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Discuss the attitudes towards old age as expressed in a selection of poems.

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Introduction

Discuss the attitudes towards old age as expressed in a selection of poems studied in class. Old age brings with its advent, its own implications just like any other phase of human life and the wisest thing we can do when age "creeps up" on us is to explore its possibilities and profit by it. R.S. Thomas, "the hewer of stony verse", wrote "Good", a wonderful poem, in which not a single image or phrase seems out of place, and the simplicity of its themes and directness of language show the characteristic care with which Thomas selected and arranged his words. The poem itself is quiet and restrained and achieves a slow grandeur denied to most evocations of death, old age and the passing of time. The scene is set immediately as "the old man comes out on the hill", hinting undoubtedly at a long, possibly tiring lifetime's journey. The opening image makes a dramatic and lasting impression on the reader and establishes a sense of purity and perfection as the old man attempts to recapture his "earlier days" spent in the valley below. ...read more.

Middle

his young wife fetches him cakes and tea and a dark smile." The last three lines have a rhythmic intensity and culminate in a simple yet solemn statement that "...It is well." "On Platform 5" by Edward Storey, there is a sense of a life wasted. Based on honest observations of the poet, the pity the reader is invited to feel for so much wasted life is not dwelt on but linger as an angry question in the silences that pass between and elderly relative and his/her family saying goodbye to each other at a railway station. In the poem, Storey's tone of voice is severe as he condemns the lack of care in our society for the old. In focussing on a leave taking between relatives at a railway station, he emphasises the distance, unspoken between the family group and turns our attention to the anxiety and fear of extreme loneliness in old age leaving only a; "...terrifying journey back to yourself". ...read more.

Conclusion

Finally, two lovers who had courted her; "Come back again, one brown with blazing eyes, the other with seaweed in his hair". We are told "she had not been kind" to either. The last three stanzas describe her death and although there is some comfort in her imagining that her "visitors" are with her as "they held her", at the moment of death, the reality is that she died completely alone in an indifferent world, the sad silence of her unfulfilled life clearly emphasised in the conclusion of the poem. "Only the cat picked out with the mincing feet His delicate way among the caret flowers; And all the rippled quiet lay smooth once more." As people advance in years, they become more introspective, if not always by choice. Children may marry and move away. There will be losses to death, grief and loneliness and contact with family members or grand children can be fulfilling reminders of the continuity of life and one's place in the grand scheme of things and it is these ideas and attitudes that are expressed in the poems discussed. ...read more.

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