1. Poetry What is poetry?

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Introduction 1
Types of Poetry 2
Rhyme 3
Rhythm 5
The Critical Plan: Part I 10

The Critical Plan: Part II 13

The Critical Plan: Part III 17

The Critical Plan: Part VI 29

Selected Poems 37

Glossary of Literary Terms 63

1. Poetry

1. What is poetry?
According to Douglas Bush“ Poetry is the distillation of man’s experience in society and solitude, of his joys and visions, his suffering and despair, his wisdom and fortitude, his efforts to grasp the ‘burthen of mystery’. It is because poetry is all these things in every age some people must write and read it and that while its spirit is always changing with changing experience in changing world, great poetry always remains alive and always true”. Poetry communicates feelings not facts, emotions not information; the poet conveys to us some feelings or ideas which we, at once, recognize either actually or potentially as part of our experience. It’s the quality of the experience, its strength and its vitality from which good poetry comes.

Poetry as a literary genre can be distinguished from other works of art by shape (form) and intensity of meaning, a concentration of literal meaning i.e. dictionary meaning and other contextual meanings. The language of poetry is different from ordinary language; it has a spell, which holds the reader from all walks of life. Accordingly, form, concentration and intensity of meaning are the three qualities that distinguish the poetic treatment of a subject from its treatment in other genres. Definition of poetry would remain incomplete without quoting Wordsworth: “poetry is a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings recollected in tranquility”.

1.2. Poetic language
Poetic language has its specificity. Poets usually use language in a very measured way. Poetic language is patterned in a certain manner in order arouse the feelings of the reader. Poets use few words but meanings incurred are dense. Consider the following example:
The apparition of these faces in the crowd

Petals on a wet black bough

Ezra Pound

It is clear that the poet has intensely transformed a personal moment into an impersonal and communicable image which does not merely suggests the transient beauty of the faces Pound saw at the La Concorde, a metro station in Paris, but it might have more complex ramifications of meanings. Poetry makes use of certain poetic rules such as rhyme, rhythm, alliteration, assonance, etc. This, however, does not mean that there is no poetry breaking rules.

2. Types of poetry
2.1 Lyric poetry
According to (Oxford Dictionary), lyric is the common name given for a short poem, usually divided into stanzas and directly expressing the poet’s own thoughts and emotions. In ordinary language, the word often means a song: the sort of song which was sung in ancient Greece to the music of the lyre and which was sung in the modern world to the music of guitar, but there are many lyrical poems which would be unsuitable for singing. The typical subject matter of lyrical poetry is love for a mistress or deity. The mood of the speaker is usually related to this love. However, lyric in its widest sense encompasses a large number of more specialized kinds of poetry including the sonnet, elegy, ode and the hymn.
A. The Sonnet
It was Sir Thomas Wyatt who first introduced the sonnet to English literature. The sonnet is a lyrical poem of fixed form consisting of fourteen lines that can be divided into two parts: an octave (eight lines) and a sestet (six lines) or three quatrains of four lines each and a couplet. In English poetry there are three patterns of sonnets:
1- The Petrarchan sonnet

The Petrarchan sonnet consists of an octave and a sestet rhyming abba abba cdecde (or cdcdcd).

2- The Spenserian sonnet:
It consists of three quatrains and a couplet rhyming abab, bcbc, and ee.
3-The Shakespearean sonnet
It is like the Spenserian sonnet, which falls into three quatrains and a couplet but has a different rhyme scheme abab, cdcd, efef, and gg
B. Ode
It was Ben Johnson who established the Pindaric ode in English literature. Pindar was a Greek poet of the fifth century BC who wrote poetic form called the “Ode,” i.e. a long lyrical poem having a serious subject and is elevated in style; Ben Johnson modeled this form on the songs sung by the chorus in drama. So, the chorus moved in a dance rhythm to the left and sang the strophe, then moved to the right singing the antistrophe and finally stood still – the epode. Pindar’s odes were encomiastic, i.e. they were poetry of praise. Pindar wrote them in praise of the winners of the Olympic games. Cowley and Dryden liked to write odes in the Pindaric manner. Cowley introduced the irregular ode in 1656.
Some examples of the ode include Thomas Gray’s “The Progress of Poesy”, Wordsworth’s Intimations of immortality of Early Childhood” and “ode to Duty”, Collins’ Ode to Evening”, and Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind.
C. Elegy
Elegy is a poem written to commemorate somebody who is dead. An example of this is Milton’s “lycidas”. The term is often extended to include any poem written in a melancholic, meditative strain, such as Gray’s “Elegy written in a Country Churchyard”.

D. Hymn

A hymn is a religious song praising God. Poets and ecclesiastics have written many examples in Latin and from the sixteenth Century onwards in English. John Donne, a seventeenth English Metaphysical poet wrote many hymns including “Hymn to My God on My Sickness”.

2.2 Pastoral Poetry:
Pastoral Poetry deals with an imaginary world of simple countryside life in which shepherds and shepherdesses fall in love with each other. In this ideal word the lovers sing songs and enjoy the uncorrupted world. The greatest example of this kind is Spenser’s”Shepherd’s Calendar” and a famous poem written by Marlowe, “The Passionate Shepherd.”
2.3 Narrative Poetry
Narrative poetry is a type of poetry which tells a story. The epic and ballad are two narrative poetry genres. Coleridge’s ballad, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Milton’s Paradise Lost are two examples
An epic is a long poem dealing with great events or heroic adventures. It is often written in a lofty style. Milton’s “Paradise Lost” is the one of great epic in Modern English literature. It is written in blank verse.
2. Ballad
A ballad is a popular poem, which tells a story and is handed down by tradition: accordingly, it is often modified in the course of time. When printed books became comparatively cheap, the true ballad ceased to be composed, but imitations were written at the end of 15th century and later.
The true ballads have a complete anonymity and a kind of impersonality. They have a story and a lyrical feeling. They are also full of dialogue and drama. They are generally marked by naivety of expression and sentiment, by conventional epithets, e.g. “red gold”, and by certain repetition and parallelism in structure, as in:
He had not been a way a week.

A week but barely three.

The most well known ballads are “Sir Patrick Spens”, “Edward, Edward”, and “Binnorie”. The ballad meter, which embodies most ballad themes, is a quatrain (4-line stanza) of alternate iambic tetrameters and trimeters, rhyming only in the trimeters.

“Sir Patrick Spens” is the most famous example of the ballad:

The king sits in Dunfermline town,

Drinking the blood-red wine.

O where will I get a good sailor,

To sail this ship o’ mine?

O up and spake an elder knight,

Sat at the king’s right knee:

‘Sir Patrick Spens is the best sailor

That ever sailed the sea’.

2.4 Didactic Poetry
Poetry that is written with the deliberate purpose of instructing, such as Pope’s “Essay on Criticism”. It flourished during the 18th century, and the heroic couplet was generally used as its medium. It does not include narrative poems from which a moral can be drawn.
2.5. Dramatic Poetry
Dramatic poetry which is intended for acting upon the stage. An example of this kind of poetry is Shakespeare’s plays, which are written in blank verse, i.e., unrhymed iambic pentameter.


Rhyme is one of the poetic devices used by poets in order to secure a poetic effect. It is the repetition of the same sound or sounds at the end of a line in a poem. Rhyme was not used in classical poetry; it was unknown to the Greeks. It was first used in the Latin Church of North Africa around 200 AD. By the fourth century, rhymed poetry had been written, and the churches had come to use it. Fourteenth century Europe used rhyme. Spain was the only country which did not use it. Rhyme has a poetic function. Besides the fact that it delights the ear with the music it produces, it creates an emotional connection that intensifies the logical connection of the poem.

There are different kinds of rhyme:

  1. Perfect rhyme.

  2. Imperfect rhyme.

  3. Masculine rhyme (or single rhyme).

  4. Feminine rhyme (or double rhyme).

  5. Eye rhyme.

  6. Pararhyme.

(1) Perfect rhyme: When the poet ends the lines of his poem with words which perfectly accord with each other in sound, the rhyme is called perfect rhyme. Spenser for example writes:

Help me to blaze

Her worthy praise

And also:
I saw Phoebus thrust out his golden head,

Upon her to gaze

But when he saw, how broad her beams did spread
In "Epithalamion", Spenser writes:
To help to deck her and to help to sing,

That all the woods may answer and your echo ring

In the lines above the words blaze and praise rhyme perfectly and so do the words “head” and “spread”, “gaze” and “amaze,” “sing” and “sing”.
(2) In “like as a ship” Spenser provides an example of the imperfect rhyme. The word “placed” with which line No. 8 ends does not rhyme perfectly with the word “overcast” in line 6 or with “past” in line 9”
So I whose star, that wont with her bright ray

Me to direct, with clouds is overcast,

Do wander now in darkness and dismay,

Through hidden perils round about me placed

Yet hope I well that when this storm is past
(3) Masculine rhyme
If the line of a poem ends with words having one stressed syllable, the rhyme is masculine rhyme. The words: hatch, catch, patch and scratch consist of stressed syllables; so do the words: damp, lamp, and stamp. When Wordsworth says:

I listened, motionless and still;

And as I mounted up the hill;

The music in my heart I bore,

Long after it was heard no more
The words still and hill rhyme perfectly, and so do the words bore and more. Because these underlined words are monosyllables, they are called masculine rhyme.
(4) Feminine rhyme:
Feminine rhyme is the use of words having two syllables, the first of which is stressed and the second is unstressed: Ibsen, Gibson, pitchy, stitchy, prickly, trickly sickly. Wordsworth writes:
As if her song could have no ending

I saw her singing at her work

And over the sickle bending

Each of these two words “ending” and “bending” consists of two syllables, the first of which is stressed and the second is unstressed. This is called feminine rhyme.

5 Eye – rhyme
Eye – rhyme is the use of words whose endings are spelled alike, but the pronunciation of which is different such as: daughter and laughter; prove and love. Pope says:

Some ne’er advance a judgment of their own,

But catch the spreading notion of the town

The words ‘own’ and ‘town’ are eye rhyme.

(6) Pararhyme
Pararhyme is the use of words the consonants of which are the same, but the interior vowels are different, e.g. escaped and scooped. The consonants

in these two words are: s c p d but the vowel a in ‘escaped’ is different from the vowels in ‘scooped’.

Great and ‘groat’ constitute another example of Pararhyme.
Wilfred Owen is the most famous practitioner of Pararhyme. In “strange meeting’ he says:

It seemed that out of battle I escaped

Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped

Through granits which titanic wars had groined

Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned.
In these four lines ‘escaped’ and ‘scooped, groined and groaned’ are pararhymes.

4 Rhythm

In English poetry, rhythm is the regular variation of weak and strong syllables in a stretch of language. Poetry is distinguished from prose because it contains some element which is repeated, creating a sense of pattern, however, rhythm can be found in prose.In English, every word of more than one syllable has an accent on one of its syllables. Strong stresses only exist in relation to the unaccented syllables according to their value in the meaning of the sentence. The rhythm of any sentence in English could be explained in terms of the variation in stress from one syllable to another.

Scansion is the analysis of the rhythm or meter of individual poems. In scanning, a line is divided into small units of rhythm called feet. A week stress followed by a strong stress (VI) is called and iamb.

Iambic maters are the most common in English verse. The other most common meter in lyric poems is the trochiac meter which consists of a stressed syllable followed by unstressed one (IV).

In scanning verse, it is rarely necessary to use more than the following feet. The stressed syllable is generally marked by a sign (I), and is called the ictus, whereas the unstressed syllable is marked (v) and is called the remiss.

  1. Iamb (VI) as in repeat.

  2. Trochee (IV) as in never.

  3. Anapaest (VVI) as in interrupt.

  4. Dactyl (IVV) as in possible or Washington.

  5. Spondee (II) as heartbreak.

  6. Pyrrhic (VV) as in the top / of the / morning.

A single poetic line is called a verse, and different verse lengths are defined in terms of the number and type of poetic feet they contain:

Monometer: One foot. Pentameter : five feet
Dimeter : two feet Hexameter : six feet
Trimeter : three feet heptameter : seven feet
Tetrameter : four feet
Here are examples of different metrical lines:

  1. Iambic pentameter:

From fair / est creat / ures we / desire / increase.

That their / beau/ ties Rose / might ne / ver die.

ii) Iambic trimeter:

It is / the eve / ning hour,

How si / lent all / doth lie.

iii) Trochaic tetrameter:
Come my / Celia / let us / prove.

While we / may the / sports of / love.

iv) Dactylic tetrameter:

Woman much / missed how you / call t o me / call to me.

Saying that / now you are / not as you / were.
v) Anapestic tetrameter:

The assyr / ian came down / like the wolf / on the fold.

And his co / horts were burn / ing in pur / ple and gold.

5. The Critical Plan

Part I

A- Questions to ask
When judging a poem, a critic works to a plan. The aim of part of this course is to enable you to see that plan and its purpose, and to clearly work according to it. Once you have mastered this basic approach you can adapt it to your own ideas and needs. Before criticism, however, the critic asks several questions about the poem. He attempts to answer the following questions.
1- What is the setting of the poem in time?

2- What is the setting of the poem in place?

3- Who is the speaker? What kind of person is he?

4- To whom is the speaker speaking? What kind of person is


5- What is the poem about?

It is necessary to answer these questions before critically looking at any given poem. We begin here with a summary of the critical plan, and then in successive lessons we will investigate each stage of the critical process. Each stage in the plan involves different types of analysis, such as examination of imagery symbol, metaphor, etc. Our investigation will culminate in the complete criticism of several poems. The stages of the critical plan are:
1. The critic begins with a general statement of the theme and

the tone of the poem as a whole. Here the critic first

examines the language of the poet. He is conscious of

connotative and denotative use of the language.

2. Then the critic follows a detailed account of the meaning of

the poem and of the development of the poet’s thoughts

from the beginning to the end.
3. The critic looks at the kind of theme and the poet’s purpose

in writing about it.

4. The critic looks at the style of the poem.
5. Finally, the critic expresses a final judgment on the poem

based on the evidence collected. In the process, this final

judgment should leave the reader with a clear picture of

the critics reactions to the poem as a whole.

We will begin to work with the first stage here. Notice that

so far we have concentrated upon the use of language in the

poems. It is essential to look at this in order to form a clear

idea of the tone and theme of the poem as a whole. In this

first stage of criticism, the critic asks himself questions such

1. What is the central purpose of the poem?

2. What is the tone of the poem?

3. How is the tone achieved?

4. How does the poem use words to find an effect?

5. What kinds of imagery are used?

6. How does the poem use sound?

B- Language, Prejudice, Impressions and Judgment.
As you read a poem for the first time, impressions and reactions are constantly forming in your mind. A word stands out from its context by reason of the associations that are pleasant or otherwise, and of differing degrees of intensity which it has for the individual reader. A color adjective appeals to the reader or repels the reader according to the reader’s feelings. The reader’s tongue may stop at a phrase, or stumble over a line; and so on. By the time the first reading is complete, these transitory and often half-conscious thoughts and emotions have come together to from a first impression of the poem as a whole. The hasty and uncritical reader then gives his judgment. “I like this,” exclaims one. “This is poor stuff.” says another. However first impressions differ widely and are very unreliable. The word with pleasant associations for reader ‘A’ may have unpleasant associations for reader ‘B’; reader ‘C’ may not like the color which reader ‘D’ enjoys. Here, of course, you might say “then there is nothing to be done about it, is there? They will never agree about the poem. One person doesn’t like it, the other does. So, it’s all a matter of taste, “but, that is precisely what it is, a matter of good taste, and it should be possible for ‘A’ and ‘B’ to find a common standard on which they can base their judgment. Thus, there is a large need to understand the language and use of language, which the poet has used. Otherwise, it is impossible to move beyond the first stage in the critical plan. There can be no appreciation unless the language of the poem is understood. It does little good for the critic to know about the life of the poet or about poetic terms if the language of the poem and the poet are not understood. First impressions of the poem will be used incorrectly.
To begin with, readers who make a first judgment are falling into the normal mistake of forming their opinion on details, considered separately, and not on the poem as a whole. A piece of detail is of enormous importance to the critic as later lessons will show, but it must always be subordinated to the whole of the poem. No one detail can make or mark a poem, which is the sum of the details that compose it.
Secondly, they are all judging too hastily. They have not even begun to understand the poem or its language as a whole, but are expressing hasty and purely personal reactions to the one outstanding detail or recognized word that they have been struck by in a first reading. A judgment that rests itself on an instinctive or emotional at all, sound judgment can never precede full understanding; so the next step to take after the first reading of a poem is to read and read the poem again and again. It should be read aloud and read silently.
While these first readings are taking place, the mind should, as far as possible, be kept open to the influence of the poet. The critic should be on the poet’s side, not against him, and should thus be sure that any negative
comments that he has are only made after he has done his best to enter sympathetically and completely into what the poet has said. The critic has to understand the use of language that the poet has used.
Repeated reading accompanied, of course by sympathy and imagination, will prevent the critical mistake of allowing his enjoyment to blind him to faults in the poem or of concentrating solely on any fault which is in the poem.
There are two main aspects of the critic’s function: First, to make clear to his reader the theme of a poem and the poet’s attitude toward it. Second, to give the reader clearly the opinion that he, the critic, has formed of the value of that theme, and of the poet’s treatment of it. After several readings, he should be able to begin the first task.

Part 11

Meaning, Intention and Idea

The general theme of the poem is only a first step in criticism. The critic must also strive to understand the poet’s meaning, intention and idea. We will now examine four problem areas for the critic in gaining such an understanding. The four areas are:

  1. Gaining a balanced development of the theme;

  2. Maintaining the total experience of the poem; and

  3. Judging the poem on the basis of the poet’s intention.

First, after writing the general statement of the theme of the poem, and the poet’s attitude to it, the critic is ready to begin a careful line-by-line examination of the development of the theme. This is vital stage in appreciation, for it gives the reader of the criticism that close and intimate contact with the poet’s mind and thought which is necessary for understanding. Thus, the critic here has two tasks. First, he must understand the poem. Second, he must be able to convey that understanding to the reader.

It is at this point that the critic must guard against his prejudice, and haste. He tests his own first statement of the theme against each verse. As he follows the development of the poet’s thought he reconsiders his own judgment both of the whole poem and of each part. He must keep a keen sense of proportion in this process. That is, he must look closely at what is fundamental and vital to the poem and treat a small detail with just as much and as little emphasis as a small detail deserves. He revises his first statement if it is necessary. Let us look at an example of this process.
The Leveler
Near Martinpuisch that night of hell

Two men were struck by the same shell

Together tumbling in one heap Senseless

And limp like slaughtered sheep.

One was a pale eighteen-year-old,

Blue eyed and thin and not too bold,

Pressed for the war ten years too soon,

The shame and pity of his platoon.

The other came from far-off lands

With bristling chin and whiskered hands.

He had known death and hell before

In Mexico and Ecuador.

Yet in his death this cut-throat wild Groaned

“Mother; mother;” like a child,

While that poor innocent in man’s clothes

Died cursing God with brutal oaths

Old Sergeant Smith, kindest of man wrote

Out two copies there and then

Of his accustomed Funeral speech

To cheer the women folk of each; -

‘He died a hero’s death;

And we his comrades of “A” company

Deeply regret his death; we shall

All deeply miss so true a pal.’

Robert Graves
This poem was given to a poetry class which was asked to write a general statement of the theme. Many of the students made the same mistake in dealing with the question, and their statement read something like this:
“This poem describes the death of two soldiers in battle; one was

just and innocent inexperienced and afraid boy; the other was a

hardened veteran who was fearless and rough. The poet

ironically tells how their positions were reversed in death.”

This statement is true, but it does not go far enough; and when the students checked their original statement by a thorough examination of each line of the poem, they realized that they had been over emphasizing the fourth verse and not looking at the significance of the sixth verse. Thus, each verse and each line of a poem must be judged not alone, but in relation to its context and to the whole poem. It is essential to look at the whole poem when judging it. A single important word or recognized phrase or verse should not be over emphasized.
The second problem area for the critic deals with the need for the critic to understand the poet’s thoughts and emotions. In the previous discussion of the critical plan, we referred to this necessity of sympathetic and imaginative reading. Regardless of how careful the critic’s approach to a poem is, he will never gain a true understanding unless he brings these two qualities to his task. It has been said, “ … be sure you go to the author to get his meaning, not to find yours.” The words and language of a poem are the means whereby a poet tries to arouse in the reader thoughts and emotions identical to these that filled him as he wrote. They are the symbols of things and ideas. There is a double responsibility here: the poet must choose the right words; the reader must open his mind to the influence of those words and work with the poet. He must look at the
poet’s language itself and try to feel it just as the poet felt it. He must not be content with a dictionary definition or a synonym.

The meaning of a poem is the experience it expresses, and it is nothing less. But, the reader who is confused by a particular poem and asks, “What does it mean?” is usually after something more specific than this experience. He wants something that he can grasp entirely in his mind. Critics often make this demand and make the mistake of believing that their criticism is the meaning of the poem. Thus, it may be useful here to make a distinction between the Total Meaning of a poem and the Prose Meaning of a poem. Total Meaning is that which the poem communicates and which cannot be communicated in any other way and the Prose Meaning is that ingredient which can be separated out in the form of a paraphrase. The critic, however, must be careful not to confuse the two kinds of meaning. The prose meaning is no more the poem than a plum in a pie. Further, the prose meaning will not necessarily be an idea. It may be a story, a description, a statement of emotion, a presentation of human character, or it may be a combination. For instance, the following poem is primarily descriptive.

The Eagle
He clasps he crag with crooked hands;

Close to the sun in lonely lands,

Ringed with the azure world, he stands
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;

He watches from his mountain walls,

And like a thunderbolt he falls.
Alfred Tennyson
This poem is not directly concerned with ideas. The person who believes a poem must have an idea will be confused and disappointed by poetry of this kind, and he may attempt to read some idea into the poem that is really not there. However, ideas are also part of human experience, and therefore many poems are concerned with presenting ideas. But the critic must realize that the poem does not exit for the idea. The poem is something important beyond the idea. If he is not sympathetic to the poem and the poet, he will not understand poems that are descriptive when he wants to find a message.
A third problem area for the critic is related to the above problem, yet is specifically a problem of judgment. The idea in a poem is only part of the total experience. The value and worth of the poem are determined by the value of this total experience, not by the truth or the importance of idea. A good idea will not make a good poem, nor will an idea the critic does not like rain a poem. The good reader and critic will be receptive to all kinds of experience.
The primary value of a poem does not depend as much on the truth of the idea as it does on the power and skill with which the idea is presented.
We must feel that the idea has been truly felt by the poet and that he is doing something more than merely preaching. This is especially true when we are reading contemporary poetry in which there is frequent use of words and themes, which, because of their personal associations for the reader, arouse strong and often automatic responses. Obviously, the critic must be on his guard when judging poems, which contain such words and themes. He must not allow prejudice to interfere with his perception of the meaning as a whole, and he must attempt to discover why the poet wrote about such things, and why no other method would have served his purpose. The fact that we may disagree with what the poet is saying should not affect our appreciation of the poem as a work of art.

The fourth problem area for the critic is one of the most difficult to deal with. According to the theme and to the poet’s attitude and intention towards the theme, a poem may be classed into one of two groups. One group may be called “universal” and the other may be called “restricted”. These are essential to an understanding of the meaning of the poem.

Themes either have a universal application and have meaning to all men across time, or they are restricted in their appeal to an age group, a mood, a temperament or a time. Within these terms there are degrees. Though we tend to look to universal poetry for the greatest satisfaction, charm and delight can also be found in good restricted poetry. In deciding to which of these classes a poem belongs, the subject matter is often a guide. However, the subject is not the only guide, because the poet’s attitude to his theme is also important. Thus, a poem dealing with love or hate, fear or courage, or any other human emotion may or may not be universal, depending upon whether the poet has been successful in achieving a vivid generalization of ideas and emotions which ensure an appeal to imaginative readers across time. It is also important to determine whether the poet wants such an appeal. So, a theme which at first seems merely egotistic and personal may be enlarged by the poet’s vision and have relevance and meaning for all men. Thus, whether a poem is universal or restricted often depends upon the author’s intention. Before he can judge the artistic merit of any poem, the critic must decide whether the theme and the poet’s attitude to the theme are universal or restricted.
Also, the critic must decide whether the poem is ironic or satirical or humorous or descriptive. If the poet intended to write a simple humorous restricted poem, the critic must judge it on that basis, and cannot judge the poem on the fact that it is not universal. This must be determined before the critic can proceed with his criticism. It must be stressed that you can only judge a poet on the basis of what he is trying to do. We can now see that the meaning of the whole and of the parts must be decided. Once this is done the critic is ready to proceed. However, criticism cannot proceed


until this has been done, because we cannot judge any work of art until we understand clearly what the artist is trying to do.



Directions: This discussion consists of a series of paragraphs headed by a question.

Put an ‘X’ through the letter that best answers the question. If the answer is contained in more than one sentence, put an ‘X’ through the letters of the sentence needed to answer the question.

2.1Review and preview:
1- What will we now begin to examine more closely?
A. Until now, we have spent most of our time on discovering the theme and the meaning of the poems, which we have studied.

B. This has been a necessary beginning.

C. We have tried to get a feel for how the language of the poem is used.

D. We have tried to discover the “story” within the poems.

E. Also, we have tried to gain an understanding of how we should begin to

approach a poem in order to understand and appreciate it.

F.This has been necessary just as it is necessary to know how o approach

anything new, such as a horse, before learning how to work with it.

G.Now that we understand how to approach a poem, we will begin to look

more closely at the style and component of the poem.

H.It is very important to examine how style contributes to the meaning

development and experience of the poem.

  1. How will this section approach the discussion of style?

  1. Style in poetry consists of many areas.

  2. There are many components to a poet’s style.

  3. The style consists of imagery, figurative language, tone and diction, as well as rhyme and meter.

  4. All of these are important in appreciating a poem.

  5. In this section we will begin our discussion of style by considering and concentrating on the use of imagery.

  6. In later sections we will discuss the other components.

  1. What stages have been used until now?

A. Let us briefly re-examine the stages of criticism and appreciation we have used until now.

B. We can see that they lead to a format for a true appreciation and judgment of a poem.

C. For instance, first we need to know what the poet is saying.

D. That is, we need to understand the theme and its development.

E. Second, we need to understand why the poet says what he says in any poem.

F. That is, we need to know the poet’s meaning and intention.

G. Now, we add a stage in this approach.

H. We now need to examine whether or not the poet’s method of saying it, his use of style, helps or hinders his intention.

I. Here again we will be concerned with the development of the poem through the poet’s use of imagery.

3. How must style and use of imagery be evaluated?
A. The three stages above bring us to our current concern with an analysis of style.

B. In this section we will specifically ask ourselves the question, “Does the poet’s writing style help his intention?’

C. After all, the poet might use imagery in a way, which does not help this poem.

D. First, we must recognize that function.

E.That is, we must ask ourselves, “Why does the poet use the style he does? What does his imagery do?”

F. Here we will look at the imagery used by the poet.

G. We will try to feel how the images are used, what they are supposed to do, and what they do for us.

H. That is, are they successful with us?

2.2 Imagery:
How does the poet appeal to our senses?

  1. Imagery in poetry is an appeal to the senses through words.

  2. Our experience of the world comes to us largely through our senses.

  3. My experience of a hot summer day, for instance, may consist partly of emotions I feel and partly of thoughts I think.

  4. However, it will primarily consist of a cluster of sense impressions.

  5. It will consist of seeing a clear blue sky which joins a flat desert horizon.

  6. It will consist of seeing heat waves rise from the hot earth around me.

  7. It will consist of hearing insects buzz around my ears.

  8. It will consist of the smell of dry earth and dust, of feeling a dry wind against the sweat on my neck.

  9. The poet, therefore, who wants to express his experience of a summer day must provide a selection of the sense impressions he has.

  10. He tries to link his sense impressions with those of mine.

  11. His language must be more sensuous than ordinary language.

  12. Without doing this, he will probably fail to bring the emotions that accompanied his sensations.

  13. His language must be full of imagery.

  14. However, his imagery must strive to identify with my imagery of the same or a similar situation.

  1. Why may poetic imagery be a particular problem for non-native speakers of a language?

  1. Here we must stop and remember our earlier discussions of connotation and denotation in the poet’s choice of words.

  2. The same is true of imagery in a poem.

  3. Just as a word in English may evoke different emotions and feelings for readers from other languages and cultures, imagery is even more open to this problem.

  4. Often, an image is bound to a culture and is difficult for readers from other cultures to understand.

  5. The reader of a poem which has been written in a language other than his own native language must continually try to determine whether his problem in understanding comes form the language or the image and meaning.

6. What is the general classification of the senses?

  1. Imagery may be generally defined as the representation through language of a sense experience.

  2. It is an attempt to have the reader experience the sensation of the poet.

  3. Poetry appeals to our senses through imagery, the representation to the imagination of sense experience.

  4. In general, the word image often suggests a picture, something in the mental eye.

  5. It is true that visual imagery is the most frequently occurring kind of imagery, however, it is not the only king.

  6. An image may also represent a sound; a smell; a taste; a feel such as hardness, wetness or cold; an internal sensation such as hunger or thirst; or movement or tension in the muscles and joints.

  7. Thus, images can generally be classified according to the sense to which the poet directs them.

  8. They can be classified as:

Sound; sight (color or shape); taste; smell; touch (thermal or tactile)

or movement (kinetic images).

  1. There are others and there are combinations of the above, but for purposes of this discussion in poetry, the above should be sufficient.

7. What does this poem literally describe?

  1. Read the following poem, paying particular attention to he images the poet uses.

  2. Notice how the images affect the poem.

  3. First, note that lethe in Greek mythology was the river of oblivion following out of Hades.

  4. Also, Persophone was the queen of death and the underworld.

  5. These are clear references and images in the poem.

  6. Some imagery in the poem combines different senses and appeals to many different senses.

  7. Literally this poem simply describes the stopping of a train at a small station.

  8. However, the combination of images and the senses to which they appeal carry a more distant meaning.


1. In grimy winter dusk

2. We slowed for a concrete

3. The pillars passed more slowly;

4. A paper bag leapt up.

5. The train banged to a standstill

6. Brake-steam rose and parted.

7. Three chipped – at blocks of ice.

8. Sprawled on a baggage-truck.

9. Out in that glum, cold air

10. The broken ice lay glintless.

11.Abu the truck was painted blue.

12.On side, wheels, and tongue.

13.A purple, glowering blue

14.Like the phosphorus of lethe

15.Or Queen Persephone's gaze.

16.In the numb fields of the dark.

Richard Wilbur

9. How does the poet show and communicate his experience?

  1. What do the title, the action, the images, and the comparisons in this poem suggest?

  2. What senses are the images of the poem addressed to?

  3. What is their overall combined effect?

  4. These are questions we must ask ourselves when attempting to discover the effect of the imagery a poet chooses to use.

  5. In this poem, every line contains some image, some appeal to the senses.

  6. In many ways it is not a mention death at any point.

  7. It is also a poem about death.

  8. Yet, it does not mention death at any point.

  9. The poet’s business here is not to give information about train or about death.

  10. It is to communicate experience.

  11. Here, the poet first presents us with the slowing train, a specific situation.

  12. Then he describes the jolting and stopping.

  13. He gives interplay of what happens inside and outside the train.

  14. He brings the reader into the experience and to the symbolic stopping.

10. Is it necessary for something to be completely described in

order to be a good image?

  1. The sharpness and vividness of any image will ordinarily depend upon how specific the image is, and upon how effective the detail of the image is.

  2. The word “date-palm”, for instance, is more vivid than the word “tree”.

  3. “Tall green heavy burdened date-palm” is sharper and still more specific.

  4. It is not necessary, however, that for a vivid representation

something must be completely described.

  1. One or two especially sharp and representative details will usually serve the alert reader, allowing his imagination to fill in the rest.

  2. For instance, Tennyson in “The Eagle” gives only one detail about the eagle itself –that it clasps the crag with “crooked hands” – but this detail is an effective and memorable one.

11. What is the trade-off between explicit and direct details with incomplete images?

  1. There is a trade-off for the poet in using imagery.

  2. That is, direct and explicit detail are often less forceful than images which the reader fills out.

  3. Notice in the following poem that the direct details that Richard Cory was “clean favored”, “slim”, and “quietly arrayed”, are important, but are less forceful images than that he “glittered when he walked”.

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