What Makes ‘Miracle On St. David’s Day’ such a moving poem?

this is a practice essay that I had to do for homework.

I recieved an A* for it so I hope it helps :)

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Margarita Myskovets
What Makes `Miracle On St. David's Day' such a moving poem?
Through the use of a wide range of techniques Gillian Clarke manages to play on the reader's
feelings and create a very moving poem.
Throughout the poem Clarke describes the scenes from in a very positive approach from the
start, making the reader picture an almost cliché scene of a place that "might be a country
house". In the first stanza the reader does not fully understand what the poem is about or
whom it involves but enjoys the pleasant description of "an afternoon yellow and
open-mouthed with daffodils." The reader may also find the image described in last line in the
first stanza humorous as they picture the "rumps of gardeners between nursery shrubs". This
pleasantry is abruptly and bluntly cut off by the opening line of the second stanza, as the
reader fully understands the setting as Clarke tells them that she is "reading poetry to the
insane." This line ends with a certain finality; it is so abrupt that it disturbs the flow of the
poem. This serves to empahasise the reality of the situation, as this poem has an
autobiographical element. Clarke uses short, sharp sentences repeatedly throughout the
poem to jolt the reader back to reality. Everything about this line contrasts the previous
stanza, there is no figurative language used to describe what she is doing and it is told in a
short and blunt manner. This contrast comes as a shock to the reader who has been enjoying
the positive description of the scenery and it moves the reader as the shock of reality and
negative connotations that come with the word "insane" hit them.
The reader is greatly moved by the description of the "old woman" who "interrupting offers/as
many buckets of coal" as Clarke needs. This is the first description of one of the patients that
Clarke is surrounded by that the reader receives and is moved by the sweet image. The
woman is clearly mot fully sane as she offers coal to Clarke, a thing that has long been
outdated and was probably a big part of her previous younger life. Although the woman may
have mental health issues the reader is able to understand the meaning behind her offering, it
is a way of showing her gratitude towards Clarke in whatever way she can, even if there are no
real buckets of coal that she can give. By showing her gratitude, the reader can infer from this
that the woman is enjoying Clarke reading poetry to her and is grateful for it. This is particularly
moving because the reader understands what a wonderful thing Clarke is doing by reading
the poetry and the sadness of the state of some of the patients, like that of the woman. The
following two lines of the second stanza describe "a beautiful chestnut ­ haired boy" that
"listens/entirely absorbed. These lines create a very positive image and the enjambment
between them causes a natural flow of the poem, which is abruptly broken by the short blunt
statement "A schizophrenic". This line completely destroys the hope that was building up
inside the reader as they were picturing the young boy to be healthy. The explanation that he
is a schizophrenic "on a good day" only comes to the reader in the third stanza. By breaking up
a sentence over the two stanzas Gillian Clarke manages to leave the thought of the boy
being a schizophrenic in the readers head, for them to ponder over. By dong this the reader
fully experiences the full weight of the statement and the disease that the "beautiful
chestnut ­ haired boy" has to live with, which consequently makes it more moving. By telling
the reader that the boy is a "schizophrenic / on a good day" makes the reader wonder what
the boy can be like on a bad day and how far does his mental illness go.
In the third stanza the reader meets the "absent" woman "In a cage of first March sun" that
"sits not listening, not seeing, not feeling." This woman seems not only to be trapped by the
rays of sunshine that shine through the blinds but also trapped within her own head. This
moves the reader because they feel pity for the woman who has to live in the state of
absence and not be able to enjoy the pleasantry of a day such as the one that the poem is
set in. At the end of the third stanza the reader meets "the big, mild man" who is being

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In their mind. The question is immediately answered in the fourth
stanza, "to his chair." Here Gillian again manages to leave a pleasant image in the readers'
head before breaking it up with a short, blunt sentence "He has never spoken." The shock of
the line hits the reader and moves them with the realization of the real situation.…read more

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­ mouthed" that triggered the memory of
the poem in the man's head and again they realise how much daffodils and the poem "The
Daffodils" means to the man.
In the penultimate stanza the reader finally receives some background knowledge on the
labourer, "forty years ago, in a Valleys school, / the class recited poetry by rote". From this the
reader assumes that the labourer was once able to speak and at a point in his life the
"dumbness of misery fell".…read more


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