Single Subject English practice

Discussion in 'Single Subject Tests' started by TeacherGroupie, Jun 21, 2006.

  1. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Jun 21, 2006

    Here's a poem by William Cowper (1731-1800):

    Sonnet to William Wilberforce, Esq.

    Thy country, Wilberforce, with just disdain,
    Hears thee, by cruel men and impious, called
    Fanatic, for thy zeal to loose th'enthralled
    From exile, public sale, and slavery's chain.
    Friend of the poor, the wrong'd, the fetter-galled,
    Fear not lest labour such as thine be vain!
    Thou hast achiev'd a part; hast gained the ear
    Of Britain's senate to thy glorious cause;
    Hope smiles, joy springs, and tho' cold caution pause
    And weave delay, the better hour is near,
    That shall remunerate thy toils severe
    By peace for Afric, fenc'd with British laws.
    Enjoy what thou hast won, esteem and love
    From all the just on earth, and all the blest above!​

    What is the form of this poem?

    What is the theme of the poem?

    What else strikes you about it?
     
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  3. TheConspiracy

    TheConspiracy Companion

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    Jun 21, 2006

    Well, the poem's form is an English Sonnet.

    The theme seems to be the struggle for freedom, and I believe the subject is the freedom of South Africa from England.

    The poem states that freedom has been gained in part - so this leads me to believe that the poem is about continuing to fight for complete freedom.
     
  4. TheConspiracy

    TheConspiracy Companion

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    Jun 21, 2006

    I wanted to also note the irony of using the English Sonnet form in a poem about liberation from England.
     
  5. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Jun 21, 2006

    More can be said about the form, I think.

    South Africa's freedom from England? But in the 18th century (see http://www.answers.com/south africa), South Africa was Boer, not British. And where do you get South Africa?

    And what does Wilberforce have to do with this?
     
  6. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Jun 21, 2006

    Anybody?
     
  7. TheConspiracy

    TheConspiracy Companion

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    Jun 22, 2006

    See what happens when you read too quickly? Now that I look back, I got it all wrong. :)

    ~J
     
  8. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Jun 22, 2006

    Don't you just hate it when you take one of those learning curves a little too fast?
     
  9. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Jun 23, 2006

    My stars: no one else is willing to play?
     
  10. daybreakoh

    daybreakoh Rookie

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    Jun 30, 2006

    I'll play . . .

    Thy country, Wilberforce, with just disdain,
    Hears thee, by cruel men and impious, called
    Fanatic, for thy zeal to loose th'enthralled
    From exile, public sale, and slavery's chain.
    Friend of the poor, the wrong'd, the fetter-galled,
    Fear not lest labour such as thine be vain!
    Thou hast achiev'd a part; hast gained the ear
    Of Britain's senate to thy glorious cause;
    Hope smiles, joy springs, and tho' cold caution pause
    And weave delay, the better hour is near,
    That shall remunerate thy toils severe
    By peace for Afric, fenc'd with British laws.
    Enjoy what thou hast won, esteem and love
    From all the just on earth, and all the blest above!

    What is the form of this poem?

    What is the theme of the poem?

    What else strikes you about it?





    This is a lyric poem in sonnet form, but not an English sonnet. It is comprised of a single stanza made up of two sestets with a rhyme scheme of abbaba cddccd and a couplet with rhyme scheme of ee. The poem differs from the traditional sonnet form (either Italian/Petrarchan or English/Shakespearan) in that the sestets have varying rhyme schemes. The second sestet does not follow the first with cddcdc in the same pattern as the first's of abbaba but rather with its own pattern of cddccd. Additionally, the two lines of the couplet do not have the same meter. The first line is in iambic pentameter, the second is not as it contains twelve syllables instead of ten. The poem does borrow from both traditional sonnet forms, however. It follows the English/Shakespearan form with its concluding couplet. Its thematic breaks are more similar to the Italian/Petrarchan in presenting a situation in the first half that is commented upon in the second.

    The theme of the poem is the campaign against the British slavery trade as Wilberforce was the leading member of Parliament in his time to push for its abolition.

    What strikes me about this poem is that its irregularities of form serves to reinforce its meaning. The second sestet's variation in rhyme scheme and the concluding couplet's unmatched meter provide a disruption in the poem's reading that calls to mind the disruption of the status quo that Wilberforce represented in British politics at that time. Wilberforce is being affirmed for that disruption and encouraged not to despair in the face of the opposition he encounters.

    How 'm I doin' so far?:)
     
  11. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Jun 30, 2006

    Nicely done! The question didn't give you much to go on as regards the Purpose characteristic, but your handling of the issues as regards metrics and scansion in general and the form of (various incarnations of) the sonnet in particular shows familiarity with the technical terminology and with the style of literary analysis. In other words, you exhibited knowledge and backed it up with evidence.

    (The adjective, by the way, is Shakespearean.)

    Let's go on a little. What do the eleventh and twelfth lines together mean? How could you paraphrase them in prose, and how could you characterize the syntax?
     
  12. daybreakoh

    daybreakoh Rookie

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    Jun 30, 2006

    Let's go on a little. What do the eleventh and twelfth lines together mean? How could you paraphrase them in prose, and how could you characterize the syntax?


    That shall remunerate thy toils severe
    By peace for Afric, fenc'd with British laws


    Line 11 refers back to line 10, "the better hour is near," meaning that the time will come that will "remunerate" or repay/make up for
    Wilberforce all of the opposition and criticism he has had to endure in his fight to outlaw the slave trade. His repayment will be peace for Africa which was the largest object of the slave trade; peace will come when the major trading powers (of which Britain with its empire was by far the largest) will follow Britain's lead and cease to trade in slaves from Africa taking with them the strife and competition that even Africans themselves engaged in amongst themselves. The hope is that Africa and its people will be left in peace when the slave trade itself is abolished. The law Wilberforce pushes through is seen as a "fence" around Africa to protect it from the mercenary inhumanity that preyed upon that continent and its inhabitants.

    Cowper inverts the syntax in line 11, "toils severe," placing the adjective, "severe" after the noun, "toils," instead of the more common 'severe toils.'
     
  13. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Jun 30, 2006

    Not so sure about the reading of "fenc'd with British laws": your reading assumes a reference to the law abolishing slavery, but since the word is plural, a different reading may be likelier.

    (You're fun to play with, daybreakoh. Are you in fact taking CSET English? If so, am I correct in assuming that literary analysis is not one of your worries?)
     
  14. daybreakoh

    daybreakoh Rookie

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    Jun 30, 2006

    Yes, I am taking the CSET on 7/22--just graduated with my B.A. in English-Lit. emphasis. I'm going through withdrawals not getting to sit in class all day and talk about literature. Not looking forward to all that pedagogy stuff in the credential program. No, I'm really not worried about the literary analysis portion. More the media and drama parts, have had a little experience with it, but no real instruction. I do love talking about this stuff. Do we get to do this all the time at this site? It might help me survive the credential program . . . thanks!!
     
  15. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Jul 3, 2006

    To misquote from Field of Dreams, "If you post it, someone will respond"... or at least is very likely to.

    Let me point out to all concerned, by the way, that the question that one person asks is likely to help others who for whatever reason didn't get it posted themselves.
     

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