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the theme of nature and the season of summer.
Through out my essay, in which is to follow, I will be comparing the
way two poets, John Claire and Ted Hughes, write about the theme of
nature and the season of summer. The two poems that I am to study are
Work And Play written by Ted Hughes and Summer Images written by John
Claire in the 1800's.
In both the poems the poets are talking directly to us (the reader).
Although both poems are about summer and nature they are coming at us
from very different points of view.
In Work and Play Ted Hughes Talks directly to us about how nature in
terms of the swallow deals with summer 'the swallow of summer she
toils all the summer' and how nature in terms of human beings deal
with summer 'But the holiday people were laid out like wounded flat as
in ovens roasting and basting'. He makes the comparison between the
beauty of the swallow and ugliness of the humans throughout the poem.
When thinking of summer one can't help but get a rosy picture in ones
mind, the beach, the sun, and the fun!! But Hughes paints a more
realistic picture for us. He shows us the down side and instantly
wipes away the mental picture and shows us its not all fun.
Through out the poem he also points out how we are destroying our
surroundings giving it a very green, environmental feel to it. He
pacifically concentrates on cars, petrol and pollution 'Serpent of
cars that crawl through the dust' 'in hailing petroleum'. As you can
clearly tell Ted Hughes is constantly contrasting the humans (nature
at its worst) with the swallow (nature at its best).
John Clair's poem comes across from a different angle. He concentrates
on everything that is right with nature; through out his poem we get a
very romanticised view of summer, and in every stanza he describes
nature to its full beauty 'much beauty intervenes', 'turn up the
silver lining to the sun'. Every word that John Clair uses in his poem
he manages to romanticise in some way, for example 'the jetty snail
creeps from the mossy thorn' John Claire softeners the word thorn by
adding a soft word in front of it, in this case the word was mossy.
In the time that Claire was writing this poems was seeing nature
through rose coloured glasses, but he was also summing up what people
of his time thought of nature.
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complete awe of nature, as they did not understand it.
The poem Work and Play is very easy to follow and understand, It is
straight forward and it is easy to read between the lines to pick up
any hidden messages, for example the green environmental parts of the
It is clearly a poem of our times. It talks of 'roasting and basting'
and lying 'nude as tomatoes' and bearing your body to get a tan is a
very recent trend. I feel that it because of this why I can relate to
the poem so well.
The context of Summer Images is a very typical of an early 1800's
poem, in the way of its language etc 'with waking blossom play, and
breathe Aeolian song'.
The poem Work and Play consists of four stanzas. The first three
follow the same paten- first three lines describe the free moving
swallow and the lines that follow describe the traffic jam, serpents
(cars) and its organs (the humans going to the beach). However this is
all reversed in the last stanzas (the traffic and humans described
first and then the swallow of summer second). The lines in which are
written about the traffic and humans are short and snappy to give it a
some what dense feeling where as the lines about the swallow are long
running and flowing to give us a feeling of a light, flowing, elegant
The way the poem flows in Summer Images is quite similar to that of
the long flowing parts in Work and Play, however in Summer Images the
flowing part lasts practically through out the whole of the poem
(except the last two lines in each stanzas which is shorter and
snappier). There are seven stanzas that are practically identical in
rhyme, scheme and structure. In the poem the last two lines of each
stances simultaneously rhyme ' His bright side scatters dew and early
lark from its bustle flies, to hail his matin new; and watch him to
The two poems are similar in the way of structure, each poem has a
long flowing part then a shorter more dense part but they both use
different techniques to get the feeling or sounds that they are after.
In the poem Work and Play alliteration is applied a great deal 'the
swallow of summer', 'the seamstress of summer', 'she scissors the blue
into shapes and sews it'. Ted Hughes uses the repetition of the letter
s and creates a rhyming type sound. Ted Hughes also applies some use
as metaphor into his poem 'cars that crawl through the dust' 'nude as
tomatoes'. Metaphor, in the poem Summer Images is John Claire's
biggest technique he uses to get the feeling he desired into his poem
'Blossom play, and breathe Aeolians song', 'far spread the laughing
sky', 'rich music breathes in summers every sound'. He also uses
alliteration in his poem as well, much like Ted Hughes however he
doesn't use nearly as much, 'sweet summer', 'side scatter'.
Work and Play creates vivid images in ones mind created mostly by his
use of metaphor, for example 'whiplash swimmer', 'serpent of cars',
'fish of the air'. The words such as whiplash remind us of a sudden
crack of the whip the sort of energy and speed, of movement we see in
the swallow. Just as the fish moves with speed in the water so the
swallow seems to swim through the air.
Also in this poem there is a very fresh use of language for example
when Hughes takes a noun and turns it into a verb i.e. in his use of
the word headache, 'and headache it homewards'.
In comparison of the two poems I noticed that the use of language in
both poems couldn't be more different. Hughes uses such words as
'voltage', 'whiplash' and 'electricity' (which is the language of our
times, words we can relate to) where as Claire uses such words as '
Aeolian song', 'ebon cloud' and 'wind-enamoured aspen' which most
people have never heard of. But one does have to take it into account
that these poems were written at completely different times and in
completely different eras, and that Summer Images is most defiantly
not a poem of our times.
Summer images uses a lot of very romantic language such as summer,
sweet, timid, and refreshed, which can only really paint one picture,
and that is glorified nature, nature at its best.
Although I can see merits in both poems I must say that I prefer work
and play, this is because I can relate to it (a poem of my time) I can
easily understand the language and easily picked up on the message
that Hughes was trying to put by via his poem - that nature is full of
beauty, and all the creatures it processes work alongside it and this
is what adds to the beauty, then there's us, Humans even when
'relaxing' were ugly and are clearly nature at its worst. Apart from
the fact that I can relate to the poem I also prefer the way it flows
and sounds when being read.
Summer Images, although I do like the poem and can instantly tell it
is a poem of much beauty, I couldn't really understand the language
and found it very hard to get a picture in my head because of this
(unlike Work and Play were through out the poem I have vivid pictures
pooping into my head, the swallow, the cars etc).
As I am a person of my era I have an understanding of nature and am
not in as much awe as people of his time, yet again another reason why
I found it hard to relate. I don't really like the flow of the poem
either or the rhythmic paten that it follows. The poem just seemed to
long in my perspective. But over all understanding was the thing that
I based my decision on.
In this essay I was asked to compare the way Ted Hughes and John
Claire write about the theme of nature. I was asked to write about the
poet's attitude to their environment and the times in which they
After summing up my essay I conclude that in the time of writing
Summer Images John Claire had a very one sided view of nature all he
saw was the beauty and blocked out all of the nasty things (that in
most cases are more natural than any think else) for example animals
preying on one another. He just focused on the good things, 'silver
lining to the sun', 'swallow heed on the smoke-tanned chimney-top'. He
took any thing he wanted and made it sound nice and beautiful i.e.
'jetty snail'. To sum it up this poem was written by John Clair why
wearing rose coloured glasses, but yet the typical view of the people
in his time.
However when Ted Hughes was writing Work and play he saw nature as it
was, with extreme beauty but with extreme ugliness as well. He tells
of the whole picture rather than just seeing one side. Which once
again is how people of our time see things.