n the following twopoems: Thomas Gray, “On a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes”and James Kirkup, “A Correct Compassion”. You should make use of thefollowing terms where appropriate: field, tenor, mode, intertextuality.
The shift of register and the effect it has in poetry can make a majorimpact on the reader.Thomas Gray, “On a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tubof Gold Fishes, and James Kirkup’s “A Correct Compassion”, both equallymake use of this effect and by examining both poem’s in detail we will seehow effective this can be.Also we will look at their style and use ofdifferent fields and modes of language. They may use and include,intertexuality, as it may add to the substance and feeling of the poem.
We will examine what comparisons in style the poets have and where theypossibly got their inspiration and genius from.
The poem “On a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes” was writtenin 1747 and Thomas Gray expertly uses shifts in register to relateinformation to the reader. His choice of words, colour, and reference toGreek heroism enables the reader to see the comparisons between the twoparallels and this helps explain the subject of his poem.Theintellectual use of register communicates important information to hisaudience, through certain modes and fields of language.He usesintertexuality to make references from other centuries and their society toconvey knowledge to the reader to help them comprehend the moral or proverbin the poem.Poets like Shakespeare, and Chaucer have influenced Gray,and we will see why he borrowed from their works, and by examining hischoice of words, and morals used it will become clear they helped to putacross his own statement.
The poet shifts and mixes vocabulary by changes of register and usingdifferent lexical fields to structure the poem.From the title, the poetcaptures the reader’s imagination by his choice of heading “On a FavouriteCat Drowned in a Tub of ‘Gold’ Fishes. Straight away the word ‘gold’ isused and it creates a curiosity in the reader, and we question, is therepossibly is a moral to this story?The semantic field of colour is usedto put emphasis on the colour gold, and this mention of gold recursthroughout the poem, mainly the brightness, and gleam of gold. In line 17:”Through richest purple” a colour also used by the poet, and the colourwas also regularly used in medieval texts to signify religiousconnotations, or regal.Gray, uses the colour purple to make historicalreference to the famous battle between Aeneus and Turnus, where the Greekheroin Camilla dies. The colour of her armour was gold and she was”Betray’d a golden gleam” (Line 18).The poets word choice and referenceto the gleam of the water, but importantly the intertexuality that connectsthe gleam of Chloreas’s armour made of gold and purple, and the fact thatit caught Camilla’s eye in battle, and led to the golden bow that killedher.
This shift of register to make the reader realize there are comparisonsand links between the greek heroin and the real world, and subsequent moralof the poem.He uses lexical bundles of works to show the brightness,words like gleam and gold. The feline cat was drawn into the water by thehunger, and desire to catch the fish, but was drowned. This also happenedwhen the heroin Camilla, charged in, lusting for battle and heroism, but itended in tragedy, as she was killed. The two parallels that the poet usesto relate his message.The other moral or myth used is a cat has ninelives, and in Line 31 we are told the cat “emerged eight times”, beforedrowning and calling on “every watery God, changing register from thesocial situation to the Roman God of the sea ‘Neptune’.James Kirkupagain shifting continuously, from one register to another to create effectand impact, as he states: “no Dolphin came” relating to the story of Arioncarried on the dolphin’s back, then immediately he goes back to reality anduses the word choice of: “no Tom nor Susan heard” and a cat that is maleis called a tom cat.He mixes the sociolinguistic language with morehistorical, and mythical related characters and words to explain his pointsto the reader.
This symbolic mode of communication relates to the reader feedback fromanother era to help understand the subject of the poem and prepare thereader for the outcome of the poem or story being told. Thomas Gray usesthis method of contact admirably. The intertexuality helps the readerunderstand the poem and see what the moral of the poem is.Gray’s moralis;if the cat had saw ‘gold’ in the water and not ‘fish’ she would nothave fallen in, so therefore she would still be alive. This runs parallelto Camilla when she foolishly looked at glittering trifles, the glitzyarmour Choreas’s was adorned in, and lost her life. Both are of the femalegender and seen as unwise.
Gray makes reference to Dryden’s “Alexander’s Feast” in the first verse ofthe poem, a mock heroism, again parallel to the greek heroism.Theintertexuality proving to add depth and it helps the reader understand thesubject of the poem He uses the sematic field of colour borrowed fromChaucer, and the proverb “All that glitters is not gold” used by Chaucer in”A Yeman’s Tale”, and Shakespeare in “The Merchant of Venice”.All thesefactors contribute to his ability to use the linguistics of language butalso his great knowledge of history and other poets to create a key impacton the reader. This mode of communication is also used by the poet JamesKirkup.
In the poem “A Correct Compassion” by James Kirkup, the poet uses shifts ofregister to help the reader understand the poem. He uses Lexical fields inhis structure of the poem, and this makes reference to the real world tohelp the reader relate to what is happening in the poem.The semanticfield of colour is again being used to emphasize and create a vivid imageto the reader. James Kirkup uses tenor to create and portray dramaticimages of the scene and autopsy that is being performed.He usesintertextuality but not in the same way as Gray, he uses it more in arhetoric sense to convey the subject to the reader, a different mode ofcommunication.
The poem from the onset makes references to a sterile clean procedure thatis about to take place with word choices like “Cleanly” (Line 1), and”Glistening theatre” (line 5) which makes us think of an operation beingperformed.The bright clean theatre and in contrast the register shiftsto the brightness of the” lamps”, (Line 16) “illuminations” (Line 17) allthese words have been chosen by the poet to emphasise the brightness andclean Sterile conditions.Also to put light on the subject of the poem,the female patient who is deceased and has no memory of what is being done,as they perform an autopsy to establish cause of death. He expertly usesthe register to make his point.
Kirkup uses fields of language and tenor to convey his statement and thesubject of the poem to the reader. The lexical field or semantic field ofcolour again used with the colour green that is mentioned: “The green-clothed tables” (line 6) and the shift of register at certain times to thenatural world, to make an important comparison with quotes like a “tent ofgreen”, (line 15) as he compares the green sterile sheets to a tent. Hetells us there is a cover, that is like a shield of protection over thewoman, but then by breading up the register again to say: “A garland offlowers unfurls across the painted flesh” (line 21) which takes us out intothe natural world again with flowers and nature, also the flowers that willbe present at the patients funeral.The poet uses tenor with the use ofa simile to help the reader visualise the procedure, and expertly uses itagain with moverment of register.This takes the reader back to the realworld, away from the medical terminology and more formal genre of the poem.
The tenor works well throughout the poem with quotes like: “The pinkblack-mottled lung like a revolted creature heaves” (line 29)and thisemotive language gives the reader a vivid image of darkness and death, andthrough the shift of register we see the contrast with the brightness ofthe lights and the natural world of the living. In line (39) we also seethis when the poet states: “The heart, black-veined, swells like a fruitto burst” and the imagery is so apparent to the reader, the black thatsymbolises death, as they are not in this world anymore.Kirkup againmoving the register to the natural world by saying: “The watchers breathean air far sweeter, rather than the room’s. The cold wall listens.” (Lines48,49).
We understand that the surgeons are alive and breathing but the coldness ofthe patient is seen by the: “cold walls” in the operating room.The poetskilfully moves the register to make this effective, but also to make itclearer to the listener so they will comprehend it, and understand thesubject of the poem. Death. The woman is dead but they operate on herjust as if she was alive and she is undergoing a surgical procedure, andthey treat her with the compassion and dignity she deserves.
James Kirkup by creating this lucid image for the reader, so we can relateto the way the patient was treated with decorum in death, as this is thepoint the poet is trying to convey through his writing.We appreciate theway he can expertly moves the register from the autopsy that is takingplace to the natural world, to convey a point to the reader, but mainly tohelp with our interpretation of the complex medical terms.His use oftenor in this poem is vital, as it shows the reader the black and darknessof death, and what caused the death of this patient. The formal genre withmedical terminology is broken up by the shifts of register to outside ofthe room and even as far as the walls in the room.This ability is an artand James Kirkup demonstrates his genius to us throughout the poem.
The two poets have comparisons in their style of writing especially usingthe lexical fields of colour terms and change of vocabulary by shifts ofregister.They both use words like ‘gleam’ to emphasis the brightness.
James Kirkup uses tenor more than Gray to show a visual image to thereader, whereas, Gray uses certain semantic fields that are of cultural andhistorical importance to the poem and they help convey his message to thereader.Many references are made by him to greek heroism, which skilfullyshifts the register to another century to explain the moral of the poem.
This complements the more informal mode of register used to tell the storyof the cat drowning. He also uses historical references from other poetsand their work through his poetry which makes these poets live on throughthe decades.These two poets have similar styles of writing but theirpoems are totally different in content and what the story was about. Themain comparison is they were about the same subject, ‘death’.Their wordchoices were similar to give the reader a visual image of glittering andgleaming and using the semantic field of colour again to explain thereason for death. The gender chosen by both men was also female, and theyboth met their Gods. They were both masters at shifting the register topresent their subject to the reader.