Pike, three inches long, ______________ (adjective)
Pike in all parts, green ______________ (verb) the gold.
Killers from the egg: the malevolent aged grin.
They ____________(verb) on the surface among the flies.
Or move, stunned by their own grandeur,
Over a bed of____________ (noun) , silhouette
Of ______________ (adjective) delicacy and horror.
A hundred feet long in their world.
In ponds, under the heat-struck lily pads-
Gloom of their stillness:
Logged on last year’s black leaves, watching upwards.
Or hung in an amber ___________ (noun) of weeds
The jaws’ hooked _____________ (noun) and fangs
Not to be changed at this date:
A life subdued to its instrument;
The gills ______________ (verb) quietly, and the pectorals.
Three we kept behind glass,
Jungled in weed: three inches, four,
And four and a half: fed fry to them-
Suddenly there were two. Finally one
With a sag _________ (noun) and the grin it was born with.
And indeed they spare nobody.
Two, six pounds each, over two feet long
High and dry and dead in the willow-herb-
One jammed past its gills down the other’s gullet:
The outside eye stared: as a __________ (noun) locks-
The same ______ (noun) in this eye
Though its film shrank in death.
A pond I fished, fifty yards across,
Whose lilies and muscular tench
Had outlasted every visible stone
Of the monastery that planted them-
Stilled legendary depth:
It was as _________ (adjective) as England. It held
Pike too __________ (adjective) to stir, so immense and old
That past nightfall I dared not cast
But silently cast and fished
With the hair _________ (adjective) on my head
For what might move, for what eye might move.
The _______ (adjective) splashes on the dark pond,
This is an intriguingly ambivalent portrayal of a snake. Wright manages to convey an impression that the snake is both strikingly important as well as nothing much to worry about.
Devices: In the image of the “sun glazed [on] his curves of diamond scale,” Wright seems to emphasise the snake’s special, regal qualities through her use of the diamond metaphor. The snake glitters mesmerisingly before the speaker’s eyes. She also uses alliterationat several points to dramatise the snake’s authority, such as in the phrase, “food / fled living from his fierce intent”. The alliterative words here fall on strongly stressed syllables which gives a sense of the snake’s power. Wright finishes with a pointedly nonchalant tone as they “took a deeper breath of day, / looked at each other, and went on.”
Word Choices: The snake comes across as an invasive and arresting threat comparable to the famous serpent in the Genesis story in The Bible, especially in the contrast Wright’s words make between the walkers’ calm, warm world and the snake’s active, cold one. The sibilant words in the opening line, “Sun-warmed in this late seasons’ grace”, establishes a relaxed warm mood which the snake penetrates: it “froze” the walkers mid-stride. In addition, the word “Cold” has a heavy effect at the start of the final stanza, which leaves a final impression of the snake’s potent presence. However, unlike the biblical snake, this one ultimately fails to gain dominance over the walkers.
The poet and her companion were walking on a pleasant autumn day when they see a black snake that speeds past, intent on catching its prey. The rest of the poem concentrates on the reactions of the poet and her companion. As they stood still taken aback by the sudden appearance of the snake in the grass, the snake slithers away.
The main subject of the poem is the sudden appearance of the snake and the surprised reactions of the poet and her companion. The snake does no harm to the walkers and they in turn do not harm the snake.
Apart from being a poet, Judith Wright was also an environmentalist who sought to preserve the natural surroundings in Australia. She cared intensely for the Aboriginal people who lived in close intimacy with nature which the settlers did not. The poem is on the face of it about sudden appearance of the snake but it could also be about the various creatures that lived in Australia and the animal friendly way of life of the aboriginal people.
The initial emotion that overtakes the poet and her companion is shock or surprise. They are in no jungle but walking along a grassy patch when they see the snake “reeling by”. Soon this surprise is overtaken by admiration for the perfection of its body, the symmetry of the scales on its surface and the single minded (“fierce intent”) pursuit of its prey.
“Head down, tongue flickering on the trail
he quested through the parting grass,
sun glazed his curves of diamond scale
and we lost breath to see him pass.”
Technique / Craftsmanship
The poem has a tightly controlled structure that does not permit much innovation, but the last stanza gives the poet some leeway. The beginning of the poem describes a peaceful scene when nature is full of the mellow sunshine of autumn, then comes the surprise of finding a snake in their midst. But there is no sudden movement or strong emotion expressed so there is no change in the structure either.
The poem has four quatrains with a traditional rhyme scheme of abab, cdcd, efef in the first three stanzas but the fourth stanza is ghhg. The change in the last stanza is like the letting out of breath (“We took a deeper breath of day,”) after having unconsciously held it while the snake was around.
The language used is very simple but the imagery is strong making it a visceral poem. The choice of sibilants (“we scarcely thought; still as we stood”) mimics the movements of the snake.
The use of strong imagery marks the poem. The opening images are of a balmy day in autumn when there is a “mellow fruitfulness” everywhere. The calm is broken by the sudden arrival of the snake. The picture of the snake in single minded pursuit of its prey, tongue darting as it feels the ground, the grass parting as it moves through are pen pictures which allow us to “see” the event. The poem focuses on the event rather than the narrator allowing us to share in the emotions.
Movement / Rhythm
The rhyme scheme is a simple abab, cdcd, efef and ghhg. The rigidity of the scheme allows the poet to focus on the event rather than on the emotions or the feelings of the poet or blank narrator. Movement of the snake is copied in the movement of the lined. The sibilants evoke a slithering sensation.
Alliterative sounds as in “sun glazed his curves of diamond scale”, “we scarcely thought; still as we stood” convey the impression of a slithering movement of the snake as it moved fast over the grass.
Figures of Speech
Through an extended metaphor, the poet tells us of the symbiotic relationship between the snake and man. There is no maudlin talk about the prey or the cruelty of the snake as a hunter but merely an acknowledgement of the sense of purpose behind the movement of the snake.
A Different History – Sujata Bhatt
Note that the poet has done this purposely to accentuate the action described. Similar to when you kick a book, the sentence suddenly shifts to the right, as if you have kicked it into that position. In the same way when you slam a book hard on a table or toss it carelessly across the room you move the book, although perhaps not as far if you had kicked it, thus the exaggerated indentation in the first line.
has not been the oppressor’s tongue?
Truly meant to murder someone?”
that ‘by speaking the language of the enemy, we have already given up mentally’. She is trying to say in a sense ‘wake up! Can’t you see what you’re doing? Why are you speaking the tongue of our enemies? Which language destroyed (murdered) our heritage/culture?’ It can be a slap to the dignity and the inner heritage of every man.
that after the torture,
after the soul has been cropped
with a long scythe swooping out
of the conqueror’s face-
the unborn grandchildren
grow to love that strange language.”
Pied Beauty is a short poem full of old English words.
First you need to translate these words to understand the poem!
You can argue that this poem is a response against Charles Darwin because it thanks God for the variety of life on the planet.
“Pied Beauty” (1877)
Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: Praise Him.
The poem opens with an offering: “Glory be to God for dappled things.” In the next five lines, Hopkins elaborates with examples of what things he means to include under this rubric of “dappled.” He includes the mottled white and blue colors of the sky, the “brinded” (brindled or streaked) hide of a cow, and the patches of contrasting color on a trout. The chestnuts offer a slightly more complex image: When they fall they open to reveal the meaty interior normally concealed by the hard shell; they are compared to the coals in a fire, black on the outside and glowing within. The wings of finches are multicolored, as is a patchwork of farmland in which sections look different according to whether they are planted and green, fallow, or freshly plowed. The final example is of the “trades” and activities of man, with their rich diversity of materials and equipment.
In the final five lines, Hopkins goes on to consider more closely the characteristics of these examples he has given, attaching moral qualities now to the concept of variety and diversity that he has elaborated thus far mostly in terms of physical characteristics. The poem becomes an apology for these unconventional or “strange” things, things that might not normally be valued or thought beautiful. They are all, he avers, creations of God, which, in their multiplicity, point always to the unity and permanence of His power and inspire us to “Praise Him.”
This is one of Hopkins’s “curtal” (or curtailed) sonnets, in which he miniaturizes the traditional sonnet form by reducing the eight lines of the octave to six (here two tercets rhyming ABC ABC) and shortening the six lines of the sestet to four and a half. This alteration of the sonnet form is quite fitting for a poem advocating originality and contrariness. The strikingly musical repetition of sounds throughout the poem (“dappled,” “stipple,” “tackle,” “fickle,” “freckled,” “adazzle,” for example) enacts the creative act the poem glorifies: the weaving together of diverse things into a pleasing and coherent whole.
This poem is a miniature or set-piece, and a kind of ritual observance. It begins and ends with variations on the mottoes of the Jesuit order (“to the greater glory of God” and “praise to God always”), which give it a traditional flavor, tempering the unorthodoxy of its appreciations. The parallelism of the beginning and end correspond to a larger symmetry within the poem: the first part (the shortened octave) begins with God and then moves to praise his creations. The last four-and-a-half lines reverse this movement, beginning with the characteristics of things in the world and then tracing them back to a final affirmation of God. The delay of the verb in this extended sentence makes this return all the more satisfying when it comes; the long and list-like predicate, which captures the multiplicity of the created world, at last yields in the penultimate line to a striking verb of creation (fathers-forth) and then leads us to acknowledge an absolute subject, God the Creator. The poem is thus a hymn of creation, praising God by praising the created world. It expresses the theological position that the great variety in the natural world is a testimony to the perfect unity of God and the infinitude of His creative power. In the context of a Victorian age that valued uniformity, efficiency, and standardization, this theological notion takes on a tone of protest.
Why does Hopkins choose to commend “dappled things” in particular? The first stanza would lead the reader to believe that their significance is an aesthetic one: In showing how contrasts and juxtapositions increase the richness of our surroundings, Hopkins describes variations in color and texture—of the sensory. The mention of the “fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls” in the fourth line, however, introduces a moral tenor to the list. Though the description is still physical, the idea of a nugget of goodness imprisoned within a hard exterior invites a consideration of essential value in a way that the speckles on a cow, for example, do not.
The image transcends the physical, implying how the physical links to the spiritual and meditating on the relationship between body and soul. Lines five and six then serve to connect these musings to human life and activity. Hopkins first introduces a landscape whose characteristics derive from man’s alteration (the fields), and then includes “trades,” “gear,” “tackle,” and “trim” as diverse items that are man-made. But he then goes on to include these things, along with the preceding list, as part of God’s work.
Hopkins does not refer explicitly to human beings themselves, or to the variations that exist among them, in his catalogue of the dappled and diverse. But the next section opens with a list of qualities (“counter, original, spare, strange”) which, though they doggedly refer to “things” rather than people, cannot but be considered in moral terms as well; Hopkins’s own life, and particularly his poetry, had at the time been described in those very terms. With “fickle” and “freckled” in the eighth line, Hopkins introduces a moral and an aesthetic quality, each of which would conventionally convey a negative judgment, in order to fold even the base and the ugly back into his worshipful inventory of God’s gloriously “pied” creation.
Bang Said the Gun: Mud Wrestling with Words is available from Burning Eye Books, £12 inc UK p&p.
1) Match the above pictures to where they appear in the poem.
2) What do these images have in common?
3) Why does the poet use them? Consider in terms of appealing to the five senses
4) The poet also uses them because they are symbolic. Match up the symbols to the ideas.
A symbol is an object that represents an idea.
garden birth/new life
mouse Paradise (in Heaven)
the colour black true feelings, loyalty
eagle, peace and purity
7) Think of symbols that can represent these ideas.
6) What do you think the above images could symbolism in the time of Rossetti?