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    Comparison of two love poems ‘The Voice’ by Thomas Hardy and ‘Twelve Songs’ by W H Auden Essay

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    Both poems are written with the same theme in mind, ‘Love lost and love remembered’; although they are quite different in the way the author has put across his ideas, feelings and emotions.

    ‘The Voice’, I would say is the more complex of the two poems and is about a man pining after a lost love, hallucinating that she has come back to him. He dwells on his memories of her and their relationship and believes that he can hear the sound of her voice calling to him. Even when he returns to reality, realising that he cannot regain her love for him, and that he must begin to emotionally move forward, he still believes she is there, calling to him.

    ‘Twelve songs’ describes a woman who is mourning over the death of someone she loved greatly. It has no real storyline, and is just a description of how immense her love was for this lost love and how much grief the death of him has left her in.

    The title that Hardy has given to his poem gives it a slight mysterious edge. With no adjectives to describe what kind of voice it is, we let our imaginations run lose and so do not have a clear understanding of what the poem is going to be about. Auden’s title, you may first believe is more self explanatory, although when you read further into the poem you will realise that the title does not have much resemblance to the poem. With either poem, the title does not give you any indication that it is going to be about love lost or love remembered.

    Imagery has been used within both poems to set the scene or describe an object using carefully chosen words. Hardy has used it to describe vivid memory of his lost love. Such phrases as “even to the original air-blue gown” and “Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward” are examples of the very descriptive imagery that Hardy uses. It is so defined that you feel as though you can see that air-blue gown right in front of your eyes and sense the wind oozing through the thorn bushes. You could be there watching all of these things happen as the author writes these chosen words. Auden however, uses more basic imagery to describe less complex events.

    Examples of this from the poem are “let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead, scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead” and “let the traffic police wear black cotton gloves”. They are both still forms of imagery however you don’t know what is happening to the same amount of detail as in Hardy’s poem. For example, you know that the aeroplane is writing a message in the sky but you don’t get to find out whether it was a clear blue sky, or a dull grey sky, it is just left to your imagination. This means that you cannot sense the events happening to as much details as in Hardy’s poem.

    Many language devices are used within both poems to add some kind of effect to the language used. This may be an emphasis or to make a description clearer and more realistic or it may be for some other reason that the poet wants to try to put across to the reader. One of these devices is alliteration, which Thomas Hardy uses a lot during ‘The Voice’. Examples of this are, “Much missed”, “wan wistlessness” and “faltering forward”. Hardy has used these phrases to give emphasis, exaggeration and enforcement to the phrases and the subjects in hand. Repetition of a letter or letter sound at the beginning of a sequence of words also links ideas, which has happened effectively in “The Voice”. Auden, however, uses no alliteration in ‘Twelve Songs’ although this does not mean that emphasis on certain words and phrases has not been used. Auden has just used different language devices to put them into effect.

    Thomas Hardy has also used an onomatopoeia in this piece of poetry as they add realism to the poem to make the reader feel as if they can hear the sounds that the characters within the poem can hear themselves. An example of this is “wind oozing thin” which suggests that the wind is eerie, flowing but hardly there. Again, Auden has not used any onomatopoeia’s in this poem.

    Another language device is repetition, which has been used in both poems to emphasise a particular phrase or event. “Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me” is an example from ‘The Voice’ of repetition that Hardy has used. This shows that a man is dwelling on the sound of her voice calling to him. An example from ‘Twelve Songs’ is “He was my North, my South, my East and West, My working week and my Sunday rest, My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song”. This is putting emphasis on the fact that her lost love had meant everything to her and that she thought of him all the time.

    Both poems also contain rhyme. In ‘The Voice’, rhyme is present on every first and third line and on every second and fourth line. Thus giving each verse a flowing and constant rhythm. In ‘Twelve Songs’ however, rhyme is used on every first and second line, and on every third and fourth line, which gives each verse a very firm but abrupt rhythm.

    Metaphors are another language device, which have been used in the voice. “You being ever dissolved to wan wistlessness” is an example of a metaphor from ‘The Voice’. She is not actually dissolving but it creates the effect that her love for her is dissolving in his memory. Auden has not used any noticeable metaphors in “Twelve Songs”. Also quite surprisingly, similies have not been used in either of the poems.

    Both of the poems have been written in first-person narrative, which adds a personal touch to both of the poems. Poems written in first-person narrative are generally more emotional than a poem written in third-person narrative, which is more effective and will seize the attention of the reader quicker and will also be more enjoyable to read. Both of the poems are similar to this effect.

    The overall structure of both of the poems are generally the same, with both poems containing four verses with four lines to each verse. What differs however, between the two poems is the sentence structure. ‘The Voice’ as I have said previously, has a very flowing rhythm to it. The words chosen are often quite ‘flowery’ and seem to roll off your tongue. ‘Twelve Songs’ has a very sharp rhythm with short, crisp sentences. They contain many monosyllables and heavy words which add to the impact of the poem. Each verse is broken up into many times by the use of commas, giving a moment’s pause for thought before each action.

    After reading both of the poems through several times, I come off with a clearer understanding of ‘Twelve Songs’ an the emotion of woman which Auden is trying to put across than of those in ‘The Voice’. Auden generally goes straight to the point rather than waffling around it, which is what I sometimes feel that Hardy is doing.

    There is evidence to believe that ‘Twelve Songs’ is a more modern poem than ‘The Voice’ with words such as ‘telephone’ and ‘aeroplane’ being used within the poem, both of which are fairly new inventions. To me, ‘Twelve Songs’ seems to have that more modernised edge to it with Auden experimenting with use of words and rhythm. Who would ever think of ‘pouring away the ocean and sweeping up the wood’ like Auden suggests, but it gives the poem an effect that the world has no use anymore with her lost love not being around, the world might as well not exist. An example of Auden’s experimenting with rhythm is as follows, “I thought my love would last forever: I was wrong”. With many previous lines having the same constant rhythm, this sudden change has a

    massive impact on the poem. The three monosyllables and very heavy words being used at the end of the line go straight to the point and it hits you hard in the face! Also ‘Twelve Songs’ opens and

    continues for some time with a demand with catches your eye and will keep the attention of the reader. An example of this is, “Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone”. The poem is telling you to do something and you, as the reader feel that you should respond to that in some way. It also sets the atmosphere of how the poem is going to carry on and these demands add a great impact to the poem.

    ‘The Voice’ on the other hand, has a much more dreamy atmosphere to it and you sense that it took place quite a while before the events in ‘Twelve Songs’ happened. Phrases such as ‘Original air-blue

    gown’ and ‘Wan wistlessness’ give a slightly old-fashioned edge to the poem. ‘The Voice’ has a sense of development within the poem that is not present in ‘Twelve songs’. The emotions and feelings of the man change throughout the poem giving the effect of time passing and the man aging.

    In conclusion I would say that I preferred ‘Twelve songs’ although this does not mean that ‘The Voice’ is not a successful love poem. ‘Twelve Songs’ is based on a very basic theme that is described by using a explanation of everyday items that people can relate to easily to get the message across. It is less complex, easier to notice and understand the deeper meaning behind the poem.

    I found it more enjoyable to read than ‘The Voice’ and the poem has a much lower standard of vocabulary than ‘The Voice’, which makes it much easier to read and determine. ‘The Voice’ however a very detailed storyline behind the words that are written, which you could delve into for hours and keep finding out new things about the poem. It has a much deeper meaning than ‘Twelve Songs’ giving the poem a very poetic atmospheric effect.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    Comparison of two love poems ‘The Voice’ by Thomas Hardy and ‘Twelve Songs’ by W H Auden Essay. (2017, Oct 24). Retrieved from

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