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Norman MacCaig ‘grand old man of Scottish poetry’.

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1 Norman MacCaig ‘grand old man of Scottish poetry’

2 Context Born in Edinburgh,1910 Pacifist, refused to fight in the war Had a second home is Assynt. The contrast between Edinburgh and Assynt inspired his poetry (urban and country) Part of the New Apocalypse Movement 1939-1945 (WW2) Emphasis on myth rather than rational narrative Surrealist writing He later left this movement in favour of more precise, witty observations Best known for his humour and simplicity of language in his poetry

3 Birds All Singing Modern view of nature Birdsong no longer romanticised. It’s an act of survival, to defend territory (post Darwinism) ‘something to do with territory’ Anti pastoral? Natural world governed by instincts. Not the harmonious vision in traditional pastoral ‘woo no sweet or fair’ Humans imposing limited views on natural world Both man and bird realise they own nothing as they will die and ‘Time topples bird and man out of their myth’ Recognising a universe that is creative and destruction. Shows nature and man sharing the delusion of ownership of a world that will outlast them both.

4 Birds All Singing Form and Structure Smith, I. ‘the poem proceeds…by argument…[it] moves from concept to concept’ Stanzas end in full stops, establishes an argument Conversation piece Uses an informal tone, wit and language to portray a serious message Enjambment and caesura Eight sestets, rhyme scheme of abbcac. Iambic pentameter, but fifth line of each stanza is iambic trimeter Fluidity of metrical outline allows the poem to encompass informal and elevated language

5 Birds All Singing Language Rejecting romantic interpretation of birdsong ‘they woo no sweet and fair’ ‘bumptious and absurd’ ‘not passion but possession’ ‘tenement windows of their sylvan slum’ Paradox contrasts rural (sylvan) and urban (slum) brings the behaviour of humans and birds closer together Man has his own private territory and imaginary possessions ‘private states of being’ Bird and man compared in their misunderstanding. Both ‘lie in its own lucidity’, without the clarity to see how ‘creation moves restlessly’. Image of man ‘with stray of singing in his hair strolls in his bedlam’. Perhaps a madman or pastoral archetype? Madman unable to understand his place in the natural world.

6 An Ordinary Day Main Themes/ Ideas “I took my mind a walk or my mind took me a walk.” Either observing the natural world physically or perhaps mentally (an escape to the pastoral from the busy world). “The Ordinary” – how people pass by the extraordinary things in life (e.g. the “Eastern dances” of the long weeds etc) and regard them as mere ordinary. Separation of the mind – “my mind observed to me” emphasises the distance between the physical being and the spiritual being.

7 An Ordinary Day AO2 Form – Free verse, meaning that there is no specific rhyme scheme (“water, light, rock”) and that it potentially sounds more like speech. Structure – Stanzas are structured evenly ( 8 tercets), rhythmic quality is enhanced through repetition. Caesuras (for example, “stopping no traffic” - irony) allow for a break in the line potentially to convey the sense of observation that is consistent throughout the poem. Enjambment – (“unregarded, by shoals of darning needles”) enhances the focus of the observation, or allows time for thought. First and last stanzas – Introduction and Conclusion

8 An Ordinary Day AO2 Personification – (“Small flowers were doing their level best”) accentuates the close relationship between man and nature, however also perhaps emphasizes the distance between body and mind (“my feet took me home” – distinct separation) Use of the “antimetabole” technique is evident – meaning that Maccaig repeats words such as “walk” and “mind” to implore the reader to reflect. Reflection in this case is focused on the extraordinary nature of everyday things. Simplistic language – “light,” “water,” etc – conveys the simplicity of the natural world.

9 An Ordinary Day Pastoral (AO3) Mental/physical escape to the pastoral from the urban world. Use of natural images – “cormorants stood on a tidal rock – a sight that should amaze, however stops “no traffic.” Idea that the doric lifestyle has perhaps become mere ordinary, when it should really be viewed as extraordinary.

10 An Ordinary Day AO4 Maccaig is well known for his simplistic language and humour, which is widely seen throughout this poem – “A cow started to moo, but thought better of it…” Reference to the modern world (particularly transport) – “kerb bees like aerial charabancs /stopping no traffic.” This perhaps implies that the natural world cannot escape interference from industrialization.

11 Sparrow AO3 Pastoral Pastoral imagery of birds and setting ‘Lawns’, ‘midnight trees’, ‘gray Atlantics’ Underlying theme of status. Comparing sparrow to other birds. Sparrow is more practical, other birds are creative (‘dancers’, ‘musicians’, ‘architects’) Higher class jobs Comparison of working class is reflected in phrase- ‘a proletarian bird’- link to ‘slum’, ‘punch up in a gutter’. Post- pastoral elements- creative/destructive universe, what happens to humanity is paralleled to nature- ‘nature as culture and culture as nature’

12 Sparrow AO2 Personification ‘clothes’, ‘writing’, ‘ballet dancers’ Winter- personified as a dancer, ‘soft-shoe shuffle’ Semantic field of education ‘no scholar’, ‘whose result’, ‘O-levels and A-levels’ Colloquialisms compared to formal language ‘Stalk, sing, glide’, ‘punch-up in a gutter’ Second stanza- repetition, alliteration, elevated language- all in first 3 lines. ‘solitary’ repeated 3 times. ‘stalk solitary’, ‘sing solitary’ – alliteration.

13 Sparrow AO2 Form- free verse? Structure- four stanzas of unequal length, rhythmic flow obtained by language, sentence variation and enjambment.

14 Sources http://learning.royallatin.bucks.sch.uk/course/ view.php?id=525 http://learning.royallatin.bucks.sch.uk/course/ view.php?id=525 http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00mr8yj /profiles/norman-maccaig http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00mr8yj /profiles/norman-maccaig ZigZag Education, 2010


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