The poet’s feelings of great admiration for and love of his mother are evident throughout the poem. The opening line with its succession of superlatives, ‘most near’, ‘most dear’ and ‘most loved’, and straight way attests strongly to these feelings. His exuberant exclamation near the end of the poem, ‘and so I send O all my faith and all my love to her...’confirms the strength of these feelings. The warm, humorous, delightfully frank way Baker describes his ‘irresistible’ mother in the intervening lines also convinces us of his strong attachment to her. These feelings are moreover, reinforced by the warm, playful, exuberant tone he employs throughout the poem.
The sonnet form with the necessity for compression that it imposes is particularly suitable for this brief but deeply-felt tribute. In the fourteen lines, Baker provides a vivid and appealing cameo of his mother, not only her large size, but also of her habits, sense of humour, lively, enquiring mind, compassion, loud, exuberant love of life, courage and faith. In the octave of the sonnet, he accumulates vivid impressions of all these characteristics except for the most important ones, her courage and faith, which he reserves for the sestet which provides the sonnet with its point: it is these last two qualities in particular which will enable her to ‘move from mourning to morning’
The poet’s language is mostly simple and non-poetic, in fact, generally part of everyday speech or the vernacular; this suggests the genuineness of the poet’s feelings. His basically simple, everyday vocabulary has, however, a great deal of verve, as in the strongly assertive first line consisting mostly of monosyllables:
‘Most near, most dear, most loved, most far.’
Other ordinary, everyday language helps establish his mother in the reader’s mind as a real, flesh-and-blood person: ‘Under the window where I often saw her’, while the ‘Gin and chicken helpless in her hand’ conveys the gusto with which she enjoyed food and her favourite tipple, gin. The above line also suggests her huge size as the piece of chicken is ‘helpless’ or dwarfed by her large hand. In Baker’s poem, his mother is not at all an idealized person but a larger-than –life, charismatic character whose shortcomings even, namely her fondness for food and drink, seem like attractions and part of her colourful, expansive personality.
In the sestet, Baker pictures his mother leaning ‘on the mahogany table life a mountain’ again creating a very strong impression of her bulk and solidity.
There are, however, a few exceptions to the poet’s use of largely everyday language, for example, in the literary allusion he makes to his mother being ‘as irresistible as Rabelais’. This reference conveys a wealth of ideas about his mother, specially, her gaiety of mind, liveliness of intellect, verbal wit and, and because Rabelais was a physician as well as a monk, her medical knowledge in tending to ‘the lame dogs and hurt birds’ that surrounded her. Baker’s mother to whom the poem is addressed and the educated, literary coterie for whom he wrote would appreciate fully the richness of suggestion in his comparing his mother to Rabelais. In fact, Baker who, like many modern English writers such as Joyce, admires the writings of the Fifteenth Century French monk and doctor, in this poem displays many of the characteristics of his model: the verbal wit evident, for instance, in the pun on ‘mourning’ and ‘morning’’ the gaiety of mood of the poem; and the use of the vernacular as opposed to ‘educated’ language.
Like most of Baker’s diction, his imagery in this poem is simple and down-to-earth but highly effective. Very appropriately because of her sheer size, Baker compares his mother to vast, solid geographical features and elemental forces. He remembers her sitting ‘as huge as Asia, a vast continent of amorphous shape, conjures up a vivid picture of his mother’s huge, billowing bulk. Some readers might consider his imaginative comparisons irreverent, but it is clear that, for him, the immensity of her size is part of her larger-than-life appeal. A similar impression is conveyed by the metaphor, ‘seismic with laughter’, to describe her seeming to shake the very earth with her laughter. Moreover, in comparing his mother to a ‘mountain’, Baker employs a delightfully ‘Rabelaisian’ play on words with the echo of ‘Faith can move mountains’ and ‘The mountains will not come to Mahomed: Mahomed must come to the mountains’. Nothing except ‘faith’ can ‘move’ his mother who stands as firm in her faith and principles as an immovable ‘mountain’.
Also an a large scale, but with a human frame of reference, is his comparison of his mother o a ‘procession’ and ‘brass band’, these images conveying a vivid impression of her expansive size and loud, colourful, charismatic personality whish seems to draw everyone’s attention like the colourful spectacle of a ‘procession’ or the loud, cheery entertainment of a ‘brass band’. Indeed, in comparison with his mother, others paled into insignificance resembling a pathetic ‘little dog’ following ridiculously in the wake of such a public performance. Thus through his imagery, the poet creates a vivid picture of many facets of his mother: her size; exuberant manner; religious faith; and magnetic personality.
Baker also makes use of direct comparison to show up his great-hearted mother against lesser mortals who ‘scuttle’ fearfully to a ‘cellar’ whilst she will not even ‘glance up’ at the bomber or ‘condescend/ To drop her gin’. This contrast suggests that his mother is almost superhuman in her courage and proper pride.
So vivid and life-like is baker’s portrait of his mother that I see her in my mind’s eyes as a real but larger-than-life personality and I appreciate fully how such a mother would win his love and unqualified admiration.
Here's what a teacher thought of this essay
This is a very strong essay with some excellent analysis of language and writer's purpose. There is good support used from the text and a breadth of points are covered. Further exploration of structure is recommended, particularly when looking at a piece of poetry. Always ensure careful planning before writing an essay, including full consideration of a suitable question and how the analysis will relate to the question.