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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Blogging Schedule: Summer 2018

At the beginning of last week, I mentioned that I was going to attempt to keep to a rough schedule during the summer months. I now have this schedule finalised, and feel the need to share it with you. Remember, though, this is not a fixed schedule.

I may not always have a poem to post every Monday afternoon (such as this week), in which case I may not post anything at all. Equally, although I have listed some weekly writing prompts below, I might not always feel inspired by a particular prompt. Whenever this happens, I may post one of my The Very Short Story Starter prompts, so keep an eye out for them, too!

Blogging Schedule Summer 2018.jpg

Monday:

My Monday Message
&
A Poem.

Tuesday:

Fiction: Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers
&
Fiction: Ad Hoc Fiction.

Wednesday:

Non-Fiction*
&
Fiction: Friday Fictioneers.

Thursday:

Fiction: #writephoto.

Friday:

Fiction: Creative Writing Ink.

Saturday:

Non-Fiction*

Sunday:

Non-Fiction*
&
Fiction: Sunday Photo Fiction.


Thanks for reading! If there’s anything that you’d like me to do more of, let me know!

*Non-Fiction pieces may include anything from posts like these, to book reviews and poetry analyses. I hope that you’ll enjoy them!

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!

Summary: “The Wife of Bath’s Tale”

It’s been a while since I have written a “Tales from Chaucer” post. This is where I write a summary of a tale from Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales and consider some of its main themes. “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” is arguably one of the more well-known tales, probably because it is such a great story. If you’re interested in reading it, or any other parts of The Canterbury Tales, there are some excellent resources available here that provide both the Middle English and modern English versions of the text.

A Background

The Canterbury Tales describes the pilgrimage of a large group of Londoners. As they march to Canterbury, they tell each other stories to entertain each other. These are Chaucer’s “tales” and actually make up the majority of the narrative.

“The Wife of Bath’s Tale” is often said to be a part of “the marriage group”, as it considers the issues associated with love and marriage. It is also worth noting that while both “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” and “The Miller’s Tale” depict a character called Alisoun, it is unlikely that this is the same woman. Apparently, this was simply a common name.

My Summary

During the time of King Arthur, a lusty bachelor took it upon himself to rape a young girl. According to the customs of Arthur’s court, the man should have been condemned to die, but just as Arthur was about to pass this sentence, he heard outcries from the ladies in his court. Hearing their calls, he decided to allow them to decide between them what the man’s fate should be.

The ladies turned to the man and told him that he would only be permitted to live if, after a year and a day, he could tell them the one thing that every woman desired more than anything else.

Riverside.jpgDelighted with this decision, the man set out to answer the women’s question. He asked woman after woman, but they all gave him different answers and he began to worry that he would lose his life, after all. Then, one day, he discovered a very old, very ugly woman who promised to tell him what she desired, provided that he would return to her and do whatever she next asked of him.

The man eagerly agreed and returned to Arthur’s court with the answer he sought. He told the ladies that women desired, more than anything else, to have power over their husbands.

Guenevere and her ladies were astonished at the man’s answer, but they agreed that it was true and allowed him to keep his life. The man then returned to the old woman, determined to keep his promise to her. When he found her again, she announced that she wished to marry him.

The man, with no other choice open to him, agreed to the marriage. On their wedding night, however, he turned away from the woman and told her that she was too ugly and too poor for him. The woman argued that such things didn’t really matter, suggesting that it was a person’s actions that should measure their worth.

Realising the man’s sorrow, however, she offered him a choice: he could either have her old and ugly, but faithful, or have her young and beautiful, but with a tendency to be unfaithful. The man replied that it was not his decision to make and told her to make the choice. In giving her this choice, however, he grants her sovereignty over him, which is, according to Chaucer, what women want more than anything else. The woman transformed into a beautiful (and faithful) woman and they lived happily together for the rest of their lives.

The Analysis

Despite what you might be thinking, this story actually makes a lot more sense than some of Chaucer’s other tales, but there’s a lot going on in it, so let me unpack some of its themes for you. For me, the most interesting aspects of this tale are its genre, its prologue, and its similarities to a contemporary Middle English poem called “The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle“.

Genre

Although it is generally placed into “the marriage group” by scholars, “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” is not necessarily a straight-forward love story. It is true that it centres around the marriage and eventual happiness of the bachelor and the old lady, but these occurrences seem to be lessons within a much bigger function. I should mention at this point that most of the stories in The Canterbury Tales tend to have morals; indeed, the Parson is scolded for attempting to tell a tale that doesn’t have a moral.

IMG_2679 (2).JPGPersonally, I view “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” as a story about the bachelor’s personal development. At the beginning of the story, he is facing a death sentence for abusing and disrespecting a young woman. By the end of the tale, however, he gives the old woman what she desires most in the world: her freedom. He has learnt the importance of respecting women and, ultimately, he is rewarded with a beautiful, faithful wife.

Chaucer is clearly encouraging some sort of respect for women here, although how far this should be taken is debatable. It’s all very well to say that Chaucer was the feminist of his day, but remember that this was the Middle Ages. When the bachelor gives the old woman sovereignty, he is only really giving her the power to decide what happens to her own body, not power over himself or matters of the court.

The Prologue

The stories told in The Canterbury Tales are generally accompanied by prologues that depict members of the pilgrimage discussing each other’s tales. In the Wife of Bath’s prologue, they learn all about how the Wife of Bath, Alisoun, overcomes men, playing them off against each other and essentially dominating them. This is interesting because it isn’t really what happens in “The Wife of Bath’s Tale”.

Whilst the idea of a woman being powerful is conveyed perfectly, the tale also makes it clear that she must be given this power by a man. This contradicts with how Alisoun describes overcoming her various husbands, as she didn’t wait to be told that she could steal from them, or that she could beat them after they beat her. Arguably, this contradiction suggests that Alisoun thinks she has a lot more power than she actually does; she presents her story as a message about female independence and strength, yet actually tells a story about the development of a man.

“The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle”

This contemporary poem is also set in the time of King Arthur, and also asks the question: what is it that women most desire? Here’s a short summary of the poem:

Gawain and Ragnelle.jpgArthur is asked this question when he is attacked by the knight Sir Gromer Somer Joure, whose lands have been (according to him) seized by Sir Gawain. Upon returning to his castle, Arthur tells Gawain what happened and the two decide to search for the answer together. They ride in separate directions and ask the question to everyone they come to, but can’t reach a solid conclusion. Arthur then decides to return to the forest where he met Sir Joure and finds an old, ugly woman called Ragnelle. She tells him that she will answer his question if she is permitted to marry Sir Gawain. With Gawain’s consent, the deal is agreed upon and Arthur is told that women most want sovereignty (the ability to make their own decisions).

Arthur’s life is thus saved and the wedding goes ahead. On their wedding night, Sir Gawain decides to love Ragnelle as if she were a beautiful woman but, when he turns to her, sees that she really is a beautiful woman. She explains that she has been cursed to look ugly, but only in the day, and then gives him a choice: he can either have her beautiful at night or beautiful in the day. Gawain rejects this choice and grants Ragnelle the sovereignty to make her own decision. This response breaks the curse and Ragnelle’s beauty is restored. The two live happily together for the rest of their lives.

So, as you can see, this poem is fairly similar to “The Wife of Bath’s Tale”. Unlike Chaucer’s version, however, it seems to focus only on appearance. Rather than offering Gawain either beauty of faithfulness, Ragnelle offers him different forms of beauty. It is also true that a primary focus of “The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle” appears to be not the relationship between Gawain and Ragnelle, but the relationship between Gawain and Arthur. There is no room in “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” to discuss this brotherhood, as it doesn’t depict Arthur as a focal character. In both tales, however, it is clear that, regardless of whether it considers a woman’s power or not, it is really about men and their relationships with each other.


Thank you so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed my summary of this tale. If you did, please feel free to leave me a comment below – it’ll make my day!