A Difficult Birth, Easter 1998 by Gillian Clarke

Notes on the poem A Difficult Birth, Easter 1998 by Gillian Clarke

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  • Created on: 02-05-11 10:01
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A Difficult Birth, Easter 1998 by Gillian Clarke
Main Ideas
Tells three stories together
o The birth of twin lambs
o The Easter story
o The making of peace agreements in Ireland
The struggle of bringing life
Determination to succeed without intervention from others
Giving up hope, and then refreshed hope, or birth, peace, and Jesus' resurrection
Four equal six lined stanzas, no rhyme pattern
Set out structure seems to contrast seemingly unplanned events of the evening, but could
suggest how everything has fitted into place
Enjambment leaves "peaceful," alone at start of line, emphasising how in all three stories
peace is found.
End stop line after "we thought her barren." Suggests they had given up hope, in the same
way that the people of Ireland may have given up hope of peace.
End stop line after "Two hooves and a muzzle." Shows how the lamb came so far, but then
was stuck, and it went no further, could suggest how it felt to the people that peace
agreements only ever went so far, then stopped.
Title links to birth of the lamb the Easter story and Irish peace process, introducing all three
stories immediately
Reference to supper and wine in line 5 links to the last supper
Alliteration of "s" sound in lines 7-8 creates sibilance, creates hushed sound of an intimate
and exciting moment, as something great is about to happen
The word "slog" in line 9 is ironic as at this point they are actually discussing it, not fighting as
they have already done, harsher alliteration of "t" sound compares to sibilance in previous
"burning tongue" could refer to the spiteful tongues which have been involved in the fighting
and even when trying to make peace
"when the whitecoats come to the woman, / well-meaning, knowing beast, with" shows a
gentle objection to medical intervention at birth. The alliteration of the "w" sound creates a
frustrated sound, but remains gentle, not angry or violent. Could also suggest a
determination of the Irish nation to sort out their problems, without outside intervention
"We strain together, harder than we dared" talks of both the birth and the peace talks
Lambs are symbols of peace, but also of new life, and link to story of Jesus, known as the
"Lamb of God", second lamb coming could talk of following peace from talks
"the stone rolled away" talks of the Easter story, as Jesus was raised to life, and also of calm
after the struggle for peace


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