Poem comparison showing relationship between parents and child

‘On my first Sonne’ by Ben Jonson uses euphemism by saying “rest in soft peace” to his son to show how he cares about his son and how it is his fault for the death of the child because he says “lent to me, and I thee pay”. This shows that he was lent the son from God and now has to pay it back with the son’s life. He shows a lot of pain and loss when he says “as what he loves may never like too much” which is Jonson reminding himself of the sin where he loved his son too much and hopes that it will not happen again so that he will not have to go through the same pain again. This shows that the parent had a close relationship with his son as the father loved his son too much and feels a lot of pain at his son’s death. Conversely, ‘The Affliction of Margaret’ by William Wordsworth has language of despair and questioning of where Margaret’s son may be and wondering “where art thou, worse to me than dead”.

This shows how Margaret is thinks that not knowing where her son is, is worse than him being dead and would like the son to “come to me” or “send some tidings” so she doesn’t need to worry about where her son is. Wordsworth also uses language of accusation; Margaret says “neglect me! no I suffered long” and accusing the son of abandoning her and not telling her where he is. This shows that the relationship between the mother and son is not very good as the son just deserts the mother and not telling her where he is, but also because the mother accuses her son of neglecting her. On the other hand, ‘Catrin’ by Gillian Clarke shows the conflict between her and her daughter, Catrin.

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In the first sentence, Clarke refers to her daughter as “child” and struggles to remember the growing up of her daughter and only remember the birth of Catrin. Clarke and Catrin both say “we want, we shouted, to be two, to be ourselves” could show how they want to be unique and separate from each other. However, Clarke could be saying is to hide that fact that she wants her daughter to need her and to want her help for everything that she does. Also, the way that they both shouted it together could show how that are still one even if they want to be separate. This shows that the relationship of Clarke with her daughter is not very close but because Catrin “asks” to skate in the dark, could show that she wants to avoid conflict and give her mother a sense of need for her mother. Contrarily, ‘Digging’ by Seamus Heaney shows how Heaney does not feel very close to his dad as he is unable to dig like his father. However, he feels that he can work just as hard as his father and his grandfather, digging with his “squat pen” which shows that he will work hard with something that he is comfortable with. On the other hand, he uses a lot of agricultural technical terms such as “shaft”, “lug”, “sod” and “turf” which shows he knows and understand about agriculture but has “no spade to follow men like them” meaning that he not agricultural like his father and grandfather. However he respects his parents for being really good at digging and feels like he has a close relationship with his father because he is able to use agricultural terms.

The imagery in ‘On my first Sonne’ relates the father’s son as a piece of poetry and is his proudest creation and the best thing that has happened to him. He calls his son “his best piece of poetrie” to demonstrate this and to show how much he loves his son, even though he is now dead. In ‘The Affliction of Margaret’, the mother shows possible images of where her son could be. “Alas! the fowls of Heaven have wings” this shows that her son could be dead but in a happy place and how she wants to visit him but “chains tie us down by land and sea” and so her wishing that he son is okay is “all that is left to comfort thee”. However, she also thinks that her son could be depressed in prison and thinking of the worst that could happen to her son. She does this by saying “perhaps some dungeon hears thee groan” this shows how she thinks that her son is capable of doing acts that will cause him to go to prison and as a punishment would be attacked by inhuman men, thrown into a hungry lion’s den or thrown into the sea. This juxtaposes with the previous stanza as she thinks of her son being happy in Heaven and then in prison in the stanza afterwards. This could show that even though she loves her son and wants to think happy thoughts about her son, she cannot help but think about the worst possibilities that could happen to her son. In ‘Catrin’, Gillian Clarke shows images of her memories and her remembering her daughter’s birth. She has a metaphor for what keeps her and Catrin close. She describes it as “the tight red rope of love which we both fought over”; the tight red rope could be the umbilical cord as a physical way of keeping Clarke and Catrin together.

It could also be seen as the rope that keeps them together mentally, without actually being there. This means that even though they may not have that close relationship, they will always be attached together by the rope. The traffic lights that change colour could be a metaphor that shows the change in labour but also the change in the relationship between mother and daughter. There is also the imagery of the “wild, tender circles” which could be the circle of the child getting away from the mother and then being pulled back. This can be shows when Catrin asks to skate in the dark for another hour to show that she still relies on her mother. The imagery in ‘Digging’ uses a lot of the senses to make the reader feel like they are there in Ireland such as the “cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap of soggy peat” this shows that he watches his dad and granddad whilst they are digging. Also there is imagery of his grandfather “straightened up to drink it, then fell right away” this shows how serious his grandfather finds digging potatoes and that Heaney looks up to him. Heaney uses the metaphor and simile of “the squat pen rests; snug as a gun”. The pen being squat could be interpreted as an instrument of power and something that Heaney is comfortable with; however, it could also be interpreted as how he sees himself; he may think of himself as fat and lazy in contrast to his father and grandfather. Heaney refers to the pen as something that can he can do damage with and make a difference with; which is what he has done by writing his poems.

‘On my first Sonne’ is written like an epitaph to the dead son, written by the father. This is shown because there is only one stanza and it is relatively short so that it could fit onto a grave stone. Also because he uses phrases like “Farewell, thou child” and “Rest in soft peace” which shows that he deeply loves his son and is greatly affected by the loss. However, ‘The Affliction of Margaret’ is written in many stanzas which are 7 lines long. There are many stanzas to show the different thoughts that the mother is thinking about the location of where her son may be. All the stanzas are 7 lines long with an ABACCC rhyme scheme which makes the poem feel like a nursery rhyme to show how Margaret wants her son back by thinking about him when he was younger. The structure of ‘Catrin’ is that it is split into two halves; this could show the change in time, of when Catrin was a baby in the first stanza to a teenager in the second stanza. The split could also show how Catrin and Clarke have become two unique individuals. ‘Digging’ is written in free verse which could show the disjointed memories of Heaney remembering his father and his grandfather. This shows that he still remembers his father and grandfather for what they have done and still look up to them.

Finally, the tone of ‘On my first Sonne’ is sadness and grief because of the death of the father’s son; whom he had loved very much. It is written in iambic pentameter so that the poem feels smooth and has the feeling of love in it. The tone changes throughout ‘The Affliction of Margaret’ as Margaret wants her son back and is desperate for him back. She also gives the tone of being selfish by saying “why am I ignorant of the same that I may rest” which means that she doesn’t really care what state her son is, she just wants to know that he is fine so that she can feel better. Clarke feels loss in ‘Catrin’ as she repeats “I can remember you” and says “In the glass tank clouded with feelings” which shoes that her feelings have been clouded with Catrin due to the experiences they have had. The poem also changes in tone from referring to her daughter as “child” to more intimate and personal which shows that their relationship has its ups and downs when they feel separate and other times where they feel together. The tone in ‘Digging’ shows how he is proud that his “grandfather cut more turf in a day than any other man on Toner’s bog” and “by God, the old man could handle a spade. Just like his old man”; this shows his pride that he has a father and a grandfather who are very skilled at digging potatoes and flowers. However, there is also the sense of regret the Heaney is unable to dig like his father and grandfather and will have to do it by writing instead.

All four poems show the relationship between parents and children but in different ways. ‘On my first Sonne’ shows that the parent and child were very close before the son’s death as the father wrote a loving epitaph for the son; ‘The Affliction of Margaret’ shows that the mother is not very close to her son, as the son was willing to go off to war and not tell her where he is for seven years; ‘Catrin’ shows the relationship between Clarke and Catrin like a circle, both trying to be separate then becoming back together; ‘Digging’ shows how the relationship between Heaney and his father is quite hard to keep together as he is unable to dig like his father.

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