20th Century Author Notes
uses violent nature imagery to symbolize the human condition
has been called the “twentieth-century Aesop whose fables lack an explicit
and later divorced American poet Sylvia Plath whose suicide has been partly
blamed on Hughes.
he writes of nature like the Romantics, unlike the Romantics his nature
represents the darkest impulses of the human heart; violence is not only an
accepted fact of life, but also an impulse that links all creatures on earth.
1984, he was named the poet laureate of England.
speaker is a hawk, roosting in a treetop.
The hawk exults that it has no false dreams; when it sleeps, it
rehearses kills and eats its prey. The hawk surveys its domain and declares itself the ruler of
this world. It presumes
that all processes of nature work for its benefit.
The hawk approves of life as it is and permits and anticipates no
character of the hawk is self-assured and imperious; it sees itself at
the center of all things. The
hawk views the world as existing for its pleasure, and it is a world
that suits the hawk perfectly. The
hawk lives in harmony with the laws of nature and claims to hold
creation in its foot, like a creator-god.
personifies the hawk by allowing it to speak as if it is the lord of all
creation. This is an ironic
echo of human claims of dominion over the earth and all its creatures.
poem reflects the views that Hughes has of human arrogance.
poem comes from the collection Birthday Letters which is a
collection of autobiographical poems of Hughes’s relationship with
American poet Sylvia Plath.
first two lines of the poem are a recitation of Chaucer’s “General
Prologue” of The Canterbury Tales.
recitation from memory of huge portions of Chaucer’s work is
extraordinary because of the beautiful day, the amount that she recites,
and the fact that the herd of cows is enthralled by the sounds and
gather around her to listen.
cows in this poem are personified because they are “enthralled” and
“appreciate Chaucer.” They
gaze into Plath’s face; they exclaim, renew their attention, try to
“catch every inflection,” and keep a reverent distance of six feet.
Plath enthralls the cows with her recitation of Chaucer, Hughes draws
parallels between the father of English poetry, Chaucer and the American
poet, Sylvia Plath, at least for the span of time she recites the
poetry. In this way, Hughes
indicates how important he believes her voice to have been and still be.
He suggests that poetry is a kind of magic and that Plath wields
the power of poetry and the great poets—and so has achieved a kind of
as the 20th century’s greatest poet writing in English
by the Art Nouveau movement which emphasized the mysterious and
unfathomable, recommended evocation above statement, symbols above facts,
and musical measures about common speech.
a young poet, he was a great versifier of old tales drawn from Irish
folklore and mythology. A
pioneer in the Celtic Revival, determined to make the Irish conscious of
their heroic past.
the Nobel Prize in literature from his ritualized readings of his poems.
Lady Gregory establish Dublin’s Abbey Theatre as a monument to
Irish culture and high literary standards.
Lake Isle of Innisfree”
a lyric that is both decisive and dreamlike, the speaker determines that
he will now leave his urban home and go to the lake island of Innisfree.
There he will build a cabin and live alone in harmony with
nature. He looks forward to the peace and transcendent natural beauty
of the island. He states
that one reason for his departure is that he constantly hears, deep in
his heart, the sound of the lake water lapping along the shoreline.
2-4 provide an allusion to Thoreau’s Walden, which Yeats’s
father had once read to him. Both
the bean rows and the cabin are straight from Thoreau’s account of his
life in Walden Woods.
the second stanza, Yeats uses alliteration to create work music with the
repeated s and p sounds; repetition of peace and dropping
and the –ing sound.
last stanza suggests that the speaker has a mystical connection or basic
identification with nature that endures despite daily life in an urban
Wild Swans at Coole”
a lakeshore in Coole Park, in an October twilight, the speaker counts
fifty-nine swans. He
recalls counting them nineteen years before and remarks that “[t]heir
hearts have not grown old” and they have remained faithful to their
mates. The speaker,
however, has a sore heart, and he acknowledges that much has changed in
his life since he last saw the swans.
the third stanza the speaker’s mood is one of disappointment.
He grieves when he remembers a happier time nineteen years
earlier when he first viewed the swans.
the fourth stanza the speaker contrasts himself with the swans because
everything has changed in his life (including loosing the woman he
loves), but the swans remain as they were nineteen years ago, including
their same mates since swans mate for life.
last stanza provides the general characteristics that the swans possess
that make them symbols. The
swans are mysterious, beautiful, and delightful in men’s eyes.
A prodigy who wrote most of his famous works before he was twenty.
He also developed the themes, ideas, and angles of perspective for
poems that he drew on for the rest of his short life.
His parents had “pretensions of gentility” which Thomas did not share.
This caused a crisis for him which he eventually turned to alcohol to
He was unable to be a faithful husband and loving father which caused
him additional pain.
He was welcomed in America as a great poet.
He was recognized early by his contemporaries as one of the great
voices in literature; however, this was not enough to keep him from living
on the edge of poverty most of his life.
speaker recalls his idyllic childhood at Fern Hill, a Welsh farm where he
spent his days in carefree, imaginative play.
To him, Fern Hill was like the Garden of Eden, a place where he was
the lord of nature, ecstatic, independent, and unaware of the passage of
time. He concludes by musing
that he did not know then, as he does now, that time would take him from
that magic land and reveal to him his mortality.
the speaker was a child he played imaginative games in which he pretended to
be a prince or a lord.
word green in lines 10, 15, and 53 means innocent, fresh, young, and
inexperienced. Thomas pairs green
with “carefree” and “golden” at the beginning of the poem indicates
that as a child the speaker had a wonderful life and optimistic outlook.
In line 53 green is paired with “dying” indicating that
even in his “carefree” and “golden” state, the child is progressing
towards death unawares. In this
fashion the speaker makes the reader aware of how precious life is since
time is our master on earth even if our youth prevents us from understanding
and comprehending how short life is.
lines 42-45, the speaker says that as a child he ignored the fact that time
allows few carefree days before leading children out of grace to become
adults, grow old, and eventually die.
my craft or sullen art”
speaker explains when, for whom, and why he writes poetry.
He writes at night while others are asleep. He writes for the “most
secret heart” of people. He
writes for lovers, “their arms / Round the griefs of ages,” even though
they pay no attention to his poetry.
line 6 “singing” is an odd adjective to modify light.
The singing could be the noise the poet’s lamp is making or the
fact that it is by the light of the lamp that the poet “sings.”
lines 10-11 the poet writes of “common wages” which he receives from his
poetry. These wages could refer
to the effects, unconscious though they may be, he creates on his audience.
line 15 the “towering dead” could be literature’s great, deceased
Not Go Gentle into That Good Night”
speaker urges his father not to submit quietly to death, contending that
people near death should struggle against “the dying of the light.”
He assets that those with true wisdom, even though they know death is
inevitable, nevertheless rage against dying.
He looks for a sign that his father, at the end of his life, will
challenge death, whether through cursing, blessing, or crying.
elegy is different from many other elegies in that it does not mourn a dead
person, but is written to a dying man, urging him to meet death with
challenge instead of quiet acceptance.
speaker compares death to night and life to light.
four types of men the speaker mentions in the center of poem, wise men, good
men, wild men, and grave men, all find a reason for sorrow or repentance at
the coming of death and all fight against it.
With these examples, the speaker is urging his father to also fight
the end, the poem mourns the imminent death of Thomas’s father, and it
also reflects on human mortality and how to face death.
It speaks of a love for life and a battle against death.