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Comparing poems

Comparing poems

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Summary

Comparing poems

​​In a nutshell

You can gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of two poems by identifying the differences and similarities between them. You should not compare poems based on how well they have approached their subject matter, but rather on how they have approached it. 



Ask yourself five questions

  • ​What are the themes of the poems?
  • What are the attitudes of the poets?
  • How are the poems structured?
  • What forms do the poems use?
  • How does the poet use language?

​​By asking yourself these questions, you can begin to examine the poems effectively and structure your thinking for your writing.



Structure

When comparing poems, a strong structure in your writing is important. Here are some things you should always include:

  • A strong introduction that states the poems and explains how they approach their themes
  • Make sure your analysis of each poem is balanced
  • Try and compare the poems throughout as much as possible 
  • Describe each poem: themes, attitudes, structures, form and use of language
  • In your conclusion, summarise how the poems are similar and different


Below are two structural plans you can use:


Plan 1

Plan 2

Introduction
Introduction
Analysis of poem 1
How the language is used in both poems
Analysis of poem 2
How the structure and form are used in both poems
How they are similar 
What are the themes and attitudes of both poems 
How they are different
Conclusion
Conclusion 



Context

It is important to consider how their contexts relate to one another.

  • When were the poems written?
  • How would the period affect the poems?
  • How would the socio-cultural context affect the poem?
  • How would different readers approach the poems?
  • How does the genre affect the poem?


How to compare

Here are some tips on how to think about your poems:

  • When you compare the form, structure and language of two poems, you should keep in mind that each poet chose the form, structure, and language in their composition.
  • Form, structure and language all play an important role in determining meaning and effect.
  • In order to fully understand the poems, you must explore and identify similarities and differences.


Example comparison

In both "Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley and "London" by William Blake, the poets present a critical exploration of the consequences of power and societal issues. While Shelley's poem delves into the theme of impermanence and hubris, Blake's work focuses on the oppressive atmosphere of the urban landscape during the Industrial Revolution. In "Ozymandias," the shattered statue of a once-mighty king serves as a symbol of the transience of human achievements and the ultimate futility of unchecked power. Shelley's use of the sonnet form and vivid imagery, exemplified in the "vast and trunkless legs of stone," magnifies the sense of desolation and decay, leaving readers pondering the impermanence of grand legacies. Conversely, "London" portrays a city plagued by misery and oppression, with Blake's use of a regular ABAB rhyme scheme and frequent repetition of the word "chartered" emphasising the stifling impact of authority and control. Both poems, despite their divergent subjects, employ evocative language and poignant metaphors to invite readers to reflect on the darker aspects of humanity and society.


Analysis

The comparison begins by stating that the poems share similarities in their exploration of themes related to power and societal issues. This introductory sentence sets the foundation for the rest of the comparison.

The comparison uses specific evidence from the texts to support its points. For "Ozymandias," it cites the description of the shattered statue and quotes the phrase "vast and trunkless legs of stone" to emphasise the imagery used by Shelley. For "London," it highlights the regular ABAB rhyme scheme and the repeated use of the word "chartered" to illustrate Blake's approach to depicting the oppressive atmosphere.

The comparative language in the comparison, such as "both" and "while," helps to establish the differences between the two poems while maintaining a clear link between them.

The structure of the comparison is concise and well-organised. Each paragraph focuses on one poem, presenting its key themes and literary features, before moving on to the other poem. This creates a balanced comparison that allows the reader to see the individual merits of each work while drawing connections between them.

The analysis successfully fulfils the task of comparing two poems. It highlights their similarities and differences, identifies their respective themes and literary techniques, and provides specific evidence from the texts to support its claims. The use of comparative language and direct quotes contributes to a compelling analysis, making it a comprehensive and effective comparison of "Ozymandias" and "London."

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