Pre-Entry Certificate 2017-18: English Essay
Years ago, books were not common, unlike the modern society we live in now. Nevertheless, people used to tell stories but not in the same manner as the novels we read nowadays. Thoughts and feelings were expressed in the form of poetry. This essay aims to analyse ‘A Sonnet of the Moon’ by Charles Best (1608) and Sad Steps’ by Philip Larkin (1974). This work will portray the deeper meaning and tone of each poem focusing on the crucial aspects of formal features and language used in poetry. Furthermore, the first paragraph will focus more on the poem by Best (1608), followed by the second paragraph which will focus on the poem by Larkin (1974). Finally, the third paragraph will compare and contrast the two poems followed by a conclusion.
The first poem to discuss is ‘A Sonnet of the Moon’ by Charles Best. This type of poem is called a sonnet, which is a kind of poem that conveys ideas and thoughts made up of 14 lines. The word sonnet is derived from the Italian word ‘sonetto’ which means a ‘little song”. A sonnet has a particular rhyme scheme and a specific turn (Abrams,1993). This poem by Best (1608) is painting the connection between the moon and the ocean even though at the end of this poem, this relationship seems to have changed to some degree. At the start of the poem the writer describes the link between the moon and ocean, yet closes contrasting this relationship to that faced by two lovers who are separated. The line “so as you come and as you do depart, joys ebb and flow within my tender heart’ is a good illustration of the connection and relationship of separated lovers just like the moon and ocean because when the moon disappears during daylight, this is similar to when lovers disappear from each other in the course of their relationship(Abrams,1993). The language used in the poem seems to be descriptive as well as having some personification, this is illustrated by the way the feeling was described as well as the use of images. An example of this expression is “when you return their tide my heart doth fill.” The image use of images in the poem was used when he referred to the moon or ocean. This is evident in the way he described the tides of the water and crystal waves and additionally as the “pale queen” or the moon. The use of some personification is evident in the use of terms like e.g. “silent night” and “crystal waves. The poem made it difficult to establish the use of metaphors for example “the pale queen of the silent night.” It is not clear if this is a comparison or not. Furthermore, there was one simile in the line “as long as she is in his sight (Furniss and Bath,1996). To sum it up the writer compared the relationship found in nature to that of the relationships found in life.
The poem ‘Sad Steps’ by Philip Larkin (1974) explores the poet’s perception of losing his youth. The first line of the poem provides a different meaning to this title. The ‘sad steps’ seem to be very informal and more like everyday language. The opening sentence is vulgar, and seems as if the poet had intentions of making it known to the reader that the subject of his poem was in bad taste. It seems as if Larkin wrote this poem for the average regular person than people from the upper class. The use of ‘taking a piss’ is not the typical language that is used in poetry, and this can be construed to be in bad taste in the literary circles. The word ‘groping’ can also be construed to be in bad taste and gives a feeling of murkiness (Larkin, 2006). The crudeness of the language used in the poem can disabuse the reader of any simple interpretation of how beautiful the moon and how it mirror’s the writer’s sorrow. Larkin portrays that the moon was striking him in the night sky, this was something most poets in that period were generally attracted to. However, he avoided the age-old reactions to the moon and highlighted this in overstated language by utilising exclamation marks in suggesting that they lost their earnestness and now appear to be excessively pulled back from people’s mentalities to the moon as a symbol of romance. At the end of line 12, the use of a blunt ‘No’, the poet replaces these sentimental dreams of the moon’s importance with a more grounded reaction, because the dull colours of the moon mirror’s his lost youth and how sad he feels about it. This sonnet is created form this youthful perspective, yet from a maturing and older person the moon’s paleness reminds him that the strongly-felt emotions of youth have blurred (Furniss and Bath,1996). This poem provides insight into the poet’s capacity to scrutinise his feelings in plain language and additionally using highly poetic language and a sophisticated rhyme scheme.
Furthermore, this essay would like to reintroduce the relationship between the two poems: “Sad Steps” and “A Sonnet of the moon. The common element present in both poems is sadness over the loss of youth and passion of being in love with a woman who keeps leaving. Both poems also have a commonness of themes that involves passion and sadness form both ends of the scale. In comparison, there is a difference between the two poems in the rhymes, the metaphors used, language, and the punctuation. In Sad Steps, the language is colloquial words and vulgar and controversial language (with the use of ‘groping back to bed after a piss’). The poet creates an ambiguous meaning of this poem leaving the reader to his/her interpretation of the poem. In comparison, ‘A sonnet of the moon ‘uses formal and literary language. The poem was written in 1608, it was a different period in time compared to 1974 when Larkin wrote his poem, hence the difference in the language and tone. Also, the difference between the two poems is that ‘A Sonnet of the moon is an original sonnet whereas ‘Sad Steps’ is a reference of another sonnet by Sir Philip Sidney so in other words this poem is speaking to another poem. Thus, it appears as if there is a presence of an echo of another voice behind the poem. Larkin’s poem is divided into six stanzas, with three lines in each stanza. The rhyme in the poem is abc bba cdc edc efe ffe. Of most important is the language of this poem, which is accessible, and can be said to be informal as provided in the first verse where he used the word “piss and the sonnet goes on to change gradually to a formal language. Larkin uses remarkable literary devices such as metaphors to refer to the moon. He uses exaggerations such as “Medallion of Art!’ The use of the exclamation marks gives intensity to the sonnet and gives the poet the chance to emphasise the feeling that he wants to communicate with some verses. Finally, brackets and colons have also been used by the poet to give a better understanding of his emotions. On the other hand, best (1608) uses formal and figurative language by noting the interconnection of the moon and the ocean and contrasting it to the relationship between him and the woman he is in love with. The poem appears to be dedicated to a loved one. The rhyme in the poem is a b c e d d f g f g h h. In this poem, the rhyme scheme is important in light of the fact that it separates the poem into three sections which serve as a construction of suspension towards the finishing of the poem, suggesting to the reader that the moon is not as good as romantics portrays it. This poem is not written in vulgar and controversial language as compared to Larkin’s poem (Furniss and Bath,1996).
In conclusion, the two poems give an insight of conflicting emotions using different figurative language. This asserts the vital role that poetry plays in our everyday lives, and it gives us a deeper understanding of the English language, a language most people think they know and understand yet suddenly the words change and appears not to make sense through the use of poetic language. The use of poetry can serve many different positive purposes on society as no one poem can be read in the same manner.