How do composers use poetic techniques to reinforce the theme of ‘journeys’ in their poetry? There are many different techniques that a poet can use to emphasize the theme of journeys in their work. When many of us think of journeys, we think of a person physically moving from one place to another. However, a journey does not only have to be physical, it can be emotional as well. Throughout the poems that were provided to us in class, the poets have chosen various ways to portray journeys.
In order to explore the different techniques that poets use, I have chosen three poems; ‘Meeting at Night’ by Robert Browning, ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ by John Keats and ‘The Journey of Magi’ by TS Eliot. When read literally, the poem ‘Meeting at Night’ has the most obvious example of a journey, that being a person travelling to a destination. In this poem, the poet is outlining his journey from a boat, across beaches and fields to finally be reunited with his love.
The poet Robert Browning uses all types of imagery in this poem to describe the scene around him while on his journey. Visual imagery is used almost the whole way throughout the poem, for example “The grey sea and the long black land” (line 1) and “And blue spurt of a lighted match” (line 10). The use of visual imagery allows us to get a better understanding of his surroundings and the extent of his journey. The extent of his journey becomes especially apparent when he says “Three fields to cross till a farm appears” because usually we associate fields with quite a large area.
Throughout the poem there is a lot of alliteration, making it sink in more when read, this makes us more involved in the story and allows us to think about it to a greater extent, an example of this is “long black land” (line 1) and “pushing prow” (line 5). Personification is used to add more feeling to the poem, and lets the reader see more of an emotional side, “In fiery ringlets from their sleep” (line 5). In this particular journey, the key technique was imagery because it was a physical journey rather than an emotional journey.
The poem ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ is about a knight who is alone and looking as though the life has been taken out of him. This man is confronted by a passerby who asks him why he is alone and so pale, in reply the knight tells him his story of how he fell in love with a woman, who claimed to love him back, then abandoned him, leaving him alone there on the hillside. When you look at this poem metaphorically, you could associate the phrases about the knight being “alone and palely loitering” where “no birds sing” with death, but without looking into it too much it could be referring to the knight as alive.
This poem is an emotional journey more than anything. The poet changes from present tense, to past tense, and then ends the poem in present tense. The effect of changing tenses throughout the poem allows us to relive what happened to the knight in the poem and makes the reader feel a lot more involved. This, on top of the fact that it’s written in first person, means that the reader can feel emotionally connected to the message the poet is trying to convey. The poet uses descriptive language to explain the lady or “faery’s child”, he also uses it to tell us what they did and how they met.
The use of descriptive language gives more depth to the poem. In every stanza the first three lines have eight syllables and the fourth line has four. The effect of this is that there is special emphasis put on the fourth line, as usually this line is an explanation of the first three. Much of the imagery found in this poem is natural, such as lakes, birds, lilies, roses, meads, garlands, roots, dew and moss. There is so much of this natural imagery that it almost seems made up or imagined.
The physical journey in this poem remains unknown because he starts alone on the hillside and ends alone on the hillside. Although the emotional journey that the knight goes through seems short, it does however seem as though the impact on him has been much more. The poem ‘The Journey of the Magi’ is an interpretation of a biblical story. Basically this story is about the Magi (the three wise men) on their journey through the harshest kind of weather conditions to Bethlehem to see the baby
Jesus. Throughout their journey they face crude men “the camel men cursing and grumbling”, they face hostile cities, unfriendly towns and dirty villages. By mentioning the various situations they faced on their journey, it gives us an understanding of the conditions or hardships they go through. This poem is an allusion to the birth and death of Jesus, not only does it capture the birth when the wise men go to visit him, but also the quote “Six hands… is a suggestion to the crucifixion and death of Jesus because when Jesus was put into his tomb it is believed by many that he had six fingers. The effect of having this allusion throughout the poem is that it adds to the overall understanding of the poem, giving something to compare it to, it also gives the poem more depth or emotional meaning. These techniques all work together to illustrate a usually physical, but sometimes emotional journey that faces a lot of suffering but soon comes to the conclusion that it was worth it in the end.
These three poems all combine to give three very different depictions of journeys. Each have their unique way of reinforcing the theme of journeys and are all successful in doing so. By looking further into the poems and understanding the various techniques that were used and why they were used such as imagery, metaphors, personification and allusion we as the readers are able to fully understand what the poet is trying to convey or what hidden meanings they are trying to give us.