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"King Billy" by Edwin Morgan is a poem about the life and death of Glasgow gang leader Billy Fullarton

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Introduction

"King Billy" by Edwin Morgan King Billy is a poem about the life and death of Glasgow gang leader Billy Fullarton. It is written in free verse and uses many writing techniques to get across the feeling and emotions of Edwin Morgan. Morgan opens the poem by giving us a powerful image of a dark, dismal graveyard. He uses personification to describe the "Gravestones huddled together in drizzling shadow" giving human characteristics to inanimate lumps of stone, making us imagine ourselves, hunched over trying to keep warm. The image of the wreath "blown from its grave" gives us a powerful feeling of loneliness and not fitting in because, as a bright "red, white, blue and gold," object it stands out and looks out of place in the dank, gloomy place, which arouses our sympathy for whoever it is that has died. This first verse is in a very different style from the rest of the poem as it is entirely about "setting the scene". ...read more.

Middle

In addition, the use of commas and short words, which makes us read it quickly, helps to convey the urgency and speed with which it happened. Morgan also conveys the pointlessness and futility of the violence by making it sound repetitive and never ending "get the Conks next time, the Conks ambush the Billy Boys, the Billy Boys the Conks.." showing it was all a vicious circle that they seemed to be trapped in. In the next part of the poem, Morgan manages to again change our ideas about Billy Fullarton by describing how he only had friends and admirers when he was a "local legend" and famous for his violent deeds. Morgan talks of how he was "lost in better days" and that he "died alone" in "box bed" showing that he was poor and friendless at the end of his life, making us realise that really, he is to be more pitied than hated. ...read more.

Conclusion

The fact that only these last four lines rhyme is a clever way of emphasising their importance in what Morgan is trying to say. This poem is very powerful, in that it makes us consider the pointless way of life for many young men in the 1930s, living through the depression and caught up in a cycle of sectarian violence that ultimately got them nowhere. It could be the story of any of these men. It tells us about religious differences being used as an excuse to fight, something that has gone on for hundreds of years, on all scales. The title compares a small time gang leader to King William of Orange, who fought to secure the British crown for protestant kings, and who many see as the embodiment of protestants triumphing over Catholics. By using the title "King Billy" Morgan compares these two men and shows us that perhaps people needed to believe that, by approving of the kind of man Billy Fullarton was, they were somehow supporting their faith against their "enemies" the Catholics, rather than just condoning mindless violence. ...read more.

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