Of all the poems in the anthology, the one I liked the most was The Cathedral Builders, by John Ormond. I liked it because of its optimistic tone, the poets' use of descriptive language and lofty imagery. The poet has created a tone of optimism and pride, and the relationships between the men who built the Cathedral, their families and their fellow workers, invites you to envision their lives. In the first verse, when the men are young, the impression the poet has created is that of energy, strength and courage. The poet has created this image with careful use of language, such as the alliteration of "hoisted hewn... heaven", in the second line, and the words, "defied gravity, deified stone" which makes the reader think of heavy stone being lifted with apparent ease and enthusiasm.
The descriptive language used is active in such a way as to involve the reader in the worker's lives to such an extent that we learn of their families and their lives away from the building site, which creates an empathy with them on a more personal level. By talking about their lives, their suppers, their "smelly wives" and other similar instances of every day things, we gain an insight into their routine, which seems to last for most of their lives. By the third verse the men have grown older-"greer, shakier, became less inclined to fix a neighbour's roof of a fine evening," . The use of colloquial language in this line seems like the way these people would have talked to one another and makes the reader feel a connection, a parallel between their lives and ours through a common language. In the fourth verse the Cathedral is almost complete, and the words of the first line show this; "Saw naves sprout arches, clerestories soar." This lofty language heightens the sense of achievement felt by the workers, and creates an image of what the cathedral looks like at this point in time. The brief treatment of what must have been major events in the lives of others, such as "escaping the plague" indicates how little such things mattered to the men, outside their life's work, where every day they "took to the ladders again." Eventually, only the advent of old age, and the associated aches and pains make them "decide it was time to give it up." This is use of the workers own speech, as if they themselves were telling the reader their reasons, and their feelings of acceptance of the end of their own youth and lives.
By the last verse the narrative voice is no longer the poet's- it is the men themselves telling us their story, how at the consecration, the culmination of their life's work, feels like such an immense achievement that when they look upon it in all its glory, they claim ownership for themselves with the final sentence- "I bloody did that!" The feeling of familiarity and achievement the poem creates makes the reader feel optimistic and uplifted through the use of carefully chosen words, a similar technique employed by Robert Frost, in his poem The Road Not Taken. In this poem the poet tries to understand and justify the choices he has made throughout his life, and tries to explain what made him choose the path he took. The symbolism of the fork in the path through a wood emphasises the inevitability of the choice he has to make, and creates a natural image that the reader can both relate to with ease, and understand what the two paths represent to him. As the poet describes both paths we see an understanding of human nature expressed in his comparison of the two. The first road that he describes bends away so that he cannot see where it leads; this excites his curiosity at first, but his fear of the unknown proves a greater force, and makes him eventually decide to take the other route, which he claims is "just as fair." This is ambiguous, as both just and fair can mean the same thing, and produces some confusion as to their use in this context.
This might be a reference to the outcome of his decision to follow his chosen path, perhaps meaning that he chose the right one. He also mentions that the path he has decided to take "was grassy and wanted wear", indicating that not many people had gone ahead of him. This itself might have been the reason for his choice, as the road less travelled might hold less common sights as the path that had been taken by many others. Although, in spite of this thoughtful and considered appraisal, he then describes both paths as "really about the same" which gives the impression that he has no real preference for either choice, and that he thinks of it as trivial and of little matter to his journey. In the next verse there is an interesting use of symbolism when he mentions, "in leaves no step had trodden black." This symbolism of the colour black could give the impression that no one who had travelled either path had come to harm in this decision, thus heartening him in his decision and reinforcing the impression that he had that both paths were equal in regard. His exclamation in the next line, "Oh, I kept the first for another day!" gives greater understanding and empathy to the reader, as this change into a conversational and personal tone shows the natural thought processes in the poet's mind as he makes excuses to justify his decision to himself, even realising that he would in all probability not return to take the other path as he has promised himself.
This rationalisation is very human, and helps the reader connect with the poet's thoughts on the subject. In the last stanza there is an ambiguous reference, in that when the poet writes; "I shall be telling this with a sigh" there is no indication of whether this sigh is of regret, contentment, or disappointment. This ambivalent description is continued in the last line of the poem-"And that has made all the difference." This lack of indication leaves the reader to interpret whether the end is good or bad. As the tone throughout the poem is in equal parts thoughtful and reflective, it seems that at this point the poet is trying to convince himself of the significance and importance of this decision by this emphatic declaration. The last poem I liked was Toads Revisited by Philip Larkin. I think this is a very personal and revealing poem, as it's subject could be interpreted as the poet's thoughts on work and idleness, and of his unconscious fear of weakness and boredom.
In the first stanza he presents the reader with an idyllic view of time spent not working, walking in the park in the sunshine, but there is an element of doubt present from the second line. "Walking around in the park should feel better than work" the use of should in this line indicates the doubt in his mind about this first impression. There is a similar treatment in the second verse, as he writes- "not a bad place to be, yet it doesn't suit me." This denial is the first indication of his fear of being "one of the men you meet of an afternoon", the ones he considers to be "stupid or weak." The use of modern language and colloquial, conversational tone invites the reader to empathize with the poet's thoughts about the "toad work." The tone of the whole poem is quiet and passive which reflects its regretful and depressing content. This is also shown in his repetitive use of negative phrasing when dealing with the stereotypes he describes. His apparent contempt for those not at work seems to be a cover for his own fears about his inadequacy, as shown in his repetitive statements of denial-"Think of being them!" he writes, the exclamation showing the strength of his thoughts and also his desire for detachment from the people he describes so negatively. By the seventh stanza he is no longer describing the lives of others, but his own fate, were it not for his work.
"Nowhere to go but indoors, no friends but empty chairs" Is a reflection upon what the poet's life would be like if he were in that position. It is this thought that makes him talk against those not at work, and makes him seem to make light of the troubles of people that have been in accidents and the homeless. I like this poem because of its simplicity and use of short phrases that make the rhythm flow in a conversational was, as if the poet were simple speaking his thoughts aloud to the reader. This is true of all three of the poems for which I have a preference. The use of modern and well chosen vocabulary is read with ease and often invites intimacy, interest and empathy.
Word count 1541.