Prompt: The following two poems are about Helen of Troy. Renowned in the ancient world for her beauty, Helen was the wife of Menelaus, a Greek King. She was carried off to Troy by the Trojan prince Paris, and her abduction was the immediate cause of the Trojan War. Read the two poems carefully. Considering such elements as speaker, diction, imagery, form, and tone, write a well-organized essay in which you contrast the speakers’ views of Helen.
The beauty Helen carried was undeniably near perfection, however looked upon differently through many eyes. In the poems "To Helen" by Edgar Allan Poe and "Helen" by H.D. we are given opposite views of Helen through imagery, diction, and symbolism. While to Poe Helen is a beauty that draws him closer, to H.D. Helen is deceiving beauty that has caused tragedy to strike in Greece and left only bad traces behind. Using certain elements the authors are able to portray a certain message that gives the reader a clear view on the point of view the narrator has towards Helen.
In the poem "To Helen" Poe does nothing but praise the beauty that Helen has and makes her to be close to flawless. Just beginning with the title we are given the feeling that this is a love letter to Helen from the narrator. Also in the first line we are given the first person perspective reinforcing the love letter idea. Through the diction of Poe we are given direct characterization as to the beauty of Helen "Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,..." Also this makes Poe's poem very different because it makes Helen a character who was very graceful and elegant. The imagery and symbolism of the fleets of boats leads into the image that Helen has lead him (the speaker) into the greatest civilizations of antiquity, Greece and Rome. All this poetic affection of flawless beauty puts Helen to be up on a high pedestal and basically untouchable for the speaker.
On the contrary in H.D.'s poem "Helen" the tone carries a lot of anger and resentment towards Helen and all the beauty she has. The fact that her beauty led to the Trojan war and the bad in Greece seems to make the speaker very angry. With diction like "hate" and "revile" not only is the idea of the speaker hating her given but all of Greece. Even though her beauty is given in detail here as well it is said that her beauty is the downfall of everything. The imagery of Helen becoming paler and seems to be withering away through the poem makes it to be as if Helen is very bad and even her beauty begins to fade and go away. This poem completely takes Helen off of the pedestal set up by Por in his poem. Even though through the whole poem Helen's beauty is recognized no matter what, the anger carried stands out no matter what.
A love letter and hate mail are what I think after reading these two wonderful poems "To Helen" and "Helen". Through the imagery portrayed of gracefulness and pale beauty we are given different views on Helen. The fact that one loved Helen and that the other despised Helen for her beauty and what it caused in Greece is given to us through all the literary elements used by the authors.
POETRY ESSAY PROMPT #2
1989 Poem: “The Great Scarf of Birds” (John Updike)
Prompt: Write a well-organized essay in which you analyze how the poem's organization, diction, and figurative language prepare the reader for the speaker's concluding response.
(Now that my internet is back here it is)
On a 40 min time frame this is what I got. Pretty bad after I read it when I was done. Still working on how I can better my understanding of the poem.
In the poem "The Great Scarf of Birds" by John Updike we experience the beauty of nature through elements like imagery, diction, and organization. Throughout the poem the speaker reveals all of his emotions through the detailed descriptions the tree, and birds in nature. We don't really get a sense however of the speakers overall feelings until the end of the poem. Using the elements mentioned above the author reveals the true meaning of his comparisons and observations.
The main point of the poem was the flock of birds that hovered over the speaker and covered the light. When the birds fly over he says, "Long had it been since my heart had been lifted as it was by the lifting of that great scarf."(line 50) revealing to us this is the first time in a long time he has felt this kind of joy. This gives the poem the overall feeling that as humans we don't really appreciate nature as much as we should. Although we see nature everyday we don't really take a long breathe and look into nature. Through the imagery given by the author for example, "Ripe apples were caught like red fish in the nets of their branches" we are made to think about nature and focus on creating a lovely scenery in our head that brings us to the realization the author came to. Those examples given through the speaker makes it to be as if you were in the speakers shoes taking a step back to view the world.
Through the literary elements the author has expressed to us the longing he has to feel the release of burdens he carried and be able to breath deeply as he did when his heart was lifted. Through the textual examples we are able to see the lack of appreciation for the beauty of nature we sometimes have and for the fact we don't step back a lot of the time to realize our surroundings.