The structure of the poem
The structure of the poem is as important in poems to help convey the idea and feeling to the reader, as the words are at times. ‘Tall Nettles’ and ‘Thistles’ are structured completely different from each other, therefore the urgency or climax of the poem is placed at a different part. First ‘Tall Nettles’, here the poem is broken up into two stanzas with four verses in each. The four lines in both the first stanza and the second follow on from each other so are said as one sentence, creating a flowing rhythm within the poem, again portraying an extended period of time.
Personally I interpret this as the first stanza being where Thomas describes the nettles and their actions and the second, where he describes his own feelings and emotions towards the nettles, giving the poem a personal touch, because this is where we get the warm tone of the poem from. Also contributing to the soft tone of this poem is its rhyme scheme. This poem has crossed rhyme and within the crossed rhyme there is eye rhyme like done and stone, false rhyme like plough and now, and true rhyme like flower and shower, all examples from the text.
Secondly, ‘Thistles’ is broken into four stanzas, each consisting of three verses in each. In the first two stanzas the lines flow onto each other and in between stanza one and two, leading up to the climax and ending of the poem. It is important to note that stanzas two and three are enjambered together as if the poet wanted to carry first two stanzas on for impact, but from here we have a serious of short, sharp sentences stopping both mid verse and at the end. These short sentences create tension in the reader and picks up the pace of the poem slightly. Thistles also has a distinct rhythm but no rhyme scheme to it, but with the absence of rhyme the poem demands more attention therefore is more gripping and causes a stronger sense of alertness in the reader or listener. All these techniques provide a basis for the words of the poem to further portray the meaning.
There are many things that can influence any poem whilst being written, mainly these are events in the poets life, the social, economic and political environment, the school of the poet and in fact the poet’s mental state. So with this in mind it is important, for a deeper understanding of the poem, that we know at least a few of the noted things above.
Edward Thomas was born in London, England and was known during his time as a critic essayist and writer of books about the countryside. This explains somewhat the subject and setting of ‘Tall Nettles’. He was encouraged to write from an early age, presumably by his teacher at St Paul’s School then in his further education at Lincoln College, Oxford, he then went on to write prose. Thomas was moving towards poetry when he met Robert Frost, an American poet, who further encouraged him. From there he crammed all his poetry into the next two years and was killed in action in 1917. Thomas wrote his poems during wartime but was not largely influenced by this major event instead wrote about his love for the English countryside.
Ted Hughes was born in England, in the grip of the Great Depression. However Hughes found solace and seclusion in South Yorkshire where he escaped from his life in West Yorkshire. His father was one of the sole survivors of the WW1, Gallipoli Expedition and this would have had a significant impact on Hughes as a young boy. Hughes was educated at Pembroke College then moved onto Cambridge University in 1951, but it was at Mexemborough Grammar School that he began to write poetry. Ted was also a naturalist which would explain his passion for nature. All of these biographical details of both poets help us to understand these two poems with a greater depth of understanding and clarity.
Nature at its simplest against man at its best; plosives and fricatives compared to fluids and sibilants; rhyme, rhythm and punctuation; finally Oxford against Cambridge. Comparisons between these two poems have been made in the hope to give a better understanding of the two poems mentioned, and hopefully it has been achieved through the in depth analysis of these two very complex but at the same time simple poems, Tall Nettles by Edward Thomas and Thistles by Ted Hughes.