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Poetry of Relevance Print-ready version

by Homer Hogan
Methuen Books
March 1970
Original article: PDF

Poetry of Relevance is a high school English textbook, published in Canada in1970.

Unlike most of her contemporaries, Joni Mitchell manages to write verse of enchanting subtlety without deflecting our attention away from melody, mainly because her melody is as subtle as her verse, every melodic motion and gesture perfectly matched with the turns of her words. What is the secret of this lyrical magic? Perhaps what first strikes us when we hear a Joni Mitchell song is her imagery. New York is a place where "the stars paid a light bill" (Song to a Seagull); summer "falls to the sidewalk like string and brown paper" (Marcie); and "an aging cripple" can be seen "selling Superman balloons" (Nathan La Franeer). Here are objects we can see with our eyes, minds, and feelings. Because of the opposition between the elements united in them, they also surprise us into asking questions. But the wonder-work done by these images is not due solely to their internal content and structure. By far the greatest part of that work results from he release her images provide for the poetic energy she generates in the contexts of the images.

For the sake of those who wish to write poetry and those who want simply to sharpen their awareness of it, we shall present here a detailed analysis of the contexts controlling the development of Joni Mitchell's songs. We shall consider how she achieves her effects by discussing five general contexts of poetry: attitude, manner, style, thought, description and narration, and representation.


For Joni Mitchell's songs, the most important context is the attitude she takes toward her material. Her attitude is primarily lyrical, her work being experienced principally as an expression of a personal feeling or state of mind. Not just any attitude will do in writing lyrical poetry. If we sense that the poet is merely gushing or raging, for example, we will pull back. An attitude that has internal tension is most effective. Such tension is immediately interesting and provides a natural basis for developing the conflict that all poems require if they are to live. Joni Mitchell's attitude is of this sort. In one way intimately involved in all she says and sings, and yet, on another level always carefully distanced from her material, she projects an ambivalence that is exquisitely intriguing. Of course we are not speaking here of Joni Mitchell the person. All that is aesthetically relevant is Joni Mitchell as she reveals herself in her songs. In the attitude of this "apparent" personality a polarization takes place between involvement and detachment, naiveté and awareness, sensitivity and tough-mindedness, child and woman. There is, however, no confusion in these oppositions. Throughout each song we sense their fusion in the sustained mood of gentle irony playing under her imagery.


The way that the tension within Joni Mitchell's attitude shapes the other contexts of her work can be seen first in the general manner in which she expresses her feelings and state of mind. Compelling her to talk with someone, her inner tension is such that the person spoken to should be neither (at least not directly) a lover (for that would be too intimate) nor the general public (for that would be too distant). The right balance is hit when she takes her audience to be her friend and makes her form of communication something like a personal letter, which she either addresses directly to the friend, as in Nathan La Franeer, Michael from Mountains, and Marcie, or which she shows to the friend after writing it to someone else, as in Song to a Seagull. Of course, her poems are not really personal letters to or for a friend. They are essentially descriptive and narrative songs. But they have the effect of personal letters, for they speak of places she's been, people she's known, things she's seen-bits of ordinary life she herself has lived and is now telling about in the sort of colloquial language a good friend expects to hear. The song-letter form, however, is not merely appropriate for the attitude she takes toward her material. It carries its own interest, for it both heightens the credibility of the content and teases us with the distance it places between us and the delightful character who is trying to communicate with us.


We might next consider how Joni's attitude shapes the style of the song-letters. Pressure from the open, child-like side of her nature is felt in her light, conversational idioms, in phrases like "silly seabird," "night in the city looks pretty to me," and "yellow slickers up on swings." Against this language of spontaneous response work the sharp intellectual observations she makes from her other side the Joni Mitchell who appears to keep life removed from herself so that she can know it in freedom. The result is a continual tension between intimate, colloquial expression and a contrapuntal irony. To appreciate the interest that this tension in her style creates, one need only consider what would happen to her songs if she simply proclaimed her views, or milked her audience for sympathy instead of engaging them to share with her the bitter-sweet humor of things.


The irony characterizing Joni's style operates not only in individual observations she makes about her subject matter, but also through the general view of life that motivates her to make them. Technically, this aspect is usually called the context of thought. Ironic thought in Joni Mitchell's song-poems is not, however, unmitigated. Again in keeping with the duality of her attitude, while she sees, without withdrawing into pessimism, the ironic disparity between human aspirations and what is in fact attainable, her joy in life is too great to be defeated by her skeptical intellect. There is no suggestion, for example, that it would have been wiser for the deserted Marcie not to have hoped for her lover's return, or for Joni not to have identified with the seagull; nor even in the bitter Nathan La Franeer does the ugliness of New York completely excuse the cab driver for his unkindness.

Description and Narration

We come next to the question of how the thought behind Joni Mitchell's poems is artistically realized. The simplest way of implementing thought is through straight argument. But argument would not express what Joni has to say. Standing aside, she lets her material speak for itself through word-sketches of persons, places, and things, and "word-films" of events. The word-films are the most important. Through them a brief moment in time can suggest a much larger pattern of activity, which in turn becomes the object of the thought in the poem. In Nathan La Franeer, Joni is on her way to the airport; in Song to a Seagull, she visits the seashore; and in Michael from Mountains, a little boy is going home in the rain. In each of these vignettes of daily routine, a whole set of relations to existence are revealed. Consider, for example, these lines in Michael from Mountains:

There's oil on the puddles in taffeta patterns
That run down the drain
In colored arrangements
That Michael will change with a stick that he found.

What sort of a person would pay such attention to oily puddles and a boy fiddling with a stick? Only someone with a quiet passion for "useless" surfaces. Michael, too, is obviously a lover of colors and patterns, but his Jove is the active wonder of the child. The difference between them, however, only underscores what they share: a playful reverence for being.


Joni's suggestively anecdotal representation evidences again the intriguing manner in which she is continually feeling her way between remoteness and involvement. As is usual in songwriting, her music consists of tightly balanced repetitions and variations of a common theme and consequently the lyrics welded to the music must also be developed in that fashion. But there are few songwriters whose lyrics take such subtle advantage of that confinement. In her hands, the verses that must be balanced for the sake of the music often become delicately juxtaposed scenes that in contrast to one another expose the detailed working of change on people we might watch from windows. In other words, Joni makes the balance and distance inherent in the song form perfect expressions of her reflective approach to her material, while at the same time her love of life finds its way out through the care with which she observes.

The beginning and final verses of Marcie provide a good illustration of this representational technique. We first see Marcie trying to make time pass while she waits for word from her lover; in the last verse, however, we don't see her at all-we just learn that "someone heard she bought a one-way ticket/and went west again." Joni stops short of showing us Marcie's final despair, out of respect, perhaps, both for her protagonist and her audience's imagination. In any event. the distancing of the little tragedy produces an effect typical of Joni's songwriting, a poignancy that outlasts sorrow.

The second aspect of her technique, the care she feels toward her material, is shown in the tender realism of the poetic details. Marcie does not begin in simple hope; that would be false to life and to art, for the beginning would then not contain the grounds for the ending. Hope is there only implicitly, in the "coat of flowers" she wears. and the man's shirt she uses to "dust her tables". What dominates is the impression of empty daily routine into which Marcie, not without bravery, is trying to escape, an impression which provides the theme that the rest of the song develops musically and lyrically.

When we move from the verse-scenes of Joni's songs to her individual lines. we can find everywhere examples of this combination of reflective juxtapositioning and warm, concerned observation. Watch, for instance, what happens to the words "red" and "green" in Marcie. But perhaps enough has been said to support our main thesis, namely, that the sources of the power in Joni's imagery are not only in the images themselves. but also in the contexts that control the images. In her song-poems, the contexts of attitude, manner, thought. narration, and representation each have their own interest; and because of the organic way in which they connect with one another, these contexts also concentrate their interests into unified appeals which it is the task of the images to communicate.

In the following section the student can gain further insight into the possibilities of treating imagery by considering the poems associated with Song to a Seagull. Joni Mitchell's song and the related poems illustrate what can be done with one basic image, the bird-figure of countless myths and daydreams.

Joni Mitchell

Marcie in a coat of flowers
Steps inside a candy store
Reds are sweet and greens are sour
Still no letter at her door
So she'll wash her flower curtains
Hang them in the wind to dry
Dust her tables with his shirt and
Wave another day goodbye

Marcie's faucet needs a plumber
Marcie's sorrow needs a man
Red is autumn green is summer
Greens are turning and the sand
All along the ocean beaches
Stares up empty at the sky
Marcie buys a bag of peaches
Stops a postman passing by
And summer goes
Falls to the sidewalk like string and brown paper
Winter blows
Up from the river there's no one to take her
To the sea

Marcie dresses warm its snowing
Takes a yellow cab uptown
Red is stop and green's for going
Sees a show and rides back down
Down along the Hudson River
Past the shipyards in the cold
Still no letter's been delivered
Still the winter days unfold
Like magazines
Fading in dusty grey attics and cellars
Make a dream
Dream back to summer and hear how
he tells her
Wait for me

Marcie leaves and doesn't tell us
Where or why she moved away
Red is angry green is jealous
That was all she had to say
Someone thought they saw her Sunday
Window shopping in the rain
Someone heard she bought a one-way ticket
And went west again

Amy Lowell

I walk down the garden paths,
And all the daffodils
Are blowing, and the bright blue squills.
I walk down the patterned garden paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown.
With my powdered hair and jewelled fan,
I too am a rare
Pattern. As I wander down
The garden paths.

My dress is richly figured,
And the train
Makes a pink and silver stain
On the gravel, and the thrift
Of the borders.
Just a plate of current fashion,
Tripping by in high-heeled, ribboned shoes.
Not a softness anywhere about me,
Only whale-bone and brocade.
And I sink on a seat in the shade
Of a lime tree. For my passion
Wars against the stiff brocade.
The daffodils and squills
Flutter in the breeze
As they please.
And I weep;
For the lime tree is in blossom
And one small flower has dropped upon my bosom.

And the splashing of waterdrops
In the marble fountain
Comes down the garden paths.
The dripping never stops.
Underneath my stiffened gown
Is the softness of a woman bathing in a marble basin,
A basin in the midst of hedges grown
So thick, she cannot see her lover hiding,
But she guesses he is near,
And the sliding of the water
Seems the stroking of a dear
Hand upon her.
What is Summer in a fine brocaded gown!
I should like to see it lying in a heap upon the ground.
All the pink and silver crumpled up on the ground.

I would be the pink and silver as I ran along the paths,
And he would stumble after,
Bewildered by my laughter.
I should see the sun flashing from his sword-hilt and the buckles on his shoes.
I would choose
To lead him in a maze along the patterned paths,
A bright and laughing maze for my heavy-booted lover,
Till he caught me in the shade,
And the buttons of his waistcoat bruised my body as he clasped me,
Aching, melting, unafraid.
With the shadows of the leaves and the sundrops,
And the plopping of the waterdrops,
All about us in the open afternoon
I am very like to swoon
With the weight of this brocade,
For the sun sifts through the shade.

Underneath the fallen blossom
In my bosom,
Is a letter I have hid.
It was brought to me this morning by a rider from the Duke.
“Madam, we regret to inform you that Lord Hartwell
Died in action Thursday sen’night.”
As I read it in the white, morning sunlight,
The letters squirmed like snakes.
“Any answer, Madam,” said my footman.
“No,” l told him.
“See that the messenger takes some refreshment.
No, no answer.”
And I walked into the garden,
Up and down the patterned paths,
In my stiff, correct brocade.
The blue and yellow flowers stood up proudly in the sun,
Each one.
I stood upright too,
Held rigid to the pattern
By the stiffness of my gown.
Up and down I walked,
Up and down.

In a month he would have been my husband.
In a month, here, underneath this lime,
We would have broke the pattern;
He for me, and I for him,
He as Colonel, I as Lady,
On this shady seat.
He had a whim
That sunlight carried blessing.
And I answered, “It shall be as you have said.”
Now he is dead.

In Summer and in Winter I shall walk
Up and down
The patterned garden paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown.
The squills and daffodils
Will give place to pillared roses, and to asters, and to snow.
I shall go
Up and down,
In my gown.
Gorgeously arrayed,
Boned and stayed.
And the softness of my body will be guarded from embrace
By each button, hook, and lace.
For the man who should loose me is dead,
Fighting with the Duke in Flanders,
In a pattern called a war.
Christ! What are patterns for?

Joni Mitchell

Michael wakes you up with sweets
He takes you up streets and the rain comes down
Sidewalk markets locked up tight
And umbrellas bright on a grey background
There's oil on the puddles in taffeta patterns
That run down the drain
In colored arrangements
That Michael will change with a stick that he found

Michael from mountains
Go where you will go to
Know that I will know you
Someday I may know you very well

Michael brings you to a park
He sings and its dark when the clouds come by
Yellow slickers up on swings
Like puppets on strings hanging in the sky
They'll splash home to suppers in wallpapered kitchens
Their mothers will scold
But Michael will hold you
To keep away cold till the sidewalks are dry

Michael from mountains
Go where you will go to
Know that I will know you
Someday I may know you very well

Michael leads you up the stairs
He needs you to care and you know you do
Cats come crying to the key
And dry you will be in a towel or two
There's rain in the window
There's sun in the painting that smiles on the wall
You want to know all
But his mountains have called so you never do

Michael from mountains
Go where you will go to
Know that I will know you
Someday I may know you very well

William Wordsworth (Stanzas VII and VIII)

Behold the Child among his new-born blisses,
A six years' darling of a pigmy size!
See, where 'mid work of his own hand he lies,
Fretted by sallies of his mother's kisses,
With light upon him from his father's eyes!
See, at his feet, some little plan or chart,
Some fragment from his dream of human life,
Shaped by himself with newly-learned art;
A wedding or a festival,
A mourning or a funeral;
And this hath now his heart,
And unto this he frames his song:
Then will he fit his tongue
To dialogues of business, love, or strife;
But it will not be long
Ere this be thrown aside,
And with new joy and pride
The little actor cons another part;
Filling from time to time his 'humorous stage'
With all the Persons, down to palsied Age,
That life brings with her in her equipage;
As if his whole vocation
Were endless imitation.

Thou, whose exterior semblance doth belie
Thy soul's immensity;
Thou best philosopher, who yet dost keep
Thy heritage, thou eye among the blind,
That, deaf and silent, read'st the eternal deep,
Haunted for ever by the eternal Mind,—
Mighty Prophet! Seer blest!
On whom those truths rest
Which we are toiling all our lives to find,
In darkness lost, the darkness of the grave;
Thou, over whom thy Immortality
Broods like the day, a master o'er a slave,
A Presence which is not to be put by;
To whom the grave
Is but a lonely bed, without the sense of sight
Of day or the warm light,
A place of thoughts where we in waiting lie;
Thou little child, yet glorious in the might
Of heaven-born freedom on thy being's height,
Why with such earnest pains dost thou provoke
The years to bring the inevitable yoke,
Thus blindly with thy blessedness at strife?
Full soon thy soul shall have her earthly freight,
And custom lie upon thee with a weight
Heavy as frost, and deep almost as life!

Joni Mitchell

I hired a coach to take me
from confusion to the plane
And though we shared a common space
I know I'll never meet again
The driver with his eyebrows furrowed in the rear-view mirror
I read his name and it was plainly written Nathan La Franeer
I asked him would he hurry
But we crawled the canyons slowly
Thru the buyers and the sellers
Thru the burglar bells and the wishing wells
With gangs and girly shows
The ghostly garden grows

The cars and buses bustled thru the bedlam of the day
I looked thru window-glass at streets
and Nathan grumbled at the grey
I saw an aging cripple selling Superman balloons
The city grated thru chrome-plate
The clock struck slowly half-past-noon
Thru the tunnel tiled and turning
Into daylight once again I am escaping
Once again goodbye
To symphonies and dirty trees
With parks and plastic clothes
The ghostly garden grows

He asked me for a dollar more
He cursed me to my face
He hated everyone who paid to ride
And share his common space
I picked my bags up from the curb
And stumbled to the door
Another man reached out his hand
Another hand reached out for more
And I filled it full of silver
And I left the fingers counting
And the sky goes on forever
Without meter maids and peace parades
You feed it all your woes
The ghostly garden grows

William Blake

I wander thro’ each charter’d street,
Near where the charter’d Thames does flow,
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every man,
In every Infant’s cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear.

How the Chimney-sweeper’s cry
Every blackning Church appalls;
And the hapless Soldier’s sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls.

But most thro’ midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlot’s curse
Blasts the new-born Infant’s tear,
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.

Fulke Greville

SION lies waste, and Thy Jerusalem,
O Lord, is fall’n to utter desolation;
Against Thy prophets and Thy holy men,
There sin hath wrought a fatal combination;
Profan’d Thy name, Thy worship overthrown,
And made Thee, living Lord, a God unknown.

Thy powerful laws, Thy wonders of creation,
Thy word incarnate, glorious heaven, dark hell,
Lie shadowed under man’s degeneration;
Thy Christ still crucified for doing well;
Impiety, O Lord, sits on Thy throne,
Which makes Thee living Lord, a God unknown.

Man’s superstition hath Thy truth entombed,
His atheism again her pomps defaceth;
That sensual, insatiable vast womb,
Of thy seen Church, Thy unseen Church disgraceth;
There lives no truth with them that seem Thine own,
Which makes Thee, living Lord, a God unknown.

Yet unto Thee, Lord—mirror of transgression—
We who for earthly idols have forsaken,
Thy heavenly image—sinless, pure impression—
And so in nets of vanity lie taken,
All desolate implore that to Thine own,

Lord, Thou no longer live a God unknown.
Yea, Lord, let Israel’s plagues not be eternal,
Nor sin for ever cloud Thy sacred mountains,
Nor with false flames spiritual but infernal,
Dry up Thy Mercy’s ever springing fountains:
Rather, sweet Jesus, fill up time and come,
To yield to sin her everlasting doom.

Joni Mitchell

Fly silly seabird
No dreams can possess you
No voices can blame you
For sun on your wings
My gentle relations
Have names they must call me
For loving the freedom
Of all flying things
My dreams with the seagulls fly
Out of reach out of cry

I came to the city
And lived like old Crusoe
On an island of noise
In a cobblestone sea
And the beaches were concrete
And the stars paid a light bill
And the blossoms hung false
On their store window trees
My dreams with the seagulls fly
Out of reach out of cry

Out of the city
And down to the seaside
To sun on my shoulders
And wind in my hair
But sandcastles crumble
And hunger is human
And humans are hungry
For worlds they can't share
My dreams with the seagulls fly
Out of reach out of cry

I call to a seagull
Who dives to the waters
And catches his silver-fine
Dinner alone
Crying where are the footprints
That danced on these beaches
And the hands that cast wishes
That sunk like a stone
My dreams with the seagulls fly
Out of reach out of cry

John Bruce

Every year at this time and on this windless sort of evening
The single tern fishes across from me on the same flat bay;
In measure after measure and mismeasured swoops and feints
It shapes and arcs at the sheen and silver beneath his eye;
And on the last furring of light I can see his finned wing
Cut above the trees and away down as old as myth,
As cold white as Greece's last great murmurations of art.

John Keats

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness,—
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool'd a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stained mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs,
Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,
And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Cluster'd around by all her starry Fays;
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
Fast fading violets cover'd up in leaves;
And mid-May's eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call'd him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
To thy high requiem become a sod.

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that oft-times hath
Charm'd magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
As she is fam'd to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now 'tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?

John Harney

Birds, black or white, both;
They wheel:
one like a dervish
on the windy beach.
a nun flailing at
the lusty afternoon,
blushing for the waves
that leer and kiss and toss
on their heavy sea-grown beds.

The other is a bird;
gull, white and whistling,
an improbable yellow
horn for a beak, eyes
glowing with love's improper
hue, bestial ruddy red;
scavenger, gleaner of refuse,
his feathers belie his dusty trade.

Today she gleans on the shores of heaven,
And he's in his paradise;
for both, black or white,
the almighty is a fish:
once, to be caught alive,
twice, to be eaten dead,
and three, as ever, or always,
swimming in a mystery.

Joni Mitchell

Light up light up
Light up your lazy blue eyes
Moon's up nights up
Taking the town by surprise

Night time night time
Day left an hour ago
City light time
Must you get ready so slow
There are places to come from
and places to go

Night in the city looks pretty to me
Night in the city looks fine
Music comes spilling out into the street
Colors go flashing in time

Take off take off
Take off your stay-at-home shoes
Break off shake off
Chase off those stay-at-home blues

Stairway stairway
Down to the crowds in the street
They go their way
Looking for faces to greet
But we run on laughing with no one to meet

Night in the city looks pretty to me
Night in the city looks fine
Music comes spilling out into the street
Colors go waltzing in time

William Wordsworth

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie

Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.

Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!

The river glideth at his own sweet will: Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

Suggestions for Study

1. a) A critic has said that Joni Mitchell's work is like a painting done in watercolors. Explain how the images, the choice of words, the atmosphere, and the narrative line in Marcie reflect the impression given by a watercolor painting.
b) On the other hand, Amy Lowell's Patterns might be likened to a sharply defined oil painting with striking colors. Explain how her poem fits this pattern.
c) Which poem evokes a greater feeling of pathos?

Michael from Mountains
2. Although both the lyric and the Wordsworth poem here present a picture of the beauty of childhood, Michael from Mountains seems to create a more authentic, more acceptable picture of what childhood is really like. Consider the reasons for this.

Nathan La Franeer
3. a) All three works presented here are critical of society, but does each suggest a different reason for society's degeneration?
b) "Every time I feel a certain way about something, I hear an argument for the other side. I'm just a hopeless middleman." (Joni Mitchell in an interview with Peter Goddard for the Toronto Telegram, 1969). Show how Nathan La Franeer is essentially a protest song, and yet not entirely a one-sided picture.
c) Compare Blake's London with Nathan La Franeer from the following points of view: i) strength of the images, ii) effect of the first-person delivery, iii) breadth of the vision.

Song to a Seagull
4. a) By contrasting this lyric with one of its companion poems that is more concrete, show how images, connotations of words, and the sentiments in Song to a Seagull create an atmosphere of fragility.
b) Would the melancholy of Ode to a Nightingale be heightened or lessened if it were put to music-any kind of music?
c) Note carefully the techniques by which Joni Mitchell and John Harney have created opposite impressions of the seagull. Select any poem in this book and try to create an opposing impression with your own poetry.

Night in the City
5. Both Night in the City and Lines Composed Upon Westminster Bridge present pictures of beauty. Yet both portraits admit a sense of the ephemeral. They seem to be only temporary situations. Why is this feeling more poignant in the Mitchell lyric than in Wordsworth's sonnet?

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Added to Library on August 27, 2016. (5982)


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