Monday, January 26, 2015

General Bardic Studies for Liturgists 1 - Part 2

Compare and contrast examples from the work of three poets in one cultural tradition from at least two historical eras. (minimum 300 words of the student's original essay material beyond the verses provided, at least one poem per poet)

I decided to look at British poets from the 16th, 18th, and 19th centuries. I have always been a huge fan of both Shakespeare and Tolkien, but had never read much poetry from Austen. I found the differences in mood to be so very interesting when comparing them to each other, and looking beyond the technical aspects of these poems and poets. Presented below are the poems and my essay follows:

19th Century – J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973)
All That is Gold Does Not Glitter
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

This poem is taken from the Lord of the Rings and gives an insight to the plot development seen throughout this novel. Though this poem is only eight lines long, it is packed with literary elements that flood the reader with imagery. At first glance it seems to contradict itself, especially if it’s taken at face value. However, it is commonly believed that this poem alludes to Aragorn, the Ranger. It can also be viewed as a description of the great value of Frodo, Sam, and even Gandalf. In this poem we see that Tolkien is describing that things of value might not always show themselves as we expect them to do. This hidden value can be seen in the characters throughout the novel as they traverse through their ordeals. According to Calvert Watkins metrics in poetry is  “the quantitative rhythm and prosodic system” (Watkins 28). This poem is set in tetrameter, using varying lengths of syllables per footing to give a swaying musical rhythm through rhymes. This gives us a powerful feeling that the languages of Middle Earth are all musical and flowing. Assonance of “… er” and “…ing” are used at the end of various lines. The rhythmic pattern for this poem follows “A-B-A-B, C-D-C-D”.

18th Century – Jane Austen (1775-1817)
I’ve a Pain in my Head
‘I've a pain in my head'
Said the suffering Beckford;
To her Doctor so dread.
'Oh! what shall I take for't?'

Said this Doctor so dread
Whose name it was Newnham.
'For this pain in your head
Ah! What can you do Ma'am?'

Said Miss Beckford, 'Suppose
If you think there's no risk,
I take a good Dose
Of calomel brisk.'--

'What a praise worthy Notion.'
Replied Mr. Newnham.
'You shall have such a potion
And so will I too Ma'am.'

This poem is a narrative poem telling the story of Beckford, a lady who is suffering (Dictionary.Com LLC). It is satirical and sly, giving the feeling that perhaps this doctor Newnham isn’t much of a doctor to begin with, especially since it is the Lady Beckford who comes up with a remedy for her headache. The satiric style also gives us a possible glimpse into how the medical professionals were viewed during the time of Jane Austen. It also seems to poke fun at hypochondriacs who tend to be the bane of the medical profession even to this day or are they the bread & butter, always giving them a patient. We also see that perhaps the upper class Lady Beckford belongs too coming across as rather snooty. She seems to look down on the educated doctor and view him as less intelligent. Perhaps this poem reflects Austen’s frustration with the medical field when it came to her own illness, and the seeming lack of knowledge to help her? The sound devices used here are end rhyme with a pattern of A-B-A-B, A-C-A-C, E-F-E-F, G-C-G-C. The poem uses Iambic Trimeter and assonance of “…ford,” “…for’t,” “…am,” and “…ose”.

16th Century – William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind
Blow, blow, thou winter wind
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.

Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most freindship if feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.

Freeze, freeze thou bitter sky,
That does not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As a friend remembered not.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most freindship if feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.

This poem uses personification where the winter wind is compared to a person.  Shakespeare also uses metaphor when comparing the wind to teeth and breath. We also see the use of simile when the cold and wind are said to be like emotional pain. There is a varying use of meter from Anapestic and Iambic, along with varying foot length of trimeter and tetrameter. The rhythm of rhyme in this poem is:  A-A-B-C-C-B, D-D-D-D, F-F-G-H-H-G-D-D-D-D. There is also the use of assonance “…ind,” “…ude,” “…ing,” “…ot,” “…y” “…igh” and “…arp”. Alliteration is also used in many of the lines, specifically when we look at the consonant sounds such as “bl…” in blow, “th…” in this, then, that, thou, though and thy, and “w…” in wind and winter.

Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind is a song sung by the character Amiens in the drama, As You Like It, Act III, sc. ii.

Beyond the analytical break down of these poems, it is interesting to me to see the difference in moods which these poems from the various centuries present. With Tolkien’s poem, there is a sense of greater value to the things we see as common, and the feeling that we should look deeper to see these values within others and ourselves. There seems to be a note of hope in a world of darkness. Much of Tolkien’s collective works present this hope as well. With both Austen’s and Shakespeare’s poems, we see the cynical and almost contemptuous attitudes towards humanity and the self-imposed social structures. The mood seems to have very little light in the darkness of a world filled with ignorance and selfishness. With Austen, it is aimed at the lower social classes than at humanity as a whole. When we look at Austen’s poem, there is the impression that the people of the upper class looked down on the common folk or lower classes. She gives the impression that they have a more viable knowledge, even in treating illness, than this doctor is trained to perform. This may in part be to the fact that doctors during this time were considered part of the middle class since their profession was an apprenticed trade and thus middle class. Austen, as a literary figure and part of the upper class, would have looked down upon this profession (Wittenberg University). At the same time the doctor, who can be said to represent the lower classes in this poem, comes across as cynical to those who are hypochondriacs and those of the upper class. While Austen can be seen to reflect the strife and mood among social classes, Shakespeare can be seen as much darker in many aspects. Through his works, especially this exert from As You Like It, Shakespeare gives us the feeling that nothing nature can throws at us is worse than what humans can do to one another. His work comes across as very dark, if not a practical view of how we treat each other as a species.
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