Basic Poem Analysis
Subject Matter: What is being described?
The life of a farm hand- his personality. It describes his dreams and the things he wishes he had. He wants a girl, a love in his life, but he feels he is not capable of being a lover. He is too involved in his work as a farm hand. He feels “awkward”, “envious” of the “Sunday couples”. The last stanza tells us that he is in his element when he is working – not awkward but “effortless and strong”, not envious but “like a lover” when listening to the tractor engine.
Can you find a deeper meaning/message? What is the poet telling us? Look for key words here – how do they guide your thoughts, what aspects do they focus on?
“Careless” – suggests that he wants other people to think he doesn’t care.
“Always his eyes turn” – can’t stop himself
“An old wound” – suggests that the music evokes a painful memory – perhaps a lost love.
“Red sunburnt face” , “hairy hands”, “ slow growing as his mind” – paints a picture of a person who feels out of place at the dance – he is more at home on the land. He still has “awkward hopes” and dreams. Last stanza – “effortless””, “strong”, “like a lover” – the picture is a lot more confident. The two types of love and the love of the land. The farmland is shown as being shut out of “dancing” or love making because of who he is. But his real passion is what makes him strong.
What techniques are being used?
Direst address to the reader – “You...” in first line, reader is instructed to “watch” in last stanza. Five stanza formal structure. Use of simple devices such as listing (stanza 1) and adjectives – “red sunburnt”, “hairy” etc that suggests rather than describe in detail.
Structure and its relation to the content?
The five stanza structure of the poem places the central idea of the poem in the thirdf stanza, making it central to the poem, while the first and last stanza contain contrasting visual images of the farmland – at the dancehall and out of place (stanza 1), and working during harvest time and in his element (stanza 5). Each stanza has a half rhyme pattern that is very formal but is disguised by not being full rhyming. The structure is also disguised by the use of run-on lines where the sense runs into the next line, allowing the poem to flow naturally.
Figurative Language Devices? List them and give the effect of each device
Simile is used three times; The girls “drifting like flowers” – suggests gentle, gracefull movements. Crops “slow-growing as his mind” – a neat way of suggesting the subject of the poem is not mentally agile. “Listening like a lover” – uses alliteration as well to link the concepts – suggests a passionate nature, focused on the land and on farming.
Personification – one of the poem’s more striking images “the music that tears slowly in his mind an old wound open” contrasts with the image of the girls at the dance, emphasies pain of memory.
Compare this with the metaphor in stanza three of “the earth wave breaking/ to the plough”- we don’t usually think of the earth as moving in waves, so this image is striking in its suggestion of power.
The poem also personifies the farmhand’s hopes and dreams. They are all he has to “yarn to” (talk to). His conversation is internal, with himself.
Vocabulary and its connotations? What do particular words suggest to you? What do you think about when you read this poem?
Use of words like “flowers” and “giggle” stereotype and diminish the role of women in farmhands world. These are shown as less powerful and important than the things he is good at – “breaking” the earth to his will, his strength at the harvest – “effortless”, “strong” celebrate male power.