In each line of the first two verses of the poem, the first half is a metaphor for a positive aspect of life such as ‘my feast of joy’. The second half of each line is a contrasting metaphor such as ‘dish of pain’. These halves are always linked by the word ‘is’, which shows us that Tichbourne believes that the high point of his life, his ‘prime’ has come, and yet he has gained and achieved nothing. Each line of these first two verses expresses this same sentiment, and with each metaphor used his point is emphasised and deepened, in order to add poignancy to the message that he is conveying to the reader.
These metaphors also each carry their own meaning, such as where Tichbourne describes his ‘crop of corn’ as being ‘but a field of tares’, he is giving the impression that he feels that he has produced nothing useful during his life, having only grown weeds on the ‘field’ that he was born with. By contrasting natural imagery of health and decay, such as ‘dead’ fruit with ‘green’ leaves, Tichbourne emphasises both the inevitability of his situation as all fruit must rot, whilst emphasising the unnatural and untimely element of his death. These images all indicate death before growth.
This poem was written to his wife, and so he was confiding his feelings with somebody he could trust, however through his wife publishing the poem he makes his own line ‘And now I die, and now I was but made’ redundant. This is because his line expresses his view that he would be just something that was created and discarded in a single breath, a man who ‘saw’ but ‘was not seen’. Ironically he has been granted earthly significance and remembrance through his writing. His ‘fruit’ was not entirely ‘dead’ after all. It may be that this was intended by Tichbourne, as there is a long tradition of historical aristocratic figures crafting their own epitaphs, and taking great pride in their elegant and eloquent last words, for example Sir Walter Raleigh.
In the final verse of the poem, Tichbourne appears to be trying to comfort himself. In writing ‘I sought my death and found it in my womb’, Tichbourne is persuading himself that the reason for his death was not his crime or his sentence, but his birth and inherent mortality. He does however continue to maintain that his life has not been lived to its full potential, stating that his ‘full’ glass is ‘run’, in other words his life has gone before he has had a chance to fully utilise his opportunity.
In the line ‘I looked for life and saw it was a shade’, Tichbourne expresses his religious understanding that the afterlife is far more important than anything he may have to endure on earth, as the world is a mere shadow of heaven. This is also apparent as his crime was treason which he believed was committed on behalf of God. His fear of the punishment he would have to undergo must have been mitigated to an extent, as he would have felt that he would have earned salvation and forgiveness for his soul. Religion is so much a part of the fabric of Tichbourne’s life that he doesn’t feel it necessary to directly mention his belief that he will go to heaven, as to him that would have been stating the obvious.
Although both poems focus on life’s transitory nature, Tichbourne focuses on life’s opportunities that he has been denied, whereas Moody focuses on the only opportunity for relief that he can hope for: the ending of his own life.
Like Tichbourne, Moody begins his poem by looking at himself, however he refers to himself indirectly and in third person: ‘a grown man’. He is distancing himself from his situation in order to be able to write about a subject that is so emotional for him, in the same way as Tichbourne uses a rigid structure. This use of the third person also helps to create an instantly recognisable picture to a western audience: the man on death row, crying and condemned. This helps Moody to set the scene instantly.
The man, representing Moody and all other people condemned to this experience, is ‘convicted of a crime’, but the poem does not mention by whom he has been convicted. The poem also consciously refers to the prisoner as ‘convicted’ rather than ‘guilty’. This use of the passive and the lack of statement of guilt implies a general, unchallengeable and dubious conviction. Moody is trying to imply that he is a victim of the infallible yet unjust system.
We can see that this poem is about Moody’s sentence of seemingly eternal pain, with only a passing reference to his crime. Each day he ‘wonders’ if his execution has arrived. He doesn’t dread death, or look forward to the ending of ‘his pain’, as that is what his life consists of. The use of the adjective ‘new’ in relation to each sunrise contrasts the fact that he will have no new opportunity, no new chance and no new day, only the same old pain.
Society is preparing Moody’s last supper, as he speaks to a representative of God. His is taking society’s pain unto himself as he believes Jesus took the pain of humanity. Jesus was a convict, but according to Moody’s religion he was the only truly innocent man. This suggests to me that Moody sees himself as society’s outlet for their pain, a convicted man feeling pain for the gratification of the public and the victim’s family, ironically echoing the life of his deity. Moody is also being ironic as a feast is generally a celebration.
I believe that moody also sees the prison as an echo of society as a whole. The fate of the men on death row s very similar to the situation of those outside death row, as they do not know when they will die, just that they will die. All men are condemned, and as each man dies others feel pain and pray. As Christians they are ‘not alone’, all face the same fate eventually, much as Moody believes that all are eventually judged by god. The unity of the praying prisoners and the solidarity between them gives a sense of community. Tichbourne does not believe that his situation is the same as that of all others, firstly because he believes that his life has been ended prematurely and secondly because he knows that he will die within days.
When describing the execution, Moody makes effective use of metaphors. He refers to the time of his death as the top of the hour: a positive description for a horrendous event. When describing how ‘silence runs throughout the prison’, Moody gives the sense of an active silence, which when coupled with the flickering ‘lights’ give this paragraph a very eerie feeling.
Moody makes it sound as though this was all necessary by stating that once ‘the deed is done’ society may feel ‘relief’, but through this action his family must find it necessary to grieve and feel pain. Moody is attempting to say that the pain caused is not justified, as he makes the point that there can be no limit to the amount of pain that there will be. He makes this point cleverly by stating that ‘maybe’ the opposite is true.
Tichbourne feels that his death is untimely, whereas Moody feels that his death is unnecessary. These poems are very different as ‘Elegy for himself’ refers only to the unfulfilled nature of the poets life whereas ‘No More Pain’ refers directly to the execution and therefore the forced and unnecessary nature of the poets pain.