Songs to conjure images.

I personally love to listen to specific pieces of music to relate to ideas in poems. I thought that I would share some pieces of music that have helped me get into the mindset of Yeats and Atwood.

Yeats

Any songs from the battles in Les Misérables helps me envision the revolutionaries in Ireland, but some songs stick out particularly:

Red and Black/Do You Hear the People Sing

These are two songs (one after the other) in which the revolutionaries stir up hope and realise that they can stand up to the French government. ‘Do You Hear the People Sing’ (sometimes referred to as ‘The People’s Song’) is a classic tune which embodies the spirit of revolutionaries and has been used in many protests and strikes. It illustrates the point that people will not stand by and let bad things happen any more, which helps associate it in my head with the Irish Revolution in some of Yeats’ poetry.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cZ8VkQStMk

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Do You Hear the People Sing (Reprise)

This song is sung at the end of Les Mis – taking place in heaven, with all the dead revolutionaries singing about heaven and the afterlife, which conveys messages in ‘The Cold Heaven’ and the idea of wasted lives in ‘Easter 1916’. When I hear it I can imagine Wolfe, Emmet, Tone, Markiewicz, Pearse etc singing among them.

Atwood

This song is specific to ‘Half Hanged Mary’ and is from the musical Wicked. I feel that the persecution of Webster in the poem is parallel to the persecution of Elphaba (the Wicked Witch) in Wicked. This song is called ‘March of the Witch Hunters’ and is the Witch hunters (lead by Boq/the Tin Man) singing about their hunt. I feel it personifies the ‘show of hate’ against Webster.

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If you want to listen to more music of the same type, Les Mis, Wicked, Phantom of the Opera & The Lion King are my personal favourites!

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this music! 

Jack

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An Analysis of Half-Hanged Mary by Margaret Atwood – From 7pm til 10pm

‘Half-Hanged Mary’ is a poem detailing the unsuccessful hanging of Mary Webster, a woman accused of being a witch due to her “cure for warts” and her gender. The poem’s main focus is witchcraft and the persecution of women. It is a ballad with irregular stanza lengths, showing that we don’t know whether she will live. It is a first person narrative, from the thoughts of Webster herself. The poem is separated into hours, showing that the thoughts are over a long period of time, and also showing the fact that Mary is ‘half-hanged’ – she hasn’t died.

7pm

This set of stanzas details the rumours leading up to Webster’s accusation. The idea that “Rumour was loose in the air” gives the image and impression of a gas, yet the word “hunting” gives it a purpose, a malevolent nature, as if this gas is poisonous and isn’t hovering harmlessly, but sweeping over a village. The use of the words “neck” and “loose”  already conjure up images associated with hanging. It is ironic that Webster is participating in a pastoral act of nurture at this time, “milking the cow”, showing that she is responsible and not evil.

The use of imagery in stanza 2 shows that words can be used as weapons :”the aimed word”, “soft bullet”, almost alluding to the idiom ‘The pen is mightier than the sword” – that words can be more of a weapon  than any physical weapon. Atwood also subtly mentions two other methods of death in this stanza, “like water” – the idea of witches being drowned, and “thrown stone” – the idea of witched being stoned to death. 

Stanzas 3 and 4 detail why she was sentenced to hang. “A surefire cure for warts” shows that she was lucky in helping someone get rid of warts and was thus thought of as a witch. This is ironic as if she were a doctor or a priest it would be considered medical, or miraculous – yet because she is a woman who lives “alone” she is persecuted. She then highlights the fact that she is accused of being a witch because she is a woman, “and breasts”. The imagery of a “sweet per hidden in my body” representing the womb also highlights her feminine nature, but also conjures up images of the Biblical idea of forbidden fruit. 

8pm

These stanzas detail the actual act of hanging her. Atwood starts by saying that the “rope” was an “improvisation” – suggesting that they’d use a more brutal act of “axes” if they had thought about it. The use of the word “improvisation” and later on “show of hate” makes the whole thing sound like a piece of drama, a piece of theatre, highlighting the fact that in those days hangings were public entertainment. 

Atwood uses several images to describe her ascent, “a windfall in reverse”. The phrase “a flag raised to salute the moon” references the common belief at the time of Mary Webster that witch’s powers came from the moon. The image “a blackened apple stuck back onto the tree” has several connotations. The idea of a “blackened apple” gives ideas of black magic and the idea that magic can make you rotten. The “tree” also gives Biblical ideas of the Tree of Life, the birthplace of sin. Atwood also raises the idea of original sin by using the phrase “old original”.

“Their own evil turned inside out like a glove

and me wearing it.”

This image shows that it’s the executors who are evil, not Webster’s – yet she is the one that the public believe is evil. This is very powerful and conveys the message perfectly.

9pm

This selection of stanzas shows the reaction of the people and Webster’s reaction to them. She describes the puritans (“the bonnets”) and the nuns/priests (“the dark skirts”) as “lipless” – showing that they’re too scared to speak in case they associate themselves with the witch as they think “Birds of a feather burn together”. Atwood has deliberately twisted an idiom into this for effect. 

Atwood shows that Webster was a helpful woman, curing babies and helping those with unwanted ones, the “non-wife” who needed an abortion to “save” her life. And yet these people do not help her, not even offering a “hand, “bread” or a “shawl”. These three items conjure up Christian ideas, especially of the parable of the goats and the sheep. Atwood almost mocks the religious by saying “Lord knows” – these people are religious to the bone, and yet they’re selfish, they “need it all” and do not help Webster.

 

Thanks for reading,

Jack

A Chilly Paradise (An analysis of ‘The Cold Heaven’ by W.B. Yeats)

The whole of ‘The Cold Heaven’ is a dramatic metaphor for Yeats’ emotion, having realised that Maud Gonne (the love of his life) will probably never accept him. The poem is a 1st person narrative, with one stanza of free verse. Enjambment makes the poem sound like a rush of thoughts, as does the irregularity of the line lengths, yet this also gives Yeats space to explain his emotions. The fact that the poem itself is short reflects the fact that Yeats now believes life is short, his life has ended now that Gonne has gone. It is made up of one sentence of Yeats looking up at the sky and pondering about unrequited love and then another reflecting on the idea of the afterlife. The poem is in a Romantic style, heavily influenced and inspired by the works of other poets, such as William Blake.

The title itself is a paradox, heaven should be seem warm and gentle, whereas the use of the word “cold” makes it sound harsh. “Cold” is also the equal and opposite to the ‘hot’ of hell. This title immediately shows that Yeats opinion of heaven has changed now he’s lost Gonne, he imagined he would spend eternity with her there, but now it just seems lonely.

The poem brings you straight into the Yeats’ thoughts with the use of the word “Suddenly” and immediately expresses how Yeats’ opinion of heaven has changed as he has lost Gonne, “rook delighting heaven”. The rook is a death omen, which makes it sound like heaven is delighted by death. Yeats also refers to his relationship with Gonne by using an oxymoron:

“ice burned”

This seems doubly torturous, two extremes linking together. This could be interpreted as symbolising the idea that some relationships do not work, such as his relationship with Gonne.

Yeats refers back to the times he had with Gonne, of the “memories” they’d shared. He reflects back on the “hot blood of youth” – showing how he was much more energetic and passionate when he believed Gonne may have loved him back. Now he has realised that this is not the case, he has lost any energy or passion he previously possessed. Yeats also references “love crossed long ago” which could refer to the fact that his love of Gonne just passed her, she didn’t notice it, yet it could be alluding to the ‘star crossed lovers’: Romeo and Juliet in the works of Shakespeare. 

This poem could almost be seen as a symbolisation for sexual purgatory, as Yeats is not able to now engage in sexual activites with Gonne, and so he uses a variety of sexual terms, “hot blood”, “cried and trembled”, “rocked to and fro”.

Yeats questions his faith in the last few lines, suggesting that people only seem to accept things “as the books say” – a reference to the Bible and the strict faith of the Catholics at the time. He then questions God himself, talking about the “injustice of the skies” – almost saying; ‘Who is God to judge us?’. The poem ends with a rhetorical question, which shows that there is no answer to life – only questions.

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Thanks for reading,

Jack

Yeats in 2012/2013

This blog is such a good resource for AS Literature for WB Yeats! Check it out!

aterriblebeautyisborn

A new academic year will see many new (and some old!) students sitting the OCR AS English exam on W.B Yeats. We are here to help your study and we always appreciate your comments on our revision notes. If you have great ideas (or want to challenge some of our ideas!) please leave comments on our pages; your comments will only add to the quality of this resource. All comments are subject to moderation.

 

 

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Poet Vs Poet…

Actually love this interpretation of the task
By the way – title similarities were apparently completely coincidental!

The Room of Requirement.

Writing styles of different poets differentiate which is also the case for both Margaret Atwood and Carol Ann Duffy. They are both different, but very easy to recognise once you understand some of their techniques.

Margaret Atwood.

One of Atwood’s strongest techniques is the way in which she uses her grotesque verbs and nouns for example: ‘jammed’; ‘broken’; ‘ripped sack’ and ‘scraped the flesh’.

Along with her use of grotesque verbs and nouns she also uses ampersand to highlight how close the words are with their meaning ‘perfect & intact’ and also ‘raped & pregnant’, this portrays the maturity of her writing and also perceives the close relationship between the two words either side of the ampersand.

Another technique Atwood uses is that of her enjambment she uses this in a way which allows her lines to flow into one another, but keeps her versus separate. This then highlights that…

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A Woman’s Issue

‘A Woman’s Issue’ is a poem by Margaret Atwood which focuses on Atwood’s negative opinion of rape and abuse in war. The poem is split into 6 stanzas, giving four different gruesome images and then ending on a reflection. The poem is spoken as if someone is describing objects in a museum, “Exhibit A”. This conveys the fact that in some cultures women are objectified by men. The language is very simple and blunt, almost emotionless, so that anyone can read it and understand Atwood’s message. The blunt language could almost be seen as scientific and emotionless to show that men do not have sympathy for the women they rape, “The ones that die are carefully buried.” . Through this poem Atwood questions whether wars are fought for sex, “Is this why wars are fought?”.

The title immediately makes the reader think. The use of the word “Issue” in the title ‘A Woman’s Issue’ is a homonym, the phrase ‘a woman’s issue’ in medieval times was used to mean a woman’s time of the month, but the word ‘issue’ means a problem. This automatically makes the reader assume that the fact that women get pregnant is a problem.

Atwood uses grotesque descriptions to describe the abuse the girls received, “the spiked device”. The main device that makes these descriptions so graphic are the verbs; “jammed”, “scrape”, these show the pain that the women went through. As well as this the women are de-humanised, referred to as ‘exhibits’, they are objects there for man’s pleasing, “Men like tight women.”

Another device that Atwood uses is the use of ambiguous language. Atwood refers to a woman with “a net window”, probably referring to a veil, yet also conjures up images of being trapped in a net, a metaphor for women being trapped in their gender, not able to reach their full potential. The fifth stanza has lots of ambiguous language in it, comparing war to rape, and birth to death, “no man’s land to be entered furtively”, “doctor’s rubber gloves greasy with blood, flesh made inert”. The whole of the fifth stanza is a reflection on the fact that all these things are due to what is “between the legs”, and Atwood questions whether sex is “why wars are fought”.

The last stanza reveals that “This is no museum,”. Until now we assume that these horrific acts are tales of history, and yet Atwood now reminds us that these things still happen today. This is one of the main messages of the poem, that rape and abuse in war still occurs today, and that “love” is not part of it.

Thanks for reading,

Jack

Poet vs Poet (A title that sounds like a Cheesy educational TV Show)

The writing styles of Margaret Atwood and Carol Ann Duffy are very different yet both very recognisable. In this piece of writing I will attempt to convey their writing styles to you.

Atwood

Margaret Atwood mainly talks about women’s rights in a variety of forms, and whether it be rape, abortion, education or voice they all share common features.

The main device that Atwood uses throughout almost all of her poetry is that of grotesque imagery. Most of the poems of hers that I have read include at least one snapshot of a gruesome story, using graphic images, “punctured herself with kitchen skewers”. The main device that makes these descriptions so vivid is the use of graphic verbs, “scrape”, “jammed”,”ripped”. Aswell as this these words are slightly onomatopoeic which gives the reader a sound to associate with their mental image. 

Another feature of Atwood’s poetry is her use of punctuation. Throughout most of her poetry the punctuation is sparse and enjambment is heavily used. In “Christmas Carols” Atwood mainly starts sentences in the middle of lines to give a theme that the topic still goes on today, not only being held in the past. Despite the enjambment Atwood always capitalises at the beginning of each line.

 

Duffy

I personally haven’t read much of Carol Ann Duffy’s poetry, yet the two poems I have read, “Havisham” and “Valentines” both have similar techniques used. Both are on the topic of love but have contrasting stances. “Havisham” is about a woman in an unhappy marriage, whereas “Valentines” is about a woman who wants to find the right way to express her love – albeit in an unconventional way.

A main feature in “Havisham” is enjambment, with sentences running over lines both within stanzas and even over stanzas giving the whole poem a disjointed feeling, just like the marriage that is obviously not due to love, “hate behind a white veil;”. Duffy, in contrast to Atwood, doesn’t capitalise the beginning of a line unless it’s the beginning of a sentence. Duffy uses punctuation less sparsely than Atwood, “slewed mirror, full length, her, myself,” and also uses very short sentences to emphasise a point, “Take it.”.

Duffy also uses specific semantic fields, for example in “Valentines” she uses the semantic field of love; “possessive and faithful”. As well as this she uses onomatopeia, “Bang”, this can have different effects, surprising the reader, or even recreating sounds, such as “the heart that b-b-b-breaks”. The extended ‘b’s replicate the sound of a heartbeat.