PERIPETEIA


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Forum Home > Poetry > Taming the unseen

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

I'm glad you've picked up on the 'O' too: that sounds like it will be an apostrophe, an exclaimation of (rather dramatic) grief.

April 26, 2017 at 2:13 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Elinor Solly
Member
Posts: 4

Will May at April 26, 2017 at 2:12 PM

Yes, James, the link between wan/swan is telling: it's a literally 'cutting-off'. What does wan mean - does anyone know?

pale ??

April 26, 2017 at 2:13 PM Flag Quote & Reply

JamesInk98
Member
Posts: 14

The second stanza introduces more of an elegy for the lost, but the first seems more concerned with the swan itself, showing more concern for the living, rather than dead. Thats quite unusual.

And wan means sad and exhausted and worn out - I think?... :/

April 26, 2017 at 2:14 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Elinor Solly
Member
Posts: 4

good evening btw:)

April 26, 2017 at 2:14 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

That's an interesting idea Rob: isn't there something strange about describing a swan as pale though. Normally we describe someone as pale to mean they are sick or worried. What effect does this epiphet have when it is transferred to a swan?

April 26, 2017 at 2:15 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

Hello, Elinor. Yes, 'wan' is pale. 

April 26, 2017 at 2:16 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

But if you were a swan, wouldn't you *always* look rather wan? Do they have much choice?

April 26, 2017 at 2:16 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Priscilla
Member
Posts: 12
I'm not sure but could the disruption of the rhyming couplets represent a disruption in the life of the persona which could be the source of grief in the poem? I also noticed that the lines that disrupt the AABB pattern of the rhyme scheme also disrupt the tranquil natural image created by the lake and the swan?
April 26, 2017 at 2:17 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

The significant break you've spotted between the two stanzas seems significant too James. Do you notice a change in their tone or language?

April 26, 2017 at 2:17 PM Flag Quote & Reply

JamesInk98
Member
Posts: 14

"Wan" is a homophone of "one" as well - maybe showing isolation in grief with a pun??  (Could be over-reading)

April 26, 2017 at 2:18 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

Yes Priscilla - it's certainly not tranquil. I think we could go even further than that and say it's rather jagged. After all, we might expect a swan to be graceful - especially if it was in mourning.  What is the effect of comparing it to a cake of soap?

April 26, 2017 at 2:18 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Elinor Solly
Member
Posts: 4

Don't swans mourn the loss of their partners for their entire lifetimes ? Could the use of the swan as a symbol of mourning/grief be linked to that perhaps ?

April 26, 2017 at 2:19 PM Flag Quote & Reply

JamesInk98
Member
Posts: 14

Will May at April 26, 2017 at 2:17 PM

The significant break you've spotted between the two stanzas seems significant too James. Do you notice a change in their tone or language?

Yes the first stanza has quite unusual imagery - such as "cake of soap?!" - whereas the second is more typically mournful, with mantle and death etc. Perhaps shock and then grief? 

April 26, 2017 at 2:19 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

I like the idea of it being a homophonic pun James - this is a certainly a poet who inspired awkward laughter, as with the rather ridiciulous description of a white swan as 'wan'. 

April 26, 2017 at 2:19 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Rob Marshall
Member
Posts: 56

Perhaps off the chat, but can this not be equally read as a pastiche on the elegaic? "Like a cake of soap" - an early poem of Smith's, and it is redolent of Edith Sitwell's nonsense verse, I seem to remember reading.

April 26, 2017 at 2:20 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

Great idea, Elinor. You're right: swans mate for life, so that might be part of the tragic story of this poem. While we're on the history and mythology of swans, does anyone know what the word 'swansong' means? It might help us here.

April 26, 2017 at 2:21 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

Pastiche is a useful term Rob:  it seems bathetic, too, reducing the grace of a conventional elegy to something ridiculous. But, perhaps, we are all ridiculous in our grief. 

April 26, 2017 at 2:22 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Rob Marshall
Member
Posts: 56

In mythology, the only time that the swan sings is immediately prior to its demise.

April 26, 2017 at 2:22 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

What do people make of the rhythms of the poem? Rob mentioned nonsense verse, and we do seem quite close to the children's nursery rhyme here...

April 26, 2017 at 2:23 PM Flag Quote & Reply

JamesInk98
Member
Posts: 14

Will May at April 26, 2017 at 2:22 PM

Pastiche is a useful term Rob:  it seems bathetic, too, reducing the grace of a conventional elegy to something ridiculous. But, perhaps, we are all ridiculous in our grief. 

Relating to Smith's context, there would have been a lot of grief in the 1920's and 30's, and I'm sure some of it found the strangest forms of expression

April 26, 2017 at 2:24 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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