The clown Punk #1
- The Clown Punk live in 'the shonky side of town'
- He washes car windscreens for a living.
- Armitage uses a simile to compare him to a 'basket of washing'.
- This makes him seem dirty like unwashed clothes in a laundry basket.
- Because of his tattooed appearance, his 'deflated face' and his 'shrunken scalp', the Clown Punk would appear frightening to the children.
- Phrases such as 'deflated face' and 'shrunken scalp' have connotations of something deteriorating - i.e deflating and shrinking.
- References to colour, such as to the 'indelible ink' of his 'sad tattoos' and the 'pixels' of his skin, emphasise the clown-like appearance of the clown punk, which contrasts with the sadness of his situation.
The clown Punk #2
- The full rhyme in the final couplet of this sonnet draws our attention to Armitage's closing metaphor for the clown punks mind. 'Brain' is rhymed with 'rain' to convey the idea that it is raining in the clown punks mind which means his thoughts are distorted - like the 'windscreen' before it is wiped clean.
- Armitage wants readers to feel sympathetic towards the clown punk because he urges us to 'remember the clown punk with his dyed brain', that is, we should think about what he is like inside and what he has been through, rather than just dismissing him as a 'clown' who washes windscreens at the traffic lights.
- The speaker tells us 'don't laugh', which reveals his sympathetic attitude towards the clown punk. It also appears as if he is addressing his own children when he says this, as he refers directly to 'you kinds in the back seat'.
Checking Out Me History #1
- In this poem Agard introduces us to real events in history such as '1066 and all dat', 'Lord Nelson and Waterloo', 'Florence Nightingale and she lamp'.
- He then compares them to characters from children's stories such as 'Dick Whittington'. He also compares them to nursery rhymes such as 'de dish ran away with de spoon'.
- Then black historical figures such as Touissant L'Ouverture, Nanny de Maroon and Mary Seacole.
- Words that suggest the speakers admiration include 'vision' and 'beacon' for L'Ouverture, 'see-far' and 'hopeful' for de Maroon, and 'brave' and 'healing' for Seacole.
- The short lines suggest that these historical figures have been excluded or marginalised from history as it is taught at school or as it appears in official history books. The short lines reflect the fact that there isn't much written about, or said about, these people in history as it was taught to the speaker.
- The words that present Nanny as a myth like character include 'see far woman', which makes her sound as if she has prophetic vision like a character or oracle from a greek myth, and 'fire woman', which presents her as if she is different from a normal woman and more like a fantastical character, with special powers, from a mythical story. However, the words 'struggle' and 'hopeful' also present her as a real woman fighting for freedom in real historical circumstances.
Checking Out Me History #2
- These phrases make her seem powerful - 'fire woman' - and present her as a vital part of the historical struggle of black people: in Agard's Metaphor here, she is a 'stream' that feeds the 'river of freedom'.
- After the simple rhymes of 'go', 'no' and 'snow' the poem shifts in tone to become more positive and more conventionally literary. This shift is brought about by Agard moving from the very literal, simply rhyming lines used to describe how Seacole defied the British to travel to the Crimean war, to use two metaphors to describe Seacole's role and the effect she had. Here she is described as a 'healing star' and a 'yellow sunrise', bright, light images that contrast sharply with the 'Russian snow', and represent things that people could look up to - in contrast to the way the British looked down on her by trying to prevent her going.
- 'Dem' are the people who have taught the speaker the official 'white' history has been compelled to learn, though they are perhaps also all the people who perpetuate this way of thinking about history - including politicians, perhaps - that is, people who do not want black people to be aware of the significance of black figures in history.
- In the final two lines, the speaker uses the first person for the first time - 'I checking out me own history' and 'I carving out me own identity' - to draw attention to the fact that he is now going to play an active part in understanding his own history, rather than simply having to listen to what others tell him, and therefore in forgiving his own sense of identity.
Horse Whisperer #1
- The speaker's very positive attitude towards horses is clear from the language used to describe them, such as descriptions of their 'shimmering muscles', the metaphor 'tender giants' and the closing recollection of their 'searing breath' and 'glistening veins'.
- The speaker sees him or herself as a witch-like figure with mysterious magical powers, using a 'charm' such as a 'frog's wishbone' to calm the horses, and when describing the revenge he or she later carries out, the word 'hex' is also used, which shows us the way in which the speaker sees their actions as like casting a spell - and in this case, an evil one.
- The character clearly cares deeply for the horses and feels a sense of affinity with them; yet it also seems clear that the way she has been treated by the people who at first demand his or her services, then persecute and drive the speaker out, has led the speaker to see his or herself partly in the negative way they have been seen by others.
- Perhaps the 'secret' worked because the horses responded to the foals blood on the 'spongy tissue'. However, perhaps it is more credible that the horses simply respond positively to someone who treats them kindly and respectfully, rather than try to hitch them to a 'plough'.
Horse Whisperer #2
- The 'legacy of whisperers' would appear to be the tradition of horse whispering that the speaker wanted to continue and protect - but which was in fact extinguished by the arrival of 'the tractor', which decreased the reliance of farmers on horses and therefore also their need for the horse whisperers.
- The speakers description of their flight from the country as being part of a 'stampede' makes it sound as if the horse whisperers thought of themselves as similar to the horses they helped. The term makes horse whisperers themselves sound like the 'restless' horses mentioned in stanza 1.
- The rhythm of the final stanza reflects the 'steady tread' of the horses that the speaker mentions here, with the listing of types of horses their qualities, including the repetition of the word 'pride'.
- Medusa is a poem in modern writing of the story of Medusa.
- Medusa was a once beautiful woman who was transformed into a horrible monster by the Greek goddess Athena. Most notably, Athena punished Medusa by turning her hair into a seething mass of
snakes. Any person who looked into her eyes was instantly turned to stone.
- The 4th Stanza has a metaphor for how 'medusa' feels the world is. 'I glanced at a singing bird, a handful of dusty gravel spattered down.' Everything that she looks at turns to stone.
- The poem ends with a tragic, self-pitying tone, but with a violent and vengeful twist since whoever 'looks' at Medusa will be turned to stone.
- The poem doesn't rhyme which shows that the poem is very serious.
- Brendon Gallacher is about a six-year-old who has an imaginary friend and is talking about how good he is all through the poem.
- The name 'Brendon Gallacher' is like a refrain in this poem - it recurs from the title onwards.
- In the first stanza, the speaker is talking about 'Brendon Gallacher's' family. The speaker always makes Brendon's family sound better than their own family. The speaker does this to make the parents feel bad that they aren't as good as they could be.
- The first stanza is full of comparisons between the speakers family and Brendon's family. The first is 'he was seven and I was six' and there are others such as 'He was Irish and I was Scottish' and 'He had six brothers and I had one.
- The first line in the second stanza says 'He would hold my hand and take me by the river'. Brendon is created because the speaker doesn't have any friends and probably wants one.
- The line 'how his mum drank and his daddy was a cat burglar' sounds like a child speaking, even though the poem is in the voice of an older person looking back.
- The speaker seems to be asking someone for money: he offers to do things for money, such as 'dance' or 'sing', says all he wants is 'just change' and closes by saying 'I beg of you'. There may also be a suggestion that the beggar in the poem knows the person they are talking to, as the speaker addresses them as 'dear' at the start.
- The person the beggar is talking to responds by buying the beggar a cup of tea - 'you give me tea', reports the speaker. It seems, therefore, that the beggar's elaborate appeal has not been particularly effective: the tea seems very insignificant when you consider what the beggar has said.
- The beggar's resentment at having to beg is apparent from the way he speaks at the start of the poem, in a tone that could be considered sarcastic. He addresses the person from whom he is asking for money as 'dear', suggesting he views them as equal or even perhaps looks down on them in a slightly patronising way. The beggar also declares that he has 'chosen' their doorway to sleep in as if the person who they are talking to should be honoured.
- The voice of the beggar becomes increasingly desperate as the poem progresses. At first he is charming, even playing on traditional romantic imagery - he is 'under the stars', he says. However from the midpoint of the poem the tone begins to change. First, the beggar says he will 'dance or sing' for money, then implies that he is willing to do unpleasant things such as 'swallow swords, eat fire', before saying that he will 'escape from locks and chains', which perhaps suggests the desperation with which he wants to 'escape' from his own situation. Moreover, when he says he wants 'just change', it seems that it is said in a broader sense - he wants his situation itself to change, not just people's loose change. Finally the closing sentence - 'I beg of you' - contrasts starkly with the charming tone of the opening, in its open, desperate plea'.
- By repeating the phrase 'I've chosen' (in 'I've chosen here' and 'I've chosen yours') the beggar presents himself at the start of the poem as if he is in control of his situation: he has chosen this place and this person. The emphasis on the words 'here' and 'dear' and by the repetition of 'i've chosen', indicate the ways in which the beggar is trying to flatter the person they are speaking to.
- The short length and simplicity of the final lines underline the fact that the overall message of the poem is simple - indeed, it is that contained in the title: we should 'give' to people in this situation. The half-rhymes here also emphasise the contrast between the circumstances of the beggar in his desperation and the person they are asking for money from. The latter is, perhaps sarcastically, described as 'big', for giving the beggar tea; this is contrasted sharply with 'beg', which is all the beggar is able to do.
Les Grands Seigneurs #1
- Les Grands Seigneurs is a poem about how men treat this woman.
- The speaker compares men to different types of birds: 'peacocks', 'cockatoos', 'nightingales' and 'pink flamingos'; to 'dolphins' and 'seals', and to 'sailing ships'.
- Male peacocks are known for their extravagant tail feathers, which they display to attract females, so by using this metaphor for men here the speaker may be implying that these types of men were either very attractive or that they like showing off (or both). By contrast, the metaphor of men being 'ballast in her hold' suggests men who were more supportive or reliable, providing balance in the speaker's life, as ballast provides balance and stability in ships.
- In the third stanza, the speaker describes how men looked up to her as something desirable but unobtainable: 'their queen out of reach'.
- The past tense is used to describe all the different types of men she has known in the first two stanzas, suggesting that she no longer sees men in this way - or indeed, that men now view her differently.
- The use of the word 'but' at the start of the final stanza makes it clear that a contrast to the rest of the poem will be introduced.
- More modern colloquial language is used in the final stanza, such as 'bedded', 'plaything' and 'bit of fluff'. This contrasts sharply with the more formal and elevated language of earlier stanzas that draw on the imagery....
Les Grands Seigneurs #2
... of traditional love poetry in phrases such as 'troubadour, damsel and peach' of stanza three, and the 'buttress' and 'castellated towers' of stanza one. This shift in register reinforces the central idea in the poem that men treated her well in the past - evoked by the more archaic language - but do not in the present.
- Although she uses the imagery of traditional love poetry in stanza three, the speaker says that her and her lovers only 'played at courtly love'. This suggests that the romance referred to didn't take place at a time when the conventions of courtly love were adhered to; rather, the speaker wanted to be involved in courtly love, but could only 'play' at it.
- All the things the woman has now become indicate a power relationship in which she is looked down upon and treated as an object by her husband. Her husband treats her as a 'toy' and a 'plaything', and calls her a 'little woman' - in marked contrast to the way she used to be viewed by men, as 'their queen'.
- The suggestion is that men pursued her in the hope of marrying her and therefore being able to sleep with her: the connection between the two is clear from the rhyme 'wedded, bedded' at the start of the final stanza. Once she has been 'bedded' on the wedding night, however, the man stops trying to please her - he has now obtained what was once 'out of reach'.
- In the line 'called my bluff', the suggestion is that the woman was acting in a certain way to attract men - an idea supported by the fact she tells us she 'played at courtly love', at being 'a damsel'. Then once she is married, her husband behaves as if she wasn't simply acting or 'playing', but that she really is like this. She 'played' at being a 'damsel'; now she is taken at her word and, in a modern, more prosaic version of this role, is treated by her husband as 'a little woman' and 'bit of fluff'.
- The adjectives 'trunkless' and 'shatter'd' underline the central idea in the poem of the inevitable decline and decay of once powerful and imposing figures, as the describe something that is incomplete and broken. The word 'shatter'd' also has connotations of force of violence, which also links to the poems implication that power, if exercised in a 'cold' way, may bring about its own destruction.
- The words 'frown' and 'cold command' tells us that character of Ozymandias was stern and that he led ('commanded') his people in an unfeeling, perhaps cruel, way.
- The remains of the statue are literally 'lifeless' because they are made of 'stone', though the term 'lifeless' obviously also implies the idea of death, reminding us that this poem is not so much about the statue itself; rather, it is about death and decline in significance of Ozymandias himself.
- These words, when they were inscribed on the statue, were a declaration of Ozymandias's power (as well as an indication of his arrogance). In the context of the poem, though, they are ironic: 'travellers' happening upon the ruined statue will now consider Ozymandias's fall from power, rather than his might.
- Shelley may have used this very short sentence here to underline the fact that 'nothing' remains of Ozymandias's kingdom - only this broken reminder of his decline.
- It is placed after the arrogant declaration inscribed on the statue to emphasise the ironic contrast between how Ozymandias viewed himself and how he is viewed when people see this broken statue of him.
- The use of caesura here - the full stop after 'remains' - makes the thought seem so definite.
- The adjectives in the last two lines - such as 'colossal', 'boundless', 'bare', 'lone' and 'level' - emphasise both the size of the 'wreck' of the statue and the vastness of the desert in which it now lies. This reinforces the idea in the poem that the greatest and mightiest are ultimately as insignificant as everyone else - simply a speck in the desert.
- The rhythm of the final line, in iambic pentameter, creates a feeling of steady onward movement - like that of the seemingly endless 'lone and level sands' described.
- One reason Shelley sets the fallen in an 'antique land' may be to convey the idea that great rulers and civilisations existed in the ancient past though now only ruins of them remain. However, Shelley is also vague about exactly where the traveller saw the wrecked statue because he wants to make the point that this happens to all-powerful rulers and their kingdoms.
My Last Duchess
- This poem is loosely based on historical events involving Alfonso, the Duke of Ferrara, who lived in the 16th century. The Duke is the speaker of the poem and tells us he is entertaining an emissary who has come to negotiate the Duke’s marriage (he has recently been widowed) to the daughter of another powerful family.
- The Duke is jealous that the duchess 'blushes' when men walk past.
- In the middle of the poem, the speaker uses lots of dashes which shows that he might not be that confident.
- Caesura is used in line 46 where it says 'Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands' to show where the duchess has been killed.
- The duke wants to marry the count's daughter.
- The rhyming couplets in the poem keep tying the duke's speech into tidy packages, even though his thoughts and sentences are untidy.
- The poem is written in iambic pentameter.
- This poem is a dramatic monologue, a poem in which the speaker reveals things about himself which he may or may not know. A lot is revealed about the duchess here.
The River God
- The River God is a poem about a River God that takes women and drowns them in the river.
- The poem is a dramatic monologue which gives the opinion of only the River God.
- The poem is written in free verse which could suggest that the speaker is free and has a laid back view of life.
- The rhyme scheme isn't consistent but there is some rhyme throughout the poem.
- The rhyming couplets of the poem are used to make it sound lighthearted.
- In line 17 where it says 'She lies in my beautiful river bed with many a weed,' the writer cleverly uses phallic imagery with the word 'weed'. To give you a clue, phallus means penis so you should be able to work out what he's saying.
- In line 4, the River God is talking about his personal activities where he 'likes the people to bathe in me, especially women. This shows us that the River God isn't a very nice character.