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“Green Thought” by Jon Stallworthy is an interesting and valuable poem about love. During my essay I will justify why “Green Thought” is a worthy poem to be entered into a young student’s poem anthology. The poem is an excellent choice because of Stallworthy’s choice of characters, imagery and his skill in showing the power that love has to heal.
Within the poem, Stallworthy tells a story of love and death. Written in first person narrative, the poet describes an old man as he reminisces about his wife during the good times, and bad.
Ultimately, the young poet learns a valuable lesson about love through the experiences of this old man. The story within the poem is one of my reasons for choosing this poem as it is about a mature romance, so young adults would benefit and learn a lot about love from it.
The poem also shows us that life is a very precious thing so we should live our life to the very best we can, as we cannot predict what will happen in the future. But most of all, teenagers would benefit from the hope the story conveys. It gives hope that in any bad situation we can anticipate and expect good events to follow.
Despite being a story of mature love, which may seem to be an unusual subject for younger readers to enjoy, the lesson learned about love in the poem is very relevant.
It gives readers the hope and expectations that love can have the power to heal pain. Seen through the eyes of the young poet, it helps the young students to relate to the story through Stallworthy’s perceptions of events. Similar to the young readers, the poet admits to “not know much about love”, so the theme of the story could be very educational.
I expect that Stallworthy’s perspective of the old man would also be similar to the readers. His observations are very reliable as he conveys that we learn from older and more experienced people, as that is where our perception of life comes from. The poet effectively creates a variety of different images during the course of the poem. From the opening lines I knew the comparison between love and grass was definitely effective. He has described love as “common as grass”. From this image, I imagined that what was meant by it, is love is everywhere.
Even though it may sometimes “refuse to take root on a lawn”, which means that even when you cannot seem to receive or give love when and where you want, it will always appear very unexpectedly. Love is a constantly growing factor in life. Not only is love a positive and significant occurrence, it is also able to “split asphalt”. This image tells us that love is very destructive. Love also has the ability to “bury a bombsite”. This means that love is a very effective healer and can cover over hurt.
Being able to “grow in any ditch, niche or gutter”, shows love is persistently surrounding us, even between the most ‘unlikely’ of couples. The realistic portrayal of the characters throughout the story is another reason for choosing the poem. The old man in the story is conveyed as a well dressed and mannerly man with his “scrupulous tweeds and courtesy”, and someone who we would regard as a grandfather figure. I feel that we are able to look up to him and that many people will be able to relate to his personality and description as of that of someone they know.
When he is ‘dressed up’ he is described as part of the “ritual tea” while he remembers “a girl, not yet his wife” and how happy things used to be. The readers would be able to feel compassion for the old man at this point in the poem. The portrayal of his wife is two sided. In the good times, she is regarded as a happy character, who “runs for more tea into the singing kitchen”. The personification of the kitchen is an effective way of an example of how happy she was. However, the image of her is soon changed to that of a “gaunt, tragedy queen”.
This is a very dramatic image of her as an unhappy person which is a very reliable description as the man only had selective memories of her as a “princess not nineteen” and he only remembered the good times. “Tears and agonies”, that even “the doctors could not understand” backs up my earlier view of a mental illness and shows her depressive moods. I imagine being around her at this point would be quite traumatic as “the last tantrum ended by her hand”. This childlike connotation and the repetitiveness of the word conveys some kind of mental illness and uncontrolled emotions that she had.
It is shown how important this love is to the man by the “ritual” of the Sunday afternoons. This religious imagery is then continued with the woman; as he loved her so much he even worshipped her in a religious sense. The “shrine this is” continues the imagery as a shrine is seen as a religious and special place, and I think that as this “ritual” was so important to him, it actually became like a religion. The effective descriptions, images and lessons learned from the “legend” of the funeral in the poem are definitely very positive reasons for choosing this poem.
He is described to be “brought to the brink” of her graveside. This makes me imagine he is physically brought face to face with what he refuses to accept, but also that he is mentally brought to the end of her life and the funeral makes it all final. Again, imagery is used to expose emotion. “Healed with fine snow”, is a perfect example, in that the snow is healing the pain of the mourners. The personification of “every tree in sight bowing a moonlit head” illustrates that even the trees were respecting her death by bowing in sympathy with him. In some way, the old man is protected by love.
The snow falls by “bandaging the bruised earth”. This means that love acts like a bandage to a temporary ‘scar’. As the old man’s love for his wife was so powerful, it was able to bandage the pain that she is gone. The snow has even more effect by being so peaceful and tranquil. It made the circumstances seem less harsh and eased the pain slightly. Due to Stallworthy’s excellent use of imagery, description and characters, I have learned a lot about love. I have learned that even in the most damaging, painful situations, love will always have the power to heal pain.
In particular, the poet’s character analysis has given me very high expectations about love and marriage. The old man is a perfect example of how love should be. The vows made in marriage were certainly kept in his case. He loved his wife in sickness and in health, no matter how bad it seemed he did not leave her; this is true love. In conclusion, I definitely believe that this poem is suitable to be included in a poetry anthology for young students, simply because it gives hope, expectations and explanations of what love is and any young reader would benefit from the lessons learned about love in this poem.