“An old mans winter night” by Robert Frost and “Follower” by Seamus Heaney

This poem has a very direct title which intices the audience to find out more and is very similar to that of a Hollywood movie and uses plain language.

From the 1st line we can see the boy’s possessiveness of his father from the words “My” we also know it is referring to the past from the tense of the word “worked” we also find out that he works on a farm. In the next 3 lines we can see the poets admiration for his father by the way he talks about the size of the man “globed like a full sail strung” and his strength.

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We see that his father was a real expert at his job by the way he can control horses with his tongue, heaneys intention was to show us the mans expertise and how he was in full control, it also shows us how hard the horses were working for him.

In the next stanza on the 1st line Heaney calls his father “an expert” then pauses for affect to let it sink in, this is to show us the mans power and also the pure admiration from his son. In the next 2 lines we are again told about how good he was at his job “sod rolled over without breaking” the language which is used almost makes it seem effortless for the man.

In the next stansa we see Heaneys use of enjanment with a run on line “Turned around – And back into the land” which reflects the movement of the plough. In the 3rd line we can see his father “narrowed and angled at the ground” using only his skill, not instruments, this makes him appear very wise and we can see that the boy is once again admiring his skills.

In the next stansa we can see how the boy is clumsy in comparison to his father “I stumbled in his hobnailed wake” we also see his clumsiness from the word “fell” in the next line. His father’s strength is shown again by “sometimes he rode me on his back” and we see his heavy movement and determination from the words “dipping and rising to his plod”

In the next verse we find out that the boy wanted to grow up and follow in his fathers footsteps and do the same as him “I wanted to grow up and plough” but he then changes his tone when he says “all I ever did was follow” which gets him some sympathy from the reader, this also tells us that he wanted to help but couldn’t.

We are then told of the boys clumsiness again and he is honest about it “I was a nuisance” and from the words yapping always we see that he is nothing more than a mere child who is happy to talk away. In the second line there is a change of tense which is quite dramatic and even uses a pause “But today”.

In the next line of the verse we can see that the tables have now turned and the poem becomes less light-hearted and it is now his father that follows around after him “Behind me, and will not go away” this is a strange line as many may see it as being selfish because his father was always there for him when he was a child and many people view old age as the 2nd childhood where you need looked after again. I believe that Heaney cannot cope with his strong dad who he looked up to and admired becoming old and frail.

We are shown a different view on old age in “An old mans winter night” by Robert Frost.

The title straight away gives us a sense of cold imagery, and makes us think of loneliness. We are also led to believe that he may be viewed as representing all old men, we could also say that the man may be experiencing the winter of his life.

The poem is about an old man who is alone in his house and appears isolated from any contact and appears to have no purpose or task to fulfil and it appears that he is to bear the weight of all human loneliness. The man seems to “clomp” around his house entering rooms for no apparent reason. We find out that the man appears to be losing his mind and going senile. With his memory failing him, eroding his sense of purpose, the old man strengthens his ego by stubbornly keeping his thoughts to himself, and he protects himself by scaring away what frightens him rather than by inviting in what comforts him and nowhere in this poem of terrible aloneness are we admitted to the man’s feelings of loneliness but we are only told about him feeling “at a loss”.

The man is alone apart from the surrounding nature which is personified as being his only company i.e. the stars “looked darkly” and “gazed” and it appears that the moon is the only female in his life and is personified by the word “she”. The old man ends up asleep beside a stove.

The poem has quite a sad, quiet mood which creates sympathy for the old man who is isolated from society, it also makes the reader disturbed at the way the mans brain reacts to old age i.e. believing he is scaring the “cellar” and “outer night” by “clomping”. We can see humour in the onomatopoeic sounds of “clomped”. The “roar” and “crack” of the trees and the idea of the man “beating on the box” also disturbs the reader as the man is living alone and is losing his mind with no-one around to care for him.

We hear the tone of despair in the words “broken moon” and we shiver at “icicles along the wall to keep”. The tone then becomes less tense and more gentle with imagery of the stove and through the quiet alliteration of the “s” in “still slept” as if the old man finds sum sort of peace in his sleep. The poet tells the reader in the last 3 lines that “one aged man -one man- can’t keep a house”. This is an old man’s winter night, but we are not allowed to rest the blame for his condition simply on age. What kept him from remembering was age, but we are made to see, at the end, that not only can one aged man not keep a house, but that one man-any man alone-cannot keep a house, a farm, a countryside any better than this. The poet appears to be distressed at the old mans quality of life and emphasises his loneliness by showing us that he is not just alone in his house but is alone because of his location i.e. on the “farm” and in the “countryside” , the mood at the end creates lots of pity and sorrow for the old man.

This poem uses iambic pentameter for its rhythm which has a strong and steady quality to it which reflects the narrative way in which the poet tells us about the old man. The strength of the rhythm may be reflecting the inevitability of life; that old age will come and we will all lose it some day. This poem uses half rhymes which may be reflecting on the mentality of the old man and his quality of life.

After reading both poems we are given 2 different views on old age by 2 different poets. In Robert Frosts a lot of pity is felt for the old age and the poet seems to be very concerned about the quality of life being lived by the old man, he sympathises with the loneliness and feels sorry for the old man.

Heaney seems to have a quite a different view on old age and we almost feel as if he is annoyed at his father for not being able to care for himself now, he is frustrated that the man whom he always looked up to has now become frail and now follows him around opposed to when he was a child.

Out of the 2 poems I prefer Robert Frosts “An Old Mans Winter Night” as I believe that it has much more meaning to it and it really gets into the life of the old man and gets sympathy from the reader and gets them involved.

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