MA English Part II – Paper I – Poetry

MA English Part II – Paper I – Poetry – Free Notes, Edited by: Sir Nauman Sadaf

MA English Part II – Paper I: Poetry II (Course Outline)

William Blake:

  • A Selection from Songs of Innocence & Experience
  • Auguries of Innocence
  • The Sick Rose
  • London
  • A Poison Tree
  • A Divine Image
  • From Milton: And Did Those Feet
  • Holy Thursday (I)
  • The Tyger
  • Ah, Sun Flower
  • Holy Thursday (II)

S. T. Coleridge:

  • The Ancient Mariner
  • Kubla Khan
  • Dejection: An Ode

J. Keats:

  • Hyperion Book I
  • Ode to Autumn
  • Ode to a Nightingale
  • Ode on a Grecian Urn

Philip Larkin:

  • Bleaney
  • Church Going
  • Ambulances
  • 1914

Seamus Heaney:

  • Personal Helicon
  • Tolland Man
  • A Constable Calls
  • Toome Road
  • Casting and Gathering

Ted Hughes:

  • Thought Fox
  • Chances
  • That Morning
  • Full Moon and Freida


Introductory Short Notes

William Blake:

A Selection from Songs of Innocence & Experience

“Songs of Innocence and Experience” is a collection of poems by the English poet, painter, and printmaker William Blake. First published in 1789, the collection explores the contrasting states of innocence and experience and delves into themes such as religion, social injustice, the corrupting influence of society, and the loss of childhood innocence. Blake’s unique blend of lyrical poetry, mystical symbolism, and intricate illustrations makes this collection a remarkable and influential work of Romantic literature.

The collection is divided into two parts: “Songs of Innocence” and “Songs of Experience.” “Songs of Innocence” presents a vision of an idyllic and harmonious world, portraying the purity and joy of childhood, the beauty of nature, and the presence of divine love. These poems are characterized by their simple and melodic language, reflecting the innocent perspective from which they are narrated. They often contain themes of pastoral innocence, parental love, and the inherent goodness of humanity.

In contrast, “Songs of Experience” explores the darker aspects of human existence, acknowledging the complexities, sorrows, and corrupting influences of the world. The poems in this section are more complex, cynical, and critical of societal norms and institutions. Blake’s use of vivid and often unsettling imagery exposes the oppression, hypocrisy, and moral decay that he perceives in society. The poems highlight themes such as poverty, exploitation, the loss of freedom, and the dangers of excessive rationality and repressive religious doctrine.

Blake’s visionary and mystical beliefs are interwoven throughout the collection. He often incorporates religious and biblical references, presenting his own spiritual and philosophical ideas. His work challenges conventional religious dogma and emphasizes the importance of individual experience and personal connection with the divine.

One of the notable features of “Songs of Innocence and Experience” is the integration of text and illustrations. Blake was not only a poet but also a skilled visual artist. He created intricate and symbolic illustrations to accompany each poem, enhancing their meaning and adding another layer of depth to the collection. The visual and textual elements work together to create a cohesive and immersive experience for the reader.

From a critical perspective, “Songs of Innocence and Experience” is highly regarded for its innovative approach to poetry and its exploration of complex themes. Blake’s blending of innocence and experience provides a profound commentary on the human condition and the contradictory nature of existence. His use of vivid imagery, rich symbolism, and lyrical language captivates readers and draws them into his visionary world.

The collection also stands as a critique of the social, political, and religious institutions of Blake’s time. His poems expose the dehumanizing effects of industrialization, the oppressive nature of authority figures, and the limitations imposed by religious doctrine. Through his work, Blake champions the importance of individual freedom, imagination, and spiritual exploration.

“Songs of Innocence and Experience” has had a lasting impact on literature and continues to be studied and analyzed for its profound insights and artistic vision. It remains a significant work of Romantic poetry, showcasing Blake’s unique artistic style and his ability to capture the complexities of the human experience.

  1. “Auguries of Innocence”:

“Auguries of Innocence” explores the interconnectedness of innocence and experience and delves into the hidden meanings and significance behind small moments and creatures in the natural world. It emphasizes the importance of perceiving the vastness and wonder of the world in even the smallest and seemingly insignificant things. The poem also highlights the consequences of mistreatment, cruelty, and oppression, as well as the potential for innocence and forgiveness to counteract the troubles of the human soul.


  1. “The Sick Rose”:

“The Sick Rose” is a short poem that uses the imagery of a sickly rose to symbolize the destructive forces of repression and corruption. The rose, traditionally associated with beauty and love, is depicted as being infected by a hidden and destructive force, possibly representing societal or moral decay. The poem explores themes of secrecy, vulnerability, and the perversion of natural desires.


  1. “London”:

“London” is a critique of the social, political, and moral state of the city. It portrays a bleak and oppressive urban environment, where poverty, exploitation, and suffering are rampant. The poem exposes the hypocrisy and corruption of the institutions and figures of authority, such as the Church and the monarchy. It conveys a sense of despair and highlights the need for social reform and the restoration of individual freedoms.


  1. “A Poison Tree”:

“A Poison Tree” explores the destructive power of suppressed anger and the consequences of nurturing negative emotions. The poem describes how anger, when hidden and nurtured, can grow into a poisonous and vengeful force. It illustrates the progression from a simple grudge to a consuming desire for revenge, culminating in the death of a perceived enemy. The poem serves as a cautionary tale about the destructive nature of unresolved emotions.


  1. “A Divine Image”:

“A Divine Image” presents a vision of divine virtues and qualities, focusing on four virtues: Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love. The poem argues that these qualities are inherent to human nature and should be nurtured and expressed. It criticizes the traditional view of God as an authoritarian figure and instead emphasizes the importance of cultivating compassion and empathy towards others.


  1. “From Milton: And Did Those Feet”:

This poem, often known as “Jerusalem,” is an invocation and rallying cry for spiritual and social transformation. It envisions a divine presence and power returning to England to cleanse it from the injustices and oppressive systems that exist. The poem calls for a renewal of spiritual and moral values and implies that England can become a holy and righteous land.


  1. “Holy Thursday (I)”:

“Holy Thursday (I)” is part of a set of poems dedicated to the celebration of the Holy Thursday charity procession for the orphaned and impoverished children of London. The poem presents a contrast between the innocence and vulnerability of the children and the cold and indifferent response from society. It questions the true nature of charity and highlights the need for genuine care and compassion towards the less fortunate.


  1. “The Tyger”:

“The Tyger” explores the nature of good and evil, creation, and the duality of existence. The poem presents a series of questions about the creation of the tiger, marveling at its beauty and power while also pondering the source of its fierce and destructive nature. It reflects on the mysteries of creation and the presence of both light and darkness in the world.


  1. “Ah, Sun Flower”:

“Ah, Sun Flower” is a short, introspective poem that reflects on the transient nature of human existence and the longing for a higher spiritual realm. The sunflower symbolizes the human soul, which is constantly seeking enlightenment and transcendence. The poem contemplates the limitations and fleeting nature of earthly existence and yearns for a deeper connection with the divine.


  1. “Holy Thursday (II)”:

“Holy Thursday (II)” is the second part of the set of poems dedicated to the Holy Thursday charity procession. It continues to emphasize the contrast between the innocence of the children and the indifference of society. The poem calls for compassion, empathy, and genuine concern for the well-being and future of these vulnerable children. It also questions the role of religion and challenges the hypocrisy of those who claim to follow religious principles but fail to show compassion toward those in need.


S. T. Coleridge:

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was a prominent English poet and philosopher, best known for his contributions to the Romantic Movement. His poetry often explores themes of nature, imagination, and the supernatural. Coleridge’s works are characterized by vivid imagery, lyrical language, and profound introspection. Below, I will provide summaries and critical appreciation of three of his well-known poems: “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” “Kubla Khan,” and “Dejection: An Ode.”

  1. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is a narrative poem written in 1797–1798. It tells the story of a mariner who, after shooting an albatross, experiences supernatural events and suffers various trials as a consequence. The poem explores themes of guilt, redemption, and the power of nature. It is known for its compelling storytelling, memorable imagery, and complex moral allegory.

The poem begins with the mariner stopping a wedding guest and compelling him to listen to his tale. He recounts his journey at sea, where the mariner and his crew face a series of eerie events, including encounters with ghostly spirits and a ship full of dead sailors. The shooting of the albatross is a pivotal moment, as it brings a curse upon the mariner and his crew. They are left stranded at sea, facing death and torment.

Throughout the poem, Coleridge employs rich and vivid descriptions of the natural world, creating a sense of both beauty and menace. The mariner’s suffering and guilt, along with his eventual redemption, serve as a cautionary tale about the consequences of disrupting the harmony of nature.

“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is praised for its compelling narrative, symbolic depth, and exploration of moral and spiritual themes. It showcases Coleridge’s mastery of language and his ability to evoke a sense of awe and mystery.

  1. Kubla Khan:

“Kubla Khan” is a fragmentary poem written in 1797. It describes a fantastical vision of the palace and gardens of Kubla Khan, the legendary Mongol emperor. The poem is renowned for its lyrical beauty, dreamlike quality, and vivid imagery.

The poem begins with an enchanting description of the palace and its surroundings, painting a picture of an otherworldly paradise. Coleridge incorporates vivid sensory details, such as the “sunny pleasure dome” and the “deep romantic chasm,” to create a lush and evocative atmosphere. However, the poem remains unfinished, as Coleridge claimed to have been interrupted while writing it, preventing him from fully realizing his vision.

“Kubla Khan” is celebrated for its imaginative power and lyrical language. It explores the nature of creativity and the transformative potential of the human imagination. The poem’s dreamlike quality invites readers to embark on a sensory journey, immersing themselves in a world of heightened beauty and enchantment.

  1. Dejection: An Ode:

“Dejection: An Ode” is a reflective and introspective poem written in 1802. It explores themes of melancholy, loss, and the restorative power of nature. The poem is often regarded as a response to William Wordsworth’s poem “Tintern Abbey” and reveals Coleridge’s own struggles with depression and disillusionment.

In “Dejection: An Ode,” Coleridge expresses his deep sorrow and feelings of emptiness. He reflects on the fading of his creative powers and his inability to find solace in the beauty of nature. Coleridge contrasts his own despondency with the exuberance of his friend Charles Lamb, who serves as a symbol of joy and inspiration.

The poem’s tone shifts towards the end as Coleridge finds temporary solace in a beautiful sunset, which reawakens his sense of wonder and connection with nature. He suggests that the natural world can provide solace and healing, acting as a balm for the troubled soul.

“Detection: An Ode” is admired for its emotional depth and introspection. It showcases Coleridge’s ability to convey profound emotions and his belief in the redemptive power of nature. The poem also demonstrates his skillful use of imagery and lyrical language to convey the nuances of human experience.

Overall, these three poems by Samuel Taylor Coleridge reflect his unique poetic voice and his exploration of profound themes. They showcase his imaginative power, his ability to create vivid and evocative imagery and his keen understanding of the human condition. Coleridge’s works continue to captivate readers with their lyrical beauty and thought-provoking insights.


John Keats

John Keats (1795-1821) was an English Romantic poet known for his vivid imagery, sensuous language, and exploration of themes such as beauty, mortality, and the transience of life. His poems are characterized by their rich sensory experiences, introspective meditations, and profound appreciation for the natural world. Despite his short life, Keats left a lasting impact on the world of poetry and is considered one of the greatest poets of the Romantic era.

Now, let’s provide summaries and critical appreciation of the following Keats poems:

  1. Hyperion Book I:

Hyperion Book I is an unfinished epic poem by John Keats. The poem delves into Greek mythology, focusing on the fall of the Titans and the rise of the Olympian gods. It centers around the figure of Hyperion, the former Titan god of light, who has been overthrown by Apollo. Hyperion mourns his loss and laments the decline of his power and the fading of the natural world. Keats’ rich and evocative language captures the grandeur and pathos of the mythological narrative. Although unfinished, Hyperion Book I showcases Keats’ mastery of poetic imagery and his ability to explore complex themes with emotional depth.

  1. Ode to Autumn:

“Ode to Autumn” is a celebrated ode by John Keats, in which he pays tribute to the season of autumn. The poem describes the sights, sounds, and sensations associated with the autumnal season, emphasizing its bounty, warmth, and melancholic beauty. Keats vividly portrays the ripening fruits, the harvest, and the activities of the countryside. Through his rich descriptions and sensory language, he captures the transient nature of autumn and reflects upon the cycle of life, the inevitability of change, and the acceptance of mortality. “Ode to Autumn” is regarded as one of Keats’ finest works, praised for its vivid imagery, musicality, and profound contemplation of the human experience.

  1. Ode to a Nightingale:

“Ode to a Nightingale” is a renowned ode by John Keats, exploring themes of mortality, nature, and the power of art. The poem begins with the speaker expressing a sense of emotional pain and weariness, desiring to escape from the troubles of life. The nightingale’s song serves as a symbol of transcendence and the fleeting nature of joy. Keats reflects on the contrast between the nightingale’s blissful ignorance of suffering and the human experience of weariness and mortality. Through his vivid descriptions and lyrical language, Keats captures the transformative power of art and the longing for a deeper connection with the transcendent. “Ode to a Nightingale” is hailed as one of Keats’ most profound and emotionally resonant poems.

  1. Ode on a Grecian Urn:

“Ode on a Grecian Urn” is a well-known ode by John Keats, in which he contemplates the beauty and immortality of art. The poem focuses on a scene depicted on an ancient Greek urn, portraying various characters and scenes frozen in time. Keats reflects on the immutability of the urn’s art, contrasting it with the transient nature of human existence. He muses on the themes of love, beauty, and the tension between art’s ability to capture eternal beauty and its inability to truly experience life. Through his elegant language and philosophical inquiries, Keats invites readers to consider the nature of art, the power of the imagination, and the human longing for permanence in a world marked by impermanence.


Overall, Keats’ poems reveal his profound sensitivity to the beauty and transience of life, his contemplation of mortality, and his deep appreciation for the power of art. His language is rich, his imagery vivid, and his themes resonate with readers across generations, solidifying his status as a master of Romantic poetry.


Philip Larkin:

  1. “Bleaney”:

“Bleaney” is a poem that explores the theme of missed opportunities and the mundane nature of existence. The narrator rents a room previously occupied by a man named Bleaney. As the narrator describes the room and the life of Bleaney, he reflects on the unremarkable and unfulfilled nature of Bleaney’s life. The room itself is portrayed as a cramped and bleak space, mirroring the limitations of Bleaney’s existence. The poem suggests that Bleaney’s life was defined by a lack of ambition and a reluctance to take risks. It ultimately serves as a meditation on the ordinariness of life and the missed chances that prevent individuals from fully experiencing the richness and potential that life has to offer.

  1. “Church Going”:

“Church Going” explores the idea of religious faith and its declining significance in modern society. The poem begins with the narrator visiting an empty church and contemplating the role of religion in contemporary life. The speaker observes the absence of worshippers and ponders the future of religion as an institution. Larkin explores the notion that organized religion is losing its influence and becoming irrelevant in the face of societal and cultural changes. However, despite his skepticism, the speaker acknowledges a sense of awe and a longing for spiritual connection that remains present in the empty church. The poem concludes with the speaker’s recognition that, despite the waning influence of religion, there is an enduring human need for something beyond the mundane and the transient.

  1. “Ambulances”:

“Ambulances” is a reflective poem that meditates on mortality and the fragility of human life. The poem begins with the observation of an ambulance passing by, triggering thoughts about the inevitability of death. The poem explores the notion that the ambulance, representing medical care and rescue, is a reminder of the fleeting nature of life and the proximity of death. Larkin examines the mundane activities of daily life, such as shopping and walking in the park, and juxtaposes them with the suddenness of mortality. The poem contemplates the role of ambulances as symbols of human frailty, reminding us of our vulnerability and the swift arrival of death. It offers a sobering reflection on the transience of existence and the need to confront the reality of mortality.

  1. “1914”:

“1914” reflects on the impact of World War I and the destruction it brought to society. The poem examines the collective loss and grief experienced during the war, exploring themes of death, sacrifice, and the senselessness of war. Larkin portrays the war as a cataclysmic event that disrupted the lives of countless individuals. The poem also reflects on the aftermath of the war and the disillusionment that many felt when faced with the harsh realities of the conflict. Larkin contemplates the futility and waste of war, highlighting the profound sense of loss and the lasting scars it leaves on individuals and society. “1914” serves as a poignant reflection on the devastating consequences of war and the lasting impact it has on human lives.

Seamus Heaney:

Seamus Heaney was a renowned Irish poet who gained international recognition for his powerful and evocative poetry. He often explored themes of identity, memory, history, and the relationship between humans and the natural world. Below is a summary and introduction of five of his notable poems: “Personal Helicon,” “Tolland Man,” “A Constable Calls,” “Toome Road,” and “Casting and Gathering.”

1. “Personal Helicon”:

In “Personal Helicon,” Heaney reflects on his childhood fascination with wells and the act of digging. The poem serves as a metaphor for the poet’s search for self-discovery and artistic inspiration. Heaney draws a parallel between his exploration of wells in his youth and the exploration of his own poetic voice. By plumbing the depths of his personal experiences and memories, he is able to tap into the hidden wellsprings of creativity and find his “personal helicon,” a source of poetic inspiration.

2. “Tolland Man”:

In “Tolland Man,” Heaney delves into the discovery of a well-preserved Iron Age bog body in Tolland, Germany. The poem explores the haunting and visceral nature of this archaeological find and the sense of connection with the ancient past. Heaney depicts the Tolland Man’s preserved body as a bridge between the distant past and the present, prompting reflections on mortality, history, and the enduring power of the human body as a record of existence.

3. “A Constable Calls”:

“A Constable Calls” is a deeply personal and introspective poem in which Heaney recalls a childhood memory of an unexpected visit by a Royal Ulster Constabulary officer to his family’s farm during a time of political tension in Northern Ireland. Heaney reflects on the fear and suspicion engendered by the visit and the underlying political dynamics at play. The poem highlights the impact of political unrest on the individual and the complexities of identity in a divided society.

4. “Toome Road”:

“Toome Road” is a poem that captures the tension and conflict between different factions during the period of civil unrest known as “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland. Heaney describes a harrowing encounter with a military checkpoint on Toome Road, a significant route during that time. The poem explores themes of fear, violence, power dynamics, and the profound impact of political conflict on ordinary lives.

5. “Casting and Gathering”:

“Casting and Gathering” is a poem that celebrates the process of fishing, using it as a metaphor for the poet’s craft. Heaney skillfully interweaves vivid descriptions of nature with reflections on the act of writing poetry. The poem conveys the transformative power of art, as the act of casting and gathering becomes a metaphor for the poet’s own creative process of observing, engaging with, and transforming the world into poetry.

Seamus Heaney’s poems often delve into personal experiences, historical events, and the beauty and complexity of the natural world. Through his powerful imagery, precise language, and thoughtful exploration of themes, Heaney invites readers to engage with the human condition and contemplate the profound connections between the past, present, and future.


Ted Hughes

  1. “Thought Fox” by Ted Hughes:

“Thought Fox” is a poem that explores the creative process of writing through the metaphor of a fox entering a poet’s mind. The poem begins with the poet sitting alone in a room, waiting for inspiration. Suddenly, he senses a presence outside and imagines a fox emerging from the darkness. As the fox moves through the snow, leaving its tracks, the poet feels the stirring of his own thoughts. The poem depicts the fox’s movement as an embodiment of the poet’s imaginative process, with the fox representing inspiration and the act of writing. Through vivid descriptions and metaphors, Hughes captures the excitement and anticipation of creative discovery. The poem reflects Hughes’ belief in the power of nature and the wild to fuel the imagination and generate new ideas.


  1. “Chances” by Ted Hughes:

“Chances” is a poem that reflects on the unpredictable and uncertain nature of life. The poem presents a series of scenarios that depict different possibilities and outcomes. It explores the idea that life is shaped by a combination of random chance and individual agency. The poem suggests that in life, as in a game, one must take risks and make choices without knowing the outcome. Hughes emphasizes the element of surprise and the potential for both success and failure. Through its fragmented structure and evocative imagery, the poem captures the fleeting and unpredictable nature of existence, urging the reader to embrace uncertainty and live life to its fullest.


  1. “That

    Morning” by Ted Hughes:

“That Morning” is a poignant and reflective poem that explores the memory of a past relationship. The poem depicts a morning in which the speaker wakes up and reflects on a past love. The speaker recalls the details of their shared experience, the intimate moments, and the emotions they felt. The poem evokes a sense of longing and nostalgia, capturing the bittersweet quality of memories. Hughes skillfully portrays the complexity of human emotions and the lasting impact of past relationships. Through vivid descriptions and introspective language, the poem invites the reader to reflect on their own experiences of love and loss.


  1. “Full

    Moon and Freida” by Ted Hughes:

“Full Moon and Freida” is a poem that explores the themes of desire, intimacy, and the primal forces of nature. The poem centers around the image of a full moon and a woman named Freida, who is depicted as a powerful and sensual figure. The moon is presented as a symbol of desire and its gravitational pull. The poem explores the intense connection between the natural world and human desire, blurring the boundaries between the physical and the spiritual. Hughes’ rich and vivid imagery, combined with his use of sensual language, creates a visceral and intense reading experience. The poem challenges conventional notions of love and desire, presenting them as elemental forces that shape our existence.


Critical Appreciation:

Ted Hughes is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential poets of the 20th century. His poetry is characterized by its raw energy, vivid imagery, and exploration of the natural world. Hughes often drew inspiration from nature, mythology, and personal experiences, delving into themes of power, violence, and the human connection to the wild.

In “Thought Fox,” Hughes masterfully captures the process of creativity, transforming the act of writing into a tangible and vivid experience. Through his skillful use of metaphor and imagery, he presents the fox as a symbol of inspiration, evoking the excitement and mystery of the creative process. The poem reflects Hughes’ belief in the power of nature to inspire and ignite the imagination.

Chances” reveals Hughes’ fascination with the unpredictable nature of life. The fragmented structure and vivid descriptions convey a sense of uncertainty and spontaneity. The poem emphasizes the importance of taking risks and embracing the unknown, urging readers to engage fully in the ever-changing landscape of existence.

That Morning” demonstrates Hughes’ ability to evoke powerful emotions and memories through his use of language. The poem captures the fleeting and tender moments of a past relationship, inviting readers to reflect on their own experiences of love and loss. Hughes’ introspective and poignant approach to the subject matter resonates deeply with readers.

In “Full Moon and Freida,” Hughes explores desire, sensuality, and the primal forces of nature. The poem displays his bold and uninhibited approach to writing, challenging societal norms and presenting love and desire as elemental and untamed forces. Hughes’ rich and evocative imagery creates a visceral reading experience, inviting readers to embrace the wild and passionate aspects of their own lives.


Overall, Ted Hughes’ poems are celebrated for their intense emotional power, innovative use of language, and exploration of the human condition. His work continues to inspire and provoke readers, challenging them to engage with the wild, mysterious, and transformative aspects of existence.





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