The poem changes tone here from raw anger and grief to almost a plea from a son to his father. Desperation is the main feeling here as Thomas begs his father to ‘Curse, bless me now’, anything but give up and die; it is almost as if it is a metaphorical shaking of his father, to get him to wake up. Gillian Clarke’s poem is similar- it also deals with death. However, unlike Thomas, Clarke is not an interested party, she is more of a distant observer and this can be seen in the opening line ‘we watched them fall’.Order now
On the other hand, the use of the word ‘we’ has the affect of including the reader; reminding us that for many readers, they too watched this tragic which was captured live on television. We were all silent observers. The opening stanza draws a parallel between people and objects; by referring to these people as ‘leaves, rubble’ and ‘dust’ it creates a sense of tragedy. These living breathing human beings who greet life with warmth, laughter and emotion are reduced to nothing more than ‘rubble’ and ‘dust’. They become nothing.
The tragedy of these people flinging themselves out of skyscrapers as if their ‘arms could be wings’, as if they might ‘spread their wings’ to ‘slow their fall’, highlights in a particularly poignant way the futility of their plight, because we observe now that no matter how much they spread their ‘wings’ they cannot fly. That there is no saviour; there is no rescue, only certain death. The way Clarke has structured the opening of this poem also has an impact on the reader. The effect of this is one of focusing the reader’s attention on the descent of these victims.
The short lines almost track their fall. Her use of repetition also strengthens the horrific helplessness that she, as many others, must have felt whilst watching on. The thought ‘if only’, goes through their minds and the reader’s when she stresses ‘as if’ several times. Clarke’s reference to God towards the end of the second stanza is similar to Thomas’ approach towards God in that there is a sense of irony; ‘as if god’ ‘will put them’ ‘into safe hands’ and as if the ‘light’ in Thomas’ poem which represents heaven as a place of supreme happiness for most, will not comfort his father or his own grief.
There is no afterlife. Death is final. That is the overriding message. The two poets both know that death is final but they portray it in different ways. The use of noise in both poems is clear. In Thomas’ poem the repetition of the word ‘rage’ creates a sense of anger and being cheated, it is a very active emotion. In contrast to this Clarke’s use of words like ‘stuffing our throats’ creates a sense of helplessness in the reader. These people, unlike Thomas’ father, cannot ‘rage’ against their death, they are cheated even of that.
The horror of their death comes across in their silence, she is ‘too far to hear their screams’ and the ‘accelerating air bandage their mouths’. Although these two poems are about battles, Thomas is battling against his father’s death and Clarke’s ‘murderers’ are battling against innocent people, they are different because Thomas’ father’s life is coming to a natural end whereas Clarke’s victims have their lives taken from them. They have become ‘the murdered’, ‘they have become the city’ and ‘they have turned to stone’.
Dylan Thomas’ has immortalised his father by words but the people in Gillian Clarke’s poem have been immortalised by ‘murderers’ and ‘fanaticisms of terror’. Thomas’ father’s death in the world does not change anything, only himself. However, Clarke’s poem is implying that the world is going to change because ‘the slow evolution of the world is over’ and that the aftermath of this ‘time compressed moment’ is going to be ‘our second fall from grace’.
I prefer Gillian Clarke’s poem because it affects the world in which I live, whereas Thomas’ poem is immensely personal to him but not to me. Gillian Clarke’s poem is about the change in the world politically and it is tragic on a global scale and on a personal scale because you witness the deaths of these people live. Gillian Clarke’s poem is also much richer in the use of language, whereas Thomas’ poem is much more simplistic and uses a lot of repetition to convey its message and this makes it more interesting to read.