29 October, 2007
The Landlord vs. Miss Gee
Langston Hughes and W. H. Auden are two highly educated authors, who came from very different cultural backgrounds. Literary contemporaries, contemporaries in that they were both working writers during the same time period, Hughes and Auden are known for literary works which tackle both moral and political issues. Langston Hughes's and W. H. Auden's poems "Ballad of the Landlord" and "Miss Gee" exhibit each author's ability to employ the use of a traditional poetic form to tell a fanciful yet haunting story of characters whose initial qualities are comedic and simple. Both poems are similar in that they are ballads, they rhyme, and they both end in tragedy; however the tragic outcomes for each of the stories characters are as different as the authors who wrote them and the variations on the style they chose to tell these stories. In order to understand how the form of Hughes's "Ballad of the Landlord" and Auden's "Miss Gee" affect the topics of the poems, it is important to know what a ballad is in terms of poetry. A ballad usually tells a story and is quite similar to a legend or folk tale. Ballads many times are about love. They have a song-like quality, which means they can be, and sometimes are, put to music and sung. Ballads are most often used in children's poetry, like Mother Goose rhymes for example. Additionally, they usually rhyme and many times ballads will have a repeating refrain, like, "With her clothes buttoned up to her neck." (p. 519, 40)
in "Miss Gee", this makes them easier to remember than other forms of poetry. Hughes seems to go to great lengths to shatter the conventional ballad form with "Ballad of the Landlord". In addition to the fact that there is no repeating refrain as in Auden's "Miss Gee", both the meter and the rhyme scheme are highly irregular. Take the second and third stanzas, for example: "Landlord, landlord,
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