-The speaker is attempting to draw sympathy from the reader. However the lines-
“I turned to ice to hear my costly……………….
And shredded ragtime”
-detracts any sympathy felt here. The speaker does not appear to be mourning the loss of all the lives that night, but more so the loss of his career and material assets. He is materialistic in his views as he comments on a list of goods he lost but nowhere does he make any references to the many people who lost their lives on his ship. The dramatic tone in this description-
“…Thundering down in a pandemonium of
Prams, pianos…boilers bursting”
-and the aural effects of onomatopoeia emphasize the chaos and confusion of the tragedy on board the Titanic that night. This is an attempt to evoke sympathy, suggesting that Ismay was so caught up in the confusion he was not able to rationalize his action of fleeing the sinking ship. He uses this alliteration-
“…Pandemonium of prams, pianos…”
-to emphasize his attempt to gain respect. The use of “Boilers bursting…” is a very violent, fierce verb illustrating the traumaticness of the sinking.
The following line is another reference to Bruce’s cowardly behaviour.
“Now I hide
In a lonely house behind the sea”
“Hide” being the last word on the line is emphasized in this way. The use of-
“Lonely house behind the sea”
-Shows a solitary existence, and “behind” indicates his guilt, cowardness, he cannot get away from his trauma.
At this point in the poem there is a noticeable time shift. Bruce is now reflecting, looking back, showing the past continues to affect him. The elongated sentence-
“Where the tide leaves broken toys and hatboxes
Silently at my door.”
-creates an impression of relentless, interminable guilt. This does evoke sympathy as it illustrates how Ismay is living a joyless life. However the fact that this pain is all a self-inflicted hermitage that he cannot get away from, due to his lack of chivalry detracts sympathy from him. The “broken toys and hatboxes” are clearly figments of Ismay’s imagination and they are all related to women and children. Again these emblematic images are an evocation of his guilt. The line-
“The showers of
April, flowers of May, mean nothing to me, nor the
Late light of June,”
-Shows more of this guilt as a result of his lack of manliness at taking the places of others on the lifeboats. The months mentioned are the most beautiful months of the year with pleasant associations however they “mean nothing” to the speaker because he takes no happiness from anything anymore. He lives a joyless, self-inflicted hermitage. This is a clever line, which forces the reader into feeling sympathy for him. The speaker does not wish to associate himself with civilization any more. He refers to the gardener with simply “the gardener”. He is not aware of the gardener’s name, nor does the gardener refer to Bruce with his name. This is symbolic of how Bruce does not talk with people himself, but instead the gardener speaks about him-
“When the gardener
Describes to strangers how the old man stays in bed
On seaward mornings after nights of
Wind, and will see no one, repeat no one.”
Even the way in which “strangers” is used indicates how Bruce has hidden himself away from everybody, as he is filled up with guilt. “Stays in bed” is a description of mental anguish as Bruce stays in bed. He lives a purposeless existence with nothing to get up for. “Seaward mornings” is a reference to the day that the Titanic sank. The weather conditions act as a reminder to him as to what happened that day. His weak state is clear here and sympathy is felt for him, as it can be seen how climatic changes can provoke turmoil and misery in him. The use of the negative word “no one” is evocative of how the speaker is shunning out all of the great outdoors. The language used here is mainly monosyllabic showing how Bruce is adamant about seeing anybody. The use of “no one, repeat no one” represents a radio command. This shows his obsession with the trauma he is living and how the day is permanently planted within his mind.
In the following line, metonymical language is used and it creates a sense of cold detachment from the victims of the catastrophe, which detracts a sense of sympathy for Ismay:
“Then it is
I drown again with all those dim,
Lost faces I never understood.”
The reference with the forceful verb “I drown” suggests that he is repeatedly reliving the experience when the Titanic sunk. His suffering is parallel to any victims; only he has to live with it all his life. Past and present, he is still experiencing torture. This does evoke some sympathy. “Never understood” hinders any sympathy felt for him however, as his lack of empathy with the victims makes it hard for us to relate any sympathy to him.
Towards the close of the poem, a self-pitying, self-indulgent tone is employed again:
“My poor soul
Screams out in the starlight, heart
Breaks loose and rolls like a stone.”
The use of “Screams” indicates how he keeps reliving the incident. And is a very violent word. “Breaks loose” is a simile showing how he is living a life that is emotionally distraught. “Rolls down like a stone,” emphasizes his parallel experience with the victims. He drowned emotionally, but that is still as fundamental and serious as the death of the victims. The simile creates a feeling of pity towards the speaker.
The poem closes with a direct plea to the reader to feel sympathy towards him. This self-absorbed tone detracts sympathy for Bruce by itself. The line-
“Include me in your lamentations”
-is an ironic line as it implies that Ismay wants to be included but he himself is shying away and hiding from society. This shows how he is still self-absorbed and self-pitying. It comes across as demanding and so revokes away from the sympathy felt for him. The final and ending word, “lamentations” means mourning and is a concluding attempt at attaining recognition and respect. It closes on a note of plea, a request.
“Shore Woman” is a detailed description of a woman’s experience of being traumatized by attacking porpoises at sea and how her husband’s irresponsible treatment has affected her in the aftermath of the attack. “Shore Woman” begins in the past tense but quickly changes to the present. The tense changes numerous times throughout giving the impression of a natural narrator.
The poem opens with-
“I have crossed the dunes with their whistling bent
Where dry loose sand was riddling round the air”
-There is a first person narrative here and present tense, which gives a sense of immunity. The fact that she is out at the shore very close to where the incident happened, shows how the speaker would much rather be out of the house away from her husband, John. These first two lines indicate how the woman is still thinking about the incident at sea, which shows how it still affects her. The use of “riddling” provides a chaotic atmosphere; the way there was when the porpoises attacked.
“And I’m walking the firm margin.”
The “margin” the speaker refers to here be the shore that separates her from the sea with hard, damp sand. This is an illustration of how she feels secure from the trauma she suffered at the hands of the sea. These lines are full of maritime or sea imagery the diction of language of the sea shore, dunes and suds. The way in which the woman makes specific reference to the shellfish in the lines:
Of cockle, blanched roofs of clam and oyster
Hoard the moonlight, woven and unwoven
Off the bay.”
shows how she has an identity with the shore thus showing she has walked there many times prior to now. There is a poetic image of the seashore here, a ghostly, ethereal nighttime beachscape. The lines as a whole gives a tranquil, calm sense showing how the woman feels safe, secure and at home by the shore.
The next three paragraphs all tell the story of how the escapade at sea took place. The woman begins by deliberately accusing her husband, which shows resentfulness and torment. This accusing line is evocative of a very irrational ordeal and trauma-
“Out there he put me through it.”
The line suggest that although the husband was aware that his wife was frightened, he still submitted her to the physical abuse which was to follow. The use of “death” in the following line evokes a sense of terror in the reader. An ominous atmosphere is created in the lines that proceed-
“Yet still we took them in at every cast,
Still flails of cold convulsed with their first breath”
“Yet still” creates a sense of foreboding. The fact that the two fishers took fish in at every cast is abnormal and uncanny. This provides a portentous atmosphere, as if the husband knew that something bad was going to happen. The use of “flails” and “convulsed” are a violent verbs and it is ironic how the first breath out of water for the fish signifies their death.
There is evidently a lack of mutual respect shown to the woman from John in the poem:
“He was all business in the stern. I called
This is so easy that it’s hardly right.
But he unhooked and coped with frantic fish
The way in which John did not answer or make any gesture to the woman shows how he cared little for her and lets the reader sympathize with the woman. He had no communication with her and he had no concern for her, which is symbolic of a poor relationship. The gravity of the situation is illustrated clearly through the lines:
“Then it suddenly lulled,
We’d crossed where they were running, the line rose
Like a let-down and I was conscious
How far we’d drifted out beyond the head.”
The use of “lulled” shows an ominous pause, almost a hiatus, which adds an ominous feeling and a sense of foreboding to the situation. The paradox and simile of “rose like a let-down” and the use of “conscious” shows the speaker’s anxiety. It is at this point when she realises how far they had drifted and how they could be floating into the danger lurking in the depths. More evidence of John not caring for the woman is shown with:
“Count them up at your end”
This was all that John said to her and makes the reader feel sympathy for the woman. It is direct speech, imperative verbs are used and he is dogmatically telling her what to do. There is no real communication as he is more obsessed with the catch they had pulled in. This is an intuitiveness that he lacks; he is not sensitive to the conditions. The following sequence uses a great deal of detailed, descriptive language describing the porpoises and producing a violent atmosphere, almost as if a war-machine was attacking-
“Thick backs cart wheeling…flywheels…soapy…shining…splitting the water…numbed me…irruption…viscous…bowled”
The porpoises are described as clearly massive. The phrase-
“To have seen a hill splitting the water…”
-is simple homely imagery showing her disbelief at the size of the porpoises and her utter shock at seeing them hurling towards them. There are many violent and complex uses of language here to describe the proportion of porpoises and this emphasizes the fact that John was not too concerned for her safety. The simile “tight, viscous muscle” is used to accentuate the size and build of the porpoises and the danger that the two people where actually in. The danger the woman is in and the way her husband does not care for her safety evokes sympathy for her.
“Tight, viscous muscle, hoped from tail to snout”
The diction here creates the image of a powerful force full of violent energy.
The next series of lines describes the actual attack and how John refused to give in to his wife’s pleas to “put in”. The woman insists to John “they would attack a boat”. But the simple, colloquial, prosaic language used to describe John’s dogmatic, stubborn determination to enforce his point that they would not attack is a clear illustration to his lack of compassion and caring for his wife. John appears to get sadistic enjoyment at watching the woman suffer. He is very disdainful and scornful of her superstitious family, which evokes sympathy from the reader as he is mocking her without reason:
My people had been fooled by far too long”
His disrespectful and domineering attitude towards his wife is shown when he promises to “prove it” and “settle it”. However he sees clearly how he was wrong when the porpoises do attack:
“Maybe he shrank when those thick…
…Sick at their huge pleasure in the water”
These five lines of the poem describe graphically how the porpoise attacked the boat with a surge of power, “propelled towards us”, and how afraid the woman really was, “I lay and screamed”. The language used in this part of the poem almost bears a similarity to that of rape language, a symbolic evocation of the relationship between her husband and she; she feels abused by him. The way in which it describes the porpoises enjoying the attack and the violent experience of the entire encounter-
“Feeling each dunt and slither through the timber”
-shows her fear. The use of onomatopoeia, “slither” is also a sign of her fear. In contrast to “Bruce Ismay’s Soliloquy”, the language used here helps to evoke sympathy for the woman.