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‘Glasgow Sonnets (i)’ by Edwin Morgan Textual Analysis.

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1 ‘Glasgow Sonnets (i)’ by Edwin Morgan Textual Analysis

2 A mean wind wanders through the backcourt trash. Hackles on puddles rise, old mattresses puff briefly and subside. Play-fortresses of brick and bric-a-brac spill out some ash. 5Four storeys have no windows left to smash, but in the fifth a chipped sill buttresses mother and daughter the last mistresses of that black block condemned to stand, not crash. Around them the cracks deepen, the rats crawl. 10The kettle whimpers on a crazy hob. Roses of mould grow from ceiling to wall. The man lies late since he has lost his job, smokes on one elbow, letting his coughs fall thinly into an air too poor to rob.

3 “A mean wind wanders through the backcourt trash. Hackles on puddles rise, old mattresses” 1) In the first two lines, the poet sets the scene by giving clues to the weather. a) In line 1, the wind is described as ‘mean’ rather than simply ‘cold’. What does the poet gain from this word choice? (2) Personification is used to refer to the wind as if it were a cruel / unkind person seeking out people to torment (1) This emphasises how hostile the environment is (1)

4 “A mean wind wanders through the backcourt trash. Hackles on puddles rise, old mattresses” 1) In the first two lines, the poet sets the scene by giving clues to the weather. b)‘Hackles’ are the hairs in an animal’s neck which stand on end when it is angry. What does the poet mean in line 2 when he says ‘hackles on puddles rise’? (2) The ripples in the puddles caused by the wind look like the hackles standing up on an animal’s neck (1) This suggests violence and danger (1)

5 “Play-fortresses of brick and bric-a-brac spill out some ash.” 2)In line 3, the piles of bricks and old rubbish (bric-a-brac) are described as ‘play-fortresses’. What does this suggest about the type of games the children play in the tenement back courts?(2) ‘Fortresses’ suggests that the children’s games are connected to violence and aggression, (possibly suggesting the beginnings of gang warfare) (1) This implies that the people on the estate are under siege (1) The harsh sounds of ‘brick’ and ‘bric-a-brac’ reflect the violence they are used for (1) Max of 2

6 “ but in the fifth a chipped sill buttresses mother and daughter the last mistresses of that black block condemned to stand, not crash.” 3)The poet describes the mother and daughter who live on the fifth floor as ‘the last mistresses’ (line 7) of the tenement. What two feelings towards the women does the poet convey when he uses the word ‘mistresses’ (line 7)?(2) Any two of admiration, respect, sympathy, concern (2)

7 “ but in the fifth a chipped sill buttresses mother and daughter the last mistresses of that black block condemned to stand, not crash.” 4)Look again at line 8: ‘that black block condemned to stand, not crash’. How does the poet’s use of sound and his word choice help to create a particularly bleak impression?(4) Sound: Alliteration of ‘bl’ and ‘ck / c’ - harsh sounds = bleak (1) Assonance – repeated ‘a’ sound = gloomy (1) Word choice: ‘Condemned’ and ‘block’ have connotations of execution (1) ‘Condemned to stand’ – oxymoron suggesting that the block is sentenced to the protracted agony of a living death, rather than a merciful end by execution / demolition (1)

8 “The kettle whimpers on a crazy hob.” 5)Comment on the word ‘whimpers’ in line 10. How does the choice of this word help to contribute to the description of the room and its occupants?(3) ‘Whimpers’ suggests a person or animal crying out in pain (1) This onomatopoeia / personification is used to suggest that the kettle is expressing the misery of the room’s occupants (1) This adds to the dreary, pathetic impression of the room and emphasises the vulnerable / sad condition of the occupants (1)

9 “The man lies late since he has lost his job, smokes on one elbow, letting his coughs fall thinly into an air too poor to rob.” 6)The poem ends by focusing on one man in bed. Suggest any two ways in which this character seems to resemble his surroundings. (4) ‘coughs fall thinly’ (1) suggest the man is weak and decrepit, like the crumbling tenement he lives in (1) He is out of work / is not being used, therefore is poor like building (1) He seems depressed / is of no value, like the building (1)

10 A mean wind wanders through the backcourt trash. Hackles on puddles rise, old mattresses puff briefly and subside. Play-fortresses of brick and bric-a-brac spill out some ash. 5Four storeys have no windows left to smash, but in the fifth a chipped sill buttresses mother and daughter the last mistresses of that black block condemned to stand, not crash. Around them the cracks deepen, the rats crawl. 10The kettle whimpers on a crazy hob. Roses of mould grow from ceiling to wall. The man lies late since he has lost his job, smokes on one elbow, letting his coughs fall thinly into an air too poor to rob. 7)a) The poem is structured to fall into two parts. Where does this break occur?(1) After line 8 (1)

11 A mean wind wanders through the backcourt trash. Hackles on puddles rise, old mattresses puff briefly and subside. Play-fortresses of brick and bric-a-brac spill out some ash. 5Four storeys have no windows left to smash, but in the fifth a chipped sill buttresses mother and daughter the last mistresses of that black block condemned to stand, not crash. Around them the cracks deepen, the rats crawl. 10The kettle whimpers on a crazy hob. Roses of mould grow from ceiling to wall. The man lies late since he has lost his job, smokes on one elbow, letting his coughs fall thinly into an air too poor to rob. b)Give two reasons for your choice based on content and ideas and rhyme scheme.(4) Content and ideas: Lines 1-8 describe the back court and exterior, finally focussing on the window of the occupied flat (1) Lines 9-14 describe the inside of the flat, ending with the man in bed (1)

12 A mean wind wanders through the backcourt trash. Hackles on puddles rise, old mattresses puff briefly and subside. Play-fortresses of brick and bric-a-brac spill out some ash. 5Four storeys have no windows left to smash, but in the fifth a chipped sill buttresses mother and daughter the last mistresses of that black block condemned to stand, not crash. Around them the cracks deepen, the rats crawl. 10The kettle whimpers on a crazy hob. Roses of mould grow from ceiling to wall. The man lies late since he has lost his job, smokes on one elbow, letting his coughs fall thinly into an air too poor to rob. b)Give two reasons for your choice based on content and ideas and rhyme scheme.(4) Rhyme scheme: Lines 1-8 consist of rhymes with -ash / -esses (abba abba) (1) Lines 9-14 have -all / -awl or -ob rhymes (cdcdcd) (1)

13 8)In this poem various emotions are aroused in the reader: anger, pity, a sense of hopelessness, sadness, disgust, shock, sympathy, a sense of hostility, despair. Show how the poet’s use of language effectively arouses any two of these emotions in this poem. (Use different evidence for each of your examples)(6) Mark on merit (!) You must write about two emotions, and use different evidence for each emotion. You must analyse use of language, not just ideas.

14 8)In this poem various emotions are aroused in the reader: anger, pity, a sense of hopelessness, sadness, disgust, shock, sympathy, a sense of hostility, despair. Show how the poet’s use of language effectively arouses any two of these emotions in this poem. (Use different evidence for each of your examples)(6) Pity – plight of family living in uncomfortable, damp living conditions in largely derelict building. Vivid word choice is used to describe the bleakness and grimness of their surroundings: ‘trash’ is lying around, ‘cracks deepen’ in the walls, ‘rats crawl’, ‘roses of mould’ grow on the walls. They are isolated, the only occupants left – ‘the last mistresses’. The man is ill – ‘his coughs fall thinly’, unemployed and depressed ‘lies late since he lost his job’ and without any purpose or hope. ‘The kettle whimpers on a crazy hob’ - personification / onomatopoeia is used to emphasise the vulnerable sad condition of the people, as if their misery is expressed by the kettle.

15 8)In this poem various emotions are aroused in the reader: anger, pity, a sense of hopelessness, sadness, disgust, shock, sympathy, a sense of hostility, despair. Show how the poet’s use of language effectively arouses any two of these emotions in this poem. (Use different evidence for each of your examples)(6) Hostility – the poet describes an environment filled with threats of danger and violence, emphasising how hostile the environment is to those who have no choice but to live there. Personification is used to describe the wind – ‘mean’ – to suggest human aggression ‘Hackles’ on puddles suggest violence Hostile environment reinforced by military imagery – ‘fortresses’ and ‘buttresses’, suggests violent games played by children, possibly leading to gang warfare ‘fortresses’ and ‘buttresses’ suggests people who live there are under seige The harsh sounds of ‘brick’ and ‘bric-a-brac’ reflect the violence they are used for ‘No windows left to smash’ – destroyed by vandalism


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