Change (A Short Poem)

A little while ago, I posted a YouTube video alongside my poem, “The Dark Sea”, where I read my poem aloud. So, although I haven’t written a new poem, I decided to do the same thing with one of my older poems, “Change”.

This was the first real poem that I ever wrote, and although I don’t (by far) consider it my best writing, it holds a fair amount of sentimental value to me.

I hope you enjoy! You can thank my lovely boyfriend for the music.

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The Dark Sea

You’re too close to me,
Breathing my air,
Bringing despair.

For I long to flee,
Into the sunlight,
Out of your foresight.

Away from your ropes,
Keeping me drowned,
And tied to the ground.

For I can’t escape,
Not from the darkness,
And not from your harness.

You’re pushing me –
Into the debris,
Into that dark sea…

That’s forming around me.

IMG_2100.jpg

It was recently suggested to me by the very kind Poetically Yours that I should speak some of my poems aloud, so have set up my own YouTube channel for this very purpose. You can listen to my reading of this poem here.



Thank you so much for reading! I hope that you enjoyed this little poem. If you have the time, do leave me a comment – it’ll make my day!

“Vertue”: Analysis

The Poem

Vertue

By George Herbert

Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright,
The bridall of the earth and skie:
The dew shall weep thy fall to-night;
For thou must die.

Sweet rose, whose hue angrie and brave
Bids the rash gazer wipe his eye,
Thy root is ever in its grave,
And thou must die.

Sweet spring, full of sweet dayes and roses,
A box where sweets compacted lie,
My musick shows ye have your closes,
And all must die.

Onely a sweet and vertuous soul,
Like season’d timber, never gives;
But though the whole world turn to coal,
Then chiefly lives.

The Message

“Vertue”, modernly referred to as ‘Virtue’, is a deceptive poem. Although it is, to an extent, about the importance of virtue, it spends a lot of time considering death and the temporarily of the physical world. The first three stanzas don’t actually consider the concept of virtue at all. Instead, they describe how all things and, in particular, nature, are shadowed by the constant presence of death. Then, in the final stanza, Herbert suggests that the only thing not to be limited by death is the virtuous soul. Such religious individuals are made eternal through their relationship with God.

The Analysis

Metre & Structure

This poem is written in a very constant iambic tetrameter that only deviates from this rhythm a few times, including the switch to iambic dimeter at the end of each stanza. These shorter lines arguably emphasise the theme of death in this poem as the long lines are brought to a short, abrupt halt. There is also the occasional switch to trochaic meter in this poem that helps emphasise certain words and lines.

The rhyme pattern in this poem is even more constant. It is made up of alternating rhymes, yet its more interesting feature is the repeated rhyme for “skie”, made throughout the various stanzas. This emphasises the “die”, making it sound more effective, and also making its absence in the final stanza all the more noticeable. There are also a lot of oppositions in this poem that can be linked through their rhymes. For example, “bright” rhymes with “night”, an opposite that emphasises the sense of darkening and growing loss and sadness as the poem progresses.

Line by Line

  • “Sweet”, “so” – The constant sibilance in this poem is emphasised through the repeated word, “Sweet”. This sibilance creates a relaxed, melancholy tone.
  • “The bridall of the earth and skie” – This allusion to marriage relates to the sense of harmony within the poem. At the same time, however, it indicates a link between “earth” and “skie” that is indicative of death. The “earth” represents the mortal human world while the “skie” indicates the Christian heaven that Herbert, as a devout Christian and priest, valued.
  • “The dew shall weep” – The personification here indicates the power of nature as well as emphasising the poem’s sense of melancholy.
  • “Thy fall” – This alludes not only to a physical fall or even a death, but also to humankind’s Fall through the Original Sin and thus suggests that Herbert’s audience has committed a sin – as if they are somehow at fault.
  • “To-night” – The plentitude of natural imagery in this opening stanza hints towards the sublime (the idea of being overwhelmed and overpowered by nature). The darkness of night gives a similar impression of powerlessness.
  • “For thou must die” / “And thou must die” / “And all must die” – There is a sense of an imperative command within this final, rather ominous line of the stanza. It is almost as though Herbert is telling his audience that they have no choice but to die. This point is emphasised by the abrupt nature of the monosyllabic “die”, as well as by the shorter line that forms the conclusion to this stanza. The repetition of this line throughout the poem reminds us that death is a constant theme, overshadowing the natural beauty Herbert describes. It also progresses from “thou must die” to “all must die”, this progression revealing the power of death.
  • “Angrie and brave” – The harsh sounds and meanings of these words contradict with the relaxed, melancholy tone of the poem. This indicates a change of the poem’s mood as its relaxed tone becomes more aggressive.
  • “Bids” – The change of tone in the poem is emphasised by this plosive “Bids” which also causes a break in the iambic meter (it momentarily switches to a trochaic meter at the start of this line).
  • “Rash” – This again hints to the theme of sin as Herbert suggests that his audience is somehow at fault for staring at the “rose”. This is perhaps due to their ignorance as they didn’t expect to find any “angrie” tones within the natural world that is ordinarily associated, as in the first stanza, with peace and tranquility.
  • “Root” / “Grave” – This earthly imagery emphasises the theme of death and suggests that the reason the “rose” is “angrie” is because the natural peace of nature is continually disturbed by the knowledge that its beauty is only temporary; the “rose”, like humanity, “must die”.
  • “A box” – This “box” may indicate a collection of flowers, yet it also alludes to coffins and death; in this poem, the positives are always shadowed by the ominous and constant presence of death.
  • “Sweets compacted lie” – Again, “compacted” may allude to the beauty of flowers all growing close together, yet it may also be a reference to the multitude of dead flowers nourishing the ground from which they grow. In the same way, “lie” may refer to the physical action of lying down, or to deception, and thus also the double meanings alluded to throughout this poem.
  • “Musick” – This probably alludes to Herbert’s own poetry but also indicates the beauty that is at least conveyed on the surface of this poem. It is also possible that the “box” from the previous line may be referring to a music box, which highlights this sense of beauty through its connection to a melodic charm.
  • “A sweet and vertuous soul” – Like the natural world, the soul Herbert considers is “sweet”. Yet what separates it from the temporality of nature is that it is “vertuous”. This is Herbert’s main point as he finally refers to the poem’s title.
  • “Season’d timber” – Nature is again being presented as temporary, yet here it is made temporary through purposeful destruction. The wood is not dying naturally, but being converted to timber, cut down by human hands for the sake of industry.
  • “The whole world turns to coal” – This again hints towards humankind’s purposeful destruction of nature. Herbert thus emphasises a political message within this poem as industry is polarised to virtue. This presents it as in some way immoral, which comes back to the “angrie” references made earlier. Herbert may be indicating that he does not agree with this destruction of nature, perhaps due to the Christian concept of human stewardship over nature.
  • “Then chiefly lives” – It is only really in this final line that the primary message of this poem is conveyed. Herbert is saying that whilst most things, such as the average person and much of the natural world, are temporary, the virtuous person will live forever through their connection to God and the idea of an afterlife.

Overview

Vertue, Herbert.jpg“Vertue” is all about the importance of Christian values. It promotes Christianity through the idea that a true, virtuous Christian will be made eternal in God’s afterlife. Yet even as an atheist, I am able to appreciate the message in this poem. There’s something really quite beautiful about Herbert’s descriptions of the natural world, contrasted to the ever-constant presence of the death that works to reveal Herbert’s main point in this poem. This is that there are many beautiful or “sweet” things in this world, and we can appreciate that beauty, yet no matter how beautiful they are, they cannot champion virtue, which allows such “sweet” things to be preserved eternally. So, whilst it is a Christian poem, it’s not inaccessible to the average reader. I often find religious poems quite difficult to appreciate as they are packed with biblical allusions, yet this poem isn’t like that. It is complex, but not in the sense that you need an in-depth understanding of the Bible to access it. In fact, if it wasn’t for the last stanza, this poem couldn’t be called a religious poem at all.

Zeugma #AtoZChallenge

Zeugma

What is it?
Zeugma is a figure of speech that plays with the meanings of words. Sometimes, a word can mean more than one thing at once; when these different meanings are drawn upon through only one use of the word, zeugma is in use.

Z.pngA Literary Example:
This is where I would normally share a literary example of zeugma, but I can’t think of one, so here are a few examples of zeugma that have come from various places around the internet:

  • “The farmers in the valley grew potatoes, peanuts, and bored.”
  • “He lost his coat and his temper.”
  • “You are free to execute your laws, and your citizens, as you see fit.”

My Example:
He’d drawn a castle, a roaring dragon, and his own blood.


square1A quick and easy “Z” post from me today, which concludes the A to Z challenge for April 2018! I cannot claim to have “completed” it exactly as, during this latter part of the alphabet, I have failed to find poetic devices for quite a few letters. It’s been fun, though!

I hope you’ve enjoyed these posts!

#AtoZChallenge

Imagination in Keats’ “Lamia”

I have recently been reviewing and analysing a few short poems by John Keats. It seems that one of his biggest concerns was the imagination, and how it could offer an escape from reality; Keats believed in the raw power of our imagination but accepted that it came from our minds, which are confined to a temporary existence in the world. These ideas are considered quite fully in some of his longer poems, so I thought that it would be interesting to review them in one of my favourite poems, “Lamia”.

Plot Overview

Keats wrote “Lamia” in 1819, the same year that he wrote many of his famous Odes. It is a tricky poem with lots of references to classical mythology, so let me give you a (brief) overview of the main events taking place in the poem.

IMG-3135.jpg“Lamia” tells the story of a serpent who claims to have once been a woman called Lamia. She makes a deal with the god, Hermes, and he turns her into a woman. She then meets with a man named Lycius, who she claims to love.

The couple move to a beautiful mansion together and before long, they decide to marry. Despite Lamia’s protests, Lycius insists on hosting a large marriage festival so that he could celebrate the engagement with his friends and family. During the celebrations, a philosopher fixes his eyes on Lamia and announces that she is really a serpent in disguise. As soon as this happens, Lamia disappears from sight. Devastated, Lycius dies of heartbreak soon after.

Going Deeper into the Poem…

The first thing that’s interesting about this poem is that Lamia calls Lycius’ name as soon as she is turned into a woman. As a serpent, she would have been unable to meet Lycius, yet she claims to love him. Keats explains that this is because “she could muse / And dream, when in the serpent prison-house”. Basically, her spirit was able to leave her physical body and seek out Lycius, which enabled her to fall in love with him.

“Where she will’d her spirit went”  –  “Lamia” by John Keats.

This in itself links to the imagination, for although Lamia does seem to actually meet Lycius through this spiritual connection, her escape from “the serpent prison-house” reflects how our imagination can allow us to escape from our “prison-house” (our bodies) and offer some relief from the struggles of everyday life.

IMG-3136.jpgIn a way, Lamia’s life with Lycius also links to her imaginative powers. After their engagement, Lamia occupies herself with decorating their home for the marriage festival, yet Keats notes that “’tis doubtful how and whence / Came, and who were her subtle servitors.” The sibilance in this phrase reminds readers of Lamia’s serpentine form and the spiritual powers that she then exhibited. She decorated the hall with unknown “servitors”, which may suggest that either the decorations were an illusion constructed by Lamia’s powers, or that she imagined helpers as she worked.

This idea of imagination being able to alter the physical world is also prevalent later on in the poem. The entire time that Lamia is with Lycius, they are alone, but once guests arrive, she disappears. This may indicate that her entire physicality existed only in Lycius’ mind; perhaps she was never turned into a woman but, as a snake, was able to form images in his imagination. This is particularly interesting as their guests may represent reality breaking their imaginative trance, disturbing the vision and bringing Lycius back to reality. The shock – or perhaps horror – of reality then kills him.


Obviously, there’s a lot more going on in “Lamia” than its references to the imagination, and if you’re interested, there are plenty of readable versions of the text available online. I really just wanted to focus on the imagination today because Keats’ thoughts about it are so interesting. He views it as powerful, but, like Lamia, it is also temporary.

Anyway, it’s a great poem, and if you get a chance, do read it. When I say that it is a long poem, it is nothing on Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, but it is too long for me to want to write about each individual line, which is why I have chosen to analyse it like this, instead. I hope you enjoyed this post, and thank you very much for reading!

Volta #AtoZChallenge

Volta

What is it?
In Italian, the word ‘volta’ literally means ‘turn’. It refers to a change of argument within a poem where the poet may offer a new opinion or perspective. This is often signposted by words such as ‘but’ and ‘yet’ and usually occurs between the octave and the sestet in Petrarchan sonnets, and before the final couplet in Shakespearean sonnets.

A Literary Example:
V.png“My mistress, when she walks, treads
on the ground. /
And yet, by heaven, I think my
love as rare /
As any belied with false compare.”
–  Sonnet 130 by William Shakespeare.

My Example:
I find a volta interesting
But tricky
And also quite limiting.


square1I have spent a long time today trying desperately to think of some poetic devices for the last few letters of this challenge, but I’m afraid that I haven’t had much luck. I certainly can’t think of anything for “W”, so don’t expect an A to Z post from me tomorrow. I have something in mind for “Z”, but as for the rest of the letters, that remains to be seen.

So, thank you for reading. Hopefully I’ll be back with these posts soon, but I can’t make any promises about when that will be. In the meantime, remember to click on the hashtag below to view my other A to Z posts and if you can think of any devices to fill in the end of the alphabet for me, please do let me know!

#AtoZChallenge

“Ah! Sun-Flower”: Analysis

The Poem

Ah! Sun-Flower

By William Blake

Ah! Sun-flower! weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the Sun:
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the traveller’s journey is done.

Where the Youth pined away with desire,
And the pale Virgin shrouded in snow
Arise from their graves and aspire,
Where my sun-flower wishes to go.

The Message

This poem is deceptively complicated. Whilst, on the surface, it might appear to be a nice, light read about a sunflower in the sun, it is actually about the issues associated with reality, afterlife, and the imagination. The sunflower acts as an allegory for a human being: in particular, a traveller. They are tired of life and wish for something more. This takes the form of an afterlife that may also be associated with a world of imagination where people can visualise their highest aspirations. Blake presents this (afterlife/imagination) as an end-goal that everyone should attempt to reach, as he believes that it will enable them to escape from the brutal realities of human existence.

Analysis

Metre & Structure

This poem has an alternating rhyme scheme (ABABCDCD) which arguably reflects the pattern of life and death in the poem (as well as reality/suffering and hope/Blake’s imagined world). It is also written in a roughly trochaic tetrameter which may be seen as a purposeful subversion of the traditional iambic pentameter often associated with earthly matters such as love and life.

Line by Line

  • “Ah!” – This initial exclamation both demonstrates Blake’s passion and the inspiration that triggered this poem in his mind.
  • “Weary of time” – By saying that the flower is “weary of time”, Blake may be suggesting that it is “weary” of the entire process of life and death (human existence) and that it may be longing for a form of constancy considered in Keats’ “Bright Star” and Coleridge’s “Constancy to an Ideal Object“.
  • “Countest” – This emphasises the “weary” quality of human reality as the sun-flower is forced to count the steps leading them away from their current existence.
  • “The steps of the Sun” / “Sweet golden clime” – Blake here begins to paint an image of not only the “Sun” but also of divinity and the afterlife as the sunflower begins to climb the steps of heaven. This “heaven” (or new world) is “sweet” and “golden”, free from the imperfections that our human reality possesses. It is also worth noting the sibilance in this stanza: this next world is clandestine but beautiful, and these connotations are emphasised by the sibilance.
  • “Where the traveller’s journey is done.” – This is both ominous and conclusive, the nature of an ending emphasised by the end stop following the word, “done”. Blake suggests that “the traveller” (or sunflower) will be “done” when they reach heaven (or wherever they are going), yet this idea is subverted by the fact that this is not the end of the poem. After what we perceive to be the end of both the poem and human existence, Blake carries on, suggesting that the sunflower is not “done”, after all.
  • “Pined away with desire” – This may have sexual connotations. In human reality (the old world), the Youth is wasting away, crippled by their emotions.
  • “The pale Virgin shrouded in snow” – This can be seen as a negative; whilst “the Youth” is wasted by their desire, the “Virgin” is buried or “shrouded” by “snow”, reality preventing the fulfilment of her desires.
  • “Arise from their graves and aspire” – Reality is aligned with suffering. By “aspir[ing]” or imagining, both “the Youth” and the “Virgin” are able to “rise” into the afterlife/new world of imagination that doesn’t possess the imperfections of the life that they are now confined to.
  • “Wishes” – There is a constant sense of longing in this poem; everyone, including the sunflower, want to abandon reality/life for the sake of the world that Blake depicts. Whether this is a religious afterlife or another world filled with people’s aspirations, it is what we should strive for by searching and aspiring for it.

Overview

For a relatively short poem, there’s a lot going on in “Ah! Sun-Flower”. There are also a lot of interpretations that can be had from it; I’ve only really given one that considers the qualities of imagination and religion, but the idea of “the Sun” can represent a lot of things, such as hope, God, happiness and rebirth. The thing to remember about Blake is that his poems have a lot of depth; whilst he may be saying one thing, he is quite often meaning the complete opposite.

Ah Sun-Flower by Blake.pngIt might seem quite bleak, but the message of this poem isn’t actually that bad. What it’s really saying, is summarised in the penultimate line: “Arise from [your] graves and aspire”. So whilst Blake is basically saying that human existence is brutal, he is telling us that we should realise this, “[a]rise from [our] graves”, and find a better life.


As always, thank you very much for reading. If you have any questions for me or would like to offer your own interpretation of the poem, there is a comments section at the bottom of this page. You can check out my other poem analyses here.