W. B. Yeats (1865-1939) wrote ‘Easter 1916’ in the summer of 1916, shortly after the Easter Rising in Dublin and when the events were still fresh in the memory. Yeats’s feelings towards the rising – more details about which can be read here – since he deplored violence (in most cases) as a way of achieving Irish independence from the British. In ‘Easter 1916’, Yeats refers to a number of key figures in the struggle for Irish independence, although without naming them, so the poem requires a bit of analysis and context.
I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe Read the rest of this entry
On Lawrence’s short poem about childhood
The novelist, short-story writer, and poet D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930) had a curious relationship with trees. He reportedly liked the climb mulberry trees in the nude to stimulate his imagination. And trees loom large in his work. In ‘Discord in Childhood’, an early poem which he began writing in 1909 when Lawrence was still only in his mid-twenties, Lawrence uses the ash-tree to suggest the discordant relationship between the tree’s supposed healing properties (it was supposed to play a valuable role in children’s health) and the suffering endured by a child listening to its parents arguing.
Discord in Childhood
Outside the house an ash-tree hung its terrible whips,
And at night when the wind arose, the lash of the tree
Shrieked and slashed the wind, as a ship’s
Weird rigging in a storm shrieks hideously.
Within the house two voices arose in anger, a slender lash
Whistling delirious rage, and the dreadful sound Read the rest of this entry
Notes towards a commentary on Tennyson’s allegory
Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-92) wrote two versions of ‘The Lady of Shalott’. Tennyson’s poem ‘The Lady of Shalott’ exists as both a 20-stanza poem published in 1832, and the revised version of 19 stanzas – which is the one readers are most familiar with – which was published in 1842. The poem, partly inspired by Arthurian legend (hence the presence of the knight, Lancelot) and partly by the epic sixteenth-century poem The Faerie Queene written by Edmund Spenser, remains popular, although the precise meaning of the poem remains elusive. So, a few words of analysis about this enchanting poem may help to clarify things.
The Lady of Shalott
On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro’ the field the road runs by
To many-tower’d Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott.
Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Thro’ the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot. Read the rest of this entry