Hi everyone, I am practicing writing essays in English. The following is my written exercise comparing two poems. You may find the poems at the end of this thread if necessary :)
I will appreciate comments about any aspect, vocabulary, grammar, structure, logic line, whichever!
Here we go:
Nature's Power and Human Desire in the Process of Decay:
Comparing and Contrasting Sonnet 12 and Blackberry Picking
All that is beautiful will inevitably wither in nature as well as in human societies. Though both Shakespeare's Sonnet 12 and Seamus Heaney's Blackberry Picking depict this inexorable process of decay, the former attributes this saddening process to the power of nature whereas the latter emphasizes the destructive role that human desire plays. This distinction is presented in both the rhythm and content of the two poems.
Rhythm in Sonnet 12 reminds readers of the force of nature. The rhythm of the sonnet builds a parallel between human and nature. Established strictly by iambic pentameter, the sonnet impresses readers with its high regularity. This periodicity coincides with the renewal of generation. In the poem, one iambic foot follows another; in nature, one generation follows another. As well as in rhyme, parallelism can also be also seen in the work's content. For example, silver hair is compared to a withered violet in the first quatrain and a dead old man lofty trees in the second quatrain. Parallelisms in both rhyme and content remind readers that humans, like any other species, can never escape decay because of nature's power. Careful arranged rhymes highlight nature's position as a powerful ruler.
In Blackberry-Picking, on the other hand, Heaney emphasizes his own emotion with half rhymes. The poet recalls how he picked blackberries and then watched them decay. This content is mirrored by half rhymes that give the verse a reflexive and personal tone. Such half rhymes as "sun" and "ripen", "for" and "hunger", "byre" and "fur" sound softer than perfect rhymes and are thus more suitable for a work about recollection. Through these soft half rhymes, one may picture Heaney sitting quietly reflecting on his childhood memory. As well as highlighting the poet's melancholy on human greed, half rhymes is soft enough to leave readers to empathize with Heaney.
It is arguable that both poems employ a considerable number of natural images. Like Sonnet 12, which depicts the decay of violets, lofty trees, and an elderly man, Blackberry Picking illustrates how the sweet fruits rotted and stunk. In fact, Blackberry Picking is in Heaney's famous collection, Death of a Naturalist, which mainly deals with his close-to-nature experience in County Derry.
Despite this, nature is not emphasized in Heaney's work. Compared to Sonnet 12, Blackberry Picking present more human interference in the decay process. In Sonnet 12, human is merely an observer whereas the passage of time is underlined as the reason for decaying. He witnesses beautiful things wither but has no further interactions with them. Unlike Heaney who picked blackberries, Shakespeare only "beholds" a past prime violet and "sees" barrens of trees. In Sonnet 12, it is time rather than human actions that is essential in causing decay. The poem begins with the ticks of clock and continues with the transition from day to night. Then, in the second quatrain, tall trees lose their leaves when summer passes. This leads to the conclusion in the ending couplet that "Time's scythe", which is a part of nature's law, makes everything beautiful fade.
The story line of Heaney's reminiscence is established on human greed. The poet longed for more after having tasted the first blackberry. Called by this desire, he picked blackberries in a violent way, though his hands were hurt by thorns. First, Heaney describes the seemingly innocent activity with such sensual words as "lust", "thickened wine", and "blood", denoting the desire in the young boy. He even clearly states that he had a "lust for picking". Another eye-catching word choice is the list of names of containers: "milk cans, pea tins, jam pots". The poet and his friends were indiscriminate in their choice of containers; they needed as many as possible, in order to collect more blackberries and satisfy their lust. Moreover, a sequence of monosyllabic nouns quickens the melodic flow, illustrating how eager the poet was to pick more sweet berries. Both language and sound in Blackberry-Picking highlights the picker's desire. In this way, the greed in human nature is held more responsible for the decay.
Whilst both Shakespeare and Seamus Heaney believe that decay is inevitable, they disagree on why this process takes place and, therefore, disagree on solutions. The simple advice Shakespeare gives the young man is to reproduce. Reproduction, as a method to achieve immortality, is a conformity to nature's law. The advice to reproduce does not show up until the closing couplet, but the ground of this suggestion, nature's cycle, has been highlighted in the three quatrains. For example, "Borne on the bier" portrays a passed-away old man lying on the bier, but "borne" suggests birth and renewal of generation as well. "Die as fast as they see others grow" in the third quatrain resembles the relationship between parents and children. These references to cycle in nature leads to Shakespeare's advice to "save breed". Heaney, on the other hand, did not give a clear solution but has suggested lust as a main culprit. Blackberries, once sweet and beautiful, rotted "once off the bush" and it was humans driven by temptation that had picked them off the branches. One may infer from Heaney's emphasis on lust that minimizing greed in human nature is the only remedy.
The dispute could be because the poets are of different time periods. Shakespeare lived the 17th century when human beings had little power over nature. Since they were dependent on nature to a great extent for safety and productivity in agrarian societies, the only way to live a better life seems to conform to nature's law. For example, when looking for places to settle, people in agrarian societies turn to nature for help and consider a great deal factors related to nature like climate and water availability. Likewise, when pondering how to fight mortality, the most available solution is to comply to nature and to create offspring.
In the 20th century, industrialization and urbanization had revolutionized not only human/nature relationship but also relationships within human society. First, technological developments made humanity less dependent on nature. Meanwhile, with more people living in cities, inter-personal relationship become more complex. This may have led Heaney to reflect deeply on human nature, especially on greed.
To conclude, Shakespeare emphasizes nature while Heaney stresses human nature when they analyze the reason behind decay. In Sonnet 12, Shakespeare believes that decay is non-escapable because of nature's power, unless the young man seeking advice reproduce; in Blackberry Picking, Heaney sees human lust as the prime cause of beautiful things fading. They then address the reasons behind decay, with Shakespeare advising the young man to reproduce and Heaney arguing decay will happen again and again unless humans refrain their excessive desires.
Works cited: XXX
(By William Shakespeare)
(By Seamus Heaney)
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Shurui, this is an excellent review of the two poems. You have shown a vast insight into poetry writing and an understanding of its intricacies that I cannot help but wonder if you are not merely paraphrasing someone else's work. Your previous essay writings for the Task 2 tests most certainly do not reflect this ability of yours in the manner portrayed in this poetry review. Perhaps simply writing for the sake of writing instead of writing under time constraints with specific instructions is the best form of English writing exercise for you, and that, is a good thing. By simply improving your writing skills based on non-IELTS related tasks, you should be able to improve your analytical and English writing skills over time. Good job!
While there are some areas where you do make vocabulary mistakes (e.g. human instead of humanity) these do not take away from the seriousness of your review and an understanding that you took the time to truly understand the poems before writing your essay. I hope I am wrong and you did not merely write a paraphrasing exercise here. Please correct me if I am wrong and you only did a paraphrasing exercise. Eitherway, you did a good job.
One problem though, your concluding paragraph is redundant. You should have not have repeated that the writers addressed the reasons behind the decay because you already said that at the beginning of the paragraph. You should have opted for a more relevant sentence that could have made a marked close for the essay instead. Perhaps something along the lines of "Regardless of the reason for decay, one thing was made definite by the two writers. That is, that man will cause his own decay in one way or another." That sort of closing depicts your own understanding of the whole point of the two essays. Which is what can strongly close the presentation.