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Comparing and Contrasting Poetry - Essay Example

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The choice of vocabulary is also primary to setting the mood. Both of them talk about how things appear, but allow the reader to discern the real truth. While poetry often…
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Comparing and Contrasting Poetry
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Revealing the Undercoat Both of these poems use a strong iambic rhythm to set up the mood and then to deal the reader a surprise. The choice of vocabulary is also primary to setting the mood. Both of them talk about how things appear, but allow the reader to discern the real truth. While poetry often uses the reader’s reaction to the words to convey its message, these two poems are more straightforward about what the poet thinks. The major differences between the two poems are in the use of imagery and the ease with which the reader participates. The poem by Robinson is easier to access and, in some ways, lighter, and the distance of the poet from the subject creates an atmosphere within which we can observe what is really going on. Both poems illustrate strong emotions: envy and love.
The strong iambic trimeter of Papa’s Waltz is made slightly uneven by the extra unstressed syllable on the even lines, suggesting that, perhaps, the steps of the waltz are not exactly even either. However, in Richard Cory, we have iambic pentameter and the quatrain structure rhyming every other line, suggestive of a sonnet, which is only changed by adding the last two lines. The slightly uneven meter of Roethke’s poem creates a certain image of a stumbling dance, while Robinson’s keeps its perfect structure throughout, mirroring the poem’s statement of the perfection of Richard Cory.
While there is a lot of imagery and symbolism in Papa’s Waltz, the poem Richard Cory is a symbol in itself, almost a painting in words, representing everything we dream about and everyone we envy. We hear description of things like he was “imperially slim”, or he “glittered when he walked”. Robinson uses words that hint of royalty: crown, king and imperially, but contrasts these with the meagerness of saying that “we” (the narrator’s group) “went without the meat, and cursed the bread”.
Roethke is a bit more subtle with his poem, first allowing us to peek in at the scene, watching the boy and his drunken father stomp about. We know that the household is not rich, and that the father is a manual laborer, or maybe a farmer, from the dirt caked rough hands. The language is plain and driect, using words like “romped” and “scraped” while the language in Richard Cory is quite formal, increasing the mood of quiet admiration which bordered upon envy, and increasing the power of the simply stated ending.
We suspect that the father in Roethkes poem is, at least a little, abusive. However, there is also a certain relationship shown between the man and the boy as the poet tells us that “mother’s countenance could not unfrown itself”. This word may be the strongest image in the poem, because the poet chose to take the extreme of saying that she could not stop it, but she also could not stop them. The man and the boy are in their very own world, further strengthened by the use of Papa for the father and the more formal “mother” for Mama. They are both defying the mother’s idea of proper decorum, partners in crime, and this is a bond between them. Even though the boy was probably abused, he “held on like death” to his father and clung to his shirt as Papa waltzed him off to bed. He respected many things in his father and was willing to overlook the roughness, because he loved him deeply. It was interesting to note the disagreement among scholars concerning the interpretation of this poem, and John McKenna points out that Rhoetke’s revisions increased the ambiguity of the poem. (McKenna, John 1998)
Both poems depend upon contrast and surprise for their main impact, but My Papa’s Waltz” rather sneaks up on the wonderful realization of this family and their love, while Richard Cory sets us up with exciting description and then delivers the smacking blow at the end.
References
McKenna, John J., 1998,ANQ; Spring98, Vol. 11 Issue 2, p34, 5p, http://ae.talonline.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=afh&AN=470334&site=ehost-live
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