‘A London Fete’ by Coventry Patmoore paints a vivid picture of a public hanging in the middle of London. ‘The Badger’ by John Clare describes a badger being captured, baited and eventually killed. Both of the poets portray these events in a highly negative way showing that they are against these events continuing. However, ‘A London Fete’ was written years after public hangings had been banned while ‘The Badger’ was written at a time when Badger baiting was still common public entertainment.
Both poets use critical descriptions of the people involved in the events in order to convey their protest as well as creating sympathy for the victims of the poems and creating unpleasant atmosphere/s within the poems. In both poems, negative descriptions of the people involved are used to convey a negative attitude to the events themselves. For example in ‘The Badger’ we read how the men who take part in the baiting of the badger “laugh and shout and fright the scampering hogs”. This makes them seem, in contrast to the “scampering” frightened hogs, like callous, mean creatures.
In ‘The London Fete’, when describing the crowd looking at the man being hanged Clare writes, “Thousands of eyeballs, lit with hell”. This makes the crowd seem inhumane and evil in the same way that ‘The Badger’ makes people seem callous and mean. However, the fact that Patmoore uses hellish connotations is perhaps more shocking as he is actually comparing humans to demonic creatures. This could be because public hangings had already been banned when Patmoore wrote his poem, therefore he was less worried about condemning people who used to attend.
Clare uses milder descriptions, simply comparing humans to ‘bullies’ as opposed to demons. However, another interpretation of the fact that Patmoore uses hellish descriptions of the people at the hanging is that pre-1914 there was a strong awareness and fear of witchcraft and satanic rituals. Therefore, Patmoore, knowing how much society at the time disliked witchcraft, took advantage of this by giving these connotations to the people he was describing. This, to anyone at the time reading the poem gave an particularly negative image of the people at the hanging, and of the event itself.
Another technique which the poets use to portray the events in a negative way is the use of special descriptions of the victims of the events designed to create sympathy for them. In ‘The Badger’, this is done by giving the badger human-like attributes and thereby personifying him. For example, Clare writes “the badger grins”, which, as grinning is a human reaction to things, personifies the animal. As the reader after this point will treat the badger as a person, what is being done to him becomes even more outrageous.
However, another interpretation of Clare’s use of the quote “the badger grins” is to make the badger seem happy despite what is being done to him this lends his character a sense of naivety, again creating sympathy for him. In ‘A London Fete’, Patmoore uses the same technique, the other way around. Although the victim is a human, Patmoore describes him in an animalistic way. For example we read that his “roar” when being hung was “confused and affrighting”. As roaring is something animals do, the poet implies that the person being hanged is being treated as an animal with minimal respect which is clearly unjust.
The phrase, “confused and affrighting” also gives the image of a confused, frightened animal with no means of defending itself thereby evoking more sympathy and again making the event seem dreadfully unjust. Another technique used by both of the poets to portray their protests is the creation of a specific atmosphere. In “A London Fete”, Patmoore creates, right from the first line a threatening atmosphere with stark language and the repetition of the word “shock” which effectively describes the building of the gallows.
Tension builds quickly with allusions to Newgate and to the time, which would have resounded with readers of this era. A hectic and unpleasant atmosphere is then created with phrases such as “The chaos of noises” and with his description of the crowd: “These, half-crushes, with frantic faces”. Both phrases convey a hectic atmosphere, albeit in slightly different ways. “The chaos of noises” appeals to one’s sense of hearing. The individual noun, “Chaos” simply implies that the scene is chaotic and hectic but the use of the plural “noises” further emphasises this by conveying that there is more than one noise.
If we look elsewhere in the poem, we can see that Patmoore actually lists the noises; “A single cry, that shook the air”, “a man, with yelling tired”, “These blasphemed”, “the common din”, “realm of damned rejoices”. The sheer amount of these noises successfully portrays the scene is frantic. It is also interesting to note that the phrase “the realm of damned rejoices” is used in a similar context to the noise made by the people. This implies that the people at the event are demonic, thereby conveying a negative portrayal of the event as a whole, (a technique used by Patmoore already discussed).
Returning to the line “these, half-crushed, with frantic faces”, we see how Patmoore uses imagery to build up atmosphere, communicating the chaotic nature of the scene. On its own, the word “frantic” simply describes the atmosphere. The fact that the people are “half-crushed” gives depth to this description communicating a massive amount of people and emphasising the desperate and unpleasant nature of the scene. At the start of ‘The Badger’, in contrast to Patmoore’s provocative beginning, the atmosphere is calm and the opening lines are used to describe the badger “grunting on his woodland track” with his “sharp nose scrowed with black”.
The fact that the reader gets to know the badger in this opening paragraph evokes sympathy for him later in the poem giving oem at the reader gets to know the badger in this opening paragraph evokes sympathy for him later i of this era. aure cthe event a heightened sense of injustice. Furthermore, the opening lines are a lot calmer than the rest of the poem. For example the fact that the badger “runs an awkward pace” but no negative consequences come from this shows that at this point in the poem, the badger is not being chased by anything.
This implies that there is not yet any sense of conflict or of a frantic atmosphere. The effect of this the contrast it has with later events in the poem when the badger is taken to town. At this point the atmosphere becomes hectic and unpleasant just like in ‘A London Fete’. However, in ‘A London Fete’, as already mentioned, the atmosphere conveyed by Patmoore, is frantic and chaotic. In ‘The Badger’, when the atmosphere builds, there is more of a sense of conflict than anything else. This sense of conflict is created with single words such as “bites”, “hurled”, “fight” and “fray”.
These words, showing that the badger is fighting back, evoke a sense of respect which highlights and supports the sense of sympathy which Clare has already created. By giving the badger a variety of attributes Clare appeals to all audiences ensuring they are ‘on his side’. However, this contrast in attributes may also have been used by Clare to build up the character of the badger from sympathetic, in the first paragraph, to respected, in the third paragraph, and finally implying he is enduring in the last paragraph where it says that even after falling “as dead”, he “grins and drives the crowd agen”.
This development of his character affords him a ‘noble death’ giving further weight to the poets protest. Both poets use women to enhance the atmospheres which they have already created. In ‘The Badger’, Clare sees women as gentle creatures: “The frightened woman takes the boys away”. This suggests that the sight of what is being done to the badger is so repulsively brutal that not only does the women not want to see it, but her maternal instincts have kicked in telling her to protect her children from the influence of the event.
In ‘A London Fete’, “Mothers held their babes up to see” the public hanging. By saying this, Patmoore implies that the influence of the event is so dominating that it has stolen any humanity or maternal instinct from women, who are stereotypically gentle creatures. However, it is also possible that in ‘A London Fete’, Patmoore is suggesting that women maintain their maternal instincts, but that these instincts have been warped by previous hanging witnessed. For example, after the hanging Patmoore writes that “A baby strung its doll to a stick; A mother praised the pretty trick”.
This implies that even her maternal instinct has become warped blinding her to the evil developing in her child implying that both of the events are not only dreadfully brutal, but frighteningly influential. In both of the poems in the last couple of lines, the poets force the reader to again question the amount of justice present in the event, again conveying their protests. In ‘A London Fete’, Patmoore describes the negative and influential effects the hanging has had on a variety of people in the crowd.
For example, Patmoore writes that after the hanging, “Two children caught and hanged a cat; Two friends walked on in lively chat”. Not only does this show that the children mentioned have been so influenced by the event as to attempt to repeat it, but that the two friends walking past maintain their lively talk despite the presence of a cat being hung by young children. Also, the fact that the children think hanging a cat is so similar to the hanging of a human suggests that they treated the human being hanged as no more than an animal, drawing sympathy for the human (a technique used by Patmoore discussed in a previous paragraph).
All of these after-effects of the hanging portray the creation of a vicious circle of evil whereby Patmoore strengthens his protest against public capital punishment. The ending paragraph of ‘The Badger’ talks about the practice of taming badgers as pets. It says that when done, a badger might “lick the patting hand and try to play”, clear evidence of the badger being tame. This leaves the reader with an alternative to badger baiting as opposed to the further sinister message we receive in the final paragraph of ‘A London Fete’.
This alternative gives the poem a sense of hope, contrasting with the earlier paragraphs to make them seem all the more unjust. The final sinister message of ‘A London Fete’ does quite the opposite, implying that the event described is only part of a large, vicious circle and suggesting there is no hope for ending the type of injustice described. In conclusion, although there are many differences between the poems such as the use of/lack of stanzas/punctuation and the presence of local dialect, I think that the techniques the poets use to shine a negative light on the events and portray their protests are very similar.
The negative descriptions of spectators in ‘A London Fete’ is more severe than in ‘The Bader’; while the people in ‘A London Fete’ are described as demonic, in ‘The Badger’, people are simply described as bullies. This is because public hangings had already been banned when Patmoore wrote his poem, therefore making him less afraid of condemnation from his audience. Clare on the other hand attempts to relate to all audiences because at the time when he wrote his poem, as badger baiting was still being undertaken regularly, Clare did not want to scare his readers away by possibly condemning them.
This is backed up by the already discussed technique used by Clare where he gives the badger a series of positive attributes hence making the badger relatable to virtually every reader and drawing sympathy for him. Although both writers attm to positive attributes hence making the badger relatable to virtuallyempt to draw sympathy for their victims, I think that Clare does this more effectively, not only with the ‘variety of positive attributes technique’ but by playing on the creatures innocence and introducing the audience to him slowly in the first paragraph.
In contrast to this, Patmoore evokes revulsion in his readers when describing what his victim is going through and by implying that this victim is being treated like an animal. Out of these techniques, for use in a protest poem, Clare’s is more effective because, as discussed, Patmoore simply condemns the audience whereas Clare treats badger baiting as an issue as complex as it is, tackling a further issue at the end. This further issue is, in my opinion the biggest difference between the poems. ‘A London Fete’ ends by informing the reader that the evil that went on in the poem hasn’t stopped.
Instead, it will continue to grow and influence people implying that what went on in the poem, clearly a horrible event in itself, was only part of a vicious circle with no solutions or message of hope. This leads to the conclusion that ‘A London Fete’ is themed around human evil. This message is conveyed through phrases like “the realm of damned rejoices”, describing the sound of hell, being used in the same context as phrases describing the sound of the crowd like, “the clatter and clangour of hateful voices”.
This mixing of contexts implies that the sound of the crowd is similar to the sounds of hell and hence suggests the people in the crowd are demonic. The more ambiguous last paragraph of ‘The Badger’, talks about the practice of taming badgers and keeping them as pets. This provides an alternative to badger baiting, which is more vital in ‘The Badger’ as Clare knows it would be unwise to condemn a practice without offering an alternative for it.
In this sense, ‘The Badger’ by John Clare is a protest poem with hope, a piece dedicated to make people at the time question the practice of badger baiting. A London Fete’ by John Clare is a severely condemning poem describing capital punishment. Perhaps the vicious circle of human evil he describes, although lacking the presence of public hangings was still going on when he wrote ‘A London Fete’. Therefore by condemning public hangings so severely and then linking the after-effects of this to general human evil, it could be said that Patmoores protest was a lot wider than public hangings and in fact he was protesting against general social injustice.