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comparison of the flood and the survey

By lucyjohnson2012 Dec 05, 2013 1107 Words
“Mankind often underestimates the power of nature”
Compare ‘The Flood’ and ‘A Survey’ in the light of this statement ‘A survey’ and ‘The Flood’ are two poems which both use linguistic, rhythmic, structural and vocal tools to label the power of pure nature. They differ in many ways yet both, when delved into and studied, appear to agree that mankind does misjudge nature’s power. The titles themselves of these two poems indicate an underlying meaning. For example, ‘The Flood’ highlights that the focus of this poem is something we might consider as fairly ordinary, but John Clare thinks it is in fact fascinating enough to write a lengthy poem about. ‘A Survey’ rather than ‘The Survey’ indicates that what happens in this poem happens again and again; a theme which continues throughout this poem. The voice is 3rd person and impersonal and the tone of it is very lyrical, suggesting to us a ‘campfire song’ feel, which again displays that this is something that happens repeatedly and continually. In contrast to this, ‘The Flood’, instead of a tone of lyrical mythology, has a personal voice and tone of immediacy. The constant imagery provided makes the reader feel as if they were there, instead of just being told an ‘old wives tale’, like the mood of ‘A Survey’. Interestingly, both poems contain a mix of past and present tense. This could suggest continuity in both, and the idea that nature, although both are describing a specific event in the past, is always present, and therefore is very powerful as it cannot be overcome. Each poem uses structure and punctuation very cleverly, but in different ways. For example, in “The Flood”, each line uses iambic pentameter and everything has a rhyme – everything has a word somewhere that rhymes with it. The verses are 14 lines, similar to a sonnet, and the last verse is even a perfect sonnet that rhymes correctly and finishes with a rhyming couplet. Like a river, it seems chaotic and long, but it technically obeys rhythmic rules. This could suggest to us that everything in nature has a purpose, and nature has its own balance, just like the theme of ‘A Survey’. This could be seen to agree with the statement as the sheer power of nature really comes through here. Contrariwise, Stafford uses rhyme differently. In every verse there is half and imperfect rhyme, but in the verse that talks about the ‘field boot crew’ – the representation of mankind interference’- there is one perfect rhyme; “crew” and “two”. This proposes the notion that the “field boot crew” have tried to force a perfect rhyme upon nature, but it quickly disintegrates into the fact that nature’s own natural rhythm, represented by the constant rhythm, works by itself and doesn’t need man’s interference as it is powerful enough itself. Each stanza in ‘A Survey’ fascinatingly ends with a full stop, not keeping in the theme of continuity the poem has so far displayed. This could be because Stafford wanted to keep within the lyrical form of the poem. Differently, ‘The Flood’ incorporates hardly any punctuation save some dashes and a full stop at the end. This again indicates an idea that nature will never end or be stopped, and is more powerful than man. The language is very different in the two poems. One is extravagant and descriptive whereas the other is, although narrative too, less vivid. However, one thing very prominent in ‘A Survey’ is the contrasts and juxtaposition used. In the first verse even, juxtaposition is very obviously used; “crammed with hysterical water” followed by “hushed by placid sands”. Another example is the description of the wildcats- or the agents of nature- balancing out the wildness of the land; on one hand the animals are described with “intricate lines of fur”, “finesse” and “tentative paw[s]”, then the sun and mountains are said to “rake[s]…buck and scream” and the ridges are described to have “hackles”. This image of balance follows the theme of the rest of the poem. Contrast is used in a different way in ‘The Flood’, perhaps to indicate a dissimilar meaning. The start and end of ‘The Flood’ is very chaotic; verbs like “dashing…jarred…plunging…roars” are used to imitate the feel of a rushing river. However, the middle verse has a completely different atmosphere due to the language used. “The feather dances flutters” and “danced it o’er the waves” bring a different picture of calm. This could represent those small areas of calm sometimes found in bedlam. On the other hand ‘The Flood’ can be seen as similar to ‘A Survey’ because it also highlights the sense of nature’s own balance. Personification is used incredibly effectively, especially in the last verse, “other monsters rise” is particularly effective as it is strong imagery, and describing the flood itself as “restless”, a human emotion. This puts across the idea that nature has a life of its own like everybody else. Personification is also used to the same effect in “A Survey”. Stafford personifies agents of nature to “wildcats”, bringing to nature an image of grace, stealth, beauty and self-sufficient. Other language devices are used in both poems; similes and metaphors such as “the mountains buck and scream”, “like life in death” and “seeming as faireys”. For the reader, this presents both poems with a slight fantastical, supernatural element. This could be to highlight that we as mere humans cannot begin to comprehend the inner workings of nature. There is bounds of onomatopoeia in both; “hushed…crammed…tentative” and “jarred…sluggish” being a few examples. This brings us to the image of nature being alive again. ‘The Flood’ uses sibilance and alliteration such as “strange birds like snow spots”, whereas ‘A Survey’ doesn’t. This could be because ‘The Flood’ is going for immediacy against ‘A Survey’ and its archetypal legend feel. In conclusion, as highlighted previously, both poets are showing the reader the power of nature, sometimes in similar ways, and sometimes using completely different methods. For example the rhyming pattern and rhythm in both suggest nature has its own rhythm, but in different ways. The personification in both submits that both Stafford and Clare think nature has a life of its own and has its own balance; another bit of evidence that the statement given is a true representation of what the poets are trying to say. There are other devices used to back this up; the use of language, alliteration, onomatopoeia and structure for example; overall I think the proposition is a very accurate reflection of what the poets are saying.

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