with a white t-shirt and some shoes. I imagine the owner of this watermelon seeing the guys rolling away this huge watermelon and getting ready to go outside and run after these guys.

I believe it communicates well with the moment as it continues some story however also describes the behavior of teenagers or in other words, teenage guys. I find this image very interesting as you can never for sure know what this story can continue as or if this story is going to end good or bad. It stays as a mystery until the story could continue.

“The Signalman” by Charles Dickens
The idea is the ghost warning the signalman about the train.

Secrets -Empathy Task



As mentioned in another post, ’empathy task’s are not an easy option. Below is an example from the ‘Secrets’. What is important to note, is the way the question is phrased is typical of a Prose/Drama empathy task.

Imagine you are Aunt Mary when your nephew visits you in the story Secrets, but you are no longer able to speak.  Write your thoughts.

Someone else entered the room. I try to open my eyes to see who it is, but it’s useless. It is like the sleeping dust has fossilized and my eyes are carved in rock. I recognize a new voice in the prayer, I know exactly who it is. It’s my nephew. His voice seems so different. As if he was expecting something. It was heavy with sorrow but I could sense there was something else. Regret. My body was stiff, and each of my fingers weighed a ton. A flashback rushed through my veins, right in front of my eyes. An elastic band. Scattered letters. I stared straight at a poor boy, who was betrayed by his own curiosity. And suddenly it struck me. “you are dirt, and always will be dirt. I shall remember this day till the day I die”. Desperation rushed through my inner body, as I tried, helplessly, to break the rock on my eyes. I twisted my head from side to side hoping he would see me. It was as if  my throat was blocked.

“I forgive you” I tried to say “listen to me! I forgive you!” someone else moves across the room…have they heard me? Wait!  What are you doing! Please, don’t take my dentures! PLEASE. Why didn’t anyone hear me! I felt my face collapse. Deformed. It melted on the sides. I tried opening my eyes but they were clamped together, tightly shut, but I did it. They were so heavy. I used all my strength, but it was useless. I couldn’t bring my eyeball round, couldn’t make it focus. “Please” I kept trying to say, but all that came out were grunts. “I forgive you!” I was exhausted. The shadow next to me stood up, and slowly, unstoppably, walked out the door. I never forgave him. WHY DIDN’T I FORGIVE HIM. Why couldn’t I leave my pride aside. I felt how life slowly drained out of me. Devastated, I decided not to fight anymore, and slowly but surely, drop by drop, what once had been my life, fell on the floor, and drowned in the small puddle that had formed.

Analysis of ‘The Flower-Fed Buffaloes’

Explore the ways in which Vachel Lindsay in ‘The Flower-Fed Buffaloes’ expresses change so effectively

Vachel Lindsay uses the key symbol of the buffalo to represent a time that has passed in North America through his poem The Flower-Fed Buffaloes. The idea of the extinct buffalo herds is linked to the egression of nature and the disappearance of the Native American tribes as a result of the colonisation that has occurred throughout America over the nineteenth century. These thoughts are portrayed with a number of effective language techniques to express the change that has occurred so effectively.

The first five lines set the reminiscent tone of the poem as Lindsay looks back on and conveys the enormous freedom that the buffaloes once had. The opening line and of course the title of the poem illustrate the harmony that the buffaloes have with nature by the term “flower-fed”, the alliteration of which also carries positive connotations. After establishing the link between these two ideas, the natural imagery used throughout the first five lines is associated with the buffaloes and thus the “the days of long ago.” Words such as “spring” and “blooming” give the impressions of new life and tie in with the use of the word “flowers.” In this way, Lindsay aligns these past days with the thought of rejuvenation and hence begins to cast them in a positive light. The poet continues to do this through the words “ranged”, “prairie” and “tossing”, all of which carry a sense of freedom to move. The word “ranged”, in the past tense, also helps to reinforce the reminiscent tone that is being set and suggests that whilst in the past the buffaloes have been spread all over a vast region, this is no longer the case. The current state of this environment is introduced as a place where “locomotives sing,” a rather sarcastic concept in order to emphasise the harsh sounds that these machines really make. Furthermore, the personification in this phrase contrasts these cacophonous locomotives to the living, pleasant, nature-aligned buffalo and thus makes clear to the reader that the change that has occurred is a detrimental one. Reinforcing this is the description of the flowers that now “lie low”, a phrase that suggests both seclusion and a lack of energy, juxtaposed to the previous freedom and liveliness in the environment. By presenting the past in a highly positive light and then contrasting this to the modern atmosphere as it is gradually introduced throughout these five lines, the poet clearly expresses the terrible change that occurs as both the importance and beauty of nature deplete.

The current milieu is explored in more depth in the next three lines, firstly as the previously pleasant “perfumed grass” is replaced by “wheat”. The involvement of the sense of smell helps to further involve the reader and create a more effective understanding of the change that has occurred. The scented and refreshing grass has become the odorless and purely economical item of wheat. The phrase “swept away” helps to illustrate how inexorable and decisive this transformation has been, as does the repetition in the next line as “wheels and wheels and wheels spin by.” Lindsay does, however, present some hope in the following line as the idea of the rejuvenation that occurs “in the spring” is again mentioned. The phrase “still is sweet” leads the reader to believe that nature will endure these hardships induced by man and that this change may not be as definitive as it seems. The poet thus makes absolutely clear the fact that this vicissitude is unfavourable, but does leave some promise for change back to the way life was.

Despite this prospect, the poet reminds the reader that the buffalo herds are gone as the last seven lines end the poem rather depressingly. The word “but” instigates this change of mood and Lindsay goes on to stress that the buffalo have “left us.” The euphemism here helps to make the buffalo seem more human and allows the reader to further sympathise with these living beings. The energetic descriptions of these creatures over the next couple of lines also help to evoke this sympathy. The verbs “gore”, “bellow” and “trundle” are all highly energetic and lively, but furthermore highlight specific elements of the buffalo. “Bellow” is almost a cry of pain, presumably during the decline of the buffalo, whilst the onomatopoeia in “trundle” links the animals to trains, and thus creates yet another contrast between nature and the civilised world. During these two lines the phrase “no more” is repeated three times to make the disappearance of the buffalo absolutely explicit and noteworthy. Moreover, this repetition does not fit in with the rhythm and rhyme scheme established throughout the rest of the poem and reinforces the sudden and depressing departure of the buffalo herds. Following these lines the link created with the “Blackfeet” and “Pawnees,” two extremely proud Native American tribes that seemed to dissipate as the buffaloes did, again helps to humanise the buffalo and also provides another effect that the colonisation in the United States has had. The repetition of the phrase “lying low” three times over the last three lines has a very sinister tone to conclude the poem with a warning that if this urbanisation does not end, then more elements of nature will become subject to the fate of the buffaloes.

Not only does Vachel Lindsay effectively use symbols and language to express the effect that man has had on nature in The Flower-Fed Buffaloes, he also makes clear that this change has been for the worst. In doing so, Lindsay reminds people of the disappearance of a number of elements of nature in the past and reminds the reader that there is an opportunity for this change to end, lest the state of the world gets even worse.

Analysis on ‘Amends’

Amends – by Adrienne Rich


  • A feminist
  • Amends shows how she believed that women went unnoticed (night, sleeping people) and that women are left to make amends for other people’s actions


  • Amends definition =
    • to compensate or make up for a wrong doing
    • moon making amends for faults in the world/environment
    • 1ststanza =
      • “nights like this” = from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice opening lines Act 5
        • helps set the scene
        • automatically links poem with moon

The moon shines bright: in such a night as this,

When the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees,

And they did make no noise, in such a night,

Troilus methinks mounted the Troyan walls,

And sigh’d his soul toward the Grecian tents,

Where Cressid lay that night.

  • “cold” =
    • cold atmosphere
    • suggests that it is at night-time
    • harsh word
  • “white star” =
    • further suggests night-time
    • either apple blossoms of tree falling/moonlight reflections
  • “then another” =
    • Repeatedly happening
    • Multitude of either blossoms or moonlight beams
  • “exploding” =
    • Violent
    • Incongruous to the rest of the poem
    • Harsh word
    • Interrupts stanza’s silence
  • “moonlight picking” =
    • 1st proper mention of moonlight
    • Personifies moon = has human qualities
    • Reflecting off some stones more than others
  • “small stones” =
    • Poem starts off at a small level, small range of view
  • Use of colons =
    • Lists/itemises the progression from sky to tree to ground
  • Mood =
    • Busy = moonlight “picking”, “exploding”
  • No rhyming


  • 2ndstanza =
    • “greater stones” =
      • Broader range of view
      • ‘zoomed out’
  • “rises with surf” =
    • Reflection in water
    • Transparent effect
    • Seems to be bobbing up and down with the waves
  • “laying its cheek” =
    • Relaxing
    • Appeals to sense of touch
    • Strongly links moonlight with femininity = nurturing, loving, caring
  • “moments” =
    • longer amount of time than picking
    • Light reflecting on sand more than on stones
  • “sand” =
    • Links with relaxation (beaches = relaxing places)
  • “licks” =
    • Semi-appeal to taste
    • Personifies moonlight as being a caring, feminine, motherly figure (animals lick other animals if they are hurt/young)
  • “broken” =
    • Confirms moonlight’s caring nature = licking it better
    • Shows that moonlight = trying to repair the damages (make amends)
  • “flows up the cliffs” =
    • Flows like water = links back to the surf
    • Lots of reflection on the cliffs
    • Cliffs common near beaches
    • Uncontrolled (liquids take shape of container), yet relaxed (no use of violent language e.g. “exploding” form stanza 1


  • “flicks” =
    • Not much reflection on tracks


  • “tracks” =
    • Common near beaches as well
    • Commonly found in relaxing environments
  • “picks”, “licks”, “flicks” =
    • Rhyme
    • Give the sense that the moonlight is only lightly touching the environment
    • Further link to femininity
  • “it” =
    • Refers to moonlight
    • Makes the reader forget that it is moonlight = adds to personification
  • Mood & rhythm =
    • Relaxed
    • Calm


Stanza 3

‘as it unavailing pours into the gash’

Unavailing means pointless, possibly suggesting it is too weak, although there is a lot of light. Referencing to early feminism movements, with a lot of female support, but at first no power was available. Gash = wound created by humans.

‘of the sand-and-gravel quarry’

Quarry links back to gash = humans are destroying the environment

‘as it leans across the hangared fuselage’

It can lean across the fuselage as the light reflects off the metallic surface. Personification, further reference to women. Lack of balance (leaning as opposed to standing up freely). Light shines off man-made objects in a stunted way compared with how it shines off natural objects. Fuselage = the main body of the plane. Hangared = almost portrays the plane as sleeping/ in bed (links to the later mentioned “sleepers”).

‘of the crop dusting plane’

Good reflection, ability to identify specifically that it is a crop-dusting plane reveals that light is more useful or powerful as it seems, a contradiction to the pouring into the gash. Allusion to gaining force of feminism movement.

Stanza 4

‘as it soaks through cracks into the trailers’

Soaks suggest that the trailer is saturated in light. For it to saturate the trailer in light, it must be very bright and powerful – it is slowly gathering more energy. It is a liquid-like (water = links back to the water in stanza 2) motion, smooth, agile quiet, gentle. Very feminine. May symbolise that feminism is gaining more ground. Cracks = light enters anywhere possible; light cannot be destroyed = breaks through defences (e.g. walls) with ease. Trailers = poor people, suggests the human damage done to nature has also made humans worse off.

‘tremulous with sleep’

Tremulous describes their bodies and minds shaking and afraid. Direct contrast to the moon, whose light and movement is smooth and gentle. The whole place is asleep.

‘as it dwells upon the eyelids of the sleepers’

Dwelling is a gentle verb, the light can be easily imagined as slowly landing on the eyelids. The moonlight is protects the sleepers. Femininity portrayed through the light = women always looking out for others; caring, gentle. Poet also suggests that women do not get credit for this (“sleepers” don’t notice the light on their eyes)

‘as if to make amends’

The light sympathises with the sleepers, attempts to comfort them. No reference to feminism at all, suggesting that the well-being of mankind is more important than arguments over which sex is superior. “as if” = uncertain about the true motives behind the moons doings. First time the moon is described as being inanimate/not in control of itself.

8. Explore the ways in which Adrienne Rich conveys a sense of mood and atmosphere in the poem Amends

In the poem Amends, Adrienne Rich creates a cold, still, clear atmosphere in which the moon tries to compensate for something it has done in the past.

The atmosphere of Amends is influenced by the setting. Being set on “Nights like this” creates a cool, dark atmosphere contrasted all of a sudden with “white star(s)” “exploding out of the bark” in huge numbers, lighting up the sky. The atmosphere is also human free, with the poem mainly dealing with inanimate objects, which is contrasted through the poet personifying the moon.

“Nights like this”, alluded from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, clearly links the poem to the moon, as the line in which it is taken from discusses how very bright the moon was. This accentuates the clear sky in which the moon can shine so brightly.

A prevalent silence falls over the poem, emphasising the still atmosphere. This is suddenly juxtaposed with the stars “exploding”. This silence is predominantly due to the human free nature of the poem. This is because everyone is sleeping. Ironically, the moon comes out almost timidly, “picking at small stones”. In stanza 2 assonance adds to this silence through the repetition of the “-icks” sound in “picks”, “licks” and “flicks” which sound like whispers. The repetitive “f” sound in the words “surf”, “flows” and “cliffs” also adds to the whispers. The atmosphere is also very tranquil and flowing, created in stanza 2, as the moon “licks the broken ledge”, then “flows up the cliffs” and “flicks across the tracks”.

In the poem, stars explode in the sky, and, unlike the moon, appear boldly and bright white in the sky. White light is intense light. This intensity is emphasised by their “exploding out of the bark”. For the stars to shine so brightly the sky must be clear. A clear, cloudless sky accentuates the coldness as all the heat can escape the world. But then, a clear sky also means the weather is good and rainless.

Adrienne Rich creates a sad mood in her poem, implying that the moon has done something wrong to the world, but whatever it does to try to make up for this is obsolete as everyone is “tremulous with sleep”. The moon is also reminiscent that is can’t do more, because it “dwells upon the eyelids of the sleepers”. This sad mood is exemplified with the word “gash” which links to the wound which the moon has created on the earth. Rich evokes this sadness in the reader as everything the moon does is redundant because everyone is asleep, totally unaware and unappreciative.

By personifying and giving the moon human features and emotions, Rich easily conveys to the reader what the moon does on “nights like this”, and the dilemma it is in. It is also made clear that the moon has a close relationship with the sand because it lays “its cheek” on it.

Adrienne Rich touches on the destruction of nature by man in stanza 3 of “Amends”. This is more evidence of the mournful mood of the poem. The moon “pours into the gash” of the “sand and gravel quarry”. The moon is distraught at this gash made in the earth especially because it is a sand quarry, linking to it “laying its cheek on the sand” the stanza before. This relationship is emphasised as the moon “pours” its light into the quarry, showing the rush to get light into it as quickly as water pours over a waterfall. The moonlight is also likened to water when “it soaks through cracks into the trailers”.

Therefore, Adrienne Rich creates a still, cold, human free atmosphere; with a sad, regretful mood as the moon attempts to make amends.

Analysis on ‘Full Moon And Little Frieda’

Explore Ted Hughes’ writing in ‘Full Moon and Little Frieda’, showing how he creates a striking atmosphere.


The change of atmosphere in the poem Full Moon and Little Frieda is controlled by Ted Hughes to create a dramatic atmosphere. With carefully chosen words, Hughes builds up tension and brings it up to climax.

Tension is built up as a foundation for the astonishing ambience later in the poem. By closely describing stationary, unnoticeable things, the poet is able to create the suspense which helps to amplify the climax. A spider’s web is “tense for the dew’s touch” which presents the stillness of life and gives an idea that the environment is very shrunken up as if in anticipation for a shock. The imagery of a pail full of water adds to the idea of anticipation that it is “still and brimming” which portrays the expectation of an event about to happen. A pail is used well as imagery because when the water is full up to the brim, the water toppling perfectly visualises the tense climate of the poem. Also the “mirror” suggests stillness. A “tremor” is all a pail needs to tip out its content and thus foreshadows some action. Moreover, the help of the repetition of “A” in the beginning of the sentences, the listing tone embellishes tension. In the first two stanzas of the poem the build-up of tension is clearly noticeable.

While the previous stanzas were devoted to creating a strained mood, the third stanza reveals a completely different scene and yet perfects the building of the most intensified atmosphere. “Cows going home” insinuates a normal routine, a shot of an everyday life and that everything is normal despite all the tension that has been built up. The “lane” suggests an unspoilt “pail” because lanes connote evenness and uniformity which contrasts to the spilling of water. The uniformity is emphasised by “balancing unspilled milk”, careful not to spill and break order. Moreover, the sameness is exemplified by a metaphor of “warm wreaths of breath” in which the wreaths connote evenness and arrangement. Also the alliteration of “warm wreaths” holds some significance as it is a soft pronunciation and does not have any accents. This reinforces the idea of tranquillity which is an anticlimax to amplify the actual climax of the poem. While the climax is magnificent, grand and stunning, the anticlimax holds values for its antonymic behaviour. A “dark” atmosphere is adopted to hide what is coming shortly, the climax, and is given a sinister tone to add to that effect. The “dark river of blood” insinuates hardship and ominousness which is supported by “many boulders” to add to the idea of hardship. However, these boulders can be seen differently as stepping stones to help cross the “dark river of blood”. This ambiguity is used nicely to create a confusing, chaotic atmosphere which will be broken heroically. Furthermore, the whole stanza is a case of enjambment; reading the lines separately will give different meanings aforementioned, and reading it as a whole gives a contrasting idea. On seeing the stanza as one sentence, it is deducible that this stanza denotes Hughes’ rough past. Although Hughes went through various hardships and suffering, he managed to balance the “milk” and be with his daughter. Therefore, figuratively the “milk” could be his daughter which is an example of metonymy. Would he have spilt it on his course, he wouldn’t have his daughter with him at the point of writing. Hughes creates the most intense anticlimax before the pinnacle of the poem.

In contrast to the third stanza, the fourth stanza is the site of climax. This shock which the poet has to present is helped with the use of several punctuations and words. “Moon” is repeated three times to emphasise the presence and each is followed by exclamation marks to supplement the unexpected action. The word “suddenly” adds to the shocking effect. Simile is used to create a pertinent imagery to describe the shock “like an artist gazing amazed at a work” which depicts the surprise. This surprise is because of the fact that the little Frieda is so innocent and pure such that she cries out “moon” as if it was a scientific breakthrough. It is almost as if the moon is jealous of her purity, because moon itself connotes purity and is quite taken back to find a more innocent person which is suggested by the repetition of “amazed” which shows the extreme consternation of the moon. The last stanza finishes off the poem without proper ending to the climax by which creates a reverberation of the climax and also leaves an ambiguous notion. With the uses of exclamations, repetitions and simile, the climax is successfully managed to finish the poem without dissatisfaction.

Hughes creates the astonishing climax by focusing on the anticlimax which is built up from the beginning, which in the end builds up the climax itself. By closely describing objects linked with movement and intensifying the moment just before the climax, the poet built up tension and used it effectively to hit the climax with full power.

Choose moments in two [‘Amends’ by Adrienne Rich and ‘Full Moon and Little Frieda’ by Ted Hughes] poems where the language the poet uses has particularly excited you, and explain in detail why you have found it so exciting.

In the poems ‘Amends’ and ‘Full Moon and Little Frieda’, by Adrienne Rich and Ted Hughes respectively, the poets use language to excite the reader. Their language also helps them to convey their message, and to make their poems more compelling and interesting.

Repetition of the phrase “as it” in the poem ‘Amends’ sets out the actions of the moon like a list; and is exciting in that it builds up an apprehension for every action. The repetition also shows that the moon goes through these cyclic actions every night, and can be accurately predicted in such a way that the echoing makes this seem like a story being told. The repetition also makes the poem sound gentle and flowing, increasing the reader’s excitement.

In ‘Full Moon and Little Frieda’, there is also repetition that helps to make the poem exciting. The repetition of the exclamation “Moon!” three times shows the youth and innocence of the child shouting this, as well as their sheer wonder at the sight. It also helps the sudden entrance into the poem of the moon, which has gone unnoticed until this point. Thus, this shows the amazement of the child at this sudden appearance. Another example of repetition in the poem is that of “amazed”. This shows that there is mutual wonder and admiration, and helps to show the high degree of amazement in the “artist gazing” and his work that “points at him”.

The personification of the moon and the verbs that describe its actions form an integral part of the poem ‘Amends’. The rhyming words “picks”, “licks” and “flicks” are soft words that show how very light the moon’s touch is – some would say a feminine touch. “Rise”, “laying” and “flow”, also from the second stanza, are light, calm and smooth verbs as well. The image of the moon “laying its cheek” is a very soothing, and possibly motherly, gesture that cements this nurturing persona of the moon.

However, in the next two stanzas, more weighty and active verbs are used. “Pours”, “leans” and “soaks” are much more than just the light touch the moon gives before; perhaps this is because in Stanzas 3 and 4 it is doing these actions to man-made, artificial objects rather than the natural features she was touching lightly, as if there is a mutual awareness between the moon and the earth, but not with humans. These words achieve a personification that pinpoints the exact character of the moon, which helps to make the poem powerful.

Personification achieves a similar goal in ‘Full Moon and Little Frieda”. The “spider’s web, tense for the dew’s touch” builds up an anticipation of an event, as if even now inanimate objects can sense that something is about to happen. The image of the moon “stepping back” gives it not the matriarchal character of the moon in ‘Amends’, but that of an artist who is taking in the pleasure of what he has created. Thus, the moon develops a distinct identity, and the way the poet used language to do this makes it compelling to readers.

 One possible interpretation of ‘Full Moon and Little Frieda’ concerns the physical and sexual maturation of a girl, and the poet uses exciting language where he is possibly giving us this message. The “clank of a [empty] bucket”, then the “pail lifted, … brimming” conveys the image of a bucket being filled, a metaphor for the growth of the girl’s body. The “cows” are allegories for women and mothers, and the importance of “blood” and “milk” as symbols of female maturation goes unspoken. The final product of the transformation leads to the “artist gazing amazed at a work”, like a parent who has watched their child grow to womanhood. These hints towards this possible interpretation are exciting uses of language in their own right.

The first stanza of ‘Amends’ contains exciting language that makes it both an appropriate and effective introduction to the poem. It opens with the phrase “Nights like this”, which is taken from the opening lines of Act 5 of Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’. This quote introduces the setting of night-time, and immediately links the poem to the moon, which is also central to that part of ‘The Merchant of Venice’. “The cold apple-bough” establishes the natural scene that starts ‘Amends’, however ‘”cold” is a harsh, cutting word that indicates the icy chill of the night. The “white star” cuts through the night, and brings the moon into the poem suddenly and violently, described as “exploding” out of the bark. The “small stones” help to link this stanza to the “greater stones” of the beach setting of the second stanza. Thus, this stanza contains powerful language that introduces all the key elements of the poem, and establishes a gripping scene within the stanza while linking to the next.

Ted Hughes’ opening to ‘Full Moon and Little Frieda’ also conveys the setting of the poem with intriguing language, such as the opening line. The “cool small evening” presents a calm setting that expresses the mellow and tranquil tone of the poem. Furthermore, the notion of the already “small evening” shrinking is interesting; it may mean the level of activity dropped. The word ‘night’ goes unspoken, as the only noises are “a dog bark and the clank of a bucket”. This reinforces the idea that “shrunk” refers to the level of activity dropping, and is the first thing to break through the “cool” setting of the poem. The only sounds being that of a dog barking and a bucket dropping hint at a rural milieu, which agrees with the stillness of the night: in addition, the presence of cows strengthens this argument. This first sentence of the poem gives us a mundane setting, possibly that of a farm, and leads into Stanza 2, which build tension of later events. In such a tranquil setting even happenings like dogs barking seem exciting to us, and this shows the effectiveness of an opening that is only one sentence.

The second stanza of the same poem builds apprehension and foreboding for event to come, with all four lines creating some kind of tension. “And you listening” is a completion of the first sentence that gives us questions about the scene: for example, we want to know whom the speaker is addressing, although one presumes it is Little Frieda, from the title. The image of the “spider’s web, tense” shows the serenity of the environment, backed up by the “still and brimming” pail. The possibility of this pail spilling creates an apprehension, as if things are balancing carefully in fear of perturbation. “Tempt” and “tremor” in the fourth line are words that invoke feelings of tension. Thus, this stanza brings about a sense of apprehension, like everything awaits an approaching phenomenon.

These two poems both use exciting language to achieve their purposes. The poets employ gripping language to achieve repetition and personification, to establish setting and build tension, and to provoke different interpretations of their work. ‘Amends’ and ‘Full Moon and Little Frieda’ give us all these uses of exciting language, and both poems are powerful for this reason.

Analysis on ‘Sonnet 29’

Explore the ways in which “Sonnet 29” by Edna St Vincent Millay explores the thoughts of the poet.

Throughout the poem ‘Sonnet 29’ written by Edna St Vincent Millay there are many instances where comparative measures in the form of metaphors are used to successfully explore the thoughts and main messages regarding the pain and suffering love causes, which is expressed by the poet throughout the piece. Comparative techniques in the form of matching natural elements with the personalities of men and the concept of love are used to allow the audience to feel a sense of belonging and self-realisation as well as allowing the readers to relate to her personal experiences. Also, the conflicts between her mind and heart further help clarify her views on love.

In the first four lines, love is compared to ‘beauties passed away’. This refers to the degradation of love, and this is further emphasised in the next line. She describes the degradation of love as it changes ‘From field to thicket’. The term field refers to what may once have been an orderly and well tended plot, to ‘thicket’ which is an overgrown, uncared for patch of land, conveying how her love has been slowly broken down, and turned into a mess. As it takes a long time for a field to become a thicket, Millay insinuates that this slow dilapidation of love is painful as she has to endure that pain until the wound heals, and it takes a long time for it to do so.

Love, and its continually fading power and influence is expressed in the next four sentences, and it is compared to moonlight. It is shown when ‘the waning of the moon’ prove that the moonlight is gradually decreasing in power, and demonstrates a continuing loss of power and love. Immediately after the description of the moon, it is said that ‘the ebbing tide goes out to sea’, where the ebbing tide refers to the gradually weakening marriage and romance between Millay and her lover, as the bond pulling the tide and essentially, bonding the two together, is diminishing. Millay blames this weakening romance on the the masculine side of the relationship, as this fading love is due to ‘a man’s desire hushed so soon’, insinuating that her husband’s desire for her is removed so early in the relationship, and this is substantiated further when her husband ‘no longer look[s] with love’ on her.

However, despite blaming her lovers, she decides that she is strong enough to accept her loss of love, ‘This I have known always: Love is no more’ implies that she has known that love was always going to end, and she believes that love fading away is part of its nature. Afterwards, Millay compares love to a ‘wide blossom which the wind assails’. The wind represents her lovers, which violently assaults the love-representing blossom, and the fact that it is wide, indicates that it traps a lot of wind, and therefore the wider the blossom, i.e., the greater the love, the harder one will fall, as there is more wind attempting to ruin the blossom, and the more pain he or she will suffer. Subsequently Millay once again portrays man as a ‘great tide that treads the shifting shore’, where the tide plays the role of man, and the shore as love. The term tide allows the reader to imagine a wave, which is powerful and destructive, and as it treads along the shifting shore, it destroys the shifting shore, which symbolises the slow, painful erosion of their love for each other, which seems to be continually fluctuating.

Following this metaphor, Millay further describes love as ‘strewing fresh wreckage gathered in the gales’. The fresh wreckage describes love as an trash which is slowly broken down, and scattered away, and therefore Millay believes that love is pointless and worthless, while the term ‘gathering’ suggests that this love is slowly breaking down and is being collected. Once again, Millay truly feels that love is also a process which causes pain, from which it takes a long time to recover. There is also a sense of disconnection between the heart and mind despite her understanding and reality of how love consistently ends in the last couplet. Millay describes that ‘the heart is slow to learn’ and still wants to become engaged with such intimacy, while compromising and stubbornly, almost naïvely, neglecting the logical thoughts of the mind when ‘the swift mind beholds at every turn.’.

Millay’s discontent and anger regarding love and her relationships are expressed through the comparative measures used in her essay, where love is represented as a soft delicate part of nature, while her husbands and men who she may have had relationships with as destructive forces. The metaphors used in these comparative measures repeatedly express the pain she endures as the relationship and bonds that held her relationships together never seemed to last, thus compelling her to feel that love is a time-wasting and worthless emotion.

Word Count: 816 (w/o the question)
Original Mark: 16/20

Analysis on ‘Dover Beach’ and ‘The Voice

Explore how two of the following poems present the idea of grief and despair. Support your ideas with details from the poems.

Report to Wordsworth
Dover Beach
The Voice
(I have chosen the last two)

Hardy and Arnold utilise similar sets of techniques, which often overlap, to express their emotions. However, as will become evident, The Voice makes more use of form and diction, while Dover Beach mainly exploits the meaning of the words.

The most obvious way in which Arnold conveys grief is through his choice of vocabulary. He explicitly mentions “the eternal note of sadness” in stanza two and “human misery” in stanza three. Also utilised are a range of modifiers, including “drear”, “melancholy” and “tremulous”. His descriptions of the world as a place of chaos show his lack of all hope for a better future: he presents humanity as a “confused” and “ignorant” race, living in constant darkness – which is clearly meant in a spiritual sense. Although he often uses to night to represent this, Arnold’s darkness is permanent, not temporary like natural night. This is evident from the use of “eternal”, from the description of the world as being devoid of light and as a “land of dreams”, implying that, like dreams, it exists entirely in the night.

In “The Voice”, Hardy makes use of pace and rhythm to control the mood of the poem. In the first line, the words “much missed” are awkward to say quickly, and have the effect of slowing the diction of the poem. Their heavy sound accentuates the ponderous atmosphere. In the third stanza, “listlessness” and “wistlessness” have a similar effect. Along with “across” and “dissolved”, they create a sibilance which mimics the sound of the breeze in a vivid appeal to the sense of hearing. This is particularly effective because the sound of the wind is associated with emptiness and loneliness: people only listen to the wind when their surroundings are silent and lack anything better to pay attention to. This perfectly expresses Hardy’s feelings of desolation in the absence of his wife’s companionship.
The aforementioned slowing effect is also present in the last stanza: the “f” sounds of “faltering”, “forward”, and “falling”, and the “th” sounds of “thin through the thorn”. In this stanza, the poet’s loneliness reaches a climax, and the previously rhythm established rhythm breaks down. The first line, in particular, is very short, and broken in the middle by a semicolon. It sounds breathless and exhausted; this halting diction reflects exactly the “faltering” mood of the poet, as if he has been broken by grief and cannot continue to live. This is reinforced by the incomplete sentence structure: although, like the other stanzas, this is one long sentence, it is unique in that it is not grammatically complete. It consists of a series of minor clauses strung together, with no finite verb, as if the speaker is too exhausted or depressed to form a proper sentence, and is simply throwing out phrases that pertain to his situation.

Repetition is another important technique in “The Voice”. In the first stanza, the gentle vowels of the phrase “call to me” is repeated, creating an ephemeral effect. The echoing makes the line sound surreal and ghostly, reinforcing the feeling that Emma’s ghost is actually speaking to him, even haunting him. It suggests that he can hear it constantly, without any respite: such is the depth of his grief. At the end of the third line, “all to me” is basically another repetition, and has more significance than simply maintaining the rhyme scheme. This time, the phrase illustrates the way Hardy once idolised his wife, and so, as well as its contribution the diction, it has the added effect of highlighting how vulnerable and bereft he is during this period of mourning.
The rhyme scheme itself is very pronounced. Entire phrases rhyme; not only do the words sound similar, they often are very close and can almost be considered repetition, such as “knew you then…view you then” and “call to me…all to me”. They serve as reminders and links to the preceding material, ensuring that the poem remains strongly focused and creating the effect that Hardy has been overwhelmed by his grief, to the point where he fixates on it exclusively. Furthermore, it suggests that monotony dominates his existence without Emma. There is nothing fresh or new in his life, nothing that he finds interesting apart from his grief, and his life consists of mechanically going through the basic routines for survival – this is the extent to which his loss has stunned him.

Similarly, Dover Beach uses a repetitive list to highlight what the poet sees as the grim nature of the world. After establishing the apparent attractions of the world – “so various, so beautiful, so new” – Arnold completely refutes them by bombarding the reader with its flaws: “hath…neither joy, nor love, nor light, / nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain”. This long list, whose short words facilitate rapid and emphatic diction, overwhelms the reader with pessimism, making it seem impossible for anything good to stand up in the face of this stream of despair.

The third stanza of The Voice incorporates the images of wind and water, both of which are associated with softness and weakness. Line 1 mentions the breeze’s “listlessness” – the sibilance and length makes it seem limp and dispirited – and water is invoked through the use of “wet mead” and “dissolved”, conjuring up associations of sogginess and dreariness. This is continued in the description of the wind as “oozing”. It is as if the poet’s will and determination have been dissolved along with “you” – he does not have enough energy to do anything but drift with whatever currents he encounters. This sense of powerlessness is also present in the last three lines of Dover Beach. The darkness and the verb “swept” create a sense of helplessness before the “ignorant armies” in their panicked “flight”.

The downward motion of the falling leaves in the last stanza of The Voice follows the mood of the poem, which by this stage has darkened from an original hopefulness to deep depression. Furthermore, the image invokes associations of death and decay, and the prominence of the “thorn” reinforces the impression that all the leaves are gone. The image not only reflects the passing of Hardy’s wife, but also suggests that he too has come to the autumn years of his life and has little more to look forward to. Indeed, the wind’s passage is a parallel to Hardy’s own existence. “oozing” suggests that the wind’s movements are sluggish, as if its journey through the sharp thorn has left it cut and bruised. Similarly, the poet is wounded and exhausted by grief, and dragging himself through life.

Arnold’s despair is highlighted by the use of strongly contrasting imagery in the fourth stanza. The wholesomeness “full and round” is completely opposite to the roughness and coarseness of “shingles”, “bright” contrasts with “night-wind” and “naked” is utterly foreign to the idea of a “girdle”. They are, of course, metaphors: the positive images represent the original, pure, faithful world; their darker counterparts the contemporary, and to the poet deeply disturbing, state. The juxtapositions between them make the negative images seem much harsher, and increase their impact on the reader.

These concepts – texture, light and darkness, nakedness and modesty – are essential parts of the way in which humans perceive and think about the world, no matter their background. Thus, they universalise the concepts that they represent, making them relevant to every reader: a world without religious faith is as indecent and vulnerable as an unclothed person, and piety, the light which illuminates the human existence, is being snuffed out, leaving all in darkness, with all its terrors. With these images to facilitate understanding between poet and audience, the conveyance of despair is so much more effective.

Arnold also employs the symbol of the sea to embody his abstract emotions, giving them a more substantial form which appeals to the senses, to heighten their impact on the reader. It appears in all of the first four stanzas. At the start, “the sea is calm”; later, it is compared, by means of a simile, to a “bright girdle” and used in conjunction with “the full and round”. This positive imagery, appealing to the sense of sight, endears the sea, and the religious faith it represents, to the reader. Thus, when it is seen to “draw back” and “withdraw” in the fourth stanza, the sense of loss is far keener, because it is so easily visualised. The sense of sound is also used: in the third stanza, its “tremulous cadence slow” and “the eternal note of sadness” are reminiscent of a funeral dirge or a death song, again creating a sense of mourning.

As we can see, the two poems have a number of methods in common in conveying their grief and despair. However, it is clear that The Voice is more subtle in its presentation of these ideas, taking advantage of rhythm and pace, while Dover beach is by far more explicit, tending to use vocabulary and language and sacrificing subtlety for power and grandeur.

Analysis on ‘Marrysong’

Essay 5: Explore the ways in which the poet vividly conveys the relationship between husband and wife in “Marrysong” by Dennis Scott.

An extended metaphor runs through the entire text, which compares the wife’s personality to a “territory”. The references to “geography”, “landscapes”, “country” and “roads” draw parallels between his wife’s mind and a physical, newly discovered land, which he must explore, as suggested by “charted” and “map”. In doing so, it evokes associations of mystery and bravery in facing the unknown – which seem entirely appropriate. However, there is quite a contrast between the images of a physical land, which we think of as being constant and natural, and the intellectual territory which “shifted under his eye”. This incongruity serves to make the description far more startling and surreal.

Not only does the lie of the land change, but the timescale on which thess shifts occurs also changes. In the first line, the poet states that the shifts occur “year after year”. Next, the time is shortened by a passing reference to “seasons”, then shrunk to “An hour”, becomes instantaneous – “suddenly she would change” – and then lengthens again to “each day”.

Overall, the poem is significantly lacking in fluency, an effect which is brought about by the repeated use of caesurae. Most lines are broken by pauses, denoted by commas, such as “that territory, without seasons, shifted” in line 2, and full stops, like “under his eye. An hour” in line 3. The sudden stutter of “All, all” is particularly effective in disrupting the flow built up in the previous line. The syntax is often awkward, in places like “learned her, quite” and “An hour he could be lost”. This slows down the reader and creates a sense of uncertainty, and thus the writing is made to mirror the subject matter.

Furthermore, the first five lines are heavily enjambed, while the last ones are not. As a result, there is a change of pace, from hesitant and unsure in the first section, to smooth and confident in the last. The enjambed lines discuss the details of the interactions between husband and wife, focusing on her inconstant moods, while the latter section is a generalised description of the changing nature of their relationship, saying that “all was each day new”. Thus, the shift in pace seems to suggest that the only certainty in this marriage is its capricious nature.

The phrase “her quarried hurt” stands out as the most ambiguous in the poem. Quarries have hard stone walls, and are a source of stone for building materials, making it possible to interpret the phrase as a reinforcement of the image of “walled anger”. However, it could also be seen as a counterpoint, due to the contrast between the expansive, open nature of a quarry, which is essentially a pit in the ground, and the confinement or shutting out implied in “walled”.

Alternatively, one might understand it as a suggestion that her hurt is not genuine, but rather something which has been artificially and deliberately dug up in order to create an effect. Yet another way to see it is to take it as a reference to “quarry”, prey which is being hunted. In this sense, the phrase would mean that the she, for some unknown reason, feels victimised and ill-treated, or that her hurt has driven her to attack her husband. Whatever the case, it is clear that this line exactly reflects the uncertainty which the husband feels, and is highly effective in giving the reader a first hand experience of it.

Later, the poet uses a series of staccato sentences: “He charted. She made wilderness again. Roads disappeared. The map was never true.” Their sharpness, and the sudden transition from the drawn-out, halting diction of the previous lines drives home their message. At this point in the poem, a sense of irritation has been built up by the repeated pauses, and the sudden burst of frustration in these two lines provides an emotional release for the reader, creating a climax at this point.

From here, the poem begins to wind down, and at “All, all” in line 11 enters its final stage.
Up to this point, there had been no rhyme or structure, making the poem abstract and ephemeral. This line, however, is end-stopped, giving a sense of closure, and forms a rhyming couplet with the next, as do the last two lines: “new…grew” and “find…mind”. The use of this common rhyme scheme creates a sense of solidity and familiarity even though it is not applied to every line. Furthermore, the poem takes on a satisfying fluency, especially in the lines “the shadows of…helpless journey”, which was previously absent.

In terms of content, this section summarises the nature of the marriage, then moves on to definite actions by the husband: “he accepted” and “stayed home”. The resignation in “accepted” ends the confusion and frustration from the previous lines, while the fact that he is taking some sort of action gives the sense of a resolution. In combination with the shift in tone to bring the poem to a natural close.

The effectiveness with which the interpersonal interactions are conveyed is, to a significant degree, due to the way Scott imbues the writing itself with the same attributes he is exploring. Through altering the pace, tone and fluency of the poem, he takes the reader on an emotional journey, evoking feelings of confusion, frustration and resignation which mirror those he conveys as being present in the relationship between husband and wife, and fosters further understanding by the consistent use of the metaphor of the land to great effect.

Analysis on ‘Dover Beach’

Explore how Matthew Arnold uses language to give us insights into the life of modern man in ‘Dover Beach’.

The life of modern mankind is presented very negatively and ignorantly by Matthew Arnold in the poem Dover Beach by the fact that religious faith evanesce with the Industrial Revolution. Arnold creates the image of the dark future for the people without unwavering faith or religion.

Modern men are bastardised with the thought that new the Industrial Revolution will give them advantage over nature. This thought of gaining superiority made humans arrogant by which this appearance is broken by the reality of nature’s dominance. People also seem ignorant with the wishful thought. These pebbles which ‘the waves draw back, and fling’ are completely powerless and are thrown around by the waves that move these “pebbles” at ease. Arnold uses pebbles as a metaphor for humans to show the inferiority in comparison to nature. The ignorance of humans is emphasised by the historical allusion to Peloponnesian War. In the dark, soldiers could not differentiate between their own army and the opponents; and so they killed their own soldiers. This is used by the poet to show the stupidity of modern man throwing away the religion which was everything to people before the Industrial Revolution; something to believe and rely on when people prayed. However, this old belief is thrown away and Arnold sees it as a very naïve decision.

The Industrial Revolution gave the source of arrogance and confidence which took place among the Western countries. This revolution was revolutionary itself; humans could mass produce, with improved quality, and at ease. These machineries became the limbs of human society. What came with the industrial revolution was the idea of realism. People could nearly produce goods to near-original standards, all thanks to improved technologies and science, and hence began to doubt the existence of God and supernatural beings. Realism contrasts the theology which is all about belief without questioning that God exists; and people believed it before the times of the machineries. It gave people hope and modesty under the mighty existence of God. However both hope and modesty disappeared with the Industrial Revolution which Arnold laments for. Bitterness is suggested when Arnold exclaims ‘Ah, love’ to show that in this changing world, one can only rely on the partner, and be trustful and true. Sarcasm is used to describe the modern world as a ‘land of dreams’ as there is no more hope for the world, as there is no more faith.

As the poem proceeds, the transition of mood is noticeable as the grief of the loss of faith extends to a sense of resignation towards the end and having a sarcastic, sour approach to the issue. The ‘tremulous cadence slow’ helps to convey the gradual process of the wane of doctrine which adds to the idea that the change of people’s lives is almost unnoticeable. This gradual process hurts Arnold because people are caught unaware of the changes taking place and so do not think it is particularly wrong and sinful. Arnold presents his sorrow with the historical allusion to Sophocles who, was a Greek playwright, had heard the sound of waves crashing as the ‘eternal note of sadness’. The ‘sadness’ of the mankind turning away from religious beliefs is a parallel to the ‘melancholy… withdrawing roar…retreating’ of the waves. Before the development of science and technology, people had truly believed in the religion and thought that they were in total control of god. The metaphor ‘Sea of Faith’ which presents the religious faith people have, used to be ‘full and round Earth’s shore’ but now is ‘retreating… down the vast edges’ which shows the decreasing religious beliefs. Arnold points out that, without faith, humans are ‘naked’ and have no protection and defence which reflects the vulnerability of man and their lives.

With carefully chosen words, Arnold presents the uncertainty of the future of humans. The new industrialised world seems “so various, so beautiful, so new” but it is again a mere appearance. The reality is that this mechanic, stiff world will have “neither joy, nor love, nor light” because this mechanics cannot feel love, hence no joy, and no vision as humans need love and the warm characteristics of humanity. It is thus deducible that the future will have no “certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain” which are the essentialities of humans. Humans can only survive the harsh world when everybody believes and trusts each other, and this will be broken with the introduction of industrialisation. This change of the world will bring “confused alarms on struggle and flight” which creates an imagery of a “darkling plain”; a dark vision for humans. Furthermore, the “turbid” ebb and flow shows the cloudy, uncertain future of ‘ebb and flow’ which is the repetitive cycles of nature. Can humans only survive when they make harmony with the nature, and to go against the natural cycles can only mean extinction of humans. The ‘cliffs’ of England ‘gleams’ and ‘glimmers’; gleams and glimmers have a sense of shakiness, precariousness and unknown which echoes the uncertain modern man. Also the alliteration of ‘g’ and ‘m’ creates a stuttering tone which adds to the idea of uncertainty. This imagery portrays the withering away of cliffs as a decline of religious beliefs and what’s more, deterioration of the Earth itself as humans exploit resources out of the Earth which the modern development enabled men to do.

The flaws of modernism and realism are expressed in this poem. The flow of the poem is cut off by uses of caesura which is a parallel to the imperfect modern world. Arnold gives a hint that modernization of the world will have some flaws which will inevitably bring loss of faith and result in loss of equilibrium. In science, there is no hope; everything is measured out and exact. Hence in the modern world reality there can be no hope as it looks vain. Again, Arnold sympathises with the loss of hope in reality. In a different sense, the calm, naturalistic description of a beach at night in the first stanza is the appearance which contrasts to the reality that is sad, unhopeful, ‘retreating’ and ‘tremulous’.

Human beings are inferior over nature and the spiritual beliefs as to an extent that people cannot control anything. The abandonment of the doctrine of religion with the help of the Industrial Revolution is only a vain act against the power-overwhelming nature. Religion and faith should remain in humanity and ignoring it should result in the uncertainty and vulnerability of modern man.