Report to Wordsworth Boey Kim Cheng By B.J. McArthur, A.J. McFarlane and S.H. Patel
You should be here, Nature has need of you. She has been laid waste. Smothered by smog, the flowers are mute, and the birds are few in a sky slowly like a dying clock. All hopes of Proteus rising from the sea have sunk; he is entombed in the waste we dump. Triton’s notes struggle to be free, his famous horns are choked, his eyes are dazed, and Neptune lies helpless as a beached whale, while insatiate man moves in for the kill. Poetry and piety have begun to fail, as Nature’s might heart is lying still. O see the wound widening in the sky, God is labouring to utter his last cry.
Background on the author • Born in Singapore • Moved to Sydney - Boey Kim Cheng was influenced by T.S. Elliot, Keats and Wordsworth.
Significance of title Report to Wordsworth - What significance does the title serve? • Literal meaning • Who or what is Wordsworth?
“You should be here” • Wordsworth • Appealing to reader
“Nature has need of you” • Something is wrong • It is possible to fix
“Laid Waste” • Completely ravaged • Destroyed • No mercy
“Smothered”, “mute” • Silent • Unable to protest
“Smothered by the smog” • Sibilance (and sky slowing) • Contrast with “flowers” • Choking
“Dying clock”, “slowing” • The process is slow and painful • It happens over a long time
“All hopes of Proteus rising from the sea have sunk” • Hope of redemption sinking • Getting further and further away
“Proteus” • Able to tell future (knows what will probably happen) • Only answer to someone capable of capturing him
“Entombed in the waste we dump” • Our rubbish is sealing the fate of our oceans
“Smothered”, “dying”, “choked”, “kill”, “last cry”, “entombed” • Death • Emphasises weight of issue
“Triton’s notes struggle to be free” • Son of Poseidon • Conch shell could calm or raise waves • Therefore control of storms/oceans
Helpless At mercy of people Beached whale I’m beached as, bro
“insatiate man moves in for the kill” • “impossible to satisfy” • Not content with beaching, must kill it
“Poetry and piety have begun to fail” • Culture has no impact on people • Still hope
“Nature’s mighty heart is lying still” • Incredibly powerful • Killed by man
“Wound widening in the sky” • Ozone layer • Not completely destroyed
“God labouring to utter his last cry” • Religion • Crucifixion • Hope yet
Greek and Roman Mythology Allusions • Who are they? • What purpose do they serve in this poem? Neptune Proteus Triton
References to other poems William Wordsworth
London 1802 Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour; England hath need of thee: she is a fen Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen, Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower, Have forfeited their ancient English dower Of inward happiness. We are selfish men; Oh! raise us up, return to us again; And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power. Thy soul was like a star, and dwelt apart; Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea: Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free, So didst thou travel on life's common way, In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart The lowliest duties on herself did lay.
Comparison of Cheng and Wordsworth Report to Wordsworth London 1802 “Milton! Thou shouldst be living at this hour” “England have need of thee” “We are selfish men” “thy heart …did lay” • “You should be here” • “Nature has need of you” • “insatiate man moves in for the kill” • “Nature’s might heart is lying still”
The world is too much with us… The world is too much with us; late and soon,Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;Little we see in Nature that is ours;We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,The winds that will be howling at all hours,And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,For this, for everything, we are out of tune;It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather beA Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
Comparison of Cheng and Wordsworth Report to Wordsworth The World is too much with us ”we lay waste our powers” “Little we see in Nature that is ours” “sleeping flowers” “out of tune” “sight of Proteus” “old Triton blow his wreathed horn” • “She has been laid waste” • Nature has need of you” • “flowers are mute” • “Triton’s notes struggle to be free” • “All hopes of Proteus” • “his famous horns are choked”
Comparison of Cheng and Wordsworth Report to Wordsworth Composed upon Westminster Bridge - “Earth has not anything to show more fair” “smokeless air” “A sight so touching in its majesty” • “Nature has need of you” • “smothered in smog” • “O see the wound in the sky”
Comparison of Cheng’s other poem Report to Wordsworth The Planners - "they build and will not stopeven the sea draws back and the skies surrender” - “They erase the flaws” - Cheng expresses that, in Singapore particularly, planners are concerned with supersizing-cities, at any cost to the environment. - “O see the wound widening in the sky” - “Poetry and piety have begun to fail” - Cheng expresses that man has changed his values from hundreds of years ago, and are destroying Nature.
Themes • Importance of respecting Nature. • Callousness of man. • Man’s growing materialism and the change in his values. • Man’s destruction of nature and the world. • The changing world.
Possible Exam Questions 1 Analyse the importance of the classical allusions in Report to Wordsworth. 2 Discuss the cynicism portrayed in the poem Report to Wordsworth. 3 Explore the ways in which Cheng conveys the impurity of the modern world in the poem