1) a) “When in Disgrace with Fortune and Men’s Eyes” and “How Do I Love Thee?” are both English, or Shakespearean, sonnets. Shakespeare’s poem has three main thoughts. Each thought is contained in one set of rhymes and each set consists of four lines, or a quatrain. The first quatrain in Shakespeare’s poem speaks of the self-pity of one in disgrace. The second quatrain speaks of the narrator’s envy of other people that he deems more fortunate than himself. The third quatrain speaks of the character finding hope once again. Shakespeare develops his ideas by presenting his argument into these three main points, each contained in one quartet and then presents a conclusion to this argument in an ending couplet, which in this poem refers to how the character realizes he would rather have love than trade places with kings, or in other words, those more materially fortunate than him.
Browning’s poem on the other hand does not have neatly divided quatrains. Like Shakespeare, she makes use of end rhymes. The end rhymes in the first, fourth, fifth, and eighth lines all rhyme. The end rhymes in the second, third, sixth and seventh line rhyme as well. Lines one through seven can be deemed one division of the poem since lines eight through fourteen in the poem are likewise grouped together by their alternating end rhymes. The end rhymes in the ninth, eleventh, and thirteenth lines rhyme together, whereas the end rhymes in the tenth, twelfth, and fourteenth lines rhyme with each other. Thus, with Browning, instead of quatrain, there are essentially two groups of lines, lines one through seven and lines eight through fourteen, marked off by rhymes.
When the two poems are compared, one can observe that the development in Shakespeare’s poem is organized. One argument is presented after the other, and it demonstrates how the character moves from one emotion (self-pity, then envy) to another (realization that there is no need to be envious). There is progression in that sense of how the character feels. At the end of Shakespeare’s poem, the character feels justified. On the other hand, Browning’s poem consistently shows one emotion, and one argument throughout the poem, which is someone measuring and expressing how much the narrator loves another person. There is no argument and no conclusion, just one sweeping expression of love, which the poet compares and expresses in different ways, yet the main theme of love remains constant.
b) “Buffalo Bill’s” does not employ any repetition or any rhymes. It refers to a man called Buffalo Bill and the structure of the poem is appropriate for capturing the essence of the man. EE Cummings uses run-on sentences, which works and is appropriate because it delivers the impression that Buffalo Bill is a wild, happy-go-lucky kind of guy. This impression is affirmed at the end of the poem when the poet refers to Buffalo Bill as “Mister Death” explaining that Buffalo Bill, for all his wild ways and his carefree lifestyle, died. Cummings also refers to Buffalo Bill in the past tense so it sounds like a person reminiscing the way Buffalo Bill lived. The style that the poet follows for this poem is free verse.
“Lonely Hearts” is just as brief but unlike Cummings, Wendy Cope uses end rhymes, with the end rhymes in the first, third, and fourth lines rhyming with each other, and the second and fifth line rhyming together. Each line is end-stopped, in other words, every line ends with a punctuation mark. The use of end-stopping works here, because it helps set the mood that the character is looking for someone because the character is trying to sell him or herself. The character tells us about what he or she likes, and the character throws some questions about the person he or she can possible meet, such as “Do you live in North London?” and “Is it you?” The poem sounds lonely and a bit desperate, and the use of end-stopped lines really help to convey this feeling.
“Because I could not stop for Death” is a sonnet by Emily Dickinson, and like her previous sonnet, it follows the English, or Shakespearean, style. There are five paragraphs with four lines each, so there are four quatrains. For each quatrain, only the second and fourth line rhymes, and they do not rhyme perfectly (half-rhymes). The structure is appropriate to the theme of the poem since Dickinson speaks of death as if she does not dread it. There is a sense of acceptance and of looking back. The mood is almost leisurely, as she calmly accepts her fate. The division into quatrains, the use of punctuations, and the half rhymes all help to convey that the theme of the poem is not fear of death, but almost a gradual and calm acceptance of it.
2) The four poems, “To His Coy Mistress,” “Ulysses,” “Fern Hill,” and “Sailing to Byzantium” all share a concern with mortality, although approached in different ways.
In “To His Coy Mistress,” Andrew Marvell deals with a man loving his mistress, and how that love is running out of time. Despite that, the poet illustrates how the man shows his mistress that regardless of time, he will always love her. Mortality here actually speaks of love that transcends mortality. But, since it is an illicit love, it is a love that only finds its expression during mortality. Once they die, or once their time comes to an end, that love will not survive. It doesn’t even have to be death here that Marvell is referring to. Death could also mean “discovery” in the sense that the illicit affair won’t be able to continue once the man’s wife or family discovers the affair. That is death as well (death of the affair) in a different sense. Thus, the man in this poem tells his mistress that while they still can, while they can still extend the time they have, they may as well make good use of it (“Thus, though we cannot make our sun/ Stand still, yet we will make him run.”). I think the best symbol for mortality here is when the poet refers to his “vegetable love” in the eleventh line. His love for his mistress is a vegetable, in that growth is slow. And “vegetable” connotes paralysis, almost helplessness, as when you refer to a paralyzed invalid who is no more than a “vegetable.”
In “Ulysses” by Lord Alfred Tennyson, the symbol of mortality for the king is the sea. The king reflects on how he can no longer sail, or set forth, or travel and conquer the way he used to when he was younger. He speaks of sailing beyond the sunset, and of the stars overlooking the seas. He also consistently refers to a certain restlessness (“For always roaming with a hungry heart”/ “I cannot rest from travel: I will drink”/ “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield”). There is an acceptance of mortality here, but though the king accepts this, there is still that restlessness inside him, and that feeling of not wanting to just sit down and wait for his death.
The words “green” and “golden” appear numerous times in the poem “Fern Hill” by Dylan Thomas, and the symbol that makes you think of mortality is nature or the countryside. The poem discusses the poet’s love of his carefree days when he was young, living on their farm out in the countryside. It speaks of mortality never dying as long as the countryside or nature is in full bloom. The poet speaks of death coming near, but how this does not scare him or will never really beat him as long as he is surrounded by nature, by the countryside, since it makes him feel alive. The poem conveys to us that though death is a certainty, nature and the world around us keeps going on and on, constant even when we are gone.
In “Sailing to Byzantium” the poet, William Butler Yeats, refers to mortality as “a dying animal.” That symbol of mortality is referred to with a bit of scorn – the end goal should be this place called Byzantium, which is beyond mortality. Byzantium, the poet says, is “no country for old men.” It is depicted as a kind of heaven, where eternity lies. Mortality is viewed by the poem as a mere stepping-stone to a greater place beyond – Byzantium.
3) Imagery is most often defined as the total sensory suggestion of poetry. Image is often something visual, or something we see. However, in poetry, the concept of imagery may refer to two things. It may be something that represents something from the real world, or an image may be something seen for itself, not necessarily representing something real. In poetry, imagery is not necessarily something that represents something from our everyday reality, but instead something that may be connected or tied to it, but still stands on its own.
The imagery in “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden is coldness: Coldness not just of the home, but also of the heart. Phrases such as “blueback cold,” “cracked hands,” “cold splintering, breaking,” and “chronic angers” leads one to imagine a very, very cold house, such as a log cabin where people must constantly light log fires. The imagery in this poem makes you think of ice, and winter, and everything cold, but it doesn’t just refer to a cold house. It creates the picture of a cold and strained relationship between a father and a son.
In “The Chimney Sweeper” by William Blake, I did not get as clear a visual imagery as Robert Hayden’s poem. The imagery is lifted here from the monologue of the character in the poem – an orphaned boy, most likely a chimney sweeper as gathered from the title. The only actual reference to a chimney sweeper is a “little black thing in the snow” but then there is no other reference to a chimney sweeper, or even a chimney throughout the poem, so in that sense the title is a bit misleading. Though it is about a chimney sweeper, it is mostly about the loneliness and abandonment that the chimney sweeper is feeling since his parents died. This image of abandonment comes from the way the chimney sweeper speaks of his parents, “They think they have done me no injury.” Unlike Hayden’s poem, where the imagery and the emotion you get are visual, here it is because of the chimney sweeper’s speech. The image based on what he already says and feels. Unlike in “Those Winter Sundays,” Blake gives you the visuals and your imagination takes you to the emotion that the characters must be feeling.
4) A literary symbol has been defined to mean more than what it is. It has layers of meanings. Whereas an image has one meaning, a symbol has many. Another definition of literary symbol is that it is an object, animal, or person that in the context of a literary work means more than what it, he, or she literally is. It suggests or represents additional meanings through repetition and juxtaposition. In other words, a literary symbol thus is an object, person or animal that a poet uses and attaches additional meanings to what the word means. The poet may also attach more than one meaning to the symbol.
a) The literary symbol in the poem “The Lake Isle of Innesfree” by William Butler Yeats is the place called Innesfree itself. What it represents is peace of heart or peace of mind.
The literary symbol in the poem “Rites of Passage” by Sharon Olds is a little boy’s birthday party. It represents machismo, or the attitude men have around each other of trying to appear tough or in control.
b) “Innesfree” in Yeats’ poem represents peace of heart or mind. The symbol of depicting peace of mind as a specific place (Innesfree) makes it easier for the reader to understand that peace of mind is something that we can go to. This is the place to find solitude, and where you turn to when you want contentment or some peace of mind. The place may not really exist, but Yeats says you hear it from “the deep heart’s core.” In other words, we have it all inside us and the poet simply says that perhaps it’s a matter of being aware of it.
In the poem “Rites of Passage” the poet describes how the little boys challenge each other, uncomfortably, menacingly, and trying to outdo each other. What the birthday party, and actually the little boys therein, symbolize is the attitude that men have around each other: machismo or posturing. It is machismo – sizing each other up, gauging what the other guy has or what he can do, and finally relaxing and letting down their guard. The poem seems to tell us that men, even as young as six or seven years old, have that macho complex that makes them act up, as if they always have to prove how tough they are before they can finally relax and openly enjoy each other’s company without worrying about their image.
5) The central poetic figure in the poem “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner” by Randall Jarrell is precisely the ball turret gunner. A ball turret is a machine gun wherein a very small man can fit inside; the man or gunner inside somewhat resembles a baby or fetus inside a mother’s womb. The figure of speech used here is personification, since the poet is attaching a personality to an inanimate or impersonal object, and in this case it is a ball turret. The poem seems to depict not necessarily war but how we explode into the world ready to do battle with life, and then subsequently to die and be flushed out, similar to the ball turret gunner. It could also refer to a baby, struggling to be born or to live, only to die and be flushed out of the mother’s womb. It may also refer to a soldier, who seems to be trapped and left with no choice to fight, until he dies and is flushed out since he is no longer useful. The other central figure is the mother who is referred to in the first line. This ‘mother’ may be a personification of the ball turret gun who houses a gunner like a mother keeps an unborn child in her womb. When the child is fully grown, it is pushed out. Similarly, the gun also pushes out the gunner after the war is completed.
In Leaving Forever, the ship is one of the central poetic figures. It is used as a metaphor for life. The mountains signify the difficulties that we overcome in the course of life and life takes us away from them as we stand firm and determined. The other central poetic figure is the narrator or the main protagonist, who despite discouragement from others, stands determined and does not show signs of weakness. This narrator is a metaphor for the man who epitomizes a man whose difficulties only make him more determined to succeed. Others may have different perspectives about life and its retrospection, but this man cares not and likes to learn from the mountains that he has conquered.
6) The poetic concept of tone has been defined as based upon the assumption that a literary work can be regarded as representing some of the special qualities of a mode of speech. It is considered to be the author’s way of revealing an attitude toward some subject but not necessarily the attitude of the author. It is, in essence, the mood that the poem creates in the reader. An author may adopt a persona which is at variance with his own character – the tone of such a persona will be chosen by the author, but will not be that of the author.
The tone of the poem “Fire and Ice” by Robert Frost is that the poet adapts an attitude of seeing the world from two different points of view: one full of warmth and desire (fire), and one that views the world with hatred (ice). Indifference, he seems to be telling us, can destruct or numb us, like ice. Similarly, the attitude that Stevie Smith adapts in “Not Waving But Drowning” is also indifference. He seems to tell us that indifference could be the death of us, or fatal. Both poets therefore bring out the tome of indifference but in different ways as we can see from the following analysis.
Robert Frost establishes this tone in the poem by making use of the two elements: fire and ice. Fire depicts desire in this poem; it denotes life, passion (“From what I’ve tasted of desire/ I hold with those who favor fire”). Frost refers to ice as depicting hatred; it makes you think of being cold or indifferent, of not feeling anything (“To know that for destruction ice/ Is also great/ And would suffice”).
Stevie Smith establishes this attitude of indifference or tone of indifference in his poem by referring to a drowning man. He tells us that when we don’t look closely enough, we fail to notice when other people are in trouble or in pain (“I was much further out than you thought/ And not waving but drowning”). When something bad happens, we think it is an isolated stroke of bad luck (“It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way”), we don’t realize that maybe that person in need had been crying out for help before. The signs are there but we don’t see them (“Oh, no no no, it was too cold always) because of our indifference.
The tone of indifference in the poem “Fire and Ice” leads to the establishment of the theme of the poem as it is this indifference that actually awakens us to the fact that life has to end someday and it hardly matters whether it ends in fire (desire) or ends in ice (coldness or unfeeling attitude). The indifference brings out the theme that it is the end of life that is the unchanging truth and the means does not matter. In “Not waving but drowning”, the tone of indifference brings out effectively that indifference to someone else’s pain or pleasure can be so hard hitting. The poet speaks of death casually, with indifference, and makes the readers realize what a callous attitude that is.
7) The word “connotation” tells us that every word or phrase has two kinds of meaning: primary, literal meanings (sometimes called denotations), and secondary meanings known as connotations. Connotations are thought to color what a word really means with emotion or value judgments. Based on this definition, a connotation means the definition of words or phrases are colored or influenced by our emotions and judgments. They take on a different or slightly different meaning based on what we feel and think, and how we react to a certain word based on our experience or knowledge of such a word. Our reaction towards a word may also take on a different meaning based on the circumstances or situations we find ourselves in or where we previously encountered such a word.
On the other hand, a word is deemed ambiguous if the word can be interpreted in more than one way. Ambiguity is distinct from vagueness, which arises when the boundaries of meaning are indistinct. In other words, based on the definition provided, ambiguity refers to a situation where the meaning of the word is not clear since it may be open to more than one interpretation.
a) An example of ambiguity is when the poet, Ha Jin, in “Missed Time” refers to a “blank” notebook (“My notebook has remained blank for months”). An example of a connotation in the same poem is the use of “storyless” (“Nothing is better than to live a storyless life that needs no writing for meaning”).
In the poem “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop, an example of an ambiguous word is “evident,” the last word in the poem. A connotation is the use of the word “losing” in this poem.
b) The word “blank” in “Missed Time” is ambiguous when taken with the entire poem, since the character in the poem insists he is happy, but then he refers to his blank notebook, or in other words, his blank life. What does this blankness mean if it makes the man happy? A connotation used in this poem is when Ha Jin refers to a “storyless” life. “Storyless” connotes something that never happened, uneventful, or boring, yet this is open to more than one meaning, since in this poem Ha Jin refers to a man who is actually happy about his storyless life. The reader is not sure whether he is referring to an empty life, or a trouble-free life, or a life that has no meaning, or a life where nothing happened. It’s confusing in a sense because you connote storyless as being something uneventful, yet the man in this poem seems to be happy precisely because his life was storyless.
In Elizabeth Bishop’s poem, the word “evident” is ambiguous because the reader isn’t sure about what exactly is evident (“Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident.”) You wonder, what’s evident? That she lost that person? That she shouldn’t have lied? Or that she lied? Or that losing that person wasn’t a disaster (since throughout the poem the poet speaks of how losing something isn’t a disaster)? In this sense, the use of the word “evident” is ambiguous. On the other hand, the poet also uses the word “losing” (“The art of losing isn’t hard to master”). Losing connotes defeat when you hear it in the phrase “art of losing.” You connote it with losing gracefully, of accepting defeat gracefully. When the author says, “The art of losing isn’t hard to master,” you may interpret it initially as the art of defeat isn’t hard to master, yet when she refers to “Lose something everyday,” then you understand that she is referring to losing something, or misplacing something. So in that sense, the word “losing” in this poem can connote more than one meaning.
8) “A Route to Evanescence” by Emily Dickinson was at first difficult to grasp. Evanescence means to fade or to gradually vanish. In the poem, Dickinson refers to evanescence “With a revolving Wheel,” and “A Resonance of Emerald,” and “A Rush of Cochineal.” At first the images seem to speak of spring, the emerald referring to leaves of green, and the cochineal being insects, and flowers in a bush. It could mean that spring, or seasons in general, simply revolve like a wheel. Seasons fade and then come back. However, I think that Dickinson may simply be referring to a mailman’s car. How the mailman comes and delivers the mail, disturbing the bushes and the cochineal insects, as he rushes through someone’s yard to bring the mail, then disappear again as he drives off. The poem definitely makes you picture a garden or a front yard at least, when it refers to bushes, insects, leaves, and mail.
“My Life Had Stood – A Loaded Gun” by Emily Dickinson on the other hand, in contrast to the previous poem, has an obvious subject of a gun. The gun describes how it accompanies its owner into the woods to hunt, and how “every time I speak for Him – The Mountains straight reply.” When guns are shot, nature reacts, and leaves are rustled, animals scurry away, and birds take flight. When people go hunting, there is silence at first, and then when a gun is shot, you hear a lot of rustling, and movement as the animals react to the shot. The gun also refers to guarding his master’s head, better than a pillow stuffed with duck feathers. Lastly, you the impression that the poet is referring to an inanimate, or non-living object, since the gun in the end mentions how it has the power to kill but not the power to die.
The poems give us an insight into Emily Dickinson’s beliefs about life and nature. The first poem “A Route to Evanescence” tell us the Emily believed that life goes on without ceasing, no matter what may happen. Seasons come and go; pain and pleasure are a part and parcel of life, but the wheel revolves continuously and time does not stop for anyone. Thus, she tries to put a message across to the reader that whatever may happen, however tough circumstances may seem, one must always remember that every phase in life is just a passing phase. The other poem “My life has stood- a loaded gun” describes the life of an inanimate object and tells us that the poet supports the comforts brought to us by a scientific invention. A gun, which is the protagonist in this poem, tells us that it is committed to a lifetime of service to its master and is deadly for anyone who may wish to harm its master. Through this silent and subtle connotation, the poet has silently expressed her belief in the faithfulness of the inanimate objects man has created for his use.
9) The poem “Harlem” by Langston Hughes was written in post-World War II in Harlem. The poem speaks of a dream deferred, and speaks of the social discrimination that African-Americans went through in the United States. Hughes speaks of how dreams rot or decay if left unattended. He speaks for African-Americans who are discriminated against from their jobs, from restaurants, and generally from many opportunities that their white counterparts had during that time. Hughes ends the poem with “Or does it explode?” and this tells that suppression, or misery, or when people are restrained like the African-Americans were, then usually people explode into action or fight for change. In fact, this did happen with the Civil Rights Movement. The African-Americans fought for social and political reform. So even though this poem may seem to refer to an individual dreamer whose dreams were deferred, based on the historical context when Hughes wrote this poem, it actually speaks of the entire African-American race, and how their freedom and dreams were deferred.
The poem “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke tells of a young boy dancing a waltz with his drunken father. Initially, this may not seem to be a happy little domestic scene. The poem refers to the boy hanging on to his father “like death” and of pans sliding from the kitchen shelf, and of the boy’s mother’s countenance which “Could not unfrown itself.” The poem speaks of “The hand that held my wrist was battered on one knuckle.” A battered knuckle may imply that someone has been using their fist frequently to punch something. Hard work after all is usually seen in rough palms, not battered knuckles, so battered knuckles connote violence. The poem further mentions “You beat time on my head.” In other words, it generally makes the reader think that the young boy in this poem was beaten by his drunken father, while his mother looked on disapprovingly but helpless. Taken in the context of Theodore Roethke’s life, research on his biography showed no mention of any child abuse on his part by his father. However, Roethke did suffer from repeated bouts of depression, and the only mention of his father was that his father owned a greenhouse and came from Germany. Roethke’s other poems also focused on nature, and imagery from nature, so “My Papa’s Waltz” was one of his poems that did not revolve around his usual theme. All these, however, are speculations based on what is known of Roethke’s real life, but do not positively affirm that his father abused him. On a more positive note, the poem could also simply be that the boy had this little playful ritual with his father, who happened to like drinking. His mother watches on with disapproval since the boy should probably be in bed. It could also be that the poem is in no way a reflection of Roethke’s life.
The reader response to the poem “Heat” by H.D. is sympathy since the poem seems to be referring to an unbearable heat, or a drought. It takes the reader to a situation where plants do not grow properly because of lack of air, and where the heat is stifling and dries up everything. There is a tone of despair in this poem, so it seems to be not just about someone who is feeling extremely hot on a summer day. The poet refers to fruits (“Fruit cannot drop through this thick air”) and ploughing, and it makes the reader think of a farm, where the farmer’s crops are not growing properly since they need water, and there is none. The response is that perhaps there are people starving, too, because of this heat. There seems to be a prayer for the wind to come, to bring along not just coolness but also the rain, to end the unbearable heat or drought depicted in this poem. The narrator in this poem is asking, almost begging, for respite from the heat.
Lastly, a deconstructive reading of the poem “The Heaven of Animals” by James Dickey starts with the first stanza, which opens with the sentence “Here they are. The soft eyes open.” This stanza refers to the animals in the third person, as the animals are clearly not the narrators in this poem. It refers to animals opening their eyes to find themselves in the woods, or plains, which exist forever. This signifies that the animals find themselves awakening, after their death, into a sort of animal heaven where grass lives on forever. The animals also find themselves in the same setting where they had been when they died, only this time it is heaven, an eternal place.
The second stanza tells us that the animals have no soul, and no knowledge or consciousness that they have come to heaven, or that this place actually is their heaven. Despite not having a soul, the stanza tells us that in this heaven, however, the animals’ instincts are wholly present. The third stanza provides a description of this animal heaven – of flowers, wood, and field, outdoing their counterparts on earth. The fourth stanza tells us that some animals may feel that there is something not quite familiar in this place, and that perhaps this is not really their home or where they come. And these animals react by hunting, with their claws and teeth still intact. In other words, their predatory instincts are alive and well in heaven, just as they were on earth. The fifth paragraph tells how these animal instincts are sharper, and how this predatory instinct is more skilled and deadly in heaven. Yet the sixth paragraph tells about the hunted – the animals that predators hunt, and how these animals are aware that this heaven is their reward and they are able to walk again. Contrary to the second stanza, where the narrator tells that animals are “beyond their knowing,” the seventh paragraph says that “Under such trees in full knowledge” the animals live on in glory. In other words, they are aware of their fate, and they are aware why they are here and have accepted that they belong here without fear. The last stanza tells how these animals imitate life on earth as “They fall, they are torn, they rise, they walk again.” In other words, in heaven there is hunting – the predators hunt, the hunted fall and die… and rise again. In short, it mimics the cycle of life, this heaven for animals, but unlike life on earth, those who die never actually die.