PERIPETEIA


                                                        A site for students studying English at 'A' Level/University. Discussion Forums and unique 
                                                  Online Seminars to build confidence, creativity, and individual analytical style.

Forums

Post Reply
Forum Home > Poetry > Taming the unseen

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

Idea of purity are interesting, as we've been talking about the how *impure* the poem is in lots of ways: a mix of registers, a switching metre, and language that leaps from the everyday to the profound. 

April 26, 2017 at 2:39 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

Tennyson's poem is a more conventional elegy, celebrating the glorious final swansong of a dying bird. It's full of poetic conceits and rich imagery. It was written more than fifty years before Smith's poem. 

April 26, 2017 at 2:41 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

If we had the earlier poem in mind, we might almost see it as a sequel. 'The Bereaved Swan' is the unknown follow-up to 'The Dying Swan'.

April 26, 2017 at 2:41 PM Flag Quote & Reply

JamesInk98
Member
Posts: 14

Does it suggest that everyday means of expression are incapable of discussing death - an imperfect attempt at overcoming ineffability?

Also, about Tennyson's poem, he talks of  "song" and "lament", whereas Smith just puts "saith." This shows a greater restraint, I feel, though the "o" is admittedly quite melodramatic... 

April 26, 2017 at 2:41 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

Thanks for this James. Yes, there is a convention in elegy that words cannot express grief - it's sometimes called the inexpressibilty topos. It's there as early as Chaucer. In Tennyson's famous elegy 'In Memoriam', he talks about words being the 'uppermost froth of thought'. 

April 26, 2017 at 2:42 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Rob Marshall
Member
Posts: 56

JamesInk98 at April 26, 2017 at 2:41 PM

Does it suggest that everyday means of expression are incapable of discussing death - an imperfect attempt at overcoming ineffability?

Also, about Tennyson's poem, he talks of  "song" and "lament", whereas Smith just puts "saith." This shows a greater restraint, I feel, though the "o" is admittedly quite melodramatic... 

Also the following "would that I were dead" - imperfect subjunctives and optatives were not common in speech - only in classical style poetic language.

April 26, 2017 at 2:44 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

The poet who is writing an elegy is in a difficult bind: they are writing about loss, but they are also creaitng something. Wouldn't the best tribute to loss be silence? Perhaps the bereaved swan, unable to sing, is one way of trying to explore that. 

April 26, 2017 at 2:44 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

Yes Rob  - it almost seems sincere or starchy. 

April 26, 2017 at 2:45 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Priscilla
Member
Posts: 12

Will May at April 26, 2017 at 2:35 PM

Let's get back to the soap Priscilla! It is a strange comparison. A white bar of soap does look - if we squint - like a swan. But, yes, the question is what is the effect of comparing a swan to a bar of soap?

Could the comparison emphasise the purity and fragility of the swan? soap dissolves in water, the swan is in a lake therefore the swan may be in a vulnerable position
April 26, 2017 at 2:45 PM Flag Quote & Reply

JamesInk98
Member
Posts: 14

Ah thats really interesting!! I've never come across that term before! Do you think Smith is recognising this problem, hence the bizzare leaps of register, trying out different ones to see if any will do?

April 26, 2017 at 2:45 PM Flag Quote & Reply

JamesInk98
Member
Posts: 14

Priscilla at April 26, 2017 at 2:45 PM

Will May at April 26, 2017 at 2:35 PM

Let's get back to the soap Priscilla! It is a strange comparison. A white bar of soap does look - if we squint - like a swan. But, yes, the question is what is the effect of comparing a swan to a bar of soap?

Could the comparison emphasise the purity and fragility of the swan? soap dissolves in water, the swan is in a lake therefore the swan may be in a vulnerable position

Thats a brilliant point!!! Is doomed to sink or dissolve, perhaps? Can't escape grief or death? 

April 26, 2017 at 2:46 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

Restraint is an interesting quality to think about James: in some ways, Smith's poem is very restrained. Her swan is tight-lipped (beaked?) about death. But in another way, Smith's poetry takes all sorts of risks with form and language. 

April 26, 2017 at 2:47 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

Yes, 'The Dissolved Swan' might be a sequel we could write: that's a great idea Priscilla. There's also nothing more everyday than soap, and alas this swan seems doomed to the everyday. 

April 26, 2017 at 2:48 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Rob Marshall
Member
Posts: 56

Is the pseudo-Homeric (O Goddess sing of the rage, Black and murderous - Iliad) not another layer in what is a very clever pastiche of a whole plethora of poetic styles?

April 26, 2017 at 2:49 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

Yes, James, this might be one way of explaining what is unusual about the poem. We might just say it's pastiche, or a send up of elegy, but I suspect it's joking and travestsy is there for a serious purpose: to explain how grief strips us of language, and maybe even convention. 

April 26, 2017 at 2:50 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

Yes, Rob - Smith read a lot of Greek tragedy, and we can hear that here I think.

April 26, 2017 at 2:50 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

There's some great discussion here - you've really encouraged me to think about the poem in new ways.  One thing we haven't thought about yet is its shape. What do people notice about this? It might be easier to think about this by looking at the poem as it was originally printed. 

April 26, 2017 at 2:52 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

Can anyone see the stanzas making any shape in particular? You have to think about this quite loosely....

April 26, 2017 at 2:52 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Rob Marshall
Member
Posts: 56

It could also be interpreted as the swings of mood associated with the fits of depression she suffered throughout her life - she lost her mother at 16 - maybe she, in her mood swings - has incarnated herself in the metaphor of the swan?

April 26, 2017 at 2:52 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

What does anyone think?

April 26, 2017 at 2:53 PM Flag Quote & Reply

You must login to post.