Poetry essay on Eden Rock and Before you were mineWatch
In the poems Eden Rock and Before you were mine they both discuss the love towards their family members and how it doesn’t stop when they pass away. This is seen in Eden Rock as it is a autobiographical poem by Charles Causley in the past tense with the reflection of a memory and has a metaphorical message which can be interpreted as meaning how the parents are separated emotionally and physically from the child as they have passed away and are in heaven and the ‘drifted stream’ represents the boundary between heaven and Earth. The noun ‘path’ also has connotations of a new journey so therefore this enforces the idea of it being a metaphor for heaven and after life even more. We can also see that the parent and child are separated through the half rhymes which show the distance. Contextually, this can be backed up as he was 7 years old when his father died after WW1 and then his mother when the poem was written so he can obviously relate to the subject so can understand it so therefore it is autobiographical. He was a also a very religious man so this lexical field of heaven would make sense to be there and be relatable for him. The title ‘Eden Rock’ enforces this even more as it has connotations of the garden of Eden which is from the bible and was supposed to be where God created man so gives the message to the reader as soon as they start reading that it will be religious related; Causley was also a teacher so therefore the purpose of this poem may be to teacher the reader about the afterlife through the use of the lexical field of death and afterlife. We can see the religious imagery as well as this in how the ‘sky whitens’ in the light imagery as this has connotations of heaven as that is the stereotypical image and a sky would not normally do this as well as this the sky is described as having ‘three suns’ which is a very realistic idea which implies this even more. This ideas represent heaven as they were the stereotypical idea of heaven as a perfect place at the time; the three suns could also represents the holy trinity of the father, son and holy spirit watching above them almost like they are being protected. This enforces the idea of the poem have a purpose of teaching as people all want to be protected so this would be a reason fro people to become religious as Charles Causley wanted as well as this it enforces the positive idea on the afterlife and how it is peaceful combined with the adverbs ‘slowly’ and ‘leisurely’.
However another interpretation is that it is showing the family connection that has been strong all through the narrators life and the beckoning call of ‘See where the stream-path is! Crossing is not as hard as you might think.’ represents the parents being teachers and they show him the way rather than telling him that heaven and dying is not as hard as you make think when its his time as well as the fact he will be with his family like the other interpretation. You can see their strong connection because of the very small minor details he has remembered about them like even the clothes they were wearing like the ‘Genuine Irish Tweed’ of his father’s jacket.
In Before you were mine it is also seen has a similar message of after life; however in this it is more of an undertone as it is not as obvious. It describes the daughter looking through a photo album of her mother and talking about the photos inside. This can be seen during times were the narrator says ‘and now your ghost clatters towards me over George Square’; this is because the noun ‘ghost’ has connotations of death and if you were a ‘ghost’ then you wouldn’t be alive. As well as this it seems that the author in this is less emotional about her mother dying which could suggest she past away quite a long time ago or another interpretation which is that she is focusing more on the positive memories of her mother when she was alive; I think this because of the steady structure with equal quintets which reflects the steady passage of time and the inevitable changes that time brings. It could also be interpreted as apologetic to the mother because of how the daughter was when she was was younger and her being born in general; this is because of the conversational tone which is enforced with the enjambment and colloquial language in ‘Ma’, this gives a relaxed tone and therefore makes it a lot less intense compared to Eden Rock.
Before you were mine seems to be the daughter reflecting back on her mother’s life but with a negative idea underneath. It is spoken in present tense as if the daughter is living it which makes it more vivid and realistic which reflects how she believes her mother’s life was amazing until she came along, the tone seems selfish and slightly guilty in some places as well. This is seen by adjectives like ‘my loud, possessive yell’ when talking about her to imply that she was a difficult child to look after. Even though the daughter can be negative she still portrays her love for her mother through the detail and care she feels as it seems she just wants the mother to be happy which we can see from when she describes her mother as ‘stamping stars from the wrong pavement’ which suggests that she believes her mother doesn’t enjoy her life as much as she could of. This is seen by the consist use of the extended metaphor of distance used through the phrase ‘I’m ten years away’, ‘I’m not here yet.’ and ‘The decade ahead’; this emphasises the distance in time between the narrator’s birth and her mum’s youth and fun as well as this it gives the effect of the daughter trying to make her mum feel guilty for not being with her all the time and enjoying herself which makes the audience dislike her as obviously she wasn’t born yet and didn’t know she was going to have a child. She presents her mother with glamorous imagery to paint her mother as a ‘bold’ and ‘sparkling’ woman which stresses the endless potential that the narrator snatched away from her which is different to the narrator of Eden Rock’s parents who are more passive. Another interpretation of these declarative short sentences is that they are reminding the audience of who is telling the story and what the point of the story is which is effective to convey the family relationship to show the closeness between the child and parent even after death. This is because it is almost as if the mother is still there because she has spoken the memories in the present time which enforces the message that the poet may be trying to make of that family can still be with you if you have their memories. Contextually, this would makes sense as the daughter later had a child in 1995 so therefore she may have been thinking about having a child so therefore reflecting on what her mother was like to influence her and possibly understand how to be a good parent.
Eden Rock is similar to this as the narrator is also reflecting on the past. This is because of the large amount of detail in the poem as well as how the narrator is reflecting on a very basic idea like going on a picnic at a river including how milk was poured from a ‘old H.P Sauce bottle’ and how they had ‘tin cups painted blue’ which implies it is very significant as if it was made up it would probably be a lot more like the contextually perfect day with family in 1988.
At the end of both these poems there is a certain type of contrast. This can be seen in Eden rock as the stanza sizes decrease from quatrains to triplets to a single line which is mono syllabic and creates a feeling of isolation from the rest of the poem. This therefore suggests that he has passed away and is finally with his parents which creates a type of conclusion to the poem and of the narrators conclusion of it. This is similar to Before you were mine although the stanza lengths do not change lengths, it has a cyclical structure as the poem begins and ends with the mother at the pavement; this creates a feeling of consistency in showing how even though the mother has changed she still loves people closest to her and still is the same person even though her life has changed hugely because of the birth of her daughter shown through the caesura when returning to the title at the end of ‘Before you were mine’. The final stanza ends with the enjambment of the line ‘That glamorous love lasts where you sparkle and waltz and laugh before you were mine’ where there is less of a conclusive message but does return to the title emphasise it and the difference between now and before as well as the repetition of ‘and’ and ‘mine which portrays the energetic qualities the narrator feels the mother has and a possessive tone which could have unsettling undertones of her into wanting her mother to have fun as she might be jealous that she is not an adult yet so cannot do it or a loving possession which shows the closeness of the two characters even though she is not alive anymore.
something to focus on, though, might be comparing the two poems. i can see that you've done so, especially in the last paragraph in the lines "This can be seen in Eden rock as the stanza sizes decrease... ...even though the mother has changed she still loves people closest to her." here, you're using words of comparison such as 'this is similar to', which is very effective since you can show the examiner that you're thinking about the two poems together. the words indeed are usually 'compare how poets present...' or something similar - but there will always be a request to closely compare the printed poem with another of your choice.
here are some example sentences using some of the points you've made:
'This is seen in Eden Rock as it is a autobiographical poem by Charles Causley with the reflection of a memory, while Before You Were Mine seems to be the daughter reflecting back on her mother’s life. [note: Before You Were Mine is Carol Ann Duffy's eulogy to her mother]. Eden Rock is written in the past tense, while Before You Were Mine is written in the present tense. This makes the setting in Before You Were Mine more vivid and realistic, as if the daughter is living in that time with her mother, while the setting in Eden Rock is made more distant, and emphasises the emotional and physical distance between Causley and his parents.'
it may also be good to structure your essay into smaller paragraphs. you could start each paragraph with a topic sentence, explain your point, then link it back to the question or include some context.
some topic points that you've touched on here could be:
Duffy's writing holds some negative undertones, while Causley's presentation of his parents is wholly positive.
Both poems have a message of death and the afterlife, while the presence of these images is presented in more of an undertone in Before You Were Mine than in Eden Rock.