Understanding Poetry

Topics: Poetry, Stanza, Meter Pages: 18 (5687 words) Published: December 1, 2012
Understanding and Appreciating Poetry


Note to Teachers
Set Poems 2012-2014
Teachers have been speaking about the lack of critical material on some of the literature set pieces (particularly the poems) selected for study at the Caribbean O’Level. Diverse interpretations make an exploration of literary material interesting and expansive. This guide to the study of ‘set’ poems is a response to those who wish to be expansive in their analysis and appreciation. It is not intended to be a model commentary but an analysis or interpretation that will stimulate further discussion and analysis. Some poems are treated with questions. This approach helps to elucidate the central themes or ideas in the poems. This is a cost free publication offered to teachers. Prepared by Clifford Narinesingh co - author of A Comprehensive English Course , Books 1-3 and CXC English A. and author of Developing Language Skills Books 1,2,3, and CSEC Exam Book 4

A Royards Publishing Company Project
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Understanding and Appreciating Poetry

DULCE et DECORUM EST Theme: The theme of the poem is the subject with which the poet deals. It is the central idea around which the event or experiences revolve. In this poem, the central idea is the “horrors of war”. The ghastly image of war, the torture to which soldiers are subjected, reflect the theme – “the haunting flares”, “gas shells dropping” “froth corrupted lungs” are evidence of the atrocities of war.

INTENTION OF THE POET What does the poet hope to achieve? The poet here, wishes to convey a universal message to the reader, that one should not believe that it is noble to die for one’s country, because of the untold miseries which soldiers experience. To the poet, neither fame nor glory can compensate for the immense suffering that war inflicts on humanity.

MOOD The mood conveyed in the poem is one of anger, revulsion and disgust. The impact of the incident in which the soldier is caught in an explosion and the agony he suffers is one of loathing and revulsion. “I saw him drowning” “guttering, choking, drowning” shows the immense suffering of a dying soldier.

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Understanding and Appreciating Poetry THE MAIN INCIDENT The traumatic experience of a soldier who is caught in a sudden explosion while returning to his camp.


IMAGERY The poet achieves his purpose or intention through his use of intense language and vivid imagery. These are the similes used by the poet to make the images interesting and meaningful. 1. “Bent double, like old beggars under sacks.” Here the soldiers returning from the battle field look like old beggars, bent with age and exhaustion, carrying their sacks on their backs. The comparison is appropriate as it appeals to the visual sense and brings the readers face to face with the exhausted soldiers. 2. “knock-kneed, coughing like hags” The image of the knock-kneed soldiers coughing like hags, shows the terrible effect of the smell of gun powder, and gun shots. It appeals to the auditory sense and reminds the reader of the sounds of old people coughing. 3. “And floundering like a man in fire or lime” The image presents the soldier in a state of panic, unable to move in any fixed direction as he is trapped in the fire. The reader can see the movements of the soldier, like a blind man floundering and fumbling to find his way. 4. His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin” The comparison vividly describes the look of the soldier in agony and pain during the final moments of his death.

LANGUAGE OF THE POEM These are some examples of the poet’s use of emotive and intense language “We cursed through sludge” “limped on blood-shod This is a free publication and not intended for resale


Understanding and Appreciating Poetry “Drunk with fatigue” “He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning” “White eyes...
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