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Comparing "Douglas" and "London, 1802"

By snowmanassasin21 May 08, 2011 1070 Words
Phil Young
Dr. Degen
Pre-Ap English 2
March 11, 2011
In Need of Help
Standing “among the slaughtered dead men,” Odysseus was “spattered over with gore and battle filth, like a lion who has been feeding on an ox of the fields, and goes off covered in blood.” After his long and suffering journey [AdvSc], Homer’s Odysseus finally returns home to his palace and finds all the suitors taking advantage of his absence [PrPP] and trying to court his wife. His absence has created a very tough life for his family and faithful servants, but now that he has returned, he kills all the suitors and returns order back to the palace. Odysseus’s return home, his ability to install peace and order within his palace once he returns, and Homer’s description of him as a lion resembles the strong, inspiring leader that both William Wordsworth and Paul Dunbar are asking for help from. Also his use of the nature imagery to describe Odysseus as a lion eating an ox relates to the nature imagery both Wordsworth and Dunbar use. The poems “Douglass” and “London, 1802” both have settings that are very dark and depressing situations in which they beg for the return of their leader, but they use the nature imagery in different ways in order to get their point across.

In times of desperation and hopelessness, Wordsworth and Dunbar use their poetry to cry out for help in their time of need. Displayed in their diction [PaPP], both authors plea for help from their dead leaders. For instance, in “London, 1802,” proclaiming that he wishes John Milton were still alive because “England hath need of thee,” the speaker explains to Milton what England has become since his death, “a fen of stagnant waters” (Wordsworth 2-3). To describe his country in this explicit way as a swamp [Inf. Phrase], Wordsworth shows how abashed he is at how much England has gone awry in just the one hundred thirty years since Milton’s death. He glorifies John Milton for things he achieved in his life and asks him to “return to us again; And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power” (Wordsworth 7-8). Seeking England’s return to glory, Wordsworth recognizes he needs Milton’s help. This juxtaposes with the desperate times in “Douglass” when Dunbar proclaims to Douglass that they “have fall’n on evil days,” such evil days that “not even thou didst know” [repeat word modifier] (Dunbar 1-2). Telling Douglass, who was a former slave that was freed and became an important abolitionist during the 1800s [AdjSc], these “evil days” were worse than anything he had been around [Gerund Phrase], shows just how bad the situation in America was for African Americans during the late nineteenth century, even though slavery had already been abolished. Dunbar seeks help from Douglass “to give us comfort through the lonely dark” (Dunbar 14). Just as Wordsworth cried out to Milton to return from the dead and help England regain its prominence, Dunbar looks to Frederick Douglass to come back alive and lead America through the tough times ahead for the African Americans.

Although both poems use nature imagery in their poems to describe their leaders, their authors use it in very different ways. When Wordsworth uses nature imagery in “London, 1802,” it parallels John Milton with Jesus, however, the nature imagery in “Douglass” represents the storm that America is in the midst of [Compound-complex sentence w/ conjunctive adverb]. For example, in “London, 1802,” having a soul “like a Star, and dwelt apart” parallels to Jesus because a star is considered beyond human and earthly realms, just like Jesus is considered to be divine and beyond earthly realms (Wordsworth 9). Compared to Jesus again, the author describes Milton as a man who lived a good, moral life and who “travel[ed] on life’s common way, In cheerful godliness” and who upon his “heart The lowliest duties on herself did lay,” (Wordsworth 12-14). This parallels with Jesus’ life because even though he was fully divine, he too made sacrifices and took on hardships such as the “lowliest duties” that encumbered Milton. Wordsworth uses the nature imagery again to describe Milton when it tells of his voice “like the sea: Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,” (Wordsworth 10-11). His voice sounding “majestic” is considered an important quality of a leader because people don’t want to listen to a man whose voice, or in this case writing, annoys them when he speaks. This parallels with Jesus’s life because just as people would flock to hear Him preach His ministry, people would want to read Milton’s compositions and writings. Through his poetry and writing, Milton had a powerful influence on the people around him, just like Jesus had an extremely powerful influence on the people who followed his teachings. All these nature images describing Milton contrast with the ones describing Douglass because Dunbar uses the nature imagery of the sea as a way of describing the turmoil in America, and not the “majestic” qualities of his leader. In Dunbar’s poem, Douglass portrays the “strong pilot” with the “voice high-sounding o’er the storm” and the “strong arm to guide the shivering bark” through the swarming “waves of swift dissension” (Dunbar 9-12). The sea raging, the boat threatening to tip over [parallel absolute phrases], Dunbar uses it as a metaphor for the conflict in America following the abolishment of slavery. Even though slavery was over, African Americans were still experiencing severe racism and hardships. To steady and guide the boat through this raging storm, Dunbar calls upon Frederick Douglass to be the ship’s captain and steer it in the right direction. He knows that Douglass is the best one to pilot it in this time of need. Using nature imagery creates a relationship between the former leaders and the present, which the readers can better relate to.

Although neither Milton nor Douglass returned from their dead, other people, like Martin Luther King, Jr., eventually stepped up and for the most part, achieved what each poem was asking for, a return to prominence for England, and the cessation of racism within America. This shows that, even in hard times, there are always people willing to stand up for what is right and fight to achieve their goal.

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