Tag Archives: allusion

Death of a Young Son by Drowning

“Death of a Young Son by Drowning” by Margaret Atwood is a moving poem about the death of a child. The use of metaphor makes the poem more challenging.

Theme:

Hope dies when one’s child dies.

Techniques:

  • metaphor, simile, symbolism, allusion.

Issues:

What happened to the speaker? To her son?

What reflective question does this poem ask?

This poem comes from a collection written by Margaret Atwood called The Journals of Susanna Moodie. In this collection we read of the hardships and triumphs of the title character, who is a pioneer and recent immigrant to Canada. Find and read other poems from this collection.

Write about the comparisons this poem uses. Do you think the comparisons are appropriate or effective?

How do you feel about this poem? What do you like or dislike about it?

What do the last two lines mean?

Discuss the type of journey both mother and son make. Discuss how it symbolizes the journey of life, from birth to death.

 

“Death of a Young Son by Drowning” by Margaret Atwood

He, who navigated with success
the dangerous river of his own birth
once more set forth

on a voyage of discovery
into the land I floated on
but could not touch to claim.

His feet slid on the bank,
the currents took him;
he swirled with ice and trees in the swollen water

and plunged into distant regions,
his head a bathysphere;
through his eyes’ thin glass bubbles

he looked out, reckless adventurer
on a landscape stranger than Uranus
we have all been to and some remember.

There was an accident; the air locked,
he was hung in the river like a heart.
They retrieved the swamped body,

cairn of my plans and future charts,
with poles and hooks
from among the nudging logs.

It was spring, the sun kept shining, the new grass
leapt to solidity;
my hands glistened with details.

After the long trip I was tired of waves.
My foot hit rock. The dreamed sails
collapsed, ragged.

I planted him in this country
like a flag.

Not only marble, but the plastic toys

“Not only marble, but the plastic toys” by Wendy Cope is a parody of Shakespeare’s “Sonnet LV”.

Theme:

Creative works cannot endure.

Techniques:

Sonnet structure, comparison, parody, allusion.

Issues:

See Shakespeare’s “Sonnet LV”.

Summarize this sonnet in your own words using your summary of Shakespeare’s “Sonnet LV” as a starting point or model.

Do you think Wendy Cope has successfully refuted Shakespeare’s position, or is the purpose of this poem merely to entertain?

Write your own parody of Shakespeare’s “Sonnet LV”.

“Not only marble, but the plastic toys” by Wendy Cope
Not only marble, but the plastic toys
From cornflake packets will outlive this rhyme
I can’t immortalize you, love – our joys
Will lie unnoticed in the vault of time.
When Mrs. Thatcher has been cast in bronze
And her administration is a page
In some O-Level text-book, when the dons
Have analysed the story of our age,
When travel firms sell tours of outer space
When aeroplanes take off without a sound
And Tulse Hill has become a trendy place
And upper Norwood’s on the underground
Your beauty and my name will be forgotten –
My love is true, but all my verse is rotten.

Sonnet LV

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone besmear’d with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword nor war’s quick fire shall burn
The living record of your memory.
‘Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity
Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room
Even in the eyes of all posterity
That wear this world out to the ending doom.
So, till the judgment that yourself arise,
You live in this, and dwell in lover’s eyes.
– William Shakespeare

“Sonnet LV” by William Shakespeare is a rather complicated tribute to the beauty or character of the speaker’s loved one. According to the speaker, her beauty will live on within the sonnet.

Theme:
Creative works can endure for centuries (and give longer life to those people the works describe).

Techniques:
Sonnet structure, comparison, allusion, alliteration

Issues:
Can a rhyme outlive statues or more permanent structures? Can that rhyme give life to the beauty it describes (“But you shall shine more bright in these contents”)?

Summarize the sonnet in your own words.

According to Shakespeare, what else will endure besides his “powerful rhyme”?

Shakespeare argues that the works of the imagination are more enduring than material things. To what extent do you agree with him?