English Poetry

Brief notes on poems


The Ruined Maid By Thomas Hardy

- Amelia says a lot less than the Country girl (one line at end of each stanza) - suggests she is ashamed

- Repeating the word "ruined" suggests she is undermining what the Country girl says

- Amelia isn't particularly happy about what she does but she sees the benefits

- Hardy's voice comes through Amelia's lines about being "ruined"

- Amelia uses standard English in her speech

- One lapse suggests she hasn't changed as much as we expect


- Poet offers no commendation of Amelia - derived from Latin "melior" which means better


- Two characters speak for themselves

- Country girl speaks excitedly/ Amelia speaks simple, ironic

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The River God By Stevie Smith


- "God" - Omniscient/ all powerful/ can control death

- "bless their swimming" - honour

- "Spirit of Clowning" (cheerful) - contrast to most of the poem 

- Simplistic quality like a Nursery rhyme - "Hi yih" 


- Personification of the River

- Sense of power/ anger - "I can drown the fools" 


- Warning/ eerie tone - Bad things can happen if you don't obey rules

Structure/ Form: - short and long to represent the waves of river

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My Last Duchess By Robert Browning


- Ominous/ eerie - "I gave commands; then all smiles stopped together"

- Unnerving - "The curtain I have drawn for you" - Possessive/ Paranoid/ Dark


- Not many full stops - shows lots of emotion

- Well-thought out speech but rambles - suggesting madness


- Manipulative language - "The faint half-flush that dies along her throat"

- Conversational language (fillers) - "How shall I say?"


- Rhyming couplets used in romantic poetry & One long paragraph like a story 

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The Clown Punk By Simon Armitage

- Poem is written as a sonnet (14 lines, traditionally written in iambic pentameter)

- Iambic Pentameter - 10 syllables per line, alternately unstressed and stressed

- Two lines (6 and 7), not in iambic pentameter- Life doesn't have a regular pattern

- The title "Clown Punk" sounds derogatory

- Style of a dramatic monologue

- Critical/ Labelling tone 

- "town clown" suggests a local figure

- Iambic pentameter mimics conversational tone

- Enjambments to add narrative. 

- Idea of being an outcast

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Ozymandias By Percy Bysshe Shelley

- Dramatic Monologue

- Ozymandias, another name for Ramses II, Egyptian Pharoah (Ramses the Great)

- Moral: People who once had great power, no-one will remember later on 

- Metaphorical ideas: Once a great King who now has nothing to boast about 

- Metaphor for destructive power of history has destroyed his "works"

- Insignificance of human time on Earth 

- Poem symbolises pride of humanity 

- Art and language outlive any form or power of human life

- Distancing the history and time 

Main Metaphor is about ephemeral power of Political Power (short-lived power)

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Brendon Gallacher By Jackie Kay

- Brendon's life seems more interesting and exciting than the speaker's life

- Speaker wants to change her dad's job, wants friends and companionship

- Speaker wants to get away from where she lives/ go on holiday

- Mum shatters fantasy, Brendon "dies"

- Feminine endings make the poem seem softer and more nostalgic

- Half rhyme used - no full rhyme at all 

- Sintactic Patterning 

- No punctuation in some places , seems childish

- A lot of simplistic/ childish language - emphasises childhood memories

- Written in past tense

- Brendon represents a means of escape and friendship (He is a strong friend, the speaker escapes with)

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The Hunchback in the Park By Dylan Thomas


- Lots of contrasts are created (idea of fantasy vs reality) - Imagination is very important (no bitter ideas)

- Two different Worlds and times - Solitary/ Alone

- Dylan's voice presented through the use of "I"  - experience is his own 

- Treated no better than an animal 

- "Hunchback" - Physically deformed


- Six lines in each stanza and same line lengths

- Show how rigid Hunchback's daily routine is - Confinement of reality and World he lives in 

- Enjambments suggest freedom in his imagination

- Nature theme runs throughout poem - suggests beauty

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On a Portrait of a Deaf Man By John Betjeman

- Poem speaks well and positively of the deaf man, makes readers more sympathetic 

- Tense contrasts to compare what he was like then and now 

- End stop lines create short sentences to create a big impact 

Themes and Ideas:

- Uses a ballad metre as this is a elegy(4 line stanzas of alternating iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter)

- The jaunty metre and rhyme scheme jars somewhat with the content and theme

Language, Structure and Form:

- Matter of fact tone

- Repeats past and present tense contrasts to reinforce the conflict being explored, as the poet comes to terms with the finality of death

- Uncomplicated, straight forward language to create a pleasant picture.

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Casehistory: Alison (head injury)

- Talks of then (third person) and now (first person)

- The use of caesuras show how her previous life stopped suddenly

- Third person use emphasises how she doesn't remember her previous self

Themes and Ideas:

- Dramatic Monologue to explore effects of memory loss and how it affects personal identity

- Tone of regret and pathos as Alison mixes personal pronouns demonstrating her confusion and sense of loss

Structure, Form and Language:

- Balanced and regular structure

- Arranged in tercets (three lined verse)

- Creates a tone of quiet consideration

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Medusa By Carol Ann Duffy


- Medusa (how she's different/ changed)

- Dramatic Monologue - character central to the action tells us the story

Ryhme, rhythm and structure:

- Only full ryhme used in stanza 3

- Uses rhyme within the line

Themes and Ideas:

- Metaphor for pain and passion of relationships (danger and violence when love goes wrong)

Language, Structure and Form:

- Tone is quite bitter

- Negative language used to reinforce pathos of Medusa's self image

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Les Grands Seigneurs By Dorothy Molloy

- Able to talk and spend time with any men until she becomes married (only allowed to talk to her husband)

- "we played at" - suggests innoncence of what they are doing

- "I was wedded" - passive tense, suggests husband has taken her power

- Lots of possessive pronouns highlight the sense of power she once had

- Loss of possessive pronouns after marriage highlighting her loss of power

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