a daedalus
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Hey guys I know we have a wiki for Oxbridge interviews (with one testimonial for english interviews) and also oxbridge-admissions.info is quite a useful place to check out but in the spirit of this thread I thought we could discuss some questions; prepare a bit for the interviews .. any other english applicants around?

An 'unseen' poem to start things off:

The Disappearing Island
Once we presumed to found ourselves for good
Between its blue hills and those sandless shores
Where we spent our desperate night in prayer and vigil,

Once we had gathered driftwood, made a hearth
And hung our cauldron like a firmament,
The island broke beneath us like a wave.

The land sustaining us seemed to hold firm
Only when we embraced it in extremis.
All I believe that happened there was vision.

(by Seamus Heaney)

Comment on what it's about, tone, narrator, and anything else you can think of to illuminate it.
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coming.up.easy
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I immediately get a sense of appearance versus reality, the collision of the tangible and the abstract, the reality and the surreal. The "cauldron", and "in extremis" seem to illustrate creeping perils, and it is at this moment, in a moment of extreme chaos that a different reality emerges and everything we used to think held us together changes. A moment of clarity, in midst of a moment of disarray.

What do you think?
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jollyrogera
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Just don't do what I did in mine, panic unnecessarily and as a result I was unable to answer quite basic questions.
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(Original post by a daedalus)
Hey guys I know we have a wiki for Oxbridge interviews (with one testimonial for english interviews) and also oxbridge-admissions.info is quite a useful place to check out but in the spirit of this thread I thought we could discuss some questions; prepare a bit for the interviews .. any other english applicants around?

An 'unseen' poem to start things off:

The Disappearing Island
Once we presumed to found ourselves for good
Between its blue hills and those sandless shores
Where we spent our desperate night in prayer and vigil,

Once we had gathered driftwood, made a hearth
And hung our cauldron like a firmament,
The island broke beneath us like a wave.

The land sustaining us seemed to hold firm
Only when we embraced it in extremis.
All I believe that happened there was vision.

(by Seamus Heaney)

Comment on what it's about, tone, narrator, and anything else you can think of to illuminate it.
(Original post by coming.up.easy)
I immediately get a sense of appearance versus reality, the collision of the tangible and the abstract, the reality and the surreal. The "cauldron", and "in extremis" seem to illustrate creeping perils, and it is at this moment, in a moment of extreme chaos that a different reality emerges and everything we used to think held us together changes. A moment of clarity, in midst of a moment of disarray.

What do you think?
I'll do this quickly, because I'm heading out now. But obviously you could say the poem presents a sort of metaphysical conceit, that the island dissappears, or loses ontological validity, when taken for granted. The domestic trivialities of gathering driftwood, making a hearth, etc. cause it to break "beneath us like a wave". It only holds firm when embraced "in extremis". I'd say, like with most of Heaney's work, the island refers to Ireland. With that in mind I think the nature of the island can be read as a reference to St. Brendan, an Irish saint (I grew up in Ireland, so likely I'm a bit privileged regarding this) - who, as legend has it, docked upon the back of some strange island. There everyone gets off of the ship and then the island starts sinking, disappearing - then they realise they've disembarked upon the back of a monster. Really rushed now but yeah-beyond that it's about things of uncertain identity holding firmer when embraced 'in extremis' because it's all about perception, vision, etc.
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a daedalus
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(Original post by coming.up.easy)
I immediately get a sense of appearance versus reality, the collision of the tangible and the abstract, the reality and the surreal. The "cauldron", and "in extremis" seem to illustrate creeping perils, and it is at this moment, in a moment of extreme chaos that a different reality emerges and everything we used to think held us together changes. A moment of clarity, in midst of a moment of disarray.

What do you think?
(Original post by no chance)
I'll do this quickly, because I'm heading out now. But obviously you could say the poem presents a sort of metaphysical conceit, that the island dissappears, or loses ontological validity, when taken for granted. The domestic trivialities of gathering driftwood, making a hearth, etc. cause it to break "beneath us like a wave". It only holds firm when embraced "in extremis". I'd say, like with most of Heaney's work, the island refers to Ireland. With that in mind I think the nature of the island can be read as a reference to St. Brendan, an Irish saint (I grew up in Ireland, so likely I'm a bit privileged regarding this) - who, as legend has it, docked upon the back of some strange island. There everyone gets off of the ship and then the island starts sinking, disappearing - then they realise they've disembarked upon the back of a monster. Really rushed now but yeah-beyond that it's about things of uncertain identity holding firmer when embraced 'in extremis' because it's all about perception, vision, etc.
You both make interesting and - I think - valid points. 'The Disappearing Island' is actually one that has come up in actual Oxbridge interviews and to be honest I don't know how effective my response would be lol it's bloody hard. obtuse.

But here's me having a go:

The first sentence of the poem spans the entire first two stanzas; its periodic structure means the rhythm of the sentence, when read aloud, (and I don't know how to explain this properly) the voice sort of goes upwards until 'firmament' and then suddenly down with 'The island broke beneath us like a wave'. In that sense the sentence reflects the central simile: the wave-like breaking of the island. Which is, I think, made implicitly more effective by the common idiomatic phrase of 'waves breaking' (like Dylan Thomas: 'Or waves break loud on the seashores'). Er ... the meter is mostly iambic pentameter; you have a spondee in 'hills and' which means that part of the sentence, with the three stressed syllables (blue hills and) rises - is spoken more slowly - again sort of mirroring the meaning..

Firmament is interesting because (apparently) it has its origins in translations of the Bible (therefore: religious connotations) and means the arch or vault of the heavens. But it's also got the connotation of firmness (obviously) so its doubly effective as a symbol of their presumption. To found one's self, in the opening line, is the poet's manipulation of language suggesting the search for a place to settle and call home that hearkens back through hundreds of years of our history. 'In extremis', again according to our friend wikipedia, means "in the farthest reaches" or "at the point of death".

I think considering Heaney's origins (Northern Ireland, but he considers himself Irish, not British) it's safe to say that Ireland is the island in question. Can't comment on the St. Brendan thing but there is a long literary tradition (well, I don't know, but I've read a few books where this is mentioned - esp. fantasy) involving tides and islands that disappear at the wrong time. Caves, too, for hiding riches, etc. It's an easy plot device, I suppose, but here there is the feeling that the island held 'firm' only when they would have died for it (one of the meanings of in extremis. I think it might have something to do with the Irish assimilation into English culture.. when the will to keep the land as something that is part of you, not merely a place to gather driftwood and hang the cauldron (the sky doesn't move; cauldron is carried around. permanence versus temporariness), fades away, the island (i suppose metaphorically) does too (as if cloaked by a tide). I think the line 'where we spent our desperate night in prayer and vigil' might then refer to the time when the Irish were fighting for independence, the time that is now past.

'All I believe that happened was vision' is hard to make out. Vision here I guess means a hallucination-type thing (again religious connotations) and Heaney omits the article (a vision vs. vision) which gives it a broader effect (i can't phrase this properly - gotta go soon - but you know what i mean (right?)). So maybe he's saying that the presumptuous 'founding [them]selves for good' invalidates everything that came before? Reinforced by the 'believe' .. even he is not sure if it's true or not, as if it seems that it can't be.


Haha well not much good. Maybe enough to worm our ways out of a difficult oxbridge question though
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Gooner231
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(Original post by a daedalus)
Hey guys I know we have a wiki for Oxbridge interviews (with one testimonial for english interviews) and also oxbridge-admissions.info is quite a useful place to check out but in the spirit of this thread I thought we could discuss some questions; prepare a bit for the interviews .. any other english applicants around?

An 'unseen' poem to start things off:

The Disappearing Island
Once we presumed to found ourselves for good
Between its blue hills and those sandless shores
Where we spent our desperate night in prayer and vigil,

Once we had gathered driftwood, made a hearth
And hung our cauldron like a firmament,
The island broke beneath us like a wave.

The land sustaining us seemed to hold firm
Only when we embraced it in extremis.
All I believe that happened there was vision.

(by Seamus Heaney)

Comment on what it's about, tone, narrator, and anything else you can think of to illuminate it.

(Original post by coming.up.easy)
I immediately get a sense of appearance versus reality, the collision of the tangible and the abstract, the reality and the surreal. The "cauldron", and "in extremis" seem to illustrate creeping perils, and it is at this moment, in a moment of extreme chaos that a different reality emerges and everything we used to think held us together changes. A moment of clarity, in midst of a moment of disarray.

What do you think?

(Original post by no chance)
I'll do this quickly, because I'm heading out now. But obviously you could say the poem presents a sort of metaphysical conceit, that the island dissappears, or loses ontological validity, when taken for granted. The domestic trivialities of gathering driftwood, making a hearth, etc. cause it to break "beneath us like a wave". It only holds firm when embraced "in extremis". I'd say, like with most of Heaney's work, the island refers to Ireland. With that in mind I think the nature of the island can be read as a reference to St. Brendan, an Irish saint (I grew up in Ireland, so likely I'm a bit privileged regarding this) - who, as legend has it, docked upon the back of some strange island. There everyone gets off of the ship and then the island starts sinking, disappearing - then they realise they've disembarked upon the back of a monster. Really rushed now but yeah-beyond that it's about things of uncertain identity holding firmer when embraced 'in extremis' because it's all about perception, vision, etc.

(Original post by a daedalus)
You both make interesting and - I think - valid points. 'The Disappearing Island' is actually one that has come up in actual Oxbridge interviews and to be honest I don't know how effective my response would be lol it's bloody hard. obtuse.

But here's me having a go:

The first sentence of the poem spans the entire first two stanzas; its periodic structure means the rhythm of the sentence, when read aloud, (and I don't know how to explain this properly) the voice sort of goes upwards until 'firmament' and then suddenly down with 'The island broke beneath us like a wave'. In that sense the sentence reflects the central simile: the wave-like breaking of the island. Which is, I think, made implicitly more effective by the common idiomatic phrase of 'waves breaking' (like Dylan Thomas: 'Or waves break loud on the seashores'). Er ... the meter is mostly iambic pentameter; you have a spondee in 'hills and' which means that part of the sentence, with the three stressed syllables (blue hills and) rises - is spoken more slowly - again sort of mirroring the meaning..

Firmament is interesting because (apparently) it has its origins in translations of the Bible (therefore: religious connotations) and means the arch or vault of the heavens. But it's also got the connotation of firmness (obviously) so its doubly effective as a symbol of their presumption. To found one's self, in the opening line, is the poet's manipulation of language suggesting the search for a place to settle and call home that hearkens back through hundreds of years of our history. 'In extremis', again according to our friend wikipedia, means "in the farthest reaches" or "at the point of death".

I think considering Heaney's origins (Northern Ireland, but he considers himself Irish, not British) it's safe to say that Ireland is the island in question. Can't comment on the St. Brendan thing but there is a long literary tradition (well, I don't know, but I've read a few books where this is mentioned - esp. fantasy) involving tides and islands that disappear at the wrong time. Caves, too, for hiding riches, etc. It's an easy plot device, I suppose, but here there is the feeling that the island held 'firm' only when they would have died for it (one of the meanings of in extremis. I think it might have something to do with the Irish assimilation into English culture.. when the will to keep the land as something that is part of you, not merely a place to gather driftwood and hang the cauldron (the sky doesn't move; cauldron is carried around. permanence versus temporariness), fades away, the island (i suppose metaphorically) does too (as if cloaked by a tide). I think the line 'where we spent our desperate night in prayer and vigil' might then refer to the time when the Irish were fighting for independence, the time that is now past.

'All I believe that happened was vision' is hard to make out. Vision here I guess means a hallucination-type thing (again religious connotations) and Heaney omits the article (a vision vs. vision) which gives it a broader effect (i can't phrase this properly - gotta go soon - but you know what i mean (right?)). So maybe he's saying that the presumptuous 'founding [them]selves for good' invalidates everything that came before? Reinforced by the 'believe' .. even he is not sure if it's true or not, as if it seems that it can't be.

Haha well not much good. Maybe enough to worm our ways out of a difficult oxbridge question though
It seems to be a poem centred entirely on the idea of uncertainty, which is exemplified by his subject matter: using something perceived to be eternal, an island, as the point of mutability.

The opening "Once" immediately suggests this idea, since it could refer to a hearkening back into history and ancestry, yet also a single point in time, the "desperate night in prayer and vigil" (I feel that the idea of once as a consistent point would tie in nicely with the idea of "desperate night" being representative of a life or existence, rather than just a single event). Its juxtaposition with the ambiguous "found for good", suggesting both permanence and also an idea of moral righteousness may well invert their "night" into an act of self-sacrifice as well as a struggle.

I'm liking the metre point made by a daedalus and also thankful for the spot of a spondee as there is no way that I would have got it, really ought to brush up on my metre terminology... anyway, I think that the caesurae that Heaney employs in the poem are crucial, as they are sparse even for a short poem. The comma after "firmament" is also interesting, it's pause sort of echoes the hardness/endurance of firmament but also makes the meaning of the first two stanzas a bit less clear-cut: to me when I read the poem aloud it makes the island's breaking almost feel like a separate entity, a non sequitor almost, rather than a continuation of what happened after they "gathered driftwood etc"... the best example I can give is the idea of "hence" and "and then" in Shakespeare's comedies as the distinction

The full stop after "in extremis" is also important to me: if we take the meaning of "on the point of death" this has a rather nice obvious tie in, which then runs into the ambiguity of "All I believe that happened there was vision". The idea of "All I believe" highlights an uncertainty as to what exactly did happen there, backed up by the idea of "vision", perception, rather than fact: subjective vs the objective that "the island broke beneath us like a wave". However, it also adds a second meaning that ties in with the idea of "vigil" in a religious sense, that his beliefs were shaped by what happened there, and the fact that they are vision both affirms his faith but also questions their validity.

Finally, the idea of perceptive/objective and permanence/transience is also made interesting by the "in extremis". Death is of course the most permanent state of "not being", if you will, and has been successfully discussed by poets: "A Nocturnal Upon Saint Lucy's Day" by John Donne is a brilliant example of how death's nothingness can be manufactured into something that is. This is furthered by "on the point" of death in the meaning: the ultimate state of uncertainty, a kind of transient nothingness between two things that are intrinsically "being" although death's being comes from the permanence of "not being"... I'm probably rambling a bit now BUT my point is that maybe Heaney sees himself as being in a similar position, and that he can only view his beliefs through the medium of the island: the being slipping away into the non-being and held in its perception by the transient point between the two, "in extremis". I feel that this works alongside the idea of "Between its blue hills and those sandless shores", maybe suggesting images of life and death and implying that the trivialities and necessities of human existence, "firewood" and "a hearth", cannot sustain meaning, that only desperation or nostalgia can give rise to the rootedness sought.

I have no idea what you guys will make of that, but yeah :P very good idea a daedalus, I hope for more updates
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If everyone doesn't mind, let's move on and give ol' Keats a try shall we?

Bright Star

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art--
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors--
No--yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever--or else swoon to death.

John Keats (1795-1821)
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a daedalus
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:indiff:
Lol this is not encouraging. Is everything we said completely off?

(Original post by coming.up.easy)
If everyone doesn't mind, let's move on and give ol' Keats a try shall we?

Bright Star

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art--
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors--
No--yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever--or else swoon to death.

John Keats (1795-1821)
Keats I think is quite nice and straightforward to analyze. I'll just make some notes on meter and form that might be useful and leave the analysis of the poem to you.

There are basically two main types of sonnets; the Shakespearean/English one (as here) and the Petrarchan/Italian one. Neither Shakespeare nor Petrarch actually invented these but they made them famous and popular.. the Shakespearean one involves three quatrains (by rhyme) and then a concluding couplet. Petrarchan would have an octave and a sestet with different rhyme schemes (Brooke's The Soldier; Owen's Anthem for Doomed Youth are both hybrids of the two). Also, they were in iambic pentameter (five feet - of iambs - so a total of ten syllables).

Bright Star, then, is a traditional Shakespearean sonnet with a remarkably strict (it's not easy!) adherence to both iambic pentameter and the rhyme scheme. It also bows to convention in its treatment of the orthodox sonnet's theme, romantic love. In short - a typical poem; the poet spots some sort of natural and preferably awe-evoking thing, ties it to his love/lover with witty or otherwise admirable linguistic tricks, makes a few classical references, and concludes with the stale statement involving at least two of: a) forever b) death c) love (etc.).

Don't know why I had to go inject my personal opinion in there, but there it is. I think a basic knowledge of the sonnet form is probably useful for the interview though. I read about a character who (something along these lines) was given an early 17th century sonnet and asked if he knew who wrote it ("don't worry if you don't"); he didn't and it turned out it was Shakespeare. Not a killer but certainly not giving you any brownie points

I doubt we'll be given anything this easy though
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Bambi2803
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To Althea, from Prison

WHEN Love with unconfinèd wings
Hovers within my gates,
And my divine Althea brings
To whisper at the grates;
When I lie tangled in her hair 5
And fetter'd to her eye,
The birds that wanton in the air
Know no such liberty.

When flowing cups run swiftly round
With no allaying Thames, 10
Our careless heads with roses bound,
Our hearts with loyal flames;
When thirsty grief in wine we steep,
When healths and draughts go free—
Fishes that tipple in the deep 15
Know no such liberty.

When, like committed linnets, I
With shriller throat shall sing
The sweetness, mercy, majesty,
And glories of my King; 20
When I shall voice aloud how good
He is, how great should be,
Enlargèd winds, that curl the flood,
Know no such liberty.

Stone walls do not a prison make, 25
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage;
If I have freedom in my love
And in my soul am free, 30
Angels alone, that soar above,
Enjoy such liberty.


This was the poem I got for my interview. despite labelling it in the wrong time period, they liked me enough to give me an offer. Why I didn't take it is another matter
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coming.up.easy
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(Original post by Bambi2803)
To Althea, from Prison

WHEN Love with unconfinèd wings
Hovers within my gates, nd my divine Althea brings
To whispe
Ar at the grates;
When I lie tangled in her hair 5
And fetter'd to her eye,
The birds that wanton in the air
Know no such liberty.

When flowing cups run swiftly round
With no allaying Thames, 10
Our careless heads with roses bound,
Our hearts with loyal flames;
When thirsty grief in wine we steep,
When healths and draughts go free—
Fishes that tipple in the deep 15
Know no such liberty.

When, like committed linnets, I
With shriller throat shall sing
The sweetness, mercy, majesty,
And glories of my King; 20
When I shall voice aloud how good
He is, how great should be,
Enlargèd winds, that curl the flood,
Know no such liberty.

Stone walls do not a prison make, 25
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage;
If I have freedom in my love
And in my soul am free, 30
Angels alone, that soar above,
Enjoy such liberty.


This was the poem I got for my interview. despite labelling it in the wrong time period, they liked me enough to give me an offer. Why I didn't take it is another matter
This is a lovely poem, underlining the human preoccupation of freedom that exists in the mind. Well, here goes...

This poem immediately strikes the reader with a paradox - the existence of freedom in imprisonment, this can lead us to somewhat fascinating metaphysical grounds, but which today I'm going to avoid. This paradox is furthered by the meter, which alternates between iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter, coupled with a strict rhyme scheme of ababacdcd, confines the poem to a certain pace...playing into the idea that within a set structure, confinement, freedom and poetic expression still manage to flourish.

The theme of freedom is obvious, but the speaker expresses this sense of personal liberty in many forms - through love, alcohol, and politics (a life which I hope to lead one day...), but they all ultimately underline the power of the mind and imagination. There is also this theme of external vs. internal, earthliness (?) vs. ethereal, tangible vs. abstract where the latter always seems to overpower the former. This is especially evident in the last stanza, where "stone walls" and "iron bars", which produce a heavily tangible feeling contrasts the heavens and the soul, mirroring the sentiments in the previous stanzas, where the magnitude of love, alcohol, and loyalty overpowers any earthly existence - "bird", "fishes", "winds".

Okay, the use of wines seem to contradict my commentary so far...as alcohol is a substance that deteriorates the mind...but perhaps it also serves as a vessel to an unearthly experience? Or it nourishes the soul...?

Moving on...

There's also this concept of space here, of medium - which is actually an extension of my second point. The first stanza eliminates space, with the mention of "gates" and "grates", but puts a spin on it - instead of limiting freedom with the physical elimination of space, he feels intimacy - "And my divine Althea brings To whisper at the grates; When I lie tangled in her hair And fetter'd to her eye," note the use of "fetter'd" which literally means a "chain or manacle used to restrain prisoner" - but through the speaker's love for Althea and imagination, he is able to transcend the physical dimension of space. The speaker goes on the challenge even seemingly infinite physical spaces - the ocean -"fishes that tipple in the deep" and the sky - "The birds that wanton in the air", allowing the poem to become cumulatively more and more powerful, conquering physical and earthly elements on the way.

What do you think? I know I missed a lot, so please fill in the blanks.
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MSB
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(Original post by a daedalus)
Is everything we said completely off?
Not necessarily, but everyone in this thread needs to pay closer attention to the actual poems and less to trying to conjure grand statements from the abstract. Your readings, when examined, are not particularly convincing, or at least mostly don't have enough evidence to back them up. Also, the references to other poets, etc., are good when done well, but not really that important, since you're never going to have the depth of knowledge to make anything convincing out of this. I don't mean to be discouraging.
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Not necessarily, but everyone in this thread needs to pay closer attention to the actual poems and less to trying to conjure grand statements from the abstract. Your readings, when examined, are not particularly convincing, or at least mostly don't have enough evidence to back them up. Also, the references to other poets, etc., are good when done well, but not really that important, since you're never going to have the depth of knowledge to make anything convincing out of this. I don't mean to be discouraging.
Fair enough, although I'd say you were generalizing . Besides, we're not really here to criticize each other, but rather to improve by practice and example.

And in that vein: could you post something that might helpful, and more rigorously analytical than our ramblings have been?
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(Original post by a daedalus)
And in that vein: could you post something that might helpful, and more rigorously analytical than our ramblings have been?
Do you mean you would like me to comment on a poem or on what has been said about the poems? Either way, I will only be able to do so when I have more time.
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coming up easy

I would say base your conclusions more on the poem. You need to provide references for these statements you are making (which are all very good mind you!)

Also you didn't mention the tone of the poem, which is what I found most interesting. What would you say about that
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coming up easy

I would say base your conclusions more on the poem. You need to provide references for these statements you are making (which are all very good mind you!)

Also you didn't mention the tone of the poem, which is what I found most interesting. What would you say about that
Hmm...I suck at tone...can you please tell us what comments you made on the poem during your interview? Just so we English fledglings know what garners an offer and what doesn't? What did you find interesting about the tone? (Sorry about asking you to do all the work!)
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Fair enough, although I'd say you were generalizing . Besides, we're not really here to criticize each other, but rather to improve by practice and example.

And in that vein: could you post something that might helpful, and more rigorously analytical than our ramblings have been?
a daedalus, I thought your analysis of Heaney's poem was very insightful, could you perhaps add your two pennies worth to 'To Althea, From Prison'?
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a daedalus, I thought your analysis of Heaney's poem was very insightful, could you perhaps add your two pennies worth to 'To Althea, From Prison'?
Thanks lol. Er... I think your analysis was pretty good; for the meter I'd add that the alternation between four and three syllables per line has the effect of slowing down every second line, when spoken aloud, which places emphasis there and especially on the stanzas' concluding lines, 'Know no such liberty'.

I'd talk about structure and development a bit more formally, since of course you always read a poem in the set order and talking about the themes while flitting from stanza to stanza gets a bit confusing. Here there's a chorus-like pattern with 'such liberty'; each successive stanza emphasizes a different aspect of human freedom - even imprisoned - that trumps, in a sense, the liberty of animals and the wind (that is, elements of the earth that are free but insentient in the human sense) that roam the world. The overarching theme, though - as the title suggests - is the narrator's love for Althea. In the last stanza you have the change in the chorus line from 'Know no such liberty' to 'Enjoy such liberty', with reference in this case to angels, which implicitly equalizes the narrator with angels and shows his superiority to the inhuman world..

'When flowing cups run swiftly round / With no allaying Thames' is confusing to me.. Not sure how the Thames allays their drunkenness (they wouldn't drink out of the Thames.. would they swim in it? Or is just a figure of speech?) And afterwards 'Our careless heads with roses bound / Our hearts with loyal flames' is a nice example of parallel syntactical construction, and also asyndetic coordination; but I have trouble unraveling the imagery.

Dunno I gotta go now lots more to say but maybe this is enough. Basically though, I think the MSB guy is right - in an interview close reference to the text will probably be of the utmost importance.
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jamieraser
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(Original post by Bambi2803)
To Althea, from Prison

WHEN Love with unconfinèd wings
Hovers within my gates,
And my divine Althea brings
To whisper at the grates;
When I lie tangled in her hair 5
And fetter'd to her eye,
The birds that wanton in the air
Know no such liberty.

When flowing cups run swiftly round
With no allaying Thames, 10
Our careless heads with roses bound,
Our hearts with loyal flames;
When thirsty grief in wine we steep,
When healths and draughts go free—
Fishes that tipple in the deep 15
Know no such liberty.

When, like committed linnets, I
With shriller throat shall sing
The sweetness, mercy, majesty,
And glories of my King; 20
When I shall voice aloud how good
He is, how great should be,
Enlargèd winds, that curl the flood,
Know no such liberty.

Stone walls do not a prison make, 25
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage;
If I have freedom in my love
And in my soul am free, 30
Angels alone, that soar above,
Enjoy such liberty.


This was the poem I got for my interview. despite labelling it in the wrong time period, they liked me enough to give me an offer. Why I didn't take it is another matter
Hey all, I just found this thread and it seems really constructive, so I'll take a stab at this piece.

First of all I think it's important to consider the title, 'To Althea, from prison,' and the fact that the speaker is addressing someone directly. With this address, the unnamed speaker seems to be attempting to comfort his wife/lover with the notion that, although he is imprisoned, freedom is a concept not merely applicable to whether or not one is currently behind bars. This 'thesis' traces the path of the whole poem, as the speaker considers the liberating capabilities of love, liquor and loyalty, before returning to the address his jail cell itself. coming.up.easy already mentioned the constant switching between meters and the rhyme scheme, which themselves attribute to the very upbeat feeling of the poem, considering it is about prison. Despite the slight contrast of form and content, it is appropriate that the speaker's attempt to console Althea should be read in such a sing-songy (for lack of a better word ) voice.

I don't have much time, so a couple more stray observations:

Despite the speaker's conclusion on the matter being so positive, there are certainly darker elements to the poem which provide a certain tension. The fact that the speaker "lies tangled in Althea's hair" and "fettered to her eye" (fettered literally meaning chained or restrained) echoes his own imprisonment and perhaps suggests that, beneath his proclamations, he sees romantic love as a kind of shackle as well. This unnerving dissonance can be seen through out the poem in fact, such as when the speaker invokes the liberating feeling of being "enlarged winds, that curl the flood". The freedom of any wind seems enough to convey the speaker's message, but instead he couches his metaphor in the destructive, mortal terms of natural catastrophes. The only explanation is that the speaker sees freedom in the capability of this "enlarged wind" to cause mayhem without recourse, which again indicates something a little off kilter about our speaker .

I first saw this poem and thought it was quite scary, but now I think I actually wouldn't mind getting something like this in my interview
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Vadis
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This is a beautiful thread

Considering that pretty much everyone who are applying for English at Oxbridge are most likely competent in terms of analysis, may I suggest critical discussions about say, literature, or genres? I mean, they'll want to know why we want to studying English. I want to study English because literature is the landmark of human history and is the only place where I can experience any period in history, any emotion and live an infinite number of lives. You?
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