Best Words Pre-1914 Poems

A Brief overview of each poem from the Best Words pre-1914 collection

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To Autumn- John Keats

Subject - Death (positive), Regret, Passing of Time

First stanza- a description of what he has achieved in his life. Summer has gone on for a long time.

Second stanza- Slows down: almost stops. Death is slow. Element of content: everything is finished.

Third stanza- Don't think about death. You have achieved a lot in your life. Nothing lasts forever. Death is slow. Beginning of winter. Innocence is gone.

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First Love - John Clare

Subject- effect of falling in love: both physical and emotional. Unusual outlook.

First stanza -Love takes over your body. Paralysis- the character can be manipulated without his permission. However he feels that love is GOOD as well as allowing manipulation and helplessness

Second stanza- Uncontrollable speaking from his heart - no control over his words or his actions. Painful experience. Sound of heart in the syllables. She is the sole focus of his senses. Physical and emotional effects.

Third stanza- Rhetorical questions. Confused about love. His heart is hers forever - he cant never go back to how he was before. She is aware of him

Throughout the poem (particularly in the last stanza) there is a use of natural imagery.

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My Last Duchess - Robert Browning

  • Dramatic monologue. It tells us about the character of the speaker and the character of the subject
  • Section 1- Servant comes to meet the duke and discuss the marriage of the Duke to his Master's daughter: dowry. The Duke implies that if she steps out of line he will kill her: she must conform to his expectations.
  • Section 2 - Duke shows servant a picture of his former wife and talks about her. She upset him and didn't uphold his family honour, as well as being too easily impressed by other people and objects.
  • Section 3 - we hear how she was a happy person who enjoyed the company of others. It is implied that he had her killed because she didn't make him feel special or importnat. He then objectified her into a painting so he can choose who looks at her and who doesn't. With his next wife, he will break and mould her so she is under his control: like a piece of art.
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To His Coy Mistress - Andrew Marvell

Subject- sex- syllogistic argument - persuasive.

Stanza one - If he had all the time in the world he would spend forever flattering her. He would allow her to refuse forever. Becomes more hyperbolic as piece continues: with his love becoming as big as an empire.

Stanza two- Threat. If you don't sleep with me you will die a virgin. You can't have a relationship in the grave and the worms with take your virginity. There just isn't enough time for me to admire you forever.

Stanza three- While we are youthful lets make the most of it. Youth doesn't stay around for long, so we may as well make the most of it" We can't stop time but we can make it chase us by enjoying ourselves.

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Shall I compare thee...?- Shakespeare

Subject - Love and nature

  • You are more beautiful than Summer because you are milder, last for longer and are always fair. Your beauty will not end like summer does.
  • Because the poem has been written about her, her beauty will not be forgotten as long as people continue to read it.
  • THings wrong with summer: Rough winds, Too short, Too hot, Bad weather, Sometimes cloudy
  • A continuing metaphor of nature and the sun throughout the piece.
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Ballad - Anon

  • Moral/warning aimed at women
  • Don't have sex before marriage
  • Don't let men fool you with persuasion
  • About a woman- inexperienced in love. She has an illegitimate child,anf has been outcast by society. The father doesn't want to know once he finds out she has become pregnant. Naive - taken in by his promises.
  • She is not full of regret: suicidal, and knows noone will want to care for the child

Features of a Ballad

  • Same number of syllables per line.
  • Moral
  • Rhyming couplets
  • Tells a story
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To a Mouse - Robert Burns

  • Written in Scottish dialect
  • Scotland invaded by England: Mouse represents and plough represents England
  • Upper class language: makes the English feel guilty
  • If you have to steal to survive you must do it
  • Winter is coming: it's too col: not enough time or materials for the mouse to rebuild her nest
  • The mouse has an easier life than the Scottish people - she only lives for the present but the farmer looks at bad propects behind him and dreads the future
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The Flea - John Donne

-syllogistic argument - persuade woman to have sex with him

Stanza one- Elizabethan beliefs that blood was shared when you had intercourse: We've already had sex because the fleaa has bitten us both. You haven't suffered any effect from the flea bite so you won't from sleeping with me! The flea gets to enjoy itself without any romance: so why shouldn't we?

Stanza two- Her parents don't approve - he's trying to get her to rebel. Because their bloods are mingled, it's like they are married and this is their honeymoon: they should enjoy it. Their love is shut away in the flea. If you kill the flea you will kill all of us.

Stanza three- You killed an innocent flea. What did the flea ever do to you? You lost nothing by killing the Flea so you will lose nothing by sleeping with me!

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Let me not - Shakespeare

  • Sailing metaphor
  • Personification of time
  • There should be no barriers to true love
  • Love will not change if the person changes
  • We can estimate the amount of love but noit it's value
  • Just because love is taken away it doesn't mean you stop loving them
  • Love is like a star that never changes: lets you know where you are.
  • We get old and die: but love doesn't end
  • COnvinced he is right about love
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Amen - Christina Rossetti

Themes- Death, Life and Religion. Coming to terms with an end (of either life or love)

Stanza one - Negative opening. Rhetorical questions show uncertainty. We are reaping benefits from our work. This work is what life has been about and now we have reached the harvest. Harevst is the end.

Stanza Two- Religion - uncertainty about life after death: Haven't found out about everything in life! Have I achieved everything I could have done? Sexual innocence. Perhaps a longing for children. Time seems shorter: doesn't have much time left

Stanza three- I have done enough. Where there is death there will be new life. I may die but life will go ont. List of good things left behind.

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Porphyria's Lover - Robert Browning

Story: he kills his lover in order to preserve the moment.

  • She brings warmth and cheer in from a stormy night
  • She begins to display herself: he is sullen even though she is elegant and beautiful
  • He is angry because she won't give herself completely and utterly to him: but thye have sex anyway
  • He realises she adores him: reasoning with himself about how he can preserve the moment
  • He strangles her with her own hair. He tries to reassure himself he has done the right thing.
  • now HE has the power
  • He dehumanises her by referring to her as it.
  • He reassures himself again: says she wanted to die
  • God has not punished him so he must have done the right thing.
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La Belle Dame sans Merci - John Keats

  • Ballad - Moral/warning
  • Setting at beginning: hostile, unnatural, no birds sing
  • Sunken and thin: autumn turns to winter
  • Symptoms of TB: pale, very thin, red spots on cheeks
  • Beautiful woman: wild and uncontrollable
  • He is bewitched and consumed by her - he belives she loves him: yet she betrays him.
  • He is warned by prevois lovers that this woman is dangerous: strong importnant people can be harmed too: kings, warriors and princes
  • Brutal ending: comes out of his trance and wastes away: surrounded by people who have met the same fate as him
  • Repetition: his purpose has been taken away: he is "alone and coldly loitering"
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