Joys and Sorrows of Life Poetry Essay

With reference to at least four poems, explain how poets present both the joys and sorrows of life. Poets such as W. H. Auden, Bruce Dawe, Roger Mcgough and Elaine Savory clearly present the joys and sorrows of life in their truthful and realistic poems, using a range of techniques. These negative and positive aspects of life are shown by the poets, by using everyday occurrances like death, loss and love to involve the reader. All four poems, ‘Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone’, ‘Going’, ‘The Railings’ and ‘November 1984’ use different methods to present these emotions. However, there are also similarities in their techniques. Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone’ and ‘Going’ are written about occurances that are not unusual in ones life; death and loss. This makes the poems more moving and understood by the readers. In ‘Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone’, by W. H. Auden, great sadness of her loss of a loved one is shared by the poet by expressing feelings that are common to most people in her situation. Imagery is used when W. H. Auden describes an imaginary funeral for lost love one. ‘I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong’, (stanza 3, line 4) conveys the great depression she is feeling about the loss of her loved one.

She extends her sadness to a great extent using imagery, diction, depressing scenes and life difficulties experienced worldwide. ‘Going’, by Bruce Dawe also presents life difficulties that are experienced worldwide. In this poem, the poet’s elderly mother dies from a heart attack at a family barbeque. The passing of elderly parents is a part of life that can rarely be escaped. It is a sad occurrence, and the normality of it helps the reader to understand the negative feelings being expressed. Both negative and positive aspects of life are connected in the poems, ‘November 1984’ and ‘The Railings’.

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In ‘November 1984’ by Elaine Savory, a very depressing and sorrowful relationship is shared by a mother and daughter. Elaine Savory has used metaphors such as ‘queen of transformations’, (stanza 2, line 5) to describe the nasty tongued mother and her rapid mood changes. While having a daughter should be joyful and exciting for a mother, this poem clearly states that sorrow can be brought from joy. ‘It has been difficult’ (stanza 3, line 3), explains that the relationship they share is unhealthy, unlike what this kind of relationship should be, or how it began. The Railings’, by Roger Mcgough also presents a negative relationship of a father and son. The father is embarrassed to admit his love for his son and their relationship is very distant. At important events in the son’s life, his father states that he had only found himself ‘there by accident’ (stanza three, line 5). This portrays the discomfort the father has around his own son. The son describes qualities of other fathers and ‘but not you’, (stanza 1, line 6) compares them to his own father in a pessimistic and sorrowful way.

These aspects of the poems describe depressing events in ones life, yet some poets have looked at sorrowful times in a different view, and can be seen as positive. There are many positive aspects of the light hearted poem ‘Going’, by Bruce Dawe. The poet is not concerned about the death of his mother and sees it as more of a relieving and joyful time, rather than sorrowful and miserable. ‘The joy of your going’ (stanza 4, line 1) clearly supports this. The laid back attitude of the poet and his use of Australian slang make the poem extremely light hearted and leave the reader feeling cheerful.

Onomatopoeia, similies and alliteration have been used to create a relaxed and jolly mood. Even though death involves mourning and great sadness, the poet and his family have chosen to see this death as a good thing, involving reminiscing and happiness. Death has been described by some poets as and extremely sorrowful and life changing event, while other poets have looked at death differently, seeing the good sides. Some of the poems studied, have involved both joy and sorrow in the same situations and some have began joyful and ended sorrowful. All four poets have used different techniques to present the joys and sorrows of life.


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