The Warm and the Cold.
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The Warm and the Cold Subject matter This poem is about winter and comes from a series of poems by Hughes called Season Songs. * The intense coldness of the approaching dusk on the trees and roads and hills is described, but the animals are safe and warm in their own special bedding. * Freezing night falls, but other (different) animals are also safe and secure. * Although the moonlit world is covered by a film of frost, still more animals are oblivious to the cold, snug in their winter homes. * It is so cold that the moon itself is frightened; farmers, tucked up in bed, turn over in their sleep like oxen on spits. Language Read the poem again carefully and see if you can explore how the language contributes to the poet's message: * The contrast that we first see in the title (warm/cold) is continued throughout the poem: we are presented with a description of the cold landscape first, then read of the animals who remain warm even in the depths of winter.
Here, the butterfly is protected from the cold by its cocoon - its mummy. Mummies usually hold dead bodies, but this one contains a live chrysalis, which shows how although winter seems to kill things, there is life underneath. A chrysalis is shaped a bit like a violin case; out of both comes something beautiful - the music of a violin complements the colourful wings of a butterfly. * You should examine all the other similes, verse by verse. * The moon is personified [= is described as a person]. The flimsy moon / Has lost her wits. This suggests that even the moon finds it hard to stand up to winter. * In contrast to this, the sweating farmers are seen as oxen on spits. The moon is compared to people while people are compared to animals. Why do you think this might be? Turn over Sound There is a strong rhythm in the poem: The flies are behind the plaster Like the lost score of a jig Sparrows are in the ivy-clump Like money in a pig.
Ideas and attitudes Now that you have read the poem carefully, what do you believe Hughes is saying about winter? Consider these ideas: * Winter is a time of harsh weather. * Despite this, the animals are not affected, remaining safe and warm in their particular homes. * Part of the beauty of nature is the way that creatures have adapted themselves to fight against the bitter cold of winter. * Winter is very powerful - it can create a mammoth of ice of the world. * Hughes seems to marvel that each type of animal - fish, beast or bird - is so well adapted to the conditions. Even the softest, most gentle animals can survive the winter's cold. Tone To decide on the tone, you need to think about the ideas and attitudes in the poem, and then decide: * what the overall feeling of the poem is * how you would read it aloud. Is this poem: * calm, peaceful and without bitterness? Perhaps winter is, after all, a good time - it allows the animals the rest and peace they need. * slightly sinister and dangerous? Look particularly at the end of the poem
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