C. Day-Lewis. A Poet and Author. History and Brief Biography. Cecil Day-Lewis was an Anglo-Irish poet, critic, and educator. He also gained fame as a detective story writer under the name Nicholas Blake.
A Poet and Author
I sang as one
Who on a tilting deck sings
To keep their courage up, though the wave hangs
That shall cut off their sun.
As storm-cocks sing,
Flinging their natural answer in the wind's teeth,
And care not if it is waste of breath
Or birth-carol of spring
As ocean-flyer clings
To height, to the last drop of spirit driving on
While yet ahead is land to be won
And work for wings
Singing I was at peace,
Above the clouds, outside the ring;
For sorrow finds a swift release in song
And pride it's poise
As one between two massing powers I live
Whom neutrality cannot save
Nor occupation cheer.
Nor such shall be left alive:
The innocent wing is soon shot down,
And private stars fade in the blood-red dawn
Where two worlds strive.
The red advance of life
Contracts pride, calls out the common blood,
Beats song into a single blade
Makes a depth-charge of grief.
Move then with new desires,
For where we used to build and love
Is no man's land, and only ghosts can live
Between two fires.
An Analysis of The Conflict
The Conflict is a poem written by Cecil Day-Lewis. It follows the rhyming scheme abca. The poem is in first person and is directed to an audience. Day-Lewis is exploring concepts of individuality versus suppression. The poem sounds almost like a desperate tone.
The poem demonstrates individuality through singing,
As storm-cocks sing,Flinging their natural answer in the wind’s teeth,And care not if it is waste of breath (4-8)
Through activities, `As ocean-flyer clings / To height, to the last drop of spirit driving on’. (9-10) The individuality presented here is suppressed ‘Yet living here [...] Nor such shall be left alive:The innocent wing is soon shot down.’ (Ellipsis mine) (20-28)
Day-Lewis uses imagery to paint scenery, but nothing else. ‘in the blood-red dawn’. The Conflict expresses how individuality is usually suppressed.
The poem uses abstract diction such as, ‘two massing powers I live’, (18) ‘private stars fade in the blood-red dawn’ (23), and ‘song into a single blade’(27). Figurative devices includes personification; ‘in the wind’s teeth’ (6), ‘last drop of spirit’ (10), metaphors ‘Beats song into a single blade’(27), and numerous other devices. It does not include very much if at all any amounts of rhetorical devices.
The length of a sentence usually lasts one to two syntaxes. A syntax lasts exactly 4 lines and no longer. There are unusual sentences which seem not to fit in the rhyming scheme of the poem. These include ‘And pride its poise’(16). The word poise is meant to rhyme with peace. Peace and poise does not rhyme. Also the line ‘Makes a depth-charge of grief’ (28) does not rhyme with its supposed rhyme ‘life’.
The Conflict is a poem expressing the desire and suppression of individuality. It uses imagery and figurative language to illustrate its meaning.
No wickedest weather could thus have turned,
As I were overnight
His field to so wan and weedy a showing:
Some galloping blight
From earth’s metabolism must have sprung
To ruin all
Or perhaps his own high hopes had made
The wizened look tall.
But it’s useless to argue the why and wherefore.
When a crop is so thin,
There’s nothing to do but to set the teeth
And plough it in.
(Day-Lewis, Cecil, 1992, 910)
The seed was sound.
Average luck with the weather, one thought,
And the crop would abound.
If harrowing were all that is needed for
Harvest, his field
Had been harrowed enough, God knows, to warrant
A record yield.
He gazed from a hill in the breezy springtime:
That field was aflow
With wave upon wave like a sea’s green shallows
He looked from a gate one summer morning
When the mist uprolled:
Headland to headland those fortunate acres
Seemed solid gold
He stood by the field as the day of harvest
Dawned. But, oh,
The fruit of a year’s work, a lifetime’s lore,
Had ceased to grow
The poem Failure by Cecil Day-Lewis, simply put, shows us an example of how we often put a tremendous amount of work and care into the things that we do in hope of success, only to have them fail in the end. He shows us this through the failure of a crop. What is important to note about this is that the poem spends some time focusing on the failure, but then quickly moves on to something else, pointing out that a failure is irreversible, and that we should not brood over it, but merely begin again.
The first two stanzas in the poem describe the process of setting up what it is that needs to be accomplished, then the next two move on describing a stronger and stronger prospect for success. In this case, what has been done is the planting of the seeds needed for the crop to grow, as well as a hope for good weather. The poem then goes into explaining everything that has been done to ensure success in the line “If harrowing were all that is needed for Harvest, his field Had been harrowed enough, God knows, to warrant A record yield”.
The next two stanzas describe first off the farmer gazing at his crop from a hill, and noting how his field is flowing with wave upon wave of prepared crop. He compares it to a sea’s green shallows. The poem then goes into explaining how he once again looked on his crop one summer morning, and expresses an even stronger sense of upcoming success with the lines “Headland to headland those fortunate acres Seemed solid gold”.
The next three stanzas radically change in feeling. We are ripped away from hope, and introduced to failure. The fifth stanza describes how as the day of harvest neared, his crop had ceased to grow. The poem then moves on to the farmer explaining how he tossed and turned all night while his field was wilting. He then describes what he thinks could be the cause of the destruction of his crop “Some galloping blight From earth’s metabolism must have sprung To ruin all Or perhaps his own high hopes had made The wizened look tall.”. He first blames earth and nature, then turns to blame himself, suggesting that perhaps his high hopes made his eyes fool him. All of these aspects describe the failure of his crop.
The last stanza is the most important of all in regards to meaning. It explains that is useless to obsess and argue about why a failure happens to us. It says “When a crop is so thin, There’s nothing to do but to set the teeth And plough it in.”. This is essentially saying that because his crop is ruined, there is nothing left to doubt to plough it in. It is dead. There is nothing he can do to change it, but move on.
Overall, this poem is about failure and how we need to accept it and move on. I believe that Cecil Day-Lewis simply uses a farmer and his crop as an example to describe how we should view a failure. The point of view in this poem can be applied to every kind of failure.
Here’s Abbey Way: here are the rooms
Where they held the chrysanthemum show –
Leaves like talons of greenfire, blooms
Of a barbarous frenzy, red, flame bronze –
And a schoolboy walked into the furnace once,
Thirty years ago.
You might have thought, had you seen him that day
Mooching from stall to stall,
I was wasted on him – the prize array
Of flowers with their resinous, caustic tang,
Their colours that royalty boomed and rang
Like gongs in the pitchpine hall.
Any tongue could scorch him; even hope tease
As if it dissembled a leer:
Like smouldering fuse, anxieties
Blindwormed his breast. How should one feel,
Consuming in youth’s slow ordeal,
What flashes from flower to flower?
Yet something did touch hum then, at the quick,
Like a premature memory prising
Through flesh. Those blooms with the bonfire reek
And flaming of ruby, copper, gold –
There boyhood’s sun foretold, retold
A full gamut of setting and rising.
Something touched him. Always the scene
Was to haunt his memory –
Not haunt – come alive there, as if what had been
But a flowery idea took flesh in the womb
Of his solitude, rayed out a rare, real bloom.
I know, for I was he.
And today, when I see chrysanthemums,
I half envy that boy
For whom they spoke as muffled drums
Darkly messaging, “All decays;
But youth’s brief agony can blaze
Into a posthumous joy.”
(Day-Lewis, Cecil, 1963, 487)
The Chrysanthemum Show by Cecil Day-Lewis is a poem based on the rhyming scheme abaccb. It describes an event’ thirty years ago’ when Day-Lewis saw a boy tending to chrysanthemums. The boy was struck with an emotional blow, something that was to haunt the memory. When this happened the boy struck back and ‘rayed out a rare, real bloom.’ (34) Day-Lewis reveals that the poem is actually his memory and that he envied his youth. He dismisses the anger he experienced as ‘youth’s brief agony can blaze / Into a posthumous joy.’ (40-41) Day-Lewis communicates in first person. He speaks to an audience. He speaks formally with dramatic pauses. He speaks with concrete words describing the scene. Illustrating his memory is achieved through figurative language including similes ‘Like smouldering fuse, anxieties’, (17) metaphors ‘Of his solitude, rayed out a rare, real bloom’(34) , imagery ‘Of a barbarous frenzy, red, flame bronze’ (4) and onomatopoeias ‘Their colours that royalty boomed and rang’ (11). It demonstrates feelings of insecurity ‘Any tongue could scorch him; even hope tease’ (13) and feelings of hopelessness ‘Like smouldering fuse, anxieties’ (15) . It also shows how youth is desired only when in adulthood, only when it is unreachable.
The poem is a formal poem using larger intellectual words, not common in everyday such as resinous and caustic. In the poem he used imagery when describing the chrysanthemums, however not of the surroundings or characters. He paints feelings and sensations using lines such as,
Any tongue could scorch him; even hope tease
As if it dissembled a leer:
Like smouldering fuse, anxieties
To conclude, The Chrysanthemum Show is a plea for youth and a dismissal of youth’s ordeals. Imagery and numerous rhetorical devices are used to create this effect.
Day-Lewis, Cecil . "The Crysanthemum Show." Modern Verse in English. Ed. Cecil, David & Tate, Allen. Great Britain: Eyre & Spottiswoode LTD, 1963.
"Day-Lewis, C.." Online Photograph. Britannica Student Encyclopædia. 9 June 2008 <http://www.student.britannica.com/eb/art-57770>.
Gardner, H (Ed.). (1992). The New Oxford Book of English Verse. Frome, Somerset: Butler & Tanner Ltd.
Day-Lewis, Cecil . “The Crysanthemum Show.” Modern Verse in English. Ed. Cecil, David & Tate,
Allen. Great Britain: Eyre & Spottiswoode LTD, 1963.
"Cecil Day-Lewis." Wikipedia. 2008. Wikimedai Foundation Inc.. 9 Jun 2008 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cecil_Day-Lewis>.
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