Carol Ann Duffy and Simon Armitage Poetry Essay
Compare how the threat of death is presented in the poems you have studied.
Choose two poems from list A and two from list B
List A List B
Havisham On my First Sonne
Education for Leisure The Laboratory
Hitcher The Man He Killed
November My Last Duchess
Each of these four poems, Havisham, Hitcher, On my first Sonne and The Laboratory carry the theme of death and the threat of death. Each of them use a variety of strategies to present these themes through their language. Hitcher and The Laboratory having a slightly more dismissive view than the poems Havisham and On my first Sonne.
The structure of these four poems shows the attitude to death within them. For instance the poem On my first Sonne is arranged in quite regular twelve lines, this is an elegy format or alternatively could be looked on as a sonnet. The layout like a sonnet shows the love Johnson had for his son, however the fact that it is also in the layout of an elegy shows the mourning he is going through. Enjambment only occurs once in this poem, ‘say here doth lye/Ben.’ this may show that although Johnson is trying to control his emotions and be brave about the issue of death, his feelings sometimes carry him away and he is still confused and upset by the death of his son. ‘The Laboratory’ consists of 12 stanzas, this is extremely long compared to On my first sonne, this may show the excitable and easily distracted mind of the persona of ‘The Laboratory’, the enjambment such as ‘I brought/ my own eyes’ also shows her excitable, and slightly crazy nature. The fact that the stanzas are quite regular, show that the threat of death the persona is presenting is calculated and she knows what she is doing. The poem ‘Havisham’ is in four regular stanzas, this shows that how the persona Havisham has been brewing and has had time to calculate her anger after her jilting. However, the enjambment still shows her instability as a person. ‘Hitcher’ has 5 regular stanzas each of five lines, There are lots of short sentences combined with long sentences, (showing eratic behaviour and thoughts) and enjambment included in this poem, such as ‘It was hired.’ and ‘once/ with the head’ showing his extreme instability and inability to control his emotions, this is extremely like the arrangement of Havisham.
“On my first Sonne” is a poem where Jonson describes his reaction to sorrow when his first son dies. Jonson confronts conflict, loss and despair when “Ben Jonson his best piece of poetrie” was “exacted by fate, on the just day”. He uses his son as an inspiration in this poem and describes his different stages that he has gone through by using language and ...
The language in each poem also is a major part in how death is presented. In the poem ‘Havisham’ the language is confused yet striking. The first line grabs the reader’s attention with the oxymoron ‘Beloved sweetheart bastard’. The image of a wedding runs through the whole poem, often used as a way to describe how Havisham is feeling, for instance ‘the dress/ yellowing’, this may be literally true as in the story Havisham sits in wedding dress as it ages, however it can also be an image of how she is feeling, she is getting older as well, yellowing as if out of date and past the best she was on her wedding day. The elision of the phrase ‘long slow honeymoon’, makes the persona have an evil and menacing tone, which reflects the threat of death implied at this point. The language of Hitcher however reflects the light hearted response to murder the persona has. For instance the image of weather is used throughout the poem to show how the persona is feeling. After he has committed the murderous attack, he describes the weather as ‘moderate to fair’ showing how he is feeling and showing he doesn’t really care what has just happened. Also as the image of weather was used at the beginning of the poem as the persona had been ‘under the weather’, the killing had improved his mood so much that afterwards the ‘outlook…was moderate to fair’.
Black humour is also used throughout the poem to show the attitude to death, ‘six times with the krooklok/ in the face- and didn’t even swerve.’ In some ways ‘The Laboratory’s language is quite similar to this, as is the tone. Like in ‘Hitcher’ the language is very descriptive, for example ‘soft phial, the exquisite blue’. The descriptive language used by both personas shows that they feel quite comfortable with the idea of committing murder, and in ‘the Laboratory’s instance her excitement for it. A lot of onomatopoeia is used through ‘The Laboratory’, Browning has done this probably to display the craziness of the persona, she gets excited about the poison so uses sounds to express her emotions, ‘such gold oozings come!’. Johnson uses very different language to the rest of these four poems as his poem has a completely different tone. Johnson expresses his devastation of his son’s death by using techniques such as alliteration to emphasise certain points of the poem, ‘piece of poetrie’. This point is emphasised as Johnson is making the point that his son was his best creation. There is also the faint metaphor of money used to describe how he feels about his son, ‘tho’wert lent to me, and I thee pay’, the use of the metaphor may be an expression of Johnson not knowing how to express his emotions without using a metaphor to help him.
It is the only experience that everyone is guaranteed. Some do it together and some do it alone; but in the end everyone dies. The inevitability of death has inspired many poets. Whether it is accepted death as in Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost, or a plea for someone not to go as in Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas, or a forced demise as in the poem My ...
The three poems ‘Havisham’, ‘Hitcher’ and ‘The Laboratory’ all have similar attitudes to the theme of death within them, all referring to revenge. The persona in ‘Hitcher’ is resentful to the care free life the hitcher seems to have and seeks revenge by letting ‘him have it’. He seems to take pride in the killing, as he ‘didn’t even swerve’. ‘The Laboratory’ is also a poem of revenge as ‘he is sure to remember her dying face’. The persona in ‘The Laboratory’ is getting revenge as her lover has had an affair and because of this she is going to kill his mistress. The striking thing is with this poem is that she knows what she is doing is wrong but she doesn’t care, much like the persona of Hitcher. The tone of ‘Havisham’ is much more sinister and more linked to threat of death and the will to murder somebody, rather than doing anything about it. The tone is much more sinister and the want to kill in her is quite disturbing, she ‘prayed for it/ so hard I’ve got dark green pebbles for eyes.’ These three poems all refer to a murderers view to death, so all have a slightly differing view to death than most people, ‘Hitcher’ and ‘The Laboratory’ referring to death as mundane and humorous and ‘Havisham’ referring to the deranged thoughts of a murderous resentful ‘Spinster’.
Gerhard Friedrich This poem seems to present two major problems to the interpreter. First, what is the significance of the buzzing fly in relation to the dying person, and second, what is the meaning of the double use of "see" in the last line An analysis of the context helps to clear up these apparent obscurities, and a close parallel found in another Dickinson poem reinforces such ...
‘On my first sonne’ is a sharp contrast to all three of these poems as the attitude to death is completely normal. Johnson is mourning the death of his son, and trying to come to terms with what has happened, including making the situation seem better by saying that his son has ‘scap’d worlds, and fleshes rage’ and maybe his son is better off dead. Unlike the others ‘On my first sonne’ shows the pain death causes people and how it has an long lasting effect for all the people involved, the death of Johnsons son for instance has meant ‘As what he loves may never like too much’, so Johnson will never love anything as much as his son again just in case he loses it. One main contrast would be ‘Havisham’, ‘Hitcher’ and ‘The Laboratory’ are a view of death before it happens and ‘On my first sonne’ is a view from after a death has occurred making it have a completely different attitude.
In conclusion, there are some strong contrasts between how these poems represent death, with ‘Havisham’ showing the demented, disturbing thoughts of a ‘could be’ murderer, ‘Hitcher’ and ‘The Laboratory’ showing the light hearted view some have to the loss of life and ‘On my first sonne’ showing the emotional turmoil a death of a loved one puts somebody through. ‘On my first sonne’ is my favourite response to death out of all these poems as it is very sentimental and really makes you feel empathy for Johnson and actually feel grief with him. Also as we know that it is autobiographical which also adds to the feeling of empathy. However I do also find ‘The Laboratory’ an interesting and humorous response to the threat of death and I feel Browning makes it an enjoyable and interesting poem to read.