Poems

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“Le Loupgarou” and “Ol Higue”

Folklore exists in many cultures throughout the world. Folklore in the form of tales, myths and legends is passed from generation to generation through the oral tradition. Folklore in the Caribbean has been drawn from the rich and diverse backgrounds of our ancestors who came from various parts of the world. Our ancestors brought with them their language, culture, religious beliefs and practices, and their tradition of storytelling. The tales of demons, ghosts, zombies and spirits have been fascinating for the young and old alike, and variations of these stories have been told again and again. “Le Loupgarou” and “Ol' Higue” share similar characteristics as they are both based on Caribbean folklore. “Le Loupgarou” means werewolf or lagahoo. Fittingly, Derek Walcott's poem tells a tale of a man named Le Brun. He sold his soul to the devil and so he changes into a werewolf at night. He is ostracized by the village and lives all alone in a small old house. Similarly, “Ol' Higue by Mark Mcwatt is a poem about what Caribbean people would call a soucouyant which is in essence, a female vampire that takes off her old skin at night and turns into a fire ball, lurking through the nights to feed on her poor victims. Interestingly enough, the soucouyant is the female counterpart for the lagahoo. The old woman is “Ol' Higue”, like Le Brun, lives alone in an old house. She almost never comes outside during the day as her feeding is done at night. She doesn't like children and isn't amiable by nature which are also characteristic of Le Brun. Walcott’s poem opens with the line “A curious tale” suggesting that we, already from the beginning, should be questioning the verity of the story since tale usually is associated with fiction. “Ol' Higue” doesn't indicate that it is a fictitious story but as Caribbean people, it is easy to come to the conclusion just from the first stanza that she is a soucouyant. “Le loupgarou” is written in a Shakespearian sonnet form with three quatrains and with an ending couplet. It stands out a bit to the original form since the perfect rhyme occasionally is broken and the final couplet does not present perfect rhyme. Perhaps Walcott wants his poem to stand out from the usual, original Shakespearian form, in order to show that this is not one of the typical and customary sonnets. Also the iambic pentameter is broken in several lines, for example in line; 8 and 11 which both have an additional syllable. This could be used by Walcott to make these lines stick out and hint that something different is about to happen, that a change is on its way. A change or transformation does indeed happen, literally, in the 10th line where Le Brun is described to have “changed himself into an Alsatian hound” and after line 11 the focus of narration is changed when Le Brun no longer is referred to as a human but as “the thing” and “it”. This depersonalization describes how Le Brun has lost his dignity, respect and how the people now look upon him as some sick animal. The first and second quatrain are linked together by enjambment (“slowly shutting jalousies | When he approached”) while the third quatrain stands alone and is isolated from the second quatrain by the punctuation. This separation somewhat enhances the change which Le Brun undergoes and also the change in time which happens in the third quatrain. The change in time is expressed in the line “It seems one night..” where the narration changes from describing Le Brun to what has happened to him. The tone of the poem is harsh, dramatic and dark. The harshness comes from the repetition of T’s in the beginning and the long, steady flowing sentences. Also the diction of the poem gives it a slightly harsh and dark tone with words such as; “greying”, “greed”, “Ruined”, “slavering” and “howled”. The purpose of the harsh and dramatic tone is to create a suitable atmosphere for the ‘curious tale’ that is told which undeniably is harsh and unkind. ...
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