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Poetry and Melancholy in Sheers Examination of Welsh Identity

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"Beneath the lyrical and pastoral influences on Welsh Border literature lies a deeply elegiac, even tragic note." Compare and contrast the different ways in which two of your chosen texts present poetry and melancholy in their examination of Welsh Identity. The borderland represents much to those that live there. It is a geographical, geological and linguistic border, plunging the entire area into a limbo of confused identity; twilight poised between the lyrical dreams of magic and myth, and the overcast, oppressive reality. Therefore the Welsh border literature is influenced lyrically due to the rich oral tradition of the cyfarwydd carrying stories rooted in Celtic mythology from village to village. The collection of poems in Skirrid Hill by Owen Sheers is evident of lyricism, as the natural rhythms seem to capture the storytelling skill of the bardd. The pastoral influences stem from the intimacy and dependence that Welsh people living on the border show to the land, represented by the huge amount of agriculture and mining that took place in the 19th and 20th centuries. This is shown in Resistance, also by Owen Sheers, as the writer presents poetry in such a way that people and the landscape become inseparably interdependent. ...read more.


This is a tendentious comment however, as one might argue that Sheers is effective in unveiling the tragic note beneath the lyrical and pastoral influences in his writing. It is clear that Sheers uses the metaphor of the 'shallow handhold' to represent the instability and inevitable death of human relationships, and the fact that these connections can only exist in dreams and thought, which themselves are transient and fragile. This theme can also be seen in Resistance, as whilst Albrecht and Gernot dream of eternal love between them and the farm women, this is never realised. Critic Ingrid Wassenhaar points out the impossibility of these relationships, 'the novel begins with an ending- the disappearance of the husbands. Its quest throughout is for an ending that might be a fresh start.' Therefore Wassenhaar suggests that the tragic note in Resistance stems from the fact that the intentions of Albrecht and his patrol are doomed from the start. This is supported by the quotation, 'the river...would always rediscover its course, however much he wished to dam it with the insignificant pebbles of his own intentions.' It is the belief in eternal relationships, whether those are between a father and son, or a man and woman, which sets in motion the tragedy of both Farther and Resistance. ...read more.


Olivia Cole believes that, 'this is the limbo in which Skirrid Hill is anchored...this elegiac sense of belatedness.' This opinion is poignant, as Sheers subtly proposes the question, is it too late to go back to simplicity, to truth, and to life? Author Garan Holcombe beautifully sums up Resistance, in such a way that it is also relevant to Skirrid Hill, 'Resistance, like everything Sheers has written, is a eulogy to the meditative beauty of the landscape and a cry for communal values in a time of ruthless individualism.' It is this 'ruthless individualism' which is the source of much of the elegiac tone in both works, as it undermines the pastoral and lyrical influences from 'the meditative beauty of the landscape.' After reading both works, it becomes evident why Sheers chooses the Welsh borderland for his elegy; the area is representative of the borders that the people themselves create, thus choking any potential for intimacy, and stopping them from experiencing true love, or even just life. Indeed, these borders may be legitimate, for example a language barrier or the obstacle of illness. However, where these borders derive from memories, dreams and fear, there lies the true tragedy of humankind. Word Count: 1550 ?? ?? ?? ?? Jonathan Inglis Poetry and Melancholy in Sheers' Examination of Welsh Identity pg. 1 ...read more.

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