A comparative poetic essay: “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes & “A Case of Murder” by Vernon Scannell
Is love a good thing or a bad thing? Without love people become depressed and insane, but with strong feelings of love, people become reckless and hot-blooded. In ‘The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes’, a theme which is present is “Love is an uncontrollable emotion”. The poet uses techniques such as symbolism and metaphor to portray this idea. In the poem ‘A Case Of Murder by Vernon Scannell’, an important idea is “The lack of love in a person’s life can lead to violence and bad consequences”. The poet uses techniques such as metaphor and repetition to get this idea across.
In ‘The Highwayman’, the clever use of metaphor shows that love is limitless and can blind you to your surroundings. In the first stanza, the setting does a lot to hint at the romance that follows with the sentences ” The wind was a torrent of darkness upon the gusty trees” “The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.” The wind creates a rhythm for the poem. The sentences “Nearer he came – nearer, nearer” and ” He clattered and clashed” gives the feeling of a strong wind while a sentence like “Dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable wicket creaked” makes it feel like the wind has calmed down. The rhythm of the wind reflects the highwayman’s love for Bess and shows us love is never calm. By describing the night sky, the poet hints that love is never-ending, just like the sky. As the sky is also compared to a sea, it also show that the love they have is deep. The ocean is symbolic of a vast, uncontrollable force that is both a place for adventure and a place of danger. Just as people drown in the sea, Bess and the highwayman are in danger of ‘drowning’ in their deep love for each other. Bess and the highwayman know it is dangerous for them to meet, yet they still do. Love blinds them to the danger they are in. When someone is so focused on love, they cannot think of anything else. Love can cause people to become reckless and not give themselves a second thought. No matter what happens, their loved ones will come first. This love is like a mother’s unconditional love for her children. She will do anything and sacrifice anything to protect them from harm.
The use of connotation in ‘The Highwayman’ portrays the theme that love is the ultimate sacrifice. In this poem, the colour red is used to describe many things. His “claret velvet coat”, Bess’s “dark red love-knot”, the Redcoats and Bess’s body “drenched in her own red blood” all symbolize either passion and romance or sacrifice and hurt. As this poem is passionate and dangerous at the same time, the colour red is perfect for the mood of the poem. In the first stanza, the poet writes “ The road was a ribbon of monlight looping the purple moor” The road is described as a ribbon because it shows that no matter how far apart they may be, they will still continue to love each other. The ribbon ties the lovers together and connects their strong feelings. The unravelling of a ribbon can symbolize the “unravelling” of your life because of an event. The love that Bess harbours for the highwayman is so strong that she gives her own life to save his later on in the poem.. Humans will do anything to protect their loved ones from danger. In the recent Japanese nuclear disaster, many selfless workers are risking their lives for their country. They know of the danger they are in, yet they continue to work. How many of us would sacrifice ourselves for the ones we love?
In ‘A Case Of Murder’ , the poet cleverly portrays the theme that neglect and the absence of love can deeply impact a child with the technique repetition. The first four lines of the poem hint that something bad is going to happen as the boy is left alone. The word ‘alone’ is repeated four times in the first five lines. The repetition of the word emphasizes the fact that the boy does not interact with anyone very much. The repetition also seems like an echo, highlighting the boy’s loneliness. This ‘echo’ shows how truly lonesome the boy is and how his life is empty and without meaning. In the lines “He watched it sit”, “…. and the way it sat” and “He sat and watched …” the word sit is repeated. As stated in line three, the boy is nine years old and at an age where he should be playing outside with his friends. Instead he is sitting with an animal that prefers not to move from its spot. The lack of fun and action shows that his parents don’t care about him enough to find ways to entertain him. The lack of care impacts the child so much he becomes emotionally distraught. Children who have parents that neglect them become lonely and often worried. Neglected children sometimes become mentally unstable and this can lead to suicide. No child should be unloved. Parents must do their best to show affection to their children and create a safe and peaceful environment where they can grow up happily.
Scannell uses characterization to show the theme that people do to others what has been done to them. In line 18 of the poem, the poet writes: “So he took Daddy’s stick and thrust it in”. The child is young – only nine. He should not be having any violent outbursts for no good reason. The fact that he associates the stick with violence tells the reader that the boy has seen it being used in a bad way. As it is “Daddy’s stick”, the reader knows that the boy’s father has used it. This implies that his father is a violent man who could have been hurting him or someone else. All the pent-up negative feelings then lead to the boy’s troubled psychological state. His father’s anger has bred more anger and the boy in turn feels angry. The poet then describes the scene of the cat’s death. He writes “slammed fast the door”. The cat is then described in a gruesome way, giving the impression that the boy really wanted to hurt something. The child has learnt to hurt others because he has been hurt. When a child comes from a violent background, children sometimes develop violent tendencies, as this is what they are exposed to at home. Later on in life, this anger will cause trouble for them. If the parents have showed their children that hurting others is alright, then the child will adopt their way of thinking. Instead, parents should set a good example for their children so that the kids can learn to be gentle and positive.
In the poems ‘A Case Of Murder’ and ‘The Highwayman’, an important theme for the poems is love. The poets use literary techniques to help the reader understand the theme. Because love is abstract, connotation is used so the reader can make associations for themselves and interpret the poem int heir own way. The use of characterization tells us a bit more about the characters in the story so the reader can create an image of the character in their mind. Figurative language is used in these poems to compare things so the reader will know what is happening and what the objects being compared should look like. Metaphors are used in poetry because of the way it can create rhythm and because it can enhance the poem with comparisons to the world we live in. Repetition is very useful in emphasizing points and helping the reader to gain a better understanding of the poem. When used well, these techniques can create a beautiful and meaningful poem that has a deep message. These two poems are good examples that love is not an easy road but without the presence of love, humans would not be humans.
First actual post 😀 Sunshine and Rainbows ~
Excitement aside, this was an essay I wrote last year, when I was 13. This was the first time I wrote a ‘proper’ essay which incorporated poetry techniques and essay structuring. Also, this was the very first essay I wrote in Pakuranga College. ~_____~ Back in Intermediate, none of my teachers decided to teach how to write an essay == So much of preparing us for College. Sorry about the spelling – I don’t have Microsoft Word or any other Spell-checking software ^^;
I got a 6+ for this 😀 Quite proud of it ^^ Hope you like it too