Part 2 Compare and contrast extracts from William Wordsworth’s poem ‘We are Seven’ and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem ‘The Mask of Anarchy: Written on the Occasion of the Massacre at Manchester’
The first poem being compared for this assignment is ‘We are Seven’, (Wordsworth, cited in The Open University, 2018, a) written as part of Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballad’s. It presents the dialogue of a man, the narrator, and a little girl who the man is questioning about her understanding of death. The innocence of the child is reflective of the Romantic period, when the poem was written. The Romantics saw imagination as key to understanding the world around us. Wordsworth’s ‘argument was that his child-self was one with a Nature’ (Watson et al.,2018).
The second poem is an extract from Shelley’s ‘The Mask of Anarchy’, (Shelley cited in The Open University, 2013, b) which he wrote when news of The Peterloo Massacre reached him in Italy. The massacre was at St Peter’s Field in Manchester but became known as The Peterloo Massacre because it happened shortly after the Battle of Waterloo. It was a peaceful protest by around 60,000 people angry about the Parliamentary Reform which meant that many had lost jobs because of growing industry and mechanisation. The political passions of Shelley, which are also reflective of Romanticism, are explored in ‘The Mask of Anarchy’.
First in analysing ‘We are Seven’ we see the narrator seems cynical in his view of death in contrast with the innocence of the little girl’s imagination, her relationship with nature and God and her very matter of fact view on death.
Wordsworth wrote ‘We Are Seven’ in the form of the ballad which is made up of quatrains which are stanzas with four lines. The word ballad is commonly associated with music and the rhythm of ‘We Are Seven’ would lend itself to being sung. It has a regular meter in which iambic tetrameter lines alternate with iambic trimeter lines. It has an ABAB rhyme scheme, with the exception of the last stanza which is ABCCB. The final stanzas first line ‘But they are dead – those two are dead!’ (17.65) is left without a rhyming line as the man continues to argue with the girl but his words are lost, ‘Twas throwing words away, for still The little maid would have her will’ (17.67-68) and she has the final word in the last line ‘And said, ‘Nay, we are seven!’ (17.69).
The tone of the poem is conversational. The dialogue between the two characters is questioning and contrasting viewpoints their views about death. The narrator uses words like ‘simple child’, ‘little cottage girl’ and ‘little maid’ to describe the child. This gives the impression that he sees children as innocent and this is shown in the first stanza with his line ‘What should it know of death?’ which says that he does not think any child should have to be aware of, or exposed to death. The child on the other hand cannot comprehend why the man questions her over and over again about the number of...