Essay on The Ballad Of Reading Gaol By Oscar Wilde And The Great Hunger

Essay on The Ballad Of Reading Gaol By Oscar Wilde And The Great Hunger

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Ireland has produced some of the most distinct styles of poetry and writing. Its fantastic landscape has inspired a love of nature and has become a common theme in poetry. Imagery used in these literary works depict horizons of green, wondrous vegetation and often gloom skies. Another common theme in Irish poetry is hardship as the country has experienced more than its fair share throughout time. Two Irish poets have become immortalized through their works: “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” by Oscar Wilde and “The Great Hunger” by Patrick Kavanagh. Both poems are narratives that have dropped the traditional romanticism of ballads in order to depict great hardship. These poems are written in very different ways and yet are very successful in telling their message of beauty and despair.
Oscar Wilde wrote his poem, “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” because he wanted to expose the injustices of the English penal system. He was imprisoned due to indecent acts of homosexuality with his partner at the time. On 20 May 1895, Oscar Wilde was convicted of “gross indecency” and sentenced to two years of hard labor at Reading Gaol (Varty 31).
Oscar Wilde’s “The ballad of Reading Gaol” is written strictly in closed form. The poem is divided into six different part. There is a total of 109 stanzas with 654 lines altogether. There is a regular rhyme throughout the poem with every stanza being a sextet rhymed abcbdb. Within each stanza the lines alternate starting with an eight syllable line, followed by a six syllable line (Pascual 260). Wilde makes use of repetition with internal refrain. He does this because he wants to reinforce his ideas at set the gloomy atmosphere of the poem.
I never saw a man who looked
With such a wistful eye
Upon that little t...


... middle of paper ...


... Kavanagh invites the reader to:
…Kneel where the blind ploughman kneels
And learn to live without despairing
In a mud-walled space—
Illiterate, unknown and unknowing. (497-500)
This is a viewpoint that has been missing throughout Irish poetry and literature. Kavanagh was the first poet to effectively gasp the hardships of the common peasant.
These two writers, Wilde and Kavanagh, have demonstrated different ways of writing ballads. Both writers strayed away from the norm of romance to portray gloom and despair. Each used literary devices to best portray their message. “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” is highly structured and depressing, like how prisons are slaves to routine and death haunting around the corner. “The Great Hunger” is disorganized and chaotic, just like the man in turmoil who works till he cannot work anymore. Each one a masterpiece of Irish poetry.

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