Poetry Hour

My mom faxed me some poetry that I wrote when I was little boy – 10 or younger maybe? I’ve reproduced it here for your pleasure, with teacher comments in red below each poem.

Jason Carter

The marsh is blowing in the breeze
And I feel so much at ease.
As I sit on the dock,
And take off my socks,
And rest without looking at any clocks,
I have learned to relax
By watching the grass
What a great life this is at last!

This poem says so much. You’re lucky you have found a beautiful piece of this earth where you feel peace.

Jason Carter

Near the shore lived a man
He’d lay on the sand to get a tan.
The water would rise; the water would fall.
The man would stay there until nightfall.
He entered his house at night
Until the morning when the fish would bite.
The sun would rise in the east,
He would get on his knees and pray for a feast —
He’d bait his hook to get something to cook.
He’d fill his boat with all he could eat,
And leave the rest for some else to eat.

Good rhyming pattern

Jason Carter

The frog jumps
on all four feet.

It sits down
Overlooking the pond
On small webbed feet
It then jumps away

What a great picture

Jason Carter

A new life.

Very nice. The picture adds an interesting dimension.

A Boy
Jason Carter

A boy who has a toy
Feels great indeed!
His new racing car
Has great speed.
He’d race them down the track;
And beat them before they got back.
A boy with a toy has great joy!

Very true.

Holy Thursday

The fun stuff’s over. Now we get into the real dreck.

Click here to read the first “Holy Thursday” poem
Click here to read the second “Holy Thursday” poem

Holy Thursday

In the poems “Holy Thursday,” by William Blake, one can see two completely different ideas. In the first poem, Blake tries to express an optimistic and hopeful image of innocent children singing to Christ on the day of ascension. The poem’s rhythm is playful and childish and effectively carries out Blake’s image. In contrast, the second poem is negative and pessimistic and it questions the nature or existence of a God. The children are rejected and abused by society and they are exactly the opposite of the children in the first poem.

In the first “Holy Thursday,” colorful children are marching into St Paul’s cathedral for the celebration of the ascension of Christ. From the footnote, one learns that these children are from the charity schools in London, meaning that they are very poor and probably don’t have a family. Despite their hardships, the children are still described in a joyful, harmonic way in the first stanza:

‘Twas on a Holy Thursday, their innocent faces clean,
The children walking two & two, in red & blue & green;
Grey headed beadles walkd before with wands as white as snow,
Till into the high dome of Paul’s they like Thames’ waters flow.

With an ABAB rhyming pattern, the poem starts with a bouncing, nursery rhyme quality. The children’s problems are not an issue; they are still cute, innocent, and alive, like a river. The beadles that must keep the kids in order are portrayed as old and lifeless men who have lost their childhood innocence. Even though these children are poor and homeless, they are showing hopefulness and optimism when they go to sing the Lord’s praises.

In the next stanza, the children are again portrayed as sweet and innocent, and there is no mention of the hardships they must face every other day in their life. There are a few different images that Blake gives the reader to express his idea that children are pure and free-flowing characters:

O what a multitude they seemd, these flowers of London town!
Seated in companies they sit with radiance all their own.
The hum of multitudes was there, but multitudes of lambs,
Thousands of little boys & girls raising their innocent hands.

Here, the children are a beautiful and vital part of the London society. They are “flowers” that give pleasure to all men and women. Blake fails to mention that these children are a blight and burden to mankind. They are victims of a cruel and harsh world, and as a result, they reflect images of misery and poverty. However, in this stanza, the children are innocent lambs who have a “radiance all their own.” They are beautiful flowers and are pleasing to the entire world.

In the final stanza, the children are singing to the heavens with songs of joy. They are singing the praises of the Lord to heaven on this glorious day:

Now like a mighty wind they raise to heaven the voice of song,
Or like harmonious thunderings the seats of heaven among.
Beneath them sit the aged men, wise guardians of the poor;
Then cherish pity, lest you drive an angel from your door.

Here, the children are powerful and mighty and are capable of communicating with the heavens above. They believe that God truly loves them in spite of the fact that they are really the wretched of the earth. Even though they are penniless and homeless, the children raise their hands and sing their praise and thanks to Jesus.

In the second “Holy Thursday,” the tone of the poem changes completely. In this poem, Blake says that the children are poor and miserable in an otherwise prosperous environment. He concludes that God must not care about these children since they are forced to live under these conditions.

In the first stanza, the reader can obviously see the changes in tone. The lines aren’t long and cheerful with a silly, childish rhyme. These lines are blunt and to the point, and their meaning is very harsh:

Is this a holy thing to see,
In a rich and fruitful land,
Babes reduced to misery,
Fed with cold and usurous hand?

This procession into the cathedral has religious intentions, but the speaker wonders how holy it is to have so many pitiful and miserable children in a world that is so rich and prosperous. It doesn’t seem possible to him that these children are singing to the Lord out of pure happiness and thanksgiving:

Is that trembling cry a song?
Can it be a song of joy?
And so many children poor?
It is a land of poverty!

The speaker finds it hard to believe that these children are actually singing out praises of the Lord. He sees them so unhappy and so poor, and yet they are thanking Jesus for all that he has done for them. The series of questions by the speaker in this stanza implies a tone of disbelief and amazement that heightens throughout the poem.

In the last two stanzas, the speaker offers an explanation as to why these children are so poor and pitiful:

And their sun does never shine,
And their fields are bleak & bare,
And their ways are fill’d with thorns;
It is eternal winter there.

For where-e’er the sun does shine,
And where-e’er the rain does fall,
Babe can never hunger there,
Nor poverty the mind appall.

The speaker believes that the life of the children is always dark, bleak, and bare. It will always be difficult, cold, and barren. He believes that the children are poor because they never have any sunshine or any rain. In other words, these kids don’t have the wonderful and plentiful eye of the Lord upon them. Blake believes that man could not decline into such a pitiful state if God is constantly watching over him. Throughout the ceremony, the children are praising God and all of His works. This praise now seems very ironic since these children are not under the watchful eye of the Lord.

In these two poems, William Blake expresses two totally different ideas. In the first poem, he portrays unfortunate children as blessings to society and shows their gratitude towards God for all that he has done. In the second poem, Blake shows the reader the image of wretched children praying to a God who does not care for them or their condition. These two examples show the different ideas that Blake had towards the nature of God.

A Virtuous Hippo

The writing here is not particularly funny or enlightening. What I do find interesting though is my use of words like “epistle” and “Laodiceans”. Very uncharacteristic for this stage of my writing career.

Click here to read “The Hippopotamus”

A Virtuous Hippo
Jason Carter
English 400-1

In T.S. Eliot’s “The Hippopotamus,” the reader can see Eliot’s contempt for the church and all of its corruption. He compared the church and its people with a lazy Hippopotamus. By the end of the poem, the Hippo is raised up to heaven with choirs of angels by its side while the church remains on earth amidst a dense fog. By using symbols, Eliot show the reader that even the lowliest creature on earth has more merit than the church with all of its corrupt leaders.

The epistle of the poem first expresses Eliot’s disgust with the apathy that the church exhibits. He makes it known from the very beginning that this poem is directed towards the church members who are indifferent and lazy, such as the Laodiceans. This group of people was described by St. John as “lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot.” Apparently, these people had no emotion towards religion, and Eliot wrote this poem to let them know what they can expect in the future.

In the first six lines of the poem, we are given the description of a hippopotamus. This Hippo is much like the human race because, like it, we are simply made out of “flesh and blood.” The image that we receive of the Hippo is of a fat, lazy, beast sleeping in the mud. This animal represents the lowest person in society, who is worthless in relation to the rest of the world. Eliot attempts to contrast this image with that of a solid church founded upon a rock. This comparison seems almost satirical when one considers that the rock in question is actually a human being. How stable is the church when it is built upon something that is often as worthless as an animal sleeping in some mud? Thus, we wonder how serious Eliot is with this comparison.

In the next two stanzas, Eliot continues to contrast the church with the hippo. Eliot goes on to say that the Hippopotamus often has problems collecting items necessary for survival because it does not take the proper steps essential for acquiring all that it needs. Here, we see that the Hippo is too lazy and unmotivated to better its position in life. Eliot contrasts this with the church, but once again, his comparisons seem to be deliberately wrong. He states that the church never needs to act in order to receive money from its members. At face value, this may appear to be good, but in actuality, the church is just as lazy and worthless as the Hippo. It does absolutely nothing to acquire money, and it does nothing for society in return. Unlike the Hippo, who can’t even take a mango from a tree, the church takes all that it can from society. Its outstretched arms are capable of collecting dues and contributions from members around the world.

In the last three stanzas of the poem, the reader can see that the Hippo has been taken into heaven with a lot of praise and glory despite its apathy and laziness:

I saw the ‘potamus take wing…
And quiring angels round him sing
The praise of God, in loud hosannas…
Among the saints he shall be seen
Performing on a harp of gold.
He shall be washed as white as snow,…

In spite of the Hippopotamus’ lack of ambition and worthlessness, God has forgiven him and has taken him into heaven. The Hippo is a symbol of the most inactive and lazy being on this planet, and yet, it makes it to heaven while the church must remain on earth. Eliot is showing the reader here his belief that the church is extremely corrupt; so bad that it does not deserve to enter heaven.

It is in this way that T. S. Eliot shows the reader his idea that the church is so awful that its leaders don’t even deserve to enter heaven. By comparing the church to a Hippopotamus, we can see that the church is even more unscrupulous than the lowest and most worthless creature on earth. If a hippopotamus-like person can make it into heaven but a church member cannot, we can see how wretched and sordid the church really is.