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Features of Literary Communication in When You Are Old

By Gemmil Dec 25, 2010 843 Words
For most of the time, we can easily verify whether a piece of essay or just a paragraph is (part of) a literary work or not. That’s because most of the literary works have some certain kind of features that make them distinguishable, especially from daily communication. In the following paragraphs, some of these features will be discussed. The following is a famous piece of work written by W.B.Yeats, an Irish poet and dramatist, praised as “one of the foremost figures in the 20th century”.

When You Are Old
When you are old and gray and full of sleep
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true;
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead,
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
W.B.Yeats, When You Are Old

1. Contextual dislocation and frictionality
When having casual daily communication, most of the time we want to convey and receive information clearly, correctly and efficiently. As a result, what we say or write are usually logical and follow the sequence of time or place. However, in literary works, contextual dislocation and frictionality may appear to obtain some certain effects. In this poem, the verses or the lines do not follow a certain way of narration strictly. In the first verse, the author succeeded in drawing a possible picture of the future. Initially the narrator describes a scene of an old woman(his best love)sleeping by the fire. Then the narrator recalled the old scene, like the soft look of the woman’s eyes, and the deep shadow, which will no longer be seen when the woman grows old. Different from the first verse, the second verse is more likely to be talking about the emotions of the narrator—like how he loved her, how his love differs from her other pursuers, instead of simply talking about her beauty, or anecdotes or affairs of them. The last verse again comes back to the possible scene in the future. With bitter pity, the now beautiful woman may sigh for the fading of insincere love. The last two sentences somehow describe an imaginative scene. The love finally “paced upon the mountains overhead, and hid his face amid a crowd of stars.” The three verses varies with each others, in that what they describe changes from imaginative future to the narrator’s real emotions. It is this kind of dislocation and frictionality that help readers to specify that this piece of work is a literary work. 2. Additional linguistic patterning

This feature is likely to be observed in poems and verses. In some circumstances, some linguistic patterns have developed into strict standards. For example, how sonnets rhyme is more than a pattern, but a standard, which can distinguish sonnets from other literary works. One of the most commonly used patterns is rhyme. When a piece of article rhymes, usually it’s fairly sure that it is a literary work. In this poem, obviously that each of the verse of the poem follows a certain rule strictly: the end of the first and the last line rhymes, like “sleep” and ”deep”, ”grace” and “face”, “bars” and “stars”. And the second and the third line rhymes, like “book” and “look”, “true” and “you”, and “fled” and “overhead”. Moreover, the lines are approximately of the same length. This may not be a strict rule or pattern, but this feature makes the poem looks “regular”. 3. Maximum ulterior significance

By noticing this feature, we can obtain deeper meanings the author had intended to convey, instead of the surface impressions. I think that the sleepy old woman is in sharp contrast with the young and graceful lady who has beautiful look and acute mind. The author may indicate that he’s so afraid that the soft look of the eyes of his beloved lady may no longer exist, which shows his deep love for her. Moreover, what he cares is not the wrinkles or other changes in her appearance, but the soft look of her eyes. It also shows that what the narrator really loves is actually her characters. Along with his statement in the second verse, the narrator again states clearly that what he cares is not her beauty, but her pure soul. The glowing bars in the last verse may suggest other people’s love—shiny, hot, but will soon fade. The last lines of the poem are vivid and mysterious. By personifying “love”, the narrator tries to tell the lady that love has great uncertainty, especially love from those who only loves your appearance. The only thing the lady can rely on is the narrator’s pure love.

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