This is an example of comparing poems, a component of the EDUQAS Literature component. It utilises a specific approach incorporating a discussions of the WHAT, WHY and HOW of the poem, and also about context as explained here.
Another poem that has nature as its dominant theme is Mametz Wood. In the poem Owen Sheers uses the idea of the earth purging itself of the physical remains of the 4000 Welsh soldiers who died in the Battle of the Somme, but also the memories of the battle too. This process however, ironically provides the men with a voice for their absent tongues, as their anonymous sacrifice is finally honoured. Sheers ostensibly implores us to ruminate on the brutality of war, its senseless violence and destruction, and the unnaturalness of youth dying. This bifurcation of the theme of nature: its power with the unnaturalness of war separates it from the presentation of nature as simply a powerful force in Excerpt from The Prelude (EFTP), an idea previously discussed.
The beginning of the poem is greatly contrasted to the pleasant opening of EFTP, as discussed earlier. In Mametz Wood (MW), the poet focuses on the farmers finding the bodies for ‘years afterwards’, shocking the reader with the amount of bodies in the ground. The term ‘wasted young’ highlights this further, indicating that the men have died way too young, and that this is highly unnatural. The waste is further emphasised by using nature imagery in the alliterative metaphor ‘broken bird’s egg of a skull’, suggesting the young soldiers’ lives are fragile, but also connecting them to potential, as new life grows in an egg. The anger generated from this knowledge of them losing their future is accelerated with reference to nesting machine guns, highlighting the evil of the situation as the men are lured into a trap. This feeling is exacerbated when we are told the men ‘were told to walk, not run’, the caesura emphasising the ridiculousness of the order, and increasing our disbelief. All of the events seem shockingly unnatural.
The moods at the end of the two poems however, are reversed. EFTP ends in a sombre tone, the boy realising that nature is a bigger force than first thought, and that there’s more to life than just his own needs. The ending of MW though is more optimistic, suggesting that the men’s voices are now finally being heard. Nature has allowed this to happen. The natural process that people go through after a death can finally eventuate for the families now that the men are being recognised.
The two poems are also structured very differently in presenting the theme of nature, with EFTP written in one stanza to represent the blending of the memories of nature, as discussed earlier, whereas MW is in 7 equal length stanzas, perhaps suggesting that on the surface the earth seems quite even and consistent, but has hidden beneath it the horrors of war that it is trying to unearth. This ironic structure highlights the unnatural consequences of war, adding to the poem’s overall suggestion that disrupting the natural order is heart breaking. This combined with the way nature finally provides an avenue for the soldiers’ voices to be heard is acknowledgement of the multiple ways nature presents its power, a theme of the Romantic movement, of which Wordsworth was instrumental.
I’m Paul Moss. Follow me on Twitter @edmerger, and follow this blog for more English teaching resources.