Goodbyes: the good and the bad

A poetic techniques/theme essay for “Walking Away” by Cecil Day Lewis

William Shakespeare’s Juliet once said to Romeo “Parting is such sweet sorrow”. This use of oxymoron highlights the key idea of “There are both positive and negative aspects to saying goodbye”. ‘Walking Away’ by Cecil Day Lewis is a poem that explores this theme through recounting an incident where young Sean Day Lewis leaves his father for his friends after a football match. As a parent, the poet had mixed feelings about this event as it symbolized much more than brief physical distance. Cecil Day Lewis utilizes a variety of literary techniques to encourage consideration of both the good and bad that comes out of parting.

Farewells bring about separation and the poet uses structure and connotation to convey this. ‘Walking Away’ consists of four stanzas with five lines each. By using lines of similar lengths and distributing words carefully in the text, a steady rhythm is created within. This reflects the steady gait of walking and adds an extra dimension to the idea of walking away creating distance between loved ones. Connotation is contained in the form of “touch lines new-ruled”. Lines are commonly associated with division they parallel the physical and emotional separation that is beginning to develop between father and son. Day Lewis’ son was about to begin boarding school and the use of “new-ruled” suggests the start of a new chapter in their relationship and also a loss of intimacy. The likes of Skype and phone calls are mediocre attempts to bridge physical separation while there is virtually no remedy for patching up psychological separation. This is why partings bring such heartache and is also why Day Lewis chose to place emphasis on this particular aspect of the theme.

Letting go will inevitably produce pain. “Like a satellite// wrenched from its orbit, go drifting away” is a simile used to compare with Sean’s symbolic act of walking away. A smaller satellite is held securely in its orbit by the gravity of a much larger celestial body; this is the cosmos expressing the natural dependency in a parent-child relationship. However, this perfect image is ruined by the word “wrenched”, which indicates excruciating agony. The poet feels tormented as he realizes that Sean will not require his guidance for much longer and that he will be unable to protect his precious son from the harsh world. Enjambment is used to suddenly split the train of thought and reflect the abrupt – and obviously violent – pain that Sean’s independence has brought about. The author further reinforces this by using personification through “[the parting] gnaws at my mind still”, implying that the pain is on such a level that he can almost feel it leave a physical wound. These techniques combine to communicate the negative consequences of parting.

Leaving a loved one is not always a bad thing; it can bring about a sense of independency and a brighter future. The simile “Like a winged seed loosened from its parent stem” is used to highlight this particular point. A winged seed is designed to be carried far away from its ‘parent stem’ by the wind. With no oppressive shadow to block out light and with less competition for resources, the young sapling is able to grow into a strong tree. In many families, elders tend to cast expectations on the younger generation and oppose anything which deviates from the path that has already been selected. However, this path may not be the best choice and there could be an even better option somewhere else.  Day Lewis uses this comparison to point out that parting can often bring about better opportunities and generate self-sufficiency. It also reminds parents that there is no Neverland in real life; children will grow up and leave the nest to start their own families. Parents must accept this and let their children determine their own futures.

Refining of one’s character is possible through parting with a familiar environment and entering an unknown world. “Small scorching ordeals which fire one’s irresolute clay” catches the reader’s attention due to its use of sibilance in the words “small scorching”. Repetition of ‘s’ sounds create an onomatopoeic effect, mimicking the crackling of an intense flame and the difficulty of leaving one’s comfort zone. Clay is a soft impressionable material and the shaping of it mirrors the molding of one’s personality. Sean is like this clay – pliable in mind and moral. After it has been fired in a kiln, clay comes out strengthened and sturdy, just like we will be after facing such difficult circumstances. Day Lewis uses this line to convey that facing hardship- such as parting with one’s beloved- will develop one’s mental strength and is actually beneficial for us.

Tears accompany farewells, as we see so often at airports, hospitals and funerals. It is painful to know that we cannot be with the ones we love, even if this parting is not permanent. However, Cecil Day Lewis’ use of poetic devices has shown us that there is a silver lining to every cloud as these difficult goodbyes often yield positive results as well. Whenever you are faced with a similar parting, remember that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. After all, a farewell cannot kill us and what does not kill us will make us stronger. Instead of being caught up in the negative outcomes, why not focus on the positive ones instead?



Blessings: do we take them for granted?

An poetic devices/literary techniques analytical essay: “Blessing” by Imtiaz Dharker

Benjamin Franklin once said “When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water”. This quote reveals the way in which humans take things for granted and then realise its value once it disappears. In the poem ‘Blessing’ by Imtiaz Dharker, a burst water pipe in the Dharavi slum of India causes great excitement for inhabitants as they are often lacking access to it. A theme that directly relates to the text is that of “We do not fully appreciate an item until it becomes rare”. In the arid conditions of Mumbai, water is viewed as a precious commodity and every single drop of the liquid is considered a miraculous blessing. Dharker uses a combination of literary techniques in order to make first-world readers wonder how much they take for granted in their daily lives.

In the first stanza, Dharker combines the use of simile and rhythm to introduce the problems that arise out of insufficient water. The poem begins with a powerful image; “The skin cracks like a pod” hooks the reader into wanting to know what the cause is of such intense agony. A statement is then made concerning the reason behind the pain, which is because “There is never enough water”. The author’s use of hard consonants in the first line creates an onomatopoeic effect, reflecting the hypothetical sound of a bursting seed pod. The simile further extends the comparison between the splitting of a seed pod and the painful cracking of human skin, and also between the gashes that appear on the ground of drought-ravaged countries. Dharker paints this despondent picture in the first stanza to contrast with the exuberance of the third and fourth stanzas, making the blessing of water seem more special because the reader is aware of the bleak consequences of not having it. The people of Dharavi have experienced life without the precious liquid, and Dharker uses these techniques to describe the implications of living without an essential component of a healthy lifestyle.

The poet’s choice of diction supports the extended metaphor of water being a gift from a celestial power. Dharker’s use of the words ‘congregation’, ‘blessing’ and ‘roar of tongues’, imply the idea that the residents of the Dharavi slum view the water as a godsend. A ‘congregation’ denotes a group of people assembled to praise a deity, and the author’s use of the word infers the high importance in which the crowd views the water. As the people are described as a congregation, the author suggests that the collecting of water is a sacred ritual for them. The title of the piece is named ‘Blessing’ and this infers that the precious liquid is a gift of grace given by god. By naming the poem ‘Blessing’, Dharker provides the first hint of the extended metaphor and also the basis on which the rest of the metaphor sits. Later on, an allusion to Pentecost and the descending of the Holy Spirit is made through the words ‘roar of tongues’. Pentecost was the Jewish festival on which tongues of fire alighted with a roar on the heads of the disciples. They were then able to miraculously speak in many tongues which they had been unable to previously. Dharker’s indirect reference adds an extra depth to the religious metaphor and further extends the imagery in the mind of the reader. The use of connotation, denotation and allusion in ‘Blessing’ reveal that the inhabitants of Dharavi slum do not take water for granted and instead revere it – just as they would a god.

Inhabitants of Dharavi slum do not take water for granted because there is so little of it; Dharker reveals just how little in the second stanza. The author uses enjambment to leave the word ‘echo’ on the end of a line. This re-creates the effect of an echo trailing off, indicating the drop of water is resounding in an otherwise empty container. After the word ‘imagine’ in the beginning of line three until the end of line five, single syllables are used to mirror the sound of dripping water and the echo it creates. The sequence of text ‘… the drip of it/the small splash, echo/ in a tin mug, ‘ is comprised of monosyllabic words and adds an aural dimension to the idea of there being so little water. Alliteration is found in line four through the use of the words ‘small splash’. This is also an example of sibilance; the author uses it because the ‘s’ sound slows down the reader (due to the sound being difficult to say quickly), drawing attention to the severe depletion of water in the land. These techniques serve the purpose of building up imagery of a community desperate for even a drop of the prized resource.

Chaos erupts as precious water gushes out in stanza three. The bursting of the pipe is met with sheer joy and the poet describes the way in which the crowd treasures the water. Later on in the stanza, the line of ‘silver crashes to the ground’ is used as a metaphor to compare the liquid with a valuable metal. Under the glaring sunlight, flowing water can resemble silver. The fact that this water is ‘crashing to the ground’ hints that the treasured water is being wasted as no-one is trying to contain it. In India, Pakistan and other parts of Asia, there is a custom where the wealthy throw silver coins on the ground for the poor. The ninth line mimics this charitable action and also reminds that this water from the pipe will not sustain them forever. Because the people know this is only a short-lived happiness and that the water will eventually stop flowing, they clamour to save as much as possible using their pots, buckets and hands. The author uses the metaphor to accentuate the value of the water, the temporary relief that the water brings and also the indescribable joy that overflows like running water.

While we – with our bathtubs, taps, flushing toilets and bottled water – use water everyday without giving it much thought, there are many who battle to live with an inadequate supply everyday. Residents of Christchurch never could have predicted the earthquake and the shortage of clean drinking water that would ensue. Now many of them are extremely grateful for any amount of the life-giving liquid. When asked about the conditions in India, Dharker stated “When a pipe bursts or a water tanker goes past, there is always a child running behind trying to catch drips of water. Water is like currency, it’s like money. In a hot country in that kind of climate, it’s like a gift. It really is very precious. When the water comes it’s like a god.” Through her use of literary devices, Imtiaz Dharker makes the reader think about whether they fully appreciate the gifts that the earth has presented to them. Aldous Huxley, author of ‘Brave New World’, once expressed that “Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted”. Living in New Zealand, it is common for us to complain about the scorching heat in the middle of summer; during the rainy season of the June-July period, however, every warm and sunny day is greeted with smiles and plans of going outside to enjoy the sunshine. The question is, how many things do we take for granted, and under what circumstances will we learn to appreciate the things we have in abundance?


Long time no update ^^; neglecting max-leveled =-= Anywaaaays, mocks are coming up and English is the first exam. WHOOPTY DOO. So stressed rn for maths because ughhhh math. While writing up my V for Vendetta film essay, I found this on my SkyDrive. I THOUGHT I LOST IT WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH. The feels when I found it were like ;~~~~~;
This was an essay I wrote for junior exams last year, ALLBAMASELF. Like seriously. The teacher gave us two completely random poems and didn’t even teach it because he probably wanted us to all write about the novel (The outsiders) that we studied instead to save him time and energy. LAZY AS. I learnt nothing last year ^-^ just spent a lot of time arguing with the teacher and chatting in class and doing other subjects’ homework. Ok this essay maxed out the marking schedule TT^TT 7+, it said. harhar I was pleased. First time I ever saw a 7+ on any essay, let alone on the essay of a deranged Chinese girl’s. But then it was pretty bad cos getting a 7+ was my main motivation to do well (well that, and the possibility of getting a trophy). Maybe this was the final plank on the bridge to that trophy, because I did end up getting the award I so coveted, striking it off my bucket list of keeping the top of the year English trophy (hehehe got contribution to debate award and 1 of 6 top scholar awards ^^). I don’t think this is a feat that I can repeat this year though, because I honestly feel as if my English is deteriorating (if you can even put it that way). And I’m getting dumber too; I’ve never seen so many Merits and I GOT MY FIRST ACHIEVED(s) IN MATH OH WHYYYYYYYYYY QAQ /cries a little. Maybe cos I haven’t touched a real book in soooooo long. harhar here I am procrastinating again when I should really be finishing that V essay or even better, heading to bed. ENJOY DIS OK COS I PUT A LOT OF EFFORT INTO IT OTL arigatou gozaimasu.

“The Highwayman” – Alfred Noyes: Wind metaphor and mood

Throughout the poem, there is a wind metaphor that is subtly placed in there. Did you notice it?
Like the wind, the poem settles down now and then; this is to present a calm, peaceful atmosphere. This mood does not last for long – suddenly the poem will pick up the pace and ‘blow’ again, creating a sense of excitement and urgency.
This metaphor is made obvious by the following words/sentences:

  • “The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees”: Provides an introduction to the poem and makes the wind significant. The wind is turbulent and gives the reader a feeling of unrest. Also hints at the dark nature of the following poem.
  • “Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed”: The wind is picking up and becoming strong
  • “Dark in the old inn-yard a stable wicket creaked”: The wind has calmed and become eerily quiet. Represents ‘the calm before the storm’. Calm mood lulls the reader into an unsuspecting state of mind so the drama which unfolds later on is a  major shock to the reader.
  • “Nearer he came and  nearer”: Once again, the wind is brewing and the reader anticipates an important event

This ‘wind’  makes the poem seem rushing, eerie, unsettling, dark, mysterious, suspenseful and even fearful.

Love: do we need it or not?

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