Compare the ‘Twa Corbies’ and the ‘Three Ravens’ considering language, content and techique The ballads of the ‘Twa Corbies’ and the ‘Three Ravens’ arte versions of what once may have been the same poem, but time and geographical movement may have been the main contributions to the change of language, style and even content. The titles are perhaps the first significant contrast; the Scottish implying older, more primitive undertones whilst the English is presumably more modern with a certain sophistication within the use of language.
Despite having this primarily differing feature, they are both about three birds -the mythological number having different implications. The darker, ‘Twa Corbies’ maybe relating it to more mystical, black magical concepts whilst the ‘Three Ravens’ concentrates on the Christian values of loyalty and hope -reflected within the symbolic reference of Raven’s being representative of good luck. This heavily contrasts with the birds of prey that crows or ‘corbies’ are.
The opening line also suggests the juxtaposing themes, the English version ending with the word ‘tree’ whilst the Scottish ending with ‘alane’ (alone). The contrast between nature’s bounty and loneliness, desolation and desertion is already apparent. ` The twa corbies looks towards the prospects of death, and what they may gain by scavenging through the remains of a body. A man killed in his prime; “bonny blue een” and “gowden hair” the features of a recently killed, young man almost described like part of the treasures that they may take.
The crows spy from the trees, gossiping and plotting their next moves. There even seem to be undertones reminiscent of William Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’, as the birds hear the character of Macbeth remind himself that it was he that murdered Duncan. The mythical undertones would also contribute to that of Macbeth. The poem is slightly dismissive of the theme if death which would generally dominate such a ballad; ironically the dark perceptions and interpretations of death contribute to the removal of the negative theme and reinforce the positive through what can be gained from the death.
It closely follows throughout the poem that death is not the end, other than for that which has ceased. The English appears less primitive than the twa corbies, with a positive theme which clearly contrasts the corbies, focusing on the Christian virtues and loyalties and completely juxtaposing the other with opposing outlook on life and of death. The pathos of the knights loved ones’ within the ravens is contrasted by the knight’s Lady within the Twa Corbies finding a new lover, and the hounds do not lie at the feet of their deceased owner, “so well they can with their master keep.
” The ‘fallow doe’ refers to a type of dear, whom despite being pregnant, buries the body risking her own life and resulting in being ‘dead herself. ‘ The aspects of these lines may not in fact be literal. The dear may be a reference to the personality to the lover, and the death may be the tragedy of the event and the emotional pain and grief which she must bear. The ending notes highlight the importance of loyalty, whilst one considers that life is futile and the world will not cease to continue, the other is not dismissive of the knight’s life, but how lucky he was, sentimentalising the theme.
The imagery of the ‘Twa Corbies’ seems to have a gross detachment, even refering to the corpse of the knight to an “auld fail dike” meaning no more than a turfed mound whilst the ‘Three Ravens’ notes the body “down in yonder greene field. ” And whilst the crows talk about picking out the eyes of the corpse for treasure, the “fallow doe” “kissed the wounds that were so red. ” The compassionate words disntinctly contrast the ‘Twa Corbies’ in gentler action.
The repetition of ‘His’ three times within the third stanza of the ‘Twa Corbies’ attributes to the sense of the poem being comparable to a chant, or spell; with the mystical undertones of Macbeth. The rhyming couplets are similar to the ‘Three Ravens’ although the actual rhyme is very concise compared to the half rhymes of the english version, leaving one usure of whether this is due to the softening of the tone or a confused version of the original.
One may consider that some words may be pronounced differently to the time in which they were written, however, such rhymes as “mate” and “take” clearly did not. The punctuation of the ‘Twa Corbies’ is regular, the shorter sentences almost making it more matter-of-fact, quickly moving without the consideration of what has been. One should perhaps also take note of the question mark within the first verse adds to the air of mystery throughout -we do not know the circumstances in which the knight has died.
The use of animals within the poem is suggestive of the nature, the twa corbies referring to hounds in the sense of hunting and the ravens referring to the birds of prey that are hawks even being protective of the body. For the ravens, the death of a noble man is clearly enough for nature to reverse its’ ways. Both appear to be written to be accessible with varying attributes to this appeal. The nihilistic attitude of the dark humour within the twa… ironically makes it more light-hearted.
This unusual manner of observing and even appreciating death involves looking to what can instead be found and recycled. As opposed to grieving what has been lost, it clearly looks to what can be gained. The amoral attitude neutralises the theme and makes the primarily tragic theme into the dismissal of trivial events. A man may have died, but the world continues to move, and “The wind sall blaw for evermair. ” The English leans towards the more obvious approach of how one may be positive throughout a tragic event.
The three ravens follows the route of loyalty, sincerity and the Christian values intrinsically virtuous action. The daintily appearing manuscript is gentler and more civilised version of the brutality within the Scottish version. The techniques contribute to the type of audience that it would appeal to. The English would probably be aimed at the aristocratic audience, with the possible intervention of the English folk singing of “with a derry down” between the lines.
It also conveys a sense of ‘naturalness’ and one should not the high proportion of monosyllabic and easily accessible words. This may have contributed to the accessibility to children; tales of morality and virtuous teachings may have been projected through ballads and poems such as this. The language of the Scottish immediately strikes one as being more working-class based, with the clear dialect and abbreviations. It would perhaps have been sung by the less privileged; reminding themselves of what they have and how to make the best of a potentially disasterous situation.