Dealing With the Issue of Separation in Poetry

Dealing With the Issue of Separation in Poetry

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Dealing With the Issue of Separation in Poetry


In recent weeks in English we studied 3 poems of varying origin and of
various types of poetry. We studied Havisham, by Carol Ann Duffy, Stop
all the clocks by W.H. Auden and Valediction: Forbidden mourning by
John Donne. All of which are about the loss of loved ones, but in a
different way. In 'Havisham', the bride (Miss Havisham) was left at
the altar by her to-be-husband; she has sat in her dressing room in
her wedding dress for year after year since that day. In 'stop all the
clocks...' someone has lost a loved one, they have died. The poem is
about what the person expects to happen when something so big happens
in life and everyone else just carries on like it's another day.
'Valediction: Forbidden Mourning' is somewhat different though, it is
not necessarily the loss of a loved one, but a parting. The writer of
this poem wrote it for his wife when he went away; it is about all the
good things that will come out of them being apart. Like when they
come back together how happy they will be and although it will be a
test, it will be worth it. In the following piece of coursework I will
be comparing the differences as well as the similarities of the 3
poems. I will also be studying the mood of all 3 poems.

The mood of the 3 poems varies greatly as they are about different
types of loss. I will look at the mood of Havisham first. Havisham is
a poem of great fury and hate, with a twist. Because although Miss
Havisham seeks revenge her ex-fiancé it seems that if he walked
through the door and asked her to marry him again she would accept.
The mood created by the unusual language is one of surrealism the use
of juxtapositions and the way sentences don't even end when the poet
starts a new paragraph is just something that you just don't see at
all. It is almost rebellious in the way that it mocks grammatical

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correctness. Miss Havisham herself is surreal, the way she talks, the
way she acts, everything about her is like something of a ghost story.
She has sat for years in her dressing room, in her wedding dress
ageing, withering, where she has plotted the gruesome demise of her
ex-fiancé. The food from the wedding still remains on the grand table
being eaten by rats and festering away. The overall mood of Havisham
is Anger, fury, and passion, because she may still love him, "Beloved
sweet-heart bastard" is a quote that backs that up because it creates
the illusion that she doesn't really know how she feels. It is though
she is confused to the point where she has a split personality. On the
other hand, in "Stop all the clocks" the mood is very sorrowful and
depressing, because the person whom he loves is dead and he has
nothing to live for. He feels total and utter despair and is highly
emotional, despite this; he keeps very controlled, Unlike in Havisham
where she goes completely insane. He just tells the world to stop and
acknowledge this great tragedy that he has suffered. But it doesn't
happen; everyone carries on with their being. The poem has an
AABBCCDDEE rhyming scheme and is very ordered and calm, I think it
represents the personality of the poet. The mood at times is also
frustrating, that he wants the world to look up and take notice but
alas, nothing. Valediction: Forbidden Mourning, however, is not
begging the world to stop, it is a plea to his wife, to understand
that he must go away, and comparing their love to all sorts of
monumental, huge occasions such as an Earthquake. The mood is
difficult to understand, because although they are both sad about the
fact that they will be separated he tries to explain that all will be
better when they are re-united than things are now. It is almost a
mood of anticipation. How he can not wait till the day he returns and
the utter happiness that he will feel.

The use of language in Havisham is so unusual and controversial that
it gets to the point where it almost makes no sense. The use of
oxymorons and enjambment is used to the extreme and some of the
metaphors are disturbing, this may reflect Carol Ann Duffy's state of
mind, as she is a feminist who tries to "cast down the shackles of
male oppression" by her use of illiteral grammar and lack of rhyme
scheme to reflect her own incoherent thoughts. The way she compares
Miss Havisham's eyes to green pebbles, green being the "colour" of
envy and jealousy implying that she is morbidly jealous of other more
fortunate women. Also the "ropes on the back of my hands" that she
says she is going to strangle her ex-fiancé with, the ropes being
wrinkles, a sign of just how long she has been in that situation.
"puce curses that are sounds not words" is another of Carol Ann
Duffy's puzzling metaphors. Puce is the colour of dried blood, so it
is though she is saying that the curses are in her blood. "The slewed
mirror" another metaphor adding to the surrealism of the poem. slewed
meaning twisted and broken. But perhaps it is not the mirror that is
broken, maybe it is her own image that she sees as destroyed. Duffy
lets her feelings for men show through in this poem.

In contrast to this poem is "Stop All the Clocks..." by W.H. Auden.
This poem uses no language that is out of the ordinary, and is in no
way controversial. Though it is deep and sorrowful it isn't as
aggressive as Havisham. Auden uses an AABBCCDDEE scheme which is a
very organised rhyming scheme known as 'rhyming couplets'. Very
regular grammar and all of the verses are separated as you normally
would do. He wants the language to do more for the poem than the
grammar. The poem is about the death of a man (perhaps a friend or
lover) referring to W.H. Audens sexual preferences and his feelings
afterwards. He does not use any metaphors but some of the rhyming
couplets he uses could be seen as unusual, "...cut off the
telephone...give the dog a juicy bone" shows that he has paid high
detail to everything that he wants to take notice, nothing in the
world is to be left untold of the awful tragedy that he has suffered.

A different angle on separation was taken up by John Donne when he
wrote "Valediction: Forbidden Mourning" for his wife when he had to
leave on a business trip. Although it was different considering the
fact that the two of them knew they were going to reunite. Donne wrote
about their love and he compared it to massive events that were far
more important than their romance to anyone else, but to John his
romance was bigger than the universe, but at times as simple as a
compass as it comes together. He says that "As virtuous men pass
mildly away... let us melt" comparing their parting to the death of a
good man, he did this because, when he wrote the poem, good men died
with no fear of death, because they knew they were going to go to
heaven. Symbolising that they will have nothing to fear from being
apart from one another. He also compares his love to the Universe,
"Trepidation of the spheres...though greater, still is innocent"
meaning that their parting is like the movement of the spheres, an
ancient belief that the universe was divided into spheres. This
symbolises that their love is greater than earth quakes, but their
parting will not harm them. The grammar in this poem is standard, and
there is no rhyming scheme. He shows that great feelings can be
achieved through just writing from the heart. The form relates to the
subject of the poem, because in separation, nothing unexpected will
happen to them.


I think that although "Havisham" is the shortest and most
controversial of the three poems it is the best. It is so surreal and
unusual. The way Duffy turns Havisham into a monster bent on revenge
then turns her back into an innocent girl who has been abandoned by
the only person she ever loved is sheer genius. Although
"Valediction..." is very deep and thoughtful it just does not compare
to the outrageousness of "Havisham" and "Stop all the clocks" is just
boring compared to this. I think Havisham has to be one of the best
poems I have ever read. I think that what makes "Havisham" my
favourite though is the fact that is so fresh. I don't know how Duffy
came up with such an awe inspiring poem but if I had to pick a poem to
read for the rest of my life, "Havisham" would be unquestionably it.
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