Essay #3: in class on February 12th, from 6:15-7:05 (10%)

In class on Wednesday 12th February, you will write an essay on one of the questions listed below. All of these questions will appear on the board, so it's safe to prepare only one of them!. Notice that each of the questions requires you to focus more sharply on one of the two poems.

What are the grading criteria? As usual, see page 481 of the Arts and Science handbook for the qualities of “A” work: “original thinking; good organization; capacity to analyze and synthesize; superior grasp of subject matter with sound critical evaluations; evidence of extensive knowledge base.”

As with all academic work, you may prepare as much as you like on your own, but must not “represent as one’s own any idea or expression of an idea or work of another.” (Faculty calendar, p. 490). The only allowable aids during the in-class essay will be the texts of the two poems that you’re writing about.

Important admin: this essay is like a term test. "Students who miss a term test will be assigned a mark of zero for that test unless they satisfy the ... conditions" listed in the Faculty Calendar, page 479.

  1. Two young poets facing death talk to creatures that they have personified as free from such constraints, a nightingale and a rat. Find and interpret some grounds of comparison between Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale” and Rosenberg’s “Break of Day in the Trenches” as part of your (clear, coherent, complex) interpretation of the latter poem.
  2. In some of the poems we’ve read, the flower has symbolized (among other things) the transitoriness of youth or beauty. Find and interpret some grounds of comparison between MacRae’s “In Flanders Fields” and Rosenberg’s poem as part of your (clear, coherent, complex) interpretation of the latter poem. Why does the speaker of Rosenberg’s poem “pull the parapet’s poppy/To stick behind my ear” and claim that it is “safe”?
  3. The first-person speakers of Brooke’s “The Soldier” and Yeats’ “An Irish Airman Foresees his Death” anticipate (and in the case of Brooke offer a consolation for) the likely loss of youthful life and perhaps of identity that fighting for one’s country might bring, and locate themselves relative to both the land (e.g. “a foreign field”, “England”, “Kiltartan Cross”) and sky (“an English heaven”, “clouds”). Incorporating your interpretation of these relationships (speaker/earth/sky), persuade me of Yeats’ purpose in writing his poem.
  4. In Wordsworth’s The Prelude (just the Book I excerpts in Norton) and Thomas’s “Fern Hill”, the poets idealize their childhood connections with the natural settings of the poems, though with an adult's awareness of the “spinning” of time. How do both poets characterize a child’s experience of time, and what is distinctive about Thomas?
  5. The importance of personal symbols to Yeats is well known (“perne in a gyre”, for instance!). Does “the stone” in the “stream” have the same significance in “The Wild Swans at Coole” as it does in “Easter 1916”? Paying particular attention to one of these poems (your choice), explain how “the stone” and “stream” contribute to your (clear, coherent, complex) interpretation of that poem.