Touch with Fire Notes

The poem is set in Sicily, and the poet tells us how on a very hot day he went to fetch a drink and found that a snake was there before him drinking the water.The poet believes that he should kill the snake but he cannot do so. Was it because the snake was quite? No harm? He was too cowardly? Drinking as if it was an invited guest? Or because he felt honors that such a creature should come out from the earth to visit him?

After drinking, the snake prepares to go back down into his hole in the wall but the author is suddenly horrified at the idea of it going back into the darkness, and without thinking he throws a ‘clumsy log’ at it but he was sorry for what he did. Because the snake, ‘like a god’ scrambled into the hole. * The poet feels he has done something mean and he wishes the snake would come back. He compares it to a king who has been sent into exile and is now due to return and be crowned again. He thinks of the snake as ‘one of the lords of life’ and says he should make amends for his contemptible action.

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The author’s emotions here are a mixture of fear, admiration and guilt. The poet is looking out across the sea at Dover, towards the coast of France. He asks his companion to come to the window and listen to the sound of the waves as they surge up the pebbly beach and retreat again. He thinks he can hear in the sound of the waves ‘ the eternal note of sadness’ * ‘Note of sadness’ was also heard in the ancient times by Sophocles and it inspired him with thoughts of the sufferings of human beings, coming and going.

The author tells us these thoughts; he looks at the sea and thinks about religious faith. He compares Faith in God and religion to a sea, which once was strong and full, likes the waves encircling the land but now he can only hear the sound of it. He tells his companion that the only thing left for them is to keep faith with each other, because the world is not a place of joy. It is more like a battlefield at night with people fighting each other for no apparent reason. The author was among many whose faith was shaken by the new ideas and who felt confused and sad as a result.

Lines seem to echo the ebb and flow of the waves. The poet uses rhymes but the pattern is not regular. * The lines seem to flow smoothly with no strong beat, the only harshness coming in the last line. Refugee Mother and Child. The poet describes for us a mother and child who are among the refugees fleeing from famine and war in Africa. They are gathered in a camp, all suffering from starvation and disease and most of the women have given up their hope but this mother still tries to take care of her child.

Line 3 : painting of Madonna and Child show far less tenderness than this mother as she looks after her son who is soon to die. In her face can be seen traces of the smile she used to have and the pride she used to feel as she combed his hair before he went to school; now she still combs it and carefully part it knowing that he is dying. The poet does not express any emotion or begs for our sympathy; he simply describes the scene and leaves us to draw our own conclusions. Prayer before Birth

The poet imagines what could happen to a person once they are born, and speaks this prayer almost like chanting a magic spell to ward off evil. * First verse mentions evil creatures that may harm the unborn. Second verse speaks of evil men that will do harm with imprisonment, drugs, lies, torture and slaughter. Third verse prays for good things of nature to protect him, and for the power of thought to help him. * Forth verse he asks for forgiveness for all the sins that he will be forced by the world to commit: words, thoughts, treachery, murder, death.

He asks to be prepared for all the different experiences that he will have to live through, and he prays that he may not encounter a man who is like an animal or one who imagines himself all powerful. He pleads for strength to resist those who would take away his individual humanity and reduce him to an unthinking part of a machine with no will of his own so that he has no personality left. If this cannot be prevented, he says, it would be better not to be born. The poet wrote this during the rise of Hitler in 1930’s.

This was a subject of great concern to the intellectual young people of the time. * The verses begin simply and then build up to evermore elaborate lists of things, until the contrast of the final stark statement in the last line. Poem in October. The poet wrote this poem when he was 30 years old and he re-visited the seaside town in Wales where he lived as a boy . Everything seemed to call him to set out, while the rest of the town was still asleep, and walk around the places he used to know as a child. The autumn was changeable, with showers of rain, and intervals of sunshine when the birds sang.

The poet climbed the hill and looked down on the church which looked small, like a snail with its horns out. Then as the sun came out it seemed to transform the scene to a vision of summertime in the past, and he saw, as the weather changed, the memory of walking with his mother while she told him stories; he saw this so clearly that he felt again the tears and emotions of his boyhood. These were the same woods, river and sea but that boy who delighted in them was ‘dead’ ( he was no longer a boy); yet he still found the same magic there, the water and the birds still seemed to ‘sing’ to him.

As he stood there it still seemed like summer to him, with the same joy he had felt as a child, even though the trees had leaves which had turned blood-red because it was October. He hoped that he would write poems as good as this one on the same hill in a year’s time. The length of the lines varies so that the pace o you reading will also change. There are no rhymes but you may find some vowel sounds which are repeated. This poem is to be read aloud to bring out its ‘ slow lyrical movement’

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