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Skirrid Hill

Skirrid Hill

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The idea that the poet feels that he ‘should have known’ what his father was trying to say by planting the oak further highlights the gap between their personalities. Sheers, a man of words, is likely to be less oblique in his communication, yet he accepts that his father is a more taciturn character, less likely to share his grievances. The title of this poem is a pun on ‘father’. The poem explores the relationship between the poet and his father, and also the nature of generations and family inheritance in the emotional and spiritual sense.

By mentioning that swans ‘mate for life’, Sheers includes another parallel between animals and humans and allows for he and his lover to model their behaviour on that of the birds. The birds swim apart but eventually return to each other, just like the lovers’ hands. The quotation from TS Eliot with which Sheers has chosen to preface his collection reflects, perhaps, his own awareness of the changes that have taken place in his poetry over the last five years. "As we grow older," says Eliot in The Four Quartets, "The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated / Of dead and living." After the raw energy and drive of The Blue Book, Sheers has arrived at a point of reflection; Skirrid Hill, consequently, is an altogether subtler work than its predecessor. Any loss of vigour is, however, more than made up for by a ripening of tone: Sheers's voice is noticeably firmer now, his ear more refined. In terms of prosody, too, this is a far tauter collection; the confident use of internal and sprung rhymes produces an easy lyricism, while his rhythms are wonderfully dextrous, at times so delicate as to be sensed rather than heard. Farther’ by Owen Sheers describes a trek up Skirrid Hill which Sheers and his father take on the 27th of December.

Uncharacteristically the poem draws a parallel between people and a man-made object, whereas in the collection most parallels are drawn between the world of man and the world of nature. The description of the swallows here serves as an allegory for the constant departures and arrivals of his family, the sunrises and sunsets, the trees planted for births and deaths, and the way that the different generations ‘fly’ together. The birds flying in unison is a reflection of him and his grandfather performing castration together in the field, or he and his father climbing up Skirrid Hill together. The Pardoner’s Prologue involves the ‘Pardoner’ speaking directly to his audience before telling his tale. He tells his audience of the sins that he has committed and what a depraved life he has lead. It shows us that the sort of stories that are told are always influenced by the person telling them (ie. bad people tell stories about bad people). This clearly links in with Sheers’ tone in this poem, as he is telling us ‘just how dark he runs inside’. What I mean by this is that Sheers could be accused, in making this link, of suggesting that women’s ‘magic’ is the bewitching effect of making themselves look more beautiful than they are, yet male ‘magic’ is in practical, useful things, such as harvesting eggs.

Divorce (if we can also take ‘divorce’ to mean the breakdown of things) and separation are absolutely crucial to this collection and, as a result the title and the note on the title are vital to the book’s meaning. The setting is almost clichéd — the lovers are on holiday in the romance capital of Europe, Paris. Despite this, the setting seems irrelevant; their relationship is not enhanced by the location and they seem isolated from the rest of the world. The ending suggests that their love affair is in the past. The crudeness of the ‘red wings’ image also shows us that much of the poem is being told through the anecdotal wording of the Jones character himself. We imagine that the image of the ‘umbrella blown inside out’ is Sheers’ poetic interjection, rather than a quote from Jones – the contrast between the two types of description shows us how different Sheers feels from this small-town man. Just as it began with an ironic title, the final line, ‘a strange harvest of the seeds we’d sown’ has the intended semantic link with robbing the lambs of their seed. The hollowed out mountain side was actually more likely caused by a landslide during the ice age! Enjoy These Nearby Walks Next!The quote is from the prologue to The Pardoner’s Tale. This is a story about men who go out with the intention of killing Death, who they blame for their friend’s passing. They end up killing each other in the end as a result of their own greed and so have found ‘death’. The ‘strange harvest’ has the obvious reverberation of Billie Holiday’s ‘Strange Fruit’ which reminds us of the horrific things a man will do to preserve their way of life and makes the visual link between the elastic ‘O’ and a hangman’s noose. The farrier is an archetypal masculine, manual labouring figure, creating a contrast with those we see in the industries of service and entertainment later on in the collection (see ‘Services’ or ‘L.A. Evening’. The fact that he is smoking a roll-up suggests an extension of the values of working with hands as well as a rejection of modern innovation and the ubiquitous health warnings on the dangers of smoking; in ‘Wake’ we see a man dying of lung-cancer, as if to create a book-end to this disregard. There is nothing modern about his attire or his physical appearance, the sideburns for example. Route 1 requires a little more navigational skill than route 2. I like both of these routes but find I enjoy the views from the ridge better when I’m walking up it rather than walking down it, which means I slightly favour route 1. (Although you can obviously do route 2 in reverse!) Digging by Seamus Heaney– It is one of the best Seamus Heaney poems. Here, the poet talks about his family tradition and how he is also upholding this tradition through his poetry.



  • Fruugo ID: 258392218-563234582
  • EAN: 764486781913
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