The Poem we have studied is ‘What Were They Like’ which was written in the 1960’s by Denise Levertov. Denise Levertov was a anti war protester, who protested about the loss of the Vietnamese culture and the cruelty of the Americans. The structure of the poem was written in questions then answers as she wanted us to think about the questions then look at the answers after. Denise Levertov emphasises about the disaster which was caused by the Americans which left the people of Vietnam devastated. In the first question Denise Levertov tries to tell us that the people of Vietnam lived a simple life “did the people of Vietnam use lantern or stones”. Denise levertov tries to tell us that the people of Vietnam had hardly any money let alone electricity. Vietnam was isolated from the advanced countries such as America, United Kingdom and much more. This brings sympathy from the readers towards the people of Vietnam, as thinks makes the reader feel very saddened by what happened to all those happy villagers. In the answer 1; Denise levertov tells us that darkness came across the Vietnam “Sir, their light hearts turned to stone”. Denise Levertov uses the words “Lights hearts” to tell us that the Vietnamese people were kind, calm and peaceful people. Then Levertov uses the word “Stone” to emphasise the fact that their lives came to an unexpected end.
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In the second question, Denise Levertov asks us if people of Vietnam worshipped nature. “Did they hold ceremonies to reverence the opening of the bud?” What Denise Levertov was trying to explain was that they loved nature and they never harmed it. In the answer 2, Denise Levertov tells us that they maybe did hold ceremonies “perhaps they gathered once to delight in blossom” Levertov uses the words “perhaps” and ” once” which indicates that nobody really knew if they did worship nature as it was a long time ago. In the second point, Denise Levertov tells us that the village was surrounded by sadness when the children died “But after the children died there were no buds”. She uses the quote to explain that there were no more laughter or happiness in the atmosphere surrounding the village. Denise Levertov uses the word “buds” as a metaphor to refer to the starting of a human life. In the third question, Denise Levertov asks us if the Vietnam were happy or not “quiet laughter”. She is asking us if they were happy enjoying their lives and if they were a close unit (close family). In the answer 3, Denise Levertov tells us that Vietnam had nothing to enjoy themselves with. “Sir Laughter is bitter to the burned mouth”. She uses alliteration to show the reader how people can’t bare the thought of being happy anymore. She uses sarcasm to make her point about people who have lost everything can no longer experience any happiness. During and after the war people were getting torn to pieces, just because they were right in the middle of the war. In the question 4, Levertov asks us if the Vietnamese people used bone and ivory “did they use bone and ivory”. Levertov uses the words bone and ivory because it links to nature. So she asks us if they worshipped nature and if they used parts of nature. In the answer, Levertov tells us that ornaments are used when people are happy. “Ornaments is used for joy” “bones were charred” if they wasn’t any joy in the village then there wasn’t any point of wearing ornaments. Levertov uses the words “bones” and “charred” to tell us that bones were burnt and the Vietnam used materials like bones to build their ornaments. She uses vivid language so that the reader can picture the devastation which was caused by war. Her responses are very negative and are all associated with deathly themes. In the point in question 5, Levertov tries to make us think about the Vietnamese people. “It is not remembered. Remember”. The picture that Levertov is trying to paint for us is that nothing is left and that nobody knows how they lived there lives. She is trying to tell us that nobody really knew but they had lives. They were happy the way they lived. They were ordinary people living their lives. The 2nd point Levertov tells us that they were poor “most were peasants”. This shows that they never lived in an advanced country; they were poor who worked in fields to earn a living for their family. The 3rd point which was given to us was “maybe fathers told their sons old tales”. Levertov is telling us that fathers and sons had very good relationship as it relates back to the previous question as that they were a unit. The last point is that the people of Vietnam never knew that they were going to be in a middle of a war. “When bombs smashed those mirrors it was only time to scream”. Levertov plays with words as she uses “bombs smashed those mirrors”. She is telling us that the bombs tore the village apart. The beautiful scenery wasn’t beautiful anymore. The bombs had destroyed the lives of the Vietnam people. Levertov uses the words “it was only time to scream” in this line she tells us that war came unexpectedly. There was no sign of warning. But when the war came it left the people of Vietnam devastated. In question 6, Levertov tells us that speech resembled singing “speech and singing”. Levertov emphasises the fact that they were happy people, they were joyful. In the 1st point, Levertov tries to tell us that the villagers were calm people “singing resembled flight of moths on the moonlight”. Levertov tells us that they were quiet, who loved nature. In the 2nd point Levertov tells us that there isn’t an echo left in the village. “Who can say? It is silent now” this shows that the destruction brought the village at the edge of death. Many people’s lives became meaningless. Levertov uses the short sentence as it stands out from the rest. Also it is very clear in what the sentence means also it makes the reader think about Vietnam. The poem ‘What Were They Like’ is written in past and present tense. The questions are written in past tense and the answers are written in present tense. She used the questions in past and present tense because she wanted us to think back. She wanted to tell us what they did back then. The answers are in past tense as nobody knows how they lived. The answers I think children were answering to a man of respect as nearly in each answer it starts off with ‘Sir’. By bringing in ‘Sir’ Levertov is mocking the situation, as children answer their teachers by ‘Sir’ and the villagers had to answer the soldiers by ‘Sir’. She is trying to emphasise the fact that the people of Vietnam had no respect and they needed respect. The tone of this poem is sad “who can say it is silent now”. This quote was used to reflect the death of the happy loving villagers. The first stanza is positive and the second stanza was negative, this helps us to understand the people a bit better. The themes of this poem are love, death war, children and poverty. They used the quote “maybe fathers told their sons old tales” for love to emphasise that they were ordinary human beings who had big hearts. “But after the children were killed where were no more buds”. This quote represents death and children due to the because they are telling us that when children died they won’t be there to grow up to get married and have children’s which lessons the population. “When bombs smashed those mirrors there was only time to scream”. They give the idea that the US threw bombs at the Vietnamese people. This is related to war. For poverty they used “rice and bamboo” to tell us that they never had any luxury things they were still working in fields. This poem is very effective in the way the poem is layed out from my point of view. The quote which I found very effective was “who can say it is silent now” as it is short and very effective sentence and it gives the idea that everyone is killed and that there is a deserted village. London Fete is a protest poem which was written by Coventry Patmore in 1890 after public executions had stopped. Patmore objects to the fact that hanging was a public spectacle as it was used for an amusement for the big crowds which would gather round. Patmore describes the different people watching and there reactions “here a girl form her vesture tore a rag to wave with”. “There a man, with yelling tired”. Patmore uses the title ‘London fete’ on purpose as each word has its own meaning. London is the capital city of the United Kingdom and that’s where rules are made, also fete has two meanings, fete is when there are amusement parks for everyone to enjoy. Fate is destiny and the person who is getting hanged in the poem, his destiny is death. The structure of the poem that Patmore uses is one of short snappy lines which make the whole poem long and thin to mimic the hangman’s rope. Differences and similarities of WWTL and LONDON FETE ‘WWTL’ and ‘London Fete’ have many similarities. Both poems are about death. “after the children were killed” (WWTL). “They brought the man out to be hang’d” (London Fete). Also both are protest poems written to influence public feelings about events that the authors feel to be wrong. In both poems, death is legal. As in WWTL, the American senate would have authorised American troops to bomb the Vietnam, whilst in LF, the hanging would have followed a legal trial. Structure of both poems are both similar, both have short lines which will give more effect to the words. Both poems are very visual because the poets use graphic language to shock the readers. “The dangling corpse hung straight and still” (LF). “All the bones were charred” (WWTL). There are many differences in the way ‘What Were They Like’ and ‘London Fete’ were written. One of the differences is that ‘What Were They Like’ was about families working as a unit and helping each other out. This is one of the quotes I took to back my point “maybe fathers told their sons old tales”. On the other hand the people of ‘London Fete’ help there babies to have a good angle on seeing someone getting hanged and to show how entertaining death was “mothers hold their babies to see”. Levertov exploits the Vietnam culture to it’s full potential by telling us how kind, caring, loving and happy people were however Patmore tells us that people gathered just to see death then they travelled in there own separate ways. Patmore tries to show how vile these people were. This shows a big difference in the ‘London Fete’ and ‘What Were They Like’ culture. Levertov once again shows us that the people of Vietnam were happy. Levertov tells us that the people of Vietnam’s happiness lied in giving birth; they ‘gathered’ together to celebrate life but Patmore’s poem tells us that they had nothing to do other than watch a man die. “The dangling man hung straight and still”. Patmore uses this sentence to create tension in the reader as to, why would people be happy to watch someone die? Levertov exaggerates to put her point across the US showing them that Vietnam never did anything wrong. They were being killed for living a happy life. On the other hand Patmore’s poem shows how cruel the London society was. In ‘What Were They Like’ Levertov explains to us that the people of Vietnam were very isolated and we should have left it that way as so many innocent people have died. “There was only time to scream” Levertov tells us that death brought fear into the hearts of the villagers. In contrast to that, Patmore shows us that people were entertained by watching other people die. Everyone “enjoyed the wicked treat” (an oxymoron). This shows that they had no feelings for others. As on Levertov poet, it showed the people of Vietnam were scared to death watching people die