Neutral Tones & Winter Swans Comparison GCSE AQA Love & Relationships

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theodora110
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Hi, I am in Year 10 and I have written this Love & Relationships Poetry comparison. Please, can somebody please mark this and suggest what grade (9 - 1) this could get if I wrote it in an exam and any improvements to get it to grade 9.
Thanks in advance!

Compare how the poet illustrates ideas of loss in Neutral Tones and one other poem of your choice.

Neutral Tones and Winter Swans comparison:

Both Neutral Tones and Winter Swans explore romantic love but in alternate forms. Both poems, although written many years apart show the realities of love with the complications that travel along with it. Each poem employs natural imagery throughout and each exhibit a range of techniques that perceive a hostile environment that lacks compassion. Even so, Neutral Tones persists with the unwelcoming feel whilst Winter Swans switches to a naturally reconciled love.

The poet illustrates ideas of loss in Neutral Tones by creating a bleak atmosphere in the speaker’s recount with their significant other. The account made by the speaker is described to have occured on a day where “the sun was white, as though chidden of God”. This quotation written in the first stanza of the poem is suggestive of negative attributes in the poem from the start. The pathetic fallacy of the sun as “white” shows their environment as harsh, bleached and violent to reflect the couple’s relationship which is stripped of love and deprived and warmth. Hardy’s use of religious imagery to say the sun was “chidden of God” shows banishment and rejection of the nourishment which compares to the hostility in their relationship.This particular use of religious imagery is used to accentuate the unwelcoming feelings as Hardy is an atheist who believed science disproved the existence of God.

Likewise, Winter Swans resembles Neutral Tones by showing loss by similarly using pathetic fallacy, which is frequent in Sheers’ work as he often uses natural imagery, such as in the lines “ the waterlogged earth gulping for breath at our feet”. When the “earth” is described as “waterlogged” it underscores how perhaps the individuals within the relationship feel metaphorically suffocated by one another or are drowning in their conflicts and internal issues. This also could symbolise the difficulty the individuals have to communicate and express themselves to one another for the relationship to function properly just as the earth is an unstable and not a solidified foundation. Furthermore, the “earth” is personified as “gulping for breath” and the verb “gulping” specifically emphasises the flooded earth and how in those moments the couple were a failing relationship overwhelmed by arguments, conflict and fear. Despite the gloomy appearance of the environment and the loss illustrated, “gulping” can suggest a more pleasurable side to the couple as although the couple face disputes, the verb argues that the earth is still desperate to survive reflecting that the couple have a chance regardless of how many clashes they have. The possessive pronoun “our” additionally highlights the more hopeful aspects of their coupling as the pronoun refers to them as a collective showing to the reader that the speaker still feels they remain a unit. However the lack of the other person’s perspective still leaves a definite meaning as it could show that the relationship at that point was rather unrequited from the speaker as they give an insight into their passion.

Furthermore, the speaker shows the loss of love in the poem within the quotation “ - They had fallen from an ash, and were grey.” and creates a semantic field of death. This quote utilises alliteration of f and a along with consonance of the f and assonance of the a sound as the reader reads enabling them to stress the words and stress the bleak atmosphere made. The phrase “fallen from an ash” connotes the autumn and winter seasons showing the change to an icy and cold environment. This quote appears at the end of the first stanza where it is preceded by an indentation and dash which slow down the pace of the poem suggesting the speaker still hesitates on the memory and is at conflict with their emotions but then ends with a full stop as they come to terms with the relationship’s end. Hardy applies the homonym “ash” to suggest ambiguity as it could be interpreted to convey that there was once passion and intimacy that burnt out or that the ash tree symbolising life and love becoming weary and impossible to revive as it was “grey” representing dying love.

Similarly, Winter Swans expresses an idea of tension and concealed struggle through Sheers’ use of caesura for instance in the line “as we skirted the lake, silent and apart,”. The caesura used creates a separation between the parts of the line symbolising how the individuals are divided by their conflicts and fears. It also creates a pause in the pace of the poem showing a hesitation or pause and asserts the idea that the couple are broken and their relationship is paused. Conversely, this may indicate a future where the relationship is resumed from its paused state. Also the commas used in the line surround “silent and apart” creating a tone of distance as those words are isolated in the sentence emphasising that they do struggle to love and be intimate and mirrors how despite the speaker and his lover being in a close relationship they contradict and feel isolated. On top of that, Sheers uses language suggestive of avoidance to establish tension in the relationship like in the verb “skirted” portraying another sense of ambiguity as it could be interpreted to say the couple literally travel around the lake but also references to the couple’s tendency to avoid and evade outstanding issues as they lose investment in each other. Words with connotations of an unfortunate relationship such as “clouds”, “rain” and “dark” are played through the poem manifesting a general atmosphere of tension and ice in their feelings to the reader allowing them to internalise how the couple’s emotions have diffused into the surroundings like in Neutral Tones.

In addition, Hardy establishes an aura of torment and acidity toward the speaker’s ex-lover through the rhythm and sounds made in the poem. Hardy draws out the pain of the speaker during their thoughts saying “wrings with wrong” through which the alliteration of w pushes forward the frustration but also copies a wailing sound as if the speaker themselves is wailing from the end of the relationship and their emotional torture they faced. Also the word “wrings” suggests the speaker is also being squeezed and twisted in an emotional whirlwind but implies the torment they have felt. The speaker’s bitterness is also outlined in the line “keen lessons that love deceives” where sibilance is displayed mimicking a serpent highlighting further the personification of love in “love deceives” and that his lesson that being romantically invested is a deception. Also the adjective of “keen” has a plosive sound creating a sharp sound emphasising that his experience was torturous. The final stanza also illustrates the cyclical structure of the poem in “the God-curst sun, and a tree, and a pond edged with greyish leaves.” bringing the reader to the starting point further emphasising the waste of time the speaker experienced and the stillness of the love. The “God-curst sun” links back to the start of the poem and creates an image of an inflamed and enraged sun showing the speaker’s immense bitterness and anger. The “pond” tells of the consistent stagnation of the relationship and that there is no possibility of recovery as the water remains still and the “greyish” leaves which connote to the lexical field of death but there is a change from “grey” to “greyish” signifying a slight change but the relationship still cannot be revived. Finally the last stanza features an increased frequency of polysyndeton and caesura showing that heartbreak that Hardy received throughout his life was repetitive and that due to that he was hesitant to enter new relationships.

Lastly, Sheers uses a wide range of techniques to display a climate of peace, unity and the couple’s romantic success in the final parts of the poem. Sheers changes the number of verses in the final stanza to form a couplet compared to the tercet in all other 6 stanzas prior showing that after all their conflict and disruption, they are a “pair” and a union. The final stanza also finishes with a full stop signifying to the reader that all matters are resolved. A more apparent use of sibilance is also detectable in “slow-stepping in the lake's shingle and sand” to create a soft, soothing sound that replicates how the turbulence they have faced as a couple has been suppressed and calmed. This idea is further underlined with the words “swum” and “wings” which connote to the swans of the poem and how the people by the lake are duplicates of the swans and are peaceful and closely joined. Ultimately, their hands are described to have “somehow, / swum the distance between us” epitomising how natural their love is that they “somehow” express adoration without any intention and explains that the couple are closer in more ways than one. The holding of hands show they are physically closer to each other but emotionally have been drawn closer to one another.
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f15es1
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Hey I'm no examiner but I've written down some of my thoughts on it (I'm currently year 11 predicted 9 for english lit). Overall I was impressed by your analysis which was really in depth but I think it could do with being more concise and to the point with a conclusion to summarise. Did you do this timed? I don't feel I'm qualified enough to give it a mark but I would put you as mid-low level 6 in the mark scheme which is around 25-28 marks. Overall I think it's really good to be writing that as year 10 mine wasn't as good at this point in the course and trust me your essay writing skills improve sooo much through out the course I'm sure you'll be great in y11.

Here are just some of my thoughts I hope this helps:
Be more explicit in your introduction with a sign post sentence. In the question it's talking about the theme of loss so I would start my essay with 'Shears and Hardy explore the theme of loss in their poems Winter Swans and Neutral Tones through their use of: (list of ideas you will develop later in the essay e.g imagery, sound devices, structure and tone)'.
It needs a bit more AO3 analysis which is historical context perhaps talk more about Hardy's own experience with love as we know he didn't really love his wife (who we suppose this is about) until she died and then her wrote lots of poems lamenting her. Or you could talk about how he was a post romantic poet and that influenced his descriptions of nature in the poem etc and do the same for shears because on the mark scheme AO3 is worth 6/30 so it's worth trying to go for as it doesn't require that much just a few comments.
Finally I think you've got some really well developed points but for me at least for GCSE I think it's easier if you lay it out into clearer paragraphs for each section as many examiners appreciate things being made simple and very obvious. For example I like to do an introduction, theme/tone, imagery, sound devices, structure and conclusion and the paragraphs don't have to be long but just to make everything really easy for the examiner start each paragraph sort of like: Hardy expresses the idea of loss through his use of imagery in neutral tones etc. Also draw on the differences between the poems as often it's easier to compare why two poems do things differently than why they do it similarly also it shows off your knowledge of a wider range of techniques rather than similar ones and 'further emphasises' is a good phrase to highlight to an examiner that you're doing in depth analysis.
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devilsbreakfast
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(Original post by theodora110)
Hi, I am in Year 10 and I have written this Love & Relationships Poetry comparison. Please, can somebody please mark this and suggest what grade (9 - 1) this could get if I wrote it in an exam and any improvements to get it to grade 9.
Thanks in advance!

Compare how the poet illustrates ideas of loss in Neutral Tones and one other poem of your choice.

Neutral Tones and Winter Swans comparison:

Both Neutral Tones and Winter Swans explore romantic love but in alternate forms. Both poems, although written many years apart show the realities of love with the complications that travel along with it. Each poem employs natural imagery throughout and each exhibit a range of techniques that perceive a hostile environment that lacks compassion. Even so, Neutral Tones persists with the unwelcoming feel whilst Winter Swans switches to a naturally reconciled love.

The poet illustrates ideas of loss in Neutral Tones by creating a bleak atmosphere in the speaker’s recount with their significant other. The account made by the speaker is described to have occured on a day where “the sun was white, as though chidden of God”. This quotation written in the first stanza of the poem is suggestive of negative attributes in the poem from the start. The pathetic fallacy of the sun as “white” shows their environment as harsh, bleached and violent to reflect the couple’s relationship which is stripped of love and deprived and warmth. Hardy’s use of religious imagery to say the sun was “chidden of God” shows banishment and rejection of the nourishment which compares to the hostility in their relationship.This particular use of religious imagery is used to accentuate the unwelcoming feelings as Hardy is an atheist who believed science disproved the existence of God.

Likewise, Winter Swans resembles Neutral Tones by showing loss by similarly using pathetic fallacy, which is frequent in Sheers’ work as he often uses natural imagery, such as in the lines “ the waterlogged earth gulping for breath at our feet”. When the “earth” is described as “waterlogged” it underscores how perhaps the individuals within the relationship feel metaphorically suffocated by one another or are drowning in their conflicts and internal issues. This also could symbolise the difficulty the individuals have to communicate and express themselves to one another for the relationship to function properly just as the earth is an unstable and not a solidified foundation. Furthermore, the “earth” is personified as “gulping for breath” and the verb “gulping” specifically emphasises the flooded earth and how in those moments the couple were a failing relationship overwhelmed by arguments, conflict and fear. Despite the gloomy appearance of the environment and the loss illustrated, “gulping” can suggest a more pleasurable side to the couple as although the couple face disputes, the verb argues that the earth is still desperate to survive reflecting that the couple have a chance regardless of how many clashes they have. The possessive pronoun “our” additionally highlights the more hopeful aspects of their coupling as the pronoun refers to them as a collective showing to the reader that the speaker still feels they remain a unit. However the lack of the other person’s perspective still leaves a definite meaning as it could show that the relationship at that point was rather unrequited from the speaker as they give an insight into their passion.

Furthermore, the speaker shows the loss of love in the poem within the quotation “ - They had fallen from an ash, and were grey.” and creates a semantic field of death. This quote utilises alliteration of f and a along with consonance of the f and assonance of the a sound as the reader reads enabling them to stress the words and stress the bleak atmosphere made. The phrase “fallen from an ash” connotes the autumn and winter seasons showing the change to an icy and cold environment. This quote appears at the end of the first stanza where it is preceded by an indentation and dash which slow down the pace of the poem suggesting the speaker still hesitates on the memory and is at conflict with their emotions but then ends with a full stop as they come to terms with the relationship’s end. Hardy applies the homonym “ash” to suggest ambiguity as it could be interpreted to convey that there was once passion and intimacy that burnt out or that the ash tree symbolising life and love becoming weary and impossible to revive as it was “grey” representing dying love.

Similarly, Winter Swans expresses an idea of tension and concealed struggle through Sheers’ use of caesura for instance in the line “as we skirted the lake, silent and apart,”. The caesura used creates a separation between the parts of the line symbolising how the individuals are divided by their conflicts and fears. It also creates a pause in the pace of the poem showing a hesitation or pause and asserts the idea that the couple are broken and their relationship is paused. Conversely, this may indicate a future where the relationship is resumed from its paused state. Also the commas used in the line surround “silent and apart” creating a tone of distance as those words are isolated in the sentence emphasising that they do struggle to love and be intimate and mirrors how despite the speaker and his lover being in a close relationship they contradict and feel isolated. On top of that, Sheers uses language suggestive of avoidance to establish tension in the relationship like in the verb “skirted” portraying another sense of ambiguity as it could be interpreted to say the couple literally travel around the lake but also references to the couple’s tendency to avoid and evade outstanding issues as they lose investment in each other. Words with connotations of an unfortunate relationship such as “clouds”, “rain” and “dark” are played through the poem manifesting a general atmosphere of tension and ice in their feelings to the reader allowing them to internalise how the couple’s emotions have diffused into the surroundings like in Neutral Tones.

In addition, Hardy establishes an aura of torment and acidity toward the speaker’s ex-lover through the rhythm and sounds made in the poem. Hardy draws out the pain of the speaker during their thoughts saying “wrings with wrong” through which the alliteration of w pushes forward the frustration but also copies a wailing sound as if the speaker themselves is wailing from the end of the relationship and their emotional torture they faced. Also the word “wrings” suggests the speaker is also being squeezed and twisted in an emotional whirlwind but implies the torment they have felt. The speaker’s bitterness is also outlined in the line “keen lessons that love deceives” where sibilance is displayed mimicking a serpent highlighting further the personification of love in “love deceives” and that his lesson that being romantically invested is a deception. Also the adjective of “keen” has a plosive sound creating a sharp sound emphasising that his experience was torturous. The final stanza also illustrates the cyclical structure of the poem in “the God-curst sun, and a tree, and a pond edged with greyish leaves.” bringing the reader to the starting point further emphasising the waste of time the speaker experienced and the stillness of the love. The “God-curst sun” links back to the start of the poem and creates an image of an inflamed and enraged sun showing the speaker’s immense bitterness and anger. The “pond” tells of the consistent stagnation of the relationship and that there is no possibility of recovery as the water remains still and the “greyish” leaves which connote to the lexical field of death but there is a change from “grey” to “greyish” signifying a slight change but the relationship still cannot be revived. Finally the last stanza features an increased frequency of polysyndeton and caesura showing that heartbreak that Hardy received throughout his life was repetitive and that due to that he was hesitant to enter new relationships.

Lastly, Sheers uses a wide range of techniques to display a climate of peace, unity and the couple’s romantic success in the final parts of the poem. Sheers changes the number of verses in the final stanza to form a couplet compared to the tercet in all other 6 stanzas prior showing that after all their conflict and disruption, they are a “pair” and a union. The final stanza also finishes with a full stop signifying to the reader that all matters are resolved. A more apparent use of sibilance is also detectable in “slow-stepping in the lake's shingle and sand” to create a soft, soothing sound that replicates how the turbulence they have faced as a couple has been suppressed and calmed. This idea is further underlined with the words “swum” and “wings” which connote to the swans of the poem and how the people by the lake are duplicates of the swans and are peaceful and closely joined. Ultimately, their hands are described to have “somehow, / swum the distance between us” epitomising how natural their love is that they “somehow” express adoration without any intention and explains that the couple are closer in more ways than one. The holding of hands show they are physically closer to each other but emotionally have been drawn closer to one another.
Hi, I hope that you are doing alright during quarantine. I haven't read the other response that you have already received as I didn't want it to accidentally influence my feedback! I am by no means a qualified examiner or teacher so just bear this in mind-I am a year 11 who is predicted a 9 in my GCSEs and I tend to get either full marks or a couple below on poetry analysis. Because I don’t mark essays like this normally I don’t really want to give you a specific mark but I hope that you find my feedback somewhat useful.
Firstly, the essay as a whole was impressive with excellent use of technical terms used throughout; I assume that you have a sophisticated style of writing and that is something that tends to impress examiners. As well as this, you have shown a great wider knowledge by referencing Sheers’ style, which helps to gain AO3 marks and portray you as having a deeper understanding of his work.
Did you write this comparison with a question? While you did write about specific themes it would be useful to see the question that you were answering as a means to see what of your essay was specifically answering the question, and then what further critical analysis of other themes you decided to do. If you didn’t answer a question specifically and just compared the two poems, I would suggest finding questions, or even making them up for yourself, just to give you a theme as a basis. Using a question is also useful as in the exam this is the format. Some examples of questions for these poems (in which you could compare it to the other): How is lack of affection/loss of love/lack of interest shown in Neutral Tones and one other poem? How are changing relationships/broken relationships shown in Winter Swans and one other poem?
While the structure of your essay was on the whole good, alternating between the poems therefore not getting too caught up analysing just one, at some points it felt a little lost. What I mean by this is sometimes it was halfway through a paragraph before you told us who the author was/which poem it is. One point this was particularly evident was when you used the opening line ‘Furthermore, the speaker shows the loss of love in the poem within the quotation “ - They had fallen from an ash, and were grey.”’ Be specific. You know who the speaker is so just replace that with Hardy. You also did this at one point saying “the poet”- little tweaks like this can get precious marks.
Possibly a short conclusion at the end, referencing your initial thesis may make your structure more cohesive, however,if you continually link at the end of every paragraph there is no outstanding need for this.
As well as this, although this may be because you possibly weren’t writing this essay as a direct answer to a question, your opening was a little vague. By being more specific than saying the poems explore romantic love in “alternate forms” you can give yourself a better initial impression of your knowledge and sophistication to the examiner, which you deserve to do because the standard of your writing is high!
I know that I’ve been quite critical and given a fair amount of feedback but that’s just because I can see that you’re pushing for a 9 and you deserve to get it! Hope that this helps and honestly it was better than most people in my English class could write.
(Edited - I just came back into this conversation a couple of days later and realised you did have the question written at the top sorry I'm so dense but embarrassing sorry about that lol)
Last edited by devilsbreakfast; 8 months ago
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