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Essay - Voices
Half Term Essay Planning
Poem - A Song For Simeon
Poem - Animula
Poem - Journey of the Magi
Poem - Marina
Poem - Portrait of a Lady
Poem - Preludes
Poem - Rhapsody on a Windy Night
Poem - The Wasteland i- The Burial of the Dead
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Essay - Voices
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The poet’s own voice can very often be found within their poems. As when Yeats described an event and gave his own opinion through the language he used, Eliot conveys his attitude towards Simeon in the poem, ‘A Song for Simeon’. It would appear that Eliot is sympathising with Simeon, the man who was instructed to visit the baby Jesus before he would be allowed to enter heaven. This is because the title is ‘A Song’, something that is usually written as a form of admiration or perhaps as an ‘ode’ to someone. Through this poem, Eliot voices Simeon’s prophecy to Mary of the suffering of the Jews and of Christ; for example, Eliot describes this time as ‘the time of cords and scourges and lamentation’. This rising tricolon successfully emphasises the extent of the suffering that is to come and the chosen forms of torture are extremely vivid in communicating the pain that is imminent. Eliot is sympathetic towards Simeon, who begs to leave this earth; he awaits the ‘death wind’ that ‘chills [him] towards the dead land’. The spondaic ‘death wind’ and ‘dead land’ contribute to the haunting idea of death and the destruction of the earth. Structurally, these two, heavy phrases are placed effectively as they stand out at the end of two lines in the stanza; this helps to emphasise their meaning. The poem’s tone is fairly desperate and conflicted; Simeon’s difficulty in distinguishing between the present and the past is reflected as he is ‘dying in [his] own death and the deaths of those after [him].’ His desperation and weariness with life on earth is emphasised when he asks God, ‘grant me thy peace’; where previously, the repeated phrase had been ‘grant
thy peace’, Simeon now expresses his resignation and need for ‘peace’. Eliot creates a sense of sympathy for Simeon in this poem in two ways. Firstly, by giving Simeon a voice of his own (for example when asking ‘grant me thy peace’), he conveys this person’s distraught emotions. Secondly, Eliot uses language in his narrative of the situation that voices his own sympathetic feelings towards Simeon. - Loulwa.
Yeats once said that a poet is someone who “has stepped out of a play.” Yet I feel this is more true with Eliot in that the voices in his poems are each new identities which he is putting on to try and reflect a certain characteristic of the society he was living in, whereas in Yeats’ poems, his voices feel much more personal, as if they are in fact coming from Yeats himself and are privately addressed to the individual reader.
....In addition, Eliot uses the voice in Preludes to describe the wreckage of England by describing other people only through fragments of themselves – “trampled by insistent feet ... And short square fingers stuffing pipes, And evening newspapers, and eyes/ Assured of certain certainties.” The inclusion of newspapers with the parts of bodies as if they are all simply just objects reveals the narrator’s feeling of isolation as even the people that surround him don’t seem to be real, but only fragments of what used to be there. Furthermore, the action of trampling feet and stuffing pipes creates an incredibly sinister and anxious context with the resulting image of simply eyes on their own, cut off by the enjambment. Never before have eyes seemed so menacing, one can almost imagine them twitching almost frenetically as they are “assured of certain certainties” – the double emphasis of certain at once revealing complete insecurity. Yeats also repeats words or phrases in his poems with the purpose of enriching their meaning and not only to draw focus to the importance of the word but also to remind us of the presence of the poet in his manipulation of the poems words. For example in “A Prayer For my Daughter,” he states that “for half an hour I have walked and prayed” and then again,” I have walked and prayed for this young child an hour.” The switching round of the action and the time in the sentence, almost recreates the sense of his pacing back and fourth as if physically, the words have turned back on themselves. However whilst, in Eliot’s poetry, the repletion of words and phrases, certainly does add more meaning and importance to them, I think he uses it is less to remind the reader of the actual poets presence and instead adds to the distress and climax of emotions of his speaker. For example in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” Prufrock repeats “Do I dare?” numerous times, with the question adding even more to the chaotic state of his mind and his great indecisiveness.
...Eliot believed poetry should be based on sound and in each of his poems it feels as if he is putting on a different mask through which he imitates their speech. This is used to a great extent in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” where even his narrator mimics other characters in the play; “In the room the women come and go/Talking of Michelangelo.” Here, he uses a “comic” meter which reflects the light and almost slightly fake tones of the conversation that the women are having – the unnatural forced stress of the trochaic foot (“talking”) followed by another unstressed syllable (further emphasized by the enjambment beforehand) adds to the false quality of the women’s conversations. Later in the poem, Prufrock’s fantasies of escape are themselves written a strong metric feeling of formality, as if he is not only trapped within his mind but also within his words, as he is painfully self-conscious and shy, thus he cannot forget himself and talk in the “natural” meter of English poetry. Like Eliot, Yeats also plays with the stresses of natural speech. For example in “A Prayer For My Daughter” he begins the poem with “Once more the storm is howling;” the two spondees of immediately asserts the poet through the voice by surprising us with the constantly changing beat of the poem. W.W Robson called Yeats a “lord of language, of Shakespearian splendour” who “sang.” Indeed in “A Prayer For My Daughter,” whilst there is a strong presence of a speaking voice, there are also emphatic, lulling rhythms, contrasting greatly to Eliot’s fragmented and tortured voice of J. Alfred Prufrock. In fact the poem is almost a lullaby to the sleeping baby “half hid/ Under this cradle-hood and coverlid” in the way that its meter rocks to and throw.
... Therefore, through his use of fragmented images, quotes and references in the voice of the narrator, as well as their chaotic repetition of words, meter and structure, Eliot uses the changing voices in his poems to recreate and comment on the crumbling society that he saw around him whilst Yeats used these techniques to order his poems and ultimately create a formal setting through which he could assert his presence as a poet through the voice of the poem and articulate his inner most thoughts. Olivia
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