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  1. ‘Falling Leaves’ 2. Note: Wordsworthian Pastoralism I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o'er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A…
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  • 1. ‘Falling Leaves’
  • 2. Note: Wordsworthian Pastoralism I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o'er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, … For oft, when on my couch I lie In vacant or in pensive mood, They flash upon that inward eye Which is the bliss of solitude; And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils. • Verses 1 and 4 William Wordsworth’s ‘I wandered lonely’ (1815) • The poet goes for a walk by Grasmere in the Lake District: daffodils. • Later, he reflects and feels joy. • Echoed by Postgate Cole, but the emotion is inverted.
  • 3. Note: Brown
  • 4. Form and Structure • One sentence, so a single intense thought. • One verse of 12 lines with alternating 6, 10 syllables (influenced by syllabic poetry e.g. tenku, haiku, popular with imagists – see later slide) • About half the lines are enjambed, half are not – contemplative, stop/go feeling. • fairly complicated rhyming scheme: interlocking triplets ABCABCDEFDEF • First six lines about leaves perhaps are peaceful: sounds are gentle. • Last six lines are about soldiers: more angry in tone/violent lexicon.
  • 5. November 1915 Today, as I rode by, I saw the brown leaves dropping from their tree In a still afternoon, When no wind whirled them whistling to the sky, But thickly, silently, They fell, like snowflakes wiping out the noon; Pastoral imagery bleeds into thinking about the contemplation of the death toll in Flanders. War was everywhere in 1915. The poet uses an extended metaphor: the falling leaves symbolise the dying British soldiers. ‘I’ suggests the poet is the narrator, hence writing from a woman’s perspective = the despair, anguish and endurance of waiting, wondering and grieving, not agony of trench warfare Lines 3 and 4 make it clear that what is happening is strange, unnatural, against nature Alliteration of the sound ‘wh’ (usually found in question-words) emphasises oddity of their fall – assonance of i’s builds whispered sound of falling Simile suggests (emotion of ) cold/ falling in such number that they blot out the light from the sun. (There were 1,000,000 British casualties in 1915…) set during World War 1. There are many present participles in this poem – what it describes is actively happening. Double meaning: ‘fell’ also euphemism for ‘died’
  • 6. And wandered slowly thence For thinking of a gallant multitude Which now all withering lay, Slain by no wind of age or pestilence, But in their beauty strewed Like snowflakes falling on the Flemish clay. Slow/thoughtful walk Emphasises number. ‘withering’ links back to idea of dead leaves. ‘Slain’ – archaic, but harsh - contrasts with gentleness of first few lines. ‘pestilence’ = Biblical epidemic. (One of the three ‘Horsemen of the Apocalypse’) Sibilance  threat? ‘beauty’ suggests her admiration, ‘strewed’ = thrown around carelessly Repetition for emphasis of notions of melting, of vast numbers, of death passed over in silence, of quick loss. Cold and wind  metonym for winter. There were three major battles in the Flemish province of Ypres in WW1. Also Biblical word, so serious tone. Praise: the old-fashioned, formal word ‘gallant’ means ‘brave, chivalrous, stately’  dignity and gravity of men
  • 7. Theme and Meanings • In this poem, a pastoral/country moment whilst out riding – a tree dropping its leaves – leads to thoughts of the multitudes of soldiers dying in the trenches. • Focuses on the quiet despair, anguish and endurance of women, waiting, wondering and grieving. • Its power comes from its understatement, its use of a single extended metaphor throughout. • Connects to other poems about death (Futility) and the response female writers make to conflict (Poppies), contrasts with poems about violence (Bayonet Charge)
  • 8. • an English politician and writer who campaigned against conscription during the First World War. • studied at Cambridge and worked as a teacher, before entering politics in 1941. • Her brother, Raymond Postgate was imprisoned briefly during the First World War as a conscientious objector: a court didn’t accept that his atheism and socialist views were a valid reason for not fighting. • She changed her mind about pacifism later, during the Spanish Civil War. Dame Margaret Postgate Cole (1893- 1980)
  • 9. Poetic Context • This poem is influenced by Imagism, an early 20th-century Anglo-American poetry movement that – favoured precision of imagery and clear, sharp language. – experimented with new forms such as free verse. – often tried to isolate a single image to reveal its essence. – was influenced by visual art and poetry in other languages such as Japanese Haiku. – Fed into early Modernism.
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