Do you agree? You should base your answer on a detailed examination of 2/3 appropriate poems of your choice. The poem, Harrow on the Hill, is littered with imagery. The fact that ‘electric trains are lighted’ echoes the idea of nature being interfered with by man; a vivid painting by Betjeman of a sense of realistic artificiality. Indeed, the adjective ‘electric’ has connotations of something alive and fiery, with perhaps the irony being here that this ‘electric train’ is simply a pretence of life.
Conversely, the verb ‘lighted’ has implications that there is a certain warmth – there is even a sense of hope – that this train brings. This hope, however, may in fact be false, as is the ‘electric train’ in being a representation of life. Harrow on the Hill was initially called A Child’s Lament, with it being a portrayal ‘of a child coming back from a seaside holiday in Cornwall. ‘ The poem represents the stark contrast that exists between his holiday destination and his home town, there being strong feelings that this would have provoked.
Betjeman’s technical skill with poetic structure, more specifically in stanza two, evokes this idea of apparent juxtaposition to a greater extent. Here, the first line is a description of Cornwall, but the second is a metaphor for the first, with the consecutive lines following this same pattern. The descriptions of Harrow and Cornwall are thus paralleled, emphasising only the harshness of the contrast between the two; this longing of the child is hence enlightened. Though the two places are symbolically put together, they still contrast, so there is this sense of unparalleled beauty – this sense of great disparity.
Such vivid depictions are, therefore, linked with the feelings that they provoke. These vivid depictions are given greater emphasis to the fact that it is a ‘melancholy autumn’. It can thus be inferred that as leaves begin to wither and fall in this season – hence conjuring a sense of lucid, but altogether despondent, imagery – so does life for this boy. Perhaps it is through this gloominess that this child is trying to invoke a fantasy – an enduring dream of what he has had, as to be able to live through this ‘melancholy autumn.
‘ Here, Betjeman’s poem is, as a result, linked to the strong feelings that such depictions of particular places provoke. The poem Westgate-on-Sea equally represents such a link between depictions and the emotions that they provoke. The descriptions in the poem are stark in their existence: ‘minarets and steeples’, ‘recalling laurel, shrubs and privet’ and ‘purple by the sea-breeze made,’ with these adjectives representing the great attention that Betjeman pays to detail.
Evoked through the repetition of words and phrases in the poem, a sense of hope – of not giving up – is portrayed in the poem. Such, sometimes repetitive, descriptions in Westgate-on-Sea illustrates Betjeman’s ambivalent attitude towards children – all of these emotions being provoked by the vivid descriptions that Betjeman paints. In conclusion, the vivid depiction of particular places in Betjeman’s poems is indeed linked to the strong feelings that they provoke, but only to a certain extent.
His poems are of a realism that is so profound in its stark existence, which does in fact provoke compelling emotions – a thoughtful result of Betjeman’s clear acceptance of reality, and his distinct evasion from pretence. Shirwa L6MO Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE John Betjeman section.