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Examining Poetry Appreciation By Mark Mikhail English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 2362 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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As the title suggests, the poem is a celebration of sleep. The poet uses the extended metaphor of the relationship between a mother and child to describe the sanctuary of sleep. The process of sleeping each night is interpreted metaphorically as a return to the womb, a state of pre-conscious existence, safe from the harsh reality of consciousness and life. Two voices are present in the poem, one voice is the personification of slumber and the other voice is only heard briefly in the first stanza.

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The poem begins as a direct question from the personification of sleep Do you give yourself to me, which is eventually answered by the second voice yes, utterly. This sets up the rest of the poem as an elaboration of what ‘sleep’ will do to the second voice. The alliteration of the ‘b’ sound in the first stanza, blindly or bitterly, But…, is soft, echoing the quiet peacefulness of slumber.

As the second stanza begins, so does the extended metaphor of sleep. The earliest occurrence, bear you down to my estuary, is in reference to the passage of the fertilised egg to the mothers womb. The assonance, Estuary / Carry you… ferry you… mysteriously, brought about by the repetition of the ‘y’ and ‘ou’ vowel sounds, and constant beat of “you” echoes like a human heartbeat. This is later emphasised in the alliterative reference to hear my heart in the third stanza.

A similar tone continues in the third stanza, starting with an alliterative description, cling and clamber, much like the movement of child in the womb. The birth metaphor is at it’s most obvious in this stanza, Beat with my blood’s beat, hear my heart move, referring to a human heartbeat, when the mother and baby become one, similar to sleeping and the world of dreams. The pace as rhythm changes at the end of the stanza, Delve… dissolved… viewless valves. The alliteration of the ‘v’ sound here marks a change as the rhythm of the poem increases, as the baby grows and progresses along its foetal journey, signifying change.

The tone in the fourth stanza is sharper, contrasting with the tone of the earlier sleepiness of the previous stanzas. The use of Till is quiet abrupt, representing sudden pain as the baby is thrust into the world, almost ripped from their mother’s womb and sanctuary of sleep, as reflected in the violent, definitive tone of the expulsion. The sibilance of the line, Life with remorseless forceps, not only contributes to the emotive tone and accelerated rhythm of this stanza, but the harshness of ‘s’ sounds reflect the difficulties and unpleasantness of life, hence consciousness of life as opposed to the security sanctuary of sleep. The final line of the poem, Pangs and betrayals of harsh birth, represents a powerful ends. It concludes the extended metaphor of birth and the directness of the statement and negative tone is symbolic of the sense of hopelessness and resignation to the harsh inevitability of life.

It seems as if Slessor wants to portray the safety and sanctuary of sleep to the reader in comparison to the harshness of the real world. It is as if being asleep, or being out of consciousness, allows you to escape society and its problems and enter your own world, the dream world. Slessor’s metaphor of birth reflects this as it gives the reader the image of being enclosed and protected from the outside world, in the mother’s womb.

Country Towns by Kenneth Slessor

In Country Towns, Slessor portrays the idea that country towns don’t like change, and are in fact, resisting it. We know this from the image of a time warp which Slessor tries to create in our minds. In this time warp nothing seems to change, nothing seems to happen in this town.

The rhyming style of ABDF gives a very slow and methodical rhythm to the poem. Slessor uses rhyme and rhythm to highlight the image of Australia as being relaxed.

From the first stanza, we can tell that nothing has changed in the country towns. The onomatopoeia present in the stanza, Bouncing on barrel mares, assists the reader to conjure up the image of old style cowboys on horses. The fact that the farmers still ride on horses indicates their lack of technological advancement.

Slessor portrays a sense of carelessness throughout the poem with the repeated use of assonance. The ‘d’ sounds, dozing, deep, dogs, drowse, creates a sleepy and lazy feel to the country towns.

Through Country towns, Slessor tries to tell us that change is inevitable. As the country town tries to resist change, we obviously notice some immutable aspects of nature such as aging. Slessor alludes to the inevitable surrender of country towns to globalisation – even though they try to resist change, the images of death, dead cicada skins and burnt pepper trees, taint the peaceful, serene image of the country town suggesting that something bad is going to happen…

William Street by Kenneth Slessor

William Street is set during 1935 in Sydney, Australia. At this point in time Australia was going through the great depression after the Wall Street crash. William Street is situated next to the infamous Kings Cross in Sydney and has a seedy history behind it. Much like the rest of the world, poverty was a major factor affecting the majority of people. Slessor provides several images of Australia during 1935 in his poem.

The image of an immoral Australia is portrayed in William Street by Kenneth Slessor through the use of colloquialism. The line The dips and molls with flip and shiny gaze refers to the prostitutes and alcoholics on William Street during the depression, selling themselves for whatever little money they can get. A moll was slang used to describe prostitutes, and dips were short for dipsomaniac, or alcoholics. As prostitutes and alcoholics are often associated with shady acts, it can be considered that these colloquial terms are representing the whole of Australia.

The image of an urbanised Australia is shown in William Street in the first stanza when it mentions The red globes of light, the liquor green, the pulsing arrows and the running fire. The use of personification in these two lines helps to emphasise the brightness and size of these neon lights. As these lights are said to be pulsing and running it gives the idea that these lights are spread out throughout the whole city, lighting everything up. These bright neon signs are generally found in large urbanised cities, thus the image of an urbanised Australia being presented in William Street.

The final Image presented in William Street is that of a low class Australia. Ghosts’ trousers like the dangle of hung men, suggests that the people of Australia were so desperate for money that they were selling off even their clothes to pawnshops in order to get money. A simile is utilized to illustrate how the trousers and other objects are now hung from the walls, as there are so many of them in the store. As pawnshops are often associated with low class, and poorer people in need of money, this line presents the perfect image of a low class Australia.

Beach Burial by Kenneth Slessor

Beach Burial is not a typical war poem; there is no rallying call to arm or celebration of heroics. Instead we have a sombre tribute to soldiers of all nations whether foe or friend who have been united by the common enemy; death.

The poem begins with a subdued tone, with long slow, soft sounds; softly, humbly, convoys, sway, wander, under, rolls, foam pluck, shallows, burrows, lulling us into a false sense of calm. Then, by understating the vastness of the tragedy, we slowly realise that we are talking about dead soldiers. As daylight approaches, the sounds get harsher and more strident because of the emotional stress of burying the dead.

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Slessor employs imagery to portray his ideas to the audience. The use of the word nakedness reflects the vulnerability of humans when exposed to the harsh elements. The irony of the title, Beach Burial, gives a stronger affect as beaches are usually associated with fun and pleasure, not death. Slessor also utilises alliteration, Bury…Burrows, to quicken the pace and to emphasize the burying of the dead.

Slessor also portrays the anonymity of war. The name Unknown Seaman is written on the graves, emphasizing a loss of identity. The men buried in the sand are not only anonymous but are joined together by the sand, whether enemies or allies in life.

Beach Burial is clearly an anti-war poem, with Slessor writing sympathetically about the death of young people at war. He also touches on the idea that in war soldiers become part of a machine, the army, and lose their identity.

Second Coming by William Butler Yeats

From the title of W.B. Yeats’ poem, The Second Coming, one might expect to read about the glorious return of Christ to save his followers. However, Yeats portrays a dismal world where anarchy reigns over the innocence of man. The passage portrays a dark and foreboding atmosphere that serves as a warning to what may lie ahead for humankind if we continue on our current path, blindly following our faith in God.

The poem appears to be written in free verse which adds to the poems references to things falling apart and anarchy loosed upon the world. This lack of structure within the poem helps the reader feel as if they are a part of Yeats’ condemned world.

Yeats uses this poem to show his views of the world which is now beginning to come apart. The symbolism illustrated in the first stanza, The falcon cannot hear the falconer, the center cannot hold and mere anarchy is loosed upon the world reflects the disintegration of our society. He follows this with the description of a blood-dimmed tide, representing war tearing apart our civil world. It seems Yeats wishes to show us that we are approaching an inevitable end to humanity as we know it.

In the second stanza, we are introduced to the second coming. However it does not appear to be the Saviour for our problems. Instead Yates writes of a sphinx with a blank and pitiless gaze. Yeats is returning to the religions of old, which reflects the state of our civilisation if we do not change our ways. The use of anaphora in this stanza, Surely…Surely and is at hand…is at hand, creates a rhetoric tone in the poem causing the reader to question their own faith. We are then presented with the end of our world, the darkness drops. Our world of the past appears to have given way to a new time. In the final line, the sibilance of the rough beast…Slouches creates a sinister tone and resonates the idea of an unstoppable force and our impending doom.

It seems as if Yeats is portraying his thoughts on our world’s status and how he believes that we are destined to see the birth of a new age due to the direction of our society in his poem. This transformation is brought on by our own actions and how we have let our world develop. However, we are left with an open ending to the poem, which shows our future may still be undetermined.

Long Legged Fly by William Butler Yeats

In his poem Long Legged Fly, Yeats examines the notion of human genius, and its many aspects. The apparent theme that Yeats attempts to show is that peacefulness is required in order for one to utilize their ability. The title itself, Long Legged Fly, has a symbolic meaning. It is a metaphor for a calm and clear state of mind, which is a key ingredient for geniuses to prosper. The people who posses this ability have a power that extends above and beyond the ordinary. They appear to hover in a separate world of their own in the same way that the fly glides effortlessly over water.

In the first stanza, Julius Caesar is the genius in question. However, in his poem Yeats does not focus on Caesar as a warrior, instead he introduces him as a thinker, one whose tactical skills are not derived from his actions but from his own careful thought and intellect as his mind is fixed upon nothing, a hand under his head. Most importantly Yeats introduces the need for silence in order for a great thinker to achieve full potential for his wisdom. Here he stresses to the reader to quiet the dog, tether the pony to a distant post because these noisy disturbances may interfere with Caesars genius ability, for like a long legged fly upon the stream, his mind moves upon silence.

The second stanza deals with Helen of Troy, whose genius transcends from her own mystical beauty. The first line of this stanza, that the topless towers be burnt, represents the downfall of Troy at the end of the war. Helen’s genius, although different from that of Caesars, is again motivated by peace and silence, without which she would not be capable of exhibiting her remarkable gift of beauty and poise. It is with this aspect that Yeats commands move most gently if you must, signifying the importance of a calm and tranquil environment for her state of mind. Yeats concludes this stanza with the same line stated earlier, like a long legged fly upon the stream his mind moves upon silence.

The final stanza describes yet another kind of genius, that of the famous artist Michelangelo who painted the Sistine Chapel. Similarly, as in the previous two stanzas, Yeats again expresses the need for peace. This is pointed out when he orders to shut the door of the Pope’s chapel, keep those children out. The children must be removed because they present a distraction to Michelangelo completing his work.

The obvious theme that is emphasized throughout the poem is the need for peace and tranquillity of mind. This seems to be Yeats’ central idea to developing genius. Each of the three stanzas provides an example of how human genius has shaped history and how the ways in which they work have the potential to shape the future.

By Mark Mikhail Word Count: 2, 374 words


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