Auden Poems - AQA examWatch
Im taking the lit exam in January with AQA, using Auden poems
- 1st September 1939
- As i walked out one evening
- James Honeyman
- O what is that sound
- Musee des Beux Arts
- Miss Gee
1st September 1939:
- There are 11, 9 line stanzas which is free verse, possibly to reflect the narrator's series of thoughts and reflections. This entirely contrasts the adapted ballad form used in the other poems (except Musee des Beaux arts).
- The date is very significant; September 1939 is the date which Hitler and Stalin invaded Poland, setting this poem is a very political realm.
- This idea of political language is supported by the line: 'As the clever hopes expire', which could be linked to Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasement and the clever hopes expiring being Hitler's promise not to invade Poland.
- The first stanza is largely negative due to the negative semantic field created by words such as 'Uncertain', which uses the negative prefix to create a dubious atmosphere, and figurative phrases such as 'waves of anger and fear...circulating' which is clear symbolism for the army of darkness, ie the Nazis, sweeping destruction across the surface of the earth.
- In the second stanza there is an allusion to 'Luther' (1483-1586), who was the founder of the Protestant movement and was deeply anti-Semitic; the narrator blames Luther for the rise of prejudiced dictators.
- He then goes on to substantiate Hitler's actions with the lines 'those to whom evil is done, do evil in return'. It is no secret that Hitler was abused as a child and so a psychoanalytical reading of this could be the justification of what occurred at Linz caused Hitler to become this 'psychopathic god'. The religious lexis of 'God' suggests the unfathomable level of indoctrination and takes a real hack at human nature for practically worshipping dictators.
- Again in the third stanza, there is another allusion a historical figure - this time it is Thucydides (460-395 bc), the father of political realism who believed in 'might rather than right', foregrounds the message that human behaviour is static.
- Into stanza four and we are greeted by an interesting modifier: 'blind skyscrapers' which could ultimately be alluding to America's position at the start of the war, either way they are somewhat anthropomorphised and could rely the message that America would much rather be oblivious that blind themselves from the truth than become involved in international politics.
- There are more historical figures alluded to in stanza six - 'mad' Nijinsky and Diaghilev. Nijinsky was a ballet dancer and Diaghilev is director, it is rumoured that there were homosexual relations between the pair until Diaghilev married (a women) prompting 'mad' Nijinsky to write erratic and disturbing letters to Diaghilev. The love went sour and as explained in the remainder of the stanza, it's main purpose is show the selfish nature of man.
- I'll finish with a really useful A03 point - the line 'We must love each other or die' was adapted in later versions of the published poem. It was changed to 'we must love each other and die' which really distorts the mood from optimism to just plain pessimism. Again it all adds to this sense of man's greed and man's selfish nature which will ultimately lead to man's destruction.
- Study Helper
As there aren't many notes online, might aswell post James Honeyman here and see if anyone has comments to make. I'm too sleepy to right now, but I may remember...
James Honeyman was a silent child;
He didn't laugh or cry:
He looked at his mother
Mother came up to the nursery,
Peeped through the open door,
Saw him striking matches,
Sitting on the nursery floor.
He went to the children's party,
The buns were full of cream,
Sat there dissolving sugar
In his tea-cup in a dream.
On his eighth birthday
Didn't care that the day was wet,
For by his bedside
Lay a ten-shilling chemistry set.
Teacher said: "James Honeyman
Is the cleverest boy we've had,
But he doesn't play with the others,
And that, I think, is sad."
While the other boys played football,
He worked in the laboratory,
Got a scholarship to college
And a first-class degree,
Kept awake with black coffee,
Took to wearing glasses,
Writing a thesis
On the toxic gases,
Went out into the country,
Went by a Green Line bus,
Walked upon the Chilterns,
Thought about phosphorus,
Said: "Lewisite in its day
Was pretty decent stuff,
But, under modern conditions,
It's not nearly strong enough."
His Tutor sipped his port,
Said: "I think it's clear
That young James Honeyman's
The most brilliant man of the year."
He got a job in research
With Imperial Alkali,
Said to himself while shaving:
"I'll be famous before I die."
his landlady said: "Mr Honeyman,
You've only got one life,
You ought to have some fun, Sir,
You ought to find a wife."
At Imperial Alkali
There was a girl called Doreen,
One day she cut her finger,
Asked him for iodine.
"I'm feeling faint," she said.
He led her to a chair,
Fetched her a glass of water,
Wanted to stroke her hair.
They took a villa on the Great West Road,
Painted green and white;
On their left a United Dairy,
A cinema on their right.
At the bottom of the garden
He built a little shed.
"He's going to blow us up,"
All the neighbours said.
Doreen called down at midnight:
"Jim, dear, it's time for bed."
"I'll finish my experiment,
And then I'll come," he said.
Caught influenza at Christmas.
The doctor said, "Go to bed."
"I'll finish my experiment,
And then I'll go," he said.
Walked out on Sundays,
Helped to push the pram,
Said, "I'm looking for a gas, dear,
A whiff will kill a man.
"I'm going to find it,
That's what I'm going to do."
Doreen squeezed his hand and said:
"Jim, I believe in you."
In teh hot nights of summer,
When the roses all were red,
James Honeyman was working
In his little garden shed.
Came upstairs at midnight,
Kissed his sleeping son,
Held up a sealed glass test-tube,
Said: "Look, Doreen, I've won!"
They stood together by the window,
The moon was bright and clear.
He said: "At last I've done something
That's worthy of you, dear."
He took a train next morning,
Went up to Whitehall
With the phial in his pocket
To show it to them all.
He sent in his card,
The officials only swore:
"Tell him we're very busy
And show him to the door."
Doreen said to the neighbours:
"Isn't it a shame!
My husband's so clever,
And they didn't know his name."
One neighbour was sympathetic,
her name was Mrs Flower:
She was the agent
Of a Foreign Power.
One evening they sat at supper,
There came a gentle knock:
"A gentleman to see Mr Honeyman."
He stayed till eleven o'clock.
They walked down the garden together,
Down to the little shed:
"We'll see you, then, in Paris.
Good night," the gentleman said.
The boat was nearing Dover,
He looked back at Calais,
Said: "Honeyman's N.P.C.
Will be heard of some day."
He was sitting in the garden,
Writing notes on a pad:
Their little son was playing
Round his Mum and Dad.
Suddenly out of the east
Some aeroplanes appeared.
Somebody screamed: "They're bombers!
War must have been declared!"
The first bomb hit the Dairy,
The second the cinema,
The third fell in the garden
Just like a falling star.
"O kiss me, Mother, kiss me,
And tuck me up in bed,
For Daddy's invention
Is going to choke me dead!"
"Where are you, Jim, where are you?
O put your arms round me,
For my lungs are full
Of Honeyman's N.P.C.!"
"I wish I were a salmon,
Swimming in the sea,
I wish I were the dove
That coos upon the tree."
"O you are not a salmon,
O you are not the dove:
But you invented the vapour
That is killing those you love."
"O hide me in the mountains,
O drown me in the sea:
Lock me in a dungeon
And throw away the key."
"O you can't hide in the mountains,
O you can't drown in the sea,
But you must die, and you know why,
By Honeyman's N.P.C.!"
W.H. Auden, August 1937
Thought i'd post a few extra notes on 1st September 1939 while im looking over it and im about to do James Honeyman which i have a little bit of stuff on so will put that on as well.
-It is a political poem first introduced through the title, but it is not just commenting on the German-Nazi invasion of Poland but overall society's oppresive nature towards those unfitting society (A04 point- this could link to Auden homosexuality which was not accepted openly at that time)
-there is no set rhyme scheme or exact meter which could suggest the true nature of thoughts and is pure thought, relatively unstructured and 'free'
-the dive 'on fifty-second street' is widely accepted as a Gay bar Auden frequented which is returned back to in stanza 5
-the end of the poem has tentative optimism
-Auden himself was 'not happy' with stanza 8 and often did not include it in some anthology's. Some feel it's change of tone distracts from the piece.
- A03 point- there is a wide use of references (Nijinsky/Diaghilev, Thucydides, Luther) some say this distracts from the piece and makes it inaccessible especially to a modern audience so is unsuccessful. However some say (and me!) that it adds to the idea of suffering and imperialism being apparent throughout time + culture and even if the referances are unknown this shows how there is suffering going on which many are oblivious too.
-A03- is the poem specific to the time or universal? - the title shows obvious politic specificness however the themes are univeral and the poem address many different cultures and times to show this. the poem is often used in referance to 911 (the fact is has 9 lines in 11 stanzas and talks about blind skyscrapers freaks me out!)
theres also a good link about Auden's possible views behind the poem
James Honeyman notes coming soon!
-Ballard form with elements of Bildungsroman
-in Ballard form it is normally describing a Hero but J.H can be sceen as an anti-hero so its a reversal of convention.
-J.H is the eponymous character (simply the character the poem is named after like Miss Gee and Victor)
-its a chronological linear poem, an element of Bildungsroman
- Stanza 32 has only half rhyme 'appeared and declared' - could suggest the disorder from the bombs
- its a 3rd person dectached Narrator
- there is direct speech from teacher, tutor, land lady, Doreen/wife, doctor, son
there's a lot more woman in this poem and they are portrayed in more of a positive light compared to poems like Victor.
- there is scientific lexis such as phosporus/ lewisite . NOTE: lewisite is used in chemical weaponary. it was meant to be used in WWI but was developed too late.
-there is alot of irony in the poem 'He's going to blow us up' line 63. is an obvious example of this.
- 'Imperial Alkali' is not a real company but 'imperial' implies for the British empire which adds irony as the chemical he develops for them is used by a 'foreign power'
-there's images of social isolation e.g Stanza 3 but unlike Victor or Miss Gee the isolation seems self inflicted so the reader feels differently to J.H to others/
-J.H doesn't have functional relationship so Auden could be suggesting that you should take care of family over career or ambition to be 'famous' or the end will not be good
-'i'll be famous before i die' Line 44 - Auden suggesting scientist who just care to be famous will never achieve greatness, this is the wrong attitude.
- line 143 'DOVE' is a symbol of peace = IRONY
-The places are specific to london/Britain 'Great West Road' 'Whitehall' - Auden targeting Britain in relation to the war and development in the pursuit of killing, (imperialism never succeeds)
- J.H builds a shed, demonstrating his self inflicted isolation, he is away from his family and home, totally alone.
Heres some good links as well:
^^^ shows some of the referances and talks about irony^^^
^^^not long but a little bit of good stuff in here.^^^
theres also a good link about Auden's possible views behind the poem
I think i'll do Victor as it's one of my favourite eponymous poem of the collection:
Victor - 'a dark ironic ballad'
- In terms of form, Victor is an adapted ballad following an abcb rhyming pattern rather than the abab rhyming pattern of a traditional ballad. In reference to this form, Auden considered that the common verse form (and by default, the simple 4-line rhyme) were capable of carrying profound meaning; as the form appears to be too simple, it adopts an almost nursery-rhyme tone which gives the impression of mockery.
- Throughout Victor, as in many of Auden's poems, there are allusions to historical figures which are likened to the characters. Anna encapsulates the shame and wickedness of Jezebel, who was a promiscuous biblical figure from the old testament. This classical allusion foreshadows the adultery to come. She also adopts the appellation 'Helen of Troy'; again this is an ironic allusion to the beautiful wife of Menelacus, who started the Trojan War.
- From lines 144 to 147, the use of dynamic verbs foregrounds Anna's state of frenzy when Victor approaches with the knife - these verbs of action contrasts the adverb 'slowly', used to describe Victor's ascent. Line 147 demonstrates how victor is fulfilling a family obligation of taking the Bible literally. Biblical phrases such as these foregrounds how Victor feels that he is the very essence of each description used to define Jesus in the New Testament - he refers to himself as 'Alpha and Omega', a title bestowed to Christ, signifying the beginning and the end. For Victor, he was instructed as a youngster not to dishonour the family name, which paralleled and dictated events which shape the rest of the poem; the denouement shows Victor in a state of bliss as he feels, similar to Jesus, that he has fulfilled his obligation.
- In reference to poetic techniques, Victor encompasses many: the 'coat of fur' that Anna wears on the second of April is used as a mean of characterisation, symbolising her bitter and unsavory actions. The use of the fur could possibly suggest a predatory and provocative nature to Anna's character. The use of the 'ace of spades reversed' not only offers a pictorial reference of the dagger, but symbolises the end and destruction - ironically prophesied to happen when Jesus comes 'to judge the earth one day'.
Look at the first stanza of Ode and write about how Auden opens the poem.
Is ode simply a poem about politics?
Write about the ways that Auden tells the story in Miss Gee
Is Miss Gee ultimately a comic poem?
Write about the ways that Auden tells the story in O what is that sound.
How far do you agree with the view that Romantic relationships in Auden's poetry are far from happy?
Write about Auden's narrative methods in As I walked out one evening.
It has been said that "the Whirr and Chime" of clocks can be heard throughout Auden's poetry. How important is time in Auden's poetry.
Write about Auden's narrative methods in if I could tell.
How far do you agree with the view that Auden's poetry always leaves the reader with a disturbing sense of uncertainty?
Write about Auden's methods in September 1st 1939.
"The shadow of death hangs over all of Auden's poetry" How do you respond to this?
Write about the narrative methods used in Oh where are you going.
How do you respond to the view that Auden's poetry is too obscure to be enjoyable?
Write about Auden's narrative Methods in Miss Gee.
How far do you agree that Auden's poems are dominated by death?
Poems which have not yet been set:
- James Honeyman
- Musee Des Beaux Arts
Poems which are unlikely to come up: (this is just speculation, don't quote me on this!)
- Miss Gee
- September 1st 1939
I have a few notes on As i walked out one evening hope they help:
Themes are= time, love, death
foreshadowing throughout the poem for example:
1. "One evening"- foreshadows death, time is up
Use of juxtaposition:
"Green Valley" could symbolise beginning of love
"Snow" symbolises destroying love
"O let not Time decieve you"- Time has been personified
"Brimming river: freedom, relaxing
Imagery- Auden gives examples of impossible thing to show how powerful love is
Repetition "I'll love you"
use of a commandingvoice- "O plunge your hands in water Plunge them in up to the wrist"
There is a consistent structure throughout the poem