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A Comparison of the two poems, 'The Isles of Scilly' and 'At the British War Cemetery, Bayeux'

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Introduction

A Comparison of the two poems, 'The Isles of Scilly' and 'At the British War Cemetery, Bayeux' The two poems express grieving for the dead, and both use similar language in some respects in their use of metaphors and language and are very emotional in their content in order to convey the feeling of grief for the large numbers of dead appropriately. Curiously, for two such emotional poems, they both bear very nonchalant and almost clinical titles, both simply naming the place that the poem is about which clearly in no way indicates the emotional content of the poem, seemingly fulfilling no real purpose other than to be strangely ironic. In At the British war cemetery, Bayeux, Charles Causley writes about the 'five thousand' dead, buried at the cemetery that the title indicates. The poem has a very ordered structure echoing the structured and orderly lines upon lines of graves and gravestones at a war cemetery supported later by referring to the dead as in 'geometry' of sleep. Grigson's poem, however, is much less straightforward and uses a combination of enjambment and a general feeling of unorderliness in his layout of the poem to convey the feeling of untidiness about the weatherworn and shipwreck-scattered shores of the Scilly Isles. ...read more.

Middle

They ask of the poet 'the only gift you cannot give'; they both know it is impossible for him to give them back the life that they have lost but which he possesses, and the realisation of this is understandably saddening for the poet, and so he has made it the dead who ask for the life, who through empathy, understand that he cannot give it, rather than making it seem as if he were able to offer it but would not, through selfishness. The Isles of Scilly, although similar in its general theme to Causley's poem, sets about creating the mourning for the dead through pathetic fallacy and symbols for the feelings and emotions, rather than using a human to describe mourning for the dead directly. He paints a very sombre picture of the Isles, which for him represent the 'dead hope' of the deceased who, unlike those in Causley's have not achieved their aim through death; rather they were sailing from Europe for a new life in America but were killed on the notoriously shipwreck-scattered coasts of the Isles of Scilly whereas the dead in Bayeux, although not meaning to die, collectively achieved their aim, and for that there is some hope left in the poem. ...read more.

Conclusion

As the night draws in with its 'destroying fear', the island is transformed into the storm-plagued island which causes this destruction, looked upon by the rising moon which 'cannot care'. This notion that the moon is noticeably the only thing not mourning for the dead implies the comparative insignificance to anything so distant of the shattered hopes and lost lives that the remains on the island represent to him, and that he has so carefully written about. Where Causley consoles himself in his belief that the dead understood his predicament through empathy, Grigson finds similar comfort in believing that when he sees something that for him reminds him of the dead, it is there for that very reason, and that the human feelings which he ascribes to inanimate and unintelligent objects which have survived on the island while those aboard the ships did not, is deliberate. He views the Islands themselves and everything that is on them as the memorial to the dead, where Causley considers the memorial of the dead in his poem to be not such a physical thing, but the legacy of the victory which they died to achieve, and the resulting freedom that such a triumph brought about. ...read more.

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