Harmonium by Simon Armitage

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Armitage background:

  • Born in Yorkshire
  • Professor of poetry currently 
  • Commander of the British Empire

Themes the poety usally uses:

  • Sinister happenings (noir aspect) 
  • Death
  • Abstract way of looking at everyday life
  • Gritty observations about unusal things 

The relationship in 'Harmonium':

  • Relationship between his relationship with his father
  • Set in the church near where he grew up 


  • 4 stanzas
  • 1 and 3 are short - more about Armitage's thoughts, shorter because they mirror his younger thoughts
  • 2 and 4 quite lengthly - both involve descriptions of the harmonium or his father, highlight their greater age
  • The above could show the difference in age and experience between the father and the son
  • Only two rhyming couplets 

The Farrand Chapelette was gathering dust

in the shadowy porch of Marsden Church.

And was due to be bundled off to the skip.

Or was mine, for a song, if i wanted it. 

  • Farrand Chapelette is the brand name for a harmonium 
  • Consonance - emphasises the mood of the church (hushing effect of church) 
  • Ambiguity with the last two lines
  • 'for a song' - play on words as it can denote he got it for a cheap price or allumes to the idea of music (it's an instrument) 
  • There is a mixed tone throughout this stanza as the topic of death is introduced yet he contrinues to utilise play on words 
  • 'was gathering dust' - it's aged, neglected and he is subtely introducing subject of death so that it is foregrounded for the rest of the poem

Sunlight, through stained glass, which day to day 

could beatify saints and raise the dead,

had aged the harmonium's softwood case

and yellowed the fingernails of its keys.

And one of the notes had lost its tounge, 

and holes were worn in both the treadles 

where the organist's feet, in grey, wollen socks

and leather- soled shoes, had pedalled and pedalled. 

  • Beatification - RC process of declaring someone holy after they have died, preparing them to become Saints
  • Sunlight brings the Saints on the glass window to life again (postive imagry)
  • The keys are sun damaged - contrast to the saints being brought to life. 
  • 'One of its notes had lost its tounge' - personification depicts its as being neglected, unable to make a noise (quiet, withdrawn, unable to express itself) 
  • 'pedalled and pedalled' - repetition shows how hard you have to work this machine to make it make a noise, physically


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