The two poems are about love. One portrays a very distant marriage, the other portrays a very committed marriage. Both poems are of Welch relevance. Gillian Clarke and Paul Henry were both born in Wales.
I am going to begin with the poem "Overheard in County Sligo."
The first line of the poem :"I married a man from County Roscommon" suggests they have a distant relationship in the way she says "a man" and does not give him a name. He may not mean much to her. The second line has the phrase "Back of beyond." This seems like a negative feature. I think the woman possibly feels as if she is nowhere or maybe it is a symbol of her life. The third and fourth lines suggest a pastoral area and with the animals mentioned she probably lives on a dairy farm.
The second verse gives images of movement. The third and fourth lines say
"and the road runs down through the open gate
and freedoms there for the taking."
I think this suggests freedom. Nobody is stopping her from leaving, but she is scared, maybe of being alone with nobody to turn to. I think she is also frightened and possibly struggling with what people believe women should be happy with. She is a woman who has everything but her dreams.
The third verse talks about what she had wanted to be. The first line :"I had thought to work on the Abbey Stage." I think she had longed to be an actress and to be able to express herself physically, but now she feels trapped and all her feelings are bottled up inside her. She has no way to let them out. Also the second line says : "Or to have my name in a book." I think she wanted to be recognised or maybe is suggesting she wants to write all her thoughts and feelings down for somebody to read and help her, but she has nobody except her husband. The last line of the verse reads : "Or still the crowd with a look." She wants to be beautiful - possibly a model but she has lost all her identity and has no confidence in herself. I think this verse also implies that all her dreams have been shattered.
The next verse talks about the material things in her life. The previous verse talked about her dreams but she has now come back to reality. She talks about all the domestic chores she does. I am assuming she is a full-time housewife. I do not think it is a poor, peasant household. They have breakfast on a cloth. The household chores are not the duties she wanted but she has a comfortable lifestyle. Lines three and four of the verse read "To order and dust the tumbled rooms and now find my face in the glass." She has no real identity. She is very lonely. She does not know who she is but she has achieved what everybody told her she wanted. She sees everything in domestic terms. She is deeply unhappy with her life and to try and regain her identity she tries to take bits from everything to complete her, but it doesn't work.
The last verse is a repetition of the first verse. The first two lines read :
"I ought to feel I'm a happy woman
for I lie in the lap of the land"
I think she had tried to kid herself previously, and now, she is feeling guilty as she is unhappy. "I ought to" is the conditional tense. She should feel happy but she does not. Though she is living in a beautiful area she is so alone that she feels empty and helpless. I think she may have also tried to love the man but was not able to, and could not pluck up the courage to leave him.
"Lovebirds" by Paul Henry
This poem is about a very committed marriage and how two people struggle to stay together as they cannot be together.
The poem begins by saying :
"They rendezvous each night, at ten,
for ten minutes, behind closed eyes."
I think the word rendezvous is a symbol of how committed they are. The words "behind closed eyes" is saying that it is private and nobody can read their minds and they only have thoughts of each other and nothing else in that precious ten minutes everyday.
The poem goes on to talk about how they can only see...
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