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Francesco Franchi Zerbini

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Remember by Christina Rossetti, Piano by D.H. Lawrence and Poem at Thirty-Nine by Alice Walker Comparative Essay On nostalgic remembrance

Piano by D.H. Lawrence, Remember by Christina Rossetti, and Poem at Thirty-Nine by Alice Walker are all poems which share the same theme of nostalgic remembrance. This essay will compare the three poems, considering the similarities and the differences between them. It will therefore talk about the main themes of the poems, trying to show the different ways in which it is presented, such as nostalgia for an idealized past, remembrance of a loved one or the missing of the unconditional love between parent and child. It will also evaluate to what extent they are similar regarding the tones, the language which the poets use and the structures. The themes of the three poems are definitely similar, since they all are about remembering a person who is not there anymore. This is clear in Remember immediately from the title, which puts emphasis on the main subject of the poem. The other poems, do not show their themes in the title, however it is clear when reading them that remembrance is the main theme. The second line of Piano says "Taking me back down the vista of years". This quote shows how he is being brought back to the past, remembering his childhood days. Here Lawrence gives great attention to his diction. In fact, taking someone down in a fight usually means beating them, and so he implies that he is defeated. Therefore, he does not choose to remember, but he is made remember against his own will. This quote is written in the first part of the poem, to highlight the main topic. However, there are differences between the minor themes of the poems. Rossetti's poem is solely about memories, while Lawrence's gives a great importance also to the tone of sadness, and Walker's to the theme of teaching. Like Poem at Thirty Nine, another poem which has both,

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the theme of teaching and the theme of remembrance is Once Upon a Time, by Gabriel Okara. "Once upon a time they used to laugh with their hearts". In this poem a father tries to teach his son what the past was like, compared to the present, and when thinking back of how life was before, he feels a great nostalgia for his past. In Piano and Poem at Thirty Nine both poets are nostalgic about losing a parent, one his mother, the other her father. "How I miss my father." is the opening line of Walker's poem. This, being the theme of the poem expresses her nostalgia and focuses on missing her father as the theme of the poem. Since the sentence is short and simple, it can be explained with only five words, and by using so little words she implies that even though she suffers a lot about her father's death, she just has to accept it and move on. Another poem that talks about a deceased parent, very much like Piano is Digging, by Seamus Heaney. "My father, digging. I look down till his straining rump among the flowerbeds bends low,

comes up twenty years away". Here the poem is very similar to Piano, as both speakers remember a

parent, by looking at an action that their parents used to do when they were alive. However, Remember is not about a parent, but about a lover. "You can no more hold me by the hand". Holding hands is a typical gesture between lovers; therefore the speaker is definitely referring to beloved one. Another difference is that Piano and Poem at Thirty Nine are about a person in the present, remembering the past, while Remember is about a person in the present, asking someone to remember in the future. "Remember me when I am gone away". This quote shows how she wants to be remembered in the future, as she states, that she is not dead yet, but she anticipates death, as it is very imminent. This differs from the others, where the speakers are not requesting anything, but they are just talking about their melancholy for their deceased parents. The last dissimilarity is that the speakers in Poem at Thirty Nine and Piano both focus on showing the reader that they are missing someone, and to do so they remember events in the past which are

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over. Rossetti instead makes a connection between past, present and future, in something that will not be broken by death, but that will last forever. Rossetti probably created this immortal cycle due to her strong religious beliefs. In fact in Christianity, when someone dies, they go to heaven and start a new life there, so she does not think that death can stop this cycle. Creating this immortal cycle also affects the mood of the Remember, giving it a more positive tone. Therefore, even though overall, all three poems are nostalgic and sad, because the subject is to remember a dead one, Poem at Thirty Nine and Remember are slightly happier than Piano. The speaker in Piano is extremely struck by grief as Lawrence use of diction creates an image in the reader's mind that makes him feel his agony. "The heart of me weeps" is a personification used to create a sense of sadness in the poem. This works greatly on imagery. In fact, he makes the reader picture a heart crying, showing that he has a great pain coming from inside of him. Therefore, all the emotions which he has repressed throughout the years come out, and he has this catharsis, where he gives out all the pain he had hidden before. Also, when we cry we feel weaker, therefore he implies that his heart feels weak, and this pain consumes him really making him feel terribly sad. This sadness is felt by Lawrence because he helped his mother commit suicide, while she was the only relief from a terrible childhood, with a father who used to beat him, and great poverty. The fact that she was such a great figure in his life, as she is the one who cared about his education and loved him unconditionally, obviously make him feel miserable, and since Piano is about his mother, mood of the poem is heartbreaking. Poem at Thirty Nine is more positive, because even though the speaker is clearly sad for her loss, she states that her father taught her a lot, and he made her a better woman. Also Remember is more optimistic, because the speaker hopes that the remembrance of her will keep the present alive, in a future where she will not be there anymore.

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To make the tone of his poem so depressing, Lawrence uses different language techniques, for example similes. "I weep like a child" is a simile used by Lawrence create imagery, in facts, the word "weep" creates an image of him actually crying like a child, losing his self control, letting out all his repressed emotions, which happens rarely in an adult, so while he is writing the poem, it is like as if he was actually a child again, and this image of him crying so desperately shows his misery. Also, at Lawrence's time, men were supposed to be strong, and hide all their emotions, and the fact that he is actually weeping, implies that he cannot hold his sadness inside of him and he has let it out, in spite of what others might have thought of him. Like in Piano, also in Poem at Thirty Nine there are similes. "I look and cook just like him" is a simile used to show that the teaching of the father made Walker a better woman, creating a sense of brightness in the poem, which contrasts the sorrow. As well as similes, Walker also uses metaphors, "Seasoning none of my life", once again used to create a sense of happiness in grief, by showing that her father made her a better person. Also Rossetti uses metaphors such as "silent land". This is used as a euphemism for graveyard, to give the idea of death as something less harsh; therefore, this metaphor also has an impact on the mood and tone of the poem, as it makes it a bit more positive. She uses a euphemism also to imply that she will die, but however this is not necessarily a bad matter, as she will be with her Lord once she is dead. However, the word "silent" implies shows the effect of the distance between the speaker and her lover, and the loss of communication. Silent land could have also been a metaphor for heaven, again, referring to Rossetti's strong religious beliefs. Rossetti wrote many poems about her love for Christ and God. An example of one is A Better Resurrection. "A royal cup for Him, my King: O Jesus, drink of me."

This quote shows how she is ready to be sacrificed to the Lord, and is happy to be dead, as long as she ends up with Jesus, in heaven (once more bringing back to the metaphor of "Silent land").

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Finally, the structures of the poems are quite different. Remember is a petrarcan sonnet, which is a form usually adopted when writing love poems, and Remember is in a way a love poem too. The first eight lines are about requesting the remembrance of the speaker when she will be gone, while the last six lines are focus on telling the person whom the poem is directed to, to not remember if this remembrance will cause them sadness. Piano has three quatrains of rhyming couplets. It is written in this form, as the first stanza works as an introduction, where Lawrence explains how a mother plays the piano with her young son, who plays with her feet; the second stanza works as a main body, where he explains how he is being brought back and made to remember, and finally, the last stanza works as a conclusion, where he describes the grief and sorrow he feels, and how his emotions are being brought out. It has rhyming couplets to create a rhythm which goes along with the musicality in the poem (the piano, the tingling strings, appassionato). Finally, Poem at Thirty Nine is in a free verse, with six stanzas and no rhymes. It has this structure, as in each stanza Walker explains one value her father taught her, making the poem like a list. "He taught me that telling the truth did not always mean a beating" is a quote from the third stanza, and it shows how in this stanza, she explains how her father taught her the value of honesty. "Writing deposit slips and checks I think of him. He taught me how." This quote is from the second stanza, and here, she explains how her father taught her how to be responsible with money. Overall, I personally like Piano the best of the three poems, as it is the one which manages to create a clear image in my mind, and I love Lawrence's choice of diction, as his words have a beautiful sound (for example the use of consonance), as well as a strong meaning. My second favorite poem is Remember, as I like how Rossetti clearly focuses on one theme, and I enjoy the "happiness in misery" effect that she manages to create. I do not like Poem at Thirty Nine as

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much as the other two, as it sounds too much like a list, and the diction is too common, making the poem seem more prosaic and less like a piece of poetry. Finally, the three poems are obviously more similar than differ, considering their contents, themes, literary elements and moods. Word Count: 1962

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