See I'm wondering whether anyone could help me with this poem, I just would like different views and quick analysis of it! Anything would be great...
Bottomless pits. There's one in Castleton,
and stout upholders of our law and order
one day thought its depth worth wagering on
and borrowed a convict hush-hush from his warder
and winched him down; and back, flayed, grey, mad, dumb.
Not even a good flogging made him holler.
O gentlemen, a better way to plumb
the depths of Britain's dangling a scholar,
say, here at the booming shaft at Towanroath,
now National Trust, a place where they got tin,
those gentlemen who silenced the men's oath
and killed the language that they swore it in.
The dumb go down in history and disappear
and not one gentleman's been brought to book:
Mes den hep tavas a-gollas y dyr
National Trust by Tony Harrison Watch
- Thread Starter
- 22-12-2010 16:22
- 06-01-2014 18:59
Hey I know you posted this a couple years ago but I'm also studying this poem and thought I may be able to help someone looking here for help
So basically 'National Trust' is a polysemic title so it has more than one meaning. It could refer to trusting in our country, the organization aimed towards middle class society that can afford to pay for it, or a trust fund that it held until when someone is older. Then the poem starts with a short sentence -it's a minor sentence for impact and introduces themes of mining and hopelessness almost like a second title. This also could perhaps relate to Harrison's upbringing in Leeds where there was a miner's strike around this time. The next sentence uses enjambment and is much longer, creating a conversational tone. We also see many examples of cliché here for example 'our law and order,' 'worth wagering on,' 'hush-hush' which is quite interesting. In 'Them & [uz]' we see that he uses many examples of cliché to show how the upper classes don't have the perfect grasp of language that they think they have, it is in fact ordinary as they also use lots of cliché. (You'll have to look at that poem too though to know what I mean) This could indicate that the narrators voice is an upper classes voice - especially when he remarks 'Not even a good flogging made him holler!'
The verb 'winched' means he is being lowered, the semi colon could perhaps represent the time difference in his being lowered and being brought back up again because the next string of adjectives are describing him after he has been brought to the surface. This list is objectifying, frank and cruel emphasizing the upper classes complete disregard for the lower classes.The fact that he is mute afterwards is very important. The silencing of the voice of the lower classes is a theme in Harrison's poetry influenced by his background (His uncle and his father etc... you could look this up too)
The next paragraph is almost like a commentary from Harrison basically saying that the upper classes would think it would be outrageous to send a scholar down, then where it says 'those gentlemen who silenced the men's oath and killed the language that they swore it in' is referring to how the upper classes have taken the lower classes voice and in doing so have taken their authority. The use of Cornish emphasizes this because it is a dead language now. The last few sentences also refer to how the working class people and their voice is silenced - instead they 'go down in history and disappear' so Harrison uses a play on words and the cliché here to show this.
Hope this helps someone Some of the point are just my teachers opinions but hopefully this has been useful haha
- 29-04-2017 18:46
just a few other points to add to the ammo pack....
'Stout upholders' - oxymoronic and is damning of those who are self-declared 'upholders of our (interesting as connotations of current times) law and order'.
'on' [line 3] and 'dumb' [line 5] only rhyme if you read it with a Northern accent - giving Harrison, a northerner, power?
4th stanza - showing the injustice of how the (literally) outspoken people aren't remembered and those who 'killed' the language get away with it. Harrison tries to put things right in incorporating the Cornish language.
Demonstrates how language is power - significant to Harrison throughout his poems.