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Saturday, August 25, 2007

SPM 2005-2007 Literature in English (Notes: Poems)

Posted by Snow

Theme: HOPE

Miracles
Walt Whitman

Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles.
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of the houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under the trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with anyone I love - or sleep in bed at night with anyone I love,
Or sit at a table at dinner with my mother,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey bees busy around the hive, of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds - or the wonderfulness of the sun-down - or of stars shining so quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite, delicate, thin curve of the new moon in spring;
Or whether I go among those I like best, and that like me best - mechanics, boatmen, farmers,
Or among the savans - or to the soiree - or to the opera,
Or stand a long while looking at the movements of machinery,
Or behold children at their sports,
Or the admirable sight of the perfect old man, or the perfect old woman,
Or the sick in the hospitals, or the dead carried to burial,
Or my own eyes and figure in the glass;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring - yet each distinct, and in its place.
To me every hour of the light and the dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the eath is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.
Every spear of grass - the frames, limbs, organs of men and women, and all that concerns them,
All these to me are unspeakably perfect miracles.
To me the sea is a continual miracle;
The fishes that swim - the rocks - the motion of the waves - the ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?

Theme: Hope

nocturne
Muhammad Haji Salleh

tonight we have the sea
and sky to help us live.
the winds that blow from behind us
persuade us to go into the future,
tell us not to fear
tranquillity or no difference.
late tonight we borrow the music of nature
to mend the rhythm of our souls
newly broken by the pace of machines
i hold your hand
to marry my body to your lucidity.
in this dawn
we find a world
that understands us.
we string our experiences
as proof of our humanness.

Tea In a Spaceship
James Kirkup looks at a future world which in some ways is like ours but is also attractively unlike it. It seems disordered and ungoverned, but it is also free, liberating, and quite beautiful.

The poet seems to be simply describing what would happen in a world without gravitational force. There is, however, a hidden meaning: he is imagining how liberating life would be if it were not tied down by rules and seriousness.

This technique of using an apparently simple story to deliver a more profound, hidden meaning is called allegory.

The first four lines suggest a world which overturns our familiar rules. For example, the tablecloth does not need to be on a table, it can be “spread out anywhere”.

However, this does not mean that there are no rules at all. In fact, the cloth seems to be able to sit neatly on “the always equidistant and/ Invisible legs of gravity’s wild air”.

There seems to be a series of contradictions here. We think of gravity literally as the force which keeps us anchored to the ground. Gravity also suggests seriousness – we might, for example, speak of “the gravity of the situation”, referring to how serious or worrying the situation is. The poet seems to reflect this idea of seriousness when he says that the legs are “always equidistant” – the legs follow the rules, they do not dance about unpredictably.

However, he contradicts this by talking about “gravity’s wild air”. “Wild air” is something that Kirkup seems to have invented; it suggests unrestrained, ungoverned, free movement – the opposite, it would seem, of gravity.

The next two stanzas describe scenes which could collapse into mess and chaos: tea does not stay in cups, cakes float past, sugar leaps out of the sugar bowl. However, things do not turn into a mess, because everything is in fact following the rules: this is what happens when there is no gravity to keep the tea in the cups and the cakes on the plates.

The poet describes the scene as something simultaneously messy and beautiful. Although it “hurls its liquid molecules” at people, the tea does not hit anyone; instead, it gracefully “dances” in and out of the cups. In this world, even shaky “nervous” hands do not spill anything. The sugar floating out of the sugar bowl is compared to a fountain which does not work properly, but is still “ornamental”. The milk remains suspended in “a permanent parabola”. A parabola is a smooth, streamlined curve, so the description focuses on grace, not on chaos.

The lack of gravity creates an easy, problem-free environment, as suggested in the final stanza. The butter has hit the ceiling, but this seems to be a good thing – the hostess’s problems are eased because the butter “keeps the ceiling greased”.

Kirkup’s allegory shows us how attractive it would be to live in a world where even “chronically nervous jerks” do not spill the tea because their “weightless hands” are not tied down by rules.

Manners
Manners are the most important component of live where ever humanity is existed. The very nice picture drawn in the poem reflects high principles and priceless advices which is depicted in a modern style though written many years ago; this shows capability of certain moral values once considered as one of the society main basic that is needed to be inculcated in youth minds to form well new generation. It gives what an old man can pass the best of both his own experience and his generation down to the younger one in a very simple language.

The Midnight Satay Vendor
This poem looks at the difference in lifestyle between two Malaysians – a privileged, university-educated man and a hard-working, uneducated satay vendor. Although the poet describes the satay vendor’s life as being tough and exhausting, he also seems to envy it.

He contrasts the “sorry figure” of the satay vendor with the “stubborn/ aristocratic slopes” of Jesselton Heights. The word “stubborn” suggests the difficulty that the vendor has in cycling up the hills; it is as if the slopes do not want him to get to the top.

The poet reinforces this idea by putting “stubborn” and “aristocratic” on separate lines. We automatically pause after reading “stubborn”, and then go on to the next line. That slight pause mimics the way the vendor might stop to catch his breath as he pedals uphill.

The arrangement of the lines “satay/ satay/ satay” is interesting; visually, it gives us an impression of the vendor moving along the hill, his voice receding further into the distance as he pedals on.

The poet describes the great physical efforts the satay vendor has to make; apart from struggling uphill on his bicycle, he also has to sweat over the coal fire as he cooks (“i can see him wiping his sweaty brow”).

Later, the poet echoes this line with a slight difference, as he pictures the man “wiping his migraines off his forehead”. This suggests that he is suffering physically; now, instead of just getting rid of sweat, he has to try to get rid of a painful headache while he keeps working.

For all his suffering and hard work, however, he receives little money. Here, the poet indulges in a little bit of political commentary; he refers to empty election promises which leave the vendor exactly where he is. He is unable to buy much with the money he makes because of inflation, which does not have as big an impact on those living in Jesselton Heights.

Despite the vendor’s obvious suffering, the poet wishes he could, for a while, take his place. He seems to be deeply dissatisfied with his privileged lifestyle. He sees the difference between the two of them as being a matter of education; education has made him halus while the uneducated satay vendor remains kasar.

However, the poet does not seem to be convinced by this difference, or by the comfortable life he leads. He describes his life as “so-called elegance”, suggesting that there is something unreal about it.

This sense of falseness is emphasised by the reference to the poet’s “airconditioned nose”; his home may be cool and comfortable, but he is not breathing fresh air. The privilege of his education “clings” to him “like a vice”. By using this word, the poet suggests that his education in some way causes him pain, or at least discomfort.

Although this poem describes the daily toil of a satay vendor, it is actually about the poet’s unhappiness with what he perceives as the falseness of his life.
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