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1. PABLO NERUDA: Tonight I Can Write Biography Themes Coming to terms with a lost love Poem is about the memories of a lost love and the pain they can cause. Throughout the poem, the persona recalls details of a relationship that is now broken, He acknowledges that love and life do not always go as planned, He is very steadfast in the belief that he must go on. Language He continually juxtaposes images of the passion he felt for the woman he loved with the feelings of dispossession that he experiences in the present (S6 L9), (S11 L19-20) as well as his loss which is what he has to face. The 1st line starts with a one-liner signifying that he is now alone. The other stanzas are merely 2 liners, showing his shattered emotions The repetition of ‘Tonight I can write the saddest lines” mirrors his trying to come to terms with the loss but he is unable to completely overcome it and this is accentuated in L18 & 30 ‘My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her He is now at some distance and so acknowledges, “tonight I can write the saddest lines” suggesting that the pain he suffered after losing his lover had previously prevented any reminiscences or descriptions of it. The style is innovative seen in the 1 & 2 liners & repetitions used, employs simple direct language and sparse imagery esp involving the nights - the night is shattered, night wind revolves Tone Bitter sweet sentiments Sad, mournful tone yet there is an uplifting quality to it as readers can sense the persona’s resolve in carrying on even in the face of such sorrow Persona uses this poem as a therapy to come to terms with his loss. Suggested Activities 1. Students relate their own ways of overcoming the loss of a loved one. Questions to Ponder 1. ‘Write, for example the night is shattered and the blue stars shiver in the distance.’ What does the persona mean by the two lines above? 2. Describe the feelings of the persona in the poem. 3. Explain the use of repetition in this poem. 4. “Love is so short, forgetting is so long” How is this statement portrayed in the poem you have studied?
2. WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS: A Prayer For My Daughter Biography Themes Language Tone } } } } } } Refer to notes
Suggested Activities 1. For students: If you had children, what would your hopes and fears be for them? 2. Is beauty important in a relationship? Questions to Ponder 1. In Stanza 1, what is the persona afraid of? 2. What is the persona’s prayer for his daughter? 3. In Literature, we learn that one has to abide by custom and ceremony. Do you agree? Discuss with reference to the poem.
3. ROGER McGOUGH: The Way Things Are Biography Themes A dominating father dousing a child’s curiosity, imagination and enthusiasm The father is inhibiting and suppressing child-like qualities Let the child grow It can also be seen as a satire to allow the child to grow up as a child. Don’t impose adult views upon children. We are looking at the imagination of a child through the father’s responses Language Repetition of the line 7x, ‘ I am your father and that is the way things are’ emphasises reality that life is not sugar-coated or a bed of roses. L31-32 :condemning imagination and you must accept things that occur as matters of fact. Don’t let imagination run away with you
Tone Tone begins on a note of harshness and authority but ends with empathy. The father apologises and says: ‘I am your father, and I am sorry but this is the way things are.’ Initially, sense of authority but eventually shows the father being practical and preparing his child for the real world - Didactic Suggested Activities 1. Compare this poem with Rudyard Kipling’s “If”. The approach is different but the intention is similar Question to Ponder 1. L:17 - 20 Based on the extract given, what is the father’s advice to the child? 2. ‘A drowning surrealist will not appreciate the concrete lifebelt’ Explain the significance in relation to the poem 3. Children should be taught to face reality. From your reading of the poem, do you agree with this statement?
4. WONG PHUI NAM: For My Old Amah Biography Themes A tribute/dedication to an old nanny (amah) who has gone to her own dwelling to face the last days of her life. This poem evokes the sad, desolate emotions of the persona who was brought up by this old amah His desolate emotion is also due to the fact that his amah is facing death in a little cubicle Language: The language reflects desolation. The imagery used: Metaphor : l 4 to show extreme vivid pain‘flame caught among the final brambles of your pain’ The persona treats his old maid L9 body dying, giving way L10 electric bulb signifies /symbolise poverty Symbolism: L14-15 the snapped branches signals a message of impending death Diction: apt use of the word ‘brutal’ brings out the actual emotion of the persona to say that he feels sad that his old amah has to die all alone by herself and in such circumstances, without any loved ones around Tone Helplessness because he is unable to do anything to help ease his amah’s discomfort and that he cannot express his gratitude for her. Suggested Activities 1. What is the attitude of the students towards their maid? Let them talk about it. Questions to Ponder 1. From your reading of the poem, what perception do you get of the relationship between the persona and his old amah. 2. How does the use of imagery contribute to the feeling of desolation in the poem? 3. Relationships have a lasting effect on our lives. Do you agree? Discuss with close reference to the poem.
Notes: The amah would most likely be a maid servant who had come from China to look after the children of well-to-do families. Such amahs were usually very loyal to the families they worked for and when they retired, they would insist on going back to China or to an ‘old amah’ association to spend the last days of their lives with their fellow sister-amahs. Hence, the persona has probably gone to visit her at such a place.
ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING: How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways Biography Themes This poem expresses the persona’s passionate love for her beloved. Language She starts off with a rhetorical question because the answers all come immediately after that. The opening lines measure love mathematically. Sonnet XLIII, "How Do I Love Thee?" is probably Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s most popular love poem. It is heartfelt, romantic, loving, elegant, and simple. It is also quite memorable. The love poem starts with the question, "How Do I Love Thee?" and proceeds to count the ways. Her Christian spirituality testifies that she loves Robert "to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach." She then professes seven more ways that she loves Robert. Her "passion put to use in my old griefs" refers to the depth of her former despair. The love that "I seemed to lose with my lost saints" refers to the lost loves of her mother and her brother. The love poem ends with the declaration that time and death will not diminish her love for Robert because "if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death."
—Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Published, 1850 Discuss with students the following questions: o o o o Who is the speaker in each poem? What is the tone of the speaker? What is the poem about? How would you describe each poet’s language and choice of words (diction)?
What formal poetic devices can you identify? (rhyme scheme, consistent stanzas, sonnet) Review “Sonnet 43,” and ask students the following questions: o o o What does the speaker think about love? Is she hopeful and optimistic, or negative and pessimistic? Would you say the speaker believes in the power of love? Why or why not? What is the speaker’s relationship to God?
An Explication of “How do I love Thee” Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “How do I love Thee” from “Sonnets from the Portuguese” portrays a relationship and love in an exceptional manner that is not very common by today’s standards. In the opening line, the speaker portrays the joy and delight felt by this kind of love and relationship. This is presented to the reader in the form of the rhetoric question, “How do I love thee?” (1). The tone conveyed is one of happiness showing this love to be as such. In the portrayal of love, the speaker conveys it to be boundless: “I love thee to the depth and breadth and height/ My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight” (1 -2). The language of this abstract image portrays love to be uncontainable. This is emphasized by the phrase: “when feeling out of sight” (3). This image of the love is portrayed as expanding further than can actually be seen; it accentuates the boundless image of love. The speaker’s “soul” adds to the this image as a soul is not a . . . This image also depicts the magnitude of love as the words “depth and breadth and height” show the vastness the speaker’s love. This can illustrate the aspect of hope, faith, and love in the relationship, as a Saint symbolizes a restorer of hope. The line further communicates that love and the relationship are the center of the speaker’s life. Through out the entire sonnet the poet presents the idea of pure, unconditional and eternal love. It conveys a practical image of love in a relationship. The statement, “I love thee with […] my childhood’s faith” (10) shows the innocence and purity of the poet’s love. As the poetic voice compares the relationship and love to “ideal Grace,” (4) it conveys to the reader the idea of ultimate beauty or an ideal state of being. Line eight says, “I love thee freely, as [men] turn from Praise. The comparison between the boundless love previously described and this image of day and night highlights the realistic level that the poem has achieved. The religious comparisons also convey love to be a religious experience; this is shown in the first eight lines. This trust is further accentuated by the religious themes that have been woven into the poem. This may show that the speaker has had past relationships and learned from them. By using this comparison, the poetic voice portrays purity in love. However, “Sonnets from the Portuguese” demonstrates that love and relationships can be pure, eternal and unconditional if people really try and give their all. This strong relationship that has become evident throughout the poem is finally enforced when the speaker says, “if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death” (14). Questions to Ponder 1. Lines 2 – 4: How does the persona express her love? 2. What images imply that the persona loves with her entire being? 3. Love is eternal. Show the truth of the statement in the poem.
6. CHUNG YEE CHUNG: Ways of Love Biography Themes This poem shows two expressions love that are not compatible – the persona expects passionate expressions of love while the other partner is unable to meet her expectations. Language In S1, the simile of line 2 & the metaphor in line 4 gives the impression of suddenness akin to infatuation. In S2, we see a graphic display of her emotion of standing alone waiting for him to come over. Somehow, they never join up. In S3, she gives reasons why they are not compatible for each other. He told her he loved her but all he has done is to give her words, no action. She would have liked something more challenging or impressive, however, there is none and so, she left him. All his mere words are accentuated in S4 in bridges of words but there is no passion between them. There is, however, an element of hope because she says that it isn’t that there is no desire; it is just that he does not act upon his desire. Tone Disappointment that what could have been was not to be because the man – his ‘eyes could never burn’ and light up the fire in her heart. Suggested Activities Students talk about how they would like would-be admirers to express their attraction for them. Questions to Ponder 1. Describe how the persona’s admirer came into her life in S1. 2. In what ways could the persona’s admirer have swept her off her feet? 3. Actions speak louder than words. How is this statement suitable for the poem?
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