'Before You Cut Loose' by Simon Armitage.
‘Before You Cut Loose’ by
The poem, ‘Before You Cut Loose’ by Simon Armitage is not set out in structures and is one stanza consisting of twenty three lines. The poem makes use of enjambment so that sentences are not interrupted for the purpose of rhyme. This also means that the sentence structure is not disrupted. Each line of the poem contains ten syllables with the main stress of each sentence being on the fifth and the tenth syllable of each line. By stressing the fifth and tenth syllables, a repetitive tone is created which reflects the casualness, lack of responsibility and callousness that not only does this poem use but that society today uses also. This can be shown to effect in the lines,
“I heard a story of a dog that swam
to the English coast from the Isle of Man”
This also shows full use of rhyme. Not all of the lines in the poem are of full rhyme and some lines include half rhyme such as with the words “life” and “night”. The poem also contains ellipsis in the first line as the poem starts from half way across the page with,
It seems that there are some words missing from the beginning of the poem that makes the poem more interesting and different.
The poem has a very informal manner. It is not directed at any individual person and the use of ellipsis, where there seems to be a word or more than one word missing from the sentence is used effectively to keep to the ten syllable per line structure. The words “bacon eaten” which are used in the poem seem to be cut short and it feels that it should actually have written, “the bacon was eaten”. It’s register is very standard and it is wrote how you would expect Simon Armitage to say it.
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‘Before You Cut Loose’ has a number of different semantic fields. One of these is the continuous theme of loyalty and obedience. Throughout the poem, Armitage explores the idea of dogs being forgiving, forgetful and kind to their owners even though they have to encounter harsh and violent treatment from them. In this poem, Armitage explains that dogs retain their loyalty no matter what punishments they are given. Their ownes may treat them terribly but they still have the desire and aspiration to return home to their owner, a good quote for this semantic field is,
“To die at home, a dog might walk its four legs to the bone.”
This idea of dogs being kind, loyal and obedient then encourages another semantic field of guilt and responsibility. Armitage uses a number of verbs to effectively bring about guilt felt by the reader towards dogs. He uses verbs such as “hurled”, “kicked” and “got rid of” to produce a large impact of guilt on the reader. This is also an abandoned responsibility because the owners are not being responsible of their dogs’ welfare that is one of the main roles of being a dog owner. Guilt and abandoned responsibility are explained in the poem through connotations in the poem like the quote below:
“No dog howls like a dog kicked out at night.
Try looking a dog like that in the eye.”
These lines can have a big affect on how bad dog owners can be motivated into changing their behaviour towards their dog.
Another clear semantic field in the poem is that that concerns the cruelty towards dogs. Cruelty is connected with the two above semantic fields, the loyalty that dogs show even they are exposed to violence and the guilt felt by the readers for treating the dogs in these ill-manner ways. This semantic field is also backed up by the use of a number of related verbs like, “kicked”, “hurled” and “ditched”. A phrase to outline the cruelty towards dogs in this poem is,
“Kicked out at night”
By leaving a dog out in the cold weather all night, this is seen as cruel and shows the cruelty that people show dogs. This semantic field fits in perfectly with the other two fields as we have the loyalty of the dogs which is destroyed by the violence of their owners which is cruel and makes the reader feel guilty due to their lack of responsibility.
Simon Armitage uses imagery in this poem to highlight how badly treated dogs are. For example, the quote,
“Bounced like balls”
which is used to describe the loyalty and friendliness that dogs show their owners even if they are treated badly You can imagine a dog jumping up and down with excitement to see their owner or just a visitor. Imagery is also used to image stranded dogs feeling lonely and miles away from home. The quote for this is,
“Those dogs ditched on the North York Moors.”
This image is a cruel one and you can image a dog that is abandoned in the middle of nowhere to defend for themselves.
Other examples of imagery are the idea of dogs trying to return home from places far from home. There is a great image of a dog that is getting more and more tired through the poem but keeps trying to head home in the right direction, and “crawling the last mile”.
In this poem, Armitage explores more than the treatment of dogs, he also questions society and its responsibilities and morals. Phrases such as, “put dogs on the list” reflects casualness and the fact that the dog just seems to be another one of the many errands a person has to do during the day. It reflects an unimportance to prioritise or actually carry out their jobs when they need doing. If we look at this phrase at society instead of the dog, we could say that the dogs work as a metaphor in the poem as it could actually about the way that people abuse society and are immoral towards society rather than the dogs themselves.
Another example of this is in the title, ‘Before You Cut Loose’; this is inviting the reader to face up to society’s behaviour and responsibility before they let go of it totally. The expression ‘cutting loose’ is usually associated with letting go of something and in Armitage’s poem, he could be referring to cutting loose of decency and morals. This is another example of a metaphor used in the poem. The title could also just mean the letting go of a dog’s reign.
Armitage’s intentions in this poem are very obvious. Armitage intends to evoke guilt, provoke thought and evoke emotion. He evokes guilt in the poem concerning the cruelty that the dog’s owners inflict on their dogs. Armitage explains that although the dogs are violently “kicked” and “hurled”, they are still loyal and obedient to their owners. Armitage provokes thought in the poem through a number of different themes including loyalty, obedience and responsibility. He also evokes emotion by giving the reader reasons to sympathise with the dogs, feeling sad for them and also evoking the guilt that evokes emotion.
Armitage’s intentions are very evident throughout the poem and he uses these intentions to relate the poem to the lives of the readers. This poem affected me greatly as it made me think about how badly dogs can be treated and even though they are treated like this, they are still loyal and loveable to their owners.